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THE EDUCATION OF ELOISE

THE EDUCATION OF ELOISE
By E.C. McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2016

leo-paulrobert

It was directly because of Eloise spider phobia that she threw herself into education and study of the brain.

Was it all psychological? A mere veneer of electrical static over the cerebral cortex? Eloise pursued the idea that phobias, like her arachnophobia, were physical in nature and a physical change to the brain could alleviate the suffering of people like her.

Even better, in late 19th century, the constantly scrubbed, sterile environment required of medical research assured virtually no spiders: Certainly not on the scale of the farm where she grew up.

At the age of 14, while her brothers and sisters were busy outside, Eloise told her parents of her plans.

“What is science for a young lady?” her father’s tone was dismissive. “Marry wisely and you could share your own farm.”

“And give us plenty of grandchildren,” her Mother added.

Eloise brought out her diary and firmly (though respectfully) let the leather slap upon the table. She read through page after page of how, through the years and with her learned and innate cleverness, solved insurmountable problems on the farm thanks to her ingenuity and her knowledge of science. She knew that university would be costly, but she would repay her parents many times over for this opportunity.

Then Eloise froze. Sunlight through the windows fell upon a discreet spiderweb in the high corner where two walls met the ceiling. She did not see the effect her words had upon her Mother and Father, and how they glanced at each other in a silent shared pride. This moment was expected, as they long knew their daughter before she’d known herself.

With the fragile interruption of, “Excuse me,” Eloise hurried outside to wet a mop and remove the web.

The spider was small, no bigger than a dot with legs. ‘Oh my God. It is small enough to get in our hair, nose, ears, anywhere while we sleep.’ Which reminded her: she needed to scrub her room down today and bleach her sheets and pillow cases. Her Mother drew the line at washing her already clean clothes, though Eloise always gave them a vigorous shaking, turned them inside out and gave them a second shaking, then back to propers and one final shaking, before getting dressed.

Her phobia consumed her immediate attention on the tiny spider and its home, so that she didn’t hear her parents give her their blessing or busily figure out the coming four years of work and savings to make their daughter’s dream come true.

It was easy for young women to enter college in 1894. Less easy for their studies to be any more serious than servile: legal secretary, nurse, housekeeper. Yet Eloise was determined and her dogged pursuit relentless. After all, in 1847 American Astronomer, Maria Mitchell, discovered a comet and was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts. That was nearly half a century ago. Moreover, if Maria S. Sklodowska could graduate as Top Student at the great science university, Sorbonne in Paris, and Maria did do it, then Eloise could do it too.

This despite the sacrifices: Eloise was not accepted into anywhere near so prestigious a University as the Sorbonne. The lab equipment was bland even by Eloise’ inexperience (she was aware of better, as she read with a voluminous hunger). Of what there was,  the men always got first crack at everything. Having access to only basic microscopes and other mundane lab equipment, Eloise was limited to doing brain lobe research. Ah, but such research!

With persistence and politics – for one gets nowhere without allegiances – Eloise achieved her research Ph.D with the highest honors in 1899.

There of course, were stark episodes during that time. Eloise secret phobia nearly outed her fears on more than a few occasions. Fortunately her male peers merely considered her frights a “Woman’s Weakness” and not a deeper, nearly uncontrolled psychological disorder.

Eloise constant cleaning would also have been a bit much under normal circumstances, but it was tolerated and even slightly appreciated among her fellow researchers. She was admired for her “immaculate meticulousness”, though the coined phrase was also an affectionate but knowing joke among her peers.

In 1900, the esteemed brain researcher, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, came to America and Eloise’ place of intern residency to lead a symposium. Years of studious use of the most powerful microscopes in the world, of which there were only three, allowed the famed Cajal to use one at his leisure, so that he might see and visually record, with his detailed drawings, the structure of a brain cell.

His presentation included acetate projections of his latest drawings. On the high wall of the dark theater, they towered brightly over the audience. Doctor Cajal compared the structure of brain cell dendrites to the branches and root systems of trees.

Only Eloise didn’t see trees.

There in the dark, lit only by the projection and its contents, screamed an uncontrolled Eloise embraced in an overwhelming horror that would never release her.

As the oppressively massive projection of giant dendrites loomed over her, Eloise saw the true physical nature of her arachnophobia.

Living within her head, festering inside her skull, every single one of her billions of tormented brain cells… were spiders!

END

Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Art: Arachnophobe’s Nightmare by Leo-Paul Robert


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MY SHIFT WITH JEFF

d_spider_by_devilhs-d67xx7z

d.Spider by DevilHS

MY SHIFT WITH JEFF
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2013

“You can stop now.” Jeff said, words hissing between clenched teeth.

“I’m sorry,” I said and meant it.

“You say you’re sorry, but if you really were you’d shut up about it already. You and everyone else.”

“I don’t mean anything by it,” I demurred. “But if you could see it from my-”

“I can see a fucking mirror, Eddie!” Jeff snapped. “I fucked up! I know I fucked up! And I’m the one who has to live with it!”

If the spidery legs jutting from the top of Jeff’s head were a reflection of his state of mind, you wouldn’t know it. The six moved calm and detached, as if each blindly searched the air for a web to walk upon.

Six legs, not eight. Jeff had five black spider eyes, not four or six. We shut off the machine before it could finish. By some miracle, Jeff seemed to retain his mental state and a functioning memory, and that brain was able to communicate through his deformed mouth: Another miracle.

At first there was the nausea and vomiting, until Jeff’s brain found a state of equilibrium and balance to his new form. Which meant his hippocampus wasn’t damaged by the alteration.

But the woefully malformed head didn’t sit upon his vertebrae quite right. The opposing tissues didn’t fully knit, and uniformity with the rest of his body was angled all wrong. Jeff had to wear a neck collar, shoulder straps, and a harness to keep his new head from severing his spinal cord.

It was amazing that he could still hear; that his inner ears could still offer some semblance of equity.

A spider’s heart is more like a sump than a pump, and to maintain the differential blood pressure of two opposing animal kingdoms, Jeff now needed a heart exhausting rate of beats and blood pressure just to maintain consciousness.

Harder problem than it would seem, as we couldn’t find the right blend of drugs that could work both on the part that was Jeff and the part that wasn’t.

So to augment the only drug that did work, the universality of caffeine, it was my job to keep him in an agitated state: keep him awake during my shift. We both knew this, but it didn’t make the situation any easier.

While the rest of the team frantically worked on the machine to restore Jeff, he could only wait, hoping his heart wouldn’t pop. He hadn’t slept for more than eleven hours in the past week, and it was all taking its toll.

He teetered a bit, grabbed a chair to steady himself, sat down for only a second, then, fully aware that he couldn’t risk rest, shot out of it as if electrified. He began to twirl and I rushed forward to catch him. I forced his hands to the back of the chair for support.

“It’s okay,” he gasped. “Presyncope.”

I tried to hold him until he was steady, but one of the legs brushed my cheek and I cringed back despite myself, slapping the memory from my face.

“Whew. Still no BPPV,” he mumbled.  Then louder, “Eddie. It’s just another dizzy spell. Quick! Piss me off about something. Anything!”

“What the hell were you, thinking?” I demanded. “Using yourself as a guinea pig?”

END

The artwork, d.Spider, is by DevilHS. Visit him at DevilHS.deviantart.com


pb300Need a boost? Get my book
PERPETUAL BULLET: A Science Fiction Collection
It’s a veritable trove of previously published Science Fiction Horror Thriller tales – plus bonus stories
Featuring: Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem!
Now on sale for $9.00 in Trade Paperback and in eBook for $1.99 and available for your Android Tablet, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and every other “E”!
Find it at (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, !ndigo, iTunes, KoboBooks, Smashwords, WHSmith, and more).

Want more? Buy WILLOW BLUE. It’s my second collection of critically acclaimed Supernatural and Drama Thriller short stories with all of the Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem, you’ve come to expect (or should by now). Available in paperback for $8.00 or in Kindle for only $1.99. Buy the paperback at Amazon and the Kindle eBook is free! The tales will last you longer than latte!

Crave even more?

Look for my story Cedo Looked Like People, in the anthology, FEAR THE REAPER, edited by Joe Mynhardt. Available from Crystal Lake Publishing and available in Print for $12.99 or eBook for $2.99.

Also available from Crystal Lake Publishing, the film making guidebook, HORROR 201: The Silver Scream. Reap the rewards of movie making experience from the likes of Myself, as well as  John Carpenter, Tom Holland, Jeffrey Reddick, George A. Romero, Keith Arem, Richard Gray, also the late  Ray Bradbury, Wes Craven, plus many more. $19.99 in Print or $3.99 in eBook.