Archive | March 2016

Blood and Dirt

John stooped down and picked up a handful of the warm red dirt and let the fine material fall through his fingers as he hiked.  The land had always reminded him of blood.   It wasn’t the color – that would have been a cheap and easy connection.  No, it was much more profound than that.

Blood was life.  Blood also meant death.  It joined the two in an unbreakable companionship of opposites that few truly understood.  This land was the same way.  It was both life and death, and he appreciated the connection.  More importantly, he understood and contributed to that connection. 

His boots moved silently across the terrain, disturbing very little, but the damned pack animal wasn’t quite as respectful.  It scattered rocks and dirt as it plodded along behind him.  John stopped pulling the bridle and turned around.

“I don’t know why in the hell I picked you up,” he cursed as he pulled his water bottle off the pack.  “There were plenty of other animals I could have picked….  I don’t know why I bother talking to you either, you sure as shit can’t answer me.” 

John took a mouthful of sweet water and watched the flies land on the beast’s head and face.    The damn thing was worn out.  At one point in his life, before he decided to break away from the civilized world and reach back to his natural self, he would have felt sorry for the animal.  But now that he had been out here for a few years, John realized that life was no different from death, it was just a different way of being a part of the land.

He put the water bottle back in the heavy pack and coaxed the tired creature onward with a stiff pull of the rope and bridle.  They were almost back at camp.  Spastic breathing and grunts behind him caught his attention.  John turned to see his animal lose its footing in the rocks and nearly dump the heavy pack.  He dropped the rope and grabbed the bit sandwiched between the animal’s broken teeth and made sure it didn’t fall.  The thing’s eyes were wide with fear, red from exhaustion, and full of an almost human pleading.

“Fine,” he said as he grabbed the bridle and continued to hike.  “This is your last trip.  I’ll cut you loose at camp and see about getting a replacement.”

John was surprised to see the animal managed the rest of the trip without any issues.  It even seemed to hurry a bit, as if it understood what he told it.  But that was silliness.  He really needed to stop attributing human emotions and comprehension to simple creatures.

Camp was inside a cave at the end of a hidden canyon.  It offered simple relief from the heat of the day and the cool of the desert night, as well as the isolation that John wanted.  The animal stopped at its spot and let him shackle its legs in place.  Proper training and more than a few beatings had taught it to follow this routine.  He pulled the pack off the sweaty beast and placed it against the back of the cave.  John whistled a nameless tune as he poured some water into a bucket for the creature.  He untied the bit from behind the animal’s head and let the thing drink its fill.

The thirsty slurping came to a stop and the animal pulled its head out of the bucket.  Its eyes watched him with renewed energy as John started the fire.  The thing made mewling noises and groans that probably meant something, but he paid no attention.  Animals that have been properly dealt with didn’t speak.  He had made sure of that personally.

“But if you could talk, would you ask for me to let you go?” he asked as he stood up.  “Would you ask to be released into the wild?  You might, but that would be a bad idea.  Why?  Because you are tame.  The land would kill you.  That’s how you and I are different.  I’ve become an integral part of the land, and as such, I live.  You are tame, like so many of your kind, and as such, you die in this land.  It’s your natural place.  Tonight I’ll set you free, but not as you might wish.”

The groan and guttural cry from the creature was perhaps the most pathetic thing he’d ever heard.

“Uhwana neee!”

Tears welled in the things eyes and fell in heavy drops to the red dirt at its feet.  John reached behind his back and pulled out his knife.  The animal kicked and pulled against the restraints, heedless of the damage it was inflicting on itself, apparently aware of what was about to come.

“Shut up,” John growled, furious at the weakness displayed by this thing.  Why couldn’t it simply understand its place?  He swung his blade carefully and smashed the thick butt of his knife into the side of the creature’s head, sending it crashing against the rock wall of the cave.

Large drops of blood began to patter slowly to the red dirt that turned a deep crimson with the addition of the offering.  The land accepted the blood and drank it thirstily.  It was indeed time.

John knew there should be nothing to impede the flow of blood, so he grabbed the leather strap that secured the cloth to the beast.  He had found it best to keep them covered while they hauled his gear for them.  They seemed to last a little longer.

He grabbed the leather and cut through it with his knife while the animal was still dazed from the blow.  John pulled the belt through the straps, dropped it to the floor, and quickly sliced through the flimsy material.  The dirty shirt fell in a heap on the ground.  John could see the thing was starting to come to its senses so he quickly cut away the Levis.

“All right, let’s get this done,” he said and slapped it across the face.  John wanted the animal to be lucid as he offered its blood to the land.  The creature recoiled, fear shining bright in its eyes, and it tried to speak again.

“Preeeezz…  U wanna nee!”

A crucifix swung on its necklace, the tarnished metal bounced across its filthy skin.  Chest hairs shook with the silent sob that overwhelmed the creature.  Cold air whispered through the cave and caused it to shiver, accentuating the miserable thing’s shaking.  Its hands, bloodied and useless, had been handcuffed behind its back since the day John picked it up.  A pair of emaciated legs wobbled as they tried to keep from collapsing.

Maybe it had been a man at some time, John wondered, but that would have been a long time ago.  Most of what he saw walking around the rest stop near the highway didn’t qualify as human.  Sure, they had their vehicles, their fancy clothes and families, but they had stopped being human the moment their lives became measured by likes and comments, and their self-centric view of everything around them guided their narcissistic interactions.  In a few days he would hike down to the rest stop and pick up a new beast.  They were nothing short of animals. Every one of them.

He pushed its head against the cave wall and pressed until the artery in its neck was easy to find.  The creature tried talking again, this time definitely sounding like a please, but it was hard to enunciate when your tongue had been cut out.  John remembered that moment very well, not because it quieted the shouting and pleading, but because it was the last time he had eaten meat.  It had been a small meal.  That would all change in just a minute.

John placed the tip of the sharp knife against the skin that pulsated from the nearby artery and looked into its eyes one more time.  He couldn’t tell if the creature was pleading for the blade or pleading for freedom.  To John it was all the same.  To the land, it was all the same.

The blade cut deep and the warm blood sprayed.  The first slice of meat sizzled in the heat of the fire before the blood stopped flowing out of the deep wound.  John ate the meat, the land soaked up the blood, and the sweet companionship of life and death continued under the desert moon.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Jerusalem

Lambing season arrives with fine rain and the moan of distressed ewes. John has just sat down to dinner when he hears them, the sheep’s cries mingling with the whistle of the kettle. He hasn’t been through the door for an hour and his feet ache. Evening sun catches the dust and makes silhouettes of the shattered window pane. He eats alone with his thoughts and his chipped mug and the scratching of mice in the walls.

When his plate is cleared, he takes it to the sink and runs it under the tap. Brown water catches the worst of the stains. Outside, a crow laughs. Looking up from the sink, he stares out across the back garden to the bird and the plot where his father is buried. It isn’t much, but it means something to him, and it is ritual; the first day of every March he books time off from work, packs an overnight bag, and makes the long drive into the hills to visit his dad.

A wooden cross marks the spot, and another, and another; generations of Shepherds, laid to rest in the earth. Retrieving a dishcloth and an old knife, he wanders outside, crouches by the crosses, and scrapes the worst of the moss from the wood. Cobwebs cling to the crossbars; he brushes them away. He smokes while he works, lips sucking and twitching around his cigarettes when his hands are busy. Across the hills, the ewes continue to bleat.

When the worst of the nettles are stripped back and he runs out of cigarettes, he retires indoors. Lying on the single bed in the room where he grew up as a child, he listens to the house, the groan of the floorboards, the tapping of the rain on the windows, and he waits.

At some point the sun sags, wavers, dips below the rolling mounds. The rain hammers down, then peters out. Eventually he hears the bleating of lambs. The sound draws him from the bedroom, across the dark hills. One a.m. nips at his fingers and the tip of his nose, turning his breath white on the air, and as he leaves the yard he almost slips on the dark stone of the step.

“Jesus!”

He does not have to walk far before he sees them. Moonlight illuminates the parade as it winds its way through the trees. Where the branches allow it, the light makes silver outlines of pale limbs, bare footprints pressed into the mulch and, held by thin hands, clutched close to sunken breasts, severed heads; the old dead nurturing the new with ageless love and sour milk.

The stiff-legged procession stretches both ways into the trees. They might always have walked here; an endless wake marching solemnly beneath their cowls. He moves silently closer, his approach masked beneath the clicking of bone and wet sucking sounds, which he hopes is feet sunk into mud and not cold mouths hungry at stiff teats. He does not speak, but in his head repeats an old hymn, hoping it might help him, ground him, keep him sane and safe from demons and the dark.

It is many years since any sheep have grazed here. Not since his father passed have livestock of any sort dotted these hills. Idly, he wonders what he is doing here. Not just tonight, but last year, and the year before that, and the one before that. He thinks about his guilt at having abandoned the farm, and his love for his father, and his shame at the generations of slaughter committed in the family name. He can never shrug that shame, but he can pay his respects to the dead. For one night a year, he can manage that.

He is still standing, watching the march, when a piece of deadwood snaps underfoot. The branch is small, the sound weak, but it still cracks like a gunshot in the dark. For the most part, the procession continues heedless, all except one of their number. Closest, it stops in its tracks. The mud at its feet is a mess of cloven tracks. With the inexorable slowness of the ages, it turns its face towards him. A scream fills his mouth.

Night has sapped the colour from the world but he can still make out spring: ghostly lilac blossom, branches heavy with shoots, fat roots, and the bleating of lambs, long since taken to market but revived on this night when life courses renewed through the wet, blood-soaked loam.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 16

DamnedWords_16

Fading
Christopher Liccardi

Mitchell sits on its broken foam seat, feeling the pain diminish. Blood loss pulls him from his cares and worries. He can feel his hands slipping from the sides of the chair. His choice was made by another, but not the one holding the blade. It was the demon in the chair that made the choice. It spoke to him and told him what it needed; more blood. He closed his eyes and the voice faded until it was a whisper. The last thought on Mitchell’s mind wasn’t death, but the chair. Who would feed it once he was gone?


Barbaric Elegance
Jon Olson

Nothing like this had ever been found before; the diggers unsure of their discovery. What is it? Excitement, confusion and terror glisten in their eyes. Months spent sifting through rubble, burrowing into the past with little to show for it; very few indications or evidence to reward our labor. Today, we find this: elegance crafted by the barbaric. Its craftsmen, the humans, all but erased from history; consumed by extinction. Is it safe? There’s nothing to fear, yet reassurance is met with hesitation. Like the others, it will be cataloged and destroyed; recorded and wiped from existence like its makers.


Metamorphosis
Zack Kullis

There was nothing quite as perfect as the spoiled beauty of the fetid and rancid.  Everything his eyes touched was painted with the distinct colors of decomposition’s palette.  It took him years to fill his sub-basement with thoughtfully selected detritus that would breed the corruption and blight he so loved.

Nearly a decade of carefully chosen carcasses littered the floor, blessing this place with their funk and ghastly splendor.  It was perfect but for one thing – himself.  He clamped his eyes open and shackled his hands to the chair.  Death would not keep him from watching his own loathsome metamorphosis.


Throne
Magenta Nero

Death has long since swallowed him whole but he believes himself to be living. His face is shrunken, folded upon itself, closed like a flower at dusk. His eyes are ringed with grey. Pain wrestles with his body as he lies in bed. Each morning he rises, dragging his disease ridden leg behind him.

Born of clay, with the pride of kings, he judges all and pardons nothing. He survives alone. One by one he has severed all ties with the living, unable to forgive or forget. All that remains is the vision of a throne, righteous amongst the clouds.


No Work, All Play
Joseph A. Pinto

Interment had delayed my work.

Comprised only of broken rock and lost time, my resting place had been disturbed in dubious fashion. Ignorant thrill seekers they were, tipping bottles to mouth. One stumbled callously into my chair.

Stepping from decades of grit, my straight razor I drew. I had forgotten the power of my blade. But it had not forgotten the power mine.

Throat utilized as strop to steel, his blood made me whole to the world again. Within the deep gloss finish of the blade, I admired my reflection.

“Handsome devil,” I crooned and busied myself in his lather.


Delusion of Freewill
Nina D’Arcangela

This is the place I was born. Not brought into the world, but given life; purpose. Society could no longer sustain the delusion of freewill. It had become a blight; a poison that corroded the beast from within. No, this world was not intended for choice, it needed structure, guidance; a singular hand to rein it. I succumbed to that hand. Strapped to the chair, current charred my flesh, molded my mind until I became a drone; re-purposed for the greater good.

Born again as a bone man I had but one task – pick amongst the piles of the dead.


Under The Knife
Thomas Brown

He came here last year for Botox. Funny how they find their way back. Rotten cats, retracing old steps. Stumbling onto the chair, she flails, snatching a scalpel from the steel tray.

Decay has done terrible things to the man’s features but she remembers him. His Tie Dye shirt, green Crocks, the way he’d smiled when she’d fixed his forehead.

He is still smiling now. A shovel has seen to that; his lips red and wet. They all look happy, dead and indifferent. He looms over her, hands outstretched. Smiling back at him, she takes the scalpel to her throat.


Home, Sweet Broken Home
Tyr Kieran

I smile at the chair, despite its imperfections—rusted metal, cracked leather, speckles of dried blood—it’s the only thing that feels like home. Sitting on its cool leather so many years ago, I had my first conflicted taste of solid food. From diapers to teenage acne, this chair held me for many forced meals and brutal punishments. I only tasted freedom for a few moments annually, on my birthday—the only gift my mother ever granted. Eventually, I outgrew the chair and captivity. Now, to help celebrate my birthday, Mother is the one temporarily freed of the chair’s confines.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

4320 and the Hard 6

As soon as he landed at McCarran, the heat-baked shimmer of city life was visible, vibrant. He stopped on the jetway to peer through the sooty glass. The reflection was breathtaking even from three miles away. This place really was a treasure trove waiting to be taken by someone brave enough to grab it.

He pushed up the ramp toward his new home and caught the smell of decay as he passed into the open-air walkway. Something must have died on the tarmac; it was faint but undeniable. For an entrepreneur about to open his first hotel in sin city, this might have seemed a bad omen, but not to him; he didn’t believe in that shit.

Two hundred hours: The casino business had been good. His first ten days were coming to a close and he didn’t see anything but the glitter and sex. Fuck if he could remember the names of all the girls he’d screwed or places he’d been.

That smell of decay came and went. He couldn’t quite understand why a city that spent billions on water couldn’t keep the scent of road kill away from the tourists. There were moments he noticed those around him seemed older, more aged and tired, but they were fleeting thoughts drowned by his own youth and vitality.

He sat in a lobby bar some place on the strip and sipped his Old Fashioned. It tasted off, but he was distracted. The waitress who had been serving him, Lina, came over and sat next to him on the leather sofa. She touched his shoulder, asked if he wanted another drink. He didn’t answer until the fingers sliding up the inseam of his expensive slacks reached their intended goal. He winked at her as she stood and walked away. She looked back over the crowded bar with a very suggestive grin.

Five hundred hours: Getting money from this place was easier than getting laid, but that damn smell was everywhere now. He couldn’t go more than a few hours without noticing it. Something was really wrong around here. Nobody else seemed to notice though. He called the city but they found nothing.

He saw Lina last night; the waitress with the suggestive grin and the wandering fingers. It was a good visit. They had camped on the floor of what would be the Casino Manager’s office. Lina had done all kinds of things to him. She seemed tired though. Maybe all the late nights were getting to her. He liked Lina. He promised to take her away once the project was over.

Twelve hundred ninety hours: His vision was coming together. The installation of the new statue of Seduction made it all seem real. The thing was nearly forty feet tall and sat hunched on all fours. It looked like a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn.

The entire thing was cast in gold, which was typical for Vegas. The creature seemed to have flowing hair, like it was caught in a strong breeze. The new hotel manager had called it a Kirin or something. Damn thing looked like it was watching you all the time.

The legend was that the beast brought prosperity and luck, or some shit like that. So far, it seemed to be working. Even the smell of decay had left for a time.

As the staff walked past, they would touch the damn thing whenever they came and went from the project site, but he refused. At first, it was mostly the Asian staffers and construction people, but eventually, everyone was doing it. They joked with him about not offending one of the gods, but he didn’t believe in that shit. He had plenty of women, money and luck.

A few days later, the smell was back and he noticed the statue started to take on a tarnished look.

Lina took him out to dinner that night. She looked older, but said she was fine. Fine enough to make him dessert from under the table in between courses. Certainly finer than the food he sent back. It was rancid. The waiter smiled a tired look and made no complaint.

He looked around the restaurant and it dawned on him that the entire place was filled with older couples trying to look young. Strange thing was, he never noticed it before.

Twenty-one hundred eighty four hours: Just over three months and the new construction was nearly done. The place should’ve looked great, but didn’t.

Everything started to take on the worn-out look. Even the women around him no longer looked appealing.

He had gone out to the Neon museum a few times when he first arrived. The desert had stripped all the luster off those signs at the old bone yard where everything went to die in this town. That’s how this place was starting to feel. What the hell was going on around here?

That night, the statue looked worse than ever. God, were these people pissing all over it? How does gold lose its shine?

He found a security guard in the cash office playing some game on his cell phone. He told him to get off his fat ass and cover that fucking statue before he had to pick his teeth up off the floor; he wasn’t paying him to goof off. He also wasn’t paying someone to come out and buff that statue again.

As the guard waddled away, he remembered the young man who sat here not three weeks ago. This guy couldn’t be him. That kid was young, vibrant; alive.

He needed a drink and to check in on Lina. She hadn’t been feeling well all week and had stayed home from work. Maybe they could spend a little time rolling around on the pile of cash he kept in the apartment.

Three thousand ninety hours: The project was done in record time. He wanted to celebrate by getting royally fucked-up with Lina. Maybe a threesome and some really high-end shit would put things right.

The contractors all looked like they could use twenty years back on their lives instead of the bonus they got.

When he went to see Lina, she wasn’t doing any better. She had invited a few friends over that they had partied with not long after he arrived. After putting away an eighth of an ounce of blow on his own he could hardly remember much, but they had done some pretty kinky shit. He woke up with blood all over the sheets, and what should have been two very pretty ladies playing with each other. But these ladies weren’t the beauties they seemed the night before; they almost had to hold each other up. Everything on them was saggy, tired. The changes around him were so drastic, but had been so subtle in coming. Maybe all the nose candy was getting to him. He didn’t know, but he would worry about it another time.

Forty-two hundred hours: He was just about ready to call it quits. The place smelled of death and old rot. All of Vegas had changed somehow. It seemed to be everywhere.

Lina hadn’t even come over last night.

The grand opening was in five days; one hundred twenty hours and he didn’t think he was going to make it. This place was driving him crazy. Time had sucked the life out of everything here; everything, except him.

What the fuck was going on around him?

Forty Three hundred hours: He woke up that morning with no memory of the last few days. The first thing he needed to do was take a piss. The second thing was a shower; he stunk to high heaven. The smell of decay was now everywhere. It permeated his clothes and his hair.

As he showered, he noticed the water had a bad odor, too. He would need to call the system guys and find out if there was something wrong inside the hotel. No room for screw-ups on opening day.

He went to the entrance of his suite to get his breakfast. It was delivered every morning so he didn’t have to waste time looking for a place to eat. He opened the door and the cart was covered in flies. What the fuck? He lifted the silver plate cover and nearly vomited all over himself. The food had been there for days.

He ran back to the bathroom, trying to contain the bile he was retching, and almost made it.

Once he got himself under control, he picked up the phone in the living room and dialed housekeeping; five rings, no answer. He stormed out of the room. If this staff had gone on strike already, somebody was going to pay. The hotel wasn’t even open yet and already things were falling apart.

He ran through the hotel and found everyone was in their appointed places. They had died there; been mummified in their uniforms and with their assorted props and tools. As soon as he realized he was the last person left alive, he noticed the smell had finally gone. All he inhaled now was dry age and old, worn-out life. That’s when he finally snapped.

He left the Seduction one final time, 180 days after he first arrived. He ran off into the desert and only the Kirin was left to see him off.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2016 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.

In The Eyes Of A Victim

He waits behind the crowd, swaying in a corner—visible, yet perfectly forgettable. His incoherent mumbling is as much a disguise as the layers of filth he stole from the corpse of a homeless man only a few hours earlier. The corpse, when alive, had spent most of its time begging for change in the very spot this impostor now stood—both shuffling feet and jingling coins in a cup.

The bustle of men and women blindly swarms past, cramming onto the subway platform with a narrow, narcissistic awareness. Hot gusts of air swirl through the tiled alcove as trains rumble along distant rails, pushing and pulling putrid fumes that nearly mask the scent of urine on the man’s clothes.

I watch as he watches.

His eyes flit from face to face, searching for the right one, the right moment.

A train arrives in a whirlwind of garbage and air pressure. The crowd tenses, impatient with unopened doors as the transport slows. When the train finally stops, it releases a horrific screech like the piercing wail of elephants at slaughter. The sound ricochets off the tile walls as the vessel sets free its detained occupants. Squeezing past one another, the new commuters fill the train beyond capacity and abandon a few on the fringe. With a faltering chime, the entourage departs. One of the forsaken hurls obscenities before jogging back up the steps to find another route home.

For the moment, two would-be passengers remain on the platform. The practicing beggar continues his feigned self-involvement while venturing further from the wall. I believe we both sense the moment ripen as a young man scuffles back to a bench, delves into his smartphone—earbuds and all—isolating the final commuter.

A young woman stands alone, gazing down the tunnel that will deliver the next train. Her appearance and demeanor seem average until I glimpse her blue eyes. Beautiful, yes, but they hold the light to which killers flock: fear.

I see him, with such subtle motion, skulk his way to the girl. Her head turns toward the movement, or possibly the smell, just as he makes his move. Those anxious eyes pop open to their fullest, quivering, clamoring—fueling her attacker. With a hand clamped over her mouth and a firm arm locking hers in place, he yanks the girl around the corner and out of sight.

This is it; the moment I’ve been waiting for. Over seven months of surveillance to finally catch him in the act. Today is my day!

My body tingles with cool adrenaline as I leave my perch to follow. Traversing the platform, I search for potential witnesses. None.

He is good.

I hear the next rush of commuters spilling down the steps and into the station behind me as I slip around the corner in pursuit.

Down a ladder at the end of a service ledge, I follow his path along the tunnel. Darkness swarms me after a few paces. The distant percussion serves as a constant reminder of the next train’s inevitable approach. Urging my legs beyond their usual lope but trying to remain cautious in my footing, I hurry toward the intersection ahead. Green utility lights mounted on the tunnel ceiling casts the open crossroad in faint light that seems to accentuate the garbage, filth, and overall disrepair as if it’s the emerald city that time forgot.

There has to be an old storage locker or maintenance room here; it’d be the type of place he would use as his ‘art’ studio—an enclosed space, full of useful items, and near the echoing rumble of subway cars that mask the inevitable screams.

Scanning through the murk, I spot the entrance a few yards away in one of the connecting tunnels. It takes a few moments of stepping over rails, refuse, and even the rotting corpse of a mangled dog to arrive at the door.

I stand there for a moment, staring at the threshold, catching my breath and collecting my thoughts. Two muffled voices float through the barrier, one significantly more than the other.

Gently squeezing the cold metal latch, I confirm my suspicion and set to work with my picking tools. Wincing at each little click, I manage to unlock the door without hearing changes within.

After a deep breath, I draw my weapon and creep inside.

The walls are lined with supplies for both cleaning and electrical repairs; the odor of ammonia is prominent. A breaker box stares me in the face from the far wall before the space takes a ninety-degree turn. I ease the door shut behind me and strafe around the corner with my gun level.

His back is to me as he attends to the victim. She’s restrained; wrists and ankles handcuffed to steel conduits jutting from the wall; an oily rag used tightly as a gag. Her blouse is ripped open; a shallow cut glistens between her breasts. The woman notices me first—her eyes widen in a silent plea. Her shift in expression must have alerted him as his knife stalls in mid-slice along her cheek.

“Freeze!” I shout. “Lower your weapon.”

The man turns slowly, shoulders slumped, hands out in placation; but once he sees me, his demeanor shifts. “Who the fuck are you?”

“The man who’s watched you long enough to know everything, Mr. Barton.”

“You don’t look like a cop, old man. You a detective?”

“Does it matter?”

He eyes me up for a moment. Sweat rolls down his brow. “Are you gonna arrest me or not?”

“Me? No.” I reply, lowering my gun. “But whether you still end up in jail tonight depends on you.”

A raised expression of surprise washes over both captor and victim.

I continue. “My name is Owen Dunning and I’m in the market for a new vendor. I need a man of your interests and abilities—I want something that you can provide.”

“Like what, exactly?”

“Human organs.”

The woman screams into her gag and struggles with the handcuffs, rattling them against the pipes.

Mr. Barton silences her with the back of his hand and her body drops. Motionless, she hangs from her restraints as he returns to the conversation.

“You want me to sell you body parts from my victims?”

“Yes. But don’t worry, my needs won’t interfere with your…art.”

“Why don’t you just buy from the morgue, or something?”

“Come now, Barton. Do I look like a desperate idiot? I’m an aficionado. I demand quality and freshness.”

He stares at me for a moment, a long gaze across the bridge of his nose. “An aficionado, huh? These’re souvenirs…for a collector?”

“No. Rare delicacies for a connoisseur.”

Another stare, but this time his expression has the air of inquiry rather than apprehension.

“In exchange for my requested cuts,” I explain, “I offer you generous payment to fund your operation and my assistance in maintaining your freedom and anonymity. Do we have a deal?”

“Deal.”

I produce an envelope full of cash and hand it to him.

He accepts it with a Cheshire grin. “What’s your first order, Mr. Dunning?”

“I want to taste her soul—taste her fear. Those blue eyes of hers would be divine.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2015 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

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