*We publish a new issue bi-monthly on the 1st of the month. We are here on behalf of the interest of the writers to promote them on a consistent basis. We will feature 8 new short stories every issue. Thank you and enjoy the Feb/Mar issue of SNM.
Open themed for previously published SNM authors.
“You smell like smoke,” Mike said, his face in my neck as I straddled him while removing my shirt. I didn’t answer. His clumsy hands struggled with my black bra as I stared, hating him but loving the sex, even when it wasn’t that good. With Mike, it never was.
We’d been together for about two weeks and it was always the same. Me initiating and Mike feebly fumbling with my bra like he was cracking a safe. Guys, it’s not that hard. Bras aren’t that difficult to operate and all mine were simple. It should’ve been an easy one-handed job for every male on the planet, but for some reason it was impossible for Mike. If you can unlock a door, you can unhook a bra. It isn’t brain surgery.
With two stuttering hands, he finally got it undone and my full, round breasts fell less than an inch from his mouth.
I wanted to come, needed to, but that wasn’t going to happen with Mike. Neither his tongue, fingers or dick could get the job done. If I wanted to come with him, I had to finger myself while I rode him. And on top of all his performance flaws, he just had to make a “you smell like smoke” comment. It was at least the tenth time he’d made that comment. Bad news for Mike.
I still wanted to fuck, but I could barely look at him. I adjusted myself on top of him, since he could never quite find it himself, and he slid in. I was half-tempted to spin around so we could still do it and I wouldn’t have to look at him. He moaned and I threw my head back. An act, but he bought it -- they all did. They all thought they were the best ever. Sadly, they had no idea. My hand was the best. The second best had been a girl. The third had been a married guy with plenty of experience. Mike, like most of the guys, didn’t know shit. Still, I needed something.
I tossed my head so my hair tickled his chest and, right then and there, the son-of-a-bitch said it again.
“Your hair smells like smoke.”
Strike two already and he’d only been inside me for all of thirty seconds. That, coupled with him not being good at sex, really pissed me off. It takes a lot for me to give up on sex. Whiskey dick, a two pump chump, or a fatherly figure is about it. After failing rule number 2, I’d just about had it. So I let him have it, snapping at him.
“Look,” I said. “I smoke. You know I smoke. Get over it or I’ll get off of it. Got it?”
His eyes widened at my outburst.
“Fine,” he groaned. “Forget it.”
I continued to ride him. He pawed at my tanned breasts. For once, it actually didn’t feel that bad. Then he moved his hands to my shoulders and thrust up. From my shoulders, his hands crept up to my hair and he started to pull me down, a fistful right at the root. The sensation drove me crazy.
Had he been reading books on pleasing women? It sure seemed like it. A very pleasant surprise. He tugged hard and my neck jerked. It felt great with him inside of me. I balanced myself atop him and fingered myself with the other.
I finally came. Mostly from my own finger, but the hair pulling definitely didn’t slow down the orgasmic wave. My entire body shuddered and the arm keeping my balance twitched and strained as I felt that sweet tug on my hair.
Mike smiled dumbly up at me while the orgasm rocked my body. In either the heat of passion or pure stupidity, I leaned my head forward and kissed him hard on the mouth, darting my tongue in. He returned the kiss for a second then released me.
“Your mouth tastes like an ashtray,” he said.
This pretty much led to me being the most pissed off I’ve ever been. The look I gave him shattered his newfound sexual confidence. I was amazed at how fast Mike could drive me from pleasure to rage. I’m beautiful and I just let this little slimeball fuck me, and he’s not even my fucking boyfriend. He has no right to talk to me that way. I made up my mind right then.
Mike was going to die.
I was still on the top, so I began to grind away against him. He’d gone soft inside me, but I could feel it growing again. I rode him with porn star grace. Each time his timid hands touched me, I brushed them off.
When he tried to change positions, I slapped his hands away. He relented each time. He was a weak pussy. A real man would’ve flipped me, maybe hit me back, and I would’ve let him. But not Mike. He squeezed my tits again and started to moan aloud. When I saw him coming, saw him defenseless, I started slapping him in the face with my fists, opened palms and even nails. I wondered what that felt like, ejaculating when your nose was splattered against the side of your face. All pleasure? All pain? A twisted concoction of both? I wasn’t sure.
My fists didn’t stop until the purple satin sheets were black with red blood. He barely fought back. My fists didn’t kill him, but my hands did. I hit him until he passed out and once he was out, my hands circled his throat. After all the comments about smoking, I laughed as his lungs failed him. Killing him felt good, even better than the last couple. I could clean this up and make it all go away and then disappear like I had in the past. No problem. I was getting good at this.
But first, my craving was kicking and I needed a fix. Before I put my shirt back on, I took a towel to sink and mirror and wiped off the blood. It was mostly on my hands and my face. I licked a few splats off my lips and my body almost rocked with another orgasm. Wearing only my skirt with nothing underneath, and tasting the dead man’s blood on my lips, I let my fingers head south. I came hard standing up.
After crashing down I got back up on shaky legs. I had all day to clean this up, and it wouldn’t be hard, but first I needed a cigarette. Some people say that the best cigarette is after a meal. That’s bullshit. Some people say the best cigarette is after sex. That’s bullshit. The best cigarette is after the kill.
In Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi said that members of the Manson family slept, satisfied for days after Cielo Drive and the LaBiancas. Susan Adkins and Leslie Van Houten were a couple of my favorites, and God I sure hope they enjoyed a cigarette before they passed out.
My lighter flared on the porch and I lit my Camel. What a day.
As I pulled on the heater and scrolled through my phone, I heard a tired voice.
“Would you mind putting that out, miss?”
My initial reaction was to tell the voice to fuck off and die. But it was just the old man who lived next door to me.
When I looked away from him, he gestured at my cigarette. “That smoking. It’ll kill you.”
“Maybe. A meteor could fly out of the sky and kill me at any second too. So could an undiagnosed illness. I’m well aware of the risks.”
“So why don’t you put it out?”
“Because I don’t have to. And I don’t want to. It’s my right as an American to smoke if I want to.”
“But it’s going to kill you,” he said.
I lost it. Again. “And just how do you know that it’s going to kill me? You got a crystal ball? If anyone’s gonna die, you old fuck, it’s you.”
“You young people are so rude.”
“And how so? You come over here and tell me to quit doing something perfectly legal in my own home and yet I’m the rude one?”
I was pissed. No doubt I’d kill him in broad daylight if I could get away with it, but a cop lived adjacent from me. Front yard murder is always a bad idea.
“Well Miss, a lot of people don’t appreciate the second-hand smoke and all that, and are sensitive to it.”
This motherfucker just pushed my hot button.
“Okay, Mr. Weatherby,” I said.
“I’m Mr. Sampson.”
“Now just a minute, young lady-”
“Or better yet,” I interrupted, “why don’t you tell me where I can smoke without being accosted because it’s apparently not inside my own home.”
The old man staggered and his whiskered face twitched. Red flushed his cheeks under his white beard. They puffed out. He obviously wasn’t anticipating an argument. Stupid old fuck. What did he expect? That I’d just hand it over and be like, “you’re right and thank you so much for saving my life, my kind savior.” Bastard didn’t know me at all.
“Have I ever come to your house and told you what to do? What food to eat? What pills to take? Or what books to read? No. Fuck no. And I never would. That, Mr. Sampson, is the essence of rudeness. So yeah, please, leave me the fuck alone and I’ll leave you alone.”
Sampon’s mouth dropped open like an elevator with the cables cut.
“Now you listen here…” he started.
“It’s cold out here. Tell you what -- I’ll put this out if we can finish this talk inside,” I said.
I took one last hit of that post-sex, post-murder cigarette and savored it. Mr. Sampson, somehow thinking he could still convince me about the evils of smoking, climbed the concrete steps. I admired his passion and conviction, but I was still going to kill him.
I held the door open as he waddled his way inside.
“My wife died of lung cancer, missy, and I saw what she went through, and forgive me for trying to keep you from the same fate.”
I’d figured something like this was coming. When you live to be 80, people you know have probably died in just about every possible way, from shotgun suicides to car crashes. People become passionate when they lose a loved one. I even saw the sadness in his eyes. I considered hearing him out and letting him go, but then he said it.
“It smells like smoke in here.”
I grabbed a brass candle holder from the end table by the door and clobbered him across the skull, knocking him unconscious. Now, I usually don’t do this sort of thing with this sort of people, but Mr. Sampson had burrowed deep under my skin.
I dragged his elderly body onto a chair. I duct taped his hands to the arms and his legs to the chair’s legs. It was a high-backed chair. I put tape around his chin and forehead to hold his cranium in place.
I was going to teach him a lesson about smelling like smoke.
I drank my beer and sat directly across from Mr. Sampson, waiting for him to open his eyes. I was on my second beer when they fluttered open. As soon as I saw the first twitch, I lit a cigarette and blew smoke into his face. His eyes snapped open and he stared at me, trying to figure out where he was and what was going on.
“I don’t know how long it will take you to figure it out, you old fuck, but I was minding my own business, smoking a cig on my front porch, and you would have lived the rest of your life in your stupid garden or watching the History Channel or doing whatever shit that old fucks like you do. But you had the nerve to tell me to put out my cig. And that pissed me off. That’s bad for you.”
“Help!” he screamed, though his voice was weak. “Somebody help me. She’s going to torture me!”
I pulled the smoke from my lips and put it out on the index fingernail of his right hand. He screamed.
“Every time you scream for help,” I said lighting up another cigarette, “I’ll put one of these out on you. Understand?”
“You’re crazy,” he muttered, but he didn’t scream. His sad old eyes sat deep in his doughy skin. He coughed as I blew smoke into his face.
“Is this how you thought you'd die, Mr. Sampson?” I asked.
He shook his head no.
“I didn’t think so,” I said. “It’s never what we think it is, is it?”
He shook his head again.
“Maybe this will teach you a lesson then. I’ll show you why I’m not scared one bit of lung cancer,” I said.
“But. But…” he started and trailed off.
“I’m done talking to you, Mr. Sampson,” I said.
“What? You’re crazy.”
“Yeah, yeah, shut up.”
“All I’m trying to do is help you!”
“Have you ever seen somebody do this?” I asked, lighting a second cigarette and blowing the smoke into his face. “Smoke two at once? It’s my specialty.”
I put both cigarettes in the ashtray, letting them smolder some. Smoke dragons billowed up toward the ceiling.
He began to sleep, but I slapped him silent. “I told you. I’m done talking to you.”
I got up and grabbed the roll of duct tape. His body strained, atrophied muscles struggling to free themselves. I laughed. I ran the duct tape several times around his mouth, leaving only his nose free. His eyes bugged out. Pure terror.
“I’ll bet when I’m done with you, Mr. Sampson, you’ll wish you’d died of lung cancer years ago.” With the pointed cherries of both cigarettes flaring volcano orange, I jammed them, burnt ends, up the old man’s nostrils.
“Hey, can you smell that? Does it smell like smoke?” I asked, laughing. I could hear the ends sizzling on the tender flesh of his nose, could smell burning nose hair. He fought for a desperate breath and sucked the hot cherries even deeper into his nasal passages. Then I pinched his nose shut while the cherries burned and he suffocated.
I’ll bet that felt a lot like lung cancer, I thought as I watched. I was proud of my creativity.
It took him a long time to die.
Earlier that day, I thought that a post-murder cigarette was the best ever. Now I know for sure, that the best cigarette is the one you smoke while you’re watching someone die.
I made a mental note to try this again.
I walked to the store to buy more suds and smokes. I usually didn’t smoke two packs a day, but hell, I usually didn’t kill two people a day, either. I need more of both.
The clean, crisp air outside felt great. I turned. A car was pulling into the driveway.
I waved to him with a cigarette in my hand, figuring that was more innocent than waving with a beer in my hand.
He waved back; made his way over to me. He sat down next to me and I offered him one of the three beers left in the six pack I’d brought out.
He grabbed one, twisted the top and downed almost half of it.
“Rough day?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Yeah, me too. Want a beer?"
"Um...sure, why not."
"Here you go."
“You smoking?” he asked.
“Yeah...” I said hesitantly.
He grunted. “I used to smoke years ago, but I quit.”
I nodded, narrowing my eyes.
I got up. “It's cold out here. Want to come inside for a bit?”
He looked surprised. He looked at me. Looked at my breasts then the beer. Looked over to his house. He finally nodded and pursed his lips.
“Sure,” he said draining the last of his beer. “Why the hell not?”
I opened the door and he followed me inside.
Squinting my eyes, I closed the door behind him.
It was going to be a long night of cleaning house…
Kerry Lipp is a wannabe writer, working very hard to drop the wannabe part. He teaches English at a community college by evening and writes horrible things by night. He hates the sun. His parents recently started reading his stories and it appears that he is now out of the will. Kerry's work will be featured in several anthologies in early 2013 including “War Is Hell” from Cruentus Libri Press and “DOA 2” from Blood Bound Books. He’s also constantly working on new short stories and a novel. He makes his long awaited return to SNM Mag after two years.
Making of a Monster
Praying over Amanda’s tombstone, I listened to whispers in the wind. Thinking of her skin and how she smelled of lavender. My heart ached. The love of my life gone, murdered, and I wanted to die.
Invite me in.
Our first date was amazing, dinner, dancing, lots of wine. It was the first time I’d opened up to another person. I think it was the wine. Standing on the stoop in front of my apartment, Amanda asked if I would invite her in. She didn’t want it to end, either. We sat on the floor drinking and talking until dawn.
Invite me in.
Swallowing hard, “Come in,” I croaked. I kissed the top of her headstone and left for home, walking the long way to pass all our favorite haunts. I stopped at the liquor store for a liter of Jack Daniel’s and a pack of the cheap cigarettes.
The floor tilted as I stepped through, but then again it could have been the Jack. I pushed the empty take-out containers off the coffee table, sat the bottle down, propped up my dirt- encrusted boots, and exhaled a slow breath.
All I’ve left is to die. I should get on with it.
Take another drink.
“I think I will -- and a cigarette, too.” Fumbling in my pocket, I pulled out the pack and lighter. Rolling my thumb across the striker several times, the damn thing wouldn’t light. I stumbled to the stove and turned the burner on, lighting my cigarette from there. More than once I’ve singed eyebrows this way.
I survived lighting the cancer stick, again. Turning back to the couch I saw a shadow.
“Who’s there?” I’m sure I slurred the words. Walking closer I saw black, intense eyes. Amanda’s eyes were blue.
I heard the answer in my mind, not my ears.
“Who are you?”
Your new best friend.
A toothy grin appeared in the black cloud. It reminded me of Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat. I laughed so hard I landed on my butt in the middle of the living room. The cigarette fell into my lap, leaving a smoldering hole. “I’ve gotta stop drinking.”
“That’s a good idea, Cheshire.” The room spun when I stood. My arms pin-wheeled but it was no good, I hit the wall. It rattled a framed picture of Amanda. It felt like a fist had closed around my heart, squeezing. Hurt rolled over me in a wave. I reached out to her picture, running my fingers across the glass.
“I miss you,” I said aloud.
Take another drink.
“What do you want?” I snapped.
A good time.
Come on Tommy boy, think.
“Amanda and I used to walk the park.” My vision wavered and I couldn’t stop the tears.
Let’s start something new. What do you say?
“Okay,” I sounded pathetic, even to myself. I had to pull it together and move on. “What do we do?” This was insane. I was talking to myself and answering.
Grab your keys and we’ll go somewhere with loud music and cold beer.
“I’m too drunk to drive. Besides, I’m not sure that’s what I need.”
It’s what I need, call a cab.
“Who are you?”
Cheshire will do.
I did what the grinning shadow told me to do and an hour later I was sitting inside Sadie’s Gentleman’s Club with a fistful of singles. “I can’t believe this,” I giggled.
The young (well, maybe not so young) lady dancing in front of me smiled. “Is this your first time? We have a virgin special?”
Tell her you want the special.
“I don’t think so, thank you anyway.” Pain shot from one side of my head to the other. It made my vision blur.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just a little headache.”
Tell her you’ll take the special.
She turned to dance away. “On second thought,” I shouted over the music, “what you said sounds fine.”
“Meet me over there as soon as this song is finished.”
Lighting another cigarette I sauntered over to a wall. I could see the heads of other women bobbing up and down, presumably giving a private lap dance on the other side. What in the hell was I doing? Amanda would be horrified.
It’ll be fun.
“No it won’t.”
You need to blow off some steam. Let go, relax, for one night.
The dancer came closer. The lights in this area were lower than any other. It took years off of her. “This way.” She drawled, putting her arm around mine, leading me around the wall and up three short steps. “My name is Candy.”
“Of course it is,” my lips curved in a smile.
She pouted; actually pouted.
“That’s a stage name, right?” I asked.
“No, it’s the name I was born with. The virgin special is a five- minute, intense lap dance for twenty dollars. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.”
This was not a high-end establishment. Twenty bucks and a guarantee meant sex. I couldn’t do this.
Yes, you can. She’s soft, smell her.
I could smell her, which also meant I wasn’t her first customer tonight.
She wants it. She wants you.
And I realized that I wanted it, too.
Give it to her!
“Okay,” I said handing her the money.
“Keep your hands to yourself,” she purred. “I’m the only one allowed to touch.”
With a grin, she sat me in a chair and moved to the music. She slid the g-string down to her ankles and stepped out of it. This is Oklahoma, there are laws against full nudity. Her ass bobbed and jiggled in front of me. My pants felt tight.
I reached out to, but she slapped my hand away.
“I said no touching.”
“Oh,” I moaned. “You’re so bad.”
“Do you like bad girls?”
“We’ll see.” She backed onto my lap, her thighs sliding on mine. Her butt was against my abdomen, rubbing. Then she turned so that both legs were on the same side and leaned back swinging a leg in front of my face. When her right leg was in the air and her left still on the ground I looked into her crotch. I couldn’t help it. It was inviting.
She was now facing me and grinding hard. It was good. I put my arms around her back. She stopped. “I won’t continue until your hands are down.”
Every part of me groaned. I gripped the back of the chair until my fingers hurt. She rocked back and forth touching her chest to my face.
“Sweet Candy,” I whispered. It had been a long time since I’d felt this good. In that moment of release my hand flew up and grabbed her hair.
Cheshire’s voice was silenced by the intense pain in my thumb and wrist. I opened my eyes and a mountain loomed over me. “No touching the girls,” his voice boomed.
Candy was across the little enclosure with her hand to the back of her head.
“You’re outta here.” The bouncer yanked me up and shoved me to the door.
It would be a long walk home, but I had a lot to think about. The desire to hit her, force her, was overwhelming. I stopped on the overpass, watching cars speed along I-35.
“I’ve never been violent with anyone in my life.”
It made you feel alive, didn’t it?
“It’s not me.”
It could be. You could be free, take what you want and never apologize. And you want Candy.
“At what price?”
You’re about to pass out, buddy. Go home before you fall off this bridge.
I turned from the railing, knees shaking, and staggered home.
The next morning I called in sick, too hung over to work. I finally dragged myself out of bed around four in the afternoon. I had a shot of Jack and walked to the bathroom. After relieving myself, I took a long look in the mirror. “You’ve got to clean up your act. First, let’s do something about those nasty teeth.”
I reached for the toothbrush. It wasn’t where I kept it; nothing was. The hand soap, toothbrush caddy, and razor were on the left side of the sink, laid in a neat row. I moved everything back to its accustomed place then turned on the shower.
The hot water felt good. Knots in my neck and shoulders eased and my head cleared. What did I do last night? The terrified look on the stripper’s face flashed in my memory. What was her name? Cindy, Andie, no Candy, that was it. Shame filled me. I had to apologize.
Yes, go see her.
I jerked the curtain back, “Who’s there?” I didn’t hear or see anything. Grabbing a towel and wrapping it around my waist I stepped out, but left the water running. It might make the intruder think I didn’t hear him. The bathroom is a perfect place to corner someone. Who has weapons in the bathroom?
I settled on a can of air freshener and a lighter. I turned the knob, trying not to make any noise, and slipped out into the tight hallway. Moving left, I peeked into the bedroom—empty. Retracing my steps I looked into the only other room, a large area that combined both living room and kitchen. No one was there.
It took a few moments to register what I was seeing: a clean house. The trash was gone, dishes washed, and the floors looked not only swept, but mopped too. I dropped the can and lighter. What was going on here?
I grabbed a glass from the cabinet and poured two fingers of Jack. It slid down the back of my throat, a fireball, in my empty stomach. I refilled the glass before turning back for a second look around the efficiency apartment. There was no where to hide and I was alone. The doors and windows were locked from the inside. A cold draft blew around me, making goose bumps crawl up my skin. After downing my second, and fixing a third, I stepped back into the shower and washed. When I was finished I shaved, dressed and left the apartment.
Too buzzed to drive and too far from anything to walk, I sat on the curb. Lighting a cigarette, I took a long pull into my lungs. Already I felt better.
Apologize to her.
“Yes, I know.” I jumped up looking around. “Who is that?” I hoped it wasn’t coming from me.
A shadow formed in front of me. A toothy grin hung below black eyes. Memories from the night before were hazy. “I thought you were a fantasy.”
“Where did you come from?”
You invited me.
“What? Who are you?”
We’re not going into that again. Go up stairs, call a cab and apologize to Candy.
“If I remember correctly I was thrown out. I don’t think they’ll let me in.”
They will. Trust me.
“No, I think it’s best if I pretended last night never happened.”
What are you going to do here? Sit a round crying in your beer? Pathetic.
“There is nothing wrong with pathetic. As a matter of fact I’ve become quite used to it.”
It won’t get you laid. Remember how good Candy felt? Was that the first time you’ve gotten off since Amanda?
Forty-five minutes later, against my better judgment, I was standing in front of Sadie’s Gentleman’s club.
“What did you call this place?”
The Dripping Tuna, the only place in town where the beer cost more than the girls.
“That’s not nice.”
“What did you just say?” the bouncer loomed over me. Him I remembered.
“Nothing, I was just talking to…m-…myself.”
“Pay at the door.”
Maybe Candy will give you another lap dance.
“I don’t think so.”
“You’re not going to cause trouble, are you?” He stepped closer.
“No…I’ll just pay…at the door…Quit laughing.”
As much as I enjoy this you don’t need to speak out loud, just think it.
You can read my thoughts?
I can now.
I flicked my cigarette and walked through the tinted doors.
The music boomed. I took a seat next to the stage and asked the topless waitress for Jack with a beer back. One after another the ladies came out. I saw Candy working the room, but didn’t have the nerve to approach her. So I kept ordering liquid courage.
When Candy took the stage I flashed money and she danced my way.
“Can I talk to you?” I asked, slipping a five dollar bill into her G-string.
“I heard enough last night,” her soft drawl was hard, bitter.
“Just talk, promise. We can even stay out here on the floor.”
Offer her money to sit down.
Pain shot from one side of my head to the other. I feel terrible, maybe I should leave.
Don’t you dare.
Another jolt rocked my brain. I felt vomit rise in my throat.
Relax, do as you’re told and you’ll be fine.
You were feeling fine before we got here, weren’t you?
“I’ll give you twenty bucks if you’ll just sit with me,” I said.
“Not even for fifty!”
“Well, how about a hundred then?” I glanced over at the ATM machine in the corner. It was going to be an expensive night.
“Okay, but I leave whenever I’m ready.”
“Okay.” When Candy finished her dance she came to my table.
I lit another cigarette and offered her one. She shook her head ‘no.’ I put my hands in the open, so she could see I had no tricks in mind, then leaning in as close as I dared. “First, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me last night. What I did was wrong and will not happen again.”
“Is that all? I’ve heard it before, still don’t believe it.” Candy stood to leave. “I’m outta here and you owe me a hundred bucks, pay up.”
“Walk over with me to the ATM?” She nodded and together we moved across the dark bar. “My wife died six months ago,” I blurted out. “I’ve been lost ever since.” Reaching into my wallet, I pulled out the ATM card and Amanda’s picture. After handing it to Candy I punched in the PIN number.
“Pretty,” she said passing the photo back.
“Yeah.” I stroked Amanda’s face before putting her away. “When you danced it was the first time I felt anything. Do you know what that means? I’ve been numb and I didn’t know it until you came along. Obviously I’ve forgotten how to behave in public, but…well, thank you.” She spun to face me, eyes wide. Heat rose to my cheeks, it’d been a long time since I’d blushed. Candy ran her hand down my arm.
I placed the cash in her hand. “Sit and talk to me for a while.”
She looked to the stage then around the room. “We’re not too busy now, I can spare a few minutes.”
At the table I pulled out a chair for her. “Thank you.”
Treat her like a lady and she’ll be putty in your hands.
“How long were you married?” She took the cigarette from my hand. Her bright red lips wrapped around the cigarette and she took a long drag. It excited me.
“We were together for 3 years but married for only 6 months.”
Candy reached across the table, placing her hand atop mine.
Look at her long slender fingers, slick polish. Mmm…red.
My hand moved on its own accord. I worked to hold it still. I didn’t want her to be as frightened as I was.
“You’re trembling,” she said and moved closer. I could smell strawberries; it made me light headed. I focused on her brown eyes, trying to maintain a friendly posture.
Put them in your mouth, taste her.
I was losing the battle. How could I lose control over my body? Anger filled me. I felt something inside me snap and once again my will was dominant. I shook out another cigarette, lit it, and took a long, relaxing, drag.
“You’re so tense.” She stood, brushing her breast against my arm. “I have to get back to work,” she said walking away.
What a tease.
I ordered again. I should be drunk, but nothing.
Too weird. Shut up and watch her.
When the club closed I took a cab home. It was late and I had to be at work the next morning.
Bright sunlight streamed in around the folds of the curtain. I stretched, every muscle screamed in agony. I thought back to the events of the evening and couldn’t remember anything that would have made me feel this way. I rolled over, looking at the alarm clock. It was four o’clock in the afternoon.
“Oh crap, I’m late.”
Relax, I called in for you. Cheshire sat at the end of my bed. He was more then a black shadow now. I could make out black eyes, black hair, and a scar running up his cheek forcing his mouth into a permanent smile. I said you had the flu and would be out for a few days.
“What is going on here?”
Take a drink, Cheshire said pointing to the bottle sitting by the phone, and we’ll talk.
“I’d rather talk when I’m sober.” An intense pain filled my head. I closed my eyes, trying to squeeze it out.
A little Jack will make you feel better.
I uncapped the whiskey and drank from the bottle. The band of pressure eased.
It took two more before I could light up the first cigarette of the day. “Now, who are you and why are you here?”
I know what it’s like to lose someone…special. I am the only one that can help you get through this, trust me. Cheshire’s grin was too big for his face.
“Why do I feel so bad?”
A hangover shouldn’t be a big surprise, you drank a lot. There was no humor in his laugh. A little hair of the dog will fix you right up, take another drink.
I walked to the kitchen cabinet, pulled down a glass, and filled it with whiskey. “Am I crazy?”
“Don’t the insane feel as if they’re sane?”
Have I steered you wrong?
“I don’t know, have you?”
Relax. Call a cab and we’ll go to the Dripping Tuna.
“I don’t want to go back. Something comes over me, I’m not myself.” A shudder cilled my spine. “I wanna hurt those girls.”
There is no other way.
“What if I hurt someone?”
Making everyone around you feel as bad as you do is a time- honored way of dealing with grief. Misery does love company.
“Can we do it another night.” Pain shot through my head again driving me to my knees. “What the…?”
A side effect.
“Are you doing this?”
“Stop.” The desperate tone scared me.
Are you going to call the cab?
“Yes, just make it stop.” It vanished in an instant. I looked around but couldn’t see him.
Make the call.
His voice whispered in front of me this time.
An hour later I was sitting back in Sadie’s Gentlemen’s club with a fist full of ones and Candy dancing on the next stage. I hoped she wouldn’t notice me, but she smiled at me.
Look at her. She is beautiful. I saw Cheshire sitting in the seat beside me, yet no one else seemed to notice.
“A bit old for my taste.”
Wine isn’t the only thing that gets better with age. Sex does too.
The topless waitress came over and asked if I wanted another round.
Tell her yes.
“You don’t look like you’re having a good time; is everything alright?”
Tell her yes.
“Yes,” I said, lighting another cigarette.
“I’ve seen you in here the last few nights. You want me to call Candy over?”
Yes yes yes yes yes!
I could feel Cheshire jumping inside my head like a toddler on a sugar rush.
“No, I’ll watch from here.” Searing pain made me wince.
I want Candy. Candy Candy Candy Candy.
“Sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. On second thought would you ask her to come over?”
15 minutes later, Candy sat at my side, her hand on my arm.
“Hello again.” Her smile was warm and beautiful. I wanted her to go away.
“I could use another drink. Would you like one?” Raising my hand, the topless waitress moved in my direction.
Tequila, she likes tequila.
“Another round for me and tequila for the lady.”
“Nothing for me, Ann.” Concern touched her eyes. “How did you know I like tequila?”
If you mess this up for me I’ll kill you! Cheshire shouted loud enough to make my head ring, and for a few seconds I couldn’t hear anything at all. She’s suspicious. Say something, now!
“I’m sorry…it's just...Amanda…she liked tequila. I shouldn’t have assumed that you would too.” I couldn’t read the look in her eyes. Did she actually buy it?
No no no no! You are a dead man!
The vice my head had been in all day ratcheted up. My eyes watered and I was on the verge of screaming.
“No, I’m sorry.” She wiped a tear from my cheek. “I know how hard old habits are to break. I should be more understanding.”
My relief was immediate. I took a minute to get myself together as much as I could, and crushed out the cigarette.
“You don’t look well. Maybe you should call it a night.”
Don’t even think about it, Tommy boy.
“No, I don’t look forward to an empty apartment.”
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
That slow drawl of hers is turning me on.
I took a deep breath. “I wish people would quit asking that. No, I’m not fine, but there is nothing anyone can do.”
She put her hand on mine. “I know what you’re going through. I do, really. Two years ago my boyfriend died and I still feel… haunted.”
“Haunted! Good word for it.”
“We were fighting, as usual, and things turned ugly, again nothing new. One thing I can never accuse him of was being kind. I still don’t know what I saw in him, he wasn’t even good in bed.” Cheshire screamed something incoherent in my mind. “Um, a stupid accident. I was running down the stairs, he was coming fast behind me and the next thing I knew we were falling. I guess he tripped, his neck snapped and that was the end of that.”
“Do you still visit him?”
“Every day, I have to. I didn’t have the money to bury him and he had no family, at least none that cared. So, he’s in my backyard under a bed of pansies. It suits him.”
Tell her you want private time.
“You’re so pretty when you smile.”
Cheshire was snarling, his rage filled me, “Don’t you need to be back on stage?”
She looked around the room. “Not yet.”
With his anger came more pain than I’ve ever felt. I tried resisting, but I asked, “Is there somewhere we could be alone?”
Her smile widened. “Hun, that’ll cost more than you can pay.”
Pay it! Pay it!
“There's an ATM here. You’d be surprised what I can afford.”
“Okay, five hundred dollars.”
“Done,” I croaked. “Where do we go?”
She stood, grabbing my hand, and led me past the DJ. We didn’t stop at the ATM and before I knew it we were out the back door and in an alley. “I like you. I guess you can say I’m impressed,” her drawl was low and husky.
The scent of her strawberry hair filled the air. Blood rushed to my groin, making it hard to walk. I was disgusted by the mix of anger and desire swirling inside me. She kissed me, long and hard. Cheshire moved to the front of my consciousness and his lust took control. It wasn’t me that had sex with her in the alley. I couldn’t taste her or feel soft skin. My body wouldn’t react to my will, only his.
I heard her breathless pants of ecstasy and watched when her moans of pleasure turned to howls of pain. “Stop! Stop!” I screamed inside. He wasn’t listening. Cheshire was beating this woman to death.
When Candy exhaled her last breath, I felt my mouth forming into a large smile. Three blocks away from the club I regained control of my body.
She deserved it.
“No one deserves what you did. No one!”
I kept walking, trying to close my mind to Cheshire.
Are you going to sulk now? You are such a wuss. Didn’t it feel great, the power, freedom. Don’t tell me you didn’t like it. Your pants aren’t wet from piss. You enjoyed it as much as I did. It made you feel alive. Me, too. I told you I could get you over Amanda.
“You’re a monster,” I shouted over the traffic noise.
I made you one, too. Cheshire’s laugh made my skin crawl.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Cupping my hand against the light evening breeze I lit it trying not to think, not to believe, that everything he said was true. My emotions ran high, fear, anger, excitement, even the desire to do it again. I hated myself, Amanda would have hated me. I couldn’t let that happen, not to anyone else. There had to be a way to stop him, me. I slid down an embankment from city streets onto the shoulder of I-35. The traffic was going by fast enough to push me along on a current of air.
This is probably not the best way to cross. Go back up to that bar we passed? I need another drink.
“No.” Pain shot from one side of my head to the other. It increased until I felt my skull would crack. I staggered, crossing the yellow line onto the highway.
A car honked sending me back the other direction.
Careful Tommy boy we don’t want to have an accident, why don’t we get back up to that side road.
“Stop this or kill me.”
Don’t tempt me.
I felt him move to the front of my consciousness again.
You mean you don’t want a drink to forget what you did?
I couldn’t let him take over. “I didn’t do anything," I shouted in anger; my own anger welling in me.
Have a drink and we’ll talk about our future?
“We have no future.” I felt his control slipping. There was still something I could do.
Of course we do. You killed that girl, a poor innocent stripper, and I can keep you out of jail. You can do it again.
I stopped walking and took a long drag on my cigarette. “I’m not a monster.”
Think about it for a minute. The boner you got from watching it was nothing. I felt it in you, you’re a born killer. Just like me—a monster.
Accept it and move on. I need another drink. Go back.
“I am not a monster.” My thoughts turned to the feel of soft blond hair, and the smell of lavender soap. A picture of her face formed in my mind.
You’re thinking of her again, aren’t you? What was her name, Amanda? What makes you think she’s different than Candy? They’re all the same: sluts for whatever they can get from you.
Cheshire’s rant grew louder, drowning out the Interstate traffic, his anger rising to match my own. I was afraid I would loose control. Looking back over my shoulder I saw the opportunity I’d been waiting for. I had to hang on for a few more seconds. I staggered when my left foot refused to move.
I really need a drink now, we will go back.
My torso turned. Candy’s pain echoed in my ears. I turned back. I was stronger. “I’m sorry Candy, if I’d known…”
What would you do, Hero? Cry a river?
Amanda came to my mind like a soothing balm. “I love you,” I whispered, “Forgive me.” I stepped in front of a speeding semi.
“What a mess,” Detective Biggs said looking down at the broken brunette lying next to a trash dumpster. “Does anyone know what happened?”
“Not really,” his partner said. “She was talking to a customer earlier in the night. He’d been in several times in the few days, but seemed harmless enough. Probably came out back to turn a trick. Joe is getting a description of him now. No one saw them leave.”
A uniformed police officer walked over to Biggs. “The coroner is working a case on I-35, overturned semi and a blood smear half a mile long. Glad it’s not me. He said he’d be here after that. Also, looks like the stripper had a file.”
Detective Biggs took the folder.
“Yep, she has priors for prostitution and looks like she has made a number of calls to 911, all domestic. She filed a V.P.O. against Mitchel Hudson, her former boyfriend. With that much damage it had to be personal, not a random john. Better have the coroner do a rape screen to be sure.” Turning to the officer, “put out an A.P.B on Mr. Hudson and get a description of the John over the radio ASAP.”
“And be sure to include the eleven inch tattoo on his back, a Cheshire cat; real cute.”
Diana Street is a three-time SNM Mag published author, and a nominee for SNM Author of the Year in 2009. This is her fifth story to date that she has had published. Diana is a native of Oklahoma with a real penchant for writing dark erotica and speculative horror. Please leave comments in the Guestbook.
Hunched over parchment with quill in hand, Liam Townsend struggled to write a poem. Searching for inspiration, he gazed out at the snow-dusted, skeletal trees with scrawny limbs reaching toward the sky. His frozen lawn was fragile and brittle at the close of a long winter. Not even a speck of green could be seen. The blank whiteness strangling his home confirmed his suspicions: the world was dying.
Words tapped at the back of his teeth. They seemed desperate to escape. Liam clamped his mouth shut and tilted back his head. He hoped an imprisoned verse would roll down his arm and into his hand. Nothing happened, not even a smudge appeared on the paper before him. The ink on the tip of his quill had dried. He dipped the vane back into the inkwell and stirred.
Maybe something flavorful is stuck to the bottom. He scraped the plume against the glass base and removed the saturated tip. He adored the way a black, glossy droplet of ink, thick as blood, clung to the tip. He shook his hand and smiled as the droplet of ink seemed to leap from the quill and plopped onto the paper. It splattered—suicidal. Alarmed by a wretched, he spun in his chair and glared at the door.
His niece, Elise, was at it again. Liam raked his writing utensils from the desk with one angry sweep of his arm. Ink stained the curtains and pooled on the cushion of his favorite upholstered chair.
In the parlor, Elise practiced the piano. Repeated phrases by clumsy hands, forgetful and careless, maneuvered over keys and bumped into a dissonant bass with little or no regard for melodic dictation.
Her incessant, insufferable hammering of the pedals and tones misaligned with a constant ticking of a metronome invaded Liam’s study. The irritant music pricked his ears with its failed attempts at accuracy. Elise’s fingers struck wrong notes as often as they found their rightful placement.
A polite child compared to his nephew, Hamish, Elise sat day after day, fastidiously transfixed on the hard piano bench and rehearsed masterpieces never intended for developing hands while Liam locked himself away in his study.
He loathed the presence of his family, even when the house was quiet. This hideous racket abusing his senses on a daily basis infuriated him. When Elise fumbled a simple major scale, Liam was ripped from his writing. He analyzed every misread accidental or delayed articulation.
He was convinced Elise’s fingers were worms; maggots eating the decomposed compositions of Beethoven. Liam truly envied Beethoven’s corpse and deaf spirit, unaware of how Elise massacred his genius.
Ah. A brief moment of silence. She paused to turn the page like an executioner with sharpened axe at the ready for beheading a criminal. The torture resumed.
But he lacked the strength to send them away. A sequestered desire to banish his niece, nephew and sister into the cold forest pressed heavily on his psyche. He analyzed his emotional distaste for his family and tried to find an admirable reason such thoughts devoured his brain, but sinister validation was all he unveiled. Guilt wrenched his insides.
What kind of man am I to dream of harm befalling my own flesh and blood?
Liam covered his ears and dove nose-first into the blank page before him. Mucous and drool created their own disgusting art. He waited for a musical intermission.
Finally! She is finished for the day.
During the slight musical reprieve, Liam withdrew from his study. On tiptoes, he crept down the hall to his bedroom and ducked inside before he was spotted by his guests. An opium pipe waited for him. He could feel it beckoning from its hiding place. It was wrapped in a velvet remnant and nestled in the bottom drawer of his dresser beneath his nightshirts.
Liam retrieved the pipe and cradled it in his palm. He fished around in a wooden box on the bookcase, collected his matches and his drug-pouch then opened his bedroom window, and braced against the icy air. He filled his pipe then lit it. With the sweet smoke drawn into his lungs, he no longer cared that his work had been interrupted by Elise’s practice, nor did he notice his skin stiffening as it became colder.
He heard a tap on his door. “Uncle, it's time for dinner.” Elise’s frail, soft voice trickled through the keyhole. “Venison stew. Please come eat with us. Mama is worried because you haven’t been eating enough. Please join us this evening.”
Liam stood there still and silent until he heard Elise’s footsteps dissipate down the hall.
He closed the window and hid his pipe away then slipped on a dark green dinner jacket. He looked at himself in the mirror and buttoned the silver buttons of his coat from waist to Adam’s apple, leaving only the slightest hint of ruffled shirt cuff and collar. He wore the same black knee-pants, white socks, and black shoes he had worn since the arrival of his visitors.
With long, slender fingers he combed through his greasy brown hair and slicked it back into a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. His face needed shaving, but he didn’t have the time or desire to address his stubble. He shuffled into the dining room.
The ripe fragrances of baked bread and seasoned meat should have made his stomach growl, but his appetite had vanished with his poetic muse. He took a seat at the head of the table and avoided eye contact with Annabelle.
Elise peered at him over her bowl. Her large and inquisitive blue eyes studied his countenance. Liam cleared his throat and grimaced. A sudden daydream annihilated his tranquility….
He and Elise sat damp and smiling after making love on the floor of the wine cellar. She opened her pretty pout and feasted on wedges of cheese he fed to her with care.
They sipped a delicious, sweet Riesling straight from the bottle. Blue eyes sparkling with adoration, she tilted her face toward him and invited a kiss.
Out of my head, you beguiling whore! You are a child!
“Liam, so you’ve decided to join us,” Annabelle cooed with a cheerful sincerity dripping from each uttered syllable.
Liam coughed up phlegm into his napkin and stared down at his plate.
The family dined in pretense, dancing around the obvious disgust his fragility impressed upon by the female virtue of Annabelle. Alas, his nephew, Hamish, wasn’t interested in Liam. He scarcely glanced in Liam’s direction, let alone spoke to him.
Elise stared continuously. She was twelve years of age, not yet a woman, but her feline curl of lip and blush of cheek grew more lethal with each passing evening. Liam dreamed of her naked body floating above his bed on more nights than he cared to recall.
Hamish was quite the simpleton who mindlessly blathered on about his hunting excursions and bragged about all his kills. Annabelle, with her hands folded atop an embroidered napkin, smiled. The dreary upturned gesture leered across the table, night after torturous night, goading Liam.
This is what I’m to be grateful for? These lumps in fine clothes seated around my dining table, uninvited? I hasten to think what opinions these urchins have formed of me.
After forcing a few spoonfuls of food down his esophagus, Liam excused himself and retired to his study where he read his favorite Shakespearian sonnets aloud and envisioned someone admiring his work as he revered the works of the world's finest poets filling anthologies piled high on his side table. He spat out the lines of the masters with a song-like baritone voice, displaying inflection and enunciation an actor would envy.
In the deepest crease of night, he unfolded his work at a lamp- lit desk. Oil fumes blistered his watering eyes -- straining to see. Alas, soaked quill in hand, he began to write.
The ghostly vigil of Elise crawled out of the knotholes in the pine floor and seized his thoughts. He shuddered, unable to scribe a singular sentence worthy of review. The affection of his family, a curse bestowed upon him, a plague of compassion, would surely be his demise.
That night, Elise, on the brink of womanhood, came to him in dreams once more. Her eyes looked through him, beyond his face, into the corner where he huddled with hands folded over ears as he rocked out of time. She knew her music had taunted him. He could tell by the way she swayed her girlish frame with encouragement.
Pale moonlight bled through her gauze gown, magnified her curves, teasing the silhouette of her blooming body. She sat on the edge of his desk and slowly lifted her hemline. Her supple thighs were exposed. He outstretched his hungry fingers and woke clawing at the air in embarrassment.
Liam ignored Elise when she swept past him in the hall during daylight hours. He resisted her melodious voice that called his name when he was fully awake, but when he dreamt, he wore no armor suitable for fending off such treacherous wiles. She haunted him at his weakest core and his hatred for her grew. It swelled like a boil engorged with infection.
He lowered his head onto his pillow. Elise wiggled into his slumbering mind. He unfastened her corset and let her dress puddle onto the floor. Nude, she sat at the piano and performed the song Liam despised during wakefulness.
He crawled beneath the belly of the baby grand and admired Elise’s tender feet, narrow ankles, and gorgeous, bare legs. He strained to see more, but again woke in sweat.
The following morning, Liam crossed paths with Hamish in the kitchen. Hamish, who was grinding meat at the table, observed little more than the heads, antlers and claws he had collected. Annabelle entered the room and he ceased his task, grabbing a set of antlers and parading them around.
She applauded with a morbid infatuation of death visible in her eyes. She and Liam were alike in this manner. He could see a glint of family resemblance when she gloated about Hamish’s killing skills. Liam did not reprimand or even hint such a tango with death would thicken Hamish’s rind and make him less desirable by those who viewed brutality as a sign of ignorance. Hamish was becoming who he was intended to be and that was more than anyone could say for Elise.
Elise glided into the room shortly after the antler charade. She had forced herself into a white corseted gown that dusted the floor with lace petticoats. Liam contemplated how Annabelle was never tethered to an apron or sprinkled with flour. She was molding Elise to be a lady; a shiny jewel to catch the eye of a gentleman, but Elise was not suitable material yet to be a lady. Her bosom overflowed with each gasped breath. She inhaled deeply in Liam’s presence to test her talons, sharpening them by demurely looking away whenever he chased her glances with a raised eyebrow and heavy male libido reaction in strong, undulating tidal waves of enthralled passion.
Coy games of a blossoming lady? I think not.
Safe in his bedroom, fevers melted his thoughts into hot wax. Day and night fused together in a molten moment. Delirium was not unfamiliar to him. He recognized the strong, piercing headaches that preceded nightmares as fantasy murdered reality. The two were one and he was captive and slave.
The faint smell of gardenia wafted through the air and Liam sensed that Elise was staring through the keyhole into his bed chamber. He knew she adored his transformation from man to infant. An unmerciful senility wrung his spine until he could no longer stand against the powerful urges pain, fear and desire had injected.
Distant notes clawed through his mattress and thumped his eardrum then beat him with their fists. Elise’s music churned his heart with amateur interpretation. There was nothing he could do but allow it to enter him. It poisoned his palette with mediocrity. He resigned himself to the fate of a displeased audience; victim of an auditory crime.
Elise's petite hands flew past like bird’s wings, flitting shadows before the moon, bats, or scrawny feathered sparrows. They multiplied and flew into walls, hundreds, thousands, singing songs out of tune. He saw them, white digits curled -- pouncing on ivory and ebony, tap-dancing across an uneven stage that gave way beneath their weight.
This vixen-child will not unhinge my sanity!
His ghostly dream-feet walked down the hall and toward the parlor. He carried a rope. Elise’s fingers hopped and skipped across the keys. Liam snuck up behind her and bound her arms behind her back. She looked into his eyes and didn’t scream.
He plucked her fingers from her hands like petals from daisies. She smiled and nuzzled his palm as he caressed her face. He placed her amputated index finger in his mouth and lit the bloody knuckle as he suckled the tip like a Cuban cigar.
He awoke smoking his opium pipe by the window. The sound of crickets serenaded him in the moonlight. He stared intently at the letter opener on the desk and contemplated piercing his eardrums, but the music of the night was a pleasure that he did not wish to deny himself.
He continued to smoke and fantasize…
He whispered, “Disrobe again, sweetness.”
Elise turned to face him. Her blue eyes twitched in their sockets and her mouth was stitched shut with needle and thread. An empty spool and pincushion rested on the edge of her dressing table.
“Child, what have you done?”
“Why, I don’t know, exactly.”
She lifted her hands and fanned her fingers in the air. The piano began to play. He snipped her fingers off with a pair of scissors and unstitched her mouth. “Better, love?”
Elise did not answer. Her eyes ceased their erratic movement and she held his gaze.
The opium pipe shattered on the floor and startled Liam from his fantasy. Sunlight streamed in his window. Elise pounded the piano downstairs. He climbed through his window, sat in the fallen snow, and leaned against the stone foundation of his house. He could feel the vibrations resonating from the sound board of the baby grand. Breath-fog clouded his view of the forest on the horizon. Hamish walked from the woods dragging a deer carcass behind him. He spotted Liam and abandoned his kill as he ran toward him.
“Uncle, have you lost your mind? Go inside.” Hamish escorted Liam inside to a chair in the parlor by the fire. Liam scowled at Elise who was perched burlesque-like on the piano bench with evil hands resting on the ebony and ivory keys. She looked away then left the room. Liam continued to glare at the piano.
Elise returned with a blanket. She wrapped it around Liam’s shoulders and whispered, “There. This will warm you up some. Would you like a cup of hot tea?” She placed her palms on his cheeks. “You’re freezing.” He closed his eyes and absorbed the sensation of her touch and smell.
Annabelle marched into the room and urged Liam to go back to bed. He staggered down the hall toward his bed chamber. He heard whispering behind him, but he didn’t care to know what was being said. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he grabbed the letter opener and slid it beneath his pillow.
This music will not get the best of me. I’ll render myself deaf before I let that happen.
Liam climbed into bed and pulled the covers to his chin. He hummed Elise’s song and drifted to sleep. Elise was waiting for him in their dream chamber. A rope and knife were on the bed. She stood naked before a full length mirror.
Liam admired her frontal femininity. He was overwhelmed. He fell to his knees. She walked toward him and grabbed his hand. Elise gently guided him to the bed. She stood at his side and put her arms behind her back. She nodded toward the rope and gave him a seductive grin over her left shoulder. He wrapped the rope around her wrists and kissed her lower stomach.
The piano interrupted their escapade.
With a knife in hand, he stomped to the parlor and stabbed the beast in the heart. Liquid music oozed from the wound, but no audible sound could be heard.
He returned to Elise. She was on the edge of the bed with arms bound. He lit his opium pipe and held the tip in her mouth. She inhaled and closed her eyes. He stepped back and admired her supple curves as smoke snaked from her nostrils. With an evil grin, she tickled the air with her fingers.
Piano music ripped through his skull whether imagined or real. The tangled rhythms and tones became distorted, unending, looping in demonic circles like vultures overhead. He could no longer bear to hear this wailing cacophony.
He sliced four of her fingers off with the knife.
The sight of blood soaked sheets and tears in Elise’s eyes jarred him from the dream. He retrieved the letter opener and slowly gouged out his eardrums to punish himself for such impure thoughts and free himself at the same time. Realizing this was not part of the dream, he passed out immediately.
Liam awoke to silence and blood on his pillow. Hamish entered his room standing over him with a bloody knife and stammered words that Liam could not comprehend. Annabelle moved to Liam’s side.
Blood soaked her dinner dress. She was crying as she reached for a cigar box on his bedside table. She opened it and revealed ten dainty little fingers lined up neatly in rows. Liam looked up into Annabelle's face. Her mouth was agape and her hands were trembling. He strained to hear her soundless scream…and his own.
Paula Ray is a musician hailing from Wilmington NC. She plays saxophone and clarinet and writes in the margin of her life. Her poetry and fiction has appeared in numerous online e-zines as well as in print with stories published in Bards & Sages Quarterly, Necrotic Tissue and SNM Horror Mag, just to name her most recent horror publications. Visit her blogspot:
A Kiss in the Rain
O. M. Grey
He still felt the kiss from that rainy London night, but the magic it promised had now become his nightmare. They had forgotten their umbrellas, quite a foolish thing, so they stood beneath an awning and got to talking while waiting for the storm to pass.
The gray cobblestones shone like silver, and all he had heard was the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, the patter of the drops hitting the awning, and his breath coming quicker with each passing moment as he stood there next to that remarkable lady. The rain sprinkled down between the cracks of one building and the next, the only thing that had separated them on that fateful night. No chaperones were about, quite scandalous all around.
Her beauty and elegant grace had infused him with wonder. Watching her talk sent waves of joy through his soul. The sound of her voice, as melodic as the finest symphony. The way she smiled as she spoke, lighting his world. The way her lips formed words and the way her passionate hands punctuated her story. Her green eyes twinkled as she spoke about her writing, and it had sparked something deep inside him, an immediate connection he had never before known.
As he watched her mouth move, talking about the inspiration behind her poetry, he could think of nothing else but wanting to kiss her, wanting to feel those lips on his own. After gaining the courage to finally reveal his desire, he had stammered and stumbled over his words when said he wanted to kiss her.
She did not say a word, but rather just smiled and tilted her head down, hiding the blush that had risen on her cheeks. Then, to his great surprise, she just leaned toward him, and the raindrops decorated her black hair with little flares of light when she crossed over that watery barrier, mesmerizing him.
He had met her halfway, and he recalled the softness of her lips and the excitement that had coursed through him as she parted them inviting him deeper. Their tongues had brushed together, just for the briefest moment, and it stirred something at the core of his heart. He remembered their first kiss as if that magical night had passed mere moments ago.
Then he sighed a piteous sigh as he remembered the last one.
“Professor,” a man said from the audience, and it snapped Eliot out of his bittersweet memory. With horror, he realized he had stopped talking this time. He had done this demonstration so very often he could do it by heart, thinking about anything and just letting his mouth form the familiar words. But not today.
She consumed his thoughts as she always did, but since she rested so close to this hidden ancient church, it sentimentality overwhelmed him. A useless emotion, but one nonetheless.
“Forgive me, dear sir. Where was I?” Eliot looked down at the table full of his experiments and tried to remember where he had left off. The tiny purple lightning bolts still reached their electric arms from one coil to the other, but Eliot could not remember the last thing he had said aloud.
His notes lay open beside the electric mechanisms, scribbled in his own hand, but he had no idea how to continue. Focus, Eliot, he chided himself, but she still haunted his thoughts. As the room of well-dressed people looked up at him with eyes full of expectation, Eliot pulled a handkerchief out of the tailcoat’s breast pocket and mopped the nervous sweat off his brow. As his thoughts scrambled to find his place, the utter silence in the back room of the stone church increased his mental pressure.
Tall and thin, most would say lanky, he became all extremities, knocking over one of the coils, breaking its electric connection. He shrunk standing before them on the stage, scrutinized by all those waiting faces. Some began to fidget with impatience. Others checked their time pieces as he set his experiment back to rights.
Then a solitary giggle made everything much worse. Hot under the collar in his embarrassment, he looked up, mortified to think someone actually laughed at his folly. The chortle had come from his wife in the back corner, chatting with her lady friends. Gossiping and whispering through his demonstration again, and now she had the audacity to snicker during this unending moment of utmost humiliation.
There was something wrong there. A lack of respect, to say the least. Quite rude, actually. Certainly she had heard the lecture again and again, as he did have a tendency to prattle on about his experiments, but she was his wife after all. How very rude. She rested her hand on her distended belly, carrying his unborn child, but he felt no love for her in that moment, only deep resentment.
“Professor?” the same man said, this time with an annoyed clearing of the throat before he said the word with an impatient harshness. Others in the audience began chattering amongst themselves again. The ladies in the back giggled audibly. Eliot swallowed hard, cleared his throat, and started speaking.
“Yes, of course. Electricity,” Eliot began again, “is the future, ladies and gentlemen.” He ignored the frustrated grumblings of his audience and just continued with his presentation from the beginning, his face a deeper shade of red than the fine tapestry hanging on the far wall. His forehead hotter than the fire that burned in the hearth beneath it.
The audience before him flickered in the gas lamps lighting the dark room, and his confidence returned as he watched their eyes shine with the purple glow of his demonstration. For he could control electricity. Just with the sound of his voice, those purple bolts would dance with the cadence of his speech. He could marvel the haughtiest of London’s High Society with his knowledge of the new, exciting science.
If only he could keep his mind in the moment.
Another giggle came from the back of the room, and Eliot just closed his eyes and concentrated on his presentation.
The rain drenched the felt of his top hat, making it weigh heavy on his head, but Eliot couldn't bear to go back inside the dingy old church full of people. He had nothing more to say to them, especially in his shame. He had done his part of the gala. However humiliating it had been, he had gotten through it with a mere shred of dignity. Now this was his time, even if just a few stolen moments to himself.
Here, alone, he could be with her at long last.
She lay in this very graveyard, and his memories of her smile and her voice assaulted his mind, but he didn't shake them away this time. His new wife, still inside with the others, chattered away. She was a fine woman, really, but she wasn't Deirdre. No one compared to Deirdre.
The tragedy of her loss only served to strengthen his love for her, but it was an impossible kind of love. The worst and most wondrous kind.
Chloe, his new wife, tried her best, but he couldn't give himself to her the way he knew he should. And not for lack of trying, but their souls didn't connect in the way his would always be connected to Deirdre. It had been two years since her death. Childbirth had left him a new father and a widower all at once.
Chloe was a good mother to Hope, who looked more and more like Deirdre with every passing day, and now Chloe, too, was pregnant with their very own due within the month, but he could not find the joy a man should have with a pending arrival. Everything since Deirdre's passing had been gray, as gray as the dark rain clouds covering the moon.
He caught the barest glimpse of it now and again when it would peek out from behind the clouds, gracing the sad night with its hopeful light. Full tonight, just like the night she had left him alone in this darkness of life. Just like the night of their first kiss in the rain.
The pain of her loss hit his heart, and he gasped for breath, exhaling a fine mist into the darkness. He had held her as she took her last breath, covered in blood from the waist down. Hope had wailed as the midwife tried to soothe her, as if she knew her mother lay there dying.
As if she somehow knew it was her fault just for being born. And Eliot had held Deirdre with her blood on his hands and tears of regret filling his vision. “Care for her,” Deirdre had said, and Eliot blinked the tears away. Then just four more words escaped her lips: “Kiss me, my love.”
And he did. He kissed her with all the life and love inside him, willing it to be enough to save her, but she exhaled her last breath between his very lips. She went limp in his arms, and he cried out in that dank room, scaring his new daughter into momentary silence. Those few seconds of quiet, after his wail faded and before Hope cried anew, haunted him. For Deirdre’s heart lie still beneath her breast. Her breath came no more. That awful second of silence filled every second from that one to this.
"Just one more kiss," he whispered into the rain. "I would give my life just to hold her one last time, to kiss her one last time." His voice barely audible between the wind and the rain and the din wafting out from inside the church, but he said the words again, as if by repeating them he could will it to be so.
He turned his collar up to the wind and shoved his hands in his pockets. Just a quick visit, he thought as he moved toward the marble headstones stretched out behind the church. The heavy fog suspended near the ground swirled around his ankles as he walked. He needn't look at the engraved names, for he could find her grave blindfolded.
His shoes got swallowed in the mud as he approached the overgrown grave, sinking into the earth with each step. The quiet night screamed in his ears, reminding him of that horrible night two years ago. From here, he could no longer hear the din of the gala back at the church. Only the hollow sound of raindrops on the rim of his top hat filled the void as he knelt down onto the soft earth.
He didn’t care about getting his fine suit dirty, not now. He wept there, in silence at first, taking his hat into his hands and lifting his face up to the grey night. The cool rain mixed with the hot tears on his cheek, masking his grief, but no one saw. He cried to God. He cried to the stars, their light hidden by the grey clouds just as the dank earth hid her light, took her light away from him and the world.
He put his hat down on her tombstone and knelt down before it, pushing his hands into the soft earth covering her grave, as if he could reach down and pull her back into his life. He so longed to be with her, even if it meant his own death.
“Will this torment never end?” he asked the night. Even after so much time and another wife, the pain of her loss tore at his shattered heart. He longed to be unconscious. Sleep offered the only reprieve from the bitter memories, the regret, the endless questions of what could’ve been if he had only done something differently. If only they had not made love on that particular night, she would not have gotten pregnant, then Hope would never have been born.
But then he wouldn’t have Hope, but he would still have her. How could he lament even one night with her? Every time they had made love, it had been pure magic, full of joy and desire and ecstasy. A true union of heart and body and soul. How could so much joy turn into unending pain?
“Please help me,” he whispered down to her grave. “Please save me from this empty life. Please release me from this chasm of regret.”
He covered his face with his muddied hands and wept. His suit, soaked through with rain, began to chill him, but he did not budge from that spot so close to her. Here, he felt close to her, and it provided him at least that much comfort. And he wept.
Eliot bolted up; eyes wide. He looked around, but saw no one there. “I’m going mad,” he said, running his muddied hands through his salt and pepper hair. He must be quite a sight out there, wet and smeared with mud. How would he explain any of this to the party? How could he return in this state, especially after his humiliating performance tonight. He’d be the laughing stock of the scientific community. A true mad scientist. No, he would just go home and send the coach back for Chloe with a message that he had fallen ill, for he had been gone far too long already. They must be wondering where he got off to, and he just could not explain his state.
The voice came again. “Eliot, I’m here.”
It was her voice. Deirdre. He would know it anywhere, but that was impossible.
“Now look here!” Eliot yelled, standing up and wiping his tears away with fierce and angry hands. His mud-soaked trousers stuck to his knees as he looked around, but still, he saw no one, but the scent of her perfume permeated his nostrils.
“I am truly mad! But, no. A madman doesn’t know he’s mad. Surely that is worth something. I will be alright. I just need to get out of this cemetery...and stop talking to myself!”
The mist at his feet began to swirl in a most unnatural way. First just near the ground, but then it twisted around his legs and up his torso. Eliot caught his breath as he watched the fog rise around him.
“Eliot. I’m here, my love.”
“Who’s there?” Eliot spun around, first to the left, then the right. The mist continued to rise around him until it started taking a definite human shape. Although not a religious man, Eliot crossed himself and backed away from the grave. He turned to go, wanting to run, but Deirdre stood blocking his way. Transparent at first, but as he gaped at her in wonder, the vision became opaque.
“Do not be afraid, my love,” she said, reaching out to him. He recoiled from the thing’s touch, but the pained look on her face at his reaction warmed his heart. It was his Deirdre after all, and in that moment, he didn’t care how or why or anything. She stood before him once again and nothing else mattered.
“Deirdre?” Caution permeated his whisper, not out of fear that she truly stood before him, but out of fear that she did not.
“Yes, love. Oh! How I’ve missed you.”
The night seemed to brighten around her. The pale figure caught the moonlight, and she almost glowed. Perhaps his love for her shone in the night, and she reflected his love like the full moon reflected the sun. She was as beautiful as he had remembered. No, actually, her beauty exceeded even that of his memory.
She moved closer to him, and this time he did not recoil. Reaching out, she touched his cheek and he tilted his head into her hand. Cold, but solid. The night air caught the tears on his cheeks, stinging. Not wasting another moment, he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her tightly against him, kissing her again in the rain. Her cold, chapped lips softened as his love warmed them, and she melted against him. He breathed her in, her scent so familiar, even after all this time.
“My love,” he whispered into her mouth. “How's this possible?”
“Does it matter?”
“Not in the slightest.” He forced himself to stop smiling so he could kiss her again. Their arms surrounded the other, each desperate in their embrace.
She withdrew and slipped her hands beneath the silk lapels of his coat, running her hands along his chest up to his shoulders, pushing the tails off. He let go of her for a second, just enough to let his black dinner jacket fall into the mud, then encircled her waist again with renewed passion. She pressed her hips into his, and his eagerness met hers, pushing his erection against her soft stomach.
“How can this be real?”
“Shhhhh. Just be here with me now. Don’t worry about the future. We’re here together now, and we’re in love and it’s beautiful.”
He devoured her mouth anew, kissing her with more passion than he ever had before. Grasping her thin frame with the desperation of someone who knew it would be over too soon, for it always was over too soon. Her breasts pressed against his chest, and he hardened further. So long the memories of their love had haunted him.
Now, despite all impossibilities, he held her in his arms once more. He knew that he must be dreaming, but it was so lucid, so very real, he did not care. He never wanted to wake up. He just wanted to stay in this moment forever, locked in this kiss in the rain.
Passion like he hadn’t felt since before she’d died, since their last embrace, filled him from head to toe. His entire body sang with desire for her, and all of his senses heightened to his surroundings. He heard the leaves rustle in the wind. He heard the drops of rain hit the tops of the granite gravestones in repeated dull thuds. Pit. Pat. Pit. Pat. Pit. Pat. He heard the birds in the trees, tweeting the glory of his love for her, and hers for him, in the darkness of this night.
Then everything else fell away–every sound, every smell, every sight–until nothing remained but they two, together. His breath warmed her cheek, her neck, her shoulder, as he worked his kisses down her body, slipping the white satin nightgown off her shoulder. She gasped, breathless, and his hungry mouth found her full breast. Its nipple hardened beneath his encircling tongue.
“Oh, Eliot,” she breathed. “How I’ve missed you love.”
He cupped and caressed her breast as his tongue continued to stimulate the first. She arched her back into him as his warm tongue swirled and sucked and nibbled, enticing her yearning for him.
He slid the nightgown down further past her fleshy belly, a perfect, shallow hill that rose and fell between her slender hips. His kisses continued exploring down her torso, and he let the nightgown fall into a puddle of satiny moonlight at her feet, freeing his hands to caress the soft skin of her back as his kisses bathed her in his love.
He looked up at her, and her smile lit up his insides, as if she had infused him with his own electric experiments. Those purple lightning bolts reached from where he saw her through his own eyes and sparked down his entire body, stimulating every part of him.
Although naked on this cold, autumn London night, she didn’t shiver. Her flesh did not show a trace of chill. Rather it was sweet and soft and smooth and supple and beautiful and pale, silvery in the light of the moon.
He crouched down and licked the inside of her knees, making her giggle, then traced his tongue up her inner thigh. She spread her legs, eager to be tasted. As he reached her wet lips, she angled her hips forward, allowing him easier access, and he licked, tasting her again, finally. He had given up all hope of ever tasting her sweet nectar again, for how could he have?
But that delicious flavor was once again delighting his tongue. Circling. Circling. Circling around her clitoris until her elation caused her to cry out, frightening away the birds in the nearby tree. Their wings flapping against the wind; their fear of the sudden sound taking them far away.
He continued in his task and brought her again, her juices drenching his chin. The ambrosia slid down his throat, his cheeks, his neck, and he reveled in the heaven of her savor.
Her hands putting gentle pressure on his shoulders urged him to stand. He kissed her again on the lips, pulling her nakedness into him.
She tasted herself on his tongue, and she moaned, the sound muffled by his mouth, by the envelopment of his kisses.
“I need you,” she whispered.
He pulled back from her just enough to unbutton his shirt as she worked on his trousers. His eyes never left hers, and he didn’t even blink. He just drank in every curve, every pore, every glorious muted color of her in that grey night. Pure joy filled his soul as he gazed at the miracle before him. Never again did he think he would ever feel such elation, such love. For all that had died with her, but here they were. Together.
She slipped each button of his trousers through its hole with one hand while the other caressed his erection beneath, screaming for release. With a quick slide of her hands around his sides, she pushed the trousers over his hips, and they fell down past his knees, exposing his engorged shaft to the cool night air. He stepped out of his crumpled pants, knowing he would be buried deep inside her just mere moments from now.
But instead, she knelt in the mud eager to return his gift. There in the rain, as it baptized both of them anew in their love, she took his hardness full into her hands and squeezed.
Her touch, unlike any other before or since, occupied his every sense on this magical night. He had indeed been given a gift. Although the questions of how and why would pop into his head, he’d just push them away because he didn’t care how. He didn’t care why. This was his reality right now in this moment, and he would not miss a second of it.
She licked along the length of his erection and swirled her tongue around the tip, wetting it for her gift. Then, taking him completely in her mouth, his eyes rolled back in his delight.
Feeling her lips encircle him almost proved more than he could bear after so long, but he waited. He held back. She plunged to the base of him and then slowly withdrew, flicking her tongue back and forth along the underside, driving him wild with her skill. With her hand, she followed close behind her mouth so as not to leave an inch of him unloved, she squeezed him and then slid him into her mouth again. Up and down and up and down and up and down.
He grabbed onto the headstone and braced himself, focusing on the moment, on the cold granite biting into his hand, willing himself not to come. Not yet. Still so much more to enjoy. So much more in this moment. In this beautiful moment of love and desire. But as she sucked and twirled and plunged, even the rough granite could not keep him at bay much longer. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he pushed her away.
“Now, my love. Let me have you now.”
“Always,” she said.
She kissed him gently, tenderly, before laying back on her own grave, legs spread and ready for him. He knelt before his goddess and positioned himself between her supple thighs. Priming her, he rubbed the tip of himself up and down her wetness. Up and down her swollen lips, so ready for him. Then with one determined push slid inside her, and she gasped as he filled her with his love.
After all these years, they were one again. Laying on top of her, he enveloped her lips in a deep kiss as he thrust into her. Sliding together. She angled her hips up into him, meeting every thrust. And they moved together. And they moved faster. And they moved in their love. And they moved in their ecstasy. Crashing into her again and again. Her warmth surrounding him. Her body writhing beneath him. Her lips devouring his. And he crashed and he moved and he ground into her.
She clutched his back in her fervor, pushing herself into him, remembering that mounting feeling of the flesh. Knowing that she would soon climax right there in the ethereal graveyard. And he didn’t stop. He ground into her and thrust deeper, pulling his knees up to gain more leverage. She pressed herself against his thrusting pubis, and the pressure grew inside her.
The pleasure spread through her belly and over her breasts. The ecstasy building as it rose and filled her entire body until her frame could hold no more pleasure, and it burst forth out of her throat in a cry of jubilation. Loud and explosive bliss filled the dank cemetery. And he still didn’t stop until she cried out again and again, then with a shudder that rippled through his entire body, exploded inside her. His vocalized delight mingling with hers in the still of the night.
They lay in each others' arms; bodies spent. He looked into her beautiful green eyes as she smiled up at him. Those lovely eyes contained his very soul.
“Deidre, I love you.”
He rested his head against her breast and held her close to him. She kissed the top of his head and said, “My sweet Eliot. I love you, too.” Then there still inside her, perfectly content, he started to drift off to sleep. Naked with his world in his arms on her grave. Impossible, but true.
Then, in his dream, for this all must be a dream, she began to sink back into the earth. But the fear of losing her again did not distress him, for he would not lose her again. He would never let her go again. Instead, he held on tight to her and descended into the dank earth with her. He would not let her go into the night alone, not this time. If she were to return to death, so would he.
“Eliot!” Chloe’s voice shouted, then echoed by the others’, over and over as they called out into the darkness in the wee morning hours, the moon their only source of light. The rain had stopped, and the bright orb peeked out from behind the black clouds above them, lighting the edges in a silver outline. “Eliot? Where are you?”
“Where could he have gone?” she asked, turning to the priest, as she grabbed his arm in her desperation.
“Worry not, dear lady. We shall find him.”
The search party of about twenty men spread out over the cemetery, searching for her lost husband. Certainly he did not just leave with nary a word. How rude! She feared the worst. She knew that being so close to her grave, that woman–his obsession with that woman–then when he stumbled in his presentation. Plus, he had been so melancholy as of late.
Yes, she feared the worst.
Father Charleston patted her hand on his arm, attempting to comfort her in her desperation.
“It will be all right, dear lady,” he repeated. “We shall find him one way or another.”
“Thank you, Father.” But her fear remained. The baby moved inside her. She stopped , grabbing her large belly and expelled some deep breaths.
“Are you ill, my child?”
“No. It’s alright, Father. Just the baby moving. It happens when I feel distress.”
“Over here!” a man’s voice shouted from their left, deep in the midst of the graveyard.
They all rushed over to where the man stood.
“Oh my Heavens!” Chloe cried, then turned into the waiting embrace of the priest and buried her face in his chest and cradled her full belly with both her arms, protecting it from this horror.
“What happened to his clothes?” one man said looking down at Eliot’s nude, still figure. He stooped down and felt for a pulse on Eliot’s wrist, arms situated as if they were around someone, but no one lay beside him.
Chloe wailed anew and held on tighter to her belly. The priest pulled her closer to him before turning and leading her away from the tragedy, whispering words of support and comfort.
The others walked away, mumbling about how they must get the police to come ‘round and how they suspected foul play–for what other explanation could there be – leaving Eliot there on her grave, curled as if in a lover’s embrace, smiling.
O.M. Grey dreams of the darkened streets of London and the decadent deeds that occur after sunset. She enjoys meeting fans and participating on panels and mostly writing paranormal romance with a steampunk twist. Additionally she writes poetry and short stories, both of which have been published in various anthologies and magazines. Her debut steampunk paranormal romance novel, "Avalon Revisited" is an Amazon.com Gothic Romance bestseller. She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Agency. This marks her second story in SNM Mag.