FICTIONAL FRIGHTS – David Martin’s BRIDEGROOM OF BLOOD!!

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David Martin

Keeping with the series’ weekly output of varying types of horror fiction, we’ve got another fine story of fear from our friend David Martin. This time, he’s giving you fright fanatics, “Bridegroom of Blood“, a tale of a husband, his wife, a demonic statue, and the letter than ties them all together. It’s a good read, with the story all playing out through a letter from one person to another.

So take off your shoes, grab a beer or tea, sit down and…enjoy some blood….the BRIDEGROOM OF BLOOD.

ENJOY!-Jerry

 


 

bgob

 

Bridegroom of Blood

Dear Katherine,

This is the testimony you requested – I’ve finally gotten around to writing it. I suspect you’ll find it too personal, too emotional, and too introspective for your courtroom purposes, but at this point, I don’t care. If it were going to look like a proper courtroom document, I would never have written it. Doubtless, though, you’ll find it very helpful in my insanity defense. I know this is important to you, not just because you’re obsessed with winning, but because you care about me and you genuinely believe that you’re doing me a favor. But why should I care if I spend my remaining years in a prison or a madhouse? I just want my story to be known – not the version they print in the papers, but the truth. That is enough for me. After what I’ve seen, after what I’ve done, I can never again know peace.

I suppose I should start at the beginning, my beginning, that of an only child born to a wealthy liberal Jewish family in Southern California. My father, as you well know, was a successful attorney; my mom is a professional Jewish Mother. It really would have been nice to have siblings to share the weight of her overbearing personality. I guess sometimes stereotypes are true. We were never truly practicing – never ate kosher, never observed the Sabbath, and, like any modern liberal family, we abhorred circumcision. Of course, we were still Jews – we attended synagogue and we gave lip service to the God of Abraham, though I think all of us suspected he didn’t really exist. As for me, I always loved malls, movies, and cars, like any normal modern girl. I went to college, dated, partied in moderation, got a degree in journalism, and became a blogger for a feminist website.

It may seem strange, then, that I chose to marry Isaac. Why would such an intelligent, modern woman go for an orthodox Jew? I suppose it was, in part, an act of rebellion against my mother. Perhaps also, opposites really do attract. To some extent, I think it was because he defied my expectations. I thought he would be, you know, stupid – the backwards unthinking bigot we always imagine. But Isaac was smart and educated – brilliant in his own bookish way. Talking to him opened up new worlds that I had never known – history, art, literature, the Torah, the rabbis as I had never imagined them, firmly rooted in their historical context, which he understood better than his own times.

I learned how to cook kosher and he learned not to complain when I ate bacon wrapped shrimp. After much mental anguish, Isaac decided that letting me do his chores on the Sabbath wasn’t a problem for him. After much debate, we decided that we’d let our children choose whether or not they would follow the Torah. At first, we would only feed them kosher – a compromise I made with great reluctance – but when they got older, if they really insisted on eating bacon, I would fry them up a few pieces.

Ironically enough, we had our worst disagreement over the issue of circumcision. If we had a son, Isaac wanted to have him circumcised on the eighth day, as a proper Jewish boy. But I wouldn’t hear it. Circumcision is a cruel and barbaric act, a ritual mutilation that belongs in the darkness of ages past. I believed it then, and I still believe it now. Oh, how we fought. I would yell at him and he would reprove me, in his stiff, infuriating, subtly condescending manner. At a few points, we nearly broke up. But eventually, I won out. I’m not completely sure which argument clenched the deal – but I have a strong suspicion.

One day, I started asking him about the parts of the Torah he didn’t follow. You see, Isaac never believed it was God’s word – he was too smart for that. He would always say: “Belief is for the gentiles. The Torah is not about belief – it is about action. That is who we are, that is what we do.” I asked him if the temple were rebuilt, would he slaughter animals on its alter? First, he said that it didn’t matter, since the temple would never be rebuilt, but I kept pressing the issue. At last he admitted “No. It’s not who we are anymore. Animal sacrifice is a relic of a more barbaric age.” I didn’t say anything about circumcision – I didn’t need to. I’d called it “barbaric” more times than either he or I could count. I just dropped the matter. A few days later he came to me and capitulated.

I miss those arguments – I miss stretching myself, fitting myself to another person. Bridging the gap between our two worlds was a worthy undertaking – a labor of love that made us both better, wiser people. I believed it then and I believe it now. Were it not for what happened, we would still be happy together.

But as you know, Isaac’s job took him far away from our sunny, carefree home in Santa Monica, to a place much older and not so innocent, where the soil itself bears the scars of millennia of tyranny, of plague, of genocide, of human sacrifice – the unimaginable darkness of early civilization, dormant, and waiting to be freed again. I am talking, of course, about the dig in Palestine.

I was pregnant at the time with our first and, it would turn out, only child. Isaac was supposed to be back before the baby was born, but the dig took longer – much longer – than expected. What they thought at first was a simple campsite turned out to be an extensive Bronze Age Canaanite cultic center. They kept expanding the dig, finding more artifacts. Pretty soon we realized that this was the find that would make my husband’s career. At the same time, it also became clear that he wouldn’t be home in time to witness the birth of our baby boy.

I was eight months pregnant when I made up my mind – I was going to Palestine. Why not? I could write from anywhere, so long as I had my laptop. The accommodations were already there. The room at the university was big enough for both of us, even though my husband spent most of his time on site. And there was a perfectly good hospital near the university, with a highly reputable maternity ward. Besides, I wanted to see the dig. I wanted to see all of wonderful, ancient things my husband was unearthing.

So I went, and I had my child in Israel. My husband spent a full week with me, away from the dig, and he was there for the birth of our son Benjamin. How I remember holding him in my arms, as if it were yesterday. It is an experience that words can never express, having that tiny, wet squealing human in your arms – your own flesh and blood become another person. I knew then and there that my life had changed forever, that I was no longer the same person I had been, that henceforth I would be living my live for another – and the prospect filled me with unspeakable joy. Despite what the press says, I have never stopped loving my son and I never will – even if, as is all but certain, he grows up to hate me.

I spent most of the first month in our room at the university. Of course, I went out occasionally, with Benjamin in tow, seeing the sights, haggling with the street vendors, sampling the falafel and the hummus – experiencing the culture.

Benjamin was five weeks old when I finally visited the site. Sarah, one of my husband’s graduate students, came to pick me up in a big jeep that belonged to the university. She was a sweet little thing, blonde, plump, and chatty – and how she loved Benjamin, couldn’t stop fawning over him. Never for a moment did I feel jealous of her or question my husband’s fidelity – that’s just an invention by the press. For one thing, she wasn’t his type; for another, our interactions, the three of us together, were happy and innocent, free of the unwelcome tension that would have accompanied such a situation. But more than that, I trusted my husband, because I loved him, and I knew he loved me.

The site lay in the middle of nowhere, miles away from even the smallest village. The camp was surprisingly large – a village of tents nestled in the shade of a small ravine. To the west, the ravine opened up facing the actual dig site, about a half mile away, barely visible on the horizon. To the east, the walls of the ravine narrowed, before eventually merging together – a dead end. They had set up a communal tent in the center of camp – with a mobile kitchen and a radio, complete with a satellite dish, for communicating with the outside world. There was no phone reception at the camp.

After parking on the edge of camp – just outside of the ravine, Sarah and I walked to the dig, which was situated on an open sun-scorched area, without a tree or bush in sight. The most visible aspect of the dig site was the colossal white tent where they stored the artifacts; round in shape, like an enormous white oil barrel, buried on its side in the ground. The rest of it, the part where they were actually digging, looked like a maze of low walls sunk into the bone-dry ground. I was shocked at how large it was, and how many people were there – some digging with shovels and others carefully chiseling away. I knew they’d called on extra people and significantly expanded the dig, but the reality of it came as a mild shock.

Isaac came out and introduced me to all of his people – his postdocs, his grad students, the undergrads they’d called in from the university as cheap labor, and even the other professors who’d been called to the dig, with their grad students and postdocs. My heart swelled with pride to think that my husband was in charge of all of them.

He led me all around the dig, showing me this room where the ancient Canaanites had stored grain, that room that had been used as a latrine, and some other room whose purpose we had yet to deduce. One room I remember in particular – one of the grad students was carefully brushing a skull – a little baby skull. “From here,” said my husband, “we’ve excavated hundreds of bones – burned baby bones. This was a site of human sacrifice.” At the time I was thrilled, rather than troubled. What an amazing discovery! Only later did I begin to think about the horror we had unearthed – little babies roasted alive on a stone altar because the smell of their burning flesh soothed, if only for a moment, the dreadful wrath of their parents’ gods.

But at the time, I felt like a kid in a candy store. My husband had taught me to love history – and love it I did. I asked a lot of questions, most of which I can’t even remember now. I remember asking them why they chose to place the campsite so far away from the dig. Kevin – another of Isaac’s graduate students – told me that originally, they’d set up camp at the dig, but later they’d gotten sick of the scorching sun and decided to move it into the shade of the ravine. I accepted his reasoning at the time, but in hindsight, I think it was just an excuse that they told themselves. The campsite was mainly for sleeping – you know, at night, when there was no scorching sun. All of the hottest, nastiest hours of the day were spent at the dig site. The real reason, I think, is that they didn’t want to sleep there, at that place, that awful place. Some part of them didn’t feel safe there, especially at night.

Last of all, my husband showed me the storage tent, filled with all of the artifacts they’d unearthed – ancient bronze coins, broken clay pots, random trinkets. Most intriguing of all were the teraphim – the household gods. Little bronze and copper statues of ancient deities that would be set up in rooms and worshipped by candlelight. Some took the shapes of dogs and cattle, others were funny little men. I saw a king on his throne, proud and regal, with a pointy, conical crown, and more than a few big-breasted fertility goddesses. Of course I didn’t fail to notice the male fertility gods, with their big, erect penises.

Isaac directed my attention to one idol in particular – a bronze phallic deity, somewhat larger than the others. He was also by far the ugliest, with a large, grotesque smile, bearing his teeth, short stubby legs, and an enormous erect phallus. Smiling, my husband bid me look closely at the foundation of the idol – the bronze block on which it stood. There, I saw an inscription in some Semitic language. “What does it say?” I asked him.

“It’s Ugaritic. It says Hashem.” Instantly, I knew what he meant. “Hashem” is Hebrew for “The Name” – The Name of God. The word so holy that even today orthodox Jews will not dare to write it or utter it. The Name my husband has never dared to utter – nor would I utter it in his presence. Yet here it was, The Name of the God of Israel etched onto the statue of a hideous naked man – or creature – grinning at me with bared teeth and a gigantic erect circumcised penis.

My initial response was confusion. “I thought that in biblical times you would be stoned to death for speaking or writing this.”

Isaac shook his head. “During later Greek and Roman times, it was forbidden to speak The Name. But earlier, during the time of the first temple, people spoke The Name freely. And this is earlier still, from pre-biblical times. This thing comes from before the time of Moses.”

Looking at that thing, I began to feel my first sense of disquiet. It was subtle, but I distinctly remember saying to my husband “let’s go get some fresh air.”

Later, when the sun had set and we had all returned to the campsite, I began to feel oddly restless. At the moment, Isaac was in a meeting with some of his colleagues. Sarah was taking care of Benjamin, and I trusted her. There I was, by myself, with nothing to do. Some part of me wanted to return to the dig – I told myself that I was curious to see what it looked like at night. Looking back at it, I’m convinced the idea was not my own. So I grabbed my flashlight and sweater and started to head off. Kevin stopped me and asked where I was going. When I told him he gave me a funny look. That’s when I realized there was some unspoken taboo against going to the dig site at night.

When I arrived, I certainly didn’t spend much time looking at the dig. Instead, I went straight for the storage tent. Quickly, I found and switched on one of the battery powered lights that hung from the rafters. Then I began to gaze at the teraphim with a strange mixture of dread and expectancy – a sort of eagerness that nagged quietly at my lower parts. It wasn’t long before Isaac showed up. “What on earth are you doing?” he asked.

He caught me by surprise – I must have jumped three feet in stark terror. Recovering my composure, I said “Oh nothing, just looking at the teraphim.”

“Why?”

I shrugged, trying my best to make it look casual. “I guess I just find them interesting. They’re your most important find, right?” As we spoke, I began to feel – you know, angsty. We hadn’t had sex since the baby was born.

“Yeah,” he said stiffly. “Let’s go back. We can look at them tomorrow.”

At this point, I knew what I wanted, so I said playfully, “What? Are you afraid they’re going to bite you?”

He shrugged, trying to look casual. “I’m tired and it’s late.”

“Well, I’m not tired, yet. Why don’t you tire me out?” At this, I took off my sweater, and started to unbutton my blouse.

His eyes went wide when he finally got the hint. “What? Here? Let’s do it back at camp.”

“We can’t do it back at camp, all the tents are too close. Do you really want your students to hear you having sex?”

“Well, I have to be up early…”

“Shut up and fuck me.”

That was the point when his resistance broke. Frantically, we began to undress one another. Once naked, I hoisted myself onto a plastic table covered with artifacts, and let my husband begin to take me – his stiff, proper manners giving way to some inner beast. Leaning back on the table, I began to moan in pleasure. As the table began to rock, little bronze and copper artifacts fell to the floor.

I don’t know when I was that I decided we were being watched. Some part of me had suspected it from the beginning – but that suspicion grew rapidly, once we began touching each other. Repeatedly, I turned my head toward the teraphim – that leering audience of tiny dead eyes; ancient eyes that had not seen human flesh for millennia. We were not making love, my husband and I, but putting on a show for Them. In a strange reversal, Isaac’s inhibitions had given way to raw, animal passion, while my desires were quickly eclipsed by fear. Not just fear – terror, like standing naked in front of an open window at night, knowing that on the other side, hidden in the shadows, someone is watching, plotting; knowing that you’re arousing powerful, primal desires in someone else – someone you would never, ever want to notice you. The fear in my mind grew from a small, nagging voice to a deafening scream. I couldn’t handle it. First, I began to shake. Then I tried to push him away. But Isaac was insistent – he didn’t want to stop. Finally I screamed. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! We’re being watched! They’re watching us!”

He stopped suddenly and recoiled as though he’d been slapped. Quickly pulling on his pants, he stepped outside with the flashlight. I began dressing as fast as I could. When he returned, I was buttoning my blouse with trembling fingers. “There’s no one out there,” he said.

“Good,” I said, shaking visibly.

“Well,” he said, unzipping his pants, “what are you waiting for?”

“Please don’t,” I said, shaking my head emphatically.

“What the fuck?” he roared. I had never heard him use that word before. “This was your idea, you got me started!”

Tears filled my eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” I placed a conciliatory hand on his arm and he gruffly swept it off, saying “don’t touch me, bitch” – another word I had never before heard from him.

As we were about to leave the tent, I turned around and reached for the light. Then I saw it – the idol. The big one, with The Name etched on it. A shadowy silhouette in the unlit portion of the tent. Terror shot through me like a bolt of lightning. Quickly, I turned off the light and hurried out of the tent.

Isaac and I didn’t speak to one another for the rest of the night, even though we slept in the same tent. The next morning, everyone could tell something was wrong. He wouldn’t speak to me, and I dared not speak to him. I had planned to stay longer at the site, but Isaac asked Sarah to take me back to the university, and I didn’t argue. Sarah and I alternated between driving and holding Benjamin. Most of the time, we kept quiet or chattered about trivial things. But at one point, she said to me: “I don’t know what happened last night, but if you need someone to talk to, I’m a good listener, and I’m great at keeping secrets.”

I smiled to myself, genuinely warmed by her offer, but I really didn’t want to talk about it. Thinking back on it in the broad light of day, it just seemed so petty, so stupid. I felt ridiculous. All I said to her was: “We had a stupid, stupid fight, and beyond that I really don’t want to talk about it.” She understood, and let it drop. That evening, I stayed in my room at the university, took care of Benjamin, and stewed in self-pity. I looked forward to the time when Isaac and I would make up.

That night, I had my first nightmare. How should I describe it? How does one describe any dream? After all, what are dreams but a series of disconnected images on which our enfeebled minds struggle desperately to impose order? Then, when we wake up the next day and recount them to our friends, we compound the sin by cleaning up the dream, imposing order and continuity that wasn’t there at first. Let me first tell you the images, and then I will tell you how my subconscious interpreted them. I saw the idols, of course, all of them, but especially The Name – that one I saw over and over. I repeatedly relived that awful moment in the storage tent. And I saw Benjamin, my son – not happy and healthy, but screaming in pain, his tiny little penis red with blood. And my interpretation? Some kind of desperate, tortured struggle. I was constantly running from something, some nameless, omnipresent malice that followed me wherever I went. Emotionally, I wrestled with a Gordian knot of guilt, dread, and some twisted sexual longings I cannot now describe. The dream ended when I sat up in my bed in a cold sweat.

Of course, the next day I dismissed it as anxiety over the fight at the dig. I went about my business, fed Benjamin, changed his diaper, cleaned my apartment, and put off my writing until I was feeling myself again. Only that didn’t happen. More nightmares followed, much like the first – the same images, the same tortured emotions. And my nagging sense of guilt and dread did not improve. I called my husband and apologized for my behavior at the dig. He responded with a profuse apology of his own. We made up, and ended the call by telling each other “I love you”. After that I felt better, but only until I went to sleep.

By and by, my dreams got worse. New images appeared in my mind – I am now certain that they did not come from my own memories or experiences. They sprung from the soil, itself, where they had been festering for millennia – ancient tortured memories of blood and death. I saw stone temples, stark and barren; I saw golden statues of bizarre, half human creatures. I saw animals being slaughtered – it was as vivid as if I were there. I saw priests sprinkling blood on an altar of stone, holding up the severed heads of bulls. I saw piles of viscera heaped on stone alters and burned. I heard the wailing of babies mingled with the sizzling of hot flesh against stone. I smelled the burned flesh. And then other images came to me, yet more disturbing. I saw the ground littered with thousands of body parts – hands, feet, ears, noses, genitals, bloody and severed. I saw mutilated bodies impaled on pikes, screaming in the darkest torment.

Spurred by the dreams, I embarked on a series of Google searches – the images in my dreams, the teraphim in the storage tent, the rite of circumcision. They led me to dark and dreadful places – to civilizations spanning millennia, long lost, with few records – mere glimpses of blood, terror, and darkness that spanned ages.

Ancient history is a horror story greater in scope and more terrible than any movie or novel could hope to convey. Did you know that the Canaanites sacrificed their children by burning them alive on the Tophet, the roasting place, the outstretched arms of their enormous bull-god? Did you know that the ancient Assyrians decorated their halls with human skins? They burned little children alive by the thousands and made totem poles of human heads – and in their annals, they gleefully brag about it. Can you imagine that? Even Hitler hid his crimes behind closed doors and barbed wire fences. Everything that I saw in my nightmares was real.

The terrors of the night bled over into the daytime. I lived in dread of sleeping, drank coffee to stay awake. Once, I went over two days without sleeping. My writing went on hold indefinitely – I missed deadlines, asked for sick leave from my column. I went out less and less. Friends called me worried about postpartum depression. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Benjamin was my light in the darkness. I never failed in my care for him – fed him faithfully, changed his diapers, bounced him on my knee, sang to him, everything a mother can do. It was the one thing I did not let slide.

During those months, Isaac visited me a number of times. I did my best to put on a strong face for him, but he could tell something was wrong – from the state of our room, from my personal hygiene, from the long, ugly sags under my eyes. He sat down with me and talked about postpartum depression, urging me to seek professional help, which I did. Unsurprisingly, the psychiatrist diagnosed me with postpartum stress, and predicted things would get better. When they got worse, he gave me some pills that didn’t help – they just made me weaker and less able to face the my night terrors. Eventually, I threw them down the sink.

I came to regret what I did in that tent – not what I started, but what I didn’t finish. Who cares if Isaac and I had copulated before those lusty gods like the priests of old? It would have been such an easy way to satiate them. I also began to have second thoughts about not circumcising Benjamin. Barbaric as it was, circumcision seemed such a minor thing – better than offending Them, or Him, or It – whatever darkness stalked me at night. Once, I called Isaac and told him I’d changed my mind – we should circumcise Benjamin. He told me I was out of my mind; said that he’d genuinely changed his thinking, thanks to me, and that he wouldn’t hear of it. Of course he was right, I told him.

It was Isaac who urged me to return to the dig. I think he was worried about me, cooped up in that room with no one to visit me. I also think he was lonely. Everyone at the dig had gone home for the holidays except my husband and his grad students, Kevin and Sarah. Somebody had to stay on site, to watch over the equipment and the finds. As for me, I didn’t really know why I was going – some part of me felt that perhaps if I returned to the camp, I would find some resolution. Now I believe I was being led into a trap.

I got up early and drove to the site in a rental car with Benjamin next to me in his baby seat. Isaac and I embraced when I arrived. We hugged and kissed, embarrassing the grad students. It was a pleasant day. Sarah took care of Benjamin while I spent some time with Isaac. We drove to a nearby oasis and took a swim. We made love in our own tent, while the grad students worked away at the dig. The previous night, I’d had no nightmares – no dreams whatsoever. The nagging dread was gone. I was feeling myself for the first time in months. Perhaps it had all been in my head. Perhaps postpartum stress had attacked with unexpected fury – some strange physiological phenomenon, chemical in nature. That night, I went to sleep in my husband’s arms, with Benjamin at our side – quiet as a mouse. I felt truly relaxed and hopeful for the future, and I slept soundly for a few hours.

I awoke with a start. My tranquility was gone, replaced with an urgent dread – one that bespoke immediate physical danger, as if the night itself were about to reach out and attack me and my family. I got up, cradled Benjamin in my arms, and stepped out of the tent, in my pajamas. It is difficult now to describe what I felt – that preternatural dread, that primal animal fear, like a field mouse cowering in its hole while a hungry wolf sniffs and claws at the opening. For several minutes, I just stood there in the open, shivering in fear, staring into the blackness, my eyes fixed in the direction of the dig.

Then I saw It approaching – a shadow in the distance, the vague outline of a man. But something was wrong – its gait had some inhuman quality to it, that I couldn’t quite place. The only thing I can say definitively is that its arms hung too far from the body, and its head and hands were too big. It was headed straight for me. As it neared, I could tell that it was larger than a normal man – perhaps seven feet tall. And it had a strange color – some glistening reddish tint. Words cannot describe the terror of that moment – the vague form in the darkness carried a preternatural presence that reached out and touched the deepest recesses of my soul.

Without consciously thinking of it, I turned on my flashlight – and when I saw it, I screamed. You know that scream that Kevin reports – that dreadful, horrible sound that he swears up and down was a death scream. That was me. The thing that I saw had no skin – just bright, glistening muscle coated in way too much blood. Its enormous hands ended in long, sharp claws. A horse-sized penis sprouted from its loins, fully erect. But the thing that really got to me was the smile – that huge, toothy grin that went from ear to ear, underneath a pair of bright yellow eyes. I had seen that grin before, on the idol that bore The Name. Such a description fails utterly to do justice to the horror that approached me – no words on paper ever could. It was the physical embodiment of all human fear.

Sarah must have heard my scream, because she emerged from her tent, unfortunately finding herself between myself and the creature. First, she saw my face, then she turned around, following my gaze to the creature that approached her at a brisk walk. “Run!” I yelled,  but she did not move.  No sound at all came from her lips – I believe she was transfixed. For a moment, I hoped it would pass her by. But as it neared her, it stretched out one of those hands, with those long, clawed fingers, and tore out her throat. I saw a spray of blood, and I saw poor Sarah collapse to the ground with her hands on her neck. It all seemed so surreal – the whole thing happened in silence.

Clutching Benjamin tightly to my breast, I fled toward Isaac’s tent. There, I saw his head poking through the flap, his eyes wide in stark terror. “Come on!” I said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But all he did was retreat into the tent and close the flap. As the demon approached, I realized its gaze was fixed not on me, but on the tent. Holding Benjamin in my arms, I had no choice but to scurry out of the way. When it arrived at the tent, the demon began to shred the fabric with those dreadful claws. The tent rocked violently, and my husband screamed for dear life. As he emerged from the back flap, the creature leaned over, stretching out its long arm, and clawed him in the calf. He screamed terribly, and limped away, clumsily, stumbling in the darkness. It followed at a brisk walk. Isaac was headed deeper into the ravine – toward the dead end.

At that moment, I saw my husband’s fate play out in my mind: he limped and crawled deeper into the ravine, with the creature on his heels, only to be torn to pieces once he came to the dead end. Holding Benjamin in my arms, I hurried to the main tent where they kept the radio. I knew how to operate it – I’d watched the grad students do it. Switching through the frequencies, I frantically called for help. Only there was nothing but static. That should not have been – there was a police station within range.

When I turned to leave, I glanced at the kitchen table and spotted a serrated knife. That’s when I realized what It wanted. Instantly, my mind was made up. I set Benjamin down on the table and I set to work on my son’s tiny penis. He screamed and screamed as I struggled to cut off his little foreskin. Of course, I botched it. How could I not? I was half mad with terror, and shaking uncontrollably. You cannot imagine how hard I tried to steady my hand. But one fumbling jitter was all it took to permanently maim my baby boy, cutting deep into his tiny member. Some mercy of the mind hid from me the horror of what I had done. It was as though I was watching myself on TV.

Realizing there was nothing I could do for my child, I left him screaming on the table and ran out to save my husband, clutching the bloody foreskin in one hand and the flashlight in the other, hurrying into the ravine as fast as my legs would carry me. There, I saw the creature fast approaching Isaac, who had fallen to the ground and was not even trying to get up – he hadn’t even made it to the dead end. I ran at full speed toward my husband, giving the monster a wide berth. Once past it, I positioned myself between the creature and my husband. Throwing the bloody foreskin onto the ground before the glistening red demon that stood before me, I screamed “Here! Is this what you want? Take it!” When it reached the foreskin, it stopped quite suddenly, knelt down, and snatched it up greedily with those long, sharp claws. Then it turned around and disappeared into the darkness.

For a while, I stood there, facing the blackness, afraid the demon might return. Then I turned around and went to my husband. He was curled into a fetal position, sobbing and quivering like a newborn child. I shook him, but he did not respond. For a few moments, I sat there with him, my hand on his shoulder.

Then I remembered Benjamin. I ran back to the kitchen tent where I had left him, and cradled him in my arms, even as he continued to shriek violently. At this point I still hoped he could be healed. So I went to Kevin’s tent and found him curled up in his sleeping bag with his hands on his ears. I roused him and convinced him to go take Benjamin to the nearest hospital and send for help. It was hard to keep him on task – when he saw Sarah he went and shook her, but she was already dead. After some prodding, he got into the car with Benjamin and a phone, so that he could call the police as soon as he got reception. I watched as the jeep rolled out of the camp, and waited until it disappeared in the distance.

Of course, I could have gone myself. But I had other plans. Hurrying to the dig site, I entered the storage tent and turned on the light. Grabbing the biggest hammer I could find, I went to work on the teraphim. Of course, I started with the big one that had The Name etched on it. They were not easy to destroy, being made not of rock, but of copper and bronze. But I struck at them furiously with the hammer, with a shovel, with a pick, severing their little arms and heads from their bodies. I worked furiously though the night, reducing them to ever smaller pieces. As you know, that’s how the police found me: drenched in sweat, with blood on my hands and arms, still shaking, and still smashing those idols – so that they had to forcibly restrain me.

You know the rest, and so does the whole world. In the following days, I learned just how sloppy the police can be when they think they have an open and shut case. Even though the doctor explicitly wrote that he was baffled by the cuts on Isaac’s leg, nobody bothered to follow up on it. They just assumed I’d done it with the serrated knife that I used on my son. Nobody bothered to examine the blood on the knife, or perform a proper autopsy on Sarah. They didn’t even notice the abnormally large footprints left by the creature. If my poor husband ever regains even a shred of his sanity, maybe he can tell them what he saw that night. It is also unfortunate that Kevin didn’t have the courage to get up, open up the flap of his tent and look out, instead of curling up and quivering like a baby. Not that I blame him – poor Sarah would have been well advised to do as he did.

I was horrified to hear that Benjamin’s penis was permanently disfigured. You saw how I cried. I would die if it meant my baby boy could be whole again. I regret it now – what I did. I should have let the creature kill my husband. He would be much better off, and our child would be whole.

As for what I did to the idols, I have oft wondered whether I did the right thing. I thought I was destroying the evil, but perhaps I was actually unleashing it on the world – to manifest when and where it pleases. Who knows? The nightmares are different now – no longer preternatural. Now they’re just symptoms of severe trauma. Again and again, I relive that awful night in my mind.

I cannot count the hours I’ve spent wondering what it was I encountered that night. My best guess is that it’s some sort of reproductive demiurge, not benevolent, but savage, covetous, and dominating – the patriarchy personified; an evolutionary demon that’s been stalking the earth for untold eons. Whatever it is, I fear there are other things like it, still buried, waiting for some foolish archeologists to dig them up so they can once again haunt the waking world.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned about Exodus 4:24–26, the story of the Bridegroom of Blood:

On the way, at a place where they spent the night, Hashem met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched his feet with it, and said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then she said, “A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”

I learned about it at the same time as the rest of the world – from that damned article in the Times that alleged I was purposely reenacting it. It’s absurd – in all of my long, educated Jewish life I had never once heard of that obscure passage. I’m sure my husband knew about it, back when his mind was intact, and he could have told me many interesting theories about it.

But I wouldn’t want to hear them now. I hate history. I think it should buried and forgotten. They need to destroy all of the artifacts in all the museums, burn all of the books, and delete all of the websites where that accursed knowledge is stored. Archeological digs should be banned, and if some artifact from the past is accidentally unearthed, they should cast it into the deepest pit and bury it again. But what do I know, I’m just a mad woman.

 

 

 

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