Worse still than the muffled oppression of the hallway was the medicinal bouquet that squeezed her throat. If she walked much further, she feared she might not draw a breath at all.
The clamminess of their grasp grew uncomfortable. Glancing downward, she caught the shimmer in her daughter’s wide eyes. “It’s okay. I brought you here so you can get better.”
Around them, activity bustled. Behind closed doors nurses vanished, while doctors, studious fresh faces half concealed by clipboards, sauntered by. A shriek sang out – then snipped – suppressed from somewhere down the never-ending hallway. Her eyes darted downward again, but if her daughter had heard, she never let on. The child stared quietly ahead. “Sometimes people here hurt.” Lying would accomplish nothing at this junction. People here did hurt. “But only for a little.”
The hallway widened, allowing for the girth of a large, horseshoe shaped desk. Hand raised high, a guard approached. “What do we have here?”
“Is that all?”
“Yes.” She felt the squeeze of small fingers. “We’re hoping.”
Behind the desk, a rosy-cheeked nurse lifted her head. She scrutinized them, then nodded toward the guard. “I’ll call ahead,” she said.
“Okay,” the guard nodded in turn, attention now seized by his crooked badge. Fingers fiddled across his chest. “Walk to the end. Double doors on the right.”
They continued along. Her throat began to burn, and it became quite hard to breathe; the air spiced with blooms of Lysol, the ghosts of cleaning agents. She prayed she would forget that scent once they arrived back home. Home – what remained of it, anyway. Fresh baked brownies once served as a shawl there; cut flowers from the garden once enveloped them both. “We’ll be done and home before you know it.”
Another cry resonated; soon it died. Cut off. No doubt, her daughter had heard it this time; no doubt, it came from beyond the double doors. Sweat pooled between their palms but neither mother nor daughter released their grasp. “Sometimes people here hurt,” she reminded.
They walked until they could walk no longer. She glanced backward. Endlessly, the hallway stretched behind. The guard watched them, fingers still dabbling with his badge. Defiantly, she flipped strands of hair from her face, then followed her daughter into the ward.
Immediately silence consumed them, betrayed only by their hastened breaths. Partitions lined the walls. She lingered before one, sweeping aside the fabric drape liner that sealed its interior from view. An empty medical bed, sheets crisp and stark; a stainless steel table. Various monitoring equipment; a Dinamap loitering in the far corner. It all appeared so cold, so impersonal. Any trace of caring had long since been sterilized. The drape liner fell back. “Come.”
Mother and daughter moved along. They moved from the partitions and entered the main hub of the ward. At last, someone sauntered to their assistance – a nurse, frayed pigtails protruding from either side of her head. “Sorry, busy, busy. Now, what’s our emergency?”
She pressed hard against the small fingers. “Verbal abuse.”
“Eighth one today. Are we fixing this for good?”
Her fingers squirmed, intensifying the heat between them. “Yes.”
“I hope so for your sake. We have your consent, then?”
She broke free from their clasp.
“Your consent?” the nurse demanded, pigtails spinning in clumsy circles.
A pained expression corkscrewed her face as small fingers gripped her wrist. “Yes.”
The nurse snatched her away. It happened with frightening speed; how could such a small thing move so quickly? She struggled, grasped at empty air, but the rope binding her hands restricted her movement and the nurse – the nurse well practiced at preventing one’s escape. She twisted her head; behind her, small fingers fluttered.
Dragged along her heels, doors sprung open to either side. The commotion assaulted her ears; the shouts, the commands for preparation. Hands, soft yet so strong in their urgency, held her down atop a gurney. She saw them all then, scurrying about – the children, the damned children of a world turned upside down, doling out their judicial punishments as they saw fit. A freckled face boy of ten stood over her, scalpel in one hand, forceps in the other. “Your tongue, please,” he smiled and tore at the duct tape, freeing the lips her daughter had sealed. She screamed, but the doors slipped shut, her cries taken prisoner within the ward.
Then she understood why people here hurt.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
Soft caressing satin sheets the finest weave
laid out awaiting our grey mistress
today the surroundings a lowly cave
but tomorrow she says ” it will be a palace”
for she is deserved of the world’s best
We shudder as she draws near
her greatness is in contrast to our lowliness
I behold her and see earth’s riches clear
etched in her skin, reflected off her eyes, in her touch
my mate is poised to rearrange all and such
Fearing that the perfumes and oils
do not emulate her beauteous perfection
we like dogs in our groveling toil
have no ability to bark
we whimper at her approach in the dark
She kicks my mate across the rocky ground
“FOOLS don’t you know what is occurring
can’t you hear the angels’ grating sound?”
we had been too busy to listen to music
so heavenly, it would make a person sick
My eye twinkled if just a speck
it was but for an instant
she laid her iron clad foot on my neck
“if you smile (even inside)
you’ll hear the crack of your demise”
I lay in submission complete
I was feigning it (a little)
heavy golden foot slight release
I relieved to set candlelight free
not too much, only enough to see
“The light I so detest
had to come inside to get away”
I shook my head in unknowingness
it’s night, the darkest part of the year
light can’t from darkness just appear
“I’m weary and must go to my chamber
You – lay offerings at the idols’ feet
I need peace from the racket – Out There”
see pointed with icy white fingers
little of life in her form still lingered
Her heart didn’t beat for it was stone
her evil was forged and elemental
“Give them extra measure, from your supplies atone”
I tried to shrug off the hunger, tho not slight
I extinguished the small amount of frigid light
Shivering my mate small and forlorn
we survived because we had each other
we, like two sides of a penny worn
I warmed her with my body, licked her face
unusual trembling, her heart seemed to race
Her head faced the night so clear
“Let’s go see”
she whispered silently in my ear
“Do we dare?” my collar seemed to tighten
“I must gaze on the place that it brightens”
She stood up courageously on two legs
the cave entrance bathed in golden light
I crawled behind her so afraid
echo of heavenly host in notes so high
we saw what should have been an ink dark sky
Silver musicians I couldn’t count
filled midnight expanse
beyond calculations, a large amount
“Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace
among those with whom He is well pleased”
The music echoed off the earth it seemed
and somehow I knew the star
its chorus about the universe beamed
“There…” my love pointed to a distant cave
“We cannot, we are but unworthy slaves”
“Who cares about that when there is this…”
she ran flinging her hands out like a bird (or an angel)
her radiance I longed to kiss
I stood bathed in the light
wishing to cling to my miserable plight
Afraid of the consequence
I pondered the words “Glory…”
heard screams from my mistress incensed
“I must have peace no matter the price
feed the idols more grain, the amount twice”
(it was my hands she forced to feed)
My mate was gone from sight
I heard her voice on a gentle breeze
it caressed my cheek
“Join us in the light,” I heard her speak
“I cannot my mistress will destroy me.”
“No, you will finally be free!”
The breeze turned into a stiff wind
I cowered and clung to the rock
I felt sharp tendrils bite into my skin
With authority a breath spoke, “be gone”
reaching, passing through my soul
it had wrapped itself about the idols
flung against rocks on the hill
my mistress flew in storm’s fiery will
Unclothed she looked weak, undone
bone stacked upon brittle bone
white rage sprang like an afterthought
she ran toward the dust
lifeless she sifted through the miry plot
Her mouth foamed with impotent waves
“we will forge anew”
her promise to save
“we will gather strength and overpower this…”
weak was her fury filled hiss
Caring little I slunk away
wishing I had run down the hill
like a curious lamb with my mate
instead I crawled and under my breath
“grant me a swift wintry death”
I heard the night sky
continue to sing
“I will find peace…” my mistress’ cry
with one final energized shout
clumps of dirt hanging from her mouth
She strove to ingest her god’s earthen morsel
“There is no peace for the wicked”
I heard a sylvan voice chortle
light like a broad sword struck the plot
she deserved what she got
my fingers clung to the foul ground
hoping by day, I would never be found.
~ Leslie Moon
© Copyright 2014 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved
The forest is starving. Overhead the sun dies, bathing the branches in the pink glow of dusk. Walkers do well to avoid these parts but John knows them like the lines of his own face. His trade depends on them. Allerwood Jam sells as far as Netley, so it seemed only natural that his wife and he should move close to the forest’s borders, when they finally decided to settle down. They first met picking raspberries in the bracken behind what is now McCready’s farm. Grace loves natural produce at least as much as he does. Out here, on the outskirts of the village, they are free to live a quiet life, largely separate from the rest of Lynnwood. Almost twenty years later, they have not looked back.
The ground crunches beneath his boots as a wind sighs through the trees, rustling the few leaves and testing the branches. Their creaks carry on the air, a hundred groans bringing the forest to uneasy life. Knotted faces with deep grooves stare at him from the hollows of trunks and on more than one occasion he fancies he sees movement through the black glassy trees. The trees are weary of the winter and he is no different. He can hear it in their creaks as surely as he feels it in his own bones. Stepping around a bend in the path, he emerges into a small clearing.
This is one of his private places. There are several, in the vicinity, from where he harvests fruits and berries the year round: rhubarb in the spring, blueberries and raspberries when summer is high and blackberries in autumn. Sometimes, if the winter is mild or he gets to them early, he finds apples too, but not often, and not this year. This year there is only cold, and death.
He found the rabbit not far from here, almost two weeks ago. Ribs had pressed visibly against its thin underbelly, its black eyes trapped behind a layer of frost. One of its paws had snapped clean off. This in itself was not shocking; he has grown used to such sights over the years. It was the sudden similarities between this dead thing and his daughter that had weighed heavily on him.
The ground is sparse, save a carpet of thin roots, winding their way into the earth. Moving to the edge of the clearing, where the barren undergrowth makes something of a return, he begins his hunt. He cultivates beetroot here, where the shade is weak in the day. The root is hardy, even against the bitter frost. He slips a knife from his long overcoat pocket and begins to scrape at the soil. His fingers are white, or blue. It is hard to tell in the fading light.
He will find the beetroot and return home, before the coldness truly sets in. He left the house first thing this morning and hasn’t seen Bianca since last night, when he tucked her in for bed. He thinks of the rabbit again, and shivers.
Bianca loves beetroot and he won’t disappoint his little one so close to Christmas. Boiled, pickled, in sandwiches and on salads. He would bring her an armful, if he could find it, to keep her strength and her weight up. For several minutes he goes on, his efforts fruitless. The leaves are here but he cannot break through the earth to the taproots. Determined, he takes to stabbing the soil with the knife-blade.
A flash of purple leaps from the earth. His hopes leap with it, only to be dashed when the thing squirms violently from his touch. The fat worm lingers for a moment before burrowing away. The encroaching cold nips at his flesh as, wrapping his overcoat tight around him, he rises from the ground. It is too late now. He will have to return tomorrow, with daylight and a spade, and dig properly.
His teeth chatter, his breath white on the air, as he turns and strides from the clearing, alone except for thin trees and thinner shadows stretching from their trunks.
Grace’s breath clings to the window; a delicate whiteness that turns the glass pane foggy. Her eyes crease then soften as a shadow at the forest’s edge steps out towards her cottage. Its confident stride bears it purposefully closer and she fancies she can see John’s face; the warmth of his brown eyes, his sleek black hair and delicate lips, offset against that proud jaw.
The wind howls, the trees shiver and the man is but a shadow again.
She turns from the window as Bianca’s bedroom door swings open. The cottage is old, its layout mostly confined to the ground floor. There is an attic, where they store furniture, and a small basement filled with their jams. When Bianca is older they might have to address the issue of space but, for now, the build suits them well.
“And what are you doing up, young lady?”
“I had a dream.”
Her daughter stumbles sleepily into her arms. Her pajamas are deceptive but, pressed against her, she is as hard as ice. Bones protrude where there should be soft flesh as she trembles in Grace’s arms. Kneeling down slowly, she reaches out to sweep the hair from the girl’s eyes.
“Let’s get you some blankets to warm you with.”
“No, I’m not cold!”
“Well let’s find some blankets anyway, for me, then. You can tell me about your dream.”
“I was lost in the forest.”
“And what were you doing out in the forest on your own?” she asks, carefully pulling the throw from the sofa. Bianca stands unmoving while she drapes the throw around her daughter’s shoulders.
“I was looking for Dad. It was dark but I could see everything below me clearly. I felt like I was flying.”
“Did you find him?”
“No, but I saw other things, moving between the trees. Swarming like ants, or the spiders you sweep from under my bed. All arms and legs and they were covered in blood –”
“But they were, and when they looked up their eyes were wide and white, so white –”
“Nightmares aren’t real,” she comforts, leading the child over to the glowing fireplace. “And besides, your father will be back soon.” The fire smolders in the hearth. Chunks of charcoal bake in its embers. Already the girl is starting to feel warmer in her arms. “Forget it all, it was just a bad dream.”
“It wasn’t bad.”
“It wasn’t a bad dream. I could feel everything, like it was all me. I was in the trees and the ice and the blood of the things below –”
“Cold but hungry –”
“Stop, Bianca. That’s quite enough of that.”
They sit together by the fire for a while longer, toasting their hands and feet, before she sends the girl back to bed. Not until the bedroom door clicks shut does she move, returning from the crackling fireplace to her previous post at the window. Snow has started falling, blanketing the night-time forest in a crisp white cape. Although she has stood at the window a hundred times before now, she decides the forest looks different tonight. She sends a thought to John, wandering somewhere beneath the old aller trees. She wishes he would hurry up. The beet doesn’t matter anymore. There are other days to forage. It will do more harm than good for him to linger in the dark.
He will be home soon, if he picks up his pace. In a matter of minutes he could find himself looking across a steaming casserole and a generous pint into Grace’s face. Even after twenty-two years, she is no less beautiful than the first day they had met.
He has always felt different to other people. The world is moving faster than he can keep up with. Their traditional ways are almost dead, but the village offers some respite. Here, between the trees, they are free to be themselves. Grace understands this. Tired, hungry and alone in the cold, he has never missed her more.
The wind whines through the treetops, carrying with it a flurry of snow and ice and something else that Midwinter’s evening. He turns in time to see an owl as it soars overhead.
The bird is beautiful. It glides silently, like a ghost, its creamy feathers stark against the blackness of the night sky. There are not many left, now, here or anywhere; ghosts in more than just appearance. Perhaps the cold has driven it here. Perhaps its business is not so different to his own. The night-time forest is full of hunters and their prey.
He is about to resume walking when another shape catches his eyes. Pale against the black night and thin enough that he had taken it for outstretched branches, the silhouette springs from a tree onto the passing bird. The owl’s scream pierces the woods as it is snatched from the sky.
A mass of shadows erupts from the undergrowth around him. Limbs flail like leafless branches, skeletal and pale in the moonlight. Moans of relief rise over desperate gasps. He turns to run, but makes no more than a few steps before long fingers find his neck. They are a woman’s hands, stained red, reminding him of Grace’s fingers, all those years ago, their tips coloured bright with raspberries. Then other hands grasp his arms and the softness of his stomach and he crumples to the earth, blanketed by a frenzy of feverish activity.
Grace has just set a saucepan of water to boil when something scuttles overhead. She shouts as she jumps, knocking the pan to the floor. Warm water spills out, running quickly into the wooden cracks, but her attention is fixed on the ceiling. There is movement in the attic; a definite scrabbling, as though something small is seeking entry to the house. If the squirrels are back, there will be blood on her hands this evening.
Bianca does not seem to have woken, at least. She offers a silent prayer of thanks. It would do the girl’s childish imagination no good to hear the noises petering down from the above.
After a minute of silence she stirs, and in ten steps has retrieved a broom from the utilities cupboard. The broom feels reassuring in her grasp, like it belongs with her, and she it. There isn’t much in the world she can’t shift with this broom, she reminds herself, or else beat senseless. Moving to stand beneath the attic trapdoor, she brings her weapon of choice to bear on the old wood.
Three thuds reverberate throughout the cottage before the trapdoor falls open and a thin ladder slides out. Peering upwards, she places a foot on the first rung.
With a splintered crash the cottage door blows inwards. The window shatters and her world with it, shards of ice and glass scattering across the room. The ceiling spins as she tumbles from the ladder to the floor, her heart hammering in her chest. The cold rushes inside and, with it, a dozen figures.
She guesses a dozen, but there might be more, the room seeming to blur around her. She does see thin arms, long-fingered hands and pale skin made pink and blue from the cold. The icy air fills her eyes and mouth, and with it the sweet tang of spoiled meat. She has smelled it once before, when their dog had crawled beneath the cottage to die three years ago.
One of them hovers by the doorway, neck stretching as it seems to scent the air. Eyes flutter as its mouth opens and in a moment of sickness she feels its hunger inside herself. The room is still spinning, her surroundings stretching, the open mouth gaping wider and wider until there is nothing else but the blackness of its throat, impossibly black, an abyssal blackness with no end.
She has heard tales of the Gluttons, had been warned about them when she was a young girl, but she had never taken them seriously. Perhaps it is the nature of the hungry, to forget. She had heard that before, too, at the Christmas market one year. Witnessing the stark truth of these bony limbs, these wasted arms and mouths dark with old blood, she knows she will never forget again.
She seems to feel their hands on her all once. The famished throw themselves over her, claiming her for their own; joined by every thumbprint, ever finger, every palm wrapped tightly around her skin. She burns with their cold touch. Light flickers overhead as faces swim before it, and she imagines the winter sun, speeding low through the sky, its dappled light fractured by the treetops. In this moment she is one with these ghouls, made whole by their beating hearts, their desperate breaths; their endless hunger on this, the longest night, when the stomachs of every man, woman and child roar in anticipation of the coming festivities.
It is their human hunger, and it is the hunger of the trees around her. Branches bite her arms, and the back of her neck as she tumbles into the cold outside. It is the ravening winter, gnawing at her eyes and hands and the soles of her feet, and the insatiable night, stripping her of sight, of self, of any awareness save that of appetite. She screams, and her voice is voracious. She howls and her song is hunger. She moans and the swarm moans with her; a chorus at once nourished by the abyss and obliterated by it. She lives and dies and feeds in the darkness.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2014 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved
Misery rolled with the dogs in the shadows of Tompkin’s shed.
On August 25th, 1968, Mike Callahan hung himself from a cross-beam in the ceiling. The wood was old and riddled with rot but it held his weight well enough.
On July 13th, 1985, Sarah Paulson was stabbed in the neck while tending to the potted bulbs on the windowsill. She died instantly. The bulbs never sprouted.
1989, fire. 1997, rape.
In 2001, the Tompkins moved in. The shed became a doghouse. Two-year old Muttley howled perpetually. Three coats of paint couldn’t hide the stains seeping through the skirting board.
Don’t open it! Leave it shut! You must not let them in. I know you’re tired. You spent years building this place; this hideout; this inner sanctum. Yes, although you can’t see them, your victims are in here too. They coax you to open it; to reveal yourself to the real world. It would be so easy, so relieving, to turn the knob and walk out. No more hiding or pretending. But then what? What will you be out there? Condemned. In here, you rule; you are god. That’s right, step back and let’s go find us a new victim.
Home, Never Sweet, Home
Standing in this place again, after all these years, makes my scars tingle. I swear I can still taste the fear, the spilled blood, the unnatural appetites. Just by looking around, you can see that it was a house of torment; that the structure itself acquiesced to the display of wicked sins. And yet, despite the hatred I bear for my family and this past, I’ve always felt the need to return—a subconscious compulsion to revisit and relive. So, I’ve come back and brought with me this nice trembling family to whom I will gladly pass on the tradition.
In prison I walked the only halls I could – those of my mind. Once luxurious, they now sit in rot and degradation. Twenty years ago this palace was filled with vivid splendor. But memory without input is like a sail without wind – damned to stagnation.
I created this entire place, with the exception of a troublesome door in the darkest recess. No longer able to resist, I open it. A loathsome horde escapes and fills me with their cries of lunacy. The open door shows my cell, its inhabitant raving. My hoarse cackle echos that of the imprisoned maniac.
The force shredded the meat from her bones, flesh flaying like curls of thin paper. She felt herself as a trembling skeleton, the frame that once held her image, her story. Then that too disintegrated in the searing heat. You need to be on the brink to make a choice like that, to challenge the very fabric of the universe, to bend time to your will. The portal opens, a swirling whirlpool of unstable energy, threatening to fold in on itself and disappear. Time at her fingertips and no time to hesitate. She approached the blinding light, she stepped through.
One lousy layer of wood is all that separates me from what waits on the other side. Yet, I have fared better than the rest of the town. I am still alive.
I tried warning them, but they laughed at me the way they always did. When they came, it was too late. I should have just fucking gone and not worried about them. I did try. The fault is theirs.
I walk to the door, open it, and embrace the Dark. They are out there, shadows begetting shadows. No more waiting. I am ready.
I am one of them…
Dusty are those memories: HORSE, the gas scooter we built, the telegraph system…
What is it that two tom-boys saw in that old shack? We imagined a spark could give us a glimpse into history. You held the wire while I hosed the area. You vanished with the last of the sparks; I kept the ashes.
Every year, I go back to find me and see you. I get one question – you always evade the Edison one. This year something is different instead of you answering a question about another century you’re holding a sparking wire and that same dripping hose.
Cowering in the corner, I muffle the ceaseless pounding upon my psyche with useless hands that cover my ears. The thunderous clamor from the other side continues night into day, day into night. I watch the walls quiver with each new assault upon my senses; the crack in the floor creeps closer and closer with each quake of the jam. Cold and alone, this huddling in dank misery seems endless. I crawl forward; the battering stills in pregnant pause. I reach for the key in the old lock; listen to its bare click as it disengages. The door swings open…
The world is different now, so fucking different. At first, things seemed random; pockets of disease spreading slightly before being contained, angry mobs destroying their own communities, financial crises. We were too arrogant to see the bigger picture, a picture that didn’t include more than two-thirds of the planet’s population. And now, I’m the one-third of my family still alive. I know what atrocities wait beyond that door because I’ve survived the horrors on this side of that same door. I step over the severed heads and gnashing jaws of my wife and son as I reach for the handle.
Joseph A. Pinto
The chandelier hung here once; your eyes caught in its crystal, cast into a thousand shards, yet I could not see who you were. It is gone now. So are the tools that spurred us, tore all down. I have kept to my menial task of rebuilding; oh, the drudgery of my clumsy fingers through dust clotted hours of toil. Our palace razed, I recall the promise you once glimpsed through these slatted boards. I hold fast to that vision. Our walls crumbled; this foundation strong. You are part of it now. Each pass of my trowel layers your smile.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent.
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.
The moonless night embraced Chris as he stood in the foothills high above the small town. He cowered underneath the empty sky and swallowed the bile that was his self-loathing.
Disgust paraded across his wounded soul like an ugly Mardi Gras procession, its movements suggestive of cutting, its rhythm a macabre lurching. Chris covered his ears in the quiet. Even when he was alone, he heard the ceaseless badgering that spewed out from the world. It berated his every move and word.
Work, school and seemingly every moment of his existence were filled with ridicule and scowls that screamed he wasn’t good enough. A few years ago he had reached out to somebody at the suicide prevention center, but the volunteer told him he was being a selfish kid that was just looking for attention. Even killing himself wasn’t enough. He screamed to the night until his throat hurt.
With the exception of his mother, he had never been good enough. She loved him and cherished him regardless of what happened, until dementia robbed her mind and callused her heart. His loneliness and aching consumed him after she was gone. It was all too much. A second guttural cry erupted from his quivering lips as Chris cursed the great emptiness above him.
He looked up at the sky, made blurry by wet eyes, and wondered why darkness couldn’t be darker, why the blade never cut deep enough. The blood was never enough to carry him away, and the darkness of the night was never enough to hide him.
“It’s never enough,” he whispered.
The words bounced around in his mind with awful familiarity until Chris saw them for what they were. It was the same shit he had heard for years, and now those hateful seeds had sprung unwanted in his mind. He couldn’t allow himself to go down that path. His mind fought feverishly to come up with an answer.
He wiped the tears off his cheeks as he realized that he had been going about this all wrong. The night had always held him close, and it had given him comfort and listened to his cries. For years, it had whispered ideas of impossible freedom in his dreams. Why had he never listened to what the voices in the darkness said? No, the darkness of the night was right. It had always been enough.
What about the blade? Wasn’t it always enough for a release? It was the only thing that married pleasure and pain into a meaningful emotion that wasn’t riddled with hate.
The epiphany was sweet and impossible to ignore. He heard those same whispers that came to him in his sleep, and he knew he could do it – should do it. His desire to become closer to the darkness quickly turned into a raw urge. Chris slid out from the jacket he wore and took off his shirt. Cool air surrounded him, hugged him, and carried away his negative emotions. The whispers became clearer.
He quickly took the rest of his clothes off and gave himself completely to the night. The wind hardened his nipples, tickled the hair of his body, and buffeted his flaccid length like an ethereal lover. This was all he needed.
The night had taken his self-loathing and carried it away on its cool breath. He had only to give himself to the darkness and it would consume the bad. Chris ran some fingers over the scars on his arms and he longed for the blade and the pleasure of the wet cutting. Part of him wondered if he would need the blade anymore, or its accompanying blood, but he also knew it was his only access to pleasure. The wind brought the night’s whispering to him clearly and he smiled.
“Yes, there’s only one way to find out.” He took the knife out of his clothes and pressed the tip into his arm as he started down the mountainside.
The black night clung tenaciously to the early morning sky as his bare feet crunched across the dry grass in the yard. Chris still wondered about what he was going to do, but the darkness couldn’t be wrong. He stopped in the middle of the yard and looked at the fresh cut on his arm. It hadn’t given him the same release that it normally did. There was still the intoxicating mix of pain and pleasure, but something had changed. He had changed. Opening himself to the darkness had fundamentally altered him.
“Ergo,” whispered Chris as he pulled the knife out of the sheath, “the release must change.”
He used the edge of the Benchmade dagger to spread his drying blood across his arm. It was as dark as the deepest night. Chris looked up into the barren sky and spoke in reverent tones. “Under your potent gaze my blood is dark, just as you’ve made me.”
He slipped the dagger back into the sheath tied around his bare thigh and walked across the rest of the yard. His dirty feet stepped onto the smooth concrete of the patio. The basement door was unlocked. Chris stepped into the warm air and the smell of a home that was foreign to him. He walked into a game room and plucked two billiard balls off the table.
The ability and freedom to control his destiny was like a drug. He knew what he was going to do, and it made him feel like a god. Once he had accepted the empowering darkness of the night, he had become something more than he had ever imagined. He was enough.
Chris rummaged through three rooms before he found what he was looking for. His new fate had blessed him with a nearly empty home. The only person in the house was a guy that he had known in school years ago. This guy hadn’t been more antagonistic than the others, although he had beaten the shit out of him a few times, but that didn’t matter. What mattered now was the release. He had cut and shed enough – now it was time for others to provide him with what he needed and deserved.
The billiard balls knocked against each other as they fell into the toes of the sock. He grabbed the sock by the end and let the balls swing slightly as he walked over to the bed. The sound of snoring masked his approach. He swung the sock over his head as he watched the sleeping form. The guy’s name came to mind just as he woke up. Jason’s eyes fluttered briefly until he noticed the movement. He jerked in his bed, his face a picture of shock and horror, and started to cry out. The billiard balls picked up speed and Chris slammed them into Jason’s jaw.
The oddly quiet crunch of the broken jaw muffled much of the scream. Chris started to reach for the dagger when he saw that Jason was completely unconscious. He looked around and found a few ties in the closet and quickly tied Jason’s wrists and ankles to the bedposts. Once that was done, he walked back around to the head of the bed and pulled one of the billiard balls out of the sock.
He looked down at the unconscious form and was in awe over how easy it was. There was no fear. There was no remorse. It was just as the night had whispered it would be. He felt calm and at ease. If this was the price to live free and finally be enough, then it was something he should have done a long time ago.
Chris reached down and pushed the mangled jaw open. Jason’s eyes shot open and a scream erupted from his swollen face. Chris quickly shoved the billiard ball into Jason’s mouth, busting many of his teeth in the process. His victim thrashed frantically on the bed until he pulled the dagger out and flashed it before Jason’s eyes.
“Stop moving or things will get ugly.”
Jason kept jerking his legs and had almost ripped himself free from the ties. Chris shrugged his shoulders and picked up the sock with the other ball still inside. He swung it over his head a few times and brought it crashing down onto Jason’s leg. He had been aiming for the knee but hit the large bone just below it, breaking it with a dull crack. Jason screamed and he started to swing the sock and ball again. He smashed one kneecap and then swung the ball even harder, pulverizing Jason’s other knee.
Chris glanced at Jason’s face and saw that he had passed out again. “That won’t work,” he said as he dropped the sock. He slapped Jason across the face as he pulled his dagger out. Jason woke with a start and looked imploringly at him. He slowly moved his head side-to-side; his eyes spelled out the pleas his mouth couldn’t form.
“Your begging and crying won’t work, Jason. I’m not here for something as petty as vengeance. This is about the release, although you probably wouldn’t understand that. A guy like you would never appreciate it.”
Chris took the tip of the dagger and pressed it lightly against the flesh of Jason’s thigh. Jason went completely still, his eyes wide with terror. He sobbed and breathed heavily through his nose. Chris smiled as he spoke. “No, Jason, this hasn’t been enough yet.”
He watched with bated breath as he put a little more pressure on the dagger. Jason’s skin dipped slightly with the point, but couldn’t resist the sharp blade. The dagger sunk a few inches into the fatty tissue of Jason’s thigh. Chris ignored the thrashing and pushed the blade deeper before he started to cut down towards the ruined knee.
The blood ran freely. It coursed down Jason’s leg and mingled with the shocking white fragments of his shattered knee. Ecstasy filled Chris as he reveled in how bright the blood and bone were. He looked down at his naked body and realized just how excited he had become. This was what he had always wanted and needed. But there was one piece that was missing.
Chris pulled the knife out and felt the sudden urge to lick the blade. Was that it? The darkness within him intensified with the anticipation. He lifted the dagger to his lips. The blood smelled like a wet penny. Chris slid his quivering tongue down the flat portion of the dagger. The salty metallic flavor was at once both sweet and familiar. It was like Sangria with salt and iron.
“Still not quite enough,” Chris sighed.
He pushed the blade into Jason’s thigh again and started to cut back and forth like his mother used to do with rolls of liverwurst. Jason bucked and shook in the bed, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head as he fought to stay conscious. Chris reached down, grabbed a warm slippery chunk of flesh and pulled. The morsel was almost free. It was hard to see where it was still connected because of the massive pool of blood, but Chris felt around inside the wound and finished cutting the pieces of muscle that were still connected. The mass of tissue felt warm in his hand.
“Will you hold this for me?” Chris asked as he held the dagger out to Jason. He drove the dagger down into Jason’s gut and then held up the bloody chunk. Chris peeled the skin away from the fatty layer and smelled it. His excitement grew exponentially; his body responded in quivers. He opened his mouth and dropped it in. It tasted like nothing he had ever tried. His excitement reached a climax and he cried out through a mouthful of thigh.
Chris swallowed the tidbit and wiped the blood on his hands across his mouth, face and chest. Relief and pleasure rolled over him in waves. He looked into Jason’s face and saw no sign of disdain, no sign of ridicule or scorn. Jason’s agony and fear had replaced the hatred and judging. Only the night could tell him if he was enough or not. Never again would it be in the hands of another person.
“I’m almost done here,” Chris said as he reached for his dagger. “There is only one more thing to do.”
He grabbed the dagger and pulled it towards him. Jason’s gut split and leaked organs like a mass of thick worms. Chris scooped his other hand into the opening, pulling out more of Jason’s entrails until the abdominal cavity served as a bowl. He cupped his hand, filling it with the smelly ichor in Jason’s open wound and smeared it all over his body.
Chris finished covering himself and glanced back at Jason’s face. He was nearly gone. He took his bloody hand and caressed Jason’s face as a mother would a child.
“Thank you,” he said as he put the dagger back in the sheath. He stood back from the bed and relished the feeling of being enough. Chris knew this satisfaction was temporary, as it had been with the self-harm. But the night would fill both him and the sky again and give him the ability to be a god. He would be ready because he was finally enough.
~ Zack Kullis
© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved