The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
Shadows of a Distant Morning
Peter Ike Amadi
The scorpion emerged from the ragged crack in the filthy, cobweb-strewn ceiling boards and crawled down the faded walls to the floor.
The room was dark, the pale curtain of dusk covering the remains of the day like an anonymous corpse. The distant hills, visible through the stained glass louvers of the only window in the room, had already swallowed up the reddish-yellow orb of the sinking sun.
The heat was unbearable. It had refused to dissipate with the coming of dusk and it promised to make the night a long and miserable one, not that there would be any respite in the morning anyway. There was an endless hum of monstrous mosquitoes, endlessly hovering in the still air hungering for the copper taste of human blood. The night was their day; the flies had already retired for the night.
The scorpion moved around the dusty floors as if confused. Maybe it was looking for a cool spot to escape the relentless heat. But maybe it had another agenda. It could be looking for a place to hide from the woman.
The woman lived in the room. She left in the mornings and came back in the evenings. She hardly ever stayed a full day unless it was Sunday. Then she would lie on the tattered mattress and stare at the ceiling for hours.
The woman had wiped out the scorpion’s family both nuclear and extended. Mum, Dad, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and even her own children. The scorpion was left alone.
Of course there were other families, other communities that abounded in the scorched rocks outside. The woman could not kill them all. But all hers were gone. She was alone.
Maybe the scorpion desires revenge. Does she feel emotion? In her small, arachnid mind is there hate? If a scorpion is cornered and sees that its destruction is inevitable, it will commit suicide with its own sting. It can feel terror, enough of it to push it to take its own life. Is terror not an emotion?
Maybe she desires revenge. If she can feel fear then maybe she can feel grief. And hate.
The scorpion is not designed to kill. Its poison is meant to cause extreme pain. A young man had once described the sting of a scorpion after being jabbed in the right heel with its lethal tail:
“It was like someone stabbed my foot with a knife and was driving it up, through my body, straight to my brain.”
Another scorpion in the same room had stung a tough lady, a friend of the woman. She had to be carried on the woman’s back and she screamed all the way to the hospital. Not cried but screamed.
Pain. That is the scorpion’s merchandise. But she could not kill. Not unless the woman was stung on the heart.
There was a type of scorpion that people said could kill. It is known as the black scorpion.
A man once said that if a black scorpion stung you; you would fall flat on the ground, paralyzed by the pain, screaming for help. But a black scorpion was shy and rarely showed his face, which was just as well for the woman.
The scorpion climbed the woman’s mattress and crawled under the tattered, emaciated pillow. Maybe when the woman laid her head to sleep, she would crawl out, climb her hair to her ear and… or maybe down to her neck, just above her throbbing pulse.
The scorpion would wait and see how the evening would favor her.
It wasn’t long before a key could be heard turning in the lock. As the door opened, a sudden rush of cooler air gave brief relief to the oppressive heat.
The long shadow of the woman stretched into the room. She did not enter immediately but paused as if to sniff the air before coming in and leaving the door open. There was a click as a switch was pressed and the room was bathed in the harsh yellow light from the 60 watt bulb that hung like a condemned man from the ceiling. The woman stood in the center of the room and despite the light; the room seemed to darken the more, as if she was a black hole in space sucking in everything in its path.
In quick, automatic movements she began to strip, tossing the discarded clothes on the mattress. Her sweat soaked blouse landed on the pillow. The scorpion stirred.
The woman was tall and seemed carved from ebony. Her body was hard and sinewy, her taut muscles rippled with each movement, her jet black skin slick with sweat. She could not be called pretty, yet her stony face with the high, sharp cheekbones had an attractiveness that could not be denied. Her black eyes had the watchfulness of a natural predator, portals into a soul completely bereft of pity or tenderness. Her kinky, black hair was cropped close to the skull giving her the look of a pagan graven image. She was a being that radiated a sensual malevolence, the sophisticated beauty of a Black widow spider.
With the grace of a big cat she picked up her bath kit and left the room. Moments later running water could be heard and after that a harshly sung hymn.
A few minutes passed.
A strange figure slipped into the room. The watcher had arrived.
The watcher had watched the woman for months. Every evening he would hide in the shadows and watch the woman’s window.
That window was more precious to him than any television set could ever be. He would crouch in the dry, brittle bushes outside and watch her every move. He had watched her undress as he had done every evening for the past three months.
He had discovered the window by accident one evening on his way home from another miserable day at work.He had been forlorn, morose and angry, the emotions stirring up his brain in a lethal mix that would sooner or later push him over the edge.
As he passed the window at some distance he heard her singing. The song was an old Christian hymn and her voice was not exactly angelic. But she sang from the heart and he could feel her contentment. That contentment contrasted so deeply with his frustration.
He stopped to look and suddenly saw her. She was stark naked and fresh from a bath and she was vigorously rubbing herself dry with a well-worn towel. Her face was not pretty. It was too hard. Her eyes were like chips of granite, her nose flat and upturned and her mouth when not singing would be turned perpetually down at the corners. But all these features only served to entice him more. He sought a word to describe her…
She did not know she was being watched and carried on in careless abandon. It was only when she eventually switched off the light that he reluctantly moved on. His previous storm of emotions had dispelled and he felt refreshed. The sight of her had rejuvenated him. He trudged off home to his borderline existence, an emaciated ghost of a man in a dirty white caftan. Ever since that night he was hooked.
There were many times he wanted to stop watching her but he came back every night. The days became too long as he waited for nightfall. Soon he was as desperate as a drug addict trying to get his next fix. The watcher knew she was driving him mad.
He had made enquiries about her. He was told she avoided men. She was always alone. She was a sociopath.
He had tried meeting her once and was snubbed viciously. He had nearly gone mad. But tonight he would reason with her. He would convince her that he had fallen in love with her.
He lay on the mattress and began to wait. The woman normally took notoriously long baths. He picked up the wet blouse from the pillow and held it to his nose. He breathed in the stink of her sweat, savoring it like the smell of a fine stew. Immediately he was aroused.
Suddenly he felt the presence of his life long enemy: Doubt.
Supposing she lashed out at him? Accused him of trying to rape her? The disgrace would be terrible. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
The scorpion crawled out from under the pillow and got entangled in the watcher’s thick, curly hair. She didn’t struggle much.
The watcher lost his confidence and decided to leave. He convinced himself he was just content to watch her. He got up hurriedly and left the room. He went back to his usual outpost.
The woman came back into the room busily drying her body with her towel. She began to sing another hymn. She knew dozens of them by heart from her days as a choir girl. That was millennia ago when she still had her innocence. Her innocence was long deceased.
A hideous scream pierced the hot, choking air and cut short her singing.
She froze, her hand flying to her mouth, goose pimples breaking out over her skin. Her heart beat like a war drum as she hastily switched off the light and went to the window to peer outside.
She couldn’t see anything. She was terrified of leaving her room to investigate. She convinced herself that if she just went to bed and stayed still it would be okay.
But the morning was a long way away and she knew she would never sleep. She would be suspicious of every shadow she saw that night.
Until she saw those brought by the rising sun.
© ike amadi October 2010