Halloween on a Wednesday doesn’t lend its self to a big night of hell-raising. (I’ve got work the next day.) But you can still carve a pumpkin, hand out some candy, watch a scary movie or ready a short disturbing tale. I have posted my submission to the GoodReads Paranormal & Horror Lovers authors collaboration.
The Little Death
By B. C. Sirrom
Short Story from All the Lovely Creatures, anthology
I was born in rural West Virginia. I won’t bother telling you where; there weren’t any towns close by. The name won’t mean anything to you, and you’ll have to pretend you know where it is. There is not much there; I got out as soon as possible. Maybe I should have stayed. Maybe it happened because I left. It’s too late to go back now.
I’m sorry. I’m rambling.
My name is Jon Elvis Walker.
I am going to be completely honest. You deserve that, at least, even if you don’t deserve what will happen after.
My Eighteenth Birthday
“Does everything look ‘normal’, doc?”
“You didn’t see anything…anything weird in my blood work?”
“Did you expect me to?”
I gave a weak laugh, “Nah, not really.” I didn’t tell the army doctor about my fears or about the college professor who studied my family. The professor called us ‘Melungeons’; we call ourselves ‘American’. He was doing research and found us, to use his word, fascinating. Yes, I looked different from the boys I went to school with. They treated me like an outsider, even though my family lived in the county just as long as theirs. Longer, depending on who you asked. I didn’t tell the doctor any of this. I didn’t want to endanger my enlistment.
The doctor mistook my silence for uncertainty. “You sure you want to do this, son? They stopped the draft, you know.”
“Sure. I mean, ‘Yes, Sir’. I want this.” I wanted this more than the old veteran could imagine. I knew lots of guys who joined up. They wanted money for school or just didn’t know what else to do. A few had higher ideals, like patriotism. I was joining to blend in, to be anonymous. Neither popular nor overtly talented in any way, I did well enough in school. I did extremely well considering I had no place to study in a house full of dirty, crying babies. But, I am no scholar. I on;y wanted out and didn’t care how.
I don’t look like the recruits they show on the posters. The politically correct demographic slice of Americana: one white guy, one black guy and one woman, ethnicity may vary. My features are strikingly European with thin lips and straight narrow nose. But, my hair is reminiscent of a Native American’s. It’s severely straight and unrelenting black. I’ve heard people call me ‘olive-skinned’. I think I just look tan…year-round. Then there are my eyes. My mother called them bedroom eyes, but she was talking about my father. Ghost gray and heavy-lidded, I always look just a little bit sleepy. Individually, my characteristics are ordinarily unremarkable. As a composition, I am a foreigner in my own country. Foreign, but I’m not alone.
My entire family looks like me, or rather me like them. The men are all but identical. My father, uncles, and brothers all share the same bizarre likeness. My mother was fair with freckles and strawberry blonde hair. Her genes must have been erased by my father’s prolific ones. I was the first son by my father’s second wife. He is on number three now. She is pretty and young. Despite being twenty years my father’s junior, she is fading as my mother did. Consecutive pregnancies, rearing a herd of children and menial jobs are wearing her. Soon, she will look like father’s contemporary.
My father. For all his faults, he is a handsome devil. Lazy. Witty. Affectionate. That is my father. When he desires, I have seen him charm the cruelest old battleaxe into a simpering school girl with little more than a wink. My elder brothers are the same. All able to charm their way with women, and each had a child before they gave up on high school. They were content with their predictable lot in life. I wasn’t. I avoided contact with girls. I like girls. I like girls a whole lot. They are beautiful and mysterious. However, my family’s proven fertility kept me in check. I wouldn’t risk an unexpected pregnancy.
The doctor finally finished his exam and made notes on the paperwork. I glanced over, trying to read his writing upside-down. I had left the box by ethnicity unchecked on my form. I couldn’t decipher his comments, but he took the liberty of marking ‘other’ for my cultural background.
Yeah, that’s me…Other.
Three Years Later
I wrote home a lot during my first deployment. I described the United States’ noble mission to right a third world country’s woes. I guess I was trying to brag. I told them about the places I had been, people I had seen, and possibly exaggerated the things I was doing. They didn’t write back.
My brother handed me a letter on my first visit on leave with a “We never got to the post office.” The letter was hardly half finished, but I pocketed it anyway. I read it often while on base. It wasn’t for the content but as a reminder. I didn’t want that life.
“Love letter from a girl?” J. Nelson teased. The ‘J’ stood for ‘Jennifer’ but she preferred ‘Nelson’. I was the only one allowed to call her ‘Jay’.
“My brother.” She already knew that, but this was like a game we played. She was the only person I considered a friend.
“Ewwww…I knew you hillbillies married your cousins, but your brother!”
“Ha-Ha.” I offered the expected forced laugh.
“Anything new?” She asked seriously.
“Not since the last time I read it.”
“Why do you keep reading it then?”
“Something to do. Besides, even if they did write it again, would say the same things.”
“Sounds like an exciting place.” Jay boldly snatched my letter. I never let her read my letter before. As she scanned the messy handwriting her playful expression went blank. She carefully re-folded the worn page and tucked it into my shirt pocket. “Sorry.”
“Wasn’t what you expected?” I asked.
“No. It’s pretty messed up actually.” Jay wouldn’t look at me.
I laughed. It was a cruel sound. “Yes. Yes it is.” I recounted the high points of the letter. “All the kids have lice. Sixteen-year-old brother is a father of two. Stepmom is preggo with number four. But, it’s nice when uncle and nephew are in the same grade.” I surrendered. I didn’t have to live there anymore. “Eleven and counting living in a five room shack. S.S.D.D., Jay. S.S.D.D.”
“Same Shit. Different Day.” She understood.
We sat quiet, but comfortable as the sun went down. Dusk is my favorite time of day. It’s the time the whole world is soft. All the ugliness gets disguised in purple and gold.
“Look out.” Jay warned. “Here come the ass-hats.”
I wanted to laugh, but I knew who she was talking about. I groaned instead. Privates Monte, Bowman and Cort could always be heard well before they were seen. They subscribed to the masculine notion that the louder you were, the more important you sounded.
“Walker.” The self-appointed leader, Monte yelled by way of starting the conversation. “You’re in tonight, no pussing out.” I never could tell if Monte wanted to be my buddy or kick my ass.
“Not interested, Monte.”
“Dude! You are going. You’re twenty-one today. You’re like completely legal now and shit.”
I only shrugged. Jay elbowed me. “Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday?”
“You can come too, Nelson, but you’ll have to put on something tight.” Monte leered.
“You’re such a tool.”
Monte didn’t quite understand that she was insulting him. Instead he resumed badgering me. “Tonight. The South Pole. You’re going.” Monte’s buddies whistled and cat-called. The South Pole was a notorious strip club. It was also the only strip club near base. The guys reverted back to pre-pubescence whenever it was mentioned. I didn’t see the appeal.
Monte left and the others followed. They slapped each other’s backs and strutted at their great non-accomplishment.
“So…are you gonna go?” Nelson asked, almost timid.
I rubbed my face, weary. “Probably. Just to get Monte off my back.”
“Sure. I’m sure that’s the only reason.” She snipped.
“Hey!” I was startled by her sudden change of mood. “I don’t want to go, but Monte will never let it go. It’s better if I just go have a beer. Then he’ll drop it.”
“Okay, fine.” She jumped up. “I gotta go. Bye.”
The South Pole
The club was as dark and sordid as advertised. We arrived at ten o’clock because according to Monte only ‘losers showed up early’. I hoped to slip away after the others were distracted by drinks and the entertainment.
It didn’t appear I would be so fortunate. When we arrived, the hostess greeted Monte by name. She seated us at a large booth placed prominently at center stage. In fact, the stage edge served as the table for our drinks. During their routines, the girls would make a circuit by us. I will admit the guys were generous. For all his chauvinism, Monte was a good tipper.
My first drink down, margarita, I think, and things were progressing okay. The place wasn’t as repellant as I expected. The night had a thrilling sort of anxiety. There was a sense of universal anticipation. It was primal, raw and uncomplicated. The energy tingled within the male patrons, but the lady entertainers were not immune. Anything was possible in the dark early hours, far away from the judgment of dawn.
The servers were free with the drinks and the music was pleasantly conversation-inhibiting. At the end of each routine, the ladies collected their due from the crowd. Most of the dancers wore themed costumes. There was a sassy librarian, a hottie nurse and classic school girl. The woman, the school girl, on platform exited stage left and climbed onto my lap. ‘Climb’ wasn’t a sensual enough word, but my vocabulary failed to provide an appropriate synonym. She hadn’t bothered with putting her costume back on.
“Hi,” she tried for smooth nonchalance. She came across satirical. “I’m Candy. I heard it was your birthday.”
“Candy? Really?” I couldn’t help it. Her name was something out of a poorly scripted porno.
“Candy is sweet.” She pouted. “What’s your name, Baby?”
“Hey!” She dropped her seductress persona. Candor suited her. “That’s not any better!”
“I didn’t suggest it was, Ma’am.” I conceded.
“Ma’am!” She giggled. “You’re too cute!”
That was completely emasculating, but I didn’t have time to think about that. She was pulling me to my feet. “You get to come with me to the Champagne Room.” I followed like so many weak-minded men before me.
“Champagne Room?” I was nervous and chatty. “Isn’t that a little cliché?”
“No more than ‘Candy’.” She giggled self-effacing. Still leading me, she added. “Men are simple. Men like to know what to expect. And men really like it when reality meets their expectations. They think strip clubs are all champagne rooms filled with girls named Candy, so…ta-da! Here I am!”
“And women are more complicated?”
“Of course, we are! Women want danger and excitement. We want a tall, dark stranger, like you, Jon.” She was purring again.
“Dark and dangerous, huh?” I never thought about myself in those terms. Odd. Different. Quiet. Outcast. That was me.
“Definitely.” She manhandled me onto the couch. “And sexy as sin.”
I changed the subject. “Did Monte set this up?” I wondered how far her act would go.
She gave me a little private smile. “No,” she whispered. “Monte just wanted me to tease you a little, maybe shake my ass at you. Give you a thrill.” She was on my lap again. She brought her mouth to my ear. “But…”
Candy surprised me with a hard kiss. She tasted faintly of cigarettes covered up by strong mint. The little bits of sequin on her obscene costume dug into my chest. I didn’t pull her closer, but I didn’t push her away either.
“We have to hurry. The manager doesn’t like us mixing business with pleasure.” She gave me that personal mischievous grin again. It was so different from the emotionless mask she wore on stage. Quickly my jeans were unbuttoned and pushed down. My shirt was pushed up around my neck. My brain shut off while my body got up to speed. My fingers found her delicate flesh beneath the thin strip of fabric. She arched and moaned exponentially to my minor ministrations. Flushed, she tore away the remains of her clothing. As I took a breath to steady myself, she was on me. Her body engulfed mine with blinding heat. Any protest I had at losing my virginity in a strip club was silenced by the act itself. I was immobilized by sensation. There was only pressure and heat. I felt her everywhere, wet and tight. She was seeping into my very pores. I wanted to consume her. I felt crazed with power. She was beautiful, pliant and mine to command. She took the pleasure I gave her and I wanted to devour her. I felt strong, stronger than I ever had in my life. Everything was murky, fuzzy, yet in my mind, I was invincible.
Her pace so frantic in the beginning, turned lethargic. She continued through her first climax almost more needy and demanding than before. “More, baby. More.” She begged. I pushed upward to add to her efforts. “AH!” She half-cried, half-screamed.
Right as she reached the brink of her final orgasm, the door flung open. “CANDY!” A middle aged man barged in. I rolled to my side and let Candy fall softly on the couch. I started to simultaneously apologize and pull my pants up. My inexplicable sense of invincibility abandoned me, leaving me feeling shaky and weak.
I repeated my apology over and over. The manager just shoved passed to berate Candy directly. “What are you doing, stupid bitch?” He grabbed her chin roughly and turned her to face him. Her expression was completely blissed out. She smiled dreamily passed the looming manager to me. He yelled again, but she only kept smiling. She caressed her breasts and then lower down her stomach still looking at me.
The manager turned on me. “What did you give her?” He demanded. “I swear to God if she OD’s I will have your balls!”
“Nothing. Nothing, Sir. I don’t do drugs.” I tried to convince him.
“Baby, baby come back.” Candy was reaching toward me. She looked exhausted but divinely sated too. She was still reaching as her eyes closed. The manager’s focus was immediately on her again. “Get out of here!” He yelled at me. “Don’t ever come back here and if I found out you did something to her, you are dead!”
I didn’t wait to be told again. I took the first door I saw. Then the next and the next, until I found myself in the poorly lit alley behind the club. Confused and scared, I ran. Forgetting I rode with Monte, I could only think about getting back to base. Base was where everything made sense and I was safe.
In the Infirmary
“Jay! Jay! Are you awake?” I was at the back door to the infirmary. I couldn’t think clearly enough to remember if Jay was on duty tonight or not. I banged on the door anyway.
“I am now. Quiet, before we both get dishonorably discharged.” Jay cracked the door so I could slip in. The club was only three miles from the base; it felt like I ran a marathon. I couldn’t speak at first. Concerned, Jay brought a cool, damp cloth and pressed it to the back of my neck. “What happened, Walker?”
“I don’t know…” I gasped. “There was a girl, a dancer at the club. She started…We started…” I suddenly couldn’t tell my friend what I did. But I could tell she already knew. “Then the manager came it. The girl…something was wrong. She looked happy but it wasn’t right. She wouldn’t get up. It was like she was drained, too tired to care or move…but content.”
We were in the one of the exam rooms. I didn’t remember how I got there. I guess for the second time that night, a woman led me mindlessly to a room. I finally calmed down enough to sit on the exam table.
“What happened next?” Jay prompted.
“The manager told me to leave. I did. I just took off. Ran straight here.” I dropped my head to my hands. “I don’t know what happened, Jay. One minute, I was…”
“Having sex.” Jay filled in the blank.
“Yeah. Not exactly what I imagined. It scared me. I don’t know what would have happened if the manager hadn’t come in.”
Suddenly Jay was beside me, holding me. I felt overwhelmed and bereft, like I missed out on something very precious, but didn’t know what it was.
“shhhh It’s okay. It’s okay.” Jay soothed. “It’s not your fault. That girl probably took something before she went on stage. It’s okay.”
I wondered though, Was it my fault?
Jay’s touch became less friendly concern and more friendly.
“Jay, please don’t.” I pulled away.
“Why? I’m not as pretty as your stripper whore?” She sounded more hurt than angry.
“You’re my best friend.”
“That’s even more reason why we should. We care for each other.” Jay stood to face me as I stayed seated on the exam table. Jay nudged her way between my thighs, yet I was the one who felt trapped. She traced the outline of my chest through the damp material. She no longer looked like my “buddy”. Her face was full of feminine wonder. “You’re special, Jon.” She whispered as if she didn’t want to frighten me.
I never noticed how small she was before. Her toughness and take-on-the-world attitude masked her natural vulnerability. Now, she was exposed before me. Her eyes and posture pleaded with me to return her affection.
She wanted me to love her.
The surge of power I felt earlier at the club started to tingle again in my chest. What had been a heady drug-like high was now a raging sense of supremacy.
“Are you sure?” I gave her one last out.
“Yes.” Her answer was a throaty purr she accompanied with action. She removed her uniform with the speed and efficiency only military practice can instill. For one moment, she stood before me completely nude. Her bright dog tags hung between her exposed breasts. Her hair was still in its neat uniform bun. Her obvious arousal was juxtaposed the remnants of her military image.
It was exciting.
I gained more confidence with Jay and the situation. She may have instigated the act, but I was in control. Or so I thought.
Emboldened, I turned Jay around. Her sculpted back and flawless skin amped up my already pitched desire. First, I pulled the dog tags off over her head. Then I started freeing her bound hair. Jay had chestnut brown hair. It fell to the middle of her back, but tonight was the first time I ever saw it down. I finger combed her incredible mane. She moaned, enjoying my attentions. Growing impatient, she pressed her curved bottom against my erection.
“Ready?” I teased.
“Please.” My once-proud friend begged.
That plea triggered the monster I held in check. It was the demon I feared but never acknowledged.
I flipped her onto the exam table. She tried to simultaneously pull me to her and rip my shirt off. She was urgent and clumsy. I let her wrestle with my shirt while I opened my pants. My flesh was hot and massive. I was not being egotistical. I was honestly a little scared looking at it. Jay writhing beneath me brought me back to the moment. Any extraneous thoughts were instantly nullified.
I entered her too quickly. I couldn’t stop myself and she didn’t protest. There was no slowing down. Both our bodies demanded more and more. Jay stopped making coherent words. She screamed and moaned, but always incessant for more.
I had heard of out-of-body experiences before, the sensation of being dislodged from one’s body. It’s described as being out of control, of watching yourself in third person. I had a complete in-body experience. I felt everything; was aware of everything; in control of everything. I no longer felt tethered by mundane human considerations, like exhaustion, weakness or empathy.
I don’t know how long we were on the table with my flesh punishing hers or her rewarding me with cries of delight when the scales began to shift in my favor. My energy mounted as hers waned. My muscles were fortified by the exchange while Jay grew less responsive.
But she never asked me to stop. It is important you remember that. She urged me on to the very end.
Everything felt better than perfect. Light sweat on scorching skin. Her hair flying about her face. Jay’s breathless pleas for ‘more’. There was no end to my stamina. My hips rocked forward ruthlessly. My body took and took. With each stroke I grew stronger and less human.
Poor Jay was no match for me.
I felt the end was coming for both of us, though in many ways it was the beginning for me.
Jay managed to curl her arms around my neck. She was too weak to pull me closer. Instead, I cradled her back, being sure to support her head and neck.
“Don’t stop. Whatever you do, don’t stop.” She managed to gasp.
I carried out her request. I put in all my effort; depleted all my reserves. I hit the wall of my orgasm and powered through.
It was sublime. It was pure instinct and amplified senses. I had no worries, no higher thoughts beyond the moment.
My breathing leveled. Yet my heart raced. My chest actually hummed with pent up energy. I felt the untapped potential of my own body. I should have been a spent, worn mess. Instead I felt like a god.
Jay hadn’t moved. I rose onto my elbows. “Jay?” I pushed her hair from her face. She wore the same blissed out expression as Candy, except Private Jennifer Nelson was dead.
I left Jay on the exam table. I covered her body with a hospital sheet to save her modesty as much as I could. Her dog tags were still lying abandoned on the floor. Selfishly, I wanted a memento. I took the one from the smaller chain and following military tradition, put the other back around her neck.
She could have been asleep. Her face was serene. I envied her peace. I was angry with her, too. Not just for dying, but for making me recognize the dark need, the dark power within me. Surely, I was in part, responsible for her death. I was as guilty as if I strangled the life from her with my bare hands. Yet, the fault lay with her. The horror at what I had done was compromised by the sheer delight forever set in my friend’s visage and the clear memory of her pleas for ‘more’. Her vitality was spent; no, not spent. Drained. I sucked it from her like a mighty parasite.
I had trouble locating my sorrow. In part, because my body felt profoundly good and because I felt I spared Jay some cruelty of this world. She as a female officer serving during a nasty conflict, her potential was curbed by policy. Her likely path was a mediocre career, bad marriage and bitterness. I freed her from all of that.
My physical sense of well-being was offset by two realizations: I wanted to feel the surge of power while was with Jay and the stripper…and I was willing to accept the consequences.
I stopped visiting my family. I’m sure by now I’ve faded into the local mythology. I’m just the odd uncle that joined the army and never came back. I wonder if I am the remnant of my ancestry or something new. Perhaps I’m a new step in evolution. I wonder if the college professor would find me ‘fascinating’ now. I think I’m different from my male relatives because I waited. I starved the greedy power within, so when it had its chance it took everything.
The army was all that I hoped it would be, an anonymous place to belong. People only see the uniform. The world’s wars have provided the backdrop for my exploits. The US government never turns down a healthy young man looking to enlist. I haven’t changed since the night with Jay. I spared her the meanness of Vietnam, but I witnessed Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq first hand. I see your disbelief. I am much older on the inside. Jay’s life stopped time’s inevitable work. I went a little wild after being with her. There was Tiffany, Heather and Meredith. Each one was special. Each one had her reason for seeking me out. Depression. Heartache. Disillusionment. I gave them the pleasure of a lifetime in a single night. They thought it was worth it.
That brings me to us…you and me here tonight. Candy was right. Women, or at least some women, like dangerous. They go looking for the tall, dark stranger. Is that not why you are here? You have spent the evening listening to a stranger’s dark story. You came looking for danger and found it. I am the man your mother warned you about. Jay was the only one, even after all these years, I have taken that didn’t know how it would end. Now, you know.
And you will still come with me.”