Claw and Eye
by Vincent W. Sakowski
“THE EYE SEES ALL. THE CLAW DRAWS US IN. THE TOOTH IS OUR REWARD . . . DO YOU KNOW THIS?”
No reply. Only the soft humming of the Examiner’s generator broke the silence.
“DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?”
His eyelids removed long ago and his eyes moistened
only at the Examiner’s indulgence, the man stared up at the stainless steel
Examiner, unseeing. His mouth hung open, lips trembling, drool running,
but no intelligible sound was uttered -- like a fish washed up on a beach,
screaming on the sand.
“PERHAPS YOU ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY HEARING ME."
And the Examiner worked the expander into the
man’s left ear canal, and squeezed once more.
It’s been quite some time since I last saw the demon smiling at me from the darkness. Snickering. Teeth shining in the shadows. Glistening. Always seeming sharper than before. Always ready, waiting to snap off any little bit that I leave exposed. Whether I am slow or careless, it does not mind as long as it receives its reward.
And always, there’s this strange rush of fear -- simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating -- because the demon is mine. I am the master. What a laugh. Yet I have only heard the demon laughing. I can’t even remember the last time I cracked a grin.
Where has it gone?
Why has it left?
When will it return?
But still I wonder . . . has it really gone at all? Or is it hiding even deeper in the shadows? Has it found a way to exist in the light? In any case, is it simply waiting for me to let my guard down while I am consumed with duty and routine?
I haven’t called it back to me either, for, no matter the reward, I am still better off without it -- until my desires get the better of me, of course.
Impractical demonkeeping? Now there’s a thought.
“LET’S TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT.”
The Examiner’s motor revved, and it wheeled
around the table. From a nearby stand it gathered up several filaments,
then spun around and stared at the man’s head. Suddenly, with extreme speed
and strength it inserted the ends of the filaments into the man’s skull,
so that they were directly tapped into his brain.
“PERHAPS THIS WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND.”
Music flooded into his thoughts, but there was no comfort in it at all. Only one verse repeating over and over again: an incessant, banal jingle, only too familiar to him. He wrote it. Years ago. As a joke. Hated every annoying line right from the start. Never thought anyone would take it seriously, but there wasn’t anything that song couldn’t sell. It made millions . . . for someone . . . not for him. The man trembled. He thought he knew fear and pain before . . . The man screamed for it to stop, but it did not. Not for a very, very long time.
I know only too well how to let go. I know
the question and the answer -- so it does not matter which one comes first,
or if they remained unmentioned. I know. But I also know the price
of letting go completely, and having that knowledge gives me peace, because
I can never think of anything that it would be worth paying so much for
in the end. What’s that old saying about gaining the world but losing one’s
soul in the process? I don’t remember exactly how it was worded, but I
know it’s true, at least for me.
“DO YOU FINALLY BELIEVE?”
The man barely turned his head towards the
Examiner, the verse still repeating, even though the switch was turned
off long ago. Eyes dried. Itching. Burning constantly. Peeling away like
onionskin. But still they held some life. Awareness.
“NOW TELL ME . . .”
Am I the rule? Or the exception? Have I been wrong all this time? Perhaps this is only another step . . . as I see the demon’s teeth glistening once more . . . but another step toward . . . toward . . .
“. . . and the tooth is our reward.”
Background by Creepy Web