Posted on 1 Comment

Head Trip by Ken Goldman

 

Holly’s headache had progressed from a dull throb to a pounding jungle beat. Since she had turned off Route 85 at Gila Bend the narrow road seemed to stretch before her in an unrelenting straight line through the desert to the horizon. She had not seen any directional signs since she had passed Sentinel over an hour ago, nor had she seen a single car. Another Excedrin moment was definitely in the making, and if she turned to one more radio station playing Patsy Cline she knew she would completely lose it.

Just thinking about the cargo that she carried in the rear of Dr. Stanley Cooper’s old Chevy van would be enough to send creepy crawlers along the spine of most people. But Holly Samuels was not most people.

That was what Cooper had told her when he asked her to transport his five canisters through a dozen Nevada ghost towns to some God-forsaken medical laboratory twenty miles south of Painted Rocks State Park. The man could not have found a more secluded spot to continue his research than if he had bought real estate on the far side of the moon. Cooper trusted her with his secret and that was enough for her, although the man had yet to explain to his wife that he had been banging his lab assistant for the past six months. But that was a headache meant for another day.

Holly’s thoughts traveled their own path as she drove. There was something else about Cooper’s cryogenic project that she had always strained to remember but could not, something misty and unformed that lurked in a dark chamber of her brain. Holly considered it strange how a part of one’s mind did not always share the secrets of one’s own thoughts. Especially when so many of her thoughts included Dr. Stanley Cooper.

Last night in her bed he had exploded inside her like some sort of lower form primate, but once dressed Cooper again became all business, the research scientist speaking clinically to his lab assistant. The man could switch gears so quickly that for a moment Holly had even considered taking out her notepad.

“The Oatman Foundation people are beginning to ask questions,”  he had explained to her as he slipped on his shoes. “ We’ll have to move the specimens tomorrow morning, and you’ll drive them to the Sonoran lab. We can’t take any more chances leaving them at the Kingman Center.”  Holly knew this was true, although she might have also believed Cooper if he had asked her to believe in the tooth fairy. The $140,000 Oatman research grant had so far produced little more than a few computer graphics and analysis charts from Cooper, and the Foundation was having second thoughts about its magnanimity.

Timing the move to the Sonoran location was critical, because no one could object if the Oatman people suddenly decided to inspect the Kingman lab. In the morning Holly had helped Cooper pack the five specimens into the canisters with the liquefied hydrogen and oxygen needed to preserve them, carefully averting her eyes from them as she worked. She hoped Cooper would dismiss this morning’s squeamishness as the natural reaction that any woman would feel, although she knew there were other reasons for it. As always, Cooper mentioned how the job required the utmost secrecy. That, and a strong stomach.

“No problem,”  Holly had assured him. She lied.

Holly never doubted she would keep the doctor’s secret, but now she had some doubts about keeping down her lunch. Because she had not seen any gas stations since leaving route 85 she reluctantly turned off the air conditioning to save fuel, and within minutes her nipples peeked through a tank top sopping with perspiration as if she had been in a wet t-shirt contest. Cooper would have appreciated the high beam look, but he would not think such happy thoughts if he knew she was lost.

A half-formed memory again teased her thoughts with peek-a-boo flashes, but still it refused to come out. Something about those damned canisters that only she knew, something even Stanley Cooper had not considered. Her solitude always seemed to give birth to some mighty uncomfortable thoughts.

Holly looked into the rear view mirror and wiped a damp string of hair from her forehead. A small bead of sweat had caught in the tiny half-moon scar above her left eye, one of many such childhood memories of her father after another alcoholic rampage. Shortly before Vernon Samuels died he had arrived home late one night playing that same God-awful Patsy Cline tape he always played on the truck’s cassette deck. When he tripped over Holly’s bicycle in the driveway, he called out her name, cursing and howling while she pretended to be asleep. He found his way into her bedroom, snapped on the light and grabbed the first thing he saw, one of the high heeled shoes Holly had worn to her first social. Sputtering and cursing, he slammed the heel deep into the girl’s forehead, narrowly missing her eye. She always hated hearing the sound of his footsteps on the staircase as she lay awake in bed. That had not been a good time to feel alone, and neither was this.

Keeping one eye on the road Holly reached into the pocket book beside her. She found the small pill box, and downing two aspirin dry she felt her stomach double over on itself. The sudden wave of nausea was not brought on entirely by the aspirin. These memories and those damned canisters were a whole lot more to blame for her guts slam dancing inside her. Better not to think of those canisters, though. Better to think of anything but those buckets when she did not have the slightest idea where she was. She was thirsty, and the fuel gauge was slowly creeping up on ‘E’.

Without pulling to the side of the road Holly stopped the van and cut the engine. It was at least 110 in the shade out there, except that she could not see any shade. She rifled through the glove compartment for a road map. If Cooper had not left one in there for her, the man would have to stand on his head and spit nickels before she climbed under the sheets with him again. She found the map crumpled beneath a medical kit and spread it open on the seat. Tracing the blue line of route 85 to Gila Bend, she knew the road she should have followed would have passed the Air Force bombing range at least twenty miles ago. Whatever road she was on, it was not on the map.

If she turned back toward 85 now, she would not have enough gas to make it. Although Cooper had bought a fancy high-tech cellular phone for his new Porsche, he had not equipped his old Chevy van with one because he had normally used the vehicle only for local hauls. Maybe she could continue following this road and hope to find a phone. She might flag down another driver who might allow her to siphon some gas, assuming the guy was not a serial killer. Or, of course, she could simply stay put and wait for the vultures.

She turned the ignition and for a moment the engine wheezed, sputtered, then clicked off. The red ALT dummy light on the dashboard flickered on and Holly stared at it dumbly, her mouth open. She turned the key again. This time, nothing. It took a moment before the realization hit.

“Goddamn it all to fucking hell!”  she burst out, smashing her fists into the horn. The shrill blasts startled her into silence, and she heard the horn’s echoes wail in the distance, disappearing far away like the cries of lost children. If any patrol cars were in the area the noise might bring them, and considering her cargo that was not such a good idea. Holly turned the ignition key again, but even the dull clicking had disappeared.

Leaning forward over the steering wheel, she tried to summon a rational thought. She looked into the rearview mirror and tore her fingers through her hair, revealing the tiny half-moon scar above her eye. “ Holly, ol’ girl,”  she muttered into the mirror, “ we are in the proverbial deep shit.”

There was no need to take inventory. She had brought neither food nor water with her because the van had just passed its state inspection, and this was supposed to be only a four hour drive. She had intended to haul ass all afternoon and reach the lab by dusk for Miller Time.

A four hour drive to the middle of nowhere . What had she been thinking? She knew the desert showed no mercy, and people died out here all the time. Where was her head? Had Cooper been so focused on his damned cryogenic project that the danger of this trip never occurred to him either? Where in hell was his head?

The thought almost made her laugh. Where was his head? Hell, that was an easy one, as easy as (Ha! Ha!) a walk in the sand. Holly knew where five of his heads were. She was doing a lot more than simply hauling ass for Cooper.

She was hauling heads .

Months earlier Cooper had reminded Holly of a messy scandal back in the early ‘80’s involving Dr. Benjamin Reuben, a seasoned Philadelphia MD who had become involved in somewhat secretive cryobiological research. The man had believed that the human head could be kept alive apart from its body, and demonstrating the medical profession’s insatiable desire to cheat death, Reuben believed his work would pave a dramatic inroad. If one’s body became diseased and the head could live on, perhaps in time it could be attached to a healthier body, maybe even a prosthetic one. The MD had made the incredibly stupid mistake of having a human head shipped to his doorstep by an unusually curious UPS carrier, and after a lengthy trial Ben Reuben narrowly escaped imprisonment. Cooper had explained that following his trial, old Ben had some difficulty finding patients willing to open wide to say “Ah.”  He believed that Reuben was probably today selling vacuum cleaners somewhere closer to Somalia than Philadelphia. Cooper told Holly that he had no intention of joining him.

Somehow the federal government learned the specifics of the Philadelphia doctor’s research, and they also knew of the Oatman Foundation’s generous gift to Dr. Stanley Cooper of Nevada’s Kingman Medical Center. The Feds were prepared to assist. But if the contents of the Chevy van were confiscated by some toothpick chewing state trooper, Holly knew that no federal official would step forward to admit the government’s role in a project that might equate Stan Cooper’s research with that of another doctor named Frankenstein.

The state authorities were the ones to fear. These isolated desert roads were commonly used for drug smuggling, and routine checks were in every law official’s training manual. Any officer wearing a tin star who took one look at the contents of the old storage trunk inside the van would toss her and Dr. Stanley Cooper into a dark room four miles underground and lose the key.

Holly could picture the scene when a baby-faced deputy might confront her with the evidence after swinging open one of the canisters.

“What the–? Say, isn’t this–?”

“That’s right, officer,”  she would answer with child-like innocence. “That’s the head of Angelo Hemp you’re looking at. You remember Mr. Hemp, don’t you officer? The man who left various parts of school children scattered throughout the country a few years back? You might be wondering what I’m doing with a part of him? See, my doctor friend thinks Mr. Hemp’s head may still be alive. Why not pop open the other four canisters and say hello to the heads of a few more celebrity psychos? Hell, why don’t you take old Angelo here and go bowling while I pose for my mug shots?”  

The real explanation would be considerably more complicated. The remains of supposedly executed prisoners had supplied the federal government with all the bodies they needed for their secret research projects, and fortunately the heads came with them. The word (and maybe a little cash) came down from Uncle Sam to selected state prison officials to tone down their wattage for the hot seat, to spill a less-than-lethal dose of morphine into that final booster shot, or to pump just enough carbon monoxide to provide a convincing last dance inside that death chamber. The federally appointed prison doctor would dutifully pronounce the time of death, and other prison goons would cart the poor schmuck off. Excepting the decapitation part, there was no fuss, no muss. Within twenty four hours the Feds had signed a few papers and delivered the latest package in the ever-popular plain brown wrapping to Dr. Stanley Cooper, who also signed a few papers. The men in dark suits wished him a nice day, and were gone. It was as efficient an operation as it was illegal, as American as apple pie and old Chevy vans.

Holly knew dehydration would get to her long before the law did, and the hours spent baking inside the van had already caused her tongue to swell. Her throat felt like she had swallowed a fistful of razor blades, and she was feeling woozy with the heat. In the desert death was an insidious little bastard, and thirst was his first calling card. She crushed her fists into her temples to clear her mind.

Of course! Any high school kid who had ever taken Chemistry could have figured this one out. There was liquefied hydrogen and oxygen inside the canisters. Good old H2O ! Condensation would have gathered at the bottom of each container, enough for a nice cool drink. She rummaged through the glove compartment and found the collapsible plastic cup inside the medical kit.

Pulling the keys from the ignition she scrabbled crab-like to the rear of the van. The large trunk that held the canisters had a simple bolt lock, and she twisted the key inside it, swinging the flap open. The lids to the containers inside were fastened with flap-top locks, and Cooper had scrawled numerals on them. Holly did not know whose head would greet her when she opened the container, but she knew who these guys were. Their faces would have been familiar to anyone who did not live in a cave.

Reaching for the first canister her hand hesitated, then dropped. “Come on, Holly kid,”  she muttered. “This is not the time to turn candy-assed.”  She chewed on her lip and stared at the first container.

She knew enough about the history of each to write a resume on at least four of them. With one notable exception these folks had made headlines right alongside such specialty sociopaths as Jeffrey Dahmer and Gary Heidnick. Holly had been the traveling companion of a rogue’s gallery of American VIP’s, and the list read like a Who’s-Who at the Post Office :

Angelo Hemp of Denver, Colorado, had been a department store Santa the Christmas before he began his kiddie spree. Children’s remains were discovered in condemned mine shafts across several states, and one little girl’s badly decomposed body was found with her still clutching her Cabbage Patch doll.

Jake Wessey of Fort Worth, Texas, had strolled into the local Chicken n’ Ribs during lunchtime, ordered a whole mess of each, then after casually wiping the sauce from his chin took a .38 from his denim jacket and blew away three waitresses and the high school cheerleader in the next booth.

Coley Simms of Scranton, Pennsylvania, frustrated over the care and feeding of his mentally retarded adult daughter, one night sliced and diced the woman into puppy chow, stuffed her remains into his Hotpointe, and served up a hearty meal for the family dog.

George Gracey, a guitar-picking dishwasher from Los Angeles, had spent two years picking up pretty coed hitchhikers and inviting them to his home for dinner without bothering to inform them that they were the main course.

And there was a woman. Cooper had refused to speak about this one. Her crime had been so horrible that the police, fearing an inspired copycat, had urged the news media to bury her story on the last page. Fortunately Desert Storm had eclipsed the woman’s deeds when she was captured in 1991, so relatively few people knew the name of the second female to face the electric chair in the past twenty years.

The gang was all here, and because Holly’s tongue blistered, she had no choice but to say howdy to each of them. Her thirst would require a few trips to the well, and if she could reach into the canisters without actually looking inside, maybe she could handle this without getting the dry heaves. How difficult could it be? Scoop up a little moisture collected underneath, and bottoms up.

Holly popped the flap-top from the first canister. The head inside the bucket seemed small enough that she could easily slide her arm along the edge, and working carefully she might work her way toward the bottom without rubbing flesh with the thing inside. She saw it only from the top, and its hair was long and stringy, rodent-colored. Pulling open the plastic cup Holly slipped her hand slowly inside the canister, casting her eyes skyward while trying not to gag.

The coldness should have felt soothing in such dry heat, but the matted hair brushing Holly’s forearm felt like she were probing a spider’s web caked in ice. Her arm lightly brushed against the head, and she dislodged it slightly, causing the cold cheek to lean heavily against her wrist. The flesh felt like thawed meat, and strangely smooth. This bucket contained the woman, but Holly did not look at her.

The cup struck bottom where a cool liquid gathered, enough for maybe three good gulps. Holly scooped at it, and brought the cup back, bringing it to her swollen lips as soon as her hand was free. For one triumphant moment she hesitated and forced herself to look into the bucket. She raised the cup in a toast to her silent companion who rested inside.

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,”  she sneered at the woman’s head peering back at her through narrow slits. “ Lady, I never was a quitter just because the other person was ahead!”  Without even looking at it she downed the liquid in one swallow, drinking so quickly that some of it streaked vein-like down her chin. It felt cold going down her throat but sticky with thick pulp, and its taste was bitter. Hardly like water at all.

Holly ran her hand across her chin that dripped with the gluey stuff. She looked at the smears on her hand, then spun to see her reflection in the rear view mirror.

“God! Oh God! Stupid! I am so fucking stupid!”

Her chin dripped with the blood she had gulped down. Holly had swallowed a mouthful of pulpous gore that had leaked from the neck of the severed head inside, and even when spitting proved useless she persisted. Her lips dripped with the gummy residue and the foul taste lingered as she gagged on it.

The realization struck her even as she choked.

She knew she would have to go back into the canisters to see if there were any pure liquid she could salvage that might quench her thirst. And that meant that for even a single mouthful of water, she might have to remove every head that lay inside. The blistering heat permitted no further delay.

“Okay, then,”  she muttered, wiping the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand. “ Let’s do it …”  

She grabbed the stringy hair and lifted the woman’s head slowly from the container until only its forehead peeked out from the top. Holly again forced herself to look down at the half concealed face as if the head had presented the challenge to her, “ Look at me if you dare, you cowardly worthless piece of shit. You belong in here with me!”  

For a moment she believed her eyes had deceived her. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. Seeing only the woman’s forehead Holly’s jaw dropped and her body stiffened with paralysis. What she saw simply was impossible.

There was a half moon scar just above the woman’s left eye, an exact duplicate of Holly’s own.

A voice inside her screamed Drop the goddamned thing back into the box and slam the fucking lid! Run into the desert and get yourself far away from here ! Run! Run! But the paralysis remained and she crouched frozen with the thing in her hands, and suddenly it pressed against her palms as if it were resisting being placed back into the container. Impossible! the voice inside Holly screamed. Just above the lid of the container the thing’s eyelids were flickering, as if struggling to open.

Impossible! Impossible! Run!

The eyes in the woman’s head suddenly blinked wide open and rolled upwards. They locked with Holly’s and held fast. A voice spoke from the bucket, echoing within the tiny chamber.

“Well, are you going to take me out of this fucking thing or not?”

The heat! It had to be the goddamned heat!

As if her hand had free will, Holly lifted the head and held it between her palms directly in front of her face. She looked at it hard and saw it staring back at her. She wanted to scream, and she wanted to laugh herself sick. Clearly her mind and all reason had finally parted company.

“Go on, Holly,”  the voice said to her with icy calm. “Take a long look at me and tell me what you see.”  Its mouth curled into a twisted grin as it spoke.

Holly watched the thing’s mouth move, the blood dripping from its teeth, and suddenly she laughed like a kid at the circus who had just seen the funniest clown in the world. And the longer she looked into the face she held in her hands, the harder she laughed. She had never seen anything so gut-busting funny in all her life. Losing one’s mind was more fun than a day at the beach. And her companion found humor in the situation too, because she also laughed.

Like looking into a mirror, isn’t it?”  the voice from the head spoke to her, and in it Holly heard the echo of her own. It whispered to her as if sharing a secret. “Look inside the other containers, Holly. You’ll be surprised at what you find.”  

She half expected to hear a calliope playing “ Pop Goes the Weasel”  just before a blood-soaked Jack-in-the-box sprang out of each bucket. But of course Holly had already known what she would find inside them. She popped the latch of the second canister, the third, fourth, and fifth.

The four remaining buckets contained the same thing, and she almost vomited with laughter with each head she removed. And in the midst of her chortles the memory that had lurked inside her mind jumped out and shouted “ Boo!”  like a mischievous little kid hiding in the subterranean passageways of her brain.

I remember!”  she said aloud to her five companions, now resting like grotesque centerpieces along the rear panel of the van. “Oh, Jesus, I remember everything … everything!”  

Holly looked at the heads she had lined up in the van’s cargo area like toy soldiers, each a twin sister right down to her tiny half-moon scar. She sat cross-legged in front of the five heads looking like a little girl at a pajama party sharing an incredible secret with girlfriends who shared the same face and were missing their bodies. Holding her sides, Holly Samuels laughed so hard that it hurt.

She laughed so hard she hardly noticed the soft flesh along the stitches of her neck tear and separate, and she laughed even as her head lolled forward, leaving her body.

And the five heads with Holly’s face continued laughing with her.


                                                                                                                                                         ***

 

After three viewings of the videotape, Stanley Cooper snapped off the Kingman lab’s VCR.   “I’m working too hard,”  the doctor finally told himself, wondering what trick of his imagination had made him think he had seen the Samuels woman’s eyes flicker. He had aimed the camcorder at her head specimen for hours but did not notice anything different since that one moment around noon.

But if his cryobiological hypotheses were to have any merit he had to consider all possibilities. A cryogenic subject – if technically still alive – had to have thoughts, didn’t she? Whether with truths or fabrications, the human mind needed to occupy itself. He wondered what kinds of thoughts Holly Samuels might have. Thoughts reflecting her supreme isolation, perhaps, because of her inability to communicate, but what else?

Cooper gulped down the remaining cold coffee and stared at the girl’s frozen head specimen behind the freezer’s glass canister. The young woman’s face revealed nothing of the demons that must still have lurked inside that head, demons which two years ago had caused Holly Samuels to go on a killing spree across the country.

Hadn’t her lawyer tried to cop an insanity plea, claiming Miss Samuels had some form of schizophrenia, a rare multiple personality disorder? Cooper had read the court transcripts of a psychiatrist who had claimed the Samuels woman had even given her personalities men’s names and personal histories, perhaps bringing back to life the father she had shot to death years ago. The jury didn’t buy her insanity plea, and eighteen months later the state of Nevada strapped Miss Holly Samuels into a chair.

The day following the Samuels execution Nevada’s Kingman Medical Research Center received a visit from three pasty-faced men in dark suits carrying a large container for Dr. Stanley Cooper. The men had told him nothing about the woman’s psychological profile, but Cooper believed a doctor’s first duty was to know his patient. It mattered little to him if that patient were in a freezer apart from her body.

Staring hard at the head specimen, Cooper considered a possibility. If schizophrenia were the only reality Holly Samuels had known, wouldn’t her thoughts reflect that? Cold and alone, literally cut off from the physical world, wouldn’t she try to connect, to reconstruct reality based on whatever felt familiar, whether it were a voice or a sound? In a desperate attempt to reconnect with life, might she even display a motor reaction of some sort?

“I’m working too hard,” Cooper again told himself, sinking into the soft chair before the VCR. He poured himself another cup of coffee and hit the ‘Play’ button again. The radio had been on during the videotaping he had done of the Samuels specimen at noon, and for a moment he closed his eyes to listen to “I Fall to Pieces”  by Patsy Cline.

In the canister inside the freezer behind him, Holly Samuels’ eyes struggled to open …



                                                                                                                                                ####












readlikeshare

Become a patron today and support the online magazine!

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3340730&alert=2&ty=h

Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology

https://deadmanstome.net/2016/05/21/deadmans-tome-book-of-horrors-pre-order/

Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Question for the Readers

I am impressed with the stats for this site. Visitors are coming to the site to read the stories, share the content, and give feedback to the authors. That is awesome!

Deadman’s Tome has content pouring in like mad. Some submissions are absolutely amazing, while others are just kind-of okay, but that is from my perspective. I might be a narcissist, but I’m not delusional. Wait, doesn’t a narcissist have delusions of grandeur? Point is, I want to know what you all would like to see. Would you care for more darker, sinister content? Would you care for more thrilling but less disgusting content? Or do you want more unadulterated, raw, disgusting, thrilling, and slightly provocative content?

Let me know in the comments section below!

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

A Sinister Nature by Helen Mihajlovic

readlikeshare

The garden is filled with a sour scent of decay; flowers dead owed to disregard. He is in my every thought as I sit alone with the cold night air caressing me. My heart races while my mind is flooded with a perilous notion of the terror he brings to all who come near him. The dread he causes reveals his sinister nature. When the wind disturbs the trees they begin to rattle and I feel him approaching. A black crow’s cry overhead frightens a nocturnal rat and it runs to its hole.

He crawls towards me; my body quivers and my blood stirs. In stillness I wait for him to come nearer. He lays himself on my stomach as we join in rapturous ardor. I place myself around him and he unleashes a depraved yearning within me, an unknown freedom. A gleam of happiness emerges in his eyes revealing his ecstatic pleasure. His every limb moves with fervor for hours.  He rests his weary head on my leg as he tires.

While dawn approaches his weak limbs collapse by my side. My restive head pulsates. My mind is dispersed, fraught and disturbed. My limbs frenetically shift up and down as my being is unsettled and pleads for alleviation. I breathe deeply while   in a treacherous form. Filled with an insatiable ache, darkness defeats me. I yield to madness. I am no longer my own.

As he serenely lies drifting to sleep, I pierce his stomach. His limbs jolt and thrash as he frantically struggles to escape. I pierce him deeper. His eyes widen while he fearfully looks at me one last time. His sacrifice is immense. With a final tremor he dies. I begin to eat him. After a time, what remains of him hangs on my silk black-widow’s web.

Dedicated to my brother Bill  © 2013 Helen Mihajlovic

Posted on 3 Comments

The Adler Street Boarding House by Kelly Evans

readlikeshare

The house sighed; it breathed in the damp London air, feeling the aches of its age and the ever-present river mist settling into its wooden joints. Expressing its displeasure, it creaked and groaned, but the residents had grown used to the house and ignored the noises, accepting them as part of the cacophony of the city they lived in.

The house, unimaginatively called the Adler Street Boarding House, was owned and operated by Mrs. Mabel Toms, who had suffered the misfortune of marrying beneath her, and to a man whose love of gin left her widowed.

The house cared not for time and its passing, nor for the events beyond its walls, or the fabrications Mrs. Toms told to get a few extra pence out of someone. Even the residents and their daily lives lulled the house into a half-sleeping state, their shared tales of misfortune and bad luck seeping into the very structure.

But the arrival of a new lodger woke the house, along with those already living within.

“Mr. Smith, I’m Mrs. Toms, the owner. I run a clean and comfortable establishment. Lodgers are admitted by the week, payment is per week in advance.”

“I need a place for a few months.” The newcomer glanced around the parlour without moving his head, eyes flitting from one side to the other.

“And what business are you involved in?”

Mr. Smith frowned. “I’m… I’m doing research.”

Mrs. Toms leaned in, nearly spilling the weak tea she’d had the maid prepare. “Ah, a man of science, how interesting.”

“Actually, it’s more the study of… buildings. Yes, I’m researching London’s buildings.” He shifted in his chair, emphasizing the point with a nod.

“Oh. Well, that’s important too I suppose.” She waved toward the stairs. “Would you like a tour of the house?”

“No, it’s not necessary, I’d like to get settled as soon as possible.”

While the landlady discussed the contract with Mr. Smith, the other tenants waited to be introduced. Violet and Faye, done with their clients for the night, left their rooms to peep into the parlour, sizing up the worth of the newcomer. The house appraised the individual. The tall thin frame, the dark hair and moustache done in the current fashion. The clothes were well-maintained but worn; the fabric shiny in places where repeated ironing had left its mark, and the cuffs of the once-fashionable shirt frayed.

Mrs. Toms walked Mr. Smith over to a copy of the rules displayed prominently on the parlour wall. The house knew them by heart: they were posted in every room.

“No gentlemen callers in the rooms. Callers are to be entertained in the parlour only.” The house shook with amusement that Mrs. Toms could read this rule with a straight face. The tremors were blamed on the wind.

“No noise after 8pm.

“No animals or children.

“Laundry is to be left outside the door by 8am.

“The front door is opened at 6am, locked at 10pm.

“No spirituous liquors to be brought into the House or drunk there.”

Once again the house expressed delight at this oft-broken rule, and the fact that the word ‘house’ was capitalised.

“Habits of cleanliness are expected. Any person guilty of filthy or dirty practices or rendering himself offensive to the other lodgers will not be permitted to remain in the House”

“I’m particularly strict with the last rule, Mr. Smith. You’ll find I cannot abide foul smells.” Again the house shook, for East London was nothing but a gathering ground for every noxious odour imaginable. She turned to face the newcomer. “Welcome to my establishment.”

The man’s lips moved, a lopsided grimace confused as to whether it was expressing happiness or regret. Or something else. The house shuddered again and this time there was no wind to blame the groaning on.

The house was woken early one morning by the hammering of a harried hand upon the locked front door. An angry Mrs. Toms, dressed in a tattered bathrobe and making noises much like those of the house itself, pulled a key from the set she carried and opened the door. Mr. Smith rushed in as the parlour clock struck the fifth hour of the morning, slamming the door closed behind him. The cool air of late summer swept in with him.

“Mr. Smith, do you know the time?”

The man’s eyes darted around but did not meet Mrs. Toms’. He wrapped his overcoat, unnecessary for this time of year, around himself. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t hold with this type of behaviour, Mr. Smith. You know the rules, the door opens at six.”

“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. I…” he swallowed and looked around once more before continuing, “I got caught up in some research and lost track of time.” With that he rushed up the stairs to his room. Mrs. Toms, in her state of half-sleep and still suffering the effects of a gift of a bottle of gin from a local admiring constable, didn’t think to wonder how a person such as Smith, said to be studying historic buildings, could do so in the dark.

Mr. Smith entered his room, still clutching his overcoat around his body, and locked the door. Pacing the room a few times he finally breathed, the exhale sounding both desperate and relieved. When he finally relinquished his hold on the coat, the house saw that he carried something beneath, something red. Placing it reverently on the chair, one of six identical ones that stood in each bedroom, he ran his finger along the object slowly before turning away and undressing. There was blood splattered on his frayed shirtsleeves and collar, and the house knew there was blood hidden in the folds of the dark suit jacket he dropped to the floor. Naked, he went to the porcelain basin and washed in the cold water. The house watched the water turn pink then red with the remnants of Mr. Smith’s evening activities. When the lodger donned his nightshirt, kissed the piece of flesh and climbed into bed with a peaceful look on his face, the house was quiet.

“I’ve come to ask if you heard or saw anything suspicious last night.” Constable Maxwell was in the dining room with Mrs. Toms. Mr. Smith stopped himself from entering, instead remaining within listening distance hidden in the hall.

“No, no, I don’t think so.” Mrs. Toms shook her head then winced.

“No screams? Any unusual activity outside?”

Mrs. Toms again shook her head, the motion turning her pale.

“Are you well?” Constable Maxwell’s concerned eyes stared at the landlady.

Waving him off, Mrs. Toms attempted a smile. “I’m fine, Maxwell, really.” She leaned in close. “I admit I couldn’t sleep last night but found your bottle worked a treat.”

Maxwell smiled. “I’m glad, Mrs.” His face flushed red and he cleared his voice. “But back to business, you understand I must ask these questions. Something horrible has happened you see, not far from here.”

Mrs. Toms knew the value of good gossip; the more graphic the details the better. “Cup of tea?”

Mr. Smith still stood outside of the doorway, listening, his face grey with fear.

“Do tell me what happened, Constable.” She winked at him.

“Well, if you promise not to repeat any of what I’m about to say.” At her nod, he continued. “A body was found early this morning, a young woman,” he paused, lines of anxiety on his forehead, “one of those types that’s friendly with the gentlemen, if you catch my meaning.” He waited for confirmation from Mrs. Toms before continuing. “Now, I must warn you, the details are not for a lady’s ears.”

“Maxwell, we’ve known each other a long time. Have I ever struck you as the faint-hearted type?”

The policeman snorted then grew serious. “No ma’am, I didn’t mean to suggest anything.” At her acknowledgement he continued. “The woman’s throat was cut.” He drew his finger across his own to illustrate. “And her stomach, well, that was cut too.” He motioned above his stomach.

The landlady covered her mouth with her hand in horror.

“Are you all right for me to continue?” His eyes were wide with worry.

“Good God, there’s more?”

Maxwell nodded. “I heard the coroner say that part of her,” he swallowed and took a gulp of tea, “her stomach, part of it was missing.”

At this a small shiver of pleasure shook Mr. Smith and he whimpered so quietly that only the house heard.

A noise outside interrupted them. “I must be going, Mrs. Toms. I’m sorry, but I have to ask once more, you heard nothing last night?”

Mrs. Toms started to shake her head, then stopped and frowned. “Well, there was…”

Mr. Smith’s stomach, which only moments before had felt the most exquisite joy, now cramped so hard he doubled over.

“No, never mind. It’s nothing.” She rose and saw Constable Maxwell to the door, not noticing his puzzled expression, the soft sound of footsteps outside of the parlour door nor the sudden groan of the sighing boarding house.

August turned to September and the season turned overnight, as it often does in London.

“They’ve not got any leads yet, it’s terrible, just terrible.” Mr. Harris Lawford, a rat catcher at Billingsgate market, and Mr. William Gridley, labourer and aspiring writer, were having breakfast in the parlour when Mr. Smith walked in.

“Smith, come and join us. The buns are still warm.” He pointed to a chair.

Mr. Smith reluctantly joined them. “How’ve you been getting on? Few weeks with us now?”

“Yes, yes, I’ve everything I need.”

“We were just talking about this business of the young girl’s murder.” Mr. Gridley shook his head but there was a gleam in his eye. “It’s the stuff of madness, truly. A tale too terrible to tell.” He smiled at his own line.

“Don’t let him fool you, he’s a ghoul, always looking for grisly things to write about.” Mr. Lawford finished his tea, dregs and all. Wiping his mouth he stood. “I must be away, the rats won’t catch themselves.” With a slight bow he grabbed his hat and left.

“I must be off too, nearly late.” Mr. Gridley. He paused to look at Smith. “You have an interesting face. As I writer I notice these things, it’s my job to notice, you know? To really observe everything around me. You must let me make you a character in a story.”

Mr. Smith nodded at the compliment and watched Gridley turn and open the door. He shivered as a gust of autumn wind blew in, but the house knew it was more than the cool air that had caused the reaction.

“Is that you Mr. Smith? My, you’re getting in very early!” ‘Early’ sounded like ‘orly’ to Mr. Smith’s unexceptional ears. Orna was in the parlour, lighting the fire. The clock had just struck the hour and the light was already filtering into the windows. Orna was the young woman employed by Mrs. Toms to help clean and cook. Mr. Gridley often remarked on her Irish accent and her slim but sturdy Norse features, promising to make her a character in one of his stories.

Mr. Smith started. “Orna, what are you doing here?” Once again he wrapped his overcoat around his body. “I didn’t think you worked on Saturdays.”

“Oh I don’t normally, no, but Mrs. Toms asked me to do a final clean before the winter sets in.” She shrugged. “I can use the money.” Orna frowned. “You found a shop open so early?”

Mr. Smith looked down at the roughly-wrapped bundle in his hand. “Ah, yes, I did. Wait, no, it’s a gift from an, um, friend. Some, uh, drawing materials.” He bowed at Orna and swept by her and up the stairs.

The maid shrugged again and returned to her task of dusting, humming an old Irish tune as she did so.

Upstairs Mr. Smith went into his room and closed the door quickly, his breath coming in desperate pants. The house shifted a fraction and the door opened again, creaking gently on unoiled hinges. Mr. Smith looked, his eyes wide, until the door hung fully open. When no one entered he closed it again, this time pulling the bolt across.

He placed the bundle on his bedside table and undressed. As with before, his clothes were stained and he followed the same procedure: wash himself, wash his clothes. But this time he remained naked. The house watched, disturbed but fascinated. It had seen many things in its time, including the nocturnal activities of Violet and Faye, who both worked as charwomen but who occasionally supplemented their income by inviting gentlemen into their rooms (Mrs. Toms turned a blind eye to this behaviour; rent was king in Whitechapel). But it had seen nothing like this.

Mr. Smith walked over to the bedside table, placing his feet just so on the worn carpet. He reached down and opened the bundle, revealing a piece of bloody flesh, and lifted it with both hands, raising it to his face. With a look of ecstasy he smeared the organ on his face, then continued caressing his chest and stomach, finally reaching his genitals. He groaned as he rubbed the pulpy object the length of his engorged member, his hand moving faster and bits of flesh falling to the floor. With a great sigh he finished, his head held back, eyes closed. After a moment he straightened and looked around, noticing the blood and tissue on the ground at his feet. Remaining naked, Mr. Smith spent the next half-hour cleaning both himself and the room before re-wrapping the organ and placing it in a sealed jar under his bed.

The house was still that night, suffering the early autumn storm in silence.

Constable Maxwell was back the next day. “Same as last time, Mrs. Toms, investigating.”

She waved him in, ignoring the unknown policeman waiting outside. Shutting the door on the man, she pointed to a chair. “Not another murder?”

“Aye, and a nasty piece of business it was. Poor lass had her throat and stomach cut.”

Mrs. Toms’ eyes widened. “How horrible.” She pointed to a cabinet nearby. “Drink?”

The constable shook his head. “Not while I’m on duty, and especially not with him,” he nodded his head toward the door, “around, watching. He’s been brought in from the City, apparently folks don’t think we’re doing enough on our own.”

“Well, I’ve nothing more to report than last time.”

“Another young woman was there, says she saw a man in the area hurrying away. Says he was,” Maxwell checked his notes, “shabby genteel. Know anyone of that description?”

A snort escaped Mrs. Toms’ lips. “Everyone in this neighbourhood. All fallen on hard times, all still in possession of some remnant of their past.” She shook her head. “No, that could be anyone.”

The constable sighed and nodded. “I thought so myself, but had to ask.” Another nod toward the door. “I must go, other houses to visit.”

He rose and allowed himself to be shown out. Mrs. Toms poured herself a glass of gin and sank into a chair in the parlour. A second glass followed and soon the landlady’s snores could be heard. Only the house knew that the in the kitchen, Mr. Smith had been listening.

The house shifted as Mr. Smith hurried up the stairs, causing him to stumble. He recovered and raced to his room, bolting the door behind him. Scurrying nearly along the floor, he reached beneath the bed and brought out a jar, the same one containing the object that had provided such ecstasy only a day ago. The look on Mr. Smith’s face suggested it was now an object of fear.

Grasping the jar, Smith opened his door slowly, peering out and listening. The other residents were out and the maid was running errands. All that could be heard were the landlady’s gin-infused snores and the house’s groaning. He winced at one particular wooden crack, worried the noise would wake Mrs. Toms, and made his way to Mr. Gridley’s room. Finding the door unlocked, he slipped into the room. Few of the sun’s rays managed to squeeze through the grime on the window and Mr. Smith waited until his eyes adjusted to the gloom, listening for approaching footsteps. Falling to his knees he pushed aside the bedside cabinet and pried up a board from the spot. The house grew angry at the violation and Mr. Smith turned toward the door at the great groan that came from the staircase. He froze as the landlady snorted, muttered something inaudible and returned to her sleeping state. He remained that way for a number of minutes, praying that the house would remain silent, and then continued his work. The board finally came loose and with a final longing gaze at the jar, he placed it beneath the floor next to another of similar shape and size, and whose contents were just as disturbing.

Three weeks went by with no further news or event. The house breathed a sigh of relief, for surely it was over; whatever reason Smith had for these mutilations, he must have found his resolution. But the house was to be disappointed.

Mr. Smith was bloodier than previously; washing over and again only produced pink water and grey fabric. The house knew blood never fully washed out; it had been witness to a number of harsh attacks on Faye and Violet. But this seemed not to bother Smith as he completed his own ablutions and performed his perverted, shabby ritual once more, this time with two organs. When he had finished, both organs were forced into another jar; where once they had their own space in a living body, now they enfolded each other as if in sympathy.

“I’m off, we should get a drink later Smith.” Mr. Gridley smiled at Mr. Smith.

“Um, sure.” Mr. Smith took a sip of coffee. “Oh, Mr. Gridley, before you go, may I borrow some ink from you, I’ve run out and must, um, note something down before I forget it.”

Mr. Gridley turned, frowning. “Of course, maybe I could get it for you later, I’m late this morning.” He faced the door again.

“It really is important…”

The labourer and part-time writer stopped. “Well, I could let you get it yourself, if you need it.” He thought for a moment. “Why not. It’s next to the basin, close the door after you.” With that he swept out.

As the floorboards opened, revealing the contents of the space beneath, the house watched as Mr. Smith groaned and rubbed his crotch. Refocusing, he placed the third jar with the others and carefully fitted the boards back in position.

Without a greeting three policemen marched into the house. One was Maxwell, who looked embarrassed by the behaviour of his colleagues.

“We’re here to interview everyone in the house. Please get them together.”

It was just after dinner and everyone was in the parlour, having a drink. “What’s all this about?” Mrs. Toms stood abruptly. “Who are you? What do you want?”

Constable Maxwell stepped forward. “There’s been another murder, Mrs. Toms, in fact two. We’re going house-to-house, the maid let us in.”

Only slightly mollified by the explanation, Mrs. Toms was still angry. “I run a respectable place here, I’ll have you know. Surely you don’t think I’d allow a murderer to stay under my roof?”

Maxwell stepped forward again but was stopped by the arm of his colleague barring his way. “Madam, I’m sure your establishment is well-run,” he looked around the room, sneering at the worn furniture and motes of dust in the air, “but I must insist you permit us to do our job.”

The house shivered, causing a shutter to rattle. The residents, including Mr. Smith, were all gathered, their faces turned toward the police.

“You’re not needed for this, Maxwell. Take the landlady into the kitchen. Details may be revealed she won’t want to hear.” He nodded at Mrs. Toms.

“They think I’m an idiot, some junior who doesn’t know what’s what. Bloody City police thugs.” Constable Maxwell accepted the offer of gin this time and gulped it down. “Details may be revealed, just who does he think he is?”

“Hush, they’ll hear you.” She refilled Maxwell’s glass. “Now tell me what’s happened?”

Maxwell looked down and shook his head. “More death, Mrs. Toms. Another two women.” The landlady nodded at him to continue. “Shocking, it was. Saw the bodies myself this time. The first was found early this morning, had her throat cut. The second only an hour later, this one was worse.”

A throat clearing made them both jump.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in there, Mr. Smith?” The landlady pointed toward the parlour.

“I’m sorry to bother you, the policeman said I could come in here for some matches.”

Mrs. Toms rose quickly and grabbed a box from the stove. “Here, here, take them.” She shook the box at Smith.

“Were you discussing the murders?”

“That’s none of your business. Now away with you.” The landlady waved him off while behind her Constable Maxwell nodded. Mrs. Toms followed her tenant, ensuring he was firmly ensconced in a large armchair before returning to the kitchen.

“Where were we?” She offered Maxwell another drink but he declined.

“No, thanks, I’m still on duty and I’ve a long night ahead.” At the landlady’s nod he continued. “The second victim, young woman, throat opened, stomach torn, face mutila…”

“Please, that’s enough. I’ve changed my mind, I don’t wish to hear anymore.” She held up her hand.

The constable nodded, eyebrows raised. Even Mrs. Toms had limits to the information she could use. “I apologise, shouldn’t be sharing details like that.”

“I’m fine, really.” Mrs. Toms’ face said differently.

A raised voice in the parlour interrupted them.

“It IS my real name.”

“Sir, no need to get angry, we’re just doing our job.” He scribbled something in a notebook, the same size and shape as the one Maxwell used. “Where are you from?”

Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. “Kent.”

“You’re a long way from home, what’s your purpose in London?”

“I’m here researching buildings of interest.”

“Why?”

Mr. Smith frowned. “Why? Why what? Am I researching? Because I hope to one day become an architect.” He spoke quickly, his voiced hitching.

The house shook. It had heard Mr. Smith practising those very lines late at night in his room when everyone else was asleep.

The two City policemen whispered to each other as the tenants, Mrs. Toms and Constable Maxwell looked on. Finally one nodded and turned to Mr. Smith.

“Tell us where you were last Sunday evening.”

Looking around the room but finding no sympathy, he replied. “I went to The Pavillion.”

The room erupted in hypocritical gasps; the venue, known for its bawdy entertainment, had been patronised by them all, including Mrs. Toms.

The policeman addressed the room. “Please.” He turned back to Smith. “And who were you with?”

The room leaned forward to hear his reply, so soft was his voice. “A young lady.”

The house groaned again but the noise was ignored by Mrs. Toms, who decided at that moment that she’d had enough. “Stop harassing my tenants.” She stomped over and stood before Mr. Smith, waving an arm at him. “Obviously this man has done nothing wrong, and who he keeps company with is none of your business.” The tenants were used to their landlady’s voice but the men’s faces told another story. “Leave. Now.”

But they weren’t finished. “I’m afraid not. We’ll be searching the rooms now.”

“Whatever for?” Even the house shuddered at her voice.

“We’ve had a witness come forward and say the killer wears a cloak.”

Mrs. Toms sniffed. “A cloak? Bit posh for around here.” She looked around the room smugly.

“We’ll still be searching the rooms. If we find nothing of interest, we’ll leave. The sooner this is done the sooner you’ll be rid of us.” The policeman’s tone was firm, his stance rigid.

Mr. Smith’s room was the last to be searched. They looked at him, eyebrows raised, when they found books on architecture and a few poorly-drawn and unrecognisable sketches of buildings. “Did you do these?”

Sweat was now rolling down his face. The house noticed, if no one else did. The house had seen Smith take these same drawings out again and again, masturbating over them the way Mr. Lawford did with the risqué photographs of scantily clad women he thought were a secret.

“I did.”

“You’re not very good, are you?”

At this Mrs. Toms’ ire rose to new heights. “Now see here, we’ve done as you wanted, now leave this place you ill-mannered little man.” She gave a small nod to Smith, who was holding himself up with the bed frame.

The man returned the drawings to the table and allowed themselves to be pushed from the room, all the while glaring at Constable Maxwell. The man received a look of sympathy from the landlady before being shoved out of the house by one of the other policemen. Mrs. Toms reserved a special frown for certain occasions, and decided this was one of them. Glaring at the men she gave them a mocking curtsy and slammed the door behind them.

No one but the house noticed that Mr. Smith, rather than accompany the rest of the tenants in ridding the house of the policemen, had stayed behind and was now in Mr. Gridley’s room, his hand in the space beneath the dresser. He heard sounds more keenly and the house took advantage of his panic by shifting the floor outside the writer’s room, causing footstep-like sounds. But it was no use; Mr. Smith retrieved the jars and fled back to his own room, frantically opening the lids and throwing the contents onto the small coal fire. The house allowed more air to enter the chimney, causing the fire to spit angrily.

“Mr. Smith, what is going on?” Mrs. Toms was in the doorway, waving a hand in front of her. “And what is that smell?”

Smith quickly grabbed the poker and turned the coals over, hiding the burning organs. “I’m sorry, I think a rat died in the fireplace.” He poked the fire again, mixing the quickly disintegrating flesh with coals.

“And you didn’t think to take it out before lighting a fire?”

“I didn’t see it.”

“Well at least open the window, for God’s sake man.”

The house was certain, after the events of that evening, that Mr. Smith must surely stop his unnatural behaviour. The house was wrong.

The heart lay in the wash basin, illuminated by sunlight filtered through a grimy lace curtain. Mr. Smith dragged the chair to the basin and sat in front of it, staring at the organ that even the house recognised. After a quarter of an hour he reached over and put his finger in the aorta, drawing it out slowly. The sucking sound made the house shiver, rattling the window, but Smith didn’t notice. He just stared.

Night found Mr. Smith in the exact same position as he had been in all day. He’d remained immobile for hours, despite the house’s attempts to move him. But now, finally, he stood. All was still, save for the usual noises of the fitfully sleeping tenants, their dreams as impoverished as their lives. Smith passed silently by their rooms and went down the stairs, turning into the kitchen. Kicking aside a matt he opened the small door in the floor leading to a disused cellar; he lowered his head and entered. The small room smelled of earth and mold and as Smith crossed to the far side he held his breath as long as he could. Reaching into his pocket he withdrew a knife and used it to dig a hole in the earth beneath the long-rotted floor boards. When he was done he replaced the knife and brought out another object. The bundle was small and soft, blood dripping from the folds of the cloth.

Mr. Smith placed the heart in the hole and quickly refilled it, smoothing the dirt over before replacing the floor boards. Backing out of the space he took one last look before leaving, carefully closing the door and replacing the matt.

“You’re an early riser, Mr. Smith.” Smith had thought he might encounter Orna but he didn’t care. Peering at the bags beside his feet, Orna’s brow wrinkled. “You going someplace?”

“Actually, I’m leaving.”

“Oh.” Orna had made friends with Faye and Violet, despite Mrs. Toms’ disapproval, and was treated like a little sister by the men but she rarely got involved with the short-term tenants. “Well, I hope you liked it here.”

“I did, my dear, thank you.” He reached into his pocket. “Can you please give this to Mrs. Toms? It’s a letter thanking her. Tell her I won’t be asking for the return of any excess rent I’ve paid, I’m aware I’m leaving mid-week.”

Orna nodded and, along with the house, watched the man known as Smith pick up his cases. He took a step toward the door and stopped, turning to look at the maid.

“Here. I want you to have these.” He withdrew an envelope from a side pocket of his leather case and handed it to her.

“Can I open it?” Orna’s eyes glinted and a small smile played on her lips.

“Please do.” He watched her intently.

She carefully opened the envelope and pulled out a small pile of papers, all with drawings on them. Her face fell. “You did these?”

Smith nodded. “Yes. But you may have them.” He adjusted his travelling items and turned back to her from the doorway, which shook at his touch. “In case I become famous someday.”

 

Posted on 2 Comments

The Woman in Red by B Thomas

Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II

6x9_Front_CoverIIc.jpegRead More

I possess an unbridled love for the city of London. On more than one occasion I have referred to it as my city when in fact it can truly belong to no one. Or so I believed. The influx of migrants into already cramped living spaces. The people living atop one another. Whitechapel had become overrun with bums and vagrants.

And yet I continued to remind myself that life is cyclical. All would rectify itself when the time is correct. Lidia does not share my patience.

“It is damnable to think of the things they do in those disgusting brothels!” I watched her slam the kettle onto the table top, rattling the dishes. “What money they have they should be spending on food not drink and cheap whores.”

“Most have fallen on hard times. They deserve some form of happiness no matter how damnable it may be.”

“They’re Jews and whores. Don’t be so accepting Jack.”

I pulled my coat from the hook and put my hands on her shoulders. She was a spitfire. It was what drew me to her. I kissed her on the forehead and hoped it would not be what pushed me away.

#

While the over crowded pubs provided difficulty in obtaining a drink, there was a great deal more entertainment than before. Trade-offs I suppose. No sooner had James and I sat down at a corner table did the entire thing crash to the floor as a drunken behemoth of a man punch someone in the throat, driving him back and into our table, splintering the wood and barely missing our drinks.

“Well I say! Damn good show tonight.” James said and slapped his leg. The man from the floor grumbled, pushed splintered wood from his chest, and charged at his assailant. I looked to the bar tender (a man I had known since boy hood) and he simply shrugged and downed a shot.

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“What’s the matter sport? Don’t seem like yourself.”

“Well,” I waited as a mug smashed to the floor and three men tackled the giant to the ground. Alcohol does wonders to a person’s sense of strength and mortality. If only we could harness the abilities without the added inebriation.

“Don’t tell me Lidia.” Often times more is said by a lack of speaking, then by rambling. “For God’s sake Jack. The woman is sucking everything from you.”

“She wants a cleaner London. A cleaner Whitechapel. She’s not happy with,” I waved my arms forward.

“Well damn it then don’t go out in it! Don’t let her direct you though. You enjoy this. It’s not like either of you are boding ill. You are a doctor after all.”

Still, I remained quiet.

“Did you tell her of the other night?”

My mind flashed to skin. To whispered words, wetness, and lips pinched delicately between teeth. All the while my hand turned my pocketknife over and over.

It had been a gift from my father. “A good man knows how to leave his mark.” He had said to me. It was rare moments like this when I thought of what kind of mark I would leave.

My mind came back to the bar. “I did not. Though I would not doubt if she could smell her on me.”

“Did you? Both in the same night?” James laughed and swung his mug through the air. “Well done old man. Barkeep, another round I say! Keep the party going.” People nearby us cheered. But I did not. For their words were replaced by Lidia’s Jews and whores. Don’t be so accepting Jack. Jews and whores. Whores.

#

    My hands slid up her bodice, a woman I did not know. My fingers on the strings. Her skin. Her flesh. Her womanhood bought and paid for by a simple coin. Once again, the consumption of ale had not led me home, but to a dimly lit building that smelled of sweat and shame. I tried to focus on the warmth that sat upon my lap. But I could not.

“What’s wrong?” She whispered in my ear. The moistness of her lips graced my skin and only infuriated me more as I struggled to remain focused. She was here, in this moment, and I was not. I was half present and she was fully aware.

“Nothing,” I shut my eyes, squeezed her chest, but the soft feel of her breasts did nothing. She let out the faintest of laughs at my inadequacy. I shoved her from me and to the floor, on my feet in an instant.

“What is wrong with you?” She screamed. “There is a proper way to treat a lady.”

“If you find one, I will treat her in such a way.”

She scoffed, “It takes a man to find a woman.”

I was out the door, coat in hand.

#

    I saw her again, from the alley across from the brothel. The whore that claimed herself to be a woman. Vagrants slept in the shadows behind me, snoring loudly with bottles still in hand. She walked with a friend to the corner of the street before parting ways. I moved with a newfound sobriety.

My heart pounded against my chest as I eyed a coming alley. There was commotion on the opposite side of the street. Drunks. Everywhere there were drunks. Jews and whores Jack. They’re all whores Jack.

My hand was shaking as I clasped it over her mouth. She swung blindly and caught me in the eye but I gritted my teeth and dragged her into the alley. I fumbled the knife, dropped it against the stones, the blade open and exposed.

She drove an elbow into my ribs and pain shot around my chest. I kicked the knife towards me with the toe of my boot and yanked her to the ground so I could grab it. Sweat dripped from my hand as I reached down. I felt like I was burning alive as I fought her. I swung the knife into her stomach. She screamed under the clasp of my palm and jerked her body. The blade ripped her skin apart.

My hand was shaking as I yanked it out. She was sobbing and thrashing. I took a deep breath and slid the knife across her throat. Her arms continued to swing. I didn’t know what to do so I dragged the blade across her neck a second time. And then it all ceased.

I didn’t move fast enough and the blood seeped into the sleeve of my coat. I dropped her body, her head thudding against the stone and rolling to stare up at me with empty eyes.

#

    Lidia was asleep when I arrived. But when the door slammed shut and I collapsed against it, she shot out of bed.

 

“Jack? Jack! For the sake of the Lord what is wrong with you? What is this? Are you hurt? You’re bleeding Jack, get up.”

I shooed her away and remained against the door. It took seconds before the dam that was my mouth broke open and a confession flooded forth with the force of a tempest. She stared, mouth open and eyes wide. My mind saw flashes of what they would do to me in jail. Of the noose. I didn’t hear her until she was leaning over me, her hands on her knees, and her eyes filled with steadfast determination.

“Jack? Were you seen?”

“No. At least I don’t believe so.”

“Good. Wash yourself and get some sleep. Tomorrow we discuss when you are to go again.”

I looked at her, stunned. My stomach in my throat. “Excuse me?”

“We’re going to clean this city of its wretched filth. Sleep in here tonight.”

“Here?”

“While I may be pleased with what you did I am not blind to the fact that you did it after attempting to bed a whore. I don’t want to share a bed with you tonight. And hear me now, if you put your hands on another one of them unless it is to take a life, I will end yours.”


Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II

6x9_Front_CoverIIc.jpegRead More

Posted on Leave a comment

Deadman’s Tome Podcast Ep. 4

Deadman’s Tome Podcast four is now available, and Mr. Deadman talks about everything from the new writing contest to the Evil Dead remake. Also, because of the erotic theme of the previous issue, please enjoy the provocative images.

Posted on Leave a comment

2013 Vampire Themed Writing Contest

Walls of cold, hardened flesh bound to bone, a core without the faintest glow of radiance for warmth, and a vast, ever-expansive darkness that permeates the internal decay. Yet, the corpse somehow manages to move. But it doesn’t move like that of a man, however. As if blessed by some unfathomable hellish fiend, it moves with more life than it ever had as a mortal. As if a secret dark oath was taken in exchange for a demonic reanimation, but with any oath their comes a price.

Deadman’s Tome announces a vampire themed writing contest that starts NOW and ends in August. Feel free to submit your dark, morbid, horrific vampire-themed tales for chance to win and be published in the yearly electronic magazine. We don’t want any mushy, teen-drama tales. Any and all submissions of those type will be burned. I’m serious.

What’s the prize? I don’t like this part because I feel that one shouldn’t write because of a prize, but because the craft is enjoyable. However, this is a contest, and every contest has a prize. First place will receive a $100 Amazon gift card, along with a signed copy of The Cradle of Ruin. Second place will receive $25 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of the Cradle of Ruin. Third place will receive a signed copy of the Cradle of Ruin.

Read the SUBMISSIONS page for more details.

Winners and select runner-ups will be featured in the yearly Deadman’s Tome publication.

Send all submissions to Legato10@swbell.net

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Horror Erotica Contest Edition

2012 Horror Erotica Writing Contest Edition
2012 Horror Erotica Writing Contest Edition

Journey into a world of dark, carnal horrors, a realm where  sadistic torture is intertwined with pleasure. Brace yourself, for each story  will take you further into a land of extreme perversion.  Otherworldly horrors such as the provocative succubi  will tempt poor unsuspecting saps so that they can feast upon their soul. Narcissistic Masters will  inflict a lashing onto their slaves in the name of obedience. Heavenly beings  that mirror that of ancient Greece will suffer the product of an incestuous  lust. I feel compelled to warn you again, dear reader. The stories do not only  increase with provocative images, they increase with deep and maddening tales  of the consequence of falling for temptation.

 

Download the .PDF: DT2012

Check out the Kindle Version: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009JAHIH0/ref=cm_sw_su_dp