Nikov Ferat shall neither hunger nor thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on him, nor any heat. For the lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed him and shall lead him unto living fountains of waters.
He sits, legs crossed, against the back wall of room 11F. It’s a janitor’s closet, or used to be – all the janitors died. Nikov remembers pyres fit for the Vikings – white flames before the northern lights, great skyward waves of burning disinfectant. Wotan kills, as he must.
Nikov shivers and the image fades.
The lock on room 11F is drawn back. He blinks in the glare, and a wet-lipped man pulls him from the closet. Those lips are like slugs on a plate.
“You’ll meet the lamb.”
Nikov only nods. They walk by the delirious minutiae of Nikov’s former life. Vending machines rust in icy slicks of water; neat rows of fluorescent tubes stutter weakly, a symphony of light. Cream tiles glisten in the halogen rhythm. It’s good to be home, killing the lamb.
The slug-man brings Nikov to an elevator in the east wing, nostrils whistling each damp breath.
“Up to the lamb.”
There’s a throb of power from the generators, and Nikov studies his reflection in the elevator. He traces a finger over the mirror’s splintery, fractured surface. He stares right back – always hungry, like a child. There was hair, once. It fell from his testes, shrivelled with cold; it fell from everywhere. What good is a sick doctor? He should not have been away this long, should have returned years ago. Now he sells books.
The lamb of Sikhusco Asylum stirs black coffee with a silver spoon, and the sun creeps across a punch drunk sky. The air is warm up here, radiated, sweaty and sweet.
Nikov sits at the hardwood table that used to be his. The lamb hasn’t changed much: same starched shirt and impeccable posture, same surgeon’s hands.
“Are you hungry?”
Nikov shakes his head.
“No. Thank you.”
The lamb of Sikhusco Asylum blows to cool his coffee. It’s imported, and very good. He reads a Sunday Times from the old days, the English press ironic as ever. But these days, the past is nothing but irony. All those advertisements, cars and thick steak – were we ever so rich?
Nikov removes a pair of moth bitten gloves. It is too warm for him.
The lamb finishes with the news of yesterday. He tosses a book on the table, small and black, a golden cross stitched across the cover.
“You shouldn’t have come back, Dr. Ferat,” he says, fingering the thick binding. “Are you trying to sell these?”
“I sell copies of the bible,” nods Nikov. “Have you ever read it?”
The lamb sips hot coffee.
Nikov leans forward, “It’s a real revelation, you know?”
The lamb laughs, despite himself. He’s warm and well fed, downright comfortable up here.
Nikov itches to draw the knife hidden in his trousers. He wants to kill the lamb, to feel the hot spray of an artery broken and bent. He wants to kill, but he needs to know.
“Lamb,” he says. “What happened to us?”
“You tell me.”
Nikov remembers blood in the lobby, the patients nervous and cold. He remembers leaving, then long, hard nights on the road. When the car broke, he walked. People were burning everything in those days, books and chairs, whole houses engulfed in a single night of magnificent heat. He got sick and started selling bibles. Everybody was sick. So Nikov came back to the hospital.
“We used to work together,” says Nikov. “It was here, at Sikhusco. This was my table.”
The lamb nods, “It was – once.”
“And there was nothing to eat,” Nikov feels the memories stirring. “And you said nobody was coming, we had to take care of ourselves. But what does that really mean? You turned them against me; they nearly tore me to pieces!”
“Please, try to stay calm.”
Nikov aches to kill the lamb. He remembers the night in the dispensary, when the medicine was running out. The lamb waited until his guard was down, all drowned in alcohol. Then he struck from behind, a blow to the skull. The patients, always ahead of the curve, just wanted something to eat – anything but more pills.
“Anton,” says Nikov. “That’s your real name: Anton. Why do they call you the lamb?”
“They think I’m god. Sometimes, I think they’re right.”
Nikov is going to throw up. If he can’t kill this man, he has to leave. He’ll go back to the road. Anton takes him by the arm.
“Please, stay one more night. Have a drink.”
Downstairs, in 11F, Nikov drinks. He can stay another night. His spirit is strong, warming, brewed right here in Sikhusco. He drinks to the lamb.
© Ashley Hausenchild
Ashley Hauenschild is thoroughly regrets his impractical education. He is searching for work, available immediately.
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