By Sigge S. Amdal
Henry was tired. He was tired and wide awake, and it was late at night. Very late at night. Henry would not sleep. He would not sleep until passing out from exhaustion.
Six years ago, was it six years ago already? Yeah. Six years ago. That's when he first had it. The itch. He remember not taking notice, not paying attention, not even caring about it. But the itch had remained. And it grew worse. It grew to the point that he went to the doctor's office, because he couldn't get a proper night's sleep. That was four years ago.
Four years ago the doctors had told him, one after the other, that something was wrong with him. Only problem was that it was something different each time. Each doctor had a theory, took their tests and ran the course with treatments and ointments and pills. And still it itched. It itched like hell.
Henry closed his eyes and suppressed a whimper.
She was sleeping besides him. She slept like a baby, not a worry in the world. Sometimes he'd get so mad he would hate her for it. Then he would crawl next to her for forgiveness. Of course, she was wide asleep all the time. Not a worry in the world.
Henry stared at the ceiling, then he stared at the wall, then the wardrobe, before turning back to the ceiling. He turned right and closed his eyes. But it just made it worse. When he closed his eyes his mind's eye went backwards, into him, and back to the itch again.
Emphasizing it. It itched so much that he curled his toes and stretched out his legs until they were stiff stretched. Then tt subsided for a while. He knew it would be back.
He turned restlessly in bed, trying not to wake her up. Then it shot from his backside, a pain so extreme that he arched his back and barely managed to breathe. His buttocks clutched together like a bank vault, while he could feel every fiber in the bed sheet tickling the soft skin under his fingernails that dug as deep as possible into the mattress. He calmed down catching his breath. She shifted a little, but stayed asleep. He was sweating now. He pulled down the covers to cool himself down.
That's when he heard it. He was staring at the ceiling drifting into oblivion, nearly falling asleep again, when he heard the sound. It was faint, as if drowned by the cushions of a very long time, of a memory gradually coming into focus. It was a voice.
“HENRY B. SHERMAN.”
“Ah!” His ears rang.
“Henry B. Sherman.. Henry B. Sherman.. Henry B. Sherman?”
He quickly turned towards her, frightened that she'd woken up. She was still asleep. He relaxed until he realized he was spoken to.
“Henry B. Sherman?”
“Yes, yes, that's my name.” He whimpered. Tears were flowing from his dry eye-sockets.
“Henry B. Sherman, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Who are you?”
Not the most rational question given the situation, but Henry was tired.
“We are, eh, we are the subjects. The Majestic Twelve subjects.”
The voice was intensely clear now, as if spoken inside his ears.
“You have heard about Majestic Twelve?”
“Majestic Twelve? What is that?”
There was some hushed discussion at the other end of the line.
“We can see there has been a mixup. I wouldn't worry about it. These things happen from time to time. Why don't you go to sleep now?”
“That's easier said than...” He fell asleep.
The itch was less noticeable as soon Henry got distracted. Every-day life, work, working out, the girlfriend, friends and television were all readily available to bury his burden in background noise. He was a B-type of person, and worked flexible hours to accommodate. Late nights and a girlfriend without any emotional depth provided just the right amount of getaway.
During day time Henry considered himself a normal person. He was just as normal as every other normal person. There was nothing wrong with him. There was no itch.
After each day though there was another night to live through again, and the itch always returned, this night no different. He was brought back to his nightly ordeal by an itch so strong he fantasized about getting a knife or a pair of scissors in the kitchen and cutting into his skin. His heart paced and sweat formed on his forehead. But this time he was not alone.
“Henry B. Sherman.”
“Yes, yes. This is Henry.” said Henry. He was shivering from the itching.
“We have been watching you. You seem to be quite uncomfortable right now, is that right?”
“Yes, I'm in hell here!” he yelled under his breath. He looked left. She was fast asleep.
“That is why we broke the peace. We would not have done it otherwise, just so you know.
There is nothing wrong with trying to help out, wouldn't you agree?”
“Um, yes. I think so. Why not?” His eyes rolled back into his skull as another itch took over.
“Ffffuck!” he exclaimed without tone.
“We would very much like to help you, Henry.”
“So help me god dammit!”
A thousand ants, it felt like a thousand fire ants took hold of his body. He was shaking. She stirred, but turned and turned again. Still asleep. He held his breath.
Then, all of a sudden, as if a cold hand of serenity had been laid upon him, he felt something he had not remembered. Peace. Being still. Being well. Free.
He gasped, waiting for the inevitable itch to return yet again, closing his eyes so hard they hurt.
“Does that work?”
“Ssshh!” He opened his eyes, blinking. There was quiet for a while as Henry experienced the light ecstasy of exhausted relaxation as his body finally came to natural rest. He couldn't believe it.
“Did it work?”
“Yes. Yes it did! Thank you!”
He smiled from ear to ear, just barely stopping himself from laughing out loud from joy.
“We are so happy for you, Henry.”
“Thanks. Thanks so much! You have no idea how long I've been waiting for the itch to go away.”
“It hasn't gone away, Henry.”
Cold truth brought panic and doom both at once, it would all come back! “WHAT?!”
She woke up.
“Henry, what's happening?” Slurred from sleep.
“Don't worry, darling. It was just a bad dream. Just a bad dream.”
He lulled her back to sleep again, waited ten minutes and waited another ten minutes before he dared to whisper; “What do you mean it's not gone?”
“The itch is not gone, Henry. You just can't feel it any longer. We made it so.” said the subjects.
“But in order to make it stay that way, you must do something for us in return. That is just the way it works, Henry. Does that sound reasonable to you?”
“It sounds reasonable, I guess.”
“There has been a mistake. Someone has made a mistake, Henry. Don't worry, it's not you. It's the Majestic Twelve. We are not supposed to be here. Not at all. They have made a mistake and sent us here. A terrible mistake. Did you know, that is why you have been itching for so long? What was it, six years now?”
“Six years they've made you suffer! We are very sorry for the inconvenience. Luckily we recently found out that if we stimulated the brain stem directly by electric impulse we could communicate with host just as one would hear a voice.”
Henry didn't understand a thing that they said.
“It means that we finally can talk together. We can make things right again. And you, Henry, you can be free again. Free from this itch altogether and forever. What say you? Will you help us put things right again, Henry?”
“I will help you.”
And then they told him, in great detail, all the things he was going to do to set things right with the Majestic Twelve and free him from the itch forever.
Henry got up slowly and quietly not to wake her up. He slid on his sweatpants and a t-shirt and put on the slippers. He went into the kitchen careful not to make a sound, and opened the utility drawer. He took out a sharp filet knife and closed the drawer. Then he quietly locked himself out of the apartment.
Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.