Her eyes speak volumes, assuring him it will be as it was; it will be alright. He knows it won’t be—it can’t be.
Nothing escapes the scrutiny of the incandescent lighting above their heads. No dark space exists for him in which to hide. He scrubs the stubble along his chin. “It’s coming out amazing, honey.”
He watches the artist deliver life to his daughter with thoughtful strokes, imbuing pallid skin with a fresh blush. He pushes a smile to his lips, watching his little girl watch him. She knows his nuances; the flutter of his lashes gives him away every time. She is his blood, after all.
Statuesque, she sits quietly for her portrait. It crushes his heart. Her beautiful lips, once so full like those of her mother, stretch like crinkled strips of weathered jerky now, the music silenced from her dancing eyes. She is tired, so tired, draining slowly from the inside. He scrubs his chin, weary as well, weary and broken witnessing the erosion of his child.
The artist half speaks, half clears this throat. “Sir… Sir?”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” he croaks.
The artist nods politely, aware he has trespassed across guarded domain. Brush hovering atop the canvas, he motions to a specific area of the portrait, then repositions himself atop his stool, respectfully waiting.
“What is it, Daddy?” his little girl inquires; the harsh lighting does nothing to conceal the flutter of his lashes. Quickly, realization dawns; she is his blood, after all. “Daddy, he can paint me as I was that day, it’s okay.”
The artist reaches forward, pats her knee, resumes painting once again. Before long, the canvas depicts wavy locks where no hair has existed for some time. It flows in luxurious strokes; the toe of the artist’s brush a mere whisper in the sea of her chestnut mane. At long last, the final touch—soft pinpricks of white to lend the gleam back into her eyes. The artist lowers his arm. “I believe I am done, sir.”
His vision blurs; he cannot quite make out the deft details of the artist’s conception, not yet. He wipes at his tears. “Baby, you look…”
He wishes to say beautiful, but the word fails to find his lips. Instead, her portrait seizes his attention, unwelcome details pulling his eye. Flustered, he swings his gaze toward the artist.
The man has already packed his tools, cleaned his brush. With a dispassionate tone, the artist states, “The devil is in the details, sir.”
Open mouthed he stares, beyond the depiction of her soft countenance, beyond the eternal capture of her cherubic innocence, he gapes at the jarring angle of her neck; the angry bruises that ring it, marring what should be a masterpiece. “She was terminal,” he barely mutters. “The disease, it was taking her.”
The painter turns to him. “Yes it was, and had you left well enough alone, I would have no need to take you, too.”
His hands flutter about his neck. The incandescent lighting above reveals long slits along his forearms; nothing escapes its scrutiny. “This isn’t… It was a mercy, she was suffering,” he pleads.
“Daddy, no one understands it was an act of love,” her gentle, childish voice intones. By the time he faces her, she is gone. A ghost of her ghost.
He lunges for the painting, but the artist seizes him by the neck. “Take a long, last look at her. She finds her peace in the form I have painted. As for you, peace will be but a memory where we are going.”
Slowly, the painter drags him away, until the incandescent glow no longer reveals a thing, and the pitch is all he will ever know.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2017 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
The moment he stepped through the door, Diana’s guts went sub-zero. His hair was matted down and wet and he smelled like pencil lead laced with a badly wiped ass.
Today he wore his stupidest grin, the one where he looked mentally challenged (though Diana knew full well he wasn’t), along with dirty jeans that could probably stand up on their own and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre T-shirt.
“Big night tonight,” he said, breathing heavily. Something was wrong with his lungs. He always sounded as if he’d run a mile, even if he’d just been sitting around for hours staring at the TV. She kept hoping it was something fatal, yet here he still was, labored breath expelling tuna and gingivitis in her face.
Diana eyed him coolly.
He lifted a plastic yellow shopping bag.
“It’s double feature night,” he said, chest puffing up.
God, he loved double feature nights.
“I even got popcorn and Mild Duds.”
Diana stared hard into his stupid, anxious face, wishing she could be like one of those people in that movie he loved. She thought it was called Scanners. The one where they could blow your fucking head up with just a thought. Now that was a super power she’d give both legs for. She might even thrown in one of her arms just to know she could splatter his greasy, bowling ball head all over the wall.
His shoulders sagged, the bag dropping onto the coffee table that had more rings than twenty Saturns.
“Don’t you even want to know what they are?”
Diana took a deep breath. “Not particularly.”
“Come on, take a guess.”
“Is it Howard the Cum Stain Kills Himself?”
The smile faltered and his right hand balled into a fist. He hated when she said his name. That she called him a cum stain, not so much. She guessed he was pretty comfortable with his pathetic station in life.
He rushed her, ripping off her panties. She tried to squirm away when he stuck his rough finger inside her, but the duct tape held her down like Satan’s flypaper.
First, he brought his finger close to his eyes, and then he sniffed it, finally popping it in his mouth.
“No, you’re not getting a visit from Aunt Flow,” he said. “So why are you so mean today?”
“Go to hell…Howard.”
Spinning on his heels, he walked to the steel plated door and smashed it with his fists, the new dents pounding over the old. Grunting with each punch, he wore himself out after a spell, collapsing on the ratty couch.
“Milk Duds are your favorite,” he said, huffing and puffing, his face red as a monkey’s ass.
“My favorite is not being tied to this chair and being forced to watch sick movies with you.”
He reached into the bag, took out the box of Milk Duds and tossed them on her lap. His knuckles were bloody and swollen.
“I can’t help that we were made for each other,” he said, looking down at the floor. “I…I found you for a reason.”
Found was stretching things. It was more like stalked and kidnapped. Diana was in no mood to resurrect that argument.
“And since you grew up in the ’80s, I ordered these movies just for you. They came in the mail today.”
Recovering from his anger, Howard took the movies out to show her. They were battered VHS copies of Pieces and The Funhouse.
Not Pieces. No, of all the goddamn movies.
“I even got a kind of waterbed,” he said, running outside like a kid heading under the Christmas tree.
He came back with a red kiddie pool, cute animals shapes plastered all over it.
“I’ll just fill it with some water and throw some plastic bags over it. I know it’s not a real waterbed, but it’ll do just fine.”
Diana was too sick, too tired to speak.
Pieces was the first movie Howard had made her watch. She didn’t know how truly sick his needs were then. They’d only gotten worse over the year she’d been held captive.
He loved the scene with the waterbed.
Diana stared at the pool, barely registering Howard bringing in jugs of water. He’d donned a black trench coat, leather gloves and a fedora.
Howard didn’t just like to watch horror movies.
No, for Howard, they weren’t complete unless he could act out his favorite parts.
Act them out on her.
She’d given up willing herself to die. Her body was in perpetual pain thanks to Howard’s ministrations. All she was to him was a meat puppet, a means to exorcising the twisted compulsions that overtook him when he watched horror movies.
We were made for each other.
If that were true, Diana wanted to meet the bastard that had made her and show him or her a thing or two she learned from Howard and his movies.
He popped the movie into the VCR, the auto tracker working hard against the static image. The tape was in real bad shape. She hoped it was too bad for Howard to see. If he couldn’t see it, he couldn’t replicate it.
“I paid thirty dollars for this piece of shit,” he said, more to himself. The music warbled and the horrible dialogue was hard to make out. Howard got on his knees before the TV and fiddled with the tracking buttons. Unfortunately, he managed to get things better.
“There,” he said, proud of himself. “Milk Dud?”
When she didn’t reply, he popped one in his mouth, along with a heaping handful of popcorn. He chewed with his mouth open, dripping chocolate and popcorn shards on his lap and floor.
“Did you see this in the theater when it came out?” he asked, eyes never leaving the screen. He practically bounced in his chair as the gory movie played on.
She knew what was coming. The cells in her body cried out, a billion tears of anguish.
And there was nothing she could do about it.
The waterbed scene. It was coming.
Her heart raced. It was so hard to swallow. Her vision wavered.
“Almost time,” Howard said.
He grabbed her roughly, cutting the duct tape from around her wrists and ankles. It would be the perfect moment to escape or hit him with something heavy, but her feet and hands were completely numb. He had to hold her up before securing her face down onto the makeshift waterbed.
“You don’t have to do this,” she whispered, mad at herself for letting him see fear.
He patted the back of her head. “You know I do.”
She watched in horror as the woman on the screen was chased by a man wielding a butcher knife. He threw her onto a waterbed and began stabbing. Howard straddled her. She could smell the funk coming off him, hear his wheezing breaths.
The knife felt hot as a poker as it slid into her back.
Diana snapped her jaw shut, refusing to show pain. The scream boiled in her throat.
She braced herself, because she knew what was about to happen.
Howard silently grabbed her hair and jammed the knife in the back of her skull. Diana’s world went white, her ears buzzing as if filled with a thousand bees.
The sharp blade pushed through her mouth, bisecting her tongue, scraping her teeth as it exited her mouth.
Howard grunted and groaned, his hardness grinding against her back. Her blood spilled into the crimson pool. Her mouth was jammed wide open as she choked on the blade.
Die, you bitch, die!
Her body was just like Howard the cum stain. It never listened to her.
“Oh, sorry,” Howard said.
She heard as much as felt the knife slide out of her mouth, squishing as it exited her skull.
Her body went limp, her skewered brain seeking retreat.
So much blood.
The pain was excruciating.
Still, she hadn’t made a sound.
She’d tell him to fuck himself if her mouth hadn’t been split in half. The hinges of her jaw had splintered. She saw chips of her teeth in the pool’s soupy mess.
Diana’s view shifted as Harold lifted her back into the chair and taped her back down.
“You’ll like The Funhouse,” he said, balling the bloody trench coat. “The monster looks really cool. You ever go to a funhouse? I did, once, with my friend Kal. It was kind of corny.”
He blathered on and on until Pieces ended. Twenty minutes into The Funhouse, he fell asleep, snoring loud enough to rattle her bones.
Diana wept only when she knew he couldn’t see her tears.
She could already feel her tongue stitching itself back together. Her head throbbed, tickling as bone started to grow back.
By the morning, she’d be as good as new, only the pain never quite went away. It was just another layer of torment.
Howard would leave her alone for a week. This ‘kill’ always wore him out.
But he’d be back. Maybe with a knife. Or a chainsaw. Or a branding iron. Or just plain gas and fire.
Whatever death scene thrilled him the most, he’d bring it to her.
Diana would suffer it, and be there for the next time.
Because they were made for each other.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2017 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
An unfettered caress. A sigh against your breast. I burn inside when I’m in your presence, the flame of my lust pressed against your cold indifference. Does it bother you when I touch you there? Oh no, you always liked that. Ah, but the sweet, supple beauty entangled in your arms, that is where our joined path diverged.
I still hear your pained refusals, wild jealousy and bleating about love lost. You never understood my love had grown twofold. If only you had said yes, you would feel my hardness. Now who is harder? Are you quivering in your encasement?
For thousands of years, the lovers had stood frozen in their last embrace. A resting post for countless birds. An enigma to Greeks and tourists who passed through Athens’s ruins. When the Gorgon’s curse finally lifted, the statues’ stone flesh cracked and crumbled, freeing the punished immortals. Euryale and Belen hugged tighter and kissed. The longing in their hearts burned hotter, turned to fury. Euryale’s head erupted into a mane of writhing snakes. Belen’s eyes filled with fire. Seeking vengeance, the Gorgon and demon left the ruins in search of Euryale’s sister, Stheno. The bitch would suffer for cursing them.
Joseph A. Pinto
Lover yearns, yet the passion remains frozen. Lover craves, yet the need goes unfulfilled. Blind for so long, lover ignores the fragments of self left abandoned atop the floor. It serves lover right.
Now lover searches for truth where all flows smooth and cold. And the eyes that hold lover gaze like still, distant moons. How slick the irony under lover’s needy fingers. For all lover has sought now captured by the deft hand of another. An ache left to harden as lover grows old with time. A masterpiece by love’s standard, yet for all appearances left to stand unwhole.
A Work of Endearment
Lee A. Forman
Her beauty embellishes all my eyes can witness; the world glimmers even in the dark of a moonless night. With a voice that put songbirds to shame, she’d captivated me with only words. I could never let her go. Not in life—or death. As I stare into her eyes, layer after layer crafts the perfection we’ll share once we depart. A tear rolls down her cheek and rests where the white plaster has already dried. Soon the artist I hired will finish his work, encasing us in eternity. We’ll be cast together, molded into forever, never to be apart.
A Toast to Finality
John Potts Jr.
“My sweet,” Elizabeth gazed to Lawrence, swooning with eyes pitted in aged decay. “This starry night witnessed our enemies anguish; to bathe in those screams fluttered my undead heart like our love’s first kiss so long, long ago. Blood rained from our horde, soaking earth with entrails so crimson that the Sun itself will only find jealousy on the coming morn. And the fires! We danced as one, consuming with restless hunger that rose to the hymn of our retribution.”
Life embraced death and chalice drained to the backdrop of scorched lands, warming from afar the finality of reaped vindication.
Without end, I gaze upon the face of my death. That perfect face of alabaster marble. How did she taint the spell? How did she curse me? It should have worked, I should have won my immortality. She tricked me. Locked us forever in this embrace of stone.
I tried to warn him. Tried to take back what he stole. The urn was never to be opened, never to leave the temple. Why did he betray me? Why? He destroyed everything. Now I must spend eternity staring at the man who condemned our world to the Fate of Living Stone.
What is this thing? This monstrosity latching onto my arm and shoulder. It is so vile, wretched, and pathetic. Eyes embedded in a completely formed face stare at me; full of life and emotion. The warm flesh against my skin makes me shudder. Whoever would have expected to come across such a creature? Surely not me or my forebears. Although, I recall something mentioned by the Old Ones. Once there was a creation… no, an abomination. Left to their own free will, they destroyed themselves. This thing gazing at me cannot be one of them. It cannot be a human…
In your eyes, I watch a universe ignite, I see the molten glow; I feel its blaze encompass all. I watch the birth of a new awareness, the awakening of cruel indulgence; one in which brutality, suffering, and eventual indifference will serve far better than kind gentility. Your veneer smooth, your tone unblemished; your surface nearly opalescent, yet I know the fierceness that rages below rends innumerable fractures that will reveal fissures of choice not circumstance. A tragedy that will split the world in two.
Guttering now, the light surrenders. I stare into a vast emptiness as your eyes cool.
They wanted to be together, their love for the ages. Athanasios promised he could help. By the time the couple realized what was going on, it was too late. The elixir to help them relax rendered their limbs useless, allowing the artist to move them into position. “Gaze upon each other, this pose is for eternity,” Athanasios said as he painted them with his unique blend of alabaster, making sure to cover every inch of them.
“This statue is called Immortal Love, by master Greek sculptor Athanasios,” the museum guide said. “He is well known for his incredibly life-like carvings.”
Veronica Magenta Nero
She placed the intricate glass bottle in my hands, her cool fingers curling over my own. Her head tipped back, offering a mouth to kiss, seducing me into complacency. A kiss to seal the deal. That’s when I poured it in. The elixir slipped down her pearly throat, poisoning her with her own magic.
We had made a pact but I backed out. I never wanted to be like her – perfect in every visible way, of timeless beauty, immortal. I want to age and die. Each hard earned wrinkle building in number and depth, until my body resembles a nest.
A Whole New Meaning
Christopher A. Liccardi
The rule was simple; unbreakable. These two, the latest two, had broken that rule. Something else was simple, the punishment. Here, stoning had a whole new meaning. The couple was washed, cleaned of all their sins. They were posed for the village to see and they were cast in stone; alive. The offending parts were snapped or chiseled off, mechanical castration for both parties. Then, the crowd watched until the moaning stopped. Sometimes, that took days. Most of them thought death was caused by starvation. I know better; I swung the hammer.
They have one rule here and its unbreakable…
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