Archive | June 2015

Midnight Rum

A dark night. Clouds and no moon. No wonder he almost falls over the tombstones. Has nothing to do with the fact he’s flying high, caught in the loving embrace of the alcohol numbing his senses.

“Lights,” he mutters. “They need lights in here at night!”

The absurdity hits him. Who needs to see in here? The dead? No one else should be here. But he is. This is the perfect place to drink his ill-gotten hooch.

He was one drunken bastard before he even went down the alleyway behind the liquor store, but he was aware enough to notice old Harold, the evening counterman, standing at the far end of the building, having a smoke and trying to cop a feel from Lucille, the town’s resident hooker.

That left the store unattended. All those bottles screaming out to him, insisting he give them a good home. Ed listened to the bottles, ran inside, grabbed a bag from the counter and filled it up with the nectar of the Gods. It didn’t matter what he grabbed – he liked it all. As long as alcohol was inside, he would be happy. He left through the front door. By the time Harold would hear the bell and get back inside, Ed would be long gone.

“Now I need a good place to sit, lean back, and enjoy a few drinks,” Ed says.

As if by divine intervention, he finds a huge oak tree and, feeling around with his feet, discovers it is surrounded by nice soft grass. Perfect!

“Let’s see what kind of goodies I got. I’ll have to toast Lucille for keeping Harold occupied. I don’t know what he was thinking. The old goat ain’t been able to get it up for twenty years now. Shit! That’s why his wife left him. Shirley needed a man to satisfy her needs. Too bad Shirley left town. I enjoyed some fine ass from that lady.”

He reaches into the bag and grabs the biggest bottle. In his condition, it isn’t easy to open, but when a man is thirsty and needs to get even more of a buzz, he finds a way. He takes a long pull on the bottle, and the fiery but sweet liquid moves down his throat.

“Oh, rum! The good shit! The 151 proof stuff.”

The bottle is a third of the way gone, and he has all he can do to sit up straight against the tree, when the air around him becomes putrid, so bad as to affect the taste of the rum. But Ed is a pro and goes back to the bottle.

“Whatever that stench is will leave soon. I hope it’s not a fucking skunk, though. I’m in no shape to get away from one.”

His vision, which is bad enough to be begin with because of the dark, gets progressively worse, everything becoming hazy. The world spins around him, and Ed knows he will be spending the night with the dead. He’s in no shape now to walk home.

The Ghoul is amused by this pathetic human. To get this drunk is uncalled for. Does he not care about his health? Yes, the monster has tasted the flesh of the dead with remnants of alcohol in their systems. But this . . . but this will be the first opportunity he has had to feast on a living body with as much booze as this one has. The thought of the bliss works into the creature’s mind, and he salivates at the promise of his wonderful feast. How high will he get as he devours this weak-willed man?

Not worrying about being quiet – it doesn’t matter – this sap is too soused to go anywhere, the Ghoul walks up to Ed and sits down next to him, his disgusting stench causing Ed to jerk forward.

“Easy,” the Ghoul says, “don’t move too fast or all that fine rum will come out as puke. That would be a waste, my friend.”

“Who . . . who the fuck are you? Man, you have a huge odor problem!”

The Ghoul laughs. “That’s not a nice thing to say, Ed. Not nice at all. Just call me Algol. That will be just fine.”

It’s hard for Ed to think right now, the rum pulling at him from every direction. Were it not for this Algol character and his stench, he is sure he would be passed out by now.

“What do you want?” he asks him, and as his hand finds Algol’s hairy body, he adds, “Why are you naked? You shouldn’t be out walking around with no clothes on. Damn, you’re hairy!”

Peals of laughter rip across the cemetery as Algor gets closer to Ed. “I never wear clothes, Ed. I live below the ground. I don’t need clothes.”

How does this thing know his name? What’s going on?

“Everyone knows you, Ed. You’re a drunk. Plain and simple. Many nights I heard you stumbling home in one of your stupors. A number of evenings you passed out and spent the night here, not even waking up when the driving rain attacked your body. But those times I wasn’t allowed to interfere with your life. Now, it’s a whole different story.”

This beast is somehow capable of reading his mind. Ed feels his thoughts being pulled on. No! That’s impossible!

“You are luckier than the others, Ed. Your rum will help you not feel as much pain. Rest assured, however, that there will be pain, and the nightmares you think you’re having will fade into oblivion as you feel your life force being sucked out of you.”

No more talking; no more thinking. Algol rips into Ed’s neck with his vile, yellowish black teeth and starts his feast. The searing pain, not inhibited by the alcohol’s presence, manifests itself throughout his body as the taste of the Ghoul’s stench drops onto his tongue.

The blood, mixed with the sweet rum, tastes good to Algol, and causes him to fall under the spell of the alcohol, not in the manner it affected Ed but in a calm, relaxing way. “Ah, no wonder these monkeys like this stuff,” he thinks.

Bite after delicious bite and taste after taste of the sweet blood brings Ed closer to death. The alcohol still in his system has made him last longer than the others before Algol took one bite too many and they met their next appointment – with the afterlife.

Under the pleasant numbing effect of the rum and blood, the Ghoul does not hasten his dinner. This is beyond his wildest dreams! The only thing better would be if Ed were a woman and he could add that other element of ecstasy to this experience.

Moments before Algol sucks the last of Ed’s blood out of his body, the body and mind of the town drunk reconcile with fate and are gone. One last stare; one last gasp.

The Ghoul leans back against the oak, content with himself, even forgetting the hatred inside his soul for the God who did this to him. Times are different now. Revenge. Somehow, maybe, it will come.

He grabs the bottle of rum and drinks from it. There is no need for hurry. He can rid the cemetery of Ed’s existence soon enough. Can’t let the demon rum go to waste.

An hour, maybe two, goes by, and Algol’s hair sensors pick up on something approaching.

What the . . .

***

The tantalizing aroma of a woman drifts through the evening air. Oh, those sweet love juices talk to him, reminding him of his earlier desires. Midnight Rum can wait a little. There are more important things to be taken care of.

All is not quite right, however. This woman is searching for something in the cemetery, stopping every now and then to taste the air and smell what is above, as well as what lies below.

She stops, standing on her toes, and breathes deeply. Algol’s senses become a flurry of excitement! Finally, after all these years, she is here: the answer to his hopes and dreams. A woman of his species! He will not be alone any longer; he will have someone to share his life with.

His new partner trembles in the joy that she is alone no more. How long she has waited for a coupling. On a number of occasions, she had found a mate, only to have him leave, mainly because Ghouls were despised and hated by these weak humans who truly knew so little about them. Same as Algol, they could only guess the effects many of these creatures working together  would have on them. Like Gypsies, they were forced to travel to avoid harm or possible harm at the least. When that happened, they were usually split up, never to be reunited.

Her body hairs tingle with the excitement; her hunger can wait. She needs a man.

Algol stands, waiting for his new mate to find him, her power over his senses growing by the second. He shakes in anticipation of the moment when the two of them become entwined in their display of longing for each other. He doesn’t know if this so-called feeling of love the humans say they have apply to his kind or not. To him, Ghouls have a much more refined approach to life and the joys that titillate their senses.

She walks ever so slowly, savoring every delectable moment to draw him in to her before they make physical contact. His scent, while offensive to humans is a magnet to her, drawing her to his waiting arms. The sound of his rapidly beating heart and the sight of his pulsating body hairs beat against her skin.

Unable to contain himself any longer, he rushes to meet her, pulling her down to the grass. Sensing her need to eat, Algol brings what’s left of Ed’s body to her. “Eat some scraps from the poor departed Ed, Lillith. When you’re done, we will find a larger meal for you to feast on.”

She smiles, happy in the knowledge her new partner will be a sharing one. It is no surprise to her that he knows her name. She knows his as well. Shared powers.

Lillith devours what is left of Ed, surprised at his fresh taste and enchanted with the heady rum flavoring added to it.

“How did you find such a fresh corpse, Algol? His meat was delicious, unlike any I have ever eaten.”

“Ah, Lillith, have you not been repulsed and angered over the injustices from God to make us mere scavengers when we are so much more powerful than the creatures we eat?”

She looks at him, wondering what he suggests, and it creeps into her mind. “You mean . . .”

“Yes, Lillith, we’re no longer bound by the old ways. There is a war being waged elsewhere between God and Satan. Our doings no longer concern them.”

Lillth drools, thinking of the possibilities, the joys, the new experiences; shared ones now that she has a partner. “We can devour the flesh of the living?”

“Yes, my dear, and it is such sweet revenge. Tasty delights that plead for mercy as you slowly partake of their flesh. We are no longer held beneath the esteem of the humans. We are their superiors in every way.”

She bristles at the very thought of consuming the flesh of the victims as they push against her, trying to gain their freedom. Yes, she is the female of the species, but in  matters other than gender, they are equal. All Ghouls are powerful beings. “I shall enjoy this new way to feast. Can we start looking for a meal now, Algol?”

“Yes, Lillith. I have already feasted but you need to eat more. Let’s find you a proper dinner.”

They move to the northwest section of the cemetery and wait for some fool to come by. Their presence is concealed by the trees bordering the sidewalk. Other than their inimitable odor to tip someone off, they are invisible to the naked human eye on this dark night. A perfect evening to wait for prey.

***

The ground moves quickly under Brad’s feet as he runs down the lonesome road adjacent to the graveyard. He loves to run at this time of day. No one else around to destroy his feeling of euphoria when he transcends his previous limits and explodes into unchartered territory. Another good thing about running now is he doesn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him if he has to take a leak, and does he ever need to piss.

He shoves his pecker through the iron fence partitions and tends to business. Before he is able to put it back in his shorts, his dick is grabbed and he is pulled toward the fence, his head slapping against the metal from the force.

Something vaults over the fence and runs behind him, the stench of it and what is in front of him almost causing him to lose consciousness. The taste of wrought iron and putrid mold combine to overpower his gag reflex and he dry-heaves. Laughter sounds out before sharp teeth tear into his shaft, removing it from his body. In total shock and bleeding profusely, he is unable to utter a sound.

The beast behind Brad lifts him up and tosses him over the fence to his partner who feasts upwards on him from the gaping emptiness in his groin. The shock of being eaten alive is made worse by the sight of his attackers. While he struggles against their attack, he tries to reason things out – not easy to do now that he has to mount up some sort of defense.

While his running might have made Brad a super-strong individual, it did not prepare him for the brute strength he would need to escape. But would anything have?

As Lillith munches on the prone form of Brad, Algol tears off one of the runner’s arms and starts chomping away. Lillith jumps to where the blood pours and drinks heavily, the thick red liquid feeling heavenly as it goes down her throat. Her fingers tear off chunks of his face that she shoves into her mouth in between gulps of the warm life-giving nectar.

Brad’s heart goes out of control, pumping viciously before it explodes. Even the heart of a well-conditioned athlete can only take so much. As he draws his last breath, Lillith bites down into his skull and starts eating his brain.

Algol sits on a tombstone and watches his lady with profound respect. She has learned quickly. The two of them will make a fine team.

She finishes up with Brad and stares at Algol, blood dripping all over her, pieces of the man’s innards forming a necklace across her breasts. “That was incredible! I have never had such a meal. This is the best night of my life!”

Algol laughs. “It’s not over yet, Lillith. Let’s drink more of what these humans call rum. We still have a few hours before the sun rises.”

Lillith enjoys the smooth taste of the rum mixing with the blood. The Demon Rum relaxes them both. A great night!

Passions rise again . . .

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2015 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

Helplessly Above It All

I’m fourteen days, three hours and twenty seconds into the mission. So far the spacecraft has performed flawlessly, surpassing all expectations. It’s been rather comfortable as the capsule was designed with more room for the occupant than previous spacecraft.

When I was selected to be the commander of this mission, my wife got the biggest kick out of watching me jump around our little apartment with a big shit eating grin on my face. She said that…

…she said… why am I even bothering to mention her?

She’s dead.

So is everybody else.

I should never have taken this assignment. Prior to the launch, the administrators had told me to say a proper goodbye to her as tensions were high with our rivals across the pond. The risk of nuclear exchange was at its greatest, even more so than during the Cuban crisis.

I didn’t take it seriously.

The officials were still going ahead with the launch and I treated it as business as usual. I cringe remembering my last words to her.

“Keep the steaks warm.”

I watched helplessly above it all as hundreds of nuclear missiles launched from their silos. Had it been a simulation, I would have described the mushroom clouds sprouting up from the impacts as mesmerizing; however, knowing each one signaled the eradication of civilization, I felt numb. My radio had gone silent after a partial scream was obliterated in a roar of static.

That all happened on the second day of the mission.

Through each window, I can see the planetoid carcass that was once Earth. It used to be a beautiful sight with shades of white, blue, green and brown; a source of wonder and full of life. Now it’s an inhospitable cancer, smothered with the unnatural, burning clouds.

I left my radio on over those twelve days but only empty static and the ghosts of my memories kept me company. I would have loved to hear another human voice – even if it had been the enemy.

Not anymore.

I’ve just initiated my reentry procedure. Within minutes, my ship will fire its rockets one final time, propelling me back towards the nuclear polluted earth. When the moment comes to deploy the parachutes, I will simply sit back and enjoy the ride. I’d rather die in an impact crater on the earth’s surface than orbiting above it.

They fire right on cue and I feel the ship slowly descending into the atmosphere.

“Can anybody… me?” The voice crackles through my headset. “My name is…” A burst of static hisses then fades. “If anyone can hear me, please acknowledge…”

I lean forward to reply then stop. There’s no way I can interrupt the reentry procedure. Even if I could, what would be the point? As the flames begin to engulf the outside of my ship, I turn the radio off and lean back into my seat. There’s no reason to give him a false sense of hope.

Sorry buddy. You’re on your own.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

The Remains

Emily was woken by the sound of chopping wood. Jimmy was swinging his axe early that morning. Thick logs cracked, split in two and fell with a dull thud. It was a familiar and comforting sound.

She didn’t have the energy to move around much anymore, even the slightest movement left her gasping with pain. Emily gazed at the large glass of water on the bedside table, wishing she could reach for it. Her throat was scorched and her mouth was sour. She coughed and her chest felt like a rattling heap of bones. Her breath was a loud, tender wheeze.

Jimmy would be in soon. He would stroke her hair and smile down at her. She closed her eyes and pictured him out there in the cold, preparing for their evening fire. She began to recall all the fires they had shared together. It was an exercise she liked to do often. It comforted her and kept her mind occupied, which helped to alleviate the pain. She wondered how long before the fire would be hers alone. Flames flickered in her vision, in shades of orange and yellow, stretching into long, howling faces that mocked her. She didn’t open her eyes again.

***

The first time Jimmy and Emily started a fire they were fifteen years old. They lived in the outer suburbs, a sprawl of dilapidated houses, trashy chain stores and franchise family restaurants, cut through the centre by a highway.

Surrounded as they were by drugs, alcohol and violence, fire became the one vice they couldn’t resist. Fire opened up a secret space, theirs alone, to reside in for a while, as the cold brutal world faded from view. Fire was the secret they protected and which, in turn, protected them.

One day they had climbed a high wire fence into an abandoned car yard. The yard was scattered with the hulls of stripped cars and an assortment of discarded junk. They rummaged through the remains. They sat on a red vinyl back seat perched on top of a pile of old tyres. Jimmy pulled out a couple of bent cigarettes he had stolen from his father.

Jimmy played with the lighter as they smoked, flicking the flame repeatedly. He was feeling agitated and restless. That morning his father, already drunk for the day, had flown into a rage over the electricity bill. Jimmy and his brothers had scattered from the house like insects.

He touched the flame to the seat and the vinyl began to melt instantly, oozing like an open wound, the smell of burning plastic a toxic high. Emily stared at the tiny flame licking the plastic seat.

Jimmy’s face changed as he watched, becoming thoughtful and calm.

“Wanna start a fire with me?” he asked suddenly.

Emily exhaled a grey plume; she shrugged and nodded casually but she was excited by the idea. They jumped down from the seat and searched the car yard for things to burn. There were scraps of foam and rubber around and lots of scattered rubbish. They shredded old newspapers into a big empty drum.

“Do the honours?” said Jimmy and handed Emily the lighter. She lit a wad of paper then tossed it in.

They stood back and stared at the flames that flashed and grew quickly; a stream of black smoke began to curl skywards.

Jimmy reached for Emily’s hand and she took it without glancing at him. A sense of wonder enfolded them, a strange relief and elation.

They both felt it. They knew they both felt it because they squeezed hands, communicating something that couldn’t be spoken.

They were jostled out of their thoughts when someone began shouting.

An elderly man dressed in overalls had appeared and was shuffling towards them from across the yard.

“Hey you kids, what the hell are you doing?”

Jimmy yanked Emily by the arm and they bolted. They easily scrambled over the fence and ran. A few streets away they stopped, out of breath, and doubled up with laughter.

“Fuck!”

“Yeah!”

They looked at each other in amazement. They kissed then dissolved into giggles again. That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair between the three of them, Jimmy, Emily and fire.

***

Jimmy swung his axe slowly to the ground. He looked up at the bedroom window and an acute fear swept over him. He rubbed his tired eyes. He couldn’t bare this anymore. It happened often now. He would find himself running to the house and up the stairs in a panic, rushing into the bedroom, to find Emily sitting in bed reading.

“Do you need anything?” he’d say, relieved and embarrassed, and she would shake her head no.

It had been a year since Emily was diagnosed. Jimmy watched her whittle away; the disease ate her from the inside out. He watched her endure hostile treatment and medication until there remained nothing left to resort.

***

During their life together fire had come and gone. There were years when they didn’t light fires at all. And there were times when everything caved in, like when Jimmy’s dad died or when Emily suffered a miscarriage, and their need for fire returned. They would find a good location, start a small fire and watch as it burnt away their pain, consuming the anger and despair until they could take a deep breath again. They were careful and they were never caught.

Years ago, they had moved to a property in the country. When they saw the large fireplace in the house, they grinned at each other.

As Emily’s condition deteriorated, they lit fires every night. It was the only thing that made Emily feel better for a while. The fire cast a glow of life back onto her face; she nestled in comfortable silence to watch it and a soft rising euphoria dulled the pain.

When Emily was still able to, they went for walks together in the surrounding bushland, collecting kindling and large branches.

It was on one of these walks that Emily told Jimmy what she wanted to do. He hated the idea; it scared him, and he didn’t know how to respond. They had walked home in silence.

***

Jimmy looked up at the bedroom window and fear gave way to something far more bottomless and dreadful.

He climbed the stairs slowly. The door of the bedroom seemed to swing open by itself as he touched it. From where he stood in the doorway, he could see that Emily was gone.

He smoothed out the wisps of hair that framed her face. Tears swelled in his eyes and a painful lump lodged in his throat. He sat beside her for a long time in disbelief, holding her lifeless hand. Pale and frail, it was impossible to tell whether it was life or death that had eaten her away. He could feel every bone and joint in her fingers; he squeezed her forearms and the bones were sharp and thin. Useless bones that no longer animated her. She began to appear like a macabre puppet – a revolting thought – and he had to pull away.

After a while, he walked over to the window and threw it open. A cold gust of winter air rushed in. He looked down at the pile of wood gathered in the yard. He needed to get started as soon as possible.

He began to pace the room, staring at Emily’s body. Panic set in. Suddenly it all seemed like such a bad idea. How could he possibly go through with it? What kind of person would do such a thing? His mind scrambled desperately with thoughts. He didn’t want to do it. It was cruel of her to have asked him. They had talked about the plan a lot and she had made it sound so natural. It was her dying wish.

“I can’t do it!” he shouted then burst into tears, but it was too late. He had to keep his promise.

He scooped her up, gathering her carefully. She was like a bag of sand slipping from his grasp as he walked. He had to stop several times to heave her back up. Slowly he carried her down the stairs, through the house and out into the yard.

The staggered walk to the pyre was a ludicrous funeral march. His heart was thumping and his mind was numb. He had been building the pyre for days now, arranging the logs just right. He had a feeling the time was near.

Relieved to relinquish her body to the pyre, he placed her upon it as gracefully as possible. The body flopped over the logs, the head rolling back at an awkward angle, the limbs sprawled indecently. He rearranged the body until it looked right.

He tried not to look at her as he picked up the heavy jerry can and began to splash kerosene over the wood and body.

Finally the can was empty. He stood there for a while, lost in thought. His eyes and nose were streaming with silent tears.

He wiped his nose on his sleeve then fumbled in his pockets for the matches. He struck one and held it until it burnt out. He did this many times, burnt matches collected at his feet.

Her voice echoed in his head: “I want to burn, Jimmy.”

A flash of anger arose. She was always the more reckless between them. Many times Jimmy had to persuade her against lighting a fire that was too dangerous, too public. He felt cheated and manipulated now by her final act of defiance.

Then the anger disappeared as quickly as it had come and he took a deep breath. With trembling lips, he struck another match. He closed his eyes as he threw it at the pyre and then it was done. It was done and it couldn’t be undone. He stepped back in surprise as instantly the wood went up in huge, crackling flames. The box of matches dropped from his hands.

Flames engulfed and rolled around the body, quickly beginning to scorch the skin. He stared at the horrific vision unfolding before him, unable to move. The flames were mesmerising and in the centre of them was Emily, like a broken discarded doll.

The heat assaulted him in nauseating waves. A terrible thought occurred to him; he should walk into the fire and join her, if only he had the courage.

Before long, the smell began to assault him, a stench of cooking meat, sweet and peculiar. He had not considered what his wife would smell like as she burnt. He covered his mouth, tears streaming down his cheeks.

The smell became a gut retching stink. He ran inside and slammed the door. He leaned against it, sliding to the floor. He held himself tightly and began to weep.

The fire burnt all day. He was furious he had agreed to do this and incoherent with grief. He paced and stormed inside the house, on the brink of madness, unable to escape the smell that hung in the air.

And the ordeal was far from over. There was one more thing he had to do.

All through the night, the fire continued to smoke while he sat awake in the dark. He was thankful when the morning came, hoping the fire had done its job. It took him a while to gather the courage to go outside. He carried with him a small wooden chest.

Emily’s remains were at the bottom of the burnt out pyre. A piled of charred bones, cracked and crumbling. Her skull and hips were still intact; her skeletal form visible. Jimmy wore heavy plastic gloves. He couldn’t bear the thought of her dust on his hands.

Trembling, he picked her up piece by piece and put her into the chest. There was so much ash and there was no way to tell what was Emily and what was not.

He scooped up most of the ashes, added them to the chest and slammed it shut.

***

The wooden chest sits in Emily’s armchair by the fireplace. It makes Jimmy uncomfortable but he can’t decide what else to do with it. It feels like she is still there beside him, watching the fire every evening. The fire throws dancing shadows over the chest. Its brass rim and fittings shine brightly, as if there is a treasure inside waiting to be released.

~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2015 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved

The Itch

Have you ever tried to get dried blood out from under your fingernails? Not just a little, but a good soaking of it. It’s a real bitch, trust me. No matter how many times I find myself standing over the sink scraping the dried up flecks from my nail beds, it never gets any easier, but the itching just won’t stop.

At some point, you just scrape too much until fresh blood starts to mix in with the old shit and it becomes even more of a mess. At least I know I’m still alive, because I bleed. If it weren’t for that, I’m not sure I would know if I was alive, dead, or something in between. Even with the bleeding, I guess I’m still not totally sure what the hell I am. I haven’t felt pain, love, happiness or sadness since the day that bitch Liza took everything from me.

She knew what she was doing the whole time. She had me doing shit I’d never thought I’d be into. I should have known something was wrong with the whole situation. No woman that hot had ever given me the time of the day, and here comes this exotic beauty that gives me the best sex of my life after an hour of bullshit conversation; no strings attached. Though, if I’m to be honest, I never was good with the ladies and I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of sexual experience to compare it to. In fact, aside from the awkward hand job from Becky under the bleachers during the homecoming pep rally senior year of high school, and the drunken, pity lay from Mary-Sue when I was a freshman in law school, I had never been with anyone but…well, myself. Geez, I’m pretty fucking pathetic.

Look at me. I’m a goddamn train wreck. I can barely look at myself in the mirror. How’d I let myself get like this? I went from a high-profile attorney to living in this pay-by-the-hour motel on meth row, waiting for my next government check. Each time I black out, it’s the same ol’ shit. I wake up in this shit-hole room with blood caked under my nails and the worst fucking headache of my life.

A knock at the door causes an odd churning in the pit of my stomach. I walk over to the door and catch a fish-eye view of a stranger on the other side of the peephole, their features hidden beneath a black hoodie.

“Who is it?”

I scratch at my neck.

The person says nothing and raises their head, leaning closer to the door.

“You’ve got the wrong room, junkie. Get outta here.”

A bit hypocritical of me to call someone a junkie but I can stop whenever I want. Those pathetic losers are hooked. Goddamn, why does my skin itch so bad?

After another look, the person remains outside and slowly removes the hood; I take a step back and nearly fall backward. The face isn’t that of a stranger. No, it’s familiar, too familiar. I run over to the nightstand and grab a switchblade I found in a dumpster a few nights ago. Crouching beside the bed, my pulse hammers in my ears. My forearms continue to itch and I fight the urge to dig into them with the knife. A pounding on the door drags my attention from my arms. I stare at the door.

The banging intensifies and I try to cover my ears, rocking back and forth on the floor like a mental patient. Closing my eyes, I wish myself away to anyplace else. Though I’m not sure what’s going on, something tells me it’s not going to be pleasant.

The door explodes from its hinges, but I refuse to look up. If I don’t see him, he won’t see me. Well, I tell myself that at least. I’m sure he can see me, because I can see him with my eyes closed. I’ve seen him too often lately, and so have others. The blow to my head comes just as I’d expected. Unfortunately, I know the routine all too well. I’ve delivered several ass-kickings the last few months and a good punch to the temple is always an attention grabber. After I shake the cobwebs from my mind, I open my eyes and see him standing in front of me, a malevolent smile etched onto his face; my face.

The room swirls around me and I feel as though I’m on one of those tiny boats circling the bathtub drain that I played with as a kid. My mind spins, looking for traction, trying to make sense of the situation. I begin to piece things together when I see a boot flying toward my face. Brilliant flashes of white light explode in my vision, blinding me. Pain blossoms at the base of my skull.

When my eyes open again, I find myself on the floor in the corner, my angry self standing over me wearing a disgusted snarl. I sit up and push back against the wall. How can it be? How can I be cowering on the floor and towering over myself at the same time. Fuck! My arms itch so bad. My hand finds the handle of the knife and I tuck it behind my back. I hold one arm in front of me and attempt to stand while still gripping the concealed knife. He steps toward me.

“Wait a minute. Hold on.”

He pauses.

“What’s going on? Who are you? I mean, you’re me, but that can’t be.”

I take a couple of steps forward, holding the empty hand up like I’m surrendering. He smiles at me; my teeth are rotted to hell from sucking on the glass meth pipe the last few years. Once he gets close enough, I lunge forward with the blade, sinking it in the soft fleshy part of his belly. It’s warm, kind of sticky as he bleeds and I withdraw the blade. He continues to smile and I stick him again. And again. And again. In fact, I’ve stuck him so many times that my arm is getting tired, yet he continues to stand, mocking me with his repulsive smile.

My arm feels like its made of concrete and I hear myself breathing heavily, nearly panting as I continue to strike my attacker. Jesus Christ it’s cold in here. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to focus, but when I open them, I’m alone lying on the bathroom floor. The room is quiet; still freezing. I try to sit up, but pain rips at my abdomen. I reach for my stomach and pause when I feel something unusual. Looking down, my heart races. I see the handle of the knife jutting out from my blood soaked shirt. I put my hand on the floor to try and sit up again, but my hand slips in a puddle of congealed liquid and I land on my ass.

Panic stricken, I search the room for something to help slow the flow of blood, but find nothing except remnants of last night’s party. Party is a bit of an overstatement since the ‘party’ consisted only of me, day-old Taco Bell, and the little bit of crystal I could bum from one of my junkie buddies.

My vision fades in and out until I eventually lay back on the floor and concede my fate. It’s a bit surreal. I’m dying yet thoughts continue to race around my mind. I’ve thought about death quite a few times, even tried to bring it about myself, unsuccessfully of course. The itching continues and I labor to bring my arm up to scratch the side of my neck. I dig at the skin there, but nothing relieves the sensation.

My body goes slack. I wait for death to come. I never pictured it like this, it’s quite peaceful actually. Well, at least I’m not suffering like that one guy I saw OD in the alley a few weeks back. That poor bastard seized up in front of all of us, shaking and shitting all over himself. We all just bolted and left him there on the ground, after we went through his pockets, of course.

I close my eyes and realize that it’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. I’ll just lie here until it’s all over. My skin stopped itching. This dying shit isn’t so bad after all.

I feel light, almost like I’m floating with no pain or burden. And, dare I say, I feel happy.

Wait a minute. What’s that?

I force my eyes open to find tiny shadows surrounding the room. Whispers drift around me, coming from nowhere in particular, but everywhere at the same time. My skin crawls and an itch with an intensity like I’ve never felt before bites at my neck. I try to move, but it’s no use.

The shadow things scamper around, moving closer to me. My body won’t move no matter how hard I try. One of the things hops onto my chest and leans in close, its ebony eyes overflowing with malicious intent. Before I can react, it slashes a miniscule hand at my neck. It burns with white-hot intensity. I scream, but nothing comes out and the others work into frenzy, howling and jumping around the room, crawling on the walls and ceiling. My skin itches more than it ever has before.

Another strike from the creature brings an even more brutal pain, this time across the side of my face. The other creatures move in and join the one atop my paralyzed body, each in turn swiping their razor-sharp paws across my flesh, every wound more intense than the others. I’m helpless. I can only hope that it’s over soon, because the pain is unbearable. I force a look at my arms and notice that each time the flesh is torn open, it heals only to be ripped open again by the savage little beasts. Continuing to scream within my own mind, realization settles in that this isn’t going to be peaceful, nor will it be quick. The itch will never go away, and neither will these rotten little bastards that are enjoying ripping me to shreds.

 

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Silence

Beneath the shovel, the earth turned easily; he could taste its peaty grittiness along his tongue. The groping fingers of a rainstorm lightly stroked his neck.

He had found the shovel deep in the yard, down near the corner of the shed, at the end of the trail that led him where now he stood. He had followed that trail; it matted the grass down, bent the grass blades, beckoning him forward; there, like an x marking the spot, the shovel, driven into the ground. The top of the handle muddied a shade darker than the rest of the wood; well used.

From their home, his wife cried, cleaving the lulling silence much as the shovel cleaved the lawn.

Together, they had chosen this idyllic neighborhood, his wife and he, for its rolling hills, colonial houses, for its grocery store where the butcher memorized names, memorized meat cuts for those names, for the church where its worshippers flocked as one, smart in their deep-blue suits, unruffled mauve dresses, for its coffee shop where the scent of dark roast served as opiate for the mind.

Mostly, however, they had chosen this idyllic neighborhood for its silence.

He had never realized how quiet it truly was until they moved into their home, until they unpacked, sorted through their moving boxes, until they made love on wooden floors in empty rooms that did not carry an echo. He had never realized that the open windows delivered only summer’s hot breeze, not the birdcalls from the long limbs of the elms, so pregnant with foliage.

From their home, his wife cried, cleaving the lulling silence much as the shovel cleaved the lawn.

He had never heard the buzz of passing cars in the street, nor the crickets serenade the night. He had felt the eyes upon his back, however, as he carried the bassinet through the front door, eyes trickling over him as the sweat trickled along his spine, trickling, trickling as he carried the changing table, the dresser then its drawers, the rocker through the front door. He had felt the eyes, saw nothing when he turned. Nothing but sashaying curtains, quivering blinds.

He had never heard the mowers, had never given a second thought how practiced the lush landscapes could remain. Though thoughts and thinking were often difficult when sleep deprived, when thoughts and thinking were disrupted by needy cries of a newborn child.

From their home, his wife cried, cleaving the lulling silence much as the shovel cleaved the lawn.

He had followed that trail, from the front door to where the grass matted down, found the shovel deep in the yard, driven into the ground. He had felt the eyes upon his back as he stood gaping, felt the eyes along his spine, trickling, trickling.

From their home, his wife cried.

Beneath the shovel, the earth turned easily. He tasted dirt. Smelled rain. He called to his wife, stay inside, stay inside, called out above the silence for all in the idyllic neighborhood to hear. He turned, saw nothing. Nothing but sashaying curtains, quivering blinds.

He dug his hole without a further word.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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