The Kigyer

8 Aug

Dr. Dezso Fekete was baffled by a condition he had never come across before.

The patient was a young shopkeeper who was half-owner of a small book store in the Leopold district of Pest. Business was slack for Zsolt Virog in the oppressive Hungary of Admiral Horthy in the early months of 1931.

Fekete sat across a walnut desk from the swell-dressed merchant. He had difficulty grasping the nature of the ailment of this stranger in so much physical pain.

“You suffer an illness unknown to me, that I find impossible to label or treat. There has been an extraordinary loss of weight. It appears to be a loss of material mass in all the inner organs. I have never seen or read of anything so drastic and unexplained. It is hard for me to decide what steps to take because of the mysterious nature of this illness.”

“I feel sick and weakened,” desperately groaned the bookseller. “There is little strength left, so that my partner now takes most of the responsibility for our business.”

“Diagnosis may be possible if I refer you to a specialist with wider knowledge than I have,” acknowledged the physician.

Virog reacted with what appeared to be anger.

“No, that will not be necessary. If you cannot help me, why should you suppose that someone else can? My trouble began when I started going to the Kiraly Turkish Bath. I have had to stop my visits there since falling ill. My partner, though, continues.”

“Your partner?”

“He is a little older than me and attributes his good health to the hot water and the minerals supposedly in it. His advice first brought me to the old place.”

“I see no reason why the Kiraly Bath should be harmful to you, my friend.”

Zsolt suddenly changed the subject to something else.

“Are you familiar with our Hungarian folk medicine traditions, Doctor?” he inquired.

“No, my familiarity is very superficial, I fear.”

“Our bookstore has several interesting works in that area,” declared the patient. “I will send you the one I consider of greatest value and you can be the judge of it.”

The two arranged for a second visit in two weeks.

Zsolt Virog left, and the next day Dr. Fekete received the promised volume by post.

The patient did not keep his appointment at the office and then a month went by without any word or indication why.

Dezso read the book, then wondered what to do with it.

His decision was finally to return it to the bookstore and learn why Virog had not come back. Here was an excuse for looking in on the young man with the peculiar illness and learning what had happened to him.

A high sign announcing “Books” hung between a haberdashery and a jewelry shop. Slowly entering, the doctor caught sight of crowded shelves rising up to the high ceiling.

Behind a low counter stood a tall scarecrow in an old-fashioned black suit. He had pince-nez over his whitish blue eyes. “Can I help you , sir?” asked the man who had to be the partner of Zsolt Virog.

“I am an acquaintance of Mr. Virog, but have not seen him in some time. He gave me a book to read that I wish to return to him.”

The tall, thin man frowned. “It is obvious that you are ignorant of my partner’s death. The tragedy was sudden and unexpected. The funeral and burial were quick and private. Did you know Zsolt well?”

Dezso, surprised and shaken, ignored the last question asked.

“Allow me to identify myself. I am a physician and had one session with your partner. You have, of course, my sincere sympathy for your loss.”

Neither man spoke for a short time, while each studied the other.

“The present economic crisis has ruined our trade,” muttered the man behind the counter. “Let us go in the back and share some tea. sir. My name is Gyula Turok.”

The pair shook hands,then Dezso followed the other to the rear section of the store.

It quickly became clear that Gyula was a person with a lot of knowledge stored up in his mind. The two sat on cheap old plain chairs facing each other. After serving a cup of Pannonian tea to the unexpected visitor, the shopkeeper began what seemed to Dezso an uncontrolled, uncensored confession.

“It all started for Zsolt when he first went to the Kiraly Bath. I was the one who advised him to go for his health. He had no definable complaints then, but I told him that the waters provided good preventive treatment of protection. Thus, much of the responsibility for what happened is on me.

“Zsolt was not just my business partner, but my number one friend. I was the same to him, so that each of us knew the other one thoroughly. Only in the last several weeks before his end, though, did he become secretive. I believe that there were fearful matters he kept to himself of the terrible pain they caused him.”

“I examined his weight loss and it was serious,” said the doctor. “He had a sense of wasting away from the inside and it was torturing him horribly. He suffered terrible, unending pain.”

“That is what I heard him express again and again,” added the partner. “Zsolt was reading a lot in the last days, and he asked me to do the same thing. I have a good idea of what he thought threatened him.”

“May I ask you what it was? He did not reveal too many of his thoughts to me, but he did send me a book on Hungarian folk medicine.”

“Yes,” nodded Gyula. “He learned a lot from such writings. Did he ever mention the kigyer to you, Doctor Fekete?”

The latter shook his head no. “He never said a word to me about snakes or any reptiles.”

“He did not mean an ordinary, natural kigyo snake, but something quite different and terrifying.”

“I don’t fully understand,” frowned Dezso, somewhat in confusion.

The bookseller bolted to his feet in a rush. “You should first read what my partner collected in that area of our folklore. He had moved to Budapest from the city of Pees and was deeply fascinated by old beliefs and customs.

“The kigyer legend came to our country during the years of the Turkish invasion and occupation. From the East we received a concept of the unnatural snake that enters and resides inside a human host. When the idea of such a creature entered the minds of Magyars, it was given the name of kigyer.”

“I confess that what you say is all new to me,” admitted the excited doctor.

“I believe you will learn much from studying what Zsolt had been reading before his death. You may discover truths that have been forgotten.”

Dezso accepted the offer, soon leaving with a bag of books to look through.

From a series of ethnographic studies of southern Magyar folklore, the reader acquired a mental picture of an incredible, unnatural being.

Taking detailed notes, the doctor composed a visual sketch of the monster snake from the East that the Turks had supposedly brought to the Pannonian plain with them.

– A snake that does not die, but survives inside chosen human beings.

-The passive holder of the kigyer is unaware of what resides within his or her body. Only when it places its possessor in a trance can the snake emerge out of the mouth of the person. It will then bite and eat the flesh of victims before returning home.

– A kigyer avoids feeding on the one within whom it hides. When the human being dies, it goes forth to find a new residence elsewhere in someone who is alive.

– The person with a kigyer inside can be termed a human kigyer. The latter never learns of the condition, being only a passive carrier of the hungry tenant seeking food from others.

– The creeping reptile, an eerie yellow, must have living flesh that powers its survival. At the end, it will take from its own holder until death comes to the exhausted source.

– The kigyer can be called eternal, since it will continue on inside new hosts, one after another.

Dezso Fekete felt overwhelmed by all he read and learned about this snake.

When the day arrived to return the folklore volumes to the bookstore, he realized that there was much he had to ask the surviving partner.

How did his fear of the kigyer affect Zsolt’s final days, is illness, and his death? wondered the physician.

The two new friends went back to the storage area to converse and exchange ideas.

“What do you think?” asked Gyula. “How much influence did his strange interest have in bringing about his end?”

Dezso wrinkled his brow. “I can’t say for certain. It would appear that your friend had genuine belief in the existence of the kigyer. That could have had an enormous effect upon him. I wonder whether there was a small element of suicide in the final demise of my partner. Who can determine one way or the other?”

No answer came from Torok as he considered and ruminated. When he again spoke, he made an unexpected proposal to the physician.

“It was a mistake on my part to have taken him to the Kiraly Bath and encouraged his continued returns to the facility. Something may have occurred there that did him harm. I cannot be specific, but there are suspicious factors connected to his visits there.

“Would you be willing to go there and look around with me, Dr. Fekete?”

Surprised, Dezso nevertheless instantly accepted the offer.

“Yes, that might clear up some questions.”

First construction of the baths occurred in the late 15th century.

Early morning sunlight streamed in through small round windows built into the high octagonal domed roof. The large central bathing chamber held an aura of the dangerous, distant past, when human life and knowledge were unlike that of 1931. Even the unusual colors of the bath walls had a quaint, exotic quality to them. There was nothing ordinary or conventional in the Kiraly at this early hour. The whole building and all its details had the character of the still unknown about it.

Dezso Fekete arrived first and waited for the partner of his late patient.

They had decided to have a look around before the opening to the public hours later. No one seemed to be about, making it easy to enter on their own, secretly and informally.

The physician, there for the first time in his life, marveled at the effect upon himself of the empty setting and atmosphere of the Kiraly Bath.

Water slowly flowed into the circular basin as if coming from a hidden magical source. What have these walls and windows witnessed? Dezso asked himself. No answer arose in his mystified mind.

Aspects of human personality unknown to him could have manifested themselves here in past days. Who could say for certain what may have transpired in this male chamber of the baths?

Dezso turned around when he heard the quiet footsteps of Torok as he entered.

Gyula was looking up at the brick roof of the bath chamber.

“This is where my partner expired and was found no longer alive. He lost his heart beat in a fraction of a second. He could not have known what was happening to him, not at all. It appears that there was no one present to give any aid. Death was sudden, without warning of any sort.

“We can never know, but Zsolt may have convinced himself he was under kigyer attack. That could have triggered his heart to cease beating.”

With a blank expression in his eyes, Gulya took a step toward Dezso.

The latter at once read the signs of what impended. Everything became clear in that single moment. There were no further questions, because none were necessary. The truth was revealed to the doctor in a flash.

Out of the opening mouth of Gulya appeared two red eyes in a yellow reptilian face.

His fears exploding, Dezso instinctively took what defensive stance was possible.

The physician threw himself with every ounce of strength at the torso of the other. His unconscious aim was to bring Gyula down to the floor as rapidly as possible. This had to be done before the kigyer came completely out of its unaware, unthinking host who appeared to be in a trance.

Time would decide the outcome of what had been started.

The two bodies fell to the hard brick floor, Dezso on top of Gyula.

Both men were knocked out by the vortex that they had fallen into.

Neither of them moved as they entered a shared state of inertness. Two brains became totally unconscious.

Dezso awakened and slowly raised himself to his feet.

A single idea captured hold of him as he gazed down at his guide lying on the brick floor: Gyula is dead! He shall not move, breath, or speak ever again. His survival has become impossible.

He was the holder and carrier of a kigyer that took the life of his friend and business partner.

The old folk legend had truth in it. An ungodly snake from the East fed on Zsolt to an extent that led to the ruination and destruction of the young man’s mind and body.

Another thought came to the doctor as he studied the unmoving body of Gyula.

That is the body of an abandoned host without its kigyer snake.

If the monstrous reptile no longer enjoys that safe home, it has had to move into a new host body. Whose could it be? Where can the yellow serpent hide itself?

A frigid fear shook all of Dezso.

Was he himself fated to become the captured residence enabling the killing being to survive? Were new victims going to be attacked like Szolt was?

The Turkish invaders left Hungary long before, but their satanic companions still lived, concealed within Magyar bodies ignorant of their presence.

Dezso hurried out of the bath chamber to inform others of a death there.

His conscience was burdened with the thought that he was now possibly in possession of a peculiar snake inside his body, the one termed a kigyer.

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