THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 49
Mathilda sat with her back against the tunnel wall, waited until her heartbeat had slowed down and her wind came back. She groped beside her for the picnic basket, pulled it closer. She dug inside and found her great-grandmother’s old Catholic rosary: a string of porcelain beads and a large silver crucifix. Mathilda draped it around her neck. At least she could still ask for the Lord’s protection. Not that it would be enough.
*I have given you power to tread upon scorpions and snakes, the Good Book says.*
She took a deep breath, inhaling the smell of the poultice into her lungs. From the picnic basket she took a pack of spearmint gum, unwrapped two sticks and put them in her mouth. The gum would help with her voice.
*But it says too, not to tempt the Lord thy God.*
Mathilda shifted, sitting up straight. She grimaced with the effort. Then she took the small drum from the basket and wedged it in place between her thighs.
*An’ I ain’t playin’ with no scorpions an’ snakes.*
Mathilda struck the rawhide cover of the drum. This had belonged to her great-grandmother as well, brought with her as a child from Africa. Mathilda kept perfect time between strikes; the sound of the drum filled the tunnel, heavy in Mathilda’s ears.
“Brings it in, Lord,” Mathilda said. “Brings it on in.” She repeated the verse in Bantu, the tongue of her ancestors.
“Brings the beast back down into the earth, Lord,” she said. “Back down into the earth where it belongs.”
Her palm grew numb as it struck the skin of the drum, over and over. Mathilda closed her eyes, letting the words come from her memory. The chewing gum kept her throat moist and her voice strong.
“Brings ’em up, Lord. The worms of the earth. Brings ’em on up.”
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Up out the belly a’ the world, brings ’em on up.”
Other languages slipped from Mathilda’s tongue as she gave herself over to the Spirit. To the spirits, plural.
“Brings ’em together, Lord. Brings ’em on together. Evil ‘gainst evil. Ol’ Devil’s creations can’t gets along. Brings ’em together.”
Thump. Thump. Thump. She kept the same tempo but began to strike the drum harder. Thump. Thump. Thump.
“I calls on Papa Legba,” she said. “Brings ’em together.
“I calls on Papa Shango. Brings ’em together.
“I calls on Damballah-wedo. Brings ’em together.
“I calls on Grannie Erili. You is an old woman like me. Brings ’em together.
“Brings ’em together, Lord Jesus. Brings ’em together.”
Mathilda heard a sound beyond her own voice and the timbre of the drum. A skittering, scratching sound, a hint of a little child’s laughter. The cockroach stench grew stronger, mingling with the poultice.
The Little ‘Uns.
Mathilda kept praying. Repeating the stanzas in other languages, some she didn’t even recognize. But the words were the same. And the spell was working. The Little ‘Uns were gathering. The Beast would come, too. And Mathilda would be alone with them.
“Brings ’em in, Lord,” she intoned. “Here in the dark, brings ’em in.”
Oscar and his kind would not dare interrupt her while she worked the spell. So long as she continued the conjure, Mathilda knew, they’d keep their distance. Even the other, the Beast, might hesitate out of instinct to offer her harm during her recitation of the prayers. As long as she kept praying, Mathilda knew, she’d be safe.
Just as she also knew she could not keep praying forever.
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!