I could see through my eyelids that the small room we were squatting in was still cast in darkness. No light from a new morning sun had begun to peek through the colorful tapestries that were tacked carelessly to the tall Victorian window. As I breathed in, my breath catching like Morse Code in the back of my throat, I could smell the dampness and lingering scent of stale beer and pot smoke. The abandoned house was still except for the other snoring squatters and a record player scratching down the hall. A boulder lay heavy on my stomach. I was already terrified of morning and I had yet to open my eyes.
A soft hand brushed stray strands of my long, tangled hair from my forehead. Thick, dry lips pressed against my skin and I breathed again, more Morse Code. Her breath smelled like peppermint, her body like patchouli. She always smelled like patchouli.
“Casey. Casey, it’s time to wake up.”
I groaned and shook my head ‘no’. I didn’t want to open my eyes. If my eyes opened, if I acknowledged the existence of everything outside my body, then it would start. The pain, the fear, the terror, the hunger, longing, regret, and the cast iron boulder would grow bigger and hotter and I would quiver violently until…
“Come on,” she leaned in and pressed her dry lips against my soft thin ones. “One foot in front of the other. At least open your eyes.”
I hesitated, but the fragile heart pounding like the hooves of horses at the Kentucky Derby in my chest wanted desperately to see her. So, I allowed my lids to crack open. Only the dull yellowed hallway light seeped infinitesimally into our room. It backlit Evie like some sort of earthbound angel. Her long cocoa dreads were tied back in a ponytail, but a few strays drooped around her face. She had a psychedelic scarf wrapped around her head. Her freckles looked like constellations on a bright summer day; out of place. Her lively green eyes crinkled on the sides as she smiled wide looking down on me. Our little calico, Charlie, sniffed at her chin, licked her, then bounced from her lap with a high pitched ‘Meh’.
“She lives,” Evie whispered.
“I didn’t ask to.”
“It’s still early, but I can, if I need to.”
“Or I could just stay in bed,” I said. I didn’t want to meet her eyes. Instead, I glanced around the room. I took stock of the plaster that had fallen from the walls and now sat in chalky clumps on the floor. The blue, purple, and tie-dyed tapestries that hung on the wall and from the ceiling, ballooned out like reverse tents, mountains that were falling in on me. I pulled the dusty quilt up under my chin and watched tiny particles writhe in the air, microscopic Janis Joplins strung out and heartbroken. Evie grabbed my chin and forced me to look her in the eye. “You can’t this early. You’ll be wiped all day,” I protested.
“Can you get up then? Everyone will be waiting. It’s our turn to do breakfast run.”
“Evie,” I groaned, “can you go without me? You know I just slow you down anyway. In this condition, we’ll never be back before the sun comes up.”
She was disappointed. Evie’s eyelids drooped and the corner of her mouth twitched. I knew what she wanted to do, but I wouldn’t have it. Not like this. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it. The bangles around her wrist knocked together and tinkled a cute little tune like summer before my head broke. Like back in Pennsylvania when I would wade in the little creek near my house in my pink one piece, build a dam, swim by the trickling waterfall and never consider the snakes hiding in the rocks. That was before I ran off to California. Before the whole world was terrifying.
“Ok. I’ll go myself. Why don’t you get up and get a bath now before everyone else wakes up? When I get back—”
“We’ll see,” I told her.
Evie kissed my cheek, my neck, my lips, my neck again—she lingered there by my clavicle a little too long. “Go.” I said and pushed her up by the shoulders.
Evie smiled and threw her big tote bag over her shoulder and yanked the quilt off me. Then, she disappeared into the golden hallway.
I stayed there exposed to the sticky air on the lumpy, sagging mattress unable to will myself to move. My legs stretched out from paisley panties and ended with toenails that were once painted blue, the polish now chipped and sad. If I tilted my head just right I could see the tiny brown hair that sprouted from my calves. The logo on the Zeppelin shirt I was wearing skipped every time I inhaled, S.O.S. I propped myself up on my elbow. My hands were shaking as if the San Andreas Fault were going to open up and swallow me whole. I reached for a baggy with a couple of pink pills sitting inside. I opened it, but thought better of it. It wouldn’t be good for Evie if I took them. Several more minutes quivering like a chihuahua afraid of its shadow and I found enough gumption to at least rise from my own personal crypt.
I grabbed my tattered bellbottoms and a fresh shirt and headed toward the light. A thick ball of saliva caught in my throat and I felt bile rise. My feet carried me swiftly back to the safety of the mattress. I closed my eyes against the light, shutting out the world that existed outside myself. The clothes on my lap reminded me of the duffle bag I had carried all my possessions in when I hauled ass away from Pennsylvania. That was right after my brain stopped working. Shadows had started twisting into monsters in the night. Footsteps that belonged to unseen spectres had begun following me around my apartment at all hours of the day. I had heard windows break in my sleep, felt the presence of intruders standing over my bed, putrid breath on my lips, death’s hands around my neck. I was certain if I didn’t leave, disappear, they’d kill me.
So, I packed up and thumbed it across the country. I crawled in the back seat of sedans crammed with families on summer vacation. Cabs of big rigs with scruffy drivers who eye-balled me ominously while Elvis crooned over static and dusty plains. I was never really sure if the next car I sat in would be the last. Then, one night while I trudged along Route 66 in a forgotten ghost town in New Mexico Evie pulled over in a grimy green Nova. She was with Benny and Lou. Evie looked like she had just come from a Dead concert, the boys had on leather jackets. They were more sinister, scrappy, like some 50s gang that got stuck in a time warp. Even then, I felt a warmth wash over me that told me Evie could make everything alright.
I opened one eye to the hall light and willed myself up from the mattress. I thought of Evie as my bare feet hit the worn carpet, and the battered floor beneath creaked and groaned in protest. My hand skidded against the falling plaster and exposed wood. The texture of the old walls was like an ancient maple tree. I did it to remind myself where I was, safe inside. Evie would be back soon. The hallway began to tilt like a tunnel in a funhouse, but I found the bathroom and threw myself inside before I got lost in the dark place. If I lingered too long on unpleasant thoughts, memories, visions and Evie wasn’t here to pull me out I might not find my way. I got lost once before. I stayed with the monsters for a week before Evie found me.
My eyes had big gray bags under them. My skin was so pale it was nearly blue. I smirked. The rose of my lips and the amber hue of my irises were the only indication I was actually alive. If someone came across me asleep somewhere they’d probably tag me and haul me off to the morgue. I shook like a squirrel who’d drank too much caffeine. Evie kept repeating, “if you’d let me…”, but I wasn’t willing to risk the consequences.
The toilet lid was up. No one in the house flushed. Water conservation, I rolled my eyes, they were too drunk or high to pay attention. The first person to use the bathroom for the day had to do the flushing. I sat down and flushed at the same time. Water droplets sprayed my ass. The knobs on the clawfoot tub’s faucet were loose and you had to wiggle them just right to get some warm water. It was never really hot, just tepid enough to not make you a living ice cube.
I stripped off my stinking clothes and crawled into the moldy tub. Someone’s cast off razor blade sat next to their razor on the edge. I leaned back, knees to chest, and studied it. The little piece of steel sat stagnant it the florescent light. Mostly dull, but still sharp enough to hint at a slight gleam on its edge. Specks of rust had started to form on the corners. I wondered if I could do what Evie did; release a little blood and drain out my sickness. Except, if I did it myself, Evie wouldn’t get sick for me. Instead, maybe I could just wash it down the drain. If it didn’t work, then maybe my hot blood and my fears and my terror would drain out and leave me hollow. I’d be an empty husk and whatever soul or life-force or thing that keeps our bodies moving would float up through the dark place and land somewhere nicer. Of course, it might not. I was never one for games of chance.
I heard the static on the record player down the hall stop. Some footsteps, banging around, clicks, the pungent aroma of weed began to waft down the hall. They were starting to wake up. I sighed and grabbed the razor, carelessly scouring the prickly brown hairs like cactus needles on my legs. Voices started to rattle down the hall.
“Casey, where is she?”
“Breakfast,” I squeaked and continued to stroke my legs with the razor.
Feet pounded down the hallway. “Casey. Are you deaf?”
“She’ll be right back.” My hands began to shake violently. It was Benny. He didn’t like waiting for breakfast.
“Casey! Answer me! I swear I’ll rip the damn door down!” he pounded so hard on the thing it shook on its hinges.
I jumped in the water clutching the razor in my fist, my entire body a magic fingers vibrating mattress. Thick crimson honey poured from a slice I had taken out of my leg. Cloudy water splashed on the tile floor and crawled toward the door. Benny stopped pounding. I could hear my heart beating, clicking like a detonator in my chest. Benny breathed hard outside.
The fragile wood exploded and splintered in every direction. Benny stood, muscles rippling under a black t-shirt and tight jeans, bare feet engulfed in bloodstained water. His blonde hair fell over his forehead soaked by beads of sweat.
“Benny,” I shrieked as I pressed my naked body against the cold wall of the tub. I was holding the razor out like a crucifix. Like somehow it would protect me.
“You should have went with Evie.”
“You made a little mistake there,” he said glancing as my blood-soaked leg.
“Evie can fix it.”
“Evie can’t fix you. You’re weak, she’s just prolonging your miserable life. It’s always been a matter of time, Casey. Let’s just let nature take its course.” Benny smiled. His long, white pointed canines glittered. “I’m real sick of that bottled shit anyway.”
Benny eased toward me as I cowered there unable to move or defend myself. He was right. Evie was special. She could feed off my blood in a way that cured my sick mind for a short time, but it was never permanent. The only way to fix it was death. If I let Benny finish me, if I succumbed to him, maybe he’d let me go peacefully.
I pushed my knotted hair to the side revealing my long, slender neck to Benny and I pushed it forward. My lip began to seep blood and I tasted pennies as my teeth chewed away it’s flesh; it was the result of both terror and an effort to keep it from quivering. Benny towered above me now. He wasn’t concerned with my nudity, only my blood and my fear. He clutched my hair in his fist and thrust my head back as he knelt in the water next to the bathtub.
“It will only hurt if you fight,” he growled, “but it does taste better when you’re scared. So, maybe—”
I closed my eyes and I felt his teeth pop the tender flesh of my neck. A warm sensation began to overcome me, like sunbathing on the beach. My body began to tingle as my blood flowed in a way it was never meant to. My heart raced, but different from fear. The sounds around me became distorted. I could have sworn I heard Evie calling my name until the whole world went black.
“Casey, you really need to eat.”
“Hmmm,” I moaned as I fluttered my eyelids. The room was dark and I glanced around at the familiar tapestries. Evie sat above me smiling, her head wrapped in a blue scarf, her chocolate dreads hanging around her face, she had some cuts and bruises. I sat up and touched them. “What happened?”
“Those are nothing. Just a little scuffle with Benny.”
Benny. I grabbed at my neck and felt the crusty remnants of two puncture wounds. “How long was I out?”
“Two days. How do you feel?”
I felt my body. I seemed to be intact. No pain. The cut on my leg was nearly healed. My head wasn’t foggy anymore. I wasn’t scared, there were no shadows, no monsters hiding in the crevices, everywhere I searched inside my head seemed free. Evie had clearly fixed me again, but I had wasted two days passed out cold. “I feel better. Thanks.” I leaned in to kiss her. Evie turned her head, looked down at her fingers. She was sick. That was the price she paid for bleeding out my demons.
“Casey, Benny really got hold of you. Why would you offer yourself up to him like that?”
“I don’t know. I was in a bad place, figured maybe it would be better to just let go. Then Benny busted in and didn’t give me a choice. I couldn’t fight him.”
“I guess not. It was dumb. You know how risky it is to shave or maybe draw blood when I’m not around.”
“I’m sorry. It’s all good now, though, right? I’m ok. Benny’s ok?”
“You don’t remember anything?” Evie asked as she pulled me into her.
“Just Benny. Why?”
“Casey, I got him off. It was a fight and he’s going to be mad for a long time. But he had done too much damage, took too much. I didn’t have a choice. It was one or the other.”
I lept from the bed and ran for the bathroom, “Evie, you didn’t!”
Her footsteps padded on the carpet after me. Pieces of splintered wood were still scattered on the floor, fragments of the door hung from oxidized hinges. I peered into the mirror. The bags under my eyes were gone, my skin porcelain like a doll’s, my cheeks rosy. My golden eyes sparkled as if I were lit by the lights from a Hollywood studio. Save the puncture wounds on my neck I was flawless, strong, clear. Evie stood behind me, a marble statue.
“What have you done?” I said to the mirror.
“You’re cured now. They’ll never come back to haunt you. Your mind is free.”
“Evie,” I held a shaking hand to my throat, “you let them out.”
#HumpdayHorror #DarkCorners Copyright 2018 Kira McKinney
Welcome to my blog. Sit back and enjoy a short story, a poem, or some flash fiction--whatever I have recently cooked up. I will post a new piece as often as possible. Check back once a week to see what's new.