The smile of anubis, p.2
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       The Smile of Anubis, p.2

           Alexandra Serbay
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Adam woke up in a strange manner, with a jerk, and started blinking: still in his plaid sweatpants, fluffy slippers and a warm bathrobe covering his narrow shoulders, he was sitting in his sister’s apartment with his legs wide spread, as if he was a doll carefully placed there by a giant child. His left eyebrow rose in surprise, he stood up, rubbed his eye, patted his cheeks and even pinched himself – all in vain. He was still in the poorly lit corridor with patches of dirt and wet stains where Zoe tried to clean what she could not see. For the past couple of years he has been meaning to freshen the paint, but kept putting it off.

  The kitchen was a dark spot, but there was a dim light, coming from under the bedroom door – Zoe probably was listening to some series, though he could not imagine what kind of series would be running at this time of night.

  Having made a couple of steps forward, he opened the door. The room breathed musty old mans’ smell with a tinge of medicine at him. But it was not the reason he recoiled, gasping for air like a fish.

  Zoe was towering in the middle of the room, like some kind of an ancient horror come to life. She stood with her back to the door and her weak doughy body was tightened with a corset made of snakes from floor to neck. Glossy tentacles of different color and width were constantly moving, as if flowing into one another obeying a silent rhythm. Zoe heard that someone was at the door and tried looking over her shoulder with her cloudy blind eyes:

  “It is you, Adam? Please, help me! I can’t move. What’s going on, Adam?

  Frozen with panic, dread and the preposterousness of the situation, Adam was silent. Zoe was listening carefully, desperately trying to turn to the door and calling his name again and again. It seemed like she was begging and pleading all together with just one word.

  “This can’t be happening”, he thought, pinching himself hard, until his left hand became red and swollen.

  “It very much can”, a silky voice answered right into his ear.

  “It can’t, it can’t!” Adam whispered like an offended child, before he realized that he was not talking to himself anymore. He turned around abruptly. No one was there. Meanwhile, the voice continued:

  “Soon the snakes will cover her face and she will die. Yes-yes,” the voice confirmed softly, - “die. If you, my dear Mr. Lance would not save her”.

  “Me? Save her? How?” – Time was dragging slowly, thoughts were lagging, every heartbeat roared in Adam’s ears and his sight was blurred. He saw the monstrous unity of Zoe and snakes as though through a piece of white amber. The only thing that was truly real was the voice, which either came from the inside of him, or penetrated his every cell.

  “Oh, it is very-very easy. You just need to take her place”. – The voice was smiling.

  “And those snakes, they would not hurt me, right?” – Already knowing the answer asked Adam. “B-but I have a family, kids,” – he didn’t know what he was trying to do: justify himself or bargain with the invisible hangman. “I am…I am still young, I have so many things ahead, I am a useful community member!” The bells of indignation and righteous anger appeared in the man’s patter.

  The voice was silent.

  “I don’t want to die”, added Mr. Lance in a barely audible voice, fingering the bathrobe’s belt. The next moment the haze that separated the room from him disappeared, time ticked on with its normal speed, the snakes started moving up and Zoe screamed. And the voice growled in chorus with her:

  “Time to decide: her or you? You or her? Your choice, human!” The word “human” was usually a proud banner which many people raise above their heads, but this time it was a spittle, a mockery, an insult.

  Adam took one timid step back, then one more, then turned around and ran to the front door. His slippers were trying to get lost every step, preventing him from moving faster, his bathrobe was waving, the muffled cries were following him:

  “Little brother! Adam! Help…”

  He grasped the door handle, pulled it as hard as he could, and woke up in his bed.

  His heart was pounding, head was dizzy and perspiration covered his face.

  “This was a dream, dream, just a dream.” Muttering to himself, Adam went to the bathroom to wash up. Even the ice water was not able to make his dream less real. He looked at himself in the mirror and felt sick, when he saw a bruise emerging on his hand. His knees betrayed him and he slid to the floor.

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