By Richard Bleil
“You want a coke, honey?”
She turns to get his drink. “I’ll never get used to that.”
“Every pop here is called ‘coke’.”
Harley laughs. “Welcome to Louisiana, Steve!”
“Still, though,” Steve says looking at the waitress, “she’s kinda hot.”
“Good in bed,too,” Harley replies. Steve looks at Harley, shocked. Harley looks back, and gives a slight nod with a slight grin.
“Is there anybody you haven’t been with?” Steve asks.
“Around here,” Harley closes his menu, “not really.”
“When was the last time you were with her?”
Harley looks at her as she tops off the glasses. “Tonight.”
Lisa is particularly pleased with tonight’s supper. She hands a plate to Harley. “How was your day?”
As Harley begins eating, he doesn’t say anything.
“Is it too dry?” she asks, knowing that it isn’t. “I expected you a few hours ago, but I kept it warm.” She has confronted him before about his affairs, and he swore that he wouldn’t do it again, but somehow, she doesn’t trust him. Again, they eat in silence. Eventually, he finishes off his drink. She gets up and goes to pick up his glass. When she returns with it, she pauses and puts her hand in his hair. “What happened here?” she asks.
Harley puts his hand where hers is. “What is it?” he asks.
“It looks like a tuft of your hair has been cut out.”
“…is a good time to buy,” Harley completes his sales pitch.
The client is concerned. “And what if the stock market continues dropping?”
Harley sits back. “The reality is that, if the stock market drops, the only people who lose money are the ones who panic and sell. It may take time, but the market always bounces back, and you don’t need money qu…AAH!”
“Are you okay?” the client asks.
Harley bends and clutches his side. “No problem,” he says, “just one of those funny pinches. There…it’s passing.”
“Are you sure it’s not your appendix, or gall bladder?” Lisa asks. Their marriage has been on the rocks for some time, but she has kept it together. She was raised with old-fashioned values, where marriage is sacred. She could never leave him, and he is her husband.
“It passed,” he says. He gets up to brush his teeth before bed, when suddenly he sits back down. “Ouch!” he says, clutching his foot.
“What is it?” she asks.
“It’s just…it’s passing. Just a weird needle pain.”
“There has to be a reason,” Harley complains.
“These kinds of pains are not uncommon,” the doctor says. “We have your test results here, and they came up negative.”
“Did you check for everything?”
“Needle pains on the feet can be caused by nerve damage, often induced by diabetes,” the doctor replied, “but you’re fit.” He looks down at the test results. “No diabetes, no cholesterol problems, no blood pressure issues…your nerve sensitivity test came back normal, no infectious diseases…”
“But the pain is becoming more frequent, and more intense,” Harley exclaims.
The doctor sits back. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll schedule you for an MRI, but I really don’t think that the issue is medical. Maybe you should see a psychiatrist.”
“I just don’t get it,” Lisa says. “He’s in so much pain now, he’s staying home today. It’s the second time this week.”
“And the doctor didn’t find anything?”
“No, the MRI came back negative, and he even went to see a psychiatrist.”
“Can they prescribe something?”
“They tried,” she answers. “He has been taking pills, and…” she hesitates as if she doesn’t want to say it. “He’s even tried…smoking.”
Her friend Jenny laughs so hard she snorts. “Stop that!” Lisa protests. “It’s not funny!!”
“Sorry,” she says regaining her composure. “You know I don’t like him. You deserve better.”
“Maybe,” Lisa replies, “but he’s still my husband.”
“Maybe, if modern science can’t help…I might know somebody.”
“It’s not holistic, is it?” Lisa asks.
Sleep doesn’t come easy to Harley lately. Sharp pains usually hit around 2:30 in the morning, and even when they are not there, he looses sleep worrying about them. But tonight, exhaustion takes over. His eyes close, and he drifts off.
He can’t seem to focus. He opens his eyes, but his vision is blurred and dark. He tries to focus, and sees the general shape of a face. Eventually the vision becomes sharper, but as if being seen by under water with gently moving rippling waves distorting the face. As her hand comes into focus, she seems to be holding a needle.
Lisa is rudely awakened as Harley sits bolt upright, holding his stomach, screaming in pain.
“Thank you for meeting us,” Lisa says.
Lisa thought the dirt road would never end, and almost turned around as it became a one lane mud road deep into the swampy land. The house is little more than a shack, filled with skulls of alligators, dogs, and animals she does not recognize. inside, incense burns, furs and skins line the walls, and organs float in bottles of liquid.
“Madam Sylvie is a priestess”, Jenny says. “I told her about Harley’s affliction.”
“Your husband is under an evil spell,” Madam Sylvie says. “His soul has been captured in a doll.”
“Like a VooDoo doll?” Lisa asks incredulously.
“From the sounds of it,” Madam Sylvie answers, “by a powerful practitioner of the arts.”
Lisa looks down, shaking her head.
“You don’t believe in the power,” Madam Sylvie says.
“Am I supposed to believe that you are reading my mind?” Lisa asks.
“It’s not hard to read,” she replies. “It’s written on your face in language I have seen many times before. But whether you believe it or not doesn’t matter. It’s real, and if it continues, she may have his soul forever.”
“How does it work?” Jenny asks.
“The doll captures a piece of his soul,” Madam Sylvie answers. “Just a little bit at first, but with a truly powerful practitioner, more in time. Little pains become larger, as more of the soul is controlled by the doll. Eventually, the victim belongs to the witch, not just the soul, but mind and body as well.”
“Why does the pain get worse?” Lisa asks.
“A needle in your hand only hurts a small area. The trapped piece of the soul is small, so the soul is still nearly full size, and the needle is no larger than a needle. But, as more soul becomes trapped, it takes the small size of the doll, Because the doll is so much smaller, in comparison, the needle becomes much larger. The larger the needle, the greater the pain.”
Lisa looks at Madam Sylvie. In a strange way, it makes sense
He is unable to move. He feels as though he is being held. He opens his eyes, and looks up at her enormous face. It can’t be real. Her fingers are larger than his legs as they hold him. She looks at him. “Hi there, little fella…”
She lifts what looks like a sharpened steel pole, and begins moving it towards him.
Across the city, Lisa wakes up next to a six foot tall clothe doll.