My wife had always been a sound sleeper. She never snored, talked in her sleep, nor was she particularly restless. Oftentimes, she’d wake up in the same position she passed out in with barely a wrinkle in the sheets around her. When the singing in the middle of the night began, I was perplexed, to say the least.
Not only was this late night/early morning karaoke completely out of tune and downright painful to listen to, even though I knew her to have quite the lovely singing voice, but it seemed to be some sort of gospel music. I don’t mean to be offensive to any fans of the genre, but I knew for a fact this was not Jenn’s cup of tea.
She had never been a particularly religious type, but she was more inclined to sing along with pop or rhythm and blues when she had the urge. Her father was a pastor at a church in her old hometown, and he was all kinds of abusive and overbearing in her youth. It was his influence that inspired her to turn her back on the religion he clearly didn’t understand himself, but that didn’t stop her from being the most loving and caring person I ever met.
With how muffled and gargled her voice was while she warbled the barely legible lyrics, I could only make out the occasional word. “Praise her” and “cherish her” were among the few I could understand, but others like, “curse his flock” or “cleanse the stain” sent a shiver up my spine.
With one slight shake of her arm, I managed to wake her, but she was completely unaware of why I chose to pull her from her sleep.
“Huh? What?” she said, still groggy, “what’s wrong, hon?”
“You, um, you were, like, crazy singing in your sleep.”
I didn’t know what else to say. I suppose I hadn’t thought that far ahead when I made the semi-conscious decision to wake her.
“I was? I’m sorry, hon. Must’ve been a weird dream or somethi…”
She nodded back off halfway through her words, but once she returned to her regularly scheduled, disturbance-free slumber, I knocked back out too. The remainder of the night was as uneventful as always, so I didn’t even bring it up the following day, but when she began her guttural song a second time the following night, I got a little more concerned.
Again, I prematurely yanked her from her sleep about halfway through her out-of-tune moaning, and once more she had nothing to offer.
“I don’t know what to tell you, hon,” she said the following morning when I brought up her new nightly tradition.
“Have you had any strange dreams or anything?” I asked, unsure of what else to add.
“Maybe, I mean, I could be, but I don’t remember anything.”
“Did you, like, hear the song somewhere and can’t get it outta your head or something?”
“Babe, I don’t even know what song you’re talking about,” she said, sounding like she was losing her patience with my inquisition, “I don’t have anything stuck in my mind I’m aware of. I don’t have any answers for you! I’m sorry, okay!?”
“No, I’m sorry. I don’t know, it just…it’s just weird is all. You’re usually such a sound…”
“WILL YOU JUST DROP IT! FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, IT’S NOT LIKE I’M DOING IT ON PURPOSE!”
She went from mildly annoyed to downright pissed off in the blink of an eye. I just stood there stunned for a moment, feeling like I just got yelled at by my parents, rather than the woman I loved. I could feel my face getting warm with embarrassment while she just stared at me with her hands on her hips. I could see the muscles in her face twitching while she clenched her jaw, so I just raised my hands as though I stared down the barrel of a gun, backed away, and left the room.
Not only was Jenn normally such a peaceful sleeper, but she was generally such a calm and composed person. Even at times, I’d be losing my patience with a situation, she always handled them like a champ. I won’t say we never had our fights, as any healthy couple does, but it would often take a lot more than a few concerned questions to cause her to lose her cool.
As the day progressed, we made more casual conversation, and I didn’t bring up her strange sleeping habits of late again. Before we laid down for the night, we made up in the traditional manner; an act that left us both quite exhausted by the time it reached its conclusion. We fell asleep in each other’s arms, which is something we didn’t do as much as when we were younger. These things often get neglected after a solid decade of marriage, but my love for her never faltered.
When the awful singing pulled me from my sleep for the third night in a row, Jenn was no longer wrapped around me, but with her back flat against the sheets. I started to wake her again, but I thought it best to just let this thing run its course this time, even after it grew louder. Her back arched as the volume of her warbling increased; her shoulders and legs pressed to the mattress while her body contorted into something of an upside-down ‘U’.
“PrAiSe HeR, OoOoH, ChErIsH HeEeErR…sMeAr ThE fIlTh FrOm HeR pAaAaTh…GiVe HeR aLl YoU hAvE tO gIvE, lEsT wE fEeL hEr WrAaAtH…”
Her voice had escalated to a howling sound of madness, while the gargled moaning began to cause my stomach to churn. When I leaned over her body, deciding that I had to pull her out of this before she hurt herself, I screamed out in terror before I even realized it. Her eyes were wide open while she yelled her words, but they were no longer the deep hazel brown I had looked into for the better part of thirteen years, but a shimmering, almost glowing, emerald green.
When I finally convinced my shriek to calm down, I grabbed my wife by the shoulders, shaking her almost violently to break her from this state, but she wouldn’t let up. My ears were ringing with how loud her wailing song had grown and I could barely make out my own yelling voice as I attempted to wake her.
“PrAiSe HeR…hEaL hEr…LeT hEr InTo YoUr SoOoUL…FeEd HeR nOuRiSh HeR…hElP hEr To BeCoMe WhOoOLe…”
It was almost deafening, but no matter what I did, she wouldn’t come out of it. Finally, after the noise was growing intolerable to bear, I slapped my hand against her face. In an instant; as her song transformed into a horrendous and anguished scream, she thrust her palms to my chest, sending me flying across the room and into the wall. Before my spinning head left me unconscious below the large crack my body had imprinted into the drywall, I looked up to see Jenn sitting straight up in the bed, darting her head from side to side as though she was lost.
When I came to, I was still on the floor with my head thumping and my back aching. It took considerable effort to get to my feet, but when I noticed my wife was gone, I tried to push my discomfort to the side. It was still dark outside, so I threw on every light switch in every room to find no trace of where she had gone, only the front door wide open and the chilly night air breathing in through the opening.
I could still feel the blood trickling down the back of my neck as I drove through the neighborhood in search of Jenn. When I finally found her just walking down the sidewalk a good couple of miles from the house, I practically hopped the tires onto the curb in my enthusiasm to get to her.
“Hey hon,” she said, seemingly in something of a daze when I ran up to her.
“Jenn, what the hell are you doing!?”
“Hmmm? Oh, I…I’m not sure…”
She finally stopped walking when I grabbed her by the shoulders, standing in front of her to look her in the eyes. Though I was thrilled to see they had reverted to their normal color scheme, I could tell her marbles hadn’t quite returned yet. She was only wearing her sleep shorts and tank top, so her skin felt as though it was freezing to my touch.
“Wanna come back home with me?”
“Huh? Yeah…let’s do that…I’m sleepy…”
She was still in a trance while I buckled her into the passenger seat, and was still zoned out over the short ride back to the house. When we arrived, I helped her out of her seat, picked her up, and carried her back inside.
“You’re so sweet,” she said with a light smile and a cute giggle as I laid her back onto the bed, pulling the blanket back over her still frigid flesh.
I traced my fingers across her cheek and through her dark, wavy hair while she curled up beneath the covers.
“Night night,” she said groggily, closing her eyes while she nuzzled her body against the warmth of the bed, “sleep tight…”
For the next hour or so, I just watched her sleep. She didn’t move or make a sound as she drifted away, but I was so scared she would begin her wailing song again. After a while; once I felt confident she was out for the night, I went to the bathroom to wash the oozing wound on the back of my head. It was still quite tender, but I hoped the four ibuprofen I knocked back would work their magic.
When I finally climbed back into bed, I was reminded that my back was still throbbing pretty good too, so I rolled onto my side to face my beautiful wife. As my eyes grew heavier, I attempted to push aside the stabbing pain in my chest that sorely needed answers to what had become of the once kind-hearted and carefree woman I adored. I knew I would likely have to seek out professional help for her soon, but not tonight.
Jenn was still asleep when I awoke the following morning. Even though I knew my body could use a good deal more rest, my back was aching and stiff. After I got done with my shower, I checked back in to find her still knocked out. Honestly, as worried as I was about what had been going on with her, I hoped that her being able to get an extended rest would do her a world of good.
While I was downstairs researching online to see if I could find any answers to the strange events of late, I heard the ceiling creaking from movement on the second floor. I sort of froze up for a second, as though my parents were about to walk in and catch me browsing porn on my laptop, rather than Jenn inadvertently finding me looking up things she seemed to have no memories of.
Given her reaction when I pushed the topic on her the last time, I didn’t want to inadvertently fuel another fight, even if the make-up session was more than worthy of a few harsh words. Either way, I didn’t want to make things worse than they already were. When the creaking from the floor above me fell silent again, I decided to just shut down the computer and go check on my wife. I couldn’t know if she remembered her late-night stroll, or effortlessly tossing me across the bedroom for that matter, but I had to know if she was back to herself or not.
I crept up the stairs like a burglar hoping to keep their home invasion secret, feeling almost silly about how I was acting. I wasn’t entirely sure why I felt compelled to be so cloak and dagger about the simple act of checking on my wife after a crazy night, but I continued on that course nonetheless. When I reached the cracked open door to the bedroom, I still kept my actions as quiet as possible.
I softly nudged the door, momentarily worried about potentially squeaky hinges alerting the room’s only occupant to her impending guest. When I got inside, I saw Jenn sitting on the side of the bed, facing away from me. She was leaned over with her hands tinkering with something I couldn’t make out. It wasn’t until the jingling music began to softly hum from what she held that another sharp chill ran the length of my spine once more.
As I moved in closer, she began to rock from side to side, swaying to the tune clinking from what sounded like some sort of music box. When she began to hum along with the sound of that same hymn she had been warbling in her sleep for the past few nights, I felt my fingers and toes begin to tremble. Even with it only being the melody of that song her tone-deaf sleeping mouth would wail into the night, I could hear those words bouncing around in the back of my mind.
“Praise her…” my wife softly whispered.
“Cherish her…” she continued while she hummed the haunting tune.
“Heal her…” I muttered under my breath, barely aware I had even spoken.
“Nourish her,” our voices spoke together as Jenn turned to me, reaching her hand out to take mine.
We left the house, hand in hand, with her still clutching the music box in the other. The hypnotic tune still carried on while we navigated the car through the neighborhood and out into the world beyond. I had no idea where we were headed, but my wife took care of the navigation. Left here, right there, stay on this road for thirty miles, and so on.
Regardless of the fact she had not once turned the little brass key on the side of the simple wooden box since we left, the music carried on through the entirety of our journey. For hours we darted from one highway to another, up and across back roads, only stopping to refuel. We didn’t pull over to get anything to eat as we had no hunger. We didn’t pick up anything to drink at the gas station; we were not thirsty. We were on a quest, and that was all that mattered.
It was some time after the sun had gone down that we finally reached our destination. I didn’t recognize the old cemetery, nor the rod-iron fence that surrounded it, but Jenn seemed to know exactly where we were. She still moaned the occasional lyric to the haunting song while we got out of the car, though I no longer felt the urge to sing along. My wife wore a beaming smile as we left the pathway behind to veer hand in hand in between and around a variety of both simple and elegant tombstones.
The graveyard was massive, housing the dead from decades long passed by, as well as some from more recent years. As we continued on, I noticed the dates carved into the stones growing older and older, while the air we breathed tasted more stale and unnatural the longer we wandered onwards. I still felt almost mentally vacant when we finally came to a large tomb at the very end of the farthest reach of the cemetery.
Though we had passed what I thought to be the very last row of headstones some ten minutes before, this one stood alone, with only the warped and bent iron pegs of the fence behind it. Jenn smiled back at me while she let my hand slip from hers as she pulled open the large door to the almost cavernous-looking tomb. As soon as she crossed over the threshold, torches on either side of the wide room ignited, lighting up the otherwise darkened area.
I could feel my knees beginning to weaken when I strolled in behind her, seeing nothing more than a large, concrete casket in the very center of the room. There was nothing decorative inside; only chipped and aged, concrete walls and floor. When she set the music box onto the top of the casket, it sank about halfway in, causing thin grooves to bevel and spiral out from around where it sat in place, ending in a small, circular hole in the center.
When the lid of the music box opened with the music still reverberating against the solid walls, Jenn reached inside, pulling out a long jewel-encrusted dagger. She held it out to me, giving me a nod of permission to take it from her, before she smiled enthusiastically, lifting herself onto the casket.
“Nourish her,” she said as she lay back with her head touching the side of the music box, which had closed itself shut once more.
I barely felt in control of my own body as I approached where she lay, holding the dagger above me with both hands, smiling back at the beautiful woman I loved with my whole heart.
“Make her whole,” I said, readying myself to force the blade down into her chest, allowing her blood to flow freely into the waiting mouth of the goddess beneath the concrete slab.
The haunting tune still echoed from the box above my wife’s head, resonating against the ancient walls surrounding us. Jennifer gave me another nod, signifying the time had come. We smiled warmly to one another as I thrust the dagger downwards with all my might and passion.
When I pulled the car back into the driveway of the home I shared with my wife, I was still very puzzled by the events that led us to somewhere on the other side of the country. I just sat staring at the front door with the morning sun beaming down from above, feeling less than inspired to get out of the car I’d already spent far too much time in over the previous twenty-four hours.
I could recall everything in vivid detail; the song that captured my mind and senses, the seemingly endless trip to the ancient boneyard, and even the glee I felt as I thrust the dagger downwards. I still couldn’t figure out if it was my own will or something else that guided the blade away from Jenn and into the simple wooden box, but as soon as the impact silenced that hypnotic melody for good, both my wife and I snapped out of whatever trance had taken hold of us.
We were both shaken up from the whole experience, and I still can’t believe that I came so close to impaling the woman I love, but I can only hope this whole ordeal is over now. When we finally went back into our home, cleaned ourselves up, and got some food on our empty stomachs, we did a lot of talking.
It would seem the music box had been delivered to the house about a week ago, with no return address on the package. Jenn just assumed it was some sort of gift for one reason or another, but as soon as she cranked that key for the first time, it set its seeds in her mind. Though she wasn’t fully aware of it, her sleeping mind could not escape the spell it weaved; a spell that took hold of me when I heard its song as well.
Even after I silenced that damn thing, it took a minute for us to really take in what almost happened. When we did, we both beat and stomped that box until it was little more than tiny gears and splinters of wood. As for the dagger; we tossed it into a river we passed by on our return trip, though I couldn’t tell you for the life of me where it was located. Truth be told, even though I remember those days quite clearly, I have no idea where we went that night.
I don’t know the route we took, the direction we went, or even what part of the country we were in, but everything else down to me holding that knife above my beloved wife’s heart, I see every time I close my eyes.
We have no clue as to who sent the music box to us, but neither of us will be so trusting of anonymous mail anymore. At this point, I think even if we got an unsigned envelope with fifty grand inside, we’d toss that shit in the fireplace without a second thought.
We may never know who or what was behind that mysterious package, nor the identity of the occupant in that tomb, so many miles away, but I am so grateful for whatever guided my aim that night. Not only did I almost murder the woman I love, but I can’t even imagine what we may have set loose upon the world if I’d hit my mark.
Credit: William Rayne
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