Two macabre short stories

While we’re waiting for me to finish this crazy book (working title In Trance, which is nearly done – Yay!), I thought I’d share a couple of stories. They are very short and and macabre.  Both were written for The Unblocked Writers Group on Facebook. The first story, Harmless, won our short story competition. 

Harmless (4,602 words)
Seat 13  (1,434 words)

Harmless

Brandie Buckwine (writing as tfc Parks)

“Last night was fun, wasn’t it?” Stewart asks again, dumping the empty trash can from the blackjack pit for the second time this morning.

Two middle-aged men heave up the stairs looking at my empty table, but they turn left, toward the gift shop, despite my bright smile. I sigh. “It was okay.” Three empty blackjack tables, three dealers on lengthy breaks, and one missing pit boss left me with no escape.

“Are you going again tonight?”

“I don’t know. Can’t really afford a sitter. I’ll probably just go home.”

He lingers before leaving the pit. “I’ll walk you to your car after work.”

After a couple of deep breaths, I close my eyes. “You don’t need to do that, Stewart. I get off two hours after you do.”

Leaning onto my table, he brushes greasy bangs from his forehead. “I don’t mind.”

“Stewart, the trash in the pit only needs emptied once a day,” Angie, my pit boss says, pushing him aside to squeeze through the tables. “Jesus, Corrine, how do you put up with him?” she asks as the custodian scurries off.

A blast of air shoots from my lungs. “I don’t know, but I’m getting sick of it. He came in the bathroom earlier, while I was peeing.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope, and of course I had to say something to let him know I was there so he didn’t come all the way in.” Out of habit, I grab a stack of chips and practice shuffling them together. It calms my nerves.

Angie shakes her head, “You need to tell Jeff.”

“I told Tom, but he said Stewart is harmless, and he’ll lose interest after a while.”

She gives me the I’m your boss look. “Tell Jeff.”

“I will if he doesn’t lay off.” The two men return from the gift shop and each slap twenty dollars on the table. “Changing twenty,” I announce to Angie.

~

At 6:10, I exit through the side door and hurry past the front of the casino. I make it a block.

“I almost missed you,” he pants, slowing to match my pace.

The after-work peace I gained in that block is quickly replaced by frustration. “Stewart, I told you, you don’t have to walk me to my car.”

“I was going this way anyway. You’re off tomorrow, right?”

“Yes.” My gaze locks on my trudging feet and the cobblestones below as I try to breathe through the pounding in my head. It was silly to assume I could escape. If I had any balls, I’d just tell him to leave me the hell alone, but I don’t.

“Any big plans?”

“Taking the kids to McDonalds, shopping, laundry. The usual.”

“I work.”

“I know.”

We walk the rest of the way in silence. “Okay, I’ll see you Friday,” he says when we reach my car.

“See you Friday, Stewart.”

~

For almost a week, I’ve been able to escape to my car by going around the block to the highway, and then cutting through the Lucky Nugget. Angie won’t let him in the pit anymore, but twice in the last few days, I’ve had to rush from the break room into the ladies locker room until he leaves. Today, I wait behind the door trying not to make a sound. My pulse blocks most other noises. Finally, I hear the break room door click shut and put my ear to the door. Silence. The break room is still when I re-enter, and I breathe a sigh of relief. My book is where I left it, but when I settle onto couch to find my place, Stewart steps out from behind the bushy, plastic hibiscus. The squeal in my throat is unstoppable and I jump to my feet.

“Sorry,” he holds out his hand to shush me. “I didn’t mean to scare you, but I haven’t seen you for days. Are you avoiding me?”

Heat floods my cheeks. “Yes, I am. It feels like you’re following me, Stewart, and it makes me very uncomfortable.” The door opens and a busboy from the restaurant upstairs enters.

Stewart bristles with anger, his chest puffing out and mouth stretching in a grimace. After a quick glance to make sure the busboy doesn’t overhear, he grunts, “Fine. I’ll keep my distance.” The door slams behind him when he storms out, a ring of keys bouncing off his blue Dickies work pants. Overwhelmed, I sink to the couch and sob. I don’t like causing pain.

~

Tonight, after work, he doesn’t wait around at the bar, and I can’t help but smile. I feel free when I punch out two hours later, and decide to stick around for drinks with coworkers. Angie is already on her second cocktail since her replacement had to punch in early and the tables were slow. Nancy, the day shift supervisor sits with her.

“You’re here,” Angie squeals, removing her purse from the stool to her right. “Where’s your shadow?”

“He’s taking the day off,” I say, wiping spilled foam from my mug with a napkin.

“Who’s her shadow?” Nancy leans closer.

“Stewart.”

Nancy raises an eyebrow. “Ah, so you’re the new one, Corrine. Lucky you.” She rolls her eyes.

“The new one?” I ask.

“He gets a crush on all the girls at some point.”

“He’s never had a crush on me,” Angie says.

“You’re married. I should have said single girls. Just don’t encourage him and you’ll be fine, Corrine,” Nancy warns me.

“I haven’t encouraged him, but we went out in a group last week, down to The Knuckle to see the band, and he acted like it was a date.” He kept trying to separate me from our friends, and several times I had to change seats.

“Yeah, that would be encouraging him,” Nancy laughs. “He’s not a bad guy, but he does have some boundary issues. Mostly, he’s harmless.”

“Mostly?” Angie looks a little surprised.

“Yeah. He’s harmless as long as you let him know you’re not interested. You know, he’s actually a very talented artist.”

“I am aware,” I nod. “He’s sketched a few quick drawings on cocktail napkins for me. Says he’s never tried to sell them, though.”

The bartender lifts my mug in a silent question. “Most people don’t want to part with their secret addictions.”

“No, thanks Mark. What do you mean, secret addictions?”

“His girlfriends, the girls he latches onto. He paints all of them,” he says, dunking my empty mug onto the glass scrubber in the sudsy bar sink. “I’ve heard his place is full of them, and I’m sure he has several of you.”

A chill spreads through me and I shake my torso to rid myself of the trembles. Neither Angie nor Nancy says anything, but both look sympathetic. Unsurprisingly, the excitement of hanging out with friends no longer appeals. After I sling my purse over my shoulder and turn to leave, Angie pulls me close and whispers in my ear, “Tell Jeff.”

When I pull away, Mark leans against the bar. “Don’t worry so much, Corinne, and don’t let him get to you. If you ignore him long enough, he’ll find someone new.” He pushes off the bar with his hands. “Have a good night, and drive safe.”

The long walk to my car is chilly. With darkness, the air has lost the late summer warmth, and my thin sweater does little to protect me from the damp. When I enter the long creek-side alley leading to the parking lot, the cold becomes oppressive and my teeth chatter. The sounds of my footsteps fade against the rushing of water below. Once out of the alley, a few street lights illuminate my path. The old beater of a station wagon sits lonely in the lot, waiting for me, and I step up my pace when it comes into view. Though my skin crawls as I cross the empty space, a quick check of my surroundings shows no one in sight.

I sigh in relief when I finally get my key in the door and the interior light reveals no boogey man lying in wait. Just before I climb in, I spot a folded piece of paper stuck beneath my windshield wiper. I grab it and lock myself in the car. My name is scrawled across the top. It’s from Stewart. The goose bumps return as I search the dark corners of surrounding buildings for signs of his presence. Carefully, I smooth out the folds.

Corinne,

I’m sorry if I made you angry. It’s just that you’re such a nice girl. Not like the others. Why don’t you want the nice guy who just wants to treat you right and be there for you and your kids? I know I could make you happy, if you’d just give me a chance. Janie and Peter need a man in their life, a strong man, and so do you.

A jolt of fear splits my body. How does he know my kid’s names?

I hope you will give me another chance, but you will have to make the next move. The last thing I want is to scare you off.

Until you come around and we can be together…

Yours in eternity,

Stewart

 

The car door barely swings wide before I heave onto the asphalt below. By the time I can sit up and close the door, my hands shake uncontrollably, so bad I can barely manage the latch of the glovebox to retrieve my secret stash of Marlboro Lights. Striking the match takes all my concentration. One cigarette can’t possibly undo seven months hard work, right? After a few deep drags, my nerves begin to calm.

I search my memory for a time I might have mentioned Janie and Peter to Stewart, but I know it never happened. A gut feeling kept me from sharing that information. Someone else must have told him. Stupid people. Why would he ask, and who would tell him? Only my closest coworkers know my kids’ names. I don’t walk around with a wallet full of snapshots or anything, and I try not to talk about them, even if someone asks. Past failure as their protector haunts me. I will not fall short again.

Yours in eternity? What the hell does that mean? He thinks we’ll be together forever? Dizziness keeps me from starting the car and leaving, dizziness from either the cigarette or note, or both. I try some deep breathing exercises, and after a few minutes, I’m okay to drive. 

~

A single player sits at my table when Stewart walks by the next morning. He nods at me and I automatically say, “Hi.” I regret it when a smile splits his face.

When he gets off work, I halfway expect him to wait for me at the bar, but he walks out the door, and the tension in my shoulders from our brief exchange this morning dissolves.

~

Since it’s Sunday, I drive straight home after work. My mom watches the kids for me on weekends. The kids and I live in the other half of her duplex. When my ex-husband dropped off the face of the earth, I could no longer afford our humble apartment, and my mother was thrilled to offer me her place for a modest cost. It works for now.

I’m surprised when the kids don’t meet me at the door, screaming in glee at my return. My house is empty, so I head to Mom’s. When I enter, I hear voices in the laundry room. The squeals and hugs of my toddlers as I enter the room nearly mask the blue, Dickie-clad legs protruding from under Mom’s utility sink. The feeling when my heart drops is sickening. It can’t be.

“You’re home,” my mother sings when she sees me, but I can’t take my eyes off the legs. “He’s fixed that leaking drain. It’s finally fixed!”

Before I can ask who “he” is, Stewart slides out, grasping the bottom of the sink to push along the floor.

“Well, Mary, you need to write a letter and complain to that plumbing company. That coupler was barely attached, and they didn’t use any sealant.” Before he is even standing, Peter hugs his leg.

“I like you Stewart. Are you really staying for supper?”

Not to be outdone, Janie attaches to his other leg. “Are you going to be our new daddy?”

Mortified, I grab the two and pull them away. “No sweetie, he’s not going to be your new daddy and he can’t stay for dinner. Stewart, what are you doing here?” I glare into his flushed face.

“Your friend stopped by looking for you,” my mother breaks in, “and I already invited him to stay. It’s the least I can do. Thank you so much, Stewart.”

“No,” I nearly shout. There is a spacey sensation in my head, like I can feel every hair and follicle as a thin layer of sweat covers my skin. “He is not staying.”

“Corinne,” my mother scolds. “Where are your manners?” She hasn’t spoken to me this way since I was a child, but she doesn’t know about Stewart.

With a hint of ice in his voice, Stewart says, “It’s okay, Mary. If Corinne doesn’t want me here, I can leave.”

My mother’s begins to protest, but I cut her off. “Why are you here? I think I made it clear I want nothing to do with you.” The spacey feeling has now turned to a dull throbbing, and tears lie in wait, just behind my eyes.

“But I thought after my letter, and you talked to me this morning, I thought –”

“Nothing, Stewart. It means nothing. Don’t write me any more letters,” my anger drives him toward the door, “don’t follow me, don’t talk to me, and don’t you ever, ever come to my house again. Do you understand me?” The pitch of my voice by the end is near screeching.

Mom and the kids are frozen in place, stunned by my outburst. With his hand on the doorknob, Stewart’s nostrils flare and his eyes narrow. Without a word, he turns and storms out, slamming the door behind him.

“What was that about? I’ve never seen you like this, Corinne.”

“Did you let him in my house?”

“No, but your door was unlocked, and I got the impression he was just coming out when I saw him.”

The throbbing in my head intensifies. “And you didn’t call the police? You invited him in to your house?”

Now, she looks mad. “Well honey, he said he was a friend of yours, and I remember seeing him at the casino. Why wouldn’t I be hospitable?”

I dig my fingers into my eyelids, hoping the pressure will ease the pain in my head. “Can you watch the kids a little longer?”

“Sure, Corinne. I can do that.”

Once home, I throw myself on my bed and break down sobbing.

~

At the first opportunity, I get Jeff alone in his office. He isn’t surprised by my story, though he is pissed I haven’t come to him sooner. Jeff really likes me. Really likes me, and everyone teases me about being his pet. I should have told him before now, but I didn’t want the gossips saying I always run to him with my problems. I’d done it before when I found out the guy I was dating (who worked in the restaurant upstairs) had physically abused Janie. I guess it wasn’t help I was after, but I wanted to let him know I was pressing charges and it was possible the guy might be arrested at work. Jeff fired him.

“You know, before he came here, Stewart worked across the street at the Horseshoe. They fired him for the exact same thing. Someone went to his house, and I guess his walls were covered with pictures and drawings of the cocktail waitresses. I told him, if I heard of him doing that shit here, he was gone.”

“Then why is he still here?” I can’t hide my rage. “I know I’m not the first of his targets.”

Jeff looks like he wants to crawl under a rock. “I just figured they were harmless crushes. They never last and he falls for someone else within a few weeks.”

“So I’m just supposed to wait it out? This has been going on for too long, Jeff.” The tears start to fall, but they’re not for Jeff’s benefit. I cry a lot these days. He tries to hug me, comfort me, but I awkwardly pull away and open the door. Though I may need a hug, the way married-Jeff feels about me makes it seem very inappropriate.

“Don’t worry, Corinne. I’ll take care of it,” he says as I walk away.

~

The next day at work, the establishment is abuzz. Stewart has been fired.

~

After work, it’s like a party at the bar for the employees, as though they all sense my relief and need for celebration. The heaviest of weights is gone from my shoulders. For the first time in ages, I feel carefree, and by the time I leave and head for my car, I can’t tell if the dizziness stems from my joy or the multiple drinks I downed with friends. They asked me to join them and continue the fun at the Knuckle, but I’m already too drunk to drive. The babysitter will make a few extra bucks off me tonight because I’ll need a short nap in my car before I drive anywhere. I can’t risk driving my kids like this.

The booze helps ward off the night’s chill, and the creek seems especially loud tonight as I pass. But then, there is a loud crack followed by a blast of light and searing pain. Then darkness.

~

The first thing I notice is the smell of paint. Then, the sound of The Toadies, Possum Kingdom. I’m not gonna lie, I’ll not be a gentleman is the mantra. When I can open my eyes, I find a room filled with flowers and pictures of me. I quickly shut them again, as though not seeing will take it away. My head hurts, and I must be bleeding because I feel a warm trickle over my ear. I look again, down now, to see blood running down the side of my bare breast and along my side. Something bites into my skin when I try to move. I am standing, tied at the ankles and wrists, positioned in an X form, legs and arms spread wide, without clothes. Braided strands of leather hold me fast.

Beyond me, Stewart stands behind an easel with a pallet in one hand, brush in the other. He focuses on the canvas in front of him. All around him, on every available flat space, are bunches of flowers – some in vases, some laying flat in their paper wrapping. My photos cover at least three walls. Over my shoulder, white sheets are draped. There may be more photos underneath. I don’t know. Most of the pictures are of me at work, but some were taken around town. My stomach drops when I notice in the photos with my kids, Peter and Janie are crudely blacked out, as though done in haste with a marker. The song begins again.

“You’re awake.” The sound of his voice pulls me a little closer to full awareness. I know I’m his prisoner now, the attack in the alley a foggy memory, and I realize he’s much more depraved than anyone guessed, even me, and I’d imagined him doing some pretty screwed up things.

“No, no. That won’t work. We need the color.” He strides toward me and I cower as best I can in my restraints. His fingers dig into the wound in my head, using his fingernails to scrape at it. I scream in pain, and only now realize I am gagged. Biting into the rubber like ball in my mouth, tears run down my cheeks, just like the fresh trail of blood from my head. “That’s better,” he says, returning to the easel.

On a table beside him sit a knife and a long barreled pistol. I can barely hear the sound of my whimpering over the music.

“I hope you like the flowers. I bought them before I lost my livelihood. You really screwed up our future, Corinne.” He peers at me around the easel as he paints. “How am I supposed to take care of you? We may only last a few days, now.” My heart races and I want to throw up, but if I do, I’ll choke on my own vomit.

“I’m glad I bought the flowers. You deserve them…so beautiful. We’re going to be very happy together, Corinne.”

He continues painting, but his breathing changes, coming short and huffy. He studies me with narrowed eyes. “You’re too pale. Breathe or something.” He is flustered. After a few more minutes work, he snaps the knife off the table and turns toward me.

“If you won’t do it, I’ll have to.”

I’m close to hyperventilating as he approaches with the knife. My head swims with panic. So helpless. Does anyone know to look for me? I don’t even know how long I’ve been here. An hour? Three? A day? Harmless they all called him.

He stands and examines me with his hand under his chin, the blade of the knife sticking out from his palm. Back and forth his head moves, studying each breast. “More color, yes,” he mutters, holding out the knife. With one hand he palms my left breast, while the other hand presses the blade into the skin above my nipple. Careful and slow, he slices the shape of an arc to mirror the natural curve. A gush of urine half sprays onto the ground and half runs down my leg as my entire body screams in pain and I twist in my restraints.

I can barely see through my terror as he stands back to admire his work, paying no attention to my bladder release. He looks pleased and moves to the other breast and repeats the process. Blood now gushes from both breasts, and I plead for mercy with my eyes, but he’s too captivated by the blood.

“Yes! That’s what we needed, Corinne, but more. It needs to run over your beautiful skin, not drip uselessly to the floor.”

With no warning, he slices the underside of each breast. So much pain. My eyeballs press against their sockets. Even they long for escape, but from this misery, there is none. Pleased with his efforts, he returns to the painting and I hang to consciousness by a thread.

“So much better with color. Washed out and bland do not work on you, my girl.” As though I’m his paid model, and he hasn’t just cut my chest to ribbons, he chats on about work, and how much he’ll miss it, and how much they’ll miss me. I already know he means to kill me. I think about Peter and Janie. How will they fare, raised by my mother? Will their father reappear, once my death makes the news? I’ve done so little to raise them so far. What kind of adults will they become without me to nurture them?

“Are you thinking of your kids?” he interrupts my thoughts. I moan in response, begging to be spared. “Don’t worry. I won’t keep them away from you long. I’ll make sure you’re reunited.” He smiles. “I told you I was a good guy, but you didn’t believe me.”

I so want to scream, to tell him what a raving lunatic he is. Tell him good guys don’t talk about killing innocent children. They don’t kidnap women to create a relationship. They don’t slice their skin to give them color. But I can’t scream. Instead, I faint.

~

When I wake, the room is darker, and Stewart enters as though he is walking through a bog, forcing his legs forward. He is much changed from before. As he painted, he was energized, happy even. Now, he acts like his mother just died. He works his way to the table beside the easel and takes the gun in hand. For a long time, he stands and watches me, and I figure this is the end.

He comes closer and reaches out to pinch my nipple. “Boing,” he says, still frowning. “Boing,” he pinches the other side. The gun metal flashes in the low light as he moves it to his right hand.

“I wanted to be your lover, Corinne, your partner. Someone you could come to with any problems. It would have been perfect.” He covers my gagged mouth with his cracked lips, and lingers there, as though it is sensual and loving. Bile rises in my throat. I feel something cold pushing between my legs. The scream doesn’t make it past my lips when he shoves the barrel deep inside me. The front sight digs into the skin of my vaginal canal – it must be ripping my flesh. Stewart mauls my body with his open mouth, repeatedly thrusting the long barrel as far as he can. Thrashing against my bonds does no good. It only makes the violation more painful.

Finally he stops with the barrel buried to the trigger. I hear him cock the gun. “Should I let him come?” He lifts his eyes to mine and hatred bores into me through his gaze. “Too impersonal,” he says, yanking the gun out. I know for sure it takes flesh with it when warm liquid runs down my leg.

His shoulders slump as he returns to the table and exchanges the gun for the knife. When he returns, he opens the front of his pants and pulls them and his underwear down to his knees. One arm pulls me snug against him while the other cradles the knife. He slaps his limp penis against my flesh.

“It’s almost over Corinne,” he assures me, and I am comforted. I want it to be over, and I will gladly accept death as my escape. Emotion and sobs wrack my body, and he pulls me tighter, slowly easing the knife into my belly as he does. The penis he slaps against me is no longer limp. It grows thick as the knife goes deeper. The stabbing pain sharpens my awareness of  his lips against my cheek. “You’ll stay as beautiful. With dark hair, and soft skin. Forever,” he sings. “Shhh,” he coos in my ear, pressing the blade deeper. “Shhh, baby. It’s over.”

I lean my head into his shoulder as he twists the knife and slowly drags it out. My sight is nearly gone when he backs away and begins to masturbate furiously. I’m slipping, and my eyes close. Even through the black of my lids, I see a flash of light and hear a gun shot. He’s killed himself, I think, but then I hear another, and the room fills with noise.

I am eased to the ground, my bonds cut, and someone feels for a pulse. “She’s still alive,” they announce, but they are wrong.

I have left this world, I know, because Stewart stands beside me holding my hand, and there is no more pain. With a squeeze, he says, “I’m sorry, Corinne. This was my role this time.”

There is no blame or pain in my heart. He played his part, and I played mine.

The End

Seat 13

Brandie Buckwine (writing as tfc Parks)

Dolpho shuffled forward with the line, his cursed fate pulling him closer. The shrieks and screams of thrill-seekers charged the atmosphere of the dusk filling the amusement park. This is what hell will sound like, he thought, fighting the urge to cover his ears. Ahead of him in line, two young boys shoved one another into onlookers. The obscenities they exchanged filled his head with visions of stuffing their mouths with a different kind of corruption.

No, no, Dolpho. Mustn’t think such things. Can’t prove you’re sincerity by attacking innocents.

The carnie worked around the ride, helping those who couldn’t manage to disembark alone. When he approached and opened the gate, the two boys each ran for a swing.

A cold chill swept over him leaving behind the sheen of terror. I should go. Now. This cannot work.

“Next,” the carnie waved him ahead.

Swallowing rancid bile, Dolpho stepped forward and held out his ticket with a shaking hand. “Seat 13, please.”

The carnie’s eyes widened, but he quickly covered his surprised look. “And who says you get to pick your seat?”

“The power of darkness affords me one chance,” he choked out the pass-phrase. The air around him grew cold, and when he looked to the man holding his ticket out of hell, the skin on his bones began to sting and crawl. What was moments before the face of a dirty lowlife now appeared demonesque, his dark skin glowing red beneath the surface, his eyes reflecting the very fires of hell.

“Aye,” his unearthly snarl pierced Dolpho’s brain. “One chance to free your soul.” When he stepped aside to unblock the gate, his filthy visage returned and the cloudy grey of his eyes held no threat. “To your right.”

One of the boys from the line squawked from the next swing as Dolpho removed the out-of-order sign and climbed into the bedeviled chair. “Careful, old man. You have a heart attack, you won’t be able to flash that gnarly old prick to the little girlies.” The other boy howled in laughter, but he ignored the lucky guesser. Going in angry would guarantee defeat, and he could not fail.

The children continued to taunt him as the swing jolted forward and the ground fell away. As the mechanical momentum gained speed, the gibes grew silent and darkness eclipsed his world. He expected some great sensation, like falling, or the pull of gravity, but nothing happened. He was just suddenly there. Back on the couch in his sister’s living room. Back in the moment that defined his future.

Before him on the floor sat young Sissy, her greasy fingers stuffing her mouth with popcorn, eyes glued to the television, mesmerized by some young heartthrob-turned-sleuth for masses of pre-pubescent girls everywhere.

She glanced over her shoulder. “Stop looking at me, creep. When’s Mom gonna be home?”

Her bratty tone always made Dolpho shudder with need, but now he reached into his heart for love. Affection will get me through this. I can do it. “I don’t know. Whenever she’s done with her errands.”

“Errands,” Sissy scoffed. “More like dropping her pants for the whole bar.”

See? Dolpho reasoned. This child is no innocent. Maybe false guilt made him fear an eternity of damnation. Perhaps the foreboding in his mind was no more than paranoia. Faces of the others flashed through his mind. He could not fail.

“Go to the store. I want pop. And ding-dongs. Get me some pop and ding-dongs and I won’t tell Mom that you make me touch your ding-dong when she’s gone.”

No, no innocent. Sissy wanted him. That was clear. She held the threat over his head to keep him close – the power to end their affair always within her grasp. One chance, commanded the voice in his head. That’s right. Love. For this child. The kind an uncle should have for his little niece, not the kind he had for this whorish moppet.  

“I will go to the store, but you come here, first.”

Sissy spun around on her butt and glared. The sight of the little bumps on her chest made his mouth water. His throat constricted and he tried to swallow his desire. Why had he called her closer? If he did as she asked and went to the store, he might survive this challenge. Instead, he patted the couch beside him. Part of the challenge was to resist temptation. Running from it would win him nothing.

Her eyes narrowed and she glanced at the front door as she stood and tugged at the bottom of her shorts. “Make that a six-pack. And a candy bar.” She hopped onto his lap, but he quickly diverted her to sit by his side. “Hurry up. I want to watch my show.” Sissy grabbed at his groin, her fingers leaving handprint butter stains on his pants.

“You stupid little harlot,” he jumped from his seat, and before he could think better of it, Dolpho backhanded the little girl across the cheek.

With an earsplitting scream, Sissy brought her hand to cover her swelling face. “You asshole! I’m telling! Everything. You are dead!”

Dread settled deep in Dolpho’s gut. Sophie would call the police and his life would end in jail. That could not happen. He was here to keep his hands off the child, not mark himself and thwart all future endeavors. Or was that the point? He couldn’t think straight with Sissy continuing to wail and threaten. She’d crawled to the corner of the couch and curled into a ball, but the tightness of her crouch did nothing to quiet her tantrum. The neighbors would hear.

Dolpho yanked her from her perch and tossed her to the floor, quickly straddling her small hips to seal her mouth beneath his hand. Her wild eyes nearly disappeared in the torrent of tears. This was not good at all. He had to quiet her, stop her cries from sounding in the still apartment. He brought his other hand to her neck and squeezed. Maybe with a little more fright, she’d obey his commands for silence.

When her eyes began to bulge, Dolpho removed his hand from her mouth. Though she didn’t scream, a loud choking noise sounded from her throat, so he returned his hand. The pink in her face turned purple and silence filled the room. Her struggling little body grew more still.

Love. He needed love to right his wrongs. In the moments of her calm, Dolpho loved Sissy more than ever before. Love. Need. The two emotions warred in his mind as little Sissy fell away from life. And in the following moments, Dolpho released her neck, her mouth, and his need. He tore at her shorts and his pants and loved the little girl as he’d never loved another.

Before he could sort his thoughts with the ultimate gratification of his adoration, he was back at the swings, the foul carnie snorting in amusement.

“Ain’t many that come back worse than they was.”

“I failed?” The weight of his actions was only now coming into focus.

“Aye. Ya failed spectacularly.” The grimy man chuckled and turned toward a crowd of children standing before them.

“If I failed, why aren’t I in hell? Wasn’t that the deal? Straight to hell? Does this mean I get another chance?” Hope spiked his heartbeat.

“Aye. That was the deal. But ya’s got to be dead to go to hell.” The carnie backed away.

Dolpho turned to study the tens of children waiting just yards away. Each held a stone the size of their fist. At first, he only recognized the boy from the swing, but when he looked more closely, he spotted the little girl from the house next to his own. They’d been lovers for several months now. When he smiled at her and lifted his hand to wave, she heaved her rock at him with amazing accuracy and force. The stone smacked against his lip, the tooth below cutting through skin. The young girl reached to the pile at her feet to grasp another rock.

“Sissy!” he called out as beside the first girl, his murdered niece raised her arm and took aim. His body still pulsed with the need to love her.

“Die!” The rock flew from her hand to his temple. The instinct to raise his hands for protection failed. He could not move.

“Die!” the mass of children cried as one, and all released their burdens upon Dolpho. He prayed for the release of hell, but mercy was a chance he’d already been given.

The End

 

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