I crouch cowering in the shadows of the barn. I should not be here, I was asked to stay away yet I could not.
The unnatural sound of bone snapping, sinew tearing, and skin stretching is a thing so foreign that it rends my soul to shreds. Yet for all the breath left in me, I can not turn away from this creature I see.
I should have respected his wishes and not intruded upon his privacy – one so warily guarded till this day. Trust is what I offered blindly for so long; now I see that my trust was both justly placed and unspeakably abused.
The depth of sorrow that emanates from eyes I have so often peered into is more than one should have to bear. I now know why he asked to own this anguish in solitude, I now know why he felt a need to protect me from the torture of his full nature; I now know the extent to which he wished to guard my innocence.
He suffers in pain; my heart weeps. I reach out to touch him, he begs me stay away with his gaze; so longing, so loving, so final.
Struck by a rising terror I’ve not felt before, my soul screams that he is no longer mine but belongs solely to the night. If only I had not violated our trust, we would have been as one forever.
Fully morphed, yet still I see him. He turns one final time – his eyes saying all his misshapen mouth is no longer capable of speaking. A blink; he is gone.
Rushing forward I see all that remains, rough hair twisted upon a nail while I listen to his baleful cry carried upon the night’s savage wind.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Wishes Do Come True
All I wanted was the shiny new tricycle with the ribbons on the handlebars. Just like the one Bobby next door had. So I wished it. At the scary place in woods where I’m not supposed to go. Where the growls and the bad words came out of the ground. Where the trees whispered about blood and mean things. I shouldn’t have done it, but I did.
I wished for that tricycle. Just like the one Bobby had. And they answered me. Said they’d get me that trike if I did something for them. So I brought them Bobby like they asked. I didn’t know what would happen. He just—just—there was a lot of blood and laughter. Then I ran.
But I swear I didn’t know.
I got my tricycle, though. Bobby’s parents gave me his, after the funeral.
A Little More Red
Isn’t it magnificent? This is the tricycle I had as a child. Sadly it didn’t always look this good. Much like me it was beaten up… passed around… misused. Unlike me though, this was fixable; a chance to restore my lost childhood. Once all the dents were fixed and rust sanded down, I knew a fresh coat of red would do it wonders. But as I held the brush it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t restore innocence with paint… it needed something else… something special to bring it back. The first one was difficult, not going as smoothly as I had hoped. I was too emotional. Fear, excitement and inexperience will do that. Regardless, with the first brushstroke, the tricycle came alive like never before. The blood breathed new life into it. Too quickly though, my initial supply ran out. I went out, visiting different playgrounds, killing my catch as fast as I could. My remorse faded each time, replaced by building passion to bring back what I had lost. I mean, just look at it… isn’t it magnificent? A little more red and it’ll be done.
I sit here alone waiting, luring them with the glimmer of carnelian shine and faded tassels. I was a boy once; it was a gift given to celebrate my birth – but why celebrate the unwanted Papa reminded me with strap and fist. When it spoke to me, offering escape for a mere favor, how could I resist? The last to feel my pull was a young girl; her screams still echo my mind. It drank with wanton lust, this keeper of my soul; I wept knowing my part.
A glance upward tells me the tenement is mostly asleep, but I see them, eyes that barely clear the sill as they gaze down; a man’s voice in the background slurred and harsh. I pray the child does not come, but they always do. They seek the same escape I once did; they feed the beast which masks its evil in the plaything that keeps me captive. A crescent of light seeps through the darkness as the back door cracks open. The young one stares at me, eyes full of wonder. I cringe knowing the lie I keep; the falsehood of joy I represent.
I set him down, releasing his torso when he reestablishes balance in his tiny gray sneakers. He accepts the rag from me and wipes down his tricycle: seat, frame, spokes, basket, tassels, like I instructed. A boy and his tricycle, innocence personified. Smiling, I rub my eye to dam the tear threatening to form. Not long ago, he could barely pedal. Now he’s outgrown it.
Outgrown his innocence.
How cruel of us, bringing him into this world. We never meant to, of course, but we did. He’s far too aware now. Voicing questions no child should ask.
His mother hopes things will go back to how they were before The Night.
He hugs my leg and scampers toward his mother in the house. Gravel crunches under those tiny sneakers, the last time I’ll ever hear it. I can’t stop the tears now, cursing the god who allowed this. We’ve decided. He won’t live in this hell. We won’t abide it. The wind gives a final lethargic sigh. The tassels hang motionless from the handlebars, fitting for what’s coming.
Here Comes the Sun
Heavy pattering of rain against the plastic roof stopped. Emerging from her pink and yellow playhouse ready to run, her shadow hesitated but quickly raced after her. As she lurked along the edge of the verdure, gleeful squeals and light splashing caught her ear. Her shadow swiftly moved through the tall grass, leading her closer.
A small boy sat on his tiny red tricycle, his feet stomping through puddles as he giggled. Her shadow appeared in front of him, unphased, he continued. The five-year-old girl nodded and crept silently behind him. Her loose curls and pastel colored dress crusty with brown stains; her petite pale face coated in flakey red blotches. The boy shivered and looked back; a wide smile parted her lips revealing a mouth full of pointed teeth. He cried and screeched for his mother. Without missing a beat she clamped her shark-like jaws tightly around his neck while her shadow held him down. Devouring his tender meat, she left nothing but bones.
His copper infused juice swirled into murky puddles. Her shadow guided her back into the field. Before disappearing into the weedy cover she licked her lips and whispered, “More.”
Mercedes M. Yardly
Jasper was allergic to peanuts and lies and cruelty. As a baby, he waved fat, starfish hands. His mom would dress him in blue and white striped overalls like a tiny conductor.
He had a teddy bear hand puppet with a fireman’s hat. I thought he loved the thing, but he would scream and shake his fists at it, yelling and biting until the fur came off and threads came loose.
“He loved it to death,” his mom exclaimed.
“Yes,” I said, but really I knew that it was the only thing he hated. Whenever I came to babysit, I tucked my long hair behind my ear and hid the puppet.
“All gone?” I’d say, and Jasper would smile.
He played on the driveway between our houses. I always made sure to walk behind my truck before pulling out, except for one time.
He lived, if you could call it that. There’s no laughter or hate or anything at all. I dance that puppet in front of his face hoping he’ll scream at it, at me, just one time, because we all know one time is all it takes.
Scarlet R. Algee
The Patient Guise
Lee A. Forman
Alone, it waited. Silent, still, it swallowed patience one lingering moment after another. With each passerby its senses hummed with anticipation—a growing hunger still unsated. Each gave a curious look, but none were tempted. Uncertainty lingered along the paths of its ancient mind as it questioned how well it understood its prey. The form it chose proved effective in the past. Eager younglings once rushed into its deceptive grasp. They’d pedal away from their elders and satisfy its appetite. But the scarcity of its preferred fare imposed a decision—its old hunting ground had to be abandoned. With a tired squeak, its wheels turned in search of a fresh source to nourish its everlasting appetite.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018
Soft granules shift with each step as I walk the sandy strip. They ease between my toes, slide over my sandaled feet; leave a rim of grit around each nail-bed. A favored place, this swing. During the day, it basks in the full cast of sun’s light; at night, it hides in the coolness of evening’s deepest shadow. A place to laugh, to steal a kiss, perhaps a first touch… Hallowed ground made sacred by whispered promises broken only by those foolish enough to make them.
I sit. The ropes stretch taut, the plank groans beneath me as the swing gently begins to sway. My mind wanders, time passes; my thoughts fill with remembrance of you. The shade of the tree swallows me as day turns to dusk and dusk quickly flees before night. The image of you with another beneath our swing flashes by; my rage no less tempered with time. I kick my sandals aside, dig my toes deep into the soft sand. I reach for you. I know you’re there, you promised you always would be, a promise I saw kept with pickax and spade. The only blight on our perfect evening… the cunt that lies dead beside you, but I can look past that and enjoy our time together, if only in my mind.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Trapped within this bubble, I feel nothing of the arid landscape that surrounds me. I sit in subjugation, offered scraps to feed upon; amuse-bouche for the soul, or so I imagine. Apportioned morsels to sustain me, but never more than your callous ego will allow. Yes, I have licked the plate and the tang has seared my tongue, left a residue of shame that will forever taint my palate. I once soared with as much grace and majesty as the prey that circles overhead – a dangerous companion to adopt, folly perhaps, as I know what it awaits.
Freedom, such a simple thing, stolen from me by destiny’s choice; a truth mourned beyond measure. I was vibrant once, as vibrant as the now desiccated tree before me. I see its brittle limbs, its exposed bones; the crack that foretells of the next fractured moment. I live that moment with every breath, forever caught just before the fall, perpetually suspended in a state of flux. With bowed back, I am forced to genuflect, to stare into a shallow pool that lacks reflection; a me without identity, stripped of all dignity. With broken wings, I stagnate in this cage never to glide on lighter waves of air again.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
I scrambled through the woods at break-neck speed. I had no idea which direction I ran, I only knew I had to escape the beast that attacked me. A clearing in the trees ahead revealed the flicker of a fire’s glow. As I stumbled into the mudded tract, I realized I’d come upon a gypsy encampment. Two men immediately rose in defense, but a hunched old woman shushed them away. She guided me to a rough-hewn bench. I sat in the brisk night air, chest heaving, lungs still gasping for breath as the crone examined my scratched torso, the gouges left upon my arm by the beast’s maw.
Heavy drapes at the rear of a nearby caravan parted. Concealed behind a voile sheath loomed a tourmaline eyed creature of exquisite beauty. She held my gaze for but a moment before her eyes crept down toward my bare chest and further still to the ruined forearm. The old gypsy woman tending my torn flesh immediately bowed her head and began to back away.
As the black veil unfurled, I saw the illusion for what it was; the alluring countenance of the creature’s face belied the grotesque malformation of its body. A withered arm snaked its way forward, grasping the rail along the stairs in its elongated hand. The exposed flesh covering it resembled nothing more than flaking mica. The body that followed was near indescribable. Multiple legs, in varying size and stage of abortion, dangled beneath the tattered rag it wore around its distorted midsection. One hip jutted upward and away from its body while its engorged abdomen bucked in sway with something yet unseen. I tried to avert my eyes, to look away from this aberration, but fear and revulsion would not allow it.
Moving in awkward jerks, it approached. Terror demanded I flee, but a wave of authority emanating from those rapturous eyes locked me in place. It lowered itself to the muddy earth at my feet. Its stare burned through me as it brought its mouth to my savaged arm. Crimson lips whispered an incantation that danced with the feather-light touch of its breath over my aching skin. It then clutched my arm in its claw-like grip, threw back its head and began to screech a banshee’s wail.
As its legs tore open, a gush of fluid sluiced from between them. The screech morphed to a guttural moan as something passed from its body and darted into the woods. The echoes of torment silenced; the only sounds left were labored breathing and what scurried in the dark underbrush.
The creature before me spasmed, struggled to right itself, to regain its knees in the slick afterbirth. Composed once more, it stared at me with fierce brutality. Once again, it grasped my wounded arm in its roughened talon and spoke a single command as it seared its mark into my flesh. I saw depths of rage, hate, regret, pain and sorrow in its release as the eyes dimmed and the body fell backward to lie unmoving.
The old gypsy woman approached. She looked upon the corpse from the caravan, the wound and brand on my arm. Compassion and terror colored her countenance as she dipped her fingers into the mingle of blood and amniotic fluid. While making a sign of sanctity to ward herself from evil, she spoke these words.
“The pup is born, the mantle passed. Protect it, and you may yet find your own salvation.”
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2017 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
I sit curled up next to the fireplace, my head resting against the surround. A goblet of heavy Merlot in my hand; heavy for its body or heavy for my longing, I cannot say. As I stare into the crackling blaze, my mind wanders. So many memories from years gone by, so much love shared here, in this very room. My soul shrieks with grief as I collapse into a ball, no longer able to hold myself upright; no longer able to stem the wracking sobs.
The fire now a blur through swollen wet eyes, my head lolls and I glance toward the tree with its twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and brightly wrapped packages tucked neatly below. You always were such a perfectionist. My eyes flutter shut as the day you dressed the tree forces itself upon my mind. You were so happy, so excited to pick the largest pine available. I recall joking that one of us would have to move out so the tree could move in. You kissed me with icy cold lips and a bright red nose. Little did I know how soon I would long to feel that frigid touch once more. Your enthusiasm knowing no bounds, you spent the entire day arranging everything just so; making sure the colorful glass baubles were placed with precision, everything to an exacting measure. I’d playfully moved a strand of tinsel while you weren’t watching, only to reenter the room moments later to find it placed back in its original position.
The gifts. Oh, how you tortured me over the gifts long before the season began. A sad smile steals across my lips as I think of the hours you spent fretting over the perfect surprise for each of our friends. As I sip from my glass, a slight chuckle escapes me only to end in a bleat of pain as I recall how you stressed over wrapping each gift in the perfect color foil. God, how you loved this day.
I think back upon the last evening I saw you. I was standing at the island between this room and the kitchen preparing dinner; you remembered one final detail you couldn’t do without. I kissed you as you bounded past me, told you not to be long and that I loved you. You grabbed your coat from the hook, turned to me with purse in hand, golden locks bouncing, and smiled before replying as you always did – not nearly the way I love you. I smiled back; you left. Two hours later, a knock sounded. I wasn’t worried, you often became infatuated with something or other and lost track of time or misplaced your keys. As I moved to open the front door, I noticed the bare flicker of red and blue light drifting in from the balcony. Seeing the officers standing at the threshold, I turned and walked to the glass, placed my forehead to it, and knew in that moment… you were gone. I woke lying upon the couch. The officers explained there’d been an accident at the corner – our corner; a young woman had been hit by a car that ran the red light. You were that young woman.
My eyes crack open seeking a red light on the tree, your tree – our tree. But instead, my sight finds the red fairy lights you used to decorate the balcony. Barely able to stand, I stumble to the sliding doors. As I fumble to open them through my tears, the Merlot in my glass pours onto the white carpet. My addled mind tells me how angry you’ll be if I don’t clean the deep burgundy spill right away; my breath hitches, another sob escapes me. Finally managing the lock, I step through onto the bitterly cold veranda. Standing at the rail, I exist in a halo of red light, my long chestnut mane whipping in the wind; the flush on my cheeks all but gone in a tinted haze. Another balcony, the one next to ours, is adorned in blue twinkling lights. I wonder why I’d not noticed it before. The blue and red lights blur together as my inebriated mind struggles to adjust. Five stories below, more lights glitter, cars rush past; the ground wears a fresh blanket of snow. I’m so tired, and the blanket seems so inviting. Please, don’t go without me – words I should have spoken that night. Letting myself lean forward, the world pitches as my mind screams for release from this sorrow, begs me to join you. I grasp the railing, sink to my knees and crawl back inside. Too much a coward to follow you; too devoted to allow your memory to die.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. Revised 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Muttering to himself as he always does, ole Gus shuffled to the basement door, pulled it open, and carefully descended the barely lit stairs. Once in the subterranean cavern – as he liked to imagine it – he began searching the dusty shelves for boxes marked ‘Halloween’ in Ester’s neat, tidy handwriting. God rest her soul. Given what a pain in the ass his wife had been in life, he’d never thought he would miss her nagging so much now that she was gone. Oh well, done is done, can’t dwell on the past. That’s the way he’d always lived his life, no reason to go changing things now. If he could just get that damned Priest from their church to stop ‘dropping in’, he could finally catch up on his shows. That old coot would do just about anything to get a little extra change on the Sunday plate. Gus couldn’t see any other reason why the man kept coming by to console him; always bringing casseroles, and baked this or homemade that, from strange women he’d never even met. Yup, it had to be that Sunday Salvation savings account he kept making deposits into. No other reason for it. She’d been dead for, Christ – what was it, three, four weeks now; it was time to stop treating him like a lost mute-child found wandering the streets! These people just didn’t know how to keep to themselves and quit meddling in his affairs. Well, at least he was eating well. Ester, God rest her soul, was a fair looking woman with many fine qualities, but cooking wasn’t one of them. Nope. She must have been looking the other way when that train went whistling by. Oh well, done is done.
Rooting around the musty shelves in the dim light, Gus finally came across what looked like the right boxes. ‘Course, they were behind the ‘X-Mass’ boxes; now he’d have to move those first. Speaking of ‘X-Mass,’ that was something he’d always wondered… why spell it with two S’s on the end? Christmas was spelled with one S, and he couldn’t see the Arch Diocese endorsing X-Priests, like X-Men, so X-Masses were probably out of the question. Now that would be a service he wouldn’t mind donating to – hell, they could charge admission. Those money grubbing, wafer toting, alcohol peddling Men of the Cloth zipping around with special powers… that would be a show! What, no change for the plate? Father Laser Eye, incinerate that cheap son-of-a-bitch. Zap! Ha! Ahhh, well, it would probably be more like Father Lazy Eye with those clowns. Anyway, speaking of clowns, if he didn’t stop imagining The Flying Priest-capades in his head, he’d never get the lawn set up for tomorrow night. And Ester, God rest her soul, wouldn’t have that at her home. Nope. Better get back to gettin’ to it if he was finally going to get back at those little shits for the years of fucking with her lawn.
A few hours later, he’d managed to drag all the boxes and loose pieces of seasonal ornamentation up from the basement and out onto the porch. Looking around at the leaves cluttering the front yard, Gus figured there was no sense in raking them; they added to the ambiance. Plus his back was way too sore for that kind of manual labor, especially considering what was still to come. Yup. Ester, God rest her soul, was going to be proud of his efforts this year; and whether she was too kind-hearted or lady-like to admit it, she’d enjoy the vengeance he had planned for those crap-faced teenagers. Ha! Well, time to break out the cob-webbing, and get the decorating over with.
Gus worked long into the night, waving to passers-by as they called out a hello, taking a break only to sit and eat the latest dish of whatever-you-call-that-stuff the Priest brought by. To any and all watching, it seemed the kindly old widower was going about making his home as inviting as he could for the pip-squeaks who would come mooching for candy tomorrow night. Sometime around 10:30 pm, he placed the final prop in its honored and very conspicuous place. It was the most realistic, most expensive severed head he and Ester, God rest her soul, had collected. It was really a bit too pricey for them, but from the moment she saw it, there was no talking sense to her – she simply wouldn’t leave the store without it. He’d spent the last several years sitting up awake on All Hallows’ Eve just to protect that one piece from the neighborhood vandals. They’re just kids having fun, Ester, God rest her soul, would always say. Kids, my ass, he always thought. Lighting his last cigarette before heading inside to wash up and sleep for a few hours, Gus wondered just how much fun they’d be having this year. After a few drags, he flicked the butt onto his neighbor’s lawn, picked up the prized latex head, and trudged inside to catch a little shut-eye.
At 2:00 am, his alarm clock sounded. After splashing cold water on his face and shaking off the sandman, Gus got down to the real business of this year’s decorating. Collecting his shovel and pickax from the shed out back, he shambled his way around to the front lawn. He might be an old geezer, but years of working in the mill had hardened him into something much different than most people thought. He was a smart man, one who knew how to foster good will and empathy, but one who also knew when it was time to use his strengths to his advantage. Making his way to the spot where the prized head would sit later that evening, he tossed down the shovel and began breaking up the dirt on his front lawn.
Back inside, he made his way to the shower, cleaned himself up, then cooked a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, instant grits, bacon, maple sausage links, and six slices of toast. Just like Ester, God rest her soul, used to make… well, maybe a little better, but don’t tell her that.
Sitting on his front porch that afternoon and evening, Gus dutifully rewarded all the little children with their hands held out begging for candy. As the night wore on, he was sure to keep an eye on that ghoulish head, and all the little bastards who had their eye on it, too. He knew that one of them would come back and make a play for it well after everyone was asleep. With all the wee ones home by 9:00 pm, it was just a matter of waiting the right amount of time. By 11:30 pm, Gus had been alone on his porch for an hour and a half without seeing another soul. Giggling to himself and saying a silent prayer that Ester, God rest her soul, was watching, he began his own Halloween fun! Tucking the latex head inside the house, he slid the board covering the hole he’d made in the early hours of the morning out of the way and tossed it under the porch, hiding the evidence of his deceit among the other debris stored there. Sitting down on the lawn, Gus dangled his legs over the opening for just a moment before he shimmied his way into the ground. Having left one arm free, he scooped the loose dirt and leaves that had concealed the board onto his broad shoulders, then worked his arm into the dirt as well. Buried up to his neck, Gus stood in the tight confines of the vertical grave he’d dug earlier and waited. It didn’t take long.
Judging it to be about half past midnight, he heard a rustling sound, and the drunken whispers of the aforementioned idiots approaching. Holding dead still, eyes closed, he waited and listened.
“Damn man, it looks so real!”
“Of course it looks real, dick-head, that’s why it’s such a great grab for this year’s scavenger hunt. Plus that pain-in-the-ass isn’t sitting on the porch guarding it like he usually is.”
“Show some respect, man. The dude just lost his wife. My dad comes by here with food and shit from the church cronies like every night.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he does it out of respect. He’s just hoping the old fuck leaves his money to the parish.”
“Whatever, asshole. Just grab it so we can get the hell out of here before someone sees us.”
The sound of footsteps grew closer as the leaves crunched in his ears. Gus felt the warmth of the little bastard’s hands nearly touching him.
“You sure the coast is clear?”
“Yeah, man. Just hurry the fuck up and grab it!”
Sensing the impending hands closing around his head, Gus’s eyes shot open as quickly as his jaw. He’d taken the time to file his teeth to razor sharp points while he’d waited inside. In one fluid motion, he turned and snapped his mouth closed on the arm of the fuck-wad trying to steal his head. His teeth sliced clean through the connective muscle and sinew at the boys elbow; as soon as the kid yanked backward, his forearm detached with a sickening squelch. They all started to scream like the little piss-ants they were. Blood spurted everywhere, making Gus’s head really look like the latex gem. As the teens ran screaming for their lives, Gus spit the arm out toward the bushes. Cackling with maniacal laughter, shreds of fabric and gristle still clinging to his teeth, Gus shouted, “See Ester, God rest your ever lovin’ soul, I found the perfect prop to finish our display!”
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved
“It’s the complex.”
“Yeah, I know it’s the complex, but why should I have to foot the bill?”
She glances over at her partner with a baffled expression. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Taken aback, and literally leaning back against the car door, he responds tersely, “She got diagnosed with a complex, my wife. Ain’t you been listening? Some anxiety bullshit that the doc’s say means she don’t have to work no more. And ya know what that means? It means I gotta foot the bill for everything. The house, the god damned private school, fancy label cloths for her and the little princess, days at the spa to calm her nerves. Her nerves, fuck me. And don’t even get me started on the after-school activities…”
“Charlie, I was talking about the complex, the one we’re parked in front of doing our job. You know, ‘The Complex’ – read the friggin sign. And besides, if you didn’t want to deal with her kid, you shouldn’t have married a single mother.”
Glancing up, Charlie responds with his usual enlightening, “Oh.”
Samantha, breathing deeply, does her best to stay calm. Being saddled with Charlie is like having an idiot child of her own to manage. After releasing her death grip on the steering wheel, she tries to reason with him again. “Focus, Chuck. We’ve been sitting here day after day and nothing weird has happened, right?”
“Nothing weird ‘sept that two other people went missing in broad daylight. Speakin’ of broads, you know that bitch had the gall to ask me where we was going on vacation this year?”
Ignoring his personal drama, Sam steers the conversation back to the relevant topic. “That’s my point. There are only two ways in or out of the condominium complex, and we’ve got a car stationed at both 24/7 yet no one has seen anything funny. Not on our shift, not the other shifts, so two more people going missing from in there,” she points at the condos, “is weird. It’s got be the complex.” She chews her nail while working it over in her head.
Charlie slurps from his Big-Gulp. “So what – you think someone’s been draggin’ full size bodies out on foot? That ain’t possible. There’s an eight foot fence surrounds the whole place. It’d never happen. And we already did a sweep of all the homes, ain’t nobody hiding no bodies in there.”
Encouraged, Sam continues. “Right! That’s what I mean. We know they’re not in there, and we know they never exited, so what’s left? Have you ever heard of the phenomenon where someone is a block from home, but just can’t get there?”
“Wha? You mean like they fell and hit their head and wandered off. Come on, Sammy. Don’t tell me you buy into that freakin’ weirdo bullshit about other dimensions and roads that go nowhere crap.”
“So you have heard about it? Why not here, why not now? It would explain what’s going on.”
Shaking his head yet refusing to make eye contact, he scoffs, “Look, I see that shit on the covers of trash rags in the check-out line at the Piggly-Wiggly, it don’t make it real.”
They both spot their relief car rolling to a stop behind them as Charlie finishes. “Look, Sam, you got a lot a years ahead of you in blue yet. Why don’t you leave the detecting to the detectives and keep your nose clean, huh?”
Incredulous, her head swings in his direction; she catches sight of the passenger from the other squad car walking up to theirs, the late afternoon sunlight glints off the metal on his uniform.
Charlie rolls down his window and they exchange pleasantries before he reports that there hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary going on.
Unwilling to be stifled, she tells the other officer they’re going to take a quick cruise through the complex, make sure everything’s quiet inside as well. Both men share a look, the patrolman standing outside the car nods, taps the roof in acknowledgment, then walks back to his own vehicle.
Before Charlie can protest, she swings the Suburban in an arc and pulls up to the gated entry. After clearing the guard station, she tells Charlie to get out his pen and notepad, and to write down the turns they make including the street names. He gives her a bogus salute with his middle finger extended.
She pulls forward on Gateway Drive, makes the first right onto Jackson, a left onto Hamilton, then a right onto Dumont. She pulls over and puts the SUV in park. Turning to her partner, she asks, “You get all that?”
With a dramatic sigh, he nods, “Yup. Right onto Jackson, left onto Hamilton, right onto Dumont. What now, do ya wanna’ rouse the poor folks living at number eleven over here and accuse them of hidin’ bodies?” he mocks as he points over his shoulder with the butt of the pen.
“Humor me on this one, will you?” she says as she makes a three-pointer. “Okay, so heading back out…”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it. Left onto Hamilton, right onto Jackson, left onto Gateway. Let’s get this little show of yours over with.”
She follows the reverse directions to a T as he reads them aloud at each intersection. “Left onto Hamilton… right onto Jackson… left onto – what the fuck? Where the hell did Gateway go? Did you make a wrong turn?”
They were staring down a dead-end street with the same pleasantly gray sided, white trimmed attached homes as every other street in the complex, but this one had no outlet, and no street sign.
Looking confused and a little pissed that she’d tricked him, Charlie grunts, “Fuck this. Bang a U-ey, we’re going back to Dumont and staring over.”
She backtracks to Dumont and stops in front of number eleven. Charlie, scratching his ear, is looking at the directions on his pad. “What was the name of that street we was on when we turned around?”
“It had no sign, we both know it didn’t.” The snark in her voice was enough to set him off.
“Just turn the fucking car around and let’s do this again,” he shouts. “And this time, don’t fuck it up.”
“You got it boss. Call out the directions and I promise you I won’t turn unless you tell me to.”
“Go to the corner, make a left onto Hamilton. Good, now go to the next cross street, make a right onto Jackson. A-huh, okay, now just up ahead, we should be making a left onto Gateway. What the mother-fuck? How the hell did we screw that up again? Wait, let me think. Curb us for a sec.” She does as he asks.
After a few moments of quiet contemplation, he hands her the notebook and says, “You’re the genius here, you tell me what we did wrong.”
She looks down at the pad, “We didn’t do anything wrong, we followed the route back perfectly.”
He explodes, “Then why the fuck are we on this cock-sucking dead-end street again?” After a couple of heaving breaths, he takes the pad back and does another mental run.
“Okay, I think I know where we screwed up. Let’s go back to eleven Dumont and this time we’ll get it right.”
Silently, she retraces their route. As she pulls onto Dumont, she stops at number thirteen.
Fear, disguised as aggravation, shows on his face, “What are you doing? Why didn’t you stop at eleven? We gotta do this exactly the same way,” he emphasizes each syllable by slapping his fist onto the pad.
She quietly whispers, “Look around.”
He twists left and right, seeing all the identical buildings for what they are – identical, except for the numbers. Five, seven, nine, thirteen.
“What the fuck? Where is number eleven? Okay, now I know you’re fuckin’ with me. You got Linsey in on this. He’s out there fuckin’ with the numbers while we’re driving around or somethin’. I knew he looked at you funny when we was on the street. Get out. Go on, get out of the fucking car. I’m driving.”
With an exasperated sigh, she opens her door and steps out. Charlie nearly knocks her over scrambling into the driver’s seat. Before slamming the door, he barks for her to get her ass in the car or he’s leaving without her.
With Charlie driving, they take the same route again, this time the final left puts them onto a long street with a single right hand turn at the end. “Ha!” Charlie croaks. “See, I told ya you was doing somethin’ wrong.”
“Yeah, but Chuck, this isn’t…”
Grinning tensely from ear to ear, he cuts her words off clean. “I don’t give a shit what it isn’t, as long as it ain’t that fucking dead-end again.” He nervously scrubs at his brow. “So we got twisted around somewhere, shit happens. All these places look the same, don’t sweat it.” Charlie makes the right at the end of the street.
“What the fuck? Ain’t no fuckin’ way this is the same dead-end.”
“Hey, you think we should radio in about Sam and Chuck?” Lindsey asks the other officer sitting behind the wheel of their cruiser.
“Nah, I’m sure they’re long gone by now, it’s been hours. They probably ducked out the back when those dip shits assigned to the rear gate were off taking a wiz together. You know how nervous rookies get pulling an all-nighter on a case like this. Relax, have another beer.”
∼ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2016 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Slashed open in a fit of uncontrolled rage, my gouged and bleeding thigh is nothing but ravaged flesh; it is the thrill of his attention upon me that is beyond compare. As my blood races, he hears it pulse; as my body quivers, he feels it vibrate; as my mind screams, he hears it echo through his own damaged being. He is ever present – this beast, this creature, this untamed demon that stalks me. Believing me no match for the power his darkness wields, he has been gentle with me till now, wishing not to frighten me with what he truly believes himself to be.
Clawed arm raised to strike again, his breathing is heavy, as labored as my own; his from restraint, mine from fear and desperate longing. He pauses, his hard stare boring into that of my own, gauging if I go willingly or as that of a cowering fool who knows nothing of what she asks of this dark madness. In his eyes I see a confusion of longing coupled with the enamored glee of wanting, an unsure knowledge that he has finally found what he has been seeking; acceptance.
This shatters the final piece of me.
My choice made, I bare my soul with complete submission in the hope of receiving his mark and my eternal salvation; the death of one dim existence, the birth of yet another. I sense still the indecision with which he watches me, unsure if this is to be allowed, or yet another cruel joke in a life fraught with pain, agony, and harsh deception. Do I genuinely offer what I promise? His eyes beg to know. This most gentle of beasts that shall rend me to pieces in a glory of blinding insanity.
His choice yet to be made, my only option to nurture it. I see what lurks behind his mask, I shall not shy from it. I will forever choose to embrace it, though the beast believes it still hides itself behind his reflection.
For now, I shade the glistening pools that reflect all I see at the expense of my own damnation. I wish only to belong to this coupling; though my wish is of little consequence, he’ll take what he will and leave the rest to rot in its own undignified remains.
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
I’d seen it before – glimpsed it from the corner of my eye as I walked past the open doorway – but never had it revealed itself to me so openly. Today, as I glanced back into the guest room certain that I would see nothing, there it was, looming before me. It stared back, eyes the color of onyx, seething with anger and intent. Its clawed hands clenched into fists, its interlocking teeth bared in a snarl, its lips quivered with menace, and its chest heaved with hostility and rage. Foulest of all was the opalescent skin, skin that dripped putrescent globules of mucus onto the wooden floor. It conveyed a hatred beyond belief.
Frozen in the moment, I stood stock-still. The crash of the laundry basket hitting the floor yanked me back to the here-and-now. I turned in a vain attempt to escape but the thing spit and leapt into the air. I tried to scream; a near silent whimper was all I could manage. Just as I made my way through my own bedroom door, its full weight landed upon my back. It tore at my hair, ripped apart my clothes, and shredded my flesh as it dug into my left shoulder blade to pull the scapula free of the muscle and sinew holding it in place. I fell to the floor taking it with me.
Having found my voice, I screamed at full volume with every ounce of breath I could manage. It screeched in return, and tore at my face, rending my lip in two, and slashed bits of flesh from my cheeks. All the while, I dragged my body forward, desperately trying to escape. Then it bit into the base of my skull – the sensation of its teeth sinking in seared through my brain and halted my forward motion. I lay there waiting to die; it sat upon me, savoring my anguish.
Then another sound reached my ears; a venomous hiss. In a single fluid motion, the thing retracted its teeth, whipped around, saw the cat hiding under the bed, and used its clawed feet to leap into the air; further gouging my back as it fled. I lay there terrified to move; terrified not to try. It was no use, my body would not respond. The cat crawled out from under the bed, sniffed me and mewled deep in his chest as if asking forgiveness before he ran off, abandoning me to my fate.
I lay there alone, unable to move, panting for breath.
From somewhere in the room, the sound of a glob hitting the floor echoed off the wood.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.