Abyss & Apex: September/November 2003: Healing in the Absence of an Oral Culture


Healing in the Absence of an Oral Culture

by Greg Beatty


“Say ‘ah.'”


The doctor squinted into my mouth. “Yes, it’s just as I feared. Nothing but matter. You’re suffering from a complete absence of archetypes.”

“Is—is it serious?”

He threw the persona depressor. It tinged against the side of the wastebasket, which bore a “Metaphysical Hazards” sign.

“Well, if not treated, it would be fatal. Or worse.”

“So, moderately serious, then,” I said.

I was trying for black humor, but he just nodded.

He kept talking as he turned to mess with something. “You know, when I first started doctoring, we’d have had to treat this orally. You’d have come back every week. We’d start with a little Little Red Riding Hood, then move on to something more ambitious, say Jack…”

He kept talking as he turned around, but I wasn’t listening. He was carrying the largest needle I’d ever seen, held in a port arms position. He staggered under its weight.

“Open your shirt,” the doctor said, bracing himself.

“Don’t you mean, roll up your sleeve?” Something was moving inside the tube. Normally, that part of the syringe is clear, but this was slightly opaque. Maybe the thickness of the glass? Irregular shapes thrashed about inside. They glowed around the edges, as if backlit.

“Impressive, isn’t it? No, if you had any of your original collective unconscious left, I could give it a booster. That could go in the arm. But when a soul’s as arid as yours, I’ve got to go straight to the heart.”

I open my shirt, exposing my pale, hairless chest.

He backed up three steps, and came at me with a running start. The needle bent as it hit my chest, and his feet left the floor.

Do you know that you usually don’t feel your heart? Most of the time it just plunks away, an audible but forgotten wonder, and we go on our way, mailing our letters and tying our shoes, and all the while, this crimson, rhythmic warrior skirls away inside us, calling us to take up our claymores, breathe deep of the open air, and hold our loved ones close to us.

“How’s that feel?”

I rubbed my chest. I could barely feel the wound through my chest hair. “Fine, I guess. Are you sure it did anything?”

“Oh yes. The color’s returned to your aura. But let’s check. What do you feel like doing right now?”

I cocked my head, listening to voices whispering through a crack in the earth. “I-ee want to go for a long walk, seeking the father of my spirit?”

“Ah, quest stirrings. Good. That’s the first sign of regeneration. Pay the secretary on the way out. And oh—you’ll have to answer some questions before she lets you pass.”

I thanked him, and walked out to face her. She put her paws on her desk and asked, “What walks on four legs…”

But I wasn’t listening. All I was thinking was, “How am I going to get my insurance to pay for this?”


Greg Beatty attended Clarion West in the summer of 2000. He’s had a number of short stories accepted since then. (For more information on his writing, visit his website) He supports his writing habit by teaching for the University of Phoenix Online. When he’s not at his computer, he enjoys cooking and practicing martial arts. 


Copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted.


Art Director: Bonnie Brunish

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