Subdued Excitement in the Arkham Asylum

An inspired short story after watching the performance of burlesque dancer: Verruca Bath Salt

(This story is entirely a work of fiction, inspired by people, location, and events, but only vaguely.)



I walked down the street of the little bay city; a place purported and celebrated for being subdued, yet still exciting. I pulled a smoke out of my pack, placed it to my lips, and searched my pockets for a lighter. People passed me by at what seemed breakneck speed. But I kept my pace; admiring the sparsely placed glowing illumination that only modern man could have produced. The street lights led to a downtown location, I followed where the colours grew, a blast of swirls emanating from the changing lights. I felt aimless in my journey of this strange territory, but my feet appeared to know the way. My head and my heart followed, wondering what the night would bring.
I came upon the sign, brilliant red letters calling my name, and a horde of people under it. I walked past them, and in through the doors. Inside I could hear the rumble of many voices, each contributing to a single melody that sounded like a gathering of fish slapping against one another in a shallow bucket. I awarded myself a little smirk for this observation, and walked up to the bar to order a drink. The server approached me with a nervous smile and requested my order. Every so often I could hear a clink when she’d step toward the edge of the bar. It didn’t seem important; girls these days seem to like noisy fashion accessories. I took my drink and had a seat at the bar. The stools were made of strangely slick feeling leather in a collage of tans and browns stitched together.
I scanned the room for a possible romantic prospect. In the seat next to mine there was a blonde girl in a blue sundress, with her back to me speaking to some of her friends. Her back was smooth, and a little tattoo of a symbol I’ve never seen before, sat in stark contrast to her delicate features. I silently began to muse to myself about what her face must look like. I listened to her interactions with her friends, her voice was very high pitched, and at points it was so shrill it pierced my ears. Her friends, mouths gaping wide with strangely bulbous eyes, gazed on as she spoke of something so esoteric I felt lost. College town I thought to myself, and again awarded myself with a smirk.
I began to grow bored of spectating the blonde girl and her cohorts, and shifted my focus to a brunette, who too had her back to me. The walls were made of a dark wood, singular lights of a variety of colours glittered the wall. Making the spirals within the wood seem to form faces that laughed at me from every angle. My heart began to palpitate at an extreme rate, my breathing shallow, and my eyes seeing a dim haze of a world that was once so clear. The room went dark. My confusion compounded by the dizziness that began to overtake me. Did the lights go out? Or am I unconscious? I didn’t know… Until the snapping sound of a light switch sounded, I had begun to expect the worst. A single beam of light focused on a figure standing upon a stage. Black heels, and curved gams, leading up to the red dress they say the devil would wear, were the devil a fashion conscious individual. She began swaying her hips in a figure eight motion; her dress seemed to grow tiny little tentacles as she spun about. I marveled at how such a dress could possibly exist. In all of this, I had forgotten my dizziness, transfixed on the woman’s hips swaying in the dress. She spun so fast I couldn’t really get a glimpse of her face. I began to cheer; I even stood up applauding like a gleeful fool. To my dismay the music stopped and the lights went to black again. This time a peculiar sound of rustling filled the room, then the lights went on. The room seemed fuller and the people I had surveyed had switched places at some point. When did that happen? I shook the dizziness away as I sipped at my drink, and watched the server as she handed people their drinks, clinking all the while.
I had assumed the night’s festivities were at an end until the room went black again, the same familiar rustling, the continuous pounding in my head, and my heart that had beat so intensely earlier now seemed to be slowed down to a dull pulse. My blood began to feel like cold sludge within my veins. I figured it must have been the chilly air vent beating down on me from above, and ordered another drink in the darkness. The server pushed a glass into my hand, as I began to scoop the glass up, I felt what I thought was another hand graze over mine for a moment. It was clingy and cold. I didn’t want to cause a commotion, so I said nothing as I silently raised my glass to my mouth, gently pushing the hand away. The drink was a little bitterer than the last one, and strong. I contemplated again, the prospect of leaving, but the room was barren of any light source, we all sat there in the quiet dark. I silently sipped my drink, whilst around me the rustling continued. When again, the sound of a light switch echoed in the silent bar, and the spotlight was on again, and again focusing on the red figure.
I had hoped to get a better look at her face this time around, but as soon as the light came on, the music started, and my eyes could not keep focus. Again I was mesmerized by her movement, and her peculiar dress. Nothing could have broken my focus until I felt a cold breath on the back of my neck. I thought to turn around, but I felt it on my side as well. “Just… don’t scream… okay? They don’t like it when you scream.” Is what I think the server said. I took heed and focused solely on the dancer still hoping to catch a glimpse of her beauty. She seemed to wear a headdress of sorts, an oblong blur distorting her beautiful face as she spun about. But then she stopped with her head bowed forward and her back to the crowd. The music played on, and the light did not go out. When she turned around, I had thought my eyes were deceiving me. What stood on that stage was no woman, but a beastly creature of some sort. Its eyes blinked, from what resembled cancerous tumors and a large gaping mouth about two feet wide with large jagged teeth, spaced far apart stared directly at me. I went to stand up, I wanted to run away… but as soon as I stood I felt many hands upon my shoulders pulling me back to my seat, and that breath again engulfing me, cold and clammy… smelling of rotting ocean life. I screamed despite myself, and went to run again, the hands pulled me back forcibly. I was locked in my seat. And She just stared at me with her many eyes, blinking and scanning me over. Strange sounds of giggling and grunting sounded from the orifice that was her mouth. I was afraid. I slinked down to the ground with the hope to crawl away, leaving my dignity behind, but at least I’d have my life. I crawled around tentatively feeling the ground for empty space to crawl through, at points I’d feel shoes and move into a different direction, until finally I crossed over what I had hoped was a threshold to a doorway. I crawled past the line in the floor, and felt a pair of hands grasp mine. “You need to stop. If you run you’ll just make it worse.” It was the server again. “I’m getting out of here, you should come with me.” I whispered back to her, but she didn’t answer back, as she pulled her hands away from mine.
The rustling was becoming a more intense sound, to where I could feel the ground begin to quake beneath me. “What’s happening?” I whispered to the server girl. “He is coming.” She answered back. The rustling stopped, and was replaced with some sort of chant… “Ftaghu nafl hupadgh hrii Ia Ia.” The ground began to quake as they all chanted in unison. I could hear the woman in red giggling, her grunts coming closer. I began to cry, mumbling like a child, and the world I knew had become the underside of my bed, the inside of my closet. I felt hands clasp my ankles and pull me. At this point I could only succumb. I realize now that something must have been in my drink, to have made me be so complacent. But I hadn’t thought of it then, at that moment, I was in a living nightmare and I could see no way out. I began to scramble out of the hands grasp, over in a corner I could see a gleam of what I hoped was street lights from outside. I scurried to it; it was my beacon of hope. I could still hear her giggling and squealing. I crawled as quickly as I could, toward that crevice. When I felt the cold metal at my gasp flat against my palms, with the light below, I knew I had found the spot. I pushed the door timidly; a lump grew in my throat as it wouldn’t budge. I tried again more forcibly and let out a little gasp of relief despite myself. I pushed the door open, and I crawled out as fast as I could. Like a dog in the streets, I did not stop until I made it back to my automobile. I slinked into the seat, started the engine and roared down the street onto the highway and out of that little bay city.
On the drive home I occasionally felt that familiar breath on my neck, I’d check the rearview but no one was there. When I pulled up to my house I was happy to see my parents’ autos in the driveway. I ran inside to see them; this new lease on life had given me a newfound appreciation for my parents. But when I opened the door, there she was. The woman in red! All of her eyes blinking at me! Coming toward me with what must have been her arms, her dress wriggling around completely independent from her movements. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. I would not be made a dog again. I turned the corner and there she was, speaking to me, “ch’ hai mnahn’ ‘bthnk.”
I ran toward her with the knife forward, felt the impact and the pressure as it sank within her chest. Her many eyes stared wide at me as she let out the most blood curdling scream. I dropped her to the floor, went to the kitchen, and made myself a sandwich. It had been sometime since I had eaten last. Father came home and screamed… then I was brought here… and now I see that woman every day. She serves me my food, and stares at me as I eat. They believe I’m mad, but I assure you I am sane! No will listen to me. I keep trying to tell them what she is but no one else sees it. They gave me a spoon with one of my meals recently, I’ve been sharpening it. I will finish her off the next chance I get and I will escape.



© M. NessK 2014

(Part of the Rumbling West series)





No Comment

Leave a Reply