Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Thirteenth. We Can Cure You

I was going to muse on immortality again, but this went a different way. Consider it a modern-day fable of sorts. This one feels like a bit of a throwback to me. 

Have I mentioned that I love magic shops? 

"We can cure you."

That's all it says. That and an address. No phone number, no email address. Just a street address not too far away.

Maybe you're desperate. Maybe you're still carrying a bit of that buzz from last night, and not in a good way. Maybe your breath smells like last night's vomit and maybe your wife is about to leave you.

Maybe you're desperate enough to go somewhere, sight unseen, hoping that the "cure" is for what you need curing.

The shop is small and cozy behind the simple wooden door with a discrete bronze plaque. "The Cure." The doctor - you can't help but think of him as a doctor - is a kindly man of late-middle years with a warm, trustworthy, Norman Rockwell kind of face. You stammer that you know he promised a cure, but didn't say what.

"What ails you? We can cure you. I promise."
Image from WBIR

Your face hot with shame, you mutter something about drink. The man smiles and nods, not unkindly. You almost run when he withdraws a plastic screwcap bottle, about three inches long. A clear bottle, so you can see inside.

You know what leeches are from a TV show about the history of medicine. You'd run if the idea of turning around didn't turn your stomach. Instead you collapse in the chair, close your eyes, feel it latch onto you.

The pain in the back of your stomach fades, the dizziness fades. The room gets sharper, clearer. Maybe the leech drank the alcohol out of your body (Only the alcohol? You know that's crazy). You're no longer hungover.

Six months later is six months without a drink, but a few extra cigarettes a day to compensate. OK, maybe a pack. You're not desperate this time, but still you want a cure. And you remember, after the revulsion, it was easy. Very easy.

You come back. The same kindly man is there, behind the same counter. This time you don't feel shame as you ask if he can cure your smoking. After all, everyone has trouble quitting, right? You still recoil at the jarred leech. This one seems bigger, but lean an hungry. As it latches onto the skin on the inside of your wrist you can feel the nicotine leaving your blood, feel your lungs open up as the creature grows fat. You walk out, feeling better than you have in years.

The pattern repeats, the cures multiply. You no longer smoke, no longer drink, no longer overeat. You don't even waste time with the sports pages. Some days you wonder what came of those leeches, made fat with your vices. Some days.

Some days you just feel sad. There's a bit of emptiness, there's something missing. So you go back, one more time.

"What ails you?"

You try to find the words. It's not as easy as saying that you want to quit smoking, or drinking, or overeating or bad television. "I feel...sad. Kind of empty. Lost."

The smile fades from the doctor's lips. He stands, walks you towards the door. Silently, you follow. You've come to trust him.

Gently but quite firmly he leads you outside, steps back into the shop and closes the door behind him. The sound of the door locking is like a gunshot.

You stand there for a long time, not knowing what to do.

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