Something is rotten in the 202

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE 202

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My cousin Helen I and were so united we always looked like two sisters. The same age and same tastes. At school, we sat next to each other and ran around the school yard holding hands, happy like two birds. In fact, Helen was the only friend I ever had.

It was the best time of my life. We were children and the whole world was a set piece in one big child’s play. Then we were almost teenagers and the world became an endless source of wonderment. Both of us were marveled and scared at the possibilities that life laid ahead of us. And we had each other to protect ourselves and trust our secrets.

She used to sleep over on weekends and our nights were packed with endless conversations, our favorite songs and our shared diaries. When we began to get interested in boys, we kissed one another as practice for the kisses we’d actually do on them. And in the darkness of my bedroom we would mutually teach ourselves the pleasures our bodies had to offer.

Helen had a meaning for me. The only one.

One night, I showed her a photo of the dawn, a very beautiful page of a magazine. I asked her if she had ever seen the sunrise. She said she hadn’t, but she knew about a secret and asked me if I could keep something extremely confidential for the rest of my life. I said yes, she could trust me.

“Then promise you will never betray me.”

“I promise I will never betray you,” I replied with all the earnestness of the moment that enveloped us like music.

“Never, ever.”

“I promise I will never, ever betray you,” I reiterated, kissing my fingers in the shape of a cross.

Then she locked my bedroom door and made me sit down on the bed by her side. She whispered to my ear that there were no children on the other side of the night, and that was why grownups wouldn’t let them stay awake to see the dawn. But one day, when we were grownups, we would cross the night together fearlessly and we would see the dawn. That was the secret. And her promise.

I hugged her with confidence in her words and we slept together that night sharing an embrace protected from all evil, forever sharing a secret and a promise that united us even more.

One day, her family had to move to another city and Helen went away. We cried copiously, very sorry about this sad development. I kissed her with all my tenderness and told her I loved her. She wiped my tears, said she also loved me and would do everything possible so we could be reunited soon.

But life wouldn’t be as simple as our child’s plans. The two cities were far apart and our families were not rich. We couldn’t meet during vacation and we had to get by with our almost daily letters because the few minutes we had on the telephone were nowhere near enough for everything we had to say. However, Helen’s letters gradually took a week then a month then several months… One day, they stopped coming altogether. Saddened by her silence, I insisted and wrote even more. But she never replied again. I cried my heart out to Mom and she consoled me saying that there were other nice girls and I would find other friends.

Unfortunately, Mom was wrong.

One day, four years and twenty-five days after her departure, I was told that Helen was in the city and would come over to have dinner with us. I was ecstatic. I cleaned up the bedroom, replaced the curtain and put new linen and blankets on the bed.

When the door opened, I had two surprises. Helen was different. She had grown, she was a woman. She was even more beautiful. The other surprise was the young man she had brought with her. He was her boyfriend. She hadn’t mentioned him. I didn’t know. He was nice, but I didn’t feel comfortable in his presence. She shouldn’t have brought him to our house.

Helen hugged me and kissed me tenderly and said she had missed me. I asked her why she hadn’t replied my letters. She said she didn’t have time to write, but always read them all. I asked her if she had kept them. She laughed, looked at my mother and said “yes.”

We all had dinner together and Helen told me the news. She told me about my uncles and that she was taking the acceptance examination for a Physics course at the end of the year. She wanted to be a scientist. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was so beautiful!

After dinner, we went to the living room to watch television. I sat between Helen and her boyfriend so he wouldn’t be able to kiss her. Later on, Mom suggested that she stay to sleep over. To my joy, Helen accepted. Then she saw her boyfriend off, specifying the time for him to stop by and pick her up on the following day. He left and I locked the door.

I let Helen have my bed. I would sleep in the hammock. When we were alone in the bedroom, I pulled the chest from under the bed. I opened it up and showed her my most valuable treasure: our old CDs, our photos, my diaries, all of her letters and the notes we had exchanged during classes.

She was surprised at everything. She couldn’t believe I had really kept all those things for so long. She held two locks of hair taped to a yellow ribbon with curiosity, and I said those were ours. Didn’t she remember we used to have our hair cut together? Helen read passages in my diary where I had written about my grief for being far from her and, at that moment, her voice sounded like a sweet song that sang about the feeling of missing someone. I asked her if she still loved me.

She stopped reading and looked at me. She brought me closer to her on the bed. I sat down by her side. She straightened my hair out and said she liked me very much and she would never forget our friendship. I asked her if she still knew how to kiss. She laughed and said “yes.” I kissed her mouth. She corresponded for a few seconds, but then she stepped away. I asked her if she hadn’t liked it. She said that what had happened between us was child’s play, we were teenagers now, almost grownups, and soon we would be in college.

I told her she was wrong, our love was not child’s play, I had never forgotten her for even one minute and she still was the most important thing in the world for me. She looked at me tenderly and hugged me. She said she would never forget the moments we had shared, she remembered everything tenderly and, in spite of the time and the distance, I still was her favorite cousin. I insisted and asked again if she still loved me. “Yes,” she answered, but now we should have those memories kept in a box and mind our own lives, move on.

She picked everything up and put it back in the chest. She locked it and handed me the key. I tried to understand what she was doing, but I was confused. She said it was already late, she had to sleep and get up early.

Helen slept. I didn’t. I spent all night sitting on the floor next to the bed, watching over her sleep so nothing bad would happen to her. She was so beautiful sleeping she looked like an angel. The ray of light that came in through the window caressed her face… The moon was jealous and also wanted to kiss her. Like I had kissed her.

After some time, I looked through the window and I saw it was… dawn! I stood up and went up to the window. I opened the curtain and the window. The sky was not all dark anymore. It was beginning to change color behind the buildings. The darkness was being replaced by the beautiful orange clouds and some light beams seemed to pierce through them and spear up higher above. It was dawn, the first one I witnessed in my whole life.

I smiled with a strange feeling, a combination of triumph and discomfort. And fear. The sunrise was beautiful, but I admired it and was afraid of it at the same time. So that was the world of which my cousin had spoken, the world where she once promised we would go together… But I didn’t know if I wanted to go. I wasn’t happy with the idea of a world without children. I was rather confused.

I looked at Helen. She slept on the bed. And the sight of her face filled me with courage. I kneeled next to her and called her. I wasn’t afraid to go with her. I called her so we could keep the promise she once had made, that we would go together into the world of grownups.

She moved around in bed, whispered something and resumed her sleep. I called her again, she had to get up, we had to go in together, I wasn’t going without her. But she said it was early and she had to sleep, and told me to sleep too. I called her again. She looked at me angrily and said she would call my mother if I didn’t go back to my hammock.

I stepped back, surprised. Helen had never talked to me in that tone. I stood there looking at her, trying to understand. Why didn’t she want to go with me? That didn’t make sense. I wasn’t going alone. What would I do in the world of grownups without Helen?

Then I understood. She preferred to stay in our world, the world of children, the one on this side of the night. Our world, where we would be forever protected from all evil. I felt relieved for finally understanding everything. I closed the window and lay in the hammock.

When I was almost sleeping, I heard something that caught my attention. It was a sound of galloping, like horses approaching. I looked through the window. The sound came from outside. I stood up and went to the window. And I saw them. The evil creatures.

They were many, more than I could count. They were riding their huffing horses in a troubled gallop. They yelled, screamed and cackled as if they were insane. They had scythes and spears and brandished them over their heads. They were human corpses, skeletons with rests of flesh still hanging from them. Semi-dead creatures. Grotesque. Horrible. They looked like they had just come out of their graves. The most dreadful thing I had ever seen and would ever see in my whole life.

They were very near, blowing hatred and cruelty through their red eyes. And they were all looking at my window, where I was, all those horrible red eyes staring at me. In the vastness of the city, among all the buildings, the creatures knew exactly where I was. They had their gaze fixed on my window, on me, and they came closer in their crazy and noisy gallop.

I felt the despair come up inside my throat. I tried to call Helen, but my voice simply wouldn’t come out. They were coming and I couldn’t scream. I wanted to run, but my legs would not move and I stood there in front of the window. They came closer and the noise was increasingly louder. How could Helen sleep with that deafening roar?

At last, they arrived. They stopped in front of the window. I could hear their troubled horses huffing, ready to storm into the bedroom. I could feel the horrible smell of something rotten, some dead animal, it was unbearable…

Then I summoned all my strength, leapt as fast as I could, threw myself on the bed and pressed my body against my cousin’s. I pulled the blanket on and covered myself from head to feet. She woke up and asked me what I was doing there. I couldn’t speak at all. My eyes were closed and I trembled. I was terrified.

Helen explained that I had had a nightmare, that everything was alright and I could sleep with her. I trembled in fetal position with my eyes shut hard. I was frightened and petrified. Helen hugged me and tried to soothe me. But it was useless. They were just outside the window and would come in any second now.

Helen asked me to open my eyes. I didn’t. She insisted, she asked me to open them, said that she was there by my side, my dear cousin. I didn’t open them, I couldn’t. I just trembled and trembled.

Then she took my hand, pressed it in hers and put something in it. It was our lock of hair. It had been left out of the chest. Helen told me it was an amulet, that I should not be afraid anymore because the amulet would protect me every night. I just had to hold it and the nightmare would go away.

I held the lock of hair in my hand with all the strength I could find. Then I noticed that the creatures went gradually away. The amulet really worked. I kept holding it and pressing it. And the creatures were gone. Little by little, I stopped trembling and I cried from so much relief and gratitude. I hugged my beloved cousin and we slept that way, close together. Protected. Like in the old times. Like it should always have been.

When I woke up, however, I was alone. My cousin had left already. I looked through the window and the sky was blue. I opened my hand and there was the amulet.

*     *     *

I am 21 years old now. I left home and came to another city to attend college. My parents rented a small apartment where I live with Shadow, my Persian cat. He is neutered and never leaves the apartment, so he keeps me company.

I’ve always been careful to be back home before dawn so I don’t have the displeasure of seeing that horrible scene again. That made me turn down many invitations to go out. I was afraid I would not be protected in my bed when the malignant creatures came from the world where there are no children. Yes, I still had the amulet. But it was too sacred for me to carry it around.

I never mentioned the creatures to anybody, not even my parents or friends, nobody. It was my secret. Mine and Helen’s. One day, however, in an unguarded moment, I relented and told Luiz. We had been dating for a few months and he always asked me about my refusal to see the dawn. I liked him and thought he would understand, so I told him. In a moment of weakness, I revealed our secret.

I asked Luiz whether he could not see them at dawn, those horrid creatures. I asked him whether he could not hear the manic rumble of the gallops with the first rays of daylight. Could he not feel the unbearable smell of dead animals. He was sensitive, he would certainly understand. I told him that many years ago Helen had warned me about the other side of the night, that she had told me about the secret of the dawn and that one day I had finally seen it with my own eyes. I told him about the amulet I had been keeping, which my cousin had given to me specifically for my protection so I always wore it on a necklace when I slept.

I told him all that and waited apprehensively. Then I suddenly remembered Helen and felt all the weight of a precious pact being broken. What would she think about this? Would she understand me? If she met Luiz, she would certainly understand. Yes, he was a good person. He liked me.

Luiz listened to everything and looked very serious. He asked me if I was joking and I replied I wasn’t. He asked the same question again and my answer was negative again. He asked it for a third time and I gave him the same answer once more. Then I realized I shouldn’t have told him.

Luiz changed after that. He became somewhat cold and distant towards me. Even worse, he tried to convince me that everything I had told him was a product of my imagination, that the malignant creatures didn’t exist and that I should watch the dawn without the amulet to confirm what he was telling me.

I should have broken up with him right there. I felt very angry for being treated like a lunatic. I know I’m not crazy, I saw the creatures. I heard the hurried gallop and the troubling howls, I could feel the rotten smell overpower the air and their claws had been very close to touching my neck.

We still dated for a few weeks in spite of his attempts to convince me. He would bring it up once in a while, but I wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to discuss that anymore, I knew it was useless. We eventually broke up because one day he did something I could not accept.

We were sharing the bed that night. I suddenly woke up startled. He was calling me. He was pointing at the window in my bedroom and told me to look. He said there was nothing outside, just the dawn.

I looked through the window, still sleepy and groggy, and I almost passed out from the shock. There were the creatures coming up and they came running, storming towards us. They were close enough already, I could hear them as if they were inside the apartment.

I looked at his hand and I saw the amulet. Luiz had taken it out of my neck while I slept, the jerk. I was out of my mind with such rage I’d never thought I could have. Seeing the amulet in the hands of that rapscallion made me absolutely furious. He couldn’t have done that.

I pushed him out of the bed, desperately screaming that he didn’t have the right to do that. I tried to take the amulet back, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me to look outside and see that everything was normal, that there were no evil creatures at all…

I could have killed him, I honestly could. Luiz was treating me as if I were insane. In fact, I was in complete despair. Yes, I was. But who wouldn’t be with those creatures drawing so close?

I pushed him hard to the corridor and from there to the living room. He tried to contain me, he asked me to calm down saying I should seek treatment, he liked me a lot and wanted to help. I didn’t want to listen and screamed at him to go away. Shadow had woken up with my screams and was scared, watching everything in a corner of the room. I was really desperate. I didn’t have any time. Luiz was pushing me towards death and didn’t understand that.

I don’t know where I found so much strength, Luiz is a lot stronger than me, but I opened the door of the living room and thrust him far away. He was knocked down on his back and tumbled down the staircase steps. I picked the amulet from the floor, yelled that I never wanted to see him again and slammed the door shut. I ran to the bedroom, threw myself on the bed and covered my body with the blanket.

I relived everything again, all the hell I had sworn I would never live again. They had come to me just like they had before. They looked through the window and… came in. They stood around my bed and watched me, the repulsive corpses. No, nobody can imagine what that is like…

While I hid under the blanket trembling and squeezing the amulet in my hands, I could feel their gaze burn like embers on my skin, their heated breath, their putrid stench, their loathsome claws only inches away from my body… No, nobody can imagine.

Then they gradually began to step away and leave the room. They knew there was nothing they could do against me as long as I had the amulet.

Luiz called me on the same day, but I didn’t answer. He sent me messages that I didn’t read. I got sick of him and turned off the phone. On the next day, I took a bus to the city where Helen lived. I had to tell her about what I had done. I hadn’t honored her secret. I had to ask her to forgive me.

I arrived there in the afternoon. I took another bus from the bus station to her house. When I got there, I rang the bell and asked about my cousin. Then I learned that Helen had passed away. On that same day, in the morning.

I refused to believe it at first. The voice on the intercom asked me who I was. But I couldn’t find my voice to say anything else. A woman opened the gate. She was dressed in black and looked very sad. She told me about something involving an accident and explained where the wake would be held. Everybody would be there. She asked me if I had understood. I don’t remember what I replied, but I had understood. I had understood everything.

*     *     *

It is exactly five ten in the morning right now. I’m back to my apartment, in the living room, sitting in this armchair facing the large glass window. The sun rises behind me, on the opposite side. I had deliberately chosen an apartment with a view to the sunset, but I can already see the sky beginning to get brighter on this side. In a few minutes, the light of day will come.

I brought another cup of coffee from the kitchen. I want to be awaken and fully alert for what is about to happen.

I can hear the rumble and feel the stench… I try to remain calm. But my chest is about to explode.

I can see the creatures and the maniacal look on their faces. And the screams, my God, the screams… I can’t understand how the neighbors can remain asleep with that uproar. My neighbor complains about the slightest sounds, how is it possible that she can’t hear this?

I left enough food for about five days in Shadow’s dish. I hope someone realizes what happened before the poor animal starves to death.

They are coming. They have seen me. The entire horde watches me with their red eyes and hateful expressions. And their storming rocks the whole apartment. How can nobody else hear this, my God? The vases drop from the shelves, everything is shaking! Even Shadow, who usually sleeps so heavily, has come to see what is going on…

They’re here already. They look sadistic as they walk around the armchair and the sound of their steps echoes in the room. God, they’re so repugnant! And their stench is so smothering it’s impossible to breathe… Shadow was terrified by what he saw. He ruffled his fur and ran away to the corridor, must have tucked himself under the locker, the poor thing. I really I wish I could have saved him from this.

One of the creatures touches my hair, the bony hand, threads of skin hanging from it… The stench is unbearable. The sickness comes all the way up to my throat and I refrain from vomiting. I remain motionless, not breathing, eyes fixed forward. One of them brandishes a scythe. Why won’t it do what it has come to do already?

They are all in the room and they laugh at me wildly. I try to retain as much of my dignity as I can, but I am so nervous my jaws shake uncontrollably… I just wish it could be over immediately.

One of the creatures pulls my hair and pulls my head back, exposing the full length of my neck. My heart is racing. It brings its face close to mine. I can see the foaming mouth and the hot breath. The one with the scythe approaches. I look away from their eyes the whole time.

The creature pulls my hair some more. The drool from its mouth drops on my closed lips and runs around its corners… I try hard to control my revulsion. I feel the sharp claws touch my neck. My jaws still tremble. They all touch my neck and glide their claws across it as if savoring an appetizer.

Two images come to my mind. The first one is the amulet I had buried in the garden of the town square, the dirt covering it, our locks of hair united forever. The second image is Helen looking at me with sad and disappointed eyes…

The tears begin to run across my face. My head is still pulled back, my whole neck exposed. I can’t stand Helen’s stare anymore and I cry. I cry with my eyes closed and I pray that it’s all over soon.

Then comes a swift motion, and the creature does its deed.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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.

(script for a movie soon)

.

this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

.

> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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