Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Night Terrors II - Monster Chiller Horror Theater 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMy research into hypnogogic sleep paralysis reminded me of a short story called Sun City  I read years ago that scared the living daylights out of me. It was in a pulp paperback collection of horror stories called New Terrors II.

A young woman on her honeymoon in Mexico takes a walk alone on a deserted beach. She hears a strange noise ahead and peers through some rocks to investigate. She sees a group of men standing over something, and it dawns on her that she is witnessing a gang rape. Safely concealed by the rocks, she locks eyes with the victim, a young Mexican woman, who silently pleads for her to help. Afraid of being raped herself, she runs off. When she finally finds her husband, she rationalizes that it is too late to do anything. Although deeply ashamed of her inaction, she doesn’t tell him or anyone else and tries to forget what she saw.

Years later, divorced and living alone in the United States, she begins to notice the terrible stench of something rotting in her apartment. She cleans out her garbage, she calls her landlord out to see if something has died between her walls, but she can never locate the source of the maddening smell, which, although powerful, is intermittent. Around the advent of the smell she begins to dream of a shadowy figure wearing some sort of raggedy coat shambling toward her. The sinister creature is vaguely and unsettlingly familiar, but she can’t quite remember how. One day she is awakened from a nap by the now familiar smell of putrescence and sees the figure approaching her from across the room. In the light of day she sees that it is a man dressed in a suit of flayed, rotting human skin. Convinced that she must still be dreaming or suffering a terrible hallucination, she flees her apartment and checks into a motel. Exhausted and terrified, she goes to sleep, believing that she has outrun her nightmare. In the middle of the night she begins to smell the odor and she jumps up from the bed and runs to the bathroom and locks the door. Breathing raggedly over the sink, she looks up in the mirror and sees the creature's reflection in the fluorescent light. He is standing right behind her. Finally, she realizes who he is.

“She sent you to me,” Nora said, and realized she was no longer afraid.

The skin was horrible-a streaky grey with ragged, black edges. But what of the man underneath?...Suddenly, as she gazed steadily at the figure, his name came into her mind, as clearly as if he had written it on the mirror for her: Xipe, the Flayed One. She had been right in thinking him some ancient Mexican god. But she knew nothing else about him, nor did she need to know. He was not a dream to be interpreted, he was here, now.
She saw that he carried a curved knife; watched without fear as he tore seams in the skin he wore, and it fell away, a discarded husk.
Revealed without the disfiguring, concealing outer skin Xipe was a dark young man with a pure, handsome face. Not a Mexican, Nora thought, but an Indian, of noble and ancient blood. He smiled at her. Nora smiled back, realizing now that there had never been any reason to fear him.
He offered her the knife. So easy, his dark eyes promised her. No fear, no question in their brown depths. Shed the old skin, the old life, as I have done, and be reborn.
When she hesitated, he reached out with his empty hand and traced a line along her skin. The touch of his hand seared like ice. Her skin was too tight. Xipe, smooth, clean and new, watched her, offering the ritual blade.
At last she took the knife and made the first incision.

Brrrr! Scary! I thought this story also served as a nice education in the Aztec pantheon. I certainly never forgot this god. I made E read the story and I've had a good time sneaking up behind her and whispering, "Xipe Totec."

"Stop it!" Waving her hands away.


"Quit it! I mean it."

"Xipe -"

"Say it one more time. I dare you."

This? After Hags and Djinn? Are you wearing black and orange already? Ha!
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