John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.
Be Not Afraid ~ Conclusion
“I had it translated.” He held up the document. “It was easy to find a translator. Thai has barely changed in a thousand years.” He began to read.
King Rec of the K̄hlạng kingdom sought to end the siege of his capital by the neighboring kingdom of Mī Xảnāc. He summoned his trusted Mi Pho to devise a spell to destroy his enemies.
I, Preecha, provided stone amulets along with a written description of the spell that would accompany each.
The amulets would be given to the Mī Xảnāc prisoners who would be lured into our trust with the deceptive and magical phrase, ¨Be Not Afraid ̈. We would return them to their homes with the amulets that supposedly spoke of peace.
But the carriers of the amulets would be transformed into murderous beasts that would terrorize the villages of Mī Xảnāc. They would kill and devour men, women, children, and animals.
The horror would go on until there was nothing left but the land for King Rec to claim as his own.
“It all sounds like a legend,” said Beth. “But we know it’s true. I saw you as one of those beasts. And now I have some things to share with you.”
Beth sat down on the couch and reached for the manila folder on the coffee table. “Gerald, this is the dissertation you wrote for the Archaeology and Anthropology Department at Princeton about your expedition to Asia. I borrowed it in the hope it may shed some light on…well…on what happened to you.”
She opened the folder, removing the dissertation and passed it to him. He still held the box close to his body but reached out with the other hand and accepted the file. Staring at the title, Studies in Asia: Archaeological Digs and Findings: Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Thailand: Jan-April 2016 by Dr Gerald R Thompson. Gerald sat down and began to read through his writing. His face registered each new recollection and he nodded now and then.
Beth allowed him to finish reading before she spoke again, “I found it interesting and quite detailed, but the only thing puzzling me were the words in red ink vertically down the right margin…BE NOT AFRAID. Your translated parchment explains that mystery however.”
She smiled and waited for him to speak. When he didn’t, she left him, still clutching the box, saying, “You just sit here while I make us some coffee, then we can talk more. I even remember how you have it, black and one….?” Gerald just nodded.
Gerald waited in the living room while Beth made coffee. He remembered she made it by pouring hot water through a hand-held filter that she suspended over the cup. It was quick and easy. She would be back soon. He opened the box and reached inside.
After only a couple of minutes, Beth stepped through the doorway and abruptly stopped. Coffee splashed over the top edges of the cups. The tray crashed onto the hardwood floor. “Gerald! No!”
The amulet hung from his neck against his chest. Its eyes glowed, and Gerald could feel the power surging through his mind and body. This is what he wanted for himself—and for Beth.
He reached into the box and tossed it onto the couch. In his hand, Gerald held another amulet. “I found one for you, too.” His voice was strained. Sweat ran down his face that was quickly losing its form. The jawline grew longer and broader. His limbs were grotesque and deformed. He moved toward her.
“Gerald, don’t!” Beth backed into the kitchen and opened drawers blindly while she kept her eyes on the beast...on Gerald. She lifted a butcher knife in her right hand.
He came forward.
She drove the knife toward his chest.
Gerald grabbed her wrist. The knife fell. He raised the second amulet by its leather cord and moved to lower it over her head. “Be—not—afraid”.
She could feel his hot breath on her face. His grip nearly crushed her wrist. “No, Gerald. Don’t do this,” she nearly whispered.
“Not like this, Gerald.” She looked him in the face and spoke words that seemed strange, even to her, yet she stated them deliberately. “Fear—shall—set—you—free!” Beth lowered herself to the floor and grabbed the knife. She lunged at him again, just missing his throat. Then she saw his jaw begin to narrow and shorten.
He released her wrist and stepped back, looking down at his body, his arms and hands, as if he didn’t recognize them. The changes began to reverse. He looked Beth in the eyes. “What is happening to me?”
“I didn’t believe it would work.” Beth kept her distance. “While I was researching, I contacted someone mentioned in your dissertation, a Dr Kraisee Chalerm who gave me information about another Thai dig site where archeologists discovered these same amulets. It seems the kingdom on which the beasts had been released had conjured a counterspell. While the magic catalyst to enable the magic is the phrase, “Be not afraid,” the anticatalyst is, “Fear will set you free”.
“It worked!” Gerald gasped.
“Yes it did.” Beth slipped past him and retrieved the box he had used to bring the amulets to her apartment. She held it toward him, open.
He hesitated, then lowered both amulets into the box. “We need to do more than this, Beth. We need to get rid of them.”
“I wonder.” Beth lifted one of the amulets out of the box and hung it around her neck. They waited. Nothing happened.
Gerald took the other amulet and hung it around his neck.
“Like you said, it worked.”
“True,” said Gerald. “But don’t you think they would make a nice donation to the University’s Thai collection?”
© 2019 John Hansen