Why couldn’t she stop reading that unusal book?
|Most women who want to be somewhere else – anywhere else, start doing things they never did before – maybe because they feel lonely, maybe not, but from the moment a person’s mind becomes empty… the mind starts feeling some kind of moodiness, and sometimes an outright dark depression. Tameka Baptiste wasn’t any different. She needed to find herself and find the pieces of her life, long gone. She would put things off that she wanted to do. She often thought that she wanted to live one day at a time, and use it to the full – because one day you could drop dead from a heart attack or be killed in a traffic accident tomorrow – and never accomplish your deepest wishes. She still had so many. It was time now.
After years of taking care of her sick, crippled mother she had finally passed away four weeks ago. Peace at last. It had been a very long time since Tameka had known any. And there had been none while her mother, Antoinette, was there with her or even with her long gone father, Philippe. It was only later, much later, during all those years of washing wet sheets, dirty underwear and putting up with her mother’s rudeness and bitterness, and when it was too late to help herself, that she began wondering what had she done with her life.
Her mind was getting tired. It always did when she thought too much. And still she didn’t want to die without doing what she always dreamed of doing. Something, somewhere in her mind had been constantly bothering her: old, used books. People collected coins, stamps, jewelry and antique furniture but Tameka collected used books; and read them. She wanted to have a beautiful teak wooden shelf full of used books – but she had never had the time or courage to confront her mother; stand up for her wishes --- collect and read her used books. She didn’t. She hadn’t. She had been a “nurse” for her mother – solely. Why had she done this with herself? She didn’t like nor love her mother. She was just her… mother. Was it too late now? Maybe not, if she thought about it more and tried harder, the idea would finally drop in her life.
Unchanged from a peaceful, lonely and lazy weekend at home and wearing a rumpled green nightgown over her tall and thin figure, Tameka walked to the kitchen to make some coffee. Her feet were bare; a pair of old, pink slippers were beside her bed. It was early morning and she felt… good. Her long, black hair, as usual, was untidy, probably because it needed to be washed or probably because she ran her long fingers through it, many times, whenever she was thinking hard about something she needed to do, but couldn’t really recall what it was. The aromatic smell of freshly made coffee was all over the house. She loved coffee. Her mother didn’t. Now, she would make coffee every morning. Now she would do the things the liked. Now she was free. She was free from her mother’s soul and from her old body. Unlike her brother, that left the house right after their father, she had stayed. What would have happened to her mother if she had left, too?
She took a long shower and felt better. She put on one of her simple dresses, coral-colored, a perfect complement to her light brown eyes. Her flawless dark skin and her handsome, high-cheek boned face seemed to have lost some – though not all – of its somberness. She was still beautiful for her forty years of age. She had long, shapely legs and was strong built. She looked at herself in the bathroom’s mirror and smiled. It’s time for the new and free Tameka. She longed to be the mistress of her strange life.
She thought of her mean, evil mother. She thought about all those nasty words - said every day. It would be the last time she thought of her. She didn’t believe that her mother was in hell but maybe she was close by, in purgatory; certainly not in heaven. Tameka’s life had been a pure living hell on earth. Why had she stayed for so long? She didn’t find it strange that neither she nor the days seemed to be in a mourning mood – she only felt an annoying but pleasant sensation of freedom, as if she had been freed from something which seemed like eternity – by her mother's death.
While softly closing the front door, she remembered that her mother wasn’t there anymore and with a loud laugh, noisily shut the door. She felt good. She sighed deeply and walked down the sidewalk towards town. She was going to find that little bookstore, near the flea market and where she had always wanted to spend long hours amongst all those used books. When she crossed the street she noticed an open ladder where a man was painting the building’s front wall. She walked near it but avoided going under the ladder. Not that she was superstitious or feared walking under ladders – she was just being careful. Besides, walking under a ladder has long been regarded as one of the top 10 bad lucks.
Tameka believed that in the medieval times, a leaning ladder was thought to resemble a gallows, so if you walked under a ladder you were guaranteeing your own death by hanging. She also believed that if you walked under a ladder, you were breaking the power of its triangular shape – an Egyptian belief. And if you happened to walk under a ladder you immediately had to either spit through the ladders rungs three times, cross your fingers until you see a dog (not a cat) and walk backwards out from the ladder, back the way you came in, making a wish as you go. Hum… how about that? She could make a wish! But, do wishes... really come true? You're supposed to go out and make them happen, she thought, and she… hadn’t - she hadn't changed her fate.
She had read much and much about the mysterious “things” all around us; the supernatural and the likes. She had read many, many books and they were hidden under her bed. But she had been reading the same old books over and over again, for years. She had found three big boxes full of strange books in front of an abandoned, decayed old house some years ago. She hid the boxes behind a big oak tree and had brought the many books home, every day. Her mother had never noticed and she had spend her free time reading and learning about Voodoo, Holy Grail, magic, the crop circles, the Pyramids, Atlantis, paranormal phenomena, the Bermuda Triangle, Loch Ness, Big Foot, Aliens and UFOs, Wiccas, witches, wizards, demons and about the mysterious and the unexplained. She learned that you should never step on cracks in the pavement – your soul would be lost forever; never put an open umbrella inside the house; never walk across three drains; never put your shoes on a table; avoid crossing people on the stairs and always throw spilled salt over your left (not your right) shoulder. Once, she had put the broom, turned upside down, behind the front door… but her mother had never left the house – not even once. Only years and years after, when she died in her sleep… She wasn’t superstitious, oh no she wasn’t. She was just… careful.
She entered the small and old-looking bookstore. She greeted the grumpy lady behind the counter and walked along the tight corridors full of shelves and packed with second-hand books of all sizes and colors, genres and knowledge; moments of secrets and memories. She loved to feel the covers of the used books and to turn over the pages. Ah, the complexities of people’s thoughts and lives, all there, inside those books, the pages: the tiers of our past printed in old used books, in worn out pages; underlined sentences and marks of dry tears – fingerprints of somebody’s feelings and that would remain on those pages forever. How could so many deep emotions be conveyed with the written word?
While reaching for a book about death, crossover and the afterlife – a small black book fell on the floor right in between her feet with a thud. Tameka picked it up. It was paper-covered and used. It wasn’t heavy but it had many pages. Title: The Power of Suggestion - Read me and Know. Writer: Anonymous. While browsing its pages she read words such as Secret Societies, demonic exorcisms, anagrams, Satan; the catacombs, haunted houses, spells and something about what the power of suggestion can do to the human mind. She was excited. That’s it! She had not read about these things yet! She had to have that black book. It had to be hers.
She asked the store keeper more information on that book but the woman said someone had given it to her after a family member had mysteriously died. The person didn’t want that book in the house. It was a strange book. How much was it? She really didn’t know. Just take it. It had been in the store for many months. Nobody wanted it. Take it, for free. Tameka was delighted. She smiled, pleased. This meant good vibrations.
She held the book firmly in her hand on her way home. She avoided the ladder and avoided stepping on cracks on the pavement. She was OK. She was happy. She felt better. Happiness and good health. Maybe, as time went on, both things would happen all the time but one thing was certain: the patterns of her life were changing now – after her mother’s death – and would change still more. And the day after that.
As she entered the house she immediately felt the silence, the quietness. No more complaining or demands, this or that. She was her own self, her own boss. She put the book on the table, saving it for later on tonight, when she went to bed. She still had some things to do around the house and she had decided that today was the day that she would throw all her mother’s clothes and shoes away. She didn’t want any of her things in the house anymore. She found a recent picture of her mother in a box. She looked into her mother's eyes... and the eyes answered coldly back. She threw it into the box and sealed it tightly.
She was busy most of the day, undisturbed. Only once, when she entered her mother’s room to remove the sheets from the bed, she had felt a cold chill – as if someone, somebody had touched her shoulder with a hand. When she turned back there was no one. How stupid of her. What was she thinking? She went on with her chores and decided that she was going to move to her mother’s room right now – her room had always been smaller compared to her mother’s. She cleaned the room thoroughly and moved her things from the other. The bed was bigger and the mattress, softer. She could do anything she wanted; she felt her soul receding into a comfortable space in her body.
Later that evening, while peacefully lying in her mother’s bed, she found the book on the bedside table and began to read the mysterious black book that had come upon her new life. The more she read, the more confused she got because it was a mixture of facts and stories told in a twisted way. The very first chapter of this old and unusual book advised that “He who sees the book in the flesh will feel disturbed forever and diabolical forces would prevail until Eternity.” It would also cause “Loss of concentration and tiredness”. If the reader dared and insisted in reading the following chapters “He would be doomed to disaster, tragic death and even madness”. “Beware”. She swallowed hard but discarded all the possibilities. Her tongue moistened her lips. She seemed unable to close the book or to find the will to close her eyes. She read more and more. She just couldn’t stop. The night became darker.
She read about sacrifices, demons, conjurations; horned monsters, lost souls; kabbalah, the Occult, fallen angels and Satan. She couldn’t stop reading and she wouldn’t stop looking at all those horrible, vivid pictures of Lucifer and Balam, demons, bats and werewolves. According to the anonymous writer those pictures and drawings were much older than the human race. Hours went by. The anonymous writer swore that all those monsters existed, that he was a living proof – but where was he? Who was he? The more she read the more nervous she became. She could feel her heart – it was beating faster. Why couldn’t she stop reading it? She was sweating. She was thirsty but somehow she didn’t – or wouldn’t get out of bed. Was she afraid? What was she so afraid of? That was when she heard the noise under her bed… she swore she did. No, this was impossible. The book was playing tricks on her. Yet, she dared not look under the bed or even put her feet in her pink slippers and leave the room. Something might grab her legs from under her mother's bed.She would stay right there.
While she read on she swore she sensed an evil presence in the room exactly and at the very same time she had read the sentence which said “This book is touched by evil. You have to survive the read, through the night or else”. She got all goose bumps and again, swore she had heard a soft laugh coming from the closet across from her mother’s bed. Was she becoming paranoid, erratic and crazy? What was going on with her mind? What was this powerful book doing with her mind? Her hands were trembling. Her knees were shacking. She heard the tree branches scratching her window outside. The wind was high. She trembled like the leaves. Nevertheless, she continued reading - determined. Suddenly, in the stillness of her mother’s room she thought – or imagined, that she had seen a heavy, dark shadow of a gray face behind the book, staring deeply at her. She dared not look at it. Was it a goblin? A troll? Who was this vindictive being? Oh she needed to concentrate. No one was there! She reached the last chapter. She wasn’t sure she understood much of it but she knew that she was terribly, horribly afraid as she had never ever been before. And that figure… it was still there, floating over her body like a grotesque vampire. She could see it out of the corner of both eyes. Oh such impalpable terror. Her soul was approaching a region far unknown; she was apprehensive. She had a terrible headache. She couldn't think; reason.
She quickly put the book over her chest before turning to the last page and drew the blankets over her mouth and nose. Her eyes were wide open and she searched for shadows that didn’t exist. She refused to look up; she knew that the dark, gray shadow was over her… haunting her, observing her. It murmured words. It moved closer. Was it going to touch her? Kill her? What? She heard noises under the bed, again. Her heart was beating faster and she was shaking violently. She wanted to scream, run, and go. But, where to? To whom? Her religious beliefs had never been strong but she wanted to pray; confess in a continuing soft voice all what she had done – but she couldn’t move; she was petrified - in shock; terrified. Perplexed, she felt her life slipping away. She was breathless and gasping for air. Her tongue became dry. She was white in fear and sweating. Her left arm hurt. What was happening to her? The dark figure was laughing softly; threatening her. She felt a crushing pain in her heart. Was this the same pain her mother had felt? She felt an acute pain between her shoulder blades. Her breathing became faster and somehow inadequate. She began to crave for air but she could not take in; she couldn’t move her arms, her legs; her dark skin turned red, then blue; her eyes bulged; an intense pain gripped her chest. As darkness became dawn her consciousness slowly diminished; Tameka noisily chocked and silently died.
She should have turned the last page of the book… the anonymous writer had played a trick on the reader – showing what the power of suggestion can do to one’s mind through a psychological process by which one person can guide the thoughts, feelings, behavior and fears of another – a scientific proof! "How had the reader reacted to fear?"