Prompt Day #217: Write about the mispronunciation of a word which leads to disastrous consequences. (“Klatuu…Barada…”)
Wow. Let me start by saying I am a couple days behind. I was on call Monday and Tuesday and I think I may have slept all of three hours in broken segments. Otherwise I was on my feet the entire time. Lots of babies, lots of patients who needed me. That’s my life and sometimes, it gets in its own way. So, while I can say that I did write every day (maybe only a couple sentences jotted on sticky notes stuffed into my scrub’s pocket) I did not post every day. and I did not complete a prompt a day. That doesn’t mean I am giving up or stopping. I thought with my oh so naïve soul, that I could catch up by finishing all three prompts due by the end of the day today (my day off) but first of all, I have other adult responsibilities I had to attend to and secondly, this story got really selfish and took up way more than its allotted time. I have forgiven it and shared it with you because I quite like the spotlight hogging Diva it became. Meanwhile, I continue to slave away on Tuesday’s and today’s prompts. I will complete all 365 of these nasty little gremlins (I even have the bonus leap year day coming up) on time….as long as the world doesn’t end before that. I promise.
It’s The End of The World as We Know It
“Hey, Honey. How are you holding up?” Elle asked. She hadn’t even knocked, just walked in as if she lived there too. It never bothered Nadine before but today, now, she wanted to scream at her, tell her to get out. She took a deep breath and reminded herself Elle had come because she loved her best friend and was worried about her.
“I guess I’m still alive and breathing, that’s the most I could hope for right now, Elle. What are you doing here?” She asked, trying to suppress the tone of displeasure in her voice. She wanted to mourn in peace. Sit here in her robe, dirty hair in knots, and watch Hoarders all day to make herself feel better.
“Well, I’m here because…well, Nadine, look at you! You’re a mess. Do you think Rob would have wanted this? No. He’d be so pissed at you right now.”
“Shut up about Rob. You don’t know what he would’ve wanted.” Nadine snapped. She was instantly sorry. Elle had been friends with Rob as long as Nadine had. Elle knew all Rob’s secrets because Nadine told her everything.
“Listen, how about I don’t want to see you like this? Seriously, Nadine. Look at you?” Elle flipped the back of Nadine’s hair up and made a disgusted sound.
“Look, how about my husband died two weeks ago. Out of the blue, Elle! He left for work, said ‘see ya later’ and I never saw him again. Ok? I loved him very much and I miss him and I want him back and he isn’t ever coming back and I don’t believe in god and I don’t believe in the afterlife and I will NEVER EVER see him again? Ok? So give me some fucking credit for even getting out of bed. Jesus!” Nadine was bawling now. She was angry and emotional and she couldn’t control herself. Elle stood for a minute quietly letting Nadine cry. She did not try to console her friend she just let her cry.
When the sobs turned to sighs and the tears slowed to a trickle, Elle held out the book she’d had cradled under arm since she’d burst in the door.
“What’s this?” Nadine asked.
“This, my friend is a very rare and very old book. It’s a translation of an ancient Sumerian book of the dead, I guess.” She shrugged.
“And I want this because…?” Nadine asked fanning the pages with her thumb.
“Because, look, you know how I read Tarot and all that shit? So, I called up a few of my connections from the psychic fairs I go to, right? And I tell them about you, like I wanted to put you in touch with someone trustworthy, someone that could like, get in touch with Rob,” she flinched, expecting to be interrupted by her pragmatic friend. Silence. She continued “like maybe you two could say the things you didn’t get to say before the accident. I just wanted you to find some peace, Nadine.” She was already trying to excuse her actions yet Nadine sat quietly, listening. Elle took a deep breath. It was a good sign that so far, Nadine might be open to a psychic trying to get in touch with her dead husband, but this next part would be the kicker and although she had prepared the speech on the way to Nadine’s house, she now felt ridiculous and childish. She thought about lying and telling her that the book had some spell in it to communicate with the dead and she wanted to try it with Nadine. Then of course, she would have to fake it, not to mention fake an entire conversation with Rob and deceive her friend. She couldn’t, no she wouldn’t do that.
“So, anyways, they referred me to this gal, she calls herself a witch, I don’t know. She does a lot of black arts stuff. I’ve always avoided her, you know, I didn’t her bad juju affecting my pristine aura.” Elle laughed and twirled like a ballerina. The act was made all the more ridiculous by her ripped up black jeans, Doc Martins, and rainbow hair. Not to mention the nose and eyebrow piercings. Nadine watched her friend and couldn’t help a smile. They’d been friends since college. Nadine had been instantly drawn to Elle in their Art History class. Elle was everything Nadine wasn’t and vice versa. They were soul mates, yin and yang, and together, they brought out the best in each other.
“So you brought me a satanic book of witchcraft? Gee thanks, Elle.” Nadine said with a hint of sarcasm. She hated to admit it, but Elle’s presence was making her feel better. And as ridiculous as her story thus far sounded, Nadine was intrigued. It was crazy how the loss of a loved one screwed with your rationality. Right now, if Elle had suggested going to the graveyard with shovels and digging Rob up, Nadine would have grabbed the car keys without a second thought. She hated to admit, she’d even fantasized about it herself.
“No….well…not really.” Elle said and went on before Nadine could vocalize whatever she’d just opened her mouth to say. “This woman, Portitia, I finally track her down and tell her your story. She says yeah we probably could contact him but then she gets real quiet,” Elle subconsciously shrugged up her shoulders and whispers the next part “and says, if he has been dead for less than a moon’s full cycle, we might be able to bring him back.” She said the last part so quietly, it made her voice husky and she sounded like a witch herself.
Nadine stood up, her rob fell open send a whiff of B.O. Elle’s way. God, she was in bad shape. When was the last time she’d showered? Elle grabbed her friend’s robe and closed it, bringing the ties around her waist and cinched them down. Jesus, and she’s lost like 20 pounds at least.
“Elle,” Nadine began, letting her friend fuss at her.
“No. Do not say a word to me yet. You need to think about this seriously. I am willing to try it. I mean, what harm can we do? You don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, so it’s not like your mortal soul is in danger, and it probably won’t do anything, but still, we drink some wine, light some candles, what could it hurt?” She was again, arguing a point without even knowing Nadine’s thoughts. She was arguing with the old Nadine not the Widow Nadine, so maybe she should shut up.
“Anyways, we do nothing until your march your nasty, stinking ass into the shower. And you stay in there for at least an hour, maybe longer. I’m guessing you got fourteen days of grime stuck on you. I’m gonna run down to Stockton’s and get some supplies. I expect you dressed with those rats’ nests combed out of your hair when I get back.” She pushed Nadine towards the bathroom and closed the door behind her once she was inside. “And do some landscaping down below while you’re in there. I just caught a glimpse of the 70’s when you flashed me. I can’t go back there again!” She pounded on the door for emphasis and headed down the street to the local party store. It would have everything she’d need.
The hot water felt amazing. Why hadn’t she done this sooner? It made her feel like she could face a Rob-less world and maybe eventually re-enter it. Elle was insane, but she loved her for it. The idea of saying a spell and bringing Rob back was so preposterous. Nadine did not allow herself to even consider it…well, ok, maybe consider it but nothing more than that. It was a child’s fantasy, like Santa Claus. Even when you were old enough to know he wasn’t real, you tried to suppress that part of you and just keep believing anyways. That was how she was considering Elle’s idea. It would be so wonderful to touch him again but he wasn’t coming back. Two weeks in the grave. Even modern day embalming wasn’t good enough to allow her to assume that even if a spell could bring someone back to life, it couldn’t change the fact that the body they came back to would be soft and rotten. She shuddered, imagining her thumb bursting through his skin like an overripe peach when she tried to touch him.
When she walked into the living room, Elle was back. There were full wine glasses on the coffee table, black candles lit all over the living room, and the book was opened on the floor in the center of a circle of candles and what looked like amber pellets. She was bent over carefully funneling more of the gold crystals inside the circle.
“Is that going to stain my carpet?” Nadine asked. Elle jumped and let out a yip. She turned and smiled. Nadine was cleaned and dressed, her hair up in a loose bun. If it weren’t for the dark circles under her eyes and her much too prominent cheek bones, she’d look like her old friend before Rob’s death had eaten away at her like cancer.
“It’s myrrh, ok? I don’t know if it will stain your carpet. But Portitia said I should use it. It’s used to get blood flowing or something like that and it also symbolizes death and embalming maybe I don’t know. She was telling me the stuff so fast. I wrote it down and though I’d remember the rest, anyhow, the point is, myrrh is part of the spell, we don’t need to know why…I don’t think.” She said returning to her work, fixing the spill she’d made when Nadine surprised her. She had no idea what she was doing. This seemed so stupid now that she was about to try it. But Nadine was going along with it, so maybe if nothing else it would be cathartic for her. If that was the case, then it would be worth it.
Nadine sat on the couch and sipped her wine. It was a little dry for her taste but she liked the warmth it left in her throat. She closed her eyes as the liquid ran down her esophagus and into her belly, leaving a trail of embers in its wake. She decided the wine should be a part of the ritual, she would focus on it spilling through Rob’s cold body, bringing his temperature back up to an acceptable 98.6 degrees. Elle was standing beside her drinking out of her own glass when Nadine opened her eyes again.
“Ready?” Elle asked.
“Only if we can keep drinking our wine.” Nadine answered.
“You can, I have to read that shit.” Elle said pointing at the book. “But, yeah, let’s um, turn the lights out and sit on the floor across from each other. Oh, and unlock the door so Rob can get in.” she said in an effort to remain optimistic. Nadine did a little skip over to the door and unlocked it. Elle watched in shock. Nadine was completely on board with this. It was insane, but Elle was staring to believe it might really work. It was the wine clouding her judgement probably, but who cared, belief in what they were about to do couldn’t hurt the process. Nadine sat down opposite her on the floor cross-legged, the lotus position, good Elle though, didn’t lotuses have something to do with the afterlife too? She herself had been sitting on her knees so she could lean in to read, but decided to mirror Nadine instead.
“Ok. Ready?” she asked.
“Yes.” Nadine said and took a big breath, blew it out from her lower lip, puffing her bangs up in the process. A trade mark Nadine move. “What do we do?”
“Well, I am going to attempt to read this chant and you think about Rob coming back to you…and maybe you should repeat my words.” Elle said trying to remember all the things Portitia had said. She knew it was important to get the words right or else it certainly wouldn’t work. She’d practiced the words separately using a recording Portitia had made. It was important though not to practice it out loud in the order the spell was written or else, you blew your chance, the dark witch had warned her. So this would be her first time doing the chant in its proper order. Would it be wrong to pray to God that it worked? She supposed it best to leave God out of it, if there was such a being.
“Oh!” She held out her hands over the book as if to call a time out. “I almost forgot, I need to tell you what the chant means so you can sort of think of the meaning along in your head as we say it. Obviously it means more if we know what we’re saying.” Elle said and sighed. Yes, that is what she was forgetting. Now she felt as if she’d covered everything. Nadine nodded like a toddler with the most serious intent.
“Ok, so first we call out to, well, I guess it’s Satan but it could be whatever god you are asking to do this for you. But I guess since it is a black spell of the dead, maybe we better just think of Satan. So we say ‘Oh king of all, God of all things. Rip out of the heaped up burial mound’– or I guess the freshest grave, like Rob’s is still heaped up, you know?—‘on the boundary of the living and the dead’—meaning again those who just died, like they haven’t crossed completely over until a full moon’s cycle is what Portitia said.—‘and restore Rob to Nadine, as I have commanded.’ Yep, so that’s basically what these words mean.” She said proud of herself for remembering what she’d been taught.
“So, we’re commanding Satan?” Nadine asked dubiously
“Uh, yeah, I guess that’s the thing with black magic. Like you have to be forceful. Satan doesn’t like meek beggars or something like that.” Elle assured her. “Ok, take my hands and let’s do this.” She held her hands out to Nadine who swallowed down the last of her wine like a shot and took Elle’s hands.
“Kur Kur-ra, dingir-dingir re ne-ke. Na-ru-a bi. Sahar du taka-bi eden-na ki. Ba-ni-us-us. E-bi id nun-ta. Im dub-ba eb gan. Na-ru-a Rob umma-se Nadine. Dam-ha-ra eda-ak!” Elle chanted and Nadine repeated as best she could, it sounded like so much gibberish.
They repeated the chant three times when the ground began to tremble; just a slight vibration at first followed by a full-on earthquake. Elle stared wide-eyed at Nadine who had pushed herself back from the circle. She was visibly shaking.
“What the hell?” Nadine said. Elle jumped up and ran to the front picture window. She pulled the heavy drapes away and gasped. It was no longer a sunny afternoon. The black sky was lit by a blood red full moon. The stars were not the familiar pinpoints of light, but looked as if they’d been smeared like wet paint of those time lapse photos of the night sky.
“Shit, Nadine. What did we just do?” she asked. Nadine had come up behind her just then and drew a sharp intake of breath. They looked at each other. There was the sound of an explosion but it seemed to come from all around them, the ground shook with it.
“Elle, what does the verse in the book say? I mean obviously the part about restoring Rob to me was not printed in there. How did you get that?” Nadine asked Elle, grabbing her by the shoulders both to steady herself and to get Elle’s attention. Elle stared at her in shock.
“Oh God, Nadine, I don’t know what it says, I mean I told you what Portitia said it meant. She gave me an index card with the sentence about restoring Rob to you. I just believed her, I’m an idiot.”
“Elle. What did we just do?” Nadine shook her friend. Elle wasn’t listening, she was flipping back through the pages in the book.
What sounded like hail began to ping off the roof. Nadine rain to the window again. Little flames lit up the front yard. She looked up. It was raining fire. The smeared stars she’d seen must have been meteorites. She saw people milling in the street. What the hell is wrong with them? It’s raining fire for Christ’s sake. She thought. Leaning closer and shielding her eyes with her palms she could see their ragged and tattered clothing hanging off them. Most had on dress clothes…and their shambles seemed oblivious to the fire.
“Zombies! Elle! Elle! What the fuck did we do?” She looked again. One of the undead crowd turned and looked right at her. It was Rob. It was a nightmare version of him. His skin hung off his skull on his left side (the side where the other car plowed into him) and whatever eye filler they’d placed into that empty socket was gone. There was just a gaping dead hole there. He was coming at her now, dragging his mangled leg like a toddler’s teddy bear. She screamed and backed away from the window.
“He’s coming. We have to lock the door Elle. Elle!” She was screaming to be heard over the commotion of the fire hail and the rescue sirens now going off all over town. She locked the door. Elle was of no use. She had her head buried in that damn death manual as if the solution to the problem it helped them create would be there too. She didn’t have time to deal with that. She ran back to peek out the window to check on Rob’s progress. She saw him he was on the far side of the lawn.
There was an ear splitting crack like a lightning bolt on steroids and the house tilted backwards. She tumbled away from the window taking Elle down with her as they fumbled across the floor and hit the wall. The place was on fire in several places where the candles still lit from their black magic duties had tumbled.
“I called all the dead. I said it wrong I think.” Elle was saying in a flat tone of voice. She’d been so confident of the words because she had practiced them over and over on the index cards. Over and over until the cadence and rhythm of them in random order became cerebellar. Yes, she thought she’d begun by reading the book as it was printed, it just so happened that she’d mispronounced the last word in the second sentence “a-bi” which was similar in sound to the first word in her index card set “e-bi”. But when she did that, her brain went into autopilot and recited the order of the cards and not the order of the words in the book.
“What? What do you mean all the dead? What about the fire from the sky and these earth quakes?” Nadine asked. She was pulling herself up the carpet towards the window, trying to look outside.
“I mean I mispronounced a word and I think I called out all the dead to return to the land of the living as commanded by you and Rob. Which might mean they will all be coming to you as like their leader or something. I don’t know!” she screamed in panic. “I don’t mess with this shit. It was a stupid idea. What the fuck are we gonna do?”
Nadine’s response was interrupted by a cacophonous humming, buzzing noise that began just then outside the window. Softer pitter pats sounded like rain. They both clawed their way to the window. The sky was glowing red. The mass of dead were held off from nearing the house by a giant fissure that had ripped across the lawn. Now, spilling out of it in an unholy geyser were large locust like bugs and tiny flying demonic bats with large almost human/vampyric teeth.
“The Apocalypse” Nadine whispered. “Remember in art history all those freaky paintings inspired by Revelations in the bible?” Elle did not respond. “Dead rising from the grave…black skies and locusts and brimstone, right?” Elle was staring blankly. “I think we just triggered the Apocalypse” Nadine said. Elle passed out and rolled back down the now inclined floor. Nadine watched as Elle’s head hit the now upturned coffee table on the way. She heard the crack of Elle’s neck snapping and then the dull thud as her lifeless body hit the wall. I wonder how long before she wakes up again. Nadine thought.
Suddenly, she realized, her grief was gone. She’d been wrong. There was an afterlife and Rob was there, waiting for her on the other side of the Hell canyon. Yes, she was going to die. Probably soon. But she thought, when she was dead too, she probably wouldn’t mind Rob’s posthumous decay. She began to sing.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine.”