The End of Feeling

I loved my wife. When we lost our only son, I did everything in my power to make her happy. Baily was only five years old when he died of malnutrition. We were very poor and no matter how hard I worked, I was never able to provide enough for my family. I was ridden with guilt and I always felt responsible. Elizabeth never blamed me though, for anything. But I couldn’t show her that I, too, was hurting. I watched over her through nights when her nightmares caused her to wake up screaming, sweating, and crying in pain. I thought that with time, she’d go back to her old self and resume her duties. That day never came.

As I walked through our village, I heard rumors and whispers of a great therapist that used extremely helpful methods. I scoffed at the thought of a therapist. They still exist?

The people in our village slowly started to change. I was alarmed when I was heading to the mines early in the morning and I did not hear the usual singing of the jolly baker as she kneaded her dough. The people I passed by on the street were all staring at the ground as they walked. No more hellos or good mornings. People became detached and numb. Everyday presented a new kind of dullness, as if a shadow was cast over the whole village. Everyday, I felt more and more like an outcast. Was I really the only one capable of feeling?

I came home one day and couldn’t find my wife. Panic overtook me and I didn’t know what to do. I went around the village asking if anyone saw her. No one did. Everyone knew Elizabeth, they knew who she once was. They all loved her and often stopped by to wish her well. Sometimes they brought food. But that day, no one even offered to help me look for her. Not only was I worried about my wife, but also about this indifference that had taken over everyone. I decided to set out to the woods and look for her there, so I headed back home to gather my things. As I walked in, a fresh aroma of pumpkin soup infiltrated the air. I walked to the kitchen and found my wife standing over the stove, cooking. I could not believe my eyes. I ran to her and hugged her tight. “You’re back”, I whispered in her ear, “finally”. She hugged me back but she didn’t say a word. I couldn’t complain too much, I was happy to have my wife back.

Our days consisted of very little talk. But I was a patient man. I couldn’t pressure her and I would have been stupid to assume that she’d ever be the same person I married. But I was willing to wait, as long as it took, for her to be happy again.

A month after the pumpkin soup, I was rummaging through our desk drawers to find the money I had stashed years ago in case of an emergency. I wanted to buy my wife a gift. That’s when I found the leather-bound journal. I didn’t know whom it belonged to and how it got there so I opened it and saw my wife’s name written on the very first page. I closed it and put it back, then I noticed that a small note had fallen out of it. I picked it up and read the name “Lilith Simon”. I knew everyone in our village and I was certain that this Lilith person wasn’t from around here. I turned the note around and saw a map drawn that lead to a small village about an hour away from ours. I had never been there, and only heard stories about the people that lived there. Most of the stories were exaggerated, that I knew, but I couldn’t help feeling a sense of fear that arose from the thought of Cobweb Meadow. I had to find out who Lilith is, and why my wife had directions to her house.

I told my wife I was going on a hunting trip that same day, and would be back later in the evening. I set off to Cobweb Meadow, prepared for the worst. I had a pistol in my duffel bag that I hoped I wouldn’t have to use.

The walk wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, but I felt weary. This village looked just like ours, the people dead inside. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could. I followed the map and easily found Lilith’s house. As I got closer to the door, I saw a sign that said “I can take it all away”. I didn’t know what to make of that but I felt a sudden urgency and I needed to get this over with. I knocked the door, and a lady who seemed to be in her early thirties opened it. She had long white hair, but barely any wrinkles. She wore a long velvet dress, and her neck was covered with beads. I asked her right away about my wife.

“Oh yes, my dear boy, Elizabeth came to see me about a month ago and I helped her.”

So I asked, “what did you do? What do you do?” And to my surprise, she said: “I’m a therapist. I take people’s pain away. Quite literally. But as payment, I take their joy and happiness away too.”

“Is this some sort of joke??” I asked.

Lilith looked me straight in the eye and said: “people are tired of being in pain, they’re tired of sadness, I take it away. But everything comes with a price, and mine is happiness. I take that away too.”

“I want it back” I told her, “give me back my wife’s feelings.”

“I don’t do refunds, my dear.”

It took me no longer than half a second to come up with a bargain: “give me back my wife’s emotions, and you can have mine.”

Lilith smiled and said: “that can be done.. but beware of the consequences.”

I ran back home like a madman. I had to see my wife. Lilith said she would only give me a day with Elizabeth before taking my feelings away, and I was going to cherish every second of it.

I walked into our house and saw Elizabeth standing right in front of me, with a gun aimed at her head and tears running down her face.

“No, no no! Put that away” I screamed.

Her hands were trembling and her knees were shaking, but the gun remained aimed at her head.

“Why would you do that, John? I gave it all up FOR YOU. I was miserable but I knew you were, too. I did it to save us. I did it for you.”

BANG!

Amani AlShaal

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