Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Encounter 7/9


By Yehuda Berlinger. Copyright 2006, Yehuda Berlinger. All rights reserved.

(Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6)

Chapter 7: Schizoid

Everything is black and white, or shades of shadow.

She doesn't know where she is. On the heels of this discovery comes the first rush of panic that she also doesn't know who she is.

She looks at herself. Arms, bare feet, the nondescript gray rags she is wearing, are covered with dirt and something dried and blackened. She feels her face; it is filthy. Something tugs at her ear; she feels a heavy earring. Her hair is dark gray, wiry, and tangled.

She is crouching. She stands.

She is inside some sort of tent. The tent is overflowing with laboriously embroidered pillows and painted hangings, metal pots and clay jugs, all in black and white. There are smells of spices, roasting meat, and baking bread. It is an enormous tent, with four openings, one on each side. Outside, she can only see a blinding white.

People dressed in arabesque tunics sprint around her. They enter from one opening, disappear behind a curtain, re-emerge with jugs and huge plates of food, and exit the same opening. They are mostly adults, but one is a small boy of about twelve; he is moving the fastest, carrying the most. He disappears out the opening.

An old woman with a small wrinkled face pokes her head and torso out from behind the curtain. Her dress is the only thing in color: sharply defined oranges, greens, and yellows. She is dripping with gold jewelry.

The old woman notices her, and holds out a platter of figs in her direction. "Hurry! Take this!" she says, firm, but smiling.

She answers, with some effort, "Who are you?"

"Tsk. What a question! I'm Sarah. Hurry! Take this! The guests are waiting. Abraham is waiting."

She tries to speak again. It is hard to talk. "Sarah," she manages to say.

"Yes, Sarah," the old woman replies. "Once I was Sarai, now I'm Sarah."

She tries to move forwards, but her legs won't move. She tries to reach for the tray, but her arms won't move. She wrestles out, "Why?"

"Why?" The woman stands for a moment looking into space, colored clothes swaying around her with a faint jingling. People - servants, she realizes - continue to hurry to and fro. "Because Abraham asked me to. He asked for my 'Heh'. He needed a 'Heh' for his own name. I gave him my 'Heh'." She is no longer smiling. "I gave it freely. But it was supposed to be in exchange."

The old woman looks off. Sounds of bustle continue.

And then the boy rushes in, out of breath. "Sarah! Sarah! Father says," he huffs, his young dark face sheened with sweat. "Father says that you are to have a baby! A baby! That you will give birth to a baby next year! The guests told him so! He told me to tell you!" He stops and pants.

Everything stops. Sarah looks at the boy astonished.

And begins to laugh. And laugh.

From an unnoticed corner of the room starts a scream. Another woman, dark like the boy, sits and wails. Sarah turns to her and laughs again, seemingly eighty years younger in the space of a moment.

The sitting woman wails even louder, ululating like an ambulance siren. The woman reaches up to her ear and yanks hard, but she feels it in her own ear. The bloodied earring is ripped out of her ear and thrown across the tent. The pain is unbearable and she screams.

Her body has forgotten how to step and she falls. Her arms are incapable of stopping her from falling on her face. She hears the ambulance approaching, its siren and wheels growing into the wail.

There is an unearthly noise and a flash.

An alarm sounds in Barbara's head, and she bolts up in bed.

With a primal yell, she tears out of bed, and runs out the door, barely grabbing her nightgown on the way. She struggles into it as she dashes up the stairs. Bursting into her daughter's room, she finds Sarah lying on the floor beside the bed, a pool of blood slowly spreading out from the ear where her NetMind, now smashed and broken against a wall, used to be.

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