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Sam Vaknin

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Night Terror
By Sam Vaknin
Posted: Thursday, January 03, 2008
Last edited: Thursday, January 03, 2008
This short story was "not rated" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Sam Vaknin
· Nedís Short Life
· Sexsomnia
· Fugue
· The Galatea of Cotard
· Live Burial
· Lucid Dreams
· A Dream Come True
           >> View all 32
I strike at him but he evades my thrust and recedes into the murky background. I won't give chase. The doors and windows are locked, alarm systems everywhere. He stands no chance.

1. The Doctor

He inserts the syringe into my jugular and draws blood, spurting into the cylindrical container. Securely seated on my chest, he then makes precise incisions around my eyelids and attempts to extract my eyeballs in one swift motion. I can see his round face, crooked teeth, and shiny black eyes, perched under bushy eyebrows. A tiny muscle flutters above his clenched jaw. His doctor's white robe flaps as he bestrides me and pins down my unthrashing arms.

There is only the stench of sweat and the muffled inhalations of tortured lungs. Mine. In my ears a drumbeat and a faraway shriek, like a seagull being butchered in mid-flight. My brain gives orders to phantom organs. I see them from the corners of my bloodshot eyes: my arms, my legs, like beached whales, bluish, gelatinous, and useless.

I scream.

I strike at him but he evades my thrust and recedes into the murky background. I won't give chase. The doors and windows are locked, alarm systems everywhere. He stands no chance. He turns to vapor and materializes next to me in bed, clad in his robe, eyes shut, a contented smile on his face.

This is my only chance.

I turn to my side, relieved that motility is restored. I grab his slender neck. I feel his pulse: it's fast and irregular. I squeeze. He grunts. And harder. He clasps my forearms and mewls. Something's not right. The doctor never whimpers. Every night, as he peels the skin off my face with delicacy and care, he makes no sound, except belabored breathing. When he extracts tooth after nail, castrates me time and again, injects detergents into my crumbling veins, he does so inaudibly and expertly.

I hesitate.


Her voice.

"Max! Wake up!"

I can't wake up as I am not asleep. The doctor's there, in our bed, a danger to us both. I must exterminate him finally.

"Max! You are having another nightmare! Please, you are hurting me!"

The doctor's head turns around full circle and at the back of his flattened skull there is the face of Sarah, my lover and my friend.

I recoil. I let go. My heart threatens to break through rib and skin, its thrumming in my ears, my brain, my eye sockets, my violated jugular.

I sleep.

2. Sarah

Her bags are packed, my scarlet fingerprints blemish the whiteness of her skin, she is crying. I reach for her but she retreats in horror, nostrils flared, eyes moist, a nervous tic above her clenched jaw.

"I am afraid of you." - She says, voice flat.

"I didn't mean to." - I feebly protest and she shrugs:

"Yesterday, I thought I'd die."

Her hand shoots to her neck involuntarily, caressing the sore bruises, where I attempted to strangle her at night.

"It's him, you know, the doctor."

She shudders.

"I saw him yesterday again; manicured, besuited, coiffed, as elegant as ever. He was injecting me with something that burned, it was not phenol, I would have died. It was something else."

"It's over." - Says Sarah, her eyes downcast, she sounds unconvinced.

"He's still alive." - I reason - "They haven't caught him, you know. They say he is in Argentina."

"Wherever he may be, there's nothing he can do to you."

She steps forward, palm extended towards my cheek, and then thinks better of it, picks up her tattered suitcase and leaves.

3. Again, the Doctor

A rigid plastic pipe, through the large vein in my leg, towards my ovaries. I am a woman. I am to be sterilized. The doctor crouches at the foot of my bed, inspecting with mounting interest my private parts. There is a greenish liquid in a giant plunger connected to an IV stand. He nods with satisfaction. He brandishes a glinting surgical knife and slices my abdomen. He takes out a squarish organ mired in gory slime, my womb, and inspects it thoroughly.

There's blood everywhere. I can see my intestines curled in the cavity, wrapped tight in an opaque and pulsating sheet. Two ribs are visible and underneath them, my oversized heart. My breathing sears.

I chose tonight to be a woman. I want him to be at ease, not on the alert. I want him to be immersed in rearranging my organs, tearing them apart, sowing them back reversed. I want him to forget himself in the sandbox that is my body.

He leans over me, to study whether my left breast is lactating.

It is not.

I reach for the hypodermic and detach it in one swift motion.

I stick it in his jugular.

I press the plunger.

The doctor gurgles.

He whimpers and mewls.

He watches me intently as his senses dull and his body grows limp.

There is blood everywhere. The doctor drowns in it, my blood and his, a forbidden mixture.

4. The Police

"Was he a medical doctor?"

"Not that I am aware of."

The burly policeman scrawled in his threadbare pad.

The psychiatrist shifted in her overstuffed armchair:

"Why are you asking?"

She was a scrawny, bleached blonde and wore high heels and a plate-sized pendant to work. The cop sighed and slid a crime scene photograph across the burrowed surface of the desk.

"It's tough viewing. I hope you didn't have breakfast." - He quipped.

She covered her mouth with a dainty, wrinkled hand as she absorbed the details.

"I can explain that." - She literally threw the photo back at her interlocutor.

He grimaced: "Go ahead, then."

"My patient is wearing the white doctor's robe because one of his alters was a Nazi camp doctor."

The policeman blinked:

"Beg your pardon?"

"My patient was a Polish Jew. He spent three years in various concentration camps, including Auschwitz."

"I heard of Auschwitz." - Said the policeman smugly.

"There, he and his young wife, Sarah, were subjected to medical experiments conducted by Nazi doctors in white robes."

"Medical experiments?"

"You don't want to know the details, believe me." - It was the psychiatrist's turn at one-upmanship.

But the officer was insistent.

"They sterilized his wife. At first, they injected some substance to her ovaries through a vein in her leg. Then they extracted her womb and what was left of her reproductive system. She was awake the entire time. They did not bother with antiseptics. She died of infection in excruciating pain."

The policeman coughed nervously.

"When my patient was liberated, at the beginning of 1945, he developed a host of mental health problems. One of them was Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder."

The cop scribbled something and mumbled to himself.

"He had three alters. In other words, his original personality fractured to at least three parts: the original He, another part that assumed the identity of his dead wife, and a part that became the doctor that tortured them. In the last few years, every night, he enacted scenes from their incarceration. The doctor would come to him, an hour or so after he fell asleep, and conduct various procedures on his body."

"Jesus!" - Blurted the policeman and went visibly pale.

"This is called 'night terror'. The subject is asleep. You cannot wake him up. But he believes himself to be wide awake and experiences extremes of terror. Usually, he cannot even respond because he is momentarily paralyzed. We call it 'sleep paralysis'"

"But then, if he cannot move, how did he kill himself? It was clearly suicide. We found the syringe. Only his fingerprints are on it. We were able to trace down the pharmacy where he bought it. He injected himself with some kind of acidic home detergent."

"Yes, it was suicide." - Agreed the psychiatrist, shut her eyes, and rubbed her temples - "As he grew older, he also developed Rapid Eye Movement Behavioral Disorder. This meant that after he was paralyzed by the night terror, he was actually able to enact it at a later stage of his sleep. He played the doctor, he played himself resisting the doctor, he played his wife being mutilated by the doctor. He wielded knives, syringes, wounded himself numerous times. You can find all the hospital admission forms in his file. I gave him anti-depressants. We talked. Nothing helped. He was beyond help. Some patients are beyond help." - Her voice quivered.

5. Help

"I killed him, Sarah, he's dead."

"I am glad."

"He will no longer bother us. We can be together again. I won't be having the dreams. I won't be attacking you anymore."

"That's good, Max."

"I peeled his face back, as he did to me. I injected him with the green liquid as he did to you. Revenge is sweet. I know it now."

"I love you, Max."

"And I never stopped loving you, Sarah. Not for a single moment."

Web Site: The Suffering of Being Kafka  

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