But I didn’t come here to tell you a story. I came here to warn you.
Today, Death walks among us, disguised.
This creature appears as a woman. No one can tell you where she comes from or where she goes. She steps out of the faceless crowd and melts back into it, anonymously. No one can even agree on what she looks like‑‑some say her hair is brown, some red, some white. Some say she’s a wizened apple‑granny. Others say that she is a beautiful young girl with cheeks as smooth and shining as the apple of temptation. But when she stands on that stage or in that storytelling circle, age and youth slide away from her face with the ripples of a slug, leaving a mask that no one can remember afterwards.
She has nothing particular to recommend her as a storyteller. Her voice is monotonous, her style crude. She frequently hesitates as she spins her tale, as if she’s forgotten the ending or is making it up as she goes along. But those stories‑‑those insidiously evil stories…
She will flay you alive, then turn your skin inside out and shake out all the crumbs and the refuse of your soul‑‑all the filth and the sins you’ve been hoarding. And you won’t be able to stop listening because she’s doing the same to your neighbor and with greedy ears you’ll suck up the lechery and the treachery of the person next to you.
But those stories burrow deeply into the listeners, where they lie, encysted, like some parasite in a muscle. Until much later—days, weeks, even years—they awaken. And begin to crawl.
You remember those stories. You remember that flat, monotonous voice, playing over and over as something beneath your skin nibbles delicately at your nerve endings. The story is all about you‑‑your secret ugliness, all the monsters hidden in the dark. Until one day the nibblers break through the skin and the dark begins to seep out from where it was so carefully hidden.
Then victims wash themselves over and over, crying of black blood. Some use a steel brush; others find acid works best—all solutions are only temporary.
Oh, I could tell you the story of the woman who was found moaning and rocking with a skewer through her ear trying to stop that flat, awful voice from boring into her brain. I have seen men scream until their lungs burst trying to drown the memory of that voice. And the worst thing is–you never know if you have been infected‑‑until you go mad. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week. Or it could be ten years after the telling.
Do not touch her. Do not try to stop her. You may remember the last man who tried to drag her from the stage atMinneapolis. She whispered something in his ear. He stepped back, politely, his face as slack as a hanged man’s. Then he went home where he emptied his kerosene heater into the bathtub. He got in. And lit a cigarette.
No, do not try to stop her. You can only walk away or stop your ears.
But you won’t.
I have said all I can. She is out there somewhere. She could be any one of you.
But there is one way you may know her.
All of her stories begin
Copyright @1992 Chris Woodyard. All Rights Reserved.