Inner Workings

This was the fourth one this week and James could easily do four more. Truth was, there could never be too many.

He pushed the door open and a wicked grin crossed his lips while the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes etched deeper into place. James was an addict and this was his drug. The arousal that built inside of him as he entered his ‘studio’ could never be matched by any other drug or the touch of a woman. His skin flushed with heat; his body knew what joy his actions would soon provide.

He entered the room to find the unconscious woman on the table in the center of the space, her arms and ankles bound to the cold steel table. The familiar scent caused butterflies to take flight in his belly as if it was his first time. His hand trembled as he stood over the assortment of scalpels and retractors spread out in front of him. Though adrenaline forced his unsteady nerves, the smooth, rigid instrument in his hand always steadied him. He was born for this.

Holding the scalpel in one hand, he drew in a cleansing breath, holding it momentarily before exhaling. With his empty hand, he pulled back on the tender flesh of the woman’s belly before placing the blade to the taut skin. James drew the blade in a meticulous manner, splitting the pale skin to reveal the glistening thin layer of yellow fat just beneath the surface.

His racing pulse slowed to a rhythmic thumping in his ears as it always did when he was focused. He watched the rise and fall of her chest, in awe of the fact that she was alive though did not feel or react to the incision. As he worked his way deeper into the site, he became fully aroused when his hands pressed deeper inside her abdomen. The warmth, the wetness, all of it inebriating. Modern medicine was a spectacular thing; so easy to render someone unconscious, too easy.

He continued to work his way through her layers until a curious smile etched its way onto his face. James worked quickly and soon held the treasure of his search in the palms of his hands. He removed the contents and time seemed to stop. His pulse hammered as the silence grew deafening. The others in the room moved to his side, each one gazing at the prize he held at arm’s length in front of them.

James passed the bloody mess to their groping hands and they scurried around the room in controlled frenzy, each taking turns poking and prodding, pulling and stretching. He looked into the face of the unconscious woman and tears pooled in his eyes. She’d sacrificed so much and would continue to do so for many years to come.

Nearly thirty minutes later, James’ work was complete and he rested his hand on the forehead of the woman who was now semi-conscious, her glassy-eyed gaze a clear indication that she was not fully aware.

He simply smiled and took one last look at the group huddled in the corner before walking to the door. Just as he reached for the handle, it swung open and a woman stood in front of him.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said.

James smiled and stepped aside, gesturing the woman inside. “That’s quite alright.”

The woman returned a coy glance and stepped into the room. “You too, Dr. Green.”

James removed his surgical cap and left the room, leaving the doting parents to tend to their filthy, screaming newborn. James never did care for children, though the insides of a pregnant woman were especially intoxicating to him.

James learned early on that he had a craving for exploring the inner workings of living things. His obsession started with small things; lizards, frogs and such. Soon though, they didn’t satisfy his morbid curiosity and neighborhood cats began to disappear.

After much counseling and failing to assure his parents and therapists that he wasn’t a vicious person, he learned to hide his obsession. After watching a documentary on surgeons as a teen, he decided to create the perfect persona that would allow him to indulge his macabre fascination. He’d become a surgeon. Not only would he be allowed to feed his odd hobby, but society would pay him handsomely for it.

Dr. James Green, renowned surgeon to the stars, was indeed the perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

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Anti-Wish

The flames swayed in the light breeze of the ceiling fan. Still, they burned strong and bright. To Dustin they were scorching eyes glaring at him straight out of Hell, all ten of them. Beads of red wax rolled down the candles and pooled like blood on the iced surface below.

He wanted nothing more than to forget his birthday altogether.

His family would have obliged him, but not this year. It was an even numbered year—a check year. The celebration was more for them than for him.

Dustin was the youngest of three boys in a family bonded tight to their kin. The problem was Dustin wasn’t kin. He was adopted. Orphaned as an infant, he never knew his parents. Supposedly, they were killed in a botched break in, but the details, as told to Dustin, were always watered down or vague.

The Thompsons, neighbors to his parents at the time, offered to take him in. The justice system granted their request since no other relatives were known and there was an existing connection between the families. The court also awarded the Thompsons’ rights to Dustin’s inheritance, doled out in biennial support checks; the same frequency with which they chose to celebrate his birthday.

“Better get them all, Dusty.” Tucker said and punched Dustin in the ribs. Tucker was the younger of his two foster brothers, but still five years his senior. The brothers both displayed the Ginger linage that dominated the Thompson bloodline—fiery red hair, freckles, pale skin, and a lean but strong frame that matched well with their innate aggression.

The unexpected blow sent a dull burning pain through Dustin’s chest, shortening his breath. He winced as much from the nickname as the punch. He hated that name. The foster brothers dubbed him Dusty because his bedroom was nothing more than a mattress tossed in the middle of the dirt floor basement. At least he didn’t have to sleep down there tonight. Every two years, after his birthday dinner, Dustin was allowed to spend the night in his ‘for-show’ bedroom. It was a small room with minimalistic décor for guests, unless Child Services stopped by to check on Dustin, then a few posters, books, and toys were sprinkled around.

“Yeah,” Barney added, giving Dustin a punch of his own. “Blow hard or take the curse.”

Dustin tried to ignore their taunts like usual, but this time their jibes hit a weak spot. He’d been dreading this moment ever since they told him about the curse on Tucker’s birthday.

 ***

— Four Months Earlier (Tucker’s Birthday) —

“What are you waiting for, Tuck? Worried you’ll miss a few?” Barney said, laughing.

“Shut up, asshole. I’m just thinking of what to wish for, is all.”

A moment later, Tucker sucked down a deep breath and exhaled across the cake. The candles went out one by one. The teen’s lungs hit empty as the 15th flame flickered. In that moment, with the lone candle still fighting to stay aflame, his eyes widened. Everyone stared, motionless and silent. It fluttered, clinging to life, but ultimately extinguished in a puff of smoke.

Tucker finally drew a new breath.

“Ha! Nice one.” Barney congratulated his brother with a slap on the back.

Dustin looked at them, his brow creased by confusion, “Why were you so worried about that last candle?”

“I wasn’t worried, you moron.” Tucker shouted.

“What?” Barney turned his attention to Dustin. “You don’t know about the Anti-Wish?”

Mr. Thompson shook his head and smiled as he went about cutting the cake.

Tucker hopped off the chair to join in the fun.

“When the Birthday boy or girl doesn’t blow out all the candles in one breath, they get the Candle-Curse.”

“And the remaining flames act as a doorway from Hell where demons escape to exact their dark deeds upon the failed candle blower,” Barney explained, speaking in a campfire spook-story voice.

“Demons?” Dustin asked incredulously.

“The demons take the wish, twist it into a curse, and make it come true.”

Dustin watched the brothers for a moment, looking for a tell, a punch line.

“Yeah right, whatever.”

Barney lowered his gaze. “We’re serious. What do you think caused Jonnie Schnelling to get hit by a school bus last year? And, what about Mr. Beakman’s science class explosion that melted off half his face? That had to be the Anti-Wish.”

“Jacqueline next door, she blew out her knee just walking down the street.” Tucker added. “I saw her miss some candles at her birthday party the week before. Everyone knows she wished for faster legs. She was tired of losing track trophies to her sister, Tonya.”

“I don’t blame her for being jealous; Tonya’s hot—ripe for the picking. I’d love to have a shot at her cherry. I bet she’s dying to get dirty.” Barney sucked his teeth as he groped himself.

Mrs. Thompson shook her head. “Alright, settle down boys.”

“Don’t talk about her like that.” Dustin said, scowling.

Tucker laughed. “Awe, Dusty’s got a hard-on for her.”

“Shut up!” Dustin shouted back.

Their mother stood up. “Dustin, stop fighting with your brothers. I’m tired of hearing you talk to your older brothers that way.” She handed a piece of cake to everyone but Dustin and made a show of dropping his slice in the trash. “Now wash your mouth out with soap and go to bed.”

Dustin bit his lip and left the table.

“Your birthday’s coming up soon,” Barney called after him. “Better practice blowing out candles or you might get cursed.”

 ***

— The Present (Dustin’s Birthday) —

Dustin watched the flames dance. In the darkness of the dining room, the candles cast a horrid glow on the faces of his foster family, exaggerating their expressions into psychotic masks. They were all grinning as they watched him, but not all for the same reasons. The boys were clearly excited at the chance to see him get the curse, and Dustin knew the mother and father were happy that his birthday meant the arrival of another check.

But as Dustin hesitated in front of the lit cake, some of the smirks fell to impatience and annoyance.

Mr. Thompson sighed and leaned on his elbows.

“Get on with it, will you?” Mrs. Thompson said, rolling her eyes.

Barney tossed his hands over his head. “Geez, just pick something already. Here, let me help you… How about you wish for a pair of balls?”

Everyone laughed.

Dustin closed his eyes and tried to calm the jackhammer in his chest.

“Poor Dusty’s scared.” Tucker hugged him in mock concern.

Dustin ignored him, but he couldn’t push the Candle-Curse lore from his mind. He fought for rational thoughts, to think of a worthwhile wish, but superstition conjured visions of demons and fire.

Tucker slapped Dustin on the neck. “Do it!”

Pushing his fears aside long enough, Dustin chose a wish. I wish I could live in peace.

Then, he opened his eyes and took a deep breath.

Ten. It’s only ten candles. I’ll go from left to right at a steady pace, he thought.

Hands gripping the table, Dustin leaned in and blew hard.

The flames writhed and fluttered until succumbing to the force of his breath sweeping across the field of candles, leaving smoking, lifeless towers in his wake.

Almost there, he thought. Just one more.

With the last candle sputtering under Dustin’s exhalation, Tucker jumped up and shouldered him off the chair. The impact with the floor stole what little oxygen he had left.

All eyes were fixated on the candle that refused to die. It burned bright, flame straightening as if proud of its resilience.

The brothers yelled and laughed, jumping around the room like crazed chimpanzees.

“Curse!” Barney shouted, starting a chant. “Curse, curse.”

Tucker joined him. “Curse, curse, curse.”

Mr. and Mrs. Thompson made a meek attempt at stifling their laughter.

Dustin regained his breath and climbed to his knees.

“No – I can’t be cursed!” He said. “You pushed me!”

“One’s still lit… you lose.” Tucker pointed at the candles.

“That’s not fair!” Dustin yelled. His eyes blurred behind a swell of tears. He balled his hands into fists and started swinging, landing cross-blows to Tucker’s chin and left eye before Barney decked him.

Dustin lay sprawled on the floor; seething and bleeding.

“That’s enough.” Mr. Thompson stood up fast, knocking his chair backward. “Get out of my sight,” he ordered and pulled Dustin by his shirt toward the basement door.

“But, I didn’t get any cake.” Dustin pleaded, the fight sucked out of him.

“You’re done. Go to bed, now.”

Tears spilled down his face. “Can I please still spend the night in my show bedroom?”

“Not anymore. Get your ass in the basement before I throw you down the steps.” Mr. Thompson shoved him at the open doorway.

Sniffling back tears as he went, Dustin didn’t look at the brothers. He knew they were smiling and seeing that would make his punishment all the more difficult to bear.

Tucker yelled after him. “You’re mine tomorrow Dusty. Payback’s coming.”

Dustin shambled down the rickety steps to the dirt floor below. Door locks clicked home as he descended. His limbs felt as heavy as his deprived heart.

He padded over to his unframed mattress, flopped down, and cried.

Tears trailed across his arm and dripped to the ground in little muddy splashes. He wept for hours. Muffled sounds of merriment sifted down from above like dust between the floorboards. Eventually, exhaustion took over and he slept.

Dustin dreamt of fire.

A hot and hungry blaze tore through the house. He was upstairs at the table, watching. He stood motionless, petrified by the sight of demons leaping into his world through the flames. His spine froze and he shivered despite the rising heat around him.

The demons had massive, backward-arching horns and slotted yellow eyes. They danced around the house leaving charred hoof prints along the carpets, furniture, and walls. They ripped the place apart, scorching everything in their path. Nothing was left untouched by their long reptilian fingers as they pranced through the rooms in morbid glee.

Dustin heard cries and pleading from down the hall. The creatures’ hooves clunked loudly as they leapt around, tormenting the family. A man’s voice yelled out unintelligible things, his voice high and frantic from agony. Then, the smell hit Dustin like summer grilling on an August breeze—the father was burning. His foster brothers were screaming and their mother wept. In reply, the demons only snorted and continued their twisted game.

The woman’s unanswered pleas turned to shouts of rage. Dustin heard a flurry of activity and the hysterics stopped abruptly.

Dustin’s pounding heart pulsed in his throat. He stood bolted to the spot, waiting for something to change, something to make sense. Then, a soft voice exhaled the words peace now against his ear. He whirled in both mind and body.

Dustin woke.

He found himself in bed, slick with sweat. The musty smell of the dirt basement wafted over him. Dense curtains of darkness hung close. He must have had a nightmare—that horrible dream of fire and demons, of violence and death. He could still sense an echo of the screams in his waking mind. Drawing in a long breath, he sighed. He nearly smiled. It was strange how cold he felt now after the imaginary flames were gone.

Cloff.

Something landed in the dirt. Dustin jerked his head toward the sound and peered into the inky shadows. Too dark, he couldn’t see more than a few inches beyond his mattress.

Cloff.

He strained and squinted. Something moved. It was coming closer.

Cloff.

His body tingled in anticipation. Fear oozed from his pores as his cold sweat returned.

Cloff.

Dustin watched it emerge from the gloom, but wished he hadn’t.

A large figure strode toward his bed. It was similar to the demons of his dream, but this one was bigger. Its legs began as cloven hoofs, stretching and bending upward, changing from oily fur to wet scales. Its torso bulged with muscle and the tumorous anatomy of an unknown creature. Slotted goat eyes glowed yellow from a face riddled with nodes of protruding cartilage. The horns terrified him—long, backward-curving growths, like reverse tusks with deep ridges.

Dustin lost control of his bladder but couldn’t look away.

Bedside, the creature leaned down and smiled in an unnatural display of needled teeth. It reached out a hand, stopping the upturned fist inches from Dustin’s face. Slowly unraveling its fingers, the demon revealed a single candle, standing straight in the palm of its hand.

The grinning creature cocked its head and, with a snap of its fingers, brought the candle to life. “You missed one, Dusty,” it said in a voice dank and rich like crude oil. Then, the demon blew out the flame and cast them in total darkness.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Pointed Ends

“9-1-1? I am calling about three, maybe four people who have been abducted. I can tell you where they are.”

“Let me get your name, number you are calling from and location.”

“Oh okay.” I tried to take large gulps of air to still the panic. “It’s my daughter. They…he took her. One of them had a gun at my head.” I trembled as I remembered cold metal pressed against my temple.

“Ma’am calmly give me your name, your number, the closest address.” I could sense rising impatience in the operator.

“Address? I dont’ know. I’m in the part of the psychiatric facility that’s under renovation. Does the address matter? Some of the buildings are unstable. That bastard is putting my child in harm’s way. I’m her mom. She would be a famous actress if he would let her live. There’s no number on this plastic hull of a land line. I killed him, I think.  The man who held a gun to my head. I always carry a knife…I work night shift.  I’m not sure if the blood is mine or his. Get a damned squad car here now!” I threw the receiver; it ricocheted off the wall.

Great, now they will wonder who the psycho is, I chastised myself.

“No!” I heard her familiar scream. But this was no stage scream; there was too much blood curdling. Running in the direction of her voice, I gave up any hope that the police or paramedics could make it in time.

I saw his face. He was so placid and had such a kind smile when we had him on psychotropics. I told my colleague that it was too bad he couldn’t stay in a permanent, happy drugged state.  “That could adversely affect recovery,” came his reply.

“Who is being adversely affected now?” I shook my fist at a blank hollow window.

I heard vibrations, then the recognizable sound of shattering glass.

“The building is going to cave in before help arrives.” I looked toward the empty shadows behind which were the monsters of my past and present. Focus, they can’t hurt you unless you allow them access. FOCUS!

Taking assessment of my situation, I knew that time was against me. What resources do I have that this madman does not?

Drugs.  I had lots of drugs in the double locked cabinet just outside my office. “There’s no one to help me check them out on the RAND.” My medical bearing was trying to take hold. “Screw regulations. This guy is going to kill people.”

I hurled myself loudly up the stairs, never thinking about stealth.

I had to fiddle with the combination three times before I was steady enough to catch the combination;  I pulled the key from around my neck.

Click

CLICK

There was the man with the kind smile. With him was my estranged husband, my ‘almost famous’ daughter, and her friend (my husband’s current lover.)

“We pulled off quite the performance. Ehm mother? Too bad you’ll never see me on Broadway!”

I felt a painful jab in my arm. “Don’t worry darling, this will calm you down.” Even though I had been married to him, I had never liked his smile.

******

Lost, liquidy blue eyes looked at the attending doctor who had once been her (my) colleague.

“Why did you go killing that innocent man, locking your family and friends up, and misleading the authorities? They are only waylaying the electric chair because I have them convinced that you are crazy and have been going crazy for some time. I had to add stuff into your personnel files. Think of all the trouble I could get into.” A smile rose in his eyes.

“Thank you” spilled over lips as drool pooled about her (my) chin.

******

“It would have been enough to buy the role I needed to set my fame in stone.”

“It should have paid off my debts and given me a comfy retirement.”

“I’m just a blood-sucking bimbo with nothing more than I started with.” The girl pouted and shrugged her shoulders.

“She should have gotten the chair,” the man smiled broadly.  “Who could have predicted a psychiatric break? Well I’ll have to do without my cut of the inheritance. Too bad for all of you. You have less now than when you were skimming a sizable lot off her salary. She really does have beautiful eyes.”

******

He shook the paper to dry (my signature was still fresh) before he slid his release from the facility into his medical records.

I smiled knowing he had my key; it’s the least I could do. I realized some monsters should be allowed to roam free.

~ Leslie Moon

© Copyright 2014 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved

Mergers and Acquisitions

“Demosthenes, bring my drink.”

His voice was a command. His words an edict. This was how he ruled his business, and business was pretty damned good. Beleth relaxed in his large chair and held out his hand expectantly. The drink had better be in his hand before he grew tired of waiting or there would be hell to pay.

The telltale sound of his servant approaching was music to his ears. Demosthenes was exceptional and would have been hard to replace. Wiry fingers carefully placed the cup in Beleth’s hand. He took a sip of the scalding liquid. It was perfect.

Demosthenes waited for his master to savor the drink before he spoke. “Sire, your next appointment is in 30 minutes.”

Beleth relished the time he had to relax, but understood that some mergers and acquisitions required his presence. Not everybody was okay with dealing with his underlings. Some were pompous enough to demand a visit with the big dog himself. What those idiots didn’t understand was the extra cost incurred when dealing with the person at the top.

Demosthenes was nearly out of the office when he stopped abruptly. He turned apprehensively and spoke in a tone riddled with fear. “Master, your appointment has arrived early and requests your presence.”

Beleth almost spilled the rest of his drink with sudden fury. “What? Early!”

He stood quickly, his tall form moving with a predator’s agility. This new acquisition was not going to go well for somebody. Beleth strode over to Demosthenes and handed him the drink.

“I will finish this later,” Beleth growled. He started to walk towards the door when he stopped and turned. A sinister smile curled the sides of his lips. “Domesthenes, I will call for my drink in a few minutes. I will have need of you in the appointment.”

Domesthenes bowed excitedly – he knew what this meant.

A long, dark corridor lead from Beleth’s office to the place where the meetings were held. There was no light between here and there. Only darkness. It made it possible for Beleth to approach his next acquisition unnoticed and see what the man was going to try to use as leverage in the negotiation.

Beleth stood at the end of the meeting place, concealed in the thick shadows, and watched the man who was waiting. This one was perhaps forty-five. He kept himself in good shape, was obviously wealthy, and appeared to be extremely confident in himself. Beleth looked around to see what the man had brought for the negotiation and soon found what he was looking for. There were papers, offerings both symbolic and literal, but the man seemed most dependent upon what he had in his hand. This was going to be easy.

Beleth stepped out into the dim light and stood motionless in front of the surprised man. An oddly cold wind played around the above ground graves and ‘oven’ vaults, moaning as it whipped at Beleth’s pants and buffeted his silk suit jacket. The man stumbled backwards a few steps as the Louisiana night strangled the air. Beleth looked into the mind of his newest acquisition. His name was Steven.

“Steven. You look shocked. Is my appearance not what you were expecting?”

The man tried unsuccessfully to regain some composure. “Maybe this will help.” Beleth twitched his hand and the expensive suit he had been wearing drifted away like smoke. He stood before Steven with clawed hands, a large horn growing out of either side of his head, and wings folded behind his back.

“Is this what you wanted to see? I think it’s a little cliché. My form is what I want it to be and I don’t give a shit about your expectations. Let’s get to it and talk about the deal you want to make with me.”

Steven quickly shoved his left hand forward and displayed the silver ring he had purchased at great expense. He stuttered hopelessly for a few seconds before he regained enough composure to speak.

“Beleth, I have summoned you. You are compelled to make a deal.”

Beleth raised his left hand and showed an identical silver ring. “You are a fool. I was already willing to make a deal. But you insult me when you bring such feeble talismans and spells. You are treating with a prince of Hell, not a simple imp or lesser demon.”

Steven looked down at his hand and toyed with the ring that had done nothing for him. He opened his mouth to speak but only swallowed his words when Beleth approached him.

“You had the balls to start this early because you thought you held all of the cards.” Beleth stood tall over the doomed business mogul and spoke in gritty tones. “This is my business deal.”

His voice boomed and tombs shook as Beleth called over his back. “Demosthenes, bring my drink.” There was a stirring in the shadows deep within a large tomb and Demosthenes emerged from the depths of the vault. The old man carried the cup and slowly walked towards his master, but his eyes were bright with vicious hunger as they locked onto Steven.

Beleth took the cup and drank deeply. Steven’s eyes shined with horror-derived lunacy. With the cup empty, Beleth gave it back to Demosthenes and looked at Steven.

“You are wealthy and powerful, yet here you are, ready to ask for more. This is what will happen instead. You will destroy this precious life you have made for yourself. Once you are done, you will be mine.”

Steven’s face twisted with the warring emotions of fear and fury.  “Never!” he screamed.

Beleth stepped to the side as he spoke, allowing Demosthenes to get closer to Steven. “You can either die now, or you allow Demosthenes to manage this deal for me. You will answer to him. What do you say?”

The prince of Hell held out his left hand for Steven. Steven looked at it, then looked at the seemingly fragile Demosthenes. The business mogul shook the infernal hand in front of him. Beleth smiled as he pulled away, taking Steven’s ring along with him.

“Smart man,” said Beleth. The demon turned to his elderly servant. “Demosthenes, it is time for you to walk in this world again. Are you ready for the merger?”

Demosthenes chuckled with malicious delight and slowly approached Steven. “Yes,” he croaked, “I am. It has been far too long.” He stopped in front of Steven and reached for the businessman’s chest. Steven tried to knock Demosthenes to the side but was stopped with a simple command from the old man.

“Invocato potestas…”

Steven’s hand stopped. Demosthenes lifted frail fingers and slipped them inside of Steven’s hand. The business mogul shrieked like a scolded child, then howled with horror when he realized the old man was inside of him.

Demosthenes sighed and his eyes fluttered with nearly orgasmic pleasure. He hobbled to Steven’s side and slipped his entire right arm into Steven’s right arm. The hand started to jerk as if in the middle of a seizure, but soon relaxed and began to flex and turn. Steven watched his right hand in horror, his eyes wide and unblinking with the realization that he was no longer in control of that hand.

The old man began to whisper into Steven’s ear. “Your body is mine. You will sit in the back of your mind, aware of everything around you, helpless to do or say anything. I will ravage your family, your wife, and will do all of those things that hell has kept from me. I will ruin the dynasty you have so carefully built, and I will use and consume your body with unbridled passion and lust. When all is done, all is gone, and you have witnessed the shame of it all, you will die a horrible death and I will drag you down to see your master.”

Screams of profanity turned into unintelligible shouts and verbal fits that bounced off the cemetery vaults. Beleth watched with demonic glee, tasting Steven’s torment and drinking in his frenzied terror. Demosthenes slowly shuffled behind Steven and began to merge into his new body. Steven’s shouting began to diminish; the screams of dread slowly turned to moans, and then faded to pleasant laughter. It was done. Demosthenes smiled with his new lips, displayed his perfect teeth, and laughed as Steven wailed from deep within.

Beleth walked up to the businessman who calmly dusted off his clothing. “You look good, Demosthenes. Have some fun.” Beleth grinned as his new acquisition walked back towards the city.

Business was good.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved

New Love

new-love“That was a crazy night, huh?”

Arthur spoke the words over his shoulder as he groped around the table for his glasses. They were hard to miss with their stereotypical thick black frames and even thicker lenses. Cold against his skin, he shivered while fitting them into place. With the heat of his passion fully dissipated, he was quickly reminded of how cold his room could get.

Now able to see, Arthur spotted his clothes strewn on the floor. He threw on the shirt and started working at the buttons. “I hope you had as much fun as I did, wow. That was incredible.”

He was a man of small stature with a voice that followed suit, high and light. The excitement behind his molar-bearing grin nearly pushed that voice to the cracking point.

The young woman lying behind him with frazzled blonde hair, conversely, remained silent.

“I don’t want you thinking this is a normal practice for me. I’m not a serial one-night stand kinda guy. I just felt a connection between us, you know—a genuine spark that demanded exploration.”

He chuckled and turned to face her. “Usually, I try to get to know a woman before, I uh… Well, usually, that doesn’t work either, especially with a beautiful woman like you… and, never as strangers upon the first meeting, like this.”

A near imperceptible sigh escaped her lips.

“Th-that might have come out wrong, what I mean is, now we can take some time to learn more about each other. Would you like that?”

The woman stared blankly at the ceiling, seemingly unconcerned that the sheet was askew, leaving her breast exposed.

Arthur’s smile faltered. He finished dressing—buckling his belt and lacing his shoes—with full attention on her.

“I want to know more about you. I want to learn about the life choices that brought us together. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always believed in natural forces like destiny.”

Silence.

“Alright. Alright, for example,” he continued, “I couldn’t help but notice the bruises. You’ve clearly had a hard time recently and I really want to know what happened to you that inevitably drove you here, to me.”

More silence.

The smile, the fuzzy remnants of passion, the patience, all were gone now. Arthur jumped up, bumping into the table as he shouted, “I’m not the one who hurt you, okay? I’m only trying to help you!”

The woman’s head turned away from him.

“Fine, I’ll do this without you.”

He whirled around and grabbed a clipboard off the table behind him. Paging through the information, he read for a few moments, his frustrated breaths the only sounds in the cold room.

“I knew it. An abusive boyfriend did a number on you and left you, hurt and alone.”

Double doors slammed open behind him. Arthur was so startled he nearly dropped the clipboard.

An older man backed into the room pulling a gurney with him.

“You talking to the dead bodies again, Arthur?” He asked, smiling.

“Wha—uh, no. Well, yes. It’s my job to figure out what happened to them, isn’t it?”

“I hate to break it to you, man, but they don’t respond very well.”

“Fuck off, Allan.”

“My pleasure.” He said, laughing as he pushed through the double doors. They swayed in his wake, like half-doors to an old saloon, creating a sound akin to a faint, fading heartbeat.

Arthur pulled the sheet over the blonde’s face and spun around to check out the new arrival. It was a young brunette, with big brown eyes and full lips. He stared for a moment before fishing out her wrist from under the coversheet.

“Well, hello,” he said, kissing the back of her hand. “My name’s Arthur and I couldn’t help but notice a spark between us just now.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Disaster Man

Disaster Man

My mask smiles for the camera.

That’s how the world knows me—a chipper façade of dimples and overly-white teeth. Such a bright, appealing shell I wear everyday and it secretly turns my stomach. But I need this job—need the public’s endorsement. So, I wear my mask and perform like a little organ-grinder monkey before the invisible map.

It’s always the same. The same report with only petty variances: sunny and 72º, partly cloudy and 68º, slight chance of showers with a high of 51º. Pure monotony. None of it really matters. Even on the odd occasion when my report is wrong, no one cares and neither do I.

Slowly withering inside, malnourished by a bland life—a cardboard existence—I walk through the motions like a motorized mannequin. The days blur by in a rotating door of meaningless faces and inconsequential small talk. Eat, sleep, report, repeat.

Yet somehow, despite my inner turmoil, they love to watch; love to hear my reports. They trust me, and that’s why I continue to wear this persona of classic Americana: Joe Next-door, Jack Hollywood. I lure them, tugging on the heartstrings of helpless viewers everywhere by exuding handsome warmth and pouring empathy down the camera’s throat. It’s almost too easy.

Can you believe that I get asked to pose for photos and sign autographs? Me—a weatherman, a shell of a human being. What has happened to our society? Why does an ounce of visual familiarity equal respect and adoration? A painted-on smile and gossamer compassion is all that’s needed to cue the public’s allegiance? Pathetic.

Even though I utilize this to my advantage, it still disgusts me. What most call life, disgusts me. This repetitive existence, brings me to the brink of madness.

And yet, once in a long while, I get a rare chance to really live.

When thermals collide and the humidity drops off at just the right time… magic happens. Churning winds of destruction touch down upon humanity, rendering homes to rubble and tossing cars across the county like a giant’s game of back alley dice.

Disaster strikes and I awaken!

Not only with Tornados, but any natural reckoning, from hurricane winds that obliterate beachfront structures, rising waters that wash whole towns into the next state, or earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.

Mother Nature’s wrath calls to me, like an ancient language whispering to my soul and lighting the hearth to my corporeal home. I’m compelled to go, to bear witness and experience her intent first hand.

Here, I leverage my job and my “fame” to get exactly what I want.

I visit the tormented scenes all across the nation, showing footage of natural disasters. The sweet music of suffering plays and I dance for them. I report heart-wrenching tales of loss and soul-warming stories of survival. They watch, riveted by my carefully crafted compassion and display of unflappable courage.

The station sees this as devotion to my job. My viewers swoon and can’t get enough, even going as far as to dub me, Disaster Man.

How quaint?

Fools! They’re all slaves to money and fame—clueless to my true calling. But, in falling over themselves to offer me their support, they grant me the one thing I really need: an infallible alibi.

You see, nature’s wrath and I are more than colleagues; we’re kin. The same craving for carnage gnaws on our nerves. The same desire to destroy builds within until it detonates on unsuspecting humanity, without discrimination.

After my reports, when the cameras go dark, I venture out and walk amongst the wreckage again, sometimes even amid the storm’s continuing chaos and I play my part. I spread my wings. I come alive!

Following Nature’s design—blending my work seamlessly with hers—I use the array of tools she provides on those her disaster has missed, those that she left for me.

Oh, how I revel in their torment! Pain and death is a virulent tonic like no other mortal brew, and I drink my fill.

So when you watch my reports of weekly weather and you melt under the charisma of my dazzling smile, just know that I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to live again. Know that when Mother Nature decides to thin the herd that grazes in your town, I’ll be there picking off the weak and doing my real job.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.