Ethereal Stories: The Ventriloquist

Today I bring you a horror story. The beginnings of this story were written some time ago, quite a long time in fact. I started writing it shortly after my accident. I found it in a pile of writings that my grandmother kept, then I reworked it to become what it is today. This story comes from the bottom of me so I’m very attached to it, but I know that it may not please everyone.

If you want something happier, I suggest you wait until next week for another much lighter story.

Attention:

This story was written at a time when I was not doing very well and is much darker than what I usually write. I’m talking about violent scenes that might shock some people and I use profanity there.

The Ventriloquist

I

The man wore an old-fashioned black suit, he sported a thin mustache and his searching eyes were like two balls of hot coals. He was tall and thin, almost inconceivably. Alicia cringed when she saw him on her doorstep. A strange apprehension gripped her, gripping her heart in a vice of ice.
The stranger entered the vestibule. Discovering a razor-blade smile, he said in a honeyed voice without even introducing himself:

To form a couple, it inevitably takes two, is not it?

Uncomfortably, Alicia nodded. However, she did not understand what the man was talking about. The young woman bitterly regretted the absence of her husband: Paul would never have allowed this individual to enter their house! He had a holy horror of door-to-door salesmen, especially when they were as intrusive as this one. Intrusive…and bizarre, with its long, spindly body, which reminded Alicia of a horrible stick insect with a human face…
In the hallway, the stranger gave her a wink.

“Relax, dear! he declared. You have nothing to fear. They call me Benitor, the miracle worker. My partner and I are here to help you…

Alicia winced: her partner? Until proven otherwise, the seller was alone. No one accompanied him. At least, so far…
The man reached inside his black suit. Alicia had the absurd belief that he was a pervert. The patient was about to throw himself on her, armed with a kitchen knife, a taser or an ice pick… But the intruder contented himself with extracting a soft and shapeless mass, similar to a mask of rubber. He quickly put it on his right hand. A rattling voice then rose:

— Bonjour, ma petite ! Je suis Compère, l’assistant de Monsieur Benitor, mon bon maître… Son bras droit, en quelque sorte ! Enfin, l’assistant, c’est un peu facile : d’un bout à l’autre des Mondes, comme à l’intérieur des Cercles d’ailleurs, c’est moi qui me tape tout le boulot !

The so-called Benitor raised his shark gaze to the sky, as if to say: “Ah! He’s starting again!”

A ventriloquist! Well, as a way of selling, Alicia had to acknowledge that it was original. However, she remained anxious, almost frightened, because the puppet was not reassuring. It was a head, obviously that of a man, with a pale complexion and blue lips, stringy hair and eye sockets filled with darkness. Morbid, was the word that came to the young woman’s mind, and it was the adjective that best suited this hideous figure.

The thing resumed:

— We are here to offer you a unique offer, which you cannot refuse. Yes, yes, I assure you: no need to play scared sluts!

Alicia doubted she had heard correctly. For a moment, she thought she would take to her heels. But, paralyzed by fear, she remained incapable of the slightest reaction. And something, in the stick man’s sooty gaze, nailed her to the spot…
Adopting the cavernous tone of his own voice, and wearing a serious countenance, Benitor continued:

— Be sure that we understand your sadness. We sympathize. After all, fate has befallen your husband. It’s natural for you to be upset…

Buddy spat on the ground, at Alicia’s feet. A reddish spit, within which a horde of maggots was struggling. The young woman felt her heart racing. But, stunned by what she had just heard, she found herself once again unable to make the slightest gesture. Paul had been in hospital for two weeks, in critical condition following a serious car accident. He lay in a coma, and doctors were pessimistic about his chances of ever waking up.
How did this stranger know her husband? And then, what did he want?

— You’ll soon understand,” the disfigured puppet gritted, as if reading his thoughts. We have come to offer you our services, because we are able to help you. Finally, it was he who insisted, above all…

The mask nodded in the direction of its master.

— I was just going to take it easy,” he continued. But hey: it’s the great chef who leads the way! Anyway, what you need to know is that your husband can be cured today…

Alicia blinked, but didn’t formulate her thoughts. Nevertheless, the human head belched:

— Of course it’s true! What do you think ? That we came to cut the piece of fat, while your stupid husband slaps?

The word “slap” was accompanied by a deluge of scarlet sputters.

— So, the mask said, like I said, he could come home and you’d be free to get laid again, and everything and everything… At least, if you wanted to?

The sentence remained suspended, like a slap in the face. Of course she wanted him more than anything!

Benitor took the floor again to exclaim cheerfully:

— Good ! In that case, all you have to do is give us your okay, dear, so that we can get your husband back on his feet. My partner and I have exceptional power, which I like to call a gift. The power of life over death.

Alicia felt her heart skip a beat. If it was a joke, it turned out to be in very bad taste! Nevertheless, somewhere deep inside her, the young woman knew that an incredible thing was happening. She felt it dimly in the way the stranger spoke, in his horrible puppet parody, and in that strange vibration that seemed to cloud the air.

In a calm tone, the Tick-insect-man continued:

— Know, however, that in return, I will come and take what is rightfully mine. This is an honest deal, made between well-meaning people…

Compère partit d’un rire éraillé.

— So, continued Benitor, I ask you again: will you allow us to save your husband? Without quick action on our part, he will die, I can guarantee you that.

The young wife was flabbergasted by the audacity of the seller. However, driven by despair, she found herself sketching an affirmative nod. After all, what did she have to lose?

Benitor then declared, loud and clear:

— All in good time ! Your wish will be granted, and we will exercise our special gift on your loved one to save him. As for us, we will see each other very soon!

Buddy laughed again, an icy croak that twisted Alicia’s eardrums and hammered her skull. Then the ventriloquist also emitted a strident air, a shrill melody reminiscent without question…
The phone woke her up and the dream slipped away like a thief. The young woman sat on the edge of her bed, her head in her hands. She remained shaken for a moment: what a delirious dream! So real… But she didn’t have much time to think about it anymore, because the phone kept whining.

Alicia walked fearfully towards the bell, not daring to grab the receiver. This call in the middle of the night seemed like an ominous sign. Before she could stop, she picked up the phone.

— Hello?

C’était l’hôpital. Paul était miraculeusement sorti du coma. Ses jours ne se trouvaient plus en danger. Alicia remercia l’infirmière, raccrocha, puis se laissa glisser sur le sol où elle pleura à chaudes larmes.

II

A few days later, Paul came home. Life then resumed its course. The couple took advantage of the smallest pleasures of existence. Both seemed happy, truly, because they knew ephemeral happiness.
However, a shadow marred this idyllic picture.

Alicia felt that her husband was hiding something from her. Paul did his best to appear comfortable, but he often looked distant, bewildered, as if lost in a trying memory. The young woman was burning with desire to know the cause of this hassle, without however daring to question it. Her husband had just recovered from a coma; she didn’t want to rush him.

Finally, one evening when the couple was comfortably installed in their little garden, contemplating a magnificent starry vault, Paul confided. Feverish, he seemed unable to contain himself from speaking.

— I don’t know if you’re going to believe me, Alicia. Perhaps you will take me for a madman? However, I must tell you what happened, just before I came out of the coma…

Her voice sounded hesitant, which surprised Alicia. Her husband had always been someone strong, thoughtful and collected. But this thing that had been gnawing at him since his return… “ He came so close to death ”, she thought, shuddering.

Enough to shake the strongest of men.

— I was in complete darkness, he began anxiously. An intense darkness, almost palpable, which seemed to stretch to infinity. I was vaguely aware of being awake, but not really. It was a dream, or maybe a nightmare, but it was also very real…

Paul secoua la tête, frustré de ne parvenir à mieux s’exprimer. Il cherchait ses mots, incapable de trouver ceux qui auraient retranscrit au mieux son expérience.

— Quand ils sont apparus, reprit-il en frémissant, j’ai d’abord vu l’homme. Il m’a fait penser à un colporteur. Ce fut le mot qui me vint sur le moment, même si j’ignore pourquoi. Il semblait anormalement grand et mince, comme un insecte répugnant…

Alicia felt a deep unease as her own dream resurfaced. Her mind monopolized by Paul’s awakening, she had completely concealed the insane dream. Now the stick man came back to him.

With growing terror, she listened to the rest of the story.

— He held the head of a puppet, horrible, repulsive. Both approached me. I still couldn’t move or run away. I didn’t want to, however, believe me!

Alicia thought about the paralysis that had taken hold of her, in her own nightmare. A shiver ran down his spine.

— L’homme a tendu cette chose vers moi, continua Paul d’une voix défaillante. Cette horrible tête boursouflée… La marionnette s’est mise à dévorer un truc noir qui sortait de mon corps. Un genre de mélasse, ou je ne sais quoi. La créature mastiquait en provoquant des bruits atroces…

Paul paused. Alicia took his hand, both to support him and to reassure herself. When the young man spoke again, he seemed a little calmer.

— The most delirious thing is that it made me feel good! he wondered. Gradually, I regained awareness of the real world. As if this strange duo took hold of the evil lodged in me. Then I woke up.

Alicia remained silent. What could she have said? Her husband lived, that was all that mattered. She was afraid of shocking him, even traumatizing him, by evoking her own dream. Then she was silent, and the two embraced each other tenderly under the stars.

III

The night after Paul’s story, Alicia dreamed again. The ventriloquist reappeared, alone this time. He was smiling amiably, like an old friend met on the street. However, his arrival owed nothing to chance.
Alicia thanked him warmly for granting her wish.

— It’s nothing, Benitor assured him. And then I didn’t do much. It is Compère who should be congratulated, he who courageously took hold of the disease from which your husband suffered. Unfortunately, the poor perished in the business. This is how…

Alicia wanted to tell him how sorry she was, but the man didn’t give her time.

— I’m here to remind you of our market, he went on. You allowed us to save your husband, and now I’m coming back to take what’s mine. It’s because, you see, I can’t practice without a partner. I need someone through whom to transmit my gift. Since you had my help, it only seems right to return the favor. That is why…

As he spoke, Benitor pulled an ax from under his long black coat. Alicia stared at the blade, horrified and fascinated.

— You will understand, and forgive me, what is to follow. I am sure !

The ax sliced through the air and sliced clean through the young woman’s neck. His work done, Benitor bent down to take hold of his head. He put it on his right hand, like an ugly scarlet mitten. The magic worked and the face took on a demonic grin.

— To form a couple, it inevitably takes two, is not it? said it in a nasal voice.

Epilogue

When Paul awoke the next morning, he discovered with amazement, lying in the bloody sheets, the headless body of Alicia.

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