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Jilted Lovers: Author's opposite sex for the M/C.
Sleep in the Fire
I remember the first time I saw him.
He played guitar for a local band called It’s Dark Outside, and I immediately knew I had to have him. His dark, wavy hair. His obvious talent. I figured a guitar player must be good with his fingers.
I was perched on my barstool, sipping a Cosmo, pretending to be listening to the guy sitting next to me. I let the dork blather on, paying just enough attention to nod in all the right places, desperately waiting for the band to take a break so I could get a chance to talk to him.
Such an ordinary name for an extraordinary person.
The lights came back on and the singer said, “Don’t go home, we’ll be back on shortly. Remember, the more you drink the better we sound!”
Like I haven’t heard that one a million times.
And then David was walking towards me and I got all fluttery inside. I immediately began tugging at my blonde hair, making sure the cleavage was on display.
As he stood next to me I noticed how tall he really was, his slim build almost making him look like a scarecrow.
“Something funny?” he asked me.
Oh my God, he’s talking to me!
“Oh, no…you’re just a lot taller than I thought!”
He nodded as if that was an acceptable answer and ordered two shots of Southern Comfort. “What’s your name?”
“Susy,” I replied, practically tugging my hair out.
“Well, Susy, you enjoying the music?”
“Oh, of course. You are such an amazing guitar player. I wish I could do something like that, you know? But I’m clumsy with my hands, so I never really—”
“Drinks are here!” He cut me off in mid-babble. He slid a shot glass in my direction through a puddle of beer that the lazy bartender refused to clean up.
“Oh, this is for me?”
He shrugged. “It certainly isn’t for the guy behind you who looks pissed off right now.” He smiled at the pig-faced creature who was actually still trying to talk to me. “Friend of yours?”
I turned around in horror. “Him? No! God no! I have no idea who he is!”
The guy looked upset, sad even, but I didn’t care. He went off into some dark corner of the bar, probably where he spawned from.
“So, Susy, you doing anything after the show?”
I loved that about him. No bullshit, no hemming and hawing, just straight to the point. Confident.
“No, I’m not. What about you?”
He drank his shot down, one gulp, no grimacing. “Well I don’t have anything planned, but I was hoping me and you could spend some time together.”
I couldn’t stop myself from blushing, my pale skin making it even more apparent. “My place or yours?”
He laughed, a deep, rich sound. “Well, I was thinking of getting something to eat, but I guess my place will be fine.”
And that's how it started. We made love that night (yes, he was good with his fingers) and started spending every day together.
And then the problems began.
He told me I wasn’t allowed at band practice, a “No Girlfriends” rule. But I would show up anyway, I just HAD to be with him at all times. You can’t trust musicians.
The other guys in the band, all assholes, they didn’t want me there. They said their girlfriends didn’t show up. I told them it was because their girlfriends got jealous if any females were present. David had this weird look on his face and wouldn’t meet my eyes. I should have known that was a sign, but I just wanted him so badly.
They didn’t like me criticizing their songs, offering suggestions. Like, HELLO! — David did all of the songwriting; those guys would be nothing without him! Every time I tried to offer David support and tell him he didn’t need them, to go off on his own, he would tell me to shut up and mind my own business. And then it got worse...
I went to all their shows and had to withstand all their stupid groupies hanging all over them. I mean, David would actually talk to other girls, right in front of me! I heard all the excuses: I’ve known her for years; she’s my cousin; I graduated with this girl; I work with this girl — yeah, right! I knew what was really going on, I’m not stupid. I even proved it.
One night after a show, I saw David give some strange girl a hug. A hug! He asked me why I looked so pissed off and I asked him who that girl was.
“Are you nuts? That's my sister! You met her two weeks ago!”
Yeah, right! Like I haven’t heard that one a million times.
“Uh, I think I would remember your sister, Dave. Just tell me the truth — you’re cheating on me, aren’t you?”
He backed up a little bit. “There’s something wrong with you, Susy. I think you should go home. I think we need some time apart.”
“I knew it!” I screamed in his face. “You don’t want me around so you can go bang all the gutter fucks that come to your shows.”
“I don’t want you around anymore because you’re around ALL THE FUCKING TIME!" he launched back into my face. "You keep showing up at practice. I can’t even talk to any of my friends at shows anymore without you completely flipping your lid! When I want to practice or write a song you won’t leave me the hell alone. You’re too clingy.”
So that’s how it is, I thought. He was using me from the start. I knew it, but dumb girl that I am I'd ignored my instincts. I just wanted him so badly. I wanted it to work out. I just wanted him to be mine.
“I see,” I said, trying not to cry in public. “Well fine, you won’t see me anymore. But I promise you’ll miss me.” I stormed through the crowd and out of the bar, my heavy purse banging against my hip.
I was about to get into my car when I saw the girl, his “sister," rooting around in her purse next to her car. It was all that bitch's fault. She had it coming.
I snuck up behind her, my hand clenching a pipe I'd picked up from the back alley. I hit her once, hard, right in the back of her head. She had it coming.
I don’t think I'd killed her. I mean, I checked the obituaries and stuff and didn’t see any young girls listed.
And then I waited. I mean, surely David would come crawling back, begging for forgiveness.
And I waited… and waited.
Until I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to have my David back! So I called him.
“What are you doing calling me?” he asked.
I was crushed! He should have been ecstatic that I would deem him worthy enough to hear my voice again.
“Well, I was waiting for you to call me, but—”
“Call you? Call YOU?! Are you insane? Look, I can’t prove it, but I’m willing to bet it was you that clubbed my sister in the parking lot last week. Just stay the hell out of my life, Susy!” And he hung up.
I sat there, stunned and hurt. I gave him everything I had to give and it just wasn’t enough.
I would show him my devotion.
I began showing up at band practices and was literally thrown out by his scummy band mates. I waited for him in front of his house, though he would just ignore my pleadings, like I wasn’t even there. So I called him, left messages, e-mails, sent him pictures on his phone.
He changed his number and e-mail address.
I started watching him from a distance. Not like I was stalking or anything, I just wanted to see what could possibly be more important to him than me.
And then I noticed one day he was walking a dog. And then I saw him with the dog again, and again. He even brought the dog to band practice sometimes.
I was never allowed at band practice.
He didn’t seem to mind spending a lot of time with a dog.
How could a dog be more important than me? Seriously!
I watched from across the street as he came home to find his dog dead one day. It was sooo easy, I mean, dogs will eat anything, right? Just as long as you stick it in some dog food.
But it hurt to see how crushed David was. Over a dog. I hadn’t been around for a month and he made no signs of showing he even remembered I existed!
So I sent him a long letter (you know, snail mail - UGH! How outdated!) saying I was sorry about his little doggy.
And that was when the cops showed up.
But they had nothing on me and could prove nothing, so they just told me to stay away from David.
Why doesn’t anyone want me to be with David?
Because everyone else wants him, too! But he was mine!
So after his doggy friend went bye bye, David started spending more time with the band. I had cut and dyed my hair and started dressing differently so I could still go to their shows. I stayed in the back where it was dark where people couldn’t see me..
And then at one show they played a song that David said he wrote it about his dog.
He never wrote any songs for me, never wrote any about me.
And then he started talking to girls again, I bet they were all his sisters. Pshhh!
Why does everyone else get to have David except me? They all cheer him on during solos. They buy him drinks. He sleeps with all his sisters and cousins, probably at the same time, and I’m left all alone in the back of dark corners.
I so don’t belong there!
But neither does anyone else, no one belongs anywhere near David but me.
David didn’t notice me, no one noticed me. It was so easy to keep spilling all my shots under my table. Everyone else was up front, cheering on David, standing near David.
It was so easy to take a book of matches off of the bar.
And then light one of those matches and - Oops! - how clumsy of me, I seemed to have dropped it into a puddle of alcohol that those lazy bartenders never clean up.
David, I’m so sorry.
I watched from across the street as the smoke began billowing from the windows and there were little explosions here and there.
People screamed, jammed up in the doorway. Some made it out, most didn’t. It was their biggest gig. They opened for White Lion.
But most importantly David and the band didn’t make it out.
I had to burn them up. If I can’t have him they can’t have him, and nobody on earth can have him. All that was left was ashes.
Well, not really.
I waited until the fire trucks and cops and EMT’s all left and the yellow tape was up.
And I snuck into the charred husk of the bar, still smoking a little bit. I made my way to the stage, no longer having to hide in the back. There was something there.
It was mostly just a burnt hunk of wood, but I took it with me.
It was David’s guitar.
And I wrap my arms around it at night and let the ash smear my skin as I dream of all the songs David should have written and played about me with it.
Dominick Nole was born in 1984 and lives in Dunmore, Pa. Aside from writing, he also enjoys playing the guitar, drawing, taking care of his cat, Skellington, and bearded dragon, Bonnie, and watching as many horror movies as he possibly can. He is a newcomer to SNM Mag. This marks his second appearance in SNM and this story earned him a spot in our next print antho.
True Love Never Dies
Heath crossed his arms over his stomach and leaned against the door frame. Getting sick certainly wasn’t part of his plan for the evening. Kelly kissed him on the forehead. She waved goodbye and said, “Go to bed and get some rest. Hopefully you’ll feel better in the morning.”
He watched her disappear down the stairwell then slammed the door shut when his stomach twisted in agony. As he ran down the hallway the taste of putrid lasagna crept into the back of his throat. The bathroom door was shut. He slammed into the paneled wood with his shoulder, turned the knob and pushed. It didn’t budge.
“What the hell?”
Vomit filled his mouth as he shoved the door again. It held its ground for a moment and then gave way. Heath tumbled into the room and zeroed in on his target. The water in the toilet churned as the bowl filled with his partially-digested dinner. He knelt there, clinging to the cold porcelain, until his stomach was empty. His sinuses burned from the onslaught of stomach acid. As he reached for a wad of toilet paper to wipe his mouth, he noticed a shadow in his peripheral vision, like someone was standing behind him.
He spun around to see what was making the shadow. The momentum knocked him off balance. His face smacked the side of the vanity. Black spots peppered his vision. He groaned as he rolled onto his hands and knees. He took quick, shallow breaths through his mouth, trying to stave off the nausea that was once again rising in his stomach. After studying the floor tiles for several minutes, he tried to stand up.
He kept a tight grip on the edge of the sink as he checked for damage in the mirror. A pink knot the size of a baseball emerged from his hairline. It was already taking on the dark haze of a nasty bruise. A snotty stream streaked with blood was running from his nose and merging with the globs of puke on his chin. He turned to grab a washcloth off the shelf near the shower. The strange shadow was reflected in the mirror. It seemed to be peeking around the door, watching him.
He twisted to look directly at the wall and his hip smashed into the corner of the countertop. Only his own, hunched-over shadow was visible. Heath growled as he wet the cloth with warm water and scrubbed the random chunks of slime off his face. Not only did he feel like he had been run over by a bus, he looked like it, too. He rinsed his mouth out with mouthwash and stalked out of the bathroom.
He stretched out on the couch with a bag of frozen peas draped over his forehead. His stomach was still twisting into knots. After half an hour the top of his head was numb from the icy vegetables. He tossed the lumpy bag on the floor and closed his eyes. The steady hum of the ceiling fan was calming and he was able to drift asleep.
“So, that’s what she looks like.”
He jumped at the sound of Anastasia’s voice. The stench of rotting meat invaded the room as she whispered, “She’s very pretty. No wonder you fell for her.”
The intense odor made him gag, but he kept his eyes closed, hoping she would go away if it looked like he was sleeping. He forced himself to stay still as he tried to analyze what was happening. There was no way Anastasia could really be talking to him. She was dead.
The couch cushion compressed near his feet. A chill crept up his leg. It felt like he was being stroked with an ice cube. The coldness expanded until it enveloped his body. The room felt like an oven most of the evening. The sweltering summer heat accumulated in the attic apartment despite the window air conditioners and an army of ceiling fans. There was no way the temperature could have dropped so quickly.
He shivered when something tickled the fine hairs on his arm. Instinctively, he opened his eyes and searched for an insect. Anastasia’s transparent face hovered inches above him. He swiped his arm and the image disintegrated into a cloud of swirling smoke. He sat up. The room was empty. The humid heat returned, but he couldn’t stop shaking. He turned on the television, knowing he wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon.
The next morning Heath sat at his desk, trying to work, when Kelly knocked on his door. “How are you feeling this morning?” she asked as she walked into his office and shut the door behind herself.
Heath groaned and winced as she began massaging the tight muscles in his shoulders. When he turned to look at her she gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.
“What happened to your forehead?”
She caressed the tender bruise, making him wince. He pulled away from her touch and said, “I guess whatever was going on with me last night messed with my depth perception. Had a run-in with a drawer handle on my bathroom vanity when I got sick.”
“I knew I should’ve stayed last night. I could have taken care of you.”
If Anastasia was somehow tormenting him from the grave, he didn’t want to think of what she would do to Kelly. He had spent the night trying to convince himself that it was some kind of crazy hallucination, but the experience seemed too realistic to be a figment of his imagination. The painful bruises were definitely real. “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine now. Must have been some kind of 12-hour virus thing.”
Kelly kissed him on the top of his forehead. “Do you want me to bring you some coffee? Helping you is part of my job.”
“I guess I forget that you are my executive assistant…”
“Among other things.”
He shook his head. “Among other things nobody should know about.”
“I know, I know. No worries. Discretion is my middle name.” She crossed the room and paused in front of the door. “Do you want it black or with a little sugar?” She raised one eyebrow and smirked as she smoothed her skirt over her thighs.
Heath didn’t take the bait. “Black. Please.”
The rest of the day passed slowly. Heath sat as his desk, staring at his monitor like he had never seen a computer before. The exhaustion slowed his thoughts to a standstill. He couldn’t remember how to make a simple entry in a program that he had been using every day for over a year. Kelly kept him supplied with countless cups of coffee, but his mind was still in a fog, even though his hands were trembling from the caffeinated deluge.
That evening he stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Dark, puffy crescents of skin hung under his bloodshot eyes. He selected an extra-strength “night time” pain reliever from the medicine cabinet. There was no sign of the mysterious shadow and he was too tired to care anyway.
His body ached from last night’s debacle. He swallowed three of the capsules before stumbling into the bedroom. He crawled into bed with his clothes on and fell into a dreamless, black hole of sleep.
“Were you with her again?”
The question floated in the blackness of Heath’s medicated slumber. “Go away.” He flung his arm over his face. “I need to get some rest.”
“Shhhh…don’t wake the baby.”
He rolled over. His sweat-soaked clothes felt like they were shrinking, squeezing his body tighter and tighter. Air rushed out of his lungs as a weight settled onto his chest. He opened his eyes, coughing as he tried to suck in a breath.
“I know you cheated on me.” Anastasia’s voice filled the room, emanating from the walls and ceiling. A glowing, blue ball formed above the dresser. “I’m dead because of her!”
The ball grew, swelling with pulsating energy. The water glass on his nightstand exploded. “What are you talking about?” he yelled as adrenalin surged through his body.
“I was following your car when I got in that accident.” A cold breeze chilled his wet clothing. He exhaled slowly. His breath formed into a cloud of condensation. The ball floated closer. Anastasia’s face then appeared in the glowing sphere. “You were going to see her, weren’t you?”
A loud thump rattled the glass in the old, wooden window. The sound was caused by a door slamming in one of the other apartments. The orb disappeared, exploding like a burst bubble. Heath hung his head over the side of the bed and vomited.
The next day he began asking his co-workers and friends for help. In the break room he explained his plan to Kelly.
“I’ve already made reservations at one of the extended-stay hotels downtown. I’ll put most of my stuff in storage and stay at the hotel until I can find a new place to live. I can’t be in the apartment that I shared with Anastasia anymore.”
Kelly frowned. “I don’t blame you for wanting to leave. I still can’t believe she’s dead. Moving out of a place filled with so many memories of her will help you to move on.”
“I hope so. Her presence is so strong, sometimes it feels like she’s still alive.”
Two days later Heath stood in his kitchen, filling a trash bag with empty pizza boxes. The army of friends that helped pack his belongings and move them to the storage unit were all gone. He tied the bag shut and surveyed the empty apartment. Distorted shadows cast by the street light shining through tree branches danced and played on the living room walls. One hovering in the corner near the window broke free from its drywall anchor. The lingering scent of garlic was overpowered by a rancid odor.
“You’re leaving?” Anastasia’s voice was whiny and brittle. “I’m like this because of you and now you’re walking away, leaving me here alone.”
Heath leaned his head from side to side, loosening the tense muscles in his neck. He had always attributed ghost sightings to simple over-active imaginations and hoaxes, but now he was a believer. Although Anastasia was haunting him, putting him through hell, the ordeal was almost over. He looked directly at the nebulous form as he spoke. “I am leaving. You were a jealous, bitter woman when you were alive and you still are, even though you’re dead. Why would I want to stay here…with you?”
The dark column began to twist and churn, sending out a shower of hissing sparks. “No!” Anastasia’s voice deepened and distorted as she continued speaking. “You’re my soul mate. We were meant to be together.”
Heath lunged sideways. The cabinet door behind him sizzled as a bolt of electricity slammed into it, leaving behind a charred crater. He wiped sweat off his top lip with the back of his hand. “Sorry, Ana. I never felt that way about you.” He shoved his hand into his pocket to make sure his car keys were there, then picked up the bag of garbage and moved toward the door. “And I never will.”
“Don’t leave me,” Anastasia wailed.
“I hope you find some peace, somehow, Anastasia.” He paused, his hand on the door knob. The apparition’s color lightened, turning from black to light gray. “Also, I want to thank you.”
“What do you mean?” Her body was taking shape within the mist. She looked like a sepulchral glow of dusty illumination. “I don’t understand.”
“You were right. I was having an affair with Kelly. In fact, I still am, but that’s irrelevant now.”
The lights in the kitchen began to flicker. “You were going to see her the night I died. I knew it.”
“You were wrong. I didn’t go to Kelly’s condo that night.” Heath swung the door open and backed into the hallway, holding the garbage bag in front of him as a shield. “I went to a gun shop and bought a pistol. It turned out to be a waste of money, though. Thanks to your reckless driving, I didn’t even have to use it. It was nice of you to kill yourself instead of making me commit murder. So enjoy your new roommate. I’m off to find my real soul mate. Your silence will indeed be bliss for me.”
Janel Gradowski lives and writes among the farm fields of central Michigan. Her works have appeared in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Flush Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, Long Story Short, Beadwork Magazine and many other publications and anthologies. She is also the author of the 6:1 e-book series. This marks her SNM Mag debut. You can find out more about her and her published works at:
Path to Sin
“Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It’s been three months since my last confession, and so much has changed since then. I don’t feel like coming here much anymore. My husband is here every Sunday – he’s a good man – but I stopped coming. He didn’t like my decision. We argued about it and he’s not happy, but it’s still my decision.
It’s just everything. The religion, I guess. I was a good girl when I was young and, for most of my life, a dedicated Catholic. But I started feeling different three months ago. Maybe longer. Yes, you could say that: I lost my way. But it’s more than that. I felt a vacuum. I did something blasphemous. In my heart, I told Christ that I hated him. That I wanted him to be gone from my life. That I hated everything he stood for. Goodness, yes, basically. To be good. I didn’t want to be good anymore. I hated goodness, good work, people trying to be good — often failing. No, it wasn’t that. I know the world has a lot of evil in it — I see it on television every day, read it in the papers – but it happens, it has always happened. That’s not it. I just got to a point where I couldn’t ignore the wickedness in myself. I wanted it. Wanted to make it grow. I craved evil. So I went out into the world – the cyber world – to find evil.
My husband knew nothing as I told him nothing about my decision; wasn’t even sure when or how I made the decision. There was no point where old habits stopped and new ones began. It was very gradual. Maybe that first Sunday when I didn’t come to church was the beginning and I didn’t realize it. I simply told him that I felt too sick to go. It wasn’t a lie. I felt that if I had gone to church that day, I would’ve vomited in the pews. Or outside on the front steps. There was a deep revulsion in me I couldn’t quite define.
He told me to rest and to get better. And I did get better after he was gone. But not in the way I expected. I felt a burden lifted when he pulled out of the driveway. I felt at peace, felt joy at not going to church, that I was being blasphemous somehow, and I enjoyed rebelling against my god. I had a wonderful Sunday, knowing I had ignored God.
This happened for two more Sundays. My husband thought I should go to the doctor, wondering why I had felt so sick every Sabbath. I agreed in order to appease him, but I didn’t go to the doctors and I didn’t go to church. It felt wonderful every time.
Finally, on one of the Sundays, as my husband pulled out of the driveway, I immediately went on the computer. I still felt a vacuum and sought to find something to fill it.
I knew it wasn’t God or the church or the rituals of Catholicism. I surfed the web, looking for evil. For what exactly, I wasn’t sure. I would know it when I saw it. My fingers shook, my heart pounded – I could actually hear my heart beating as I typed into the search engine the word ‘Satan’.
I was looking for Satan.
It only made sense once I started looking. I didn’t want God anymore, I wanted his enemy to fill the vacuum in my heart. To find Satan; to get as close to him as I possibly could. I didn’t really believe he existed in a physical form. Spiritually, maybe — in the evil of Mankind and the things people did to each other. But I hoped to find some shred of him somewhere.
I filtered through all of the historical and literary Satan – the fables and fairy tales meant to scare adults and children. I didn’t want a fairy tale. I felt as though my religion had been a fairy tale.
I found a Satanist website. I read their philosophy, their ideals, their goals. They actually sounded sane. They glorified in their humanity, their sexuality, their freedom and the power every human being had just by being born. They didn’t say all people were sinners damned to Hell unless they first bowed down to a cold, dispassionate God.
I had been raised Catholic, baptized, had communion. My tiny, untainted white communion dress made me look and feel as though I was getting married. To my impressionable mind, I was convinced that communion meant I was a little bride of Christ, wearing a wedding dress for my symbolic marriage to my savior, my dead messiah. Becoming his spouse for life, to worship and obey. It made me happy to be married to a god.
With the Satanists, however, I saw just how mad my Catholic upbringing actually was. Satanism was as old as Christianity. And since Christianity became Catholicism from the earliest of times, the Satanists created rites which were inversions of Catholic rites.
The cross hung upside-down; the Our Father and Hail Mary was said backwards; instead of symbolically drinking Christ’s blood and eating his flesh at mass, the Satanists sacrificed a real animal to drink its real blood and eat its flesh during a black mass.
The pentagram replaced the cross, the goat replaced the lamb, black replaced white, the whore replaced the virgin, the forest replaced the cathedral, human beings replaced God. And most of all, the adult bride of Satan replaced the child bride of Christ.
I could be married to a Satanic member spiritually, emotionally and physically – in a black wedding. I spent a few decades of my life married to God, and now I was thinking about spending a few more decades – or the rest of my life – being married to the devil.
All of it was tempting. I craved more blasphemy, more taboo, more evil. Anything the Satanists wanted, I wanted, too. I read about how they had indoctrinated new converts, and my face flushed. Electricity shot through my arms and legs, across my chest, and up the back of my neck. I felt nervous and excited at once.
My clitoris throbbed and I was very wet between my thighs.
Over the next week, I did not betray my new interest to my husband. He suspected nothing. Which made me enjoy my evil more. Secrecy was part of evil. I intentionally told lies, withheld truth, spoke pieces of misinformation into my husband’s ear daily, to give him nothing of my reality. Lies were the wall that I had erected to separate one of my worlds from the other. Eventually, I would choose to live on only one side of that wall. I told him I was going for lunch with a friend when I really met with a Satanist.
I contacted him through the website. He made demands of me. Obscene demands. Requests for personal information. Telling me what he wanted to do to me, how he would control me, own me. I would be his slave by being Satan’s slave. Satan’s and his whore. I sent him nude pictures of myself, sexual pictures, told him my real name, gave him my phone number, heard his dark voice over the phone. He excited me more than anyone ever had. He commanded me to meet him. I did everything he said and felt fear and joy. I felt born again.
At first, he wouldn’t tell me his real name. He said that once indoctrinated into a Satanic coven, a new name would be chosen for him. Just as any woman who enters a convent leaves her old name behind for a new Catholic name. I was to call him Jak. Six feet tall, thin but muscular, black hair down to the middle of his back, a black devil’s goatee, icy blue eyes.
Dressed all in black, black boots laced to his knees, a black shirt and trench coat, while a huge silver pentagram hung down his chest. I was entranced. In fact, I could barely speak; he spoke instead. He wasn’t at all interested in exchanging pedestrian pleasantries. Words were precious – often unnecessary – he knew how to use them, how to command with them. He told me to follow, to stay behind him. He wouldn’t look back to see if I still followed. It was a test to see if I was committed to Satan. And to him.
I followed him, happily obedient, terrified but enthralled. He took me to his home, didn’t look back when he opened his front door. We just entered, climbed the stairs, headed into his black bedroom. Only turned as he began disrobing to see that I had stayed on his heels the whole way.
He stood before me naked. His bed covered in black sheets, a goat’s head pentagram hanging just above the head board, red candles everywhere. He told me to get undressed and to light every candle.
Jak lay on the bed and stroked his penis as he watched me bring flickering light into the room. Thick black drapes blocked out the sunlight. I could no longer tell it was afternoon.
He commanded me, my every step, every movement. Told me how to fuck him. Tightened his rough hand around my neck when I made the smallest mistake. Spat in my mouth. Bit my lips, my neck, my nipples, my labia. I orgasmed multiple times in that room. I was in love. I was in lust. I smiled as I prayed to the goat’s head while riding his cock.
I saw him every day. He possessed me. I told him everything about my life, my childhood, my parents, my church, and my husband. That my past was gone and my new life devoted to Satan was about to begin.
It all happened so fast, but I craved it all so much. I didn’t want to live another day without Jak, without the Black Lord, Baal, Beelzebub, the devil. I wanted to be raped by Satan. Jak said I would be.
Six weeks after we had first had sex – fucked – our marriage ceremony was held. He had already taken me to the Satanic meetings. I happily learned the rites, participated in them all unafraid, craved more. I wanted every day and night to be one long black mass. It was life to me. Anything else that called itself my life – my family, my job, my husband – was nothing, less than nothing. It was a blasphemy to my existence.
My wedding vestments consisted of only a red sheer veil that attached to my hair and reached my ankles. I was essentially naked for all to see, as was the Satanic code. As naked as the day I was born, now being born anew. Red being the color of lasciviousness: my nipples were rouged and my lips painted crimson. Jak wore a red hooded cape, nothing else. Ours would be a marriage based on Satan and sex instead of love and some false god.
My new husband and I vowed to be united in Satan, to adhere to Satanic principles for the rest of our lives. The high priest, who was called Hador, though, of course, that wasn’t his real name, used a ceremonial knife to slit open cuts in my left breast and in Jak’s left pectoral muscle. We tasted each others' blood, then Hador tasted us both. He then drew a pentagram on our foreheads with each other’s blood.
We were laid down on the wide black altar.
The men and women of the coven, all naked beneath their black robes (only the bride and groom were to be dressed in red ) caressed our bodies, kissing us, biting us, as we each pressed a silver pentagram to our chests.
Hador’s penis was made erect by a woman and a man. His priest’s robe was removed. My legs were pushed apart by one of the girls, and she guided Hador’s cock into me.
One of the men lifted Jak’s knees to his chest, exposing his anus. Hador entered both of us in turn until he was ready. Then he walked around the altar to our heads, and ejaculated his semen onto our forehead pentagrams.
We were married.
A goat was led in and strung up by its hind legs. Its throat cut in our honor. We and all the coven members drank its blood from a silver chalice. The dog was then nailed to a life-sized wooden cross stained with years of dried blood. Its hooves nailed and a crown of thorns twisted onto its head to blaspheme the greatest liar of all: Christ. The goat became the demon lord that oversaw our marriage reception. Which was an orgy of sex and blood, wine and drugs, involving all members of the coven.
It was the greatest day of my life.
When I went home, I felt utter hatred for my husband. I lied to him about where I had been. I loved my lies. It felt like a thick cloud falling onto me. Boredom. Disgust at a ‘normal’ life, a life of religious goodness, of a bland marriage.
My hatred for him grew by the minute. I went to bed early so as not to look at him anymore, or hear his voice, smell his stench. When he crawled into bed with me, I stayed close to the edge of the bed, away from his body, pretending to sleep.
Waiting for morning to come when he would go to work and leave me alone. My existence at home was now the false life – my life with Satan was the true, ultimate reality.
My hatred gave me headaches, made me fidget and pace about the house, scratch at my arms and legs. I wasn’t free, and I felt it physically.
I told Jak. We planned. We consulted Hador and the coven. They helped us design a plan that would free me to fully be with my new husband and Satan. The coven would keep me blameless if the cops came questioning.
I told them all of my husband’s personal information: where he worked, what his schedule was, when he came home. I was to visit a friend – one of the female coven members. She and I and Jak would fuck while members of the coven broke into my house and killed my husband. I gave them my house key. They would steal some valuables and paint a pentagram on the walls with my husband’s blood.
Good. I wanted him dead so badly that I couldn’t sleep until the deed was done. I hoped that he would fool around on me – something many husbands did when they became bored with their wives. But he was a good man, a faithful man. Which made me desire his murder even more so. Even if he fucked another man – that would be a good enough excuse to be rid of him. But he was too good, and would never change. I hated goodness.
The girl, Minot (not her real name; I can give you no real names, father.) She and I had gone to a bar and had drinks. We dressed sexy enough to be remembered by witnesses, but not slutty. Slutty could too easily link back to me when the cops came questioning: was I becoming a lesbian who wanted her husband out of the way in order to be with my lover? Was I trying to fool around on my husband by getting picked up in a bar? Did I have a secret life which I was willing to kill for to keep it protected? The coven thought of every potential cop question and made sure my activities wouldn’t arouse any suspicion.
Then we went back to Minot’s place where Jak met us. We all fucked. I had never been with another woman before I met Jak, but now I loved it. Open sexuality, complete bi-sexuality, was part of Satanism. I used Minot’s computer to buy a cook book. No suspicious literature, nothing Satanic, just something bland domestic and womanly. I used my credit card to ensure a paper trail that could be linked to me in a certain location at a certain time, irrefutable evidence I was not home when the murder happened.
The coven killed him quickly. Entered through the back door with my key. Slit the bastard’s throat. He died quickly. The coven wouldn’t take their time with this kill. In and out, making as little noise as possible, leaving their bloody calling card on the walls. They locked the door behind them, then smashed it open, knowing that the cops would be looking for signs of forced entry. They returned my key to me and assured me they had made it look like a break-in. They told me about the blood message on the walls.
Very few murders happen these days with Satanic connections, so the police should be left confused for a long time.
I stayed the night with Minot and Jak, then Jak went home as Minot and I went to brunch. Used my credit card to pay for the meal. The murdering coven had burned their bloody clothes, gloves, masks, boots. I braced myself for the beautiful horror I would see when I went back home. Told myself not to laugh at my husband’s corpse, not to cheer that he was dead. Somehow, I would have to force tears when I called the police.
It was beautiful. The coven did a magnificent job. His neck was a gaping maw; they almost severed his entire head. I wanted to rip it off completely and smash it against every photograph of he and I we had. I wanted to splash his blood over our wedding photos and tear them to shreds.
But I had to keep up my role as a shocked and grieving widow.
I tasted my husband’s blood then stuck a finger down my throat to vomit on him. The police would assume that this was a reaction of horror at his gruesome death, not one of disgust of his putrid life.
I feigned panic as I called 911. Ran up and down the stairs to bring a fresh sweat to my face, put my hands in the freezer of the refrigerator – I was hot and cold. Plucked out nose hairs to start the flow of tears.
I ran out onto the front lawn and huddled on the front step curled in a fetal position for when the police and ambulance came. I couldn’t speak, erupted into crying and hysterics – what normal people expect when they come to the rescue. I gave them what they expected, so any suspicion was waylaid to rest.
The paramedics covered me up with a blanket, gave me a pill to help calm me, felt my forehead and hands. Hot and cold. I shook uncontrollably, and made eye contact with no one – managed to give myself a thousand-yard stare into nothingness – mumbled to myself while remaining incoherent. The perfect grieving widow. I wanted to laugh so badly, but I maintained control.
The police drove me to Minot’s apartment. I told them that my parents were dead, I had no other family, and that Minot was my best friend. She took me in, pretended to be as horrified as I was at the news. Gave me sanctuary away from the horrors of my house.
The police entered to examine the scene of the crime. But they couldn’t effectively question me since I was so upset, so their questions stopped.
When they were gone, Minot and I toasted with a bottle of champagne that had been saved for that moment. Jak came over and we all celebrated with a good, long, hard fuck.
My false marriage was dead and now my real marriage could truly begin. I received my husband’s life insurance money. I sold the house (too many horrific memories) and later moved in with Jak. The police investigation remained open, unsolved. They believed my innocence, so they soon left me alone. The grieving widow, blameless – her alibi confirmed, her credit cards checked. I loved my happy, good husband, after all – why would I want him dead? He and I were both members of a godly church in good standing. All who knew us said that we were happy.
And so finally, I lived the life I wanted. The coven protected me. They had done me a great favor. But I owed them. The killing members involved had to stay underground for a while, into various cult safe houses scattered across the country. I said I would do anything to repay them.
They knew about my past, of course. My Catholicism. I had rid myself of an old marriage for a new one. So now I had to rid myself of an old faith for my new one.
I thought to myself, “Jak and Jil went up a hill to fetch a pail of sin. Who knows what they would kill, but they’re sure as Hell God would never win.”
They gave me a gun with a silencer. They had connections. They planned for me, told me what to do to prove my loyalty, and to pay back the coven. Said that once the deed was done, my debt to them was paid. And that I and Jak would be moved to a safe house – Minot, too if she wanted to come – traveling to a different country under false passports.
The cult was everywhere, like the Catholic church and it would never give up one of its faithful. All accommodations would be made to protect us. This last act of faith – of Satanic faith – would solidify and heighten my status in the cult.
I have only to shoot and I am a demon goddess for the Dark Lord. The lord of my life. Whom I will obey and cherish all of my days until I and my husband meet Him in Hell.
While I have been confessing, father, I have opened my shirt and exposed my breasts for you. I don’t know if you have seen them. You priests are known for your perversions. I have the ceremonial knife with me and I have used it to cut open my skin, let my blood drip.
My DNA is in no databank, so I fear nothing. With the blood of my breast, I have also drawn a pentagram on the walls of this confessional box. Leaving my coven’s calling cards so there is no mistake about who did the following.
I have a gun here pulled from my purse, cold in my warm hand.
Forgive me, father, for I am sin…”
Rob Bliss makes his harrowing debut here at SNM Mag. He has been or will soon be published in Schlock Webzine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, and 69 Flavours of Paranoia Magazine. Rob hails from Canada, commands a degree in English and Writing and is hard at work on more horror stories and finishing up two novels.
E. Cluff Elliot
Heading home from Grandma’s house, their bellies full of mashed potatoes, roast beef and corn, the Connells stopped at a small gas station along the way.
Dad said something Bernice didn’t quite catch, as he got out of the car and headed inside. Mom remained in the passenger seat, looking over the headrest with care in her eyes and love in her smile. Bernice, only a few months from turning four, sat on her booster in the back seat, holding a Raggedy Ann doll with both hands. She sang the “My Little Pony” theme, yet with different words, her own. Her voice, on the other hand, was that of Raggedy Ann’s, a high-pitched soprano that seemed almost inaudible.
“Those are pretty words,” her mother said.
Bernice looked past the doll. “It’s a pretty song.”
The driver door opened and Bernice’s father plopped back inside carrying a large paper bag. He stashed the bag behind his seat and closed the door, ready to go.
“You’re going to have to start drinking a different kind of wine; this Merkin crap’s twenty bucks a bottle. I spent twenty on mine and got enough to last me till the end of the week.”
“Somehow I doubt that, Larry.” There was a sigh in her voice; the same kind of sigh that Bernice heard when her mom had enough of her current behavior.
Her dad huffed. “That’s coming from a woman who can’t go to bed without a tall glass of wine to cool her nerves. And don’t think I haven’t noticed, because I have.”
“I don’t have to explain my drinking habits to you. I am a grown woman. I have a job. I do my own taxes…”
As Bernice’s dad started the car and took the Connell family out to the Toll way on-ramp, Bernice tried to ignore her parents. It was not an easy task. First, she put down her Raggedy Ann doll and picked up a coloring book from the seat next to her. She only had three crayons in the car, all of which nestled beneath her feet where they had fallen shortly after leaving Grandma’s house. She tried to reach them, but unless her arm grew another foot in the next few minutes, it would never reach. She finally gave up.
“So, you take care of everything by yourself now, or do you still have the pool boy drop by once a week to service your...water? Or is it the mailman this time?”
“Larry, you know damn well I'm not seeing anybody.”
They sounded mad. Bernice’s mom sounded as though she might be on the edge of tears.
Bernice fought hard to ignore her parents, inspecting the stack of kid’s stuff piled on the seat next to her. She found a couple books previously hidden by the coloring book, her Mr. Men and Little Miss Books. There were only a few in the car; the rest at home.
At home, however, she owned the entire collection, some of which belonged to her parents when they were kids. Those ones were mostly kept on high shelves where she couldn’t reach them. She reached over, plucked up the closest book and settled back into her car seat.
In the front seat, Bernice’s mom tried to change the subject, deftly switching topics as if she were dealing with her patients back at the hospital. The technique, designed to preoccupy the patient’s mind with an unrelated subject in order to help keep uncontrollable emotions controllable, was one she used on Bernice a time or two. The object in those cases happened to be something small, perhaps a cookie or toy. In this case, it was different. Bernice knew how mean her father could be.
“I thought you said we were going to the mall for cookies?”
Merging onto the tollway, Bernice’s father ignored the question and moved to the car into the far left lane.
“Are we going to get some cookies, or are you going to break yet another promise to your daughter?”
Bernice opened her book and flipped to the first page. Mr. Grumpy, a blue, rectangular fellow with a top hat and a dour expression, stood in front of Mr. Daydream who was deep in one of his special moments. Mr. Grumpy asked Mr. Daydream what he was doing
“Daydreaming,” Mr. Daydream answered.
On the next page, Bernice saw Mr. Grumpy’s dour expression quirk into strong concern as he professed the nonsense behind Mr. Daydream’s daydream.
Something as fickle as the imagination made no sense to Mr. Grumpy, and seeing someone entertaining the idea made him feel, well, grumpy.
Bernice’s father was like that; he always had something to scold her for, and he never seemed happy unless he was drinking what her mom called Ginger Juice.
Bernice’s mom folded her arms and gazed out the passenger window. “I don’t know what I was thinking; you have your beer for the night, so why would you be interested in a little public interaction? Obviously, a cheap buzz is better than taking your daughter out for cookies. When was the last time you had a cookie, Larry? Do you even remember what cookies taste like? Or has the beer killed all your taste buds?”
Ranting on, her mom reminded Bernice of a book, not in the car but at home on a bookshelf: Little Miss Chatterbox. In the book, some of the other Mr. Men and Little Miss characters invited Miss Chatterbox to watch a movie one night, but Miss Chatterbox couldn’t keep quiet, so she was asked to leave. Miss Chatterbox later learned to stay quiet and everything was okay, but Bernice wondered if the same would be true for her mom.
In the mind of Bernice Connell, something unique happened; her perceptions about her parents had changed. Her father, obtuse, and so much like the character in the book on her lap, became Mr. Grumpy. He wore the same clothes, his white work shirt bulged over the top of his thick frame, but underneath those, his skin began to turn blue as his body began to enlarge and flatten into a rectangle. Completing his change, a small lopsided top hat appeared out of nowhere. In the next seat over, her mother underwent a similar change; her body plumped to resemble a purple dome as her hair clumped together, dangling at either side of her swollen face in two blond pigtails. Like her father’s metamorphosis into Mr. Grumpy, her mother had become Miss Chatterbox.
Their transformation made Bernice giggle but seeing how angry the two of them were she decided to keep her entertainment to herself.
“Are you even listening to me, Larry,” asked Miss Chatterbox, almost turning into Miss Bossy as her voice boomed through the car.
Mr. Grumpy was silent before it did something Bernice would never forget: he reached across the car and backhanded Miss Chatterbox.
Bernice’s giggles disappeared as she and Miss Chatterbox screamed in unison, one in pain and the other a witness to the pain.
Mr. Grumpy’s dour expression transformed into the hurtful glower Mr. Mean wore when rampaging through town. Then the transformation spread, morphing his body to resemble the mood he felt. His skin turned red and plumped at the edges, giving him a round appearance. Accordingly, his green top hat darkened into black and he focused on Miss Chatterbox.
“I’ve heard enough, so the less you talk the better, got it? You might have gotten away with that kind of attitude before today, but not anymore.”
Bernice waited for Mr. Mean to look back at her, perhaps send some of his hostility her way, but he didn’t. Instead, he became more intent on the road ahead of them.
“Does your girlfriend feel the same way?”
“I told you, I’ve heard enough, Gina! I’ve paid my dues! I repented my ways. At the very least I assumed you forgave me. So why the hell are you bringing up the past like this?”
“Flowers and an apology note doesn’t quite count, you pathetic jackass.”
Like a lightening bolt, Mr. Mean’s arm reached across the car a second time and connected with the side of Miss Chatterbox’s face, breaking the skin and making a two-inch gash across her cheek. Then, with the same hand, Mr. Mean reached behind his seat, pulled out a can of Ginger Juice and popped the top as if nothing had happened.
Bernice leaned forward, trying to see Miss Chatterbox’s face, but the headrest blocked her view. “Are you okay?”
There was no answer.
Bernice repeated the question.
“Are you going to answer your daughter?” His voice was flat, perhaps restrained by the effects of the drink in his hand, but that never lasted long; Mr. Mean’s routine of spite, hate, and anger wouldn’t allow it.
Through the open space between the headrest and the seat, Bernice watched Miss Chatterbox shy away as Mr. Mean raised his hand again.
“I’M FINE; I’m fine, baby girl.” As she spoke, a sniffling sound wound its way around her words, seeming to drench their meaning in tortuous undertones that made Bernice want to cry.
She knew Miss Chatterbox was in pain, a fact that made her want to cry, but she tried to restrain herself. If she couldn’t keep quiet, Mr. Mean might start swinging at her. She instead focused on something she could do. She strained to see the loving look that would bring some comfort to her otherwise disjointed world, a dark and spiteful world. It did not come.
Instead, the hand of doom came down and made a thwacking sound somewhere out of sight. Little Miss Chatterbox seemed to hold a scream in, changing her skin from purple to blue as if she were choking on something. Her blond pigtails vanished and she seemed to sprout lengths of bandages that covered her injuries of their own accord.
Completing her metamorphoses back into Little Miss Whoops, she filled the car with a pained yell, leaning toward the center of the car and doubling over.
“Tell your daughter, not me,” said Mr. Mean, sipping Ginger juice and seeming not to notice the moans of pain coming from the passenger seat beside him.
With great care and a concern never before seen by Bernice, Little Miss Whoops turned to face her daughter.
Bernice gasped at what she saw. On the right side of Whoop’s face, her mascara smeared in high arches where she’d rubbed at her tears, coloring her blue skin with a dark mocha. On the left however, her mascara smeared down to mingle with a thick coating of blood still oozing from the open wound on her cheek. It was enough to make Bernice’s stomach turn.
Miss Whoops attempted to smile but the sight of her disheveled lips turning into a grin seemed to make the image worse. Dried blood cracked and flaked around the edges of her wound. A bandage moved to expose the bruised skin around her eye making her look like a raccoon or a Loris out for an evening prowl but Miss Whoop’s eyes looked far from happy. Instead she looked dismal, dejected.
“It will be okay, darling. Don’t worry about me; I’ll be fine, okay? You understand, baby girl?”
Bernice nodded and, for a moment it seemed as though it might even be true, but it was still hard to believe.
Mr. Mean laughed and finished off his first can of Ginger Juice before pulling out a second. “See, now was that so hard?”
Stifling her sobs, Miss Whoops said, “What happened to you, Larry? When we first got together you never would’ve started drinking on the road. And we may have yelled at one another but you’ve never hit me. So, what’s changed?” Her voice sounded sympathetic, comforting, the same way she talked to Bernice after she scraped her knee or bumped her head.
“It’s ten p.m., Gina; I doubt the cops are going to notice me drinking.”
“Your daughter certainly will! Do you think drinking in front of her is such a great idea? Do you want her to grow up needing a closed fist just to feel loved?” Little Miss Whoops straightened the more she spoke, regaining confidence despite her wounded body, and regaining some of her previous Miss Chatterbox attitude.
Mr. Mean went ridged, seeming to dwell on each accusatory word. “You better back off, Gina.”
“Or what, Larry? Are you going to hit me again to show our daughter how a REAL man does it?”
“What’s stopping me?”
“You’re incredible,” Miss Whoops said, sounding amused. “First you have an affair with Miss Nineteen-and-still-wets- the-bed, and now you’re going to sink even lower by making the wife-beater part of your permanent wardrobe.”
“So, you’re still stuck on the cheating thing? That was two months ago, Gina,” he said with a laugh, before gulping down more beer. “Nothing has happened since then. And if you weren’t such a heartless bitch, you’d see I deserve a little more respect for my efforts.”
“What efforts, Larry?”
“I bring home the money,” Mr. Mean said as if that was just about the most obvious fact in the world.
Miss Whoops shook her head, settling back and brooding in silence.
Mr. Mean’s arm shot across the car and collided with the left side of Miss Whoops's face a split second before the sound of a loud crack erupted through the car. Just after the first crack, a second followed and her head connected with the passenger window, fracturing the pane with a crunch. The sounds made Bernice feel sick as her gut twisted with a bitter gurgle, forcing the taste of vomit to momentarily take up residence in her mouth. She did not vomit, but gagged on her nausea.
Miss Whoops tried to cry out, but the terrified plea fighting to escape her lips only came out as a dull mumble. There were words in that plea, unintelligible ones but words all the same, desperate for peace and delirious with pain.
Mr. Mean flexed his right hand. “Don’t you ever shake your head at me that way again, do you understand me? I’ve put up with you for far too long. You whine, you cry, you mope about everything.” Mr. Mean’s voice changed into a high squeal, rising in pitch until it was almost cartoonish. “‘You always want meatloaf and you know I hate eating meatloaf,’ or ‘Your beer cans are messing up my end tables,’ there’s always something, Gina.”
The vocal rendition pierced Bernice’s ears and brought tears to her eyes. She hated hearing Mr. Mean yell; he scared her.
“You know what, Dr. Connell?” asked Mr. Mean, adopting his previous contempt. “I think it’s time for us to switch roles for a session; you know? The same way you make your patients switch roles in marriage counseling. In the construction world — the world of men, I might add — switching roles is a common thing, like attending your stupid self-help classes. Sometimes a worker will start on with a dry walling outfit, and before you know it he’s traded up the ladder and found his way into insulation or roofing. See where I’m going with this? I think we should try that same method and see where it goes. What do you think, baby-girl? Do you want to see how much I hate you? Do you want to see things from my side of the mirror?”
Miss Whoops moaned, trying to talk through her muffled cry, but her words fell into obscurity behind closed lips.
Mr. Mean laughed and then leaned back, relaxing his right arm between the two front seats creating a bridge of living flesh between the headrests. “Oh yeah, you don’t have much to say, do you?”
Miss Whoops whimpered.
“No, I didn’t think so. I guess it’s a good thing that I plan on showing you anyway. And as bad as things are, I think you’re going to like what I show you. In fact, I know you will.”
Bernice grabbed the bridge, making contact the only way she knew how by replicating the violence she was observing. Her desperate attempt, however, only turned the monster in her direction. He wasn’t bleeding or crying the way Miss Whoops was — which was frightening enough — but the empty gleam in his eyes had scared Bernice. It scared her the same way certain strangers had scared her upon first glance; the same kind of strangers whose smiles seem long and deceiving. It was as if Mr. Mean was a shell, an empty husk with doll-like eyes and plastic between its ears: emotionless.
Mr. Mean grabbed Bernice’s hand, squeezing until the pressure from his grip made her cringe. The two of them locked eyes for a long moment then he threw her arm to the side, hard enough where the cringe turned into a sharp pain, making her scream.
“Stay the hell out of this, you sniveling little brat, or I’ll knock you out, too.”
Tears streaming down her cheeks, Bernice cradled her arm as she shrank away from Mr. Mean.
Ahead of them, the tollway interchange loomed on the horizon like the arms of an octopus, reaching out in huge arcs that spanned over east and westbound traffic. Between each arm, towering light poles illuminated everything beneath their glow. On a normal night, Bernice would be glad to recognize those lights because that meant they were less than ten minutes from home.
But not tonight. Tonight, they brightened the interchange, as if the arms of the octopus might retract its tentacles and eat them alive. That was absurd, Bernice knew, but she couldn’t help manifesting the image.
Mr. Mean then turned back toward his prey, grinning with a malevolent look of savagery. “Now, where were we? Oh yeah, you want to see life from my side of the fence. Well, tonight’s your lucky night.”
Miss Whoops coward in the passenger seat, making sniffling sounds that resembled a draining sink coupled with a whipped dog.
“No, no,” Mr. Mean teased, “don’t say anything; I know that cracked jaw is probably pretty painful without any drugs, so we’ll keep this brief. We just have to reach the right spot. Aww, here we go…”
Watching Mr. Mean crack open another can of Ginger Juice, Bernice felt the car move to the right, toward the northbound interchange. Half way across, directly over westbound traffic, Mr. Mean hit the brake and parked the Toyota on the left shoulder. It was wide enough to keep the small car out of harm’s way, but the buffer zone between the two was enough Bernice could feel the car sway with each passing threat.
Mr. Mean did something out of view and a soft click-click, click-click joined the radio as The Beatles started playing ‘Love Me Do.’ With all the commotion since leaving Grandma’s, Bernice forgot the radio was even on; the song seemed alien but, at the same time, it touched a part of her that seemed to reinforce the idea that the worst was over.
In the front seat, Miss Whoops swayed, her eyes fluttering as if she might faint.
Mr. Mean caught her, cradling her weight with one arm and shoving his door open with the other. “Easy there, Little Miss Tipsy,” he mocked, proceeding to pull her over the center console catching her pants on the emergency brake lever before yanking her free and forcing Miss Whoops out of the car.
Mr. Mean had more to say, but because of the distance between them, Bernice only heard an unintelligible drone. And short of climbing from her seat, a big no-no under any circumstance, she knew that wouldn’t change.
Instead, she contented herself as an observer, stretching to keep Mr. Mean and Little Miss Whoops within her sight. As she watched, something happened: Mr. Mean and Miss Whoops reverted into her parents once again, shedding their cartoonish persona and disowning their awful behavior as if it were the skin of a snake.
Bernice smiled, happy to at last see her parents hugging and embracing as they moved further from the car. She imagined her father begging for forgiveness as her mother wept on his shoulder, bathing his western style cowboy shirt in sweet tears of resolution. They were in love when Bernice imagined what they were saying, and that was enough for her.
Glancing down, Bernice noticed her mother’s camera sitting among her toys and books. She knew she wasn’t suppose to touch it, not without her mom’s help, but she had an idea her mom would let her slid this time. Straining against her seatbelt, she snatched the camera and started fiddling with its buttons.
For a heart breaking moment, Bernice faltered, unable to make the camera do what she wanted. But in the end, she hit the right button and the shutter clicked open with a whine of gears.
Pleased with the noise, Bernice smiled and aimed the camera. The first picture she snapped looked as though her mother was in mid-flight, back arched with her arms spread wide. Below her, Bernice’s father looked poised to catch his partner. It was a stunning photo.
In the second picture, almost a complete contrast to the first, Mr. Connell stood on the concrete barricade above westbound traffic.
Facing his daughter with an expression of uncontrollable glee, his right arm created a right angle as he waved to the camera.
Bernice lowered the camera. She looked around, searching, but saw no one; her parents were gone. Would they be back? Of course, they would. They were her parents and they loved her.
Why wouldn’t they be back?
Picking up her Raggedy Ann, Bernice began to hum as sirens approached. She was excited to show off her new pictures, but she was satisfied to wait for her parents to return.
Cluff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea...no we're just kidding. E.Cluff Elliot is a freelance writer based in Farmington, New Mexico. He started writing when he was 23 (his magic number and wedding anniversary.) From there it grew into an insatiable urge to create. Since then, his journey had been a slow one, but worthwhile. He has earned an Honorable Mention from the Writer’s Digest 78th Annual Competition. Now, his debut story “Picture Perfect” will be published in SNM Mag alongside with another story “Conspiracy" with TheWiFiles.com, both in June.
E. Cluff Elliot