In most honest form, I recall to you an academic list, which I have fastidiously discovered through Plutonian nightmares that have defiled my fleeting knowledge of the earthly truths I once knew, of the six scariest words I have accounted in my life. Few have endured this maldictonox that was borne to pass under my visage.
I wake up in a graveyard. This sometimes happens. I spy an abstruse structure through the curtain of fog, and I come upon Your Humble Narrator's first abominable word.
A sepulcher is an innocent childhood-ghost-story word that we probably know well from Edgar Allen Bro's "Annabel Lee." If you're not familiar with the word (or you don't have a familiar spirit that follows you, unlike me), a sepulcher is a room intended for a dead body to lie in for a vast amount of time.
Homes for the dead are generally odd to consider (despite our fascination with burials). However, if someone offers a sepulcher for rent on Craigslist, I'll probably take it pro-rated from the cadaver-in-residence. Just have to worry about that whole eternal lease thing.
Adversely, this is a word I do NOT like to see in Craigslist posts.
With its provided, lighthearted connotation, my pocket Oxford Dictionary, dampened and moldy, defines eviscerate as "[depriving] something of its essential contents."
By essential contents, we actually mean internal organs, right?
Even grimmer is Oxford's own lovely example: "[T]he goat had been skinned and neatly eviscerated."
At least the goat was disemboweled in a neat fashion. That's always good.
In a rare and spectral jitter, I drop the pocket Oxford into a river of screaming souls (?) and wander to find a train to take to get to the goat sacrifice.
I didn't mention the goat sacrifice before?
Well now I'm mentioning it.
En route to the train, I become lost on a stone road in a sprawling forest (Hell's Kitchen, go figure). The sun taunts me: it's nearly dark, but not quite. The crimson dusk draws to its apex on the tree line, curdled blood—when a bear jumps out with a truncheon in its right paw. More terrifying than the bear is the truncheon.
What the heck is a truncheon? It sounds awful.
That's because it is. It's quite awful. It's a baton meant to cause blunt damage to an intended victim. One might simply call it a baton, or a billy club, but if a bear wants you utterly under its terror-spell, it will say, "This is my truncheon. There are many like it, but this one is mine."
I rush to a local deli and ask for a quarter pound of headcheese. It's that time of year, right? As I wait for my order, I see a shifty character in the corner with a paper bag in his hands.
"What've you got there?" I ask, somehow immune to the day's happenings.
"My darlings," he says, grinning.
Two things happen in that moment:
One, I see that this guy has a beautiful smile.
Two, I see that there are dozens of black legs wriggling between his teeth.
This man is arachnivorous. He eats spiders. He eats spiders.
He eats spiders.
While watching this man kill his darlings (HA!), my own neuroses take over and I begin to compulsively pick at my fingernails. That's because I'm an onychotillomaniac. I swear, it's not the fascination with the broken nails…or the tearing cuticles…or the fear of an impending truncheon-bear hallucination—just my craze and interaction with the penultimate word on this list.
Later IN THE night—
I arrive at the goat sacrifice with my familiar spirit, daydreaming about my new sepulcher pad. Monks of darker arts emerge from behind the groaning oaks (with truncheons?!) and a nice little goat is led to the altar. I pick at my hanging pinky nail. I slap a spider on my neck and accidentally snack on it.
Then the ritual begins. Something seems odd when one of the unholy acolytes begins chanting about tax season. Then two more start chanting. Then four. Then all 17. They pull down their habits to reveal their white dress shirts, their 1099's, their tax return transcripts—
Could it be? Could all of the outerdimensional prophecies have come to fiscal fruition in his hellish manifest of utter demonology?
Before my realization suffocates my sanity, a banner unfurls from the altar, hosting what I believe to be the scariest word of all:
The archmonk of taxation lay the goat on the altar. The others continue to chant.
He asks about the goat's personal expenses. Then the goat's at-home office expenses.
Then about any back taxes the goat might like to disclose. It bleats in panic.
The fiduciary horror! I fall to the ground in numbing awe. In my last moments of consciousness, the quadruped victim bleats in rhythm with the umbrage of the demoniacal tax monks, suffering a fury of withheld employee tax deposit penalties.
I wake hours later, the acolytes having disappeared from the desecrated woods. I happen to view a large spider crawling from me, snickering, having picked through my pockets and pulling out my iPhone 6. My mind already ensnared, I give no attention to the Apple-hip spider but instead wonder if I had properly filled out my W-2.
Ah! what abysmal aberrations I have suffered to view in this world!
Alex Grover (@AlexPGrover) writes in New York. He sometimes ventures to the gates of delirium, mistaking The Cranberries lyrics for Lovecraftian lore.