Monday, December 07, 2009

The Procedure - 5

I still went by the back of Herkimer's house when I could. I knew the routine by now. It never changed. But I longed to hear the sounds the patients made when the doctor's work was done. Their uncontrolled sobs of utter catharsis. Of course, this deepened my longing to be in their place. Bearing witness was like scratching an itch that just got worse. Still, it gave me hope. If a human being could experience what that human being experienced, then why not me?

I was also gripped with fascination about the eighteen-minute silence. As it occurred, and I sat outside the window, I felt as if a strange and powerful energy were permeating the air. Though birds flew by and the wind blew, nothing seemed as it was or again would be. I trembled with apprehension. The Procedure was taking place.

One day, as the eighteen minutes of silence had just begun for some anxiety-prone young woman, desperate curiosity got the better of my caution. I stood up slowly, careful not to stir the dried leaves on the ground. I turned around to face the wall of the house, crouching to keep my head just below the window. It was open about a third. I could see the ceiling in there, track lights turned off, a wall to my left. Slowly, I lifted my head to look into the room. Hoping to see – expecting to see – what? Blood? Sex? Totems and pentagrams?

What I saw was far more terrifying. What I saw I couldn't have imagined. I saw Dr. Herkimer's face looking right back at me, eye to eye, about a foot away. He was bald, with a long, gray-streaked beard and wide, dark eyes. His expression was absolutely neutral. Not angry. Nor disapproving. And that was the most frightening thing of all.

I suppressed a gasp, turned and ran. As I reached the woods I looked back to see his face, darkened now by shadow, still at the window.