Posts tagged ‘dark’

2011/03/20

This Came for You

by mdjb

Hilary Jane Burckhardt moved into the apartment on Riverside Drive on a sunny day five months after Mrs. Akkerman died but it was on a rainy day three months later that Mrs. Akkerman began causing trouble.

It was not until much later, Hilary learned that was the same day Janisch Akkerman’s girlfriend Wenche had had an abortion and that that aborted fetus would have been Mrs. Akkerman’s only grandchild.

It was raining all morning. It was a Saturday. Hilary had printed out twenty stories to review because todo so on her monitor, even though it was twenty-one inches, bothered her eyes after a short time. Her father claimed she was ruining her eyesight and her health in general because she had taken on too much work and was not getting enough sleep. Now she had her own apartment in the city, she did not have to listen to his carping.

She made a cup of herbal tea and propped up over-stuffed pillows to get comfortable in a corner of her white leather sofa. In a bowl on the glass coffee table were celery and carrot sticks. Next to the bowl, cradleless, sat the cordless telephone. Hilary found when she was deeply involved in evaluating scripts, if the phone rang, she could not easily re-establish her rapport with the writer if she had to walk away from and return to her perch, but this way she could answer and say, “I’ll call you back later,” without feeling guilty or neglectful to either party.

The first two scripts were by inexperienced writers and were thus underdeveloped and forgettable, but the third was a horror story called This Came for You. It was gripping and admirably polished. Hilary knew a third of the way through she would be recommending the piece for inclusion in the next issue of Prototype.

Just as the indescribable horror was being described on the page, Hilary heard a noise across the room. She looked up at the foot high brass letters H J B on the opposite wall. The J gave way and fell to the floor. Then it slid across and under the sofa as if being pulled with a magnet from the apartment below and it crashed into the wall behind her. She jumped up and in so doing knocked over the little bowl of vegetables and the teacup causing them to smash into many pieces.

“What perfect timing,” she heard herself say aloud. She knew cleaning up the mess would break her concentration, just as a phone call would, so decided to put the rest of the scripts aside until later. She had a closet to clean out.

Janisch Akkerman had not done a very thorough job cleaning away his mother’s effects but had prevailed upon Hilary to hold onto a few boxes of things until he could come and get them. Three months had passed and he had not contacted her again. When she finally called the number he had given her, she learned the number was no longer in use. She had as yet no success tracking him down via the Internet or the usual avenues she might use for research but felt with persistence she would eventually find him. In the interim, she had decided she would look through the boxes she had previously left unopened. Now was the time.

The buzzer rang and when she answered it, the doorman told her there was a package for her down in the lobby. She told him she would come down for it later. She was in no rush. It was a box of groceries from her father. He had had one of his office lackeys go out with a shopping list and pick up health foods and produce and then bring the stuff up to her building.

She knew the doorman went off duty at three and figured she would have one of the porters bring up the box for her when the second doorman was on. He at least might think she had had the groceries delivered from a local market rather than having received them from a Burckhardt employee. She wondered why her father would go out of his way to embarrass her in front of her building employees. And why he could not trust her to take care of her own needs.

Hilary did her best to clean up the broken cup and bowl, and while reaching under the sofa to retrieve the brass J, she cut her finger on a stray sliver of glass. Though she tried her best to avoid doing so, a couple of drops of blood fell onto the white rug under the coffee table, and she knew immediately the rug was lost. Although she washed and bandaged her finger, she hadn’t noticed there was blood on the back of the J until she replaced it on the wall, and in adjusting it made the situation worse. Scrubbing with a wet cloth, she wore away paint, but the stain would not wash off.

Then, the buzzer sounded again. At the intercom, she could sense the annoyance in her own voice as she asked, “Yes, what is it?” and was a bit startled to hear the doorman respond, “Nobody rang, ma’m.” Lord, how she hated being addressed as if she were her mother’s age!

Everything seemed to be going wrong all at once.

She thought about the bedroom closet, but hesitated, waiting for another sound to set her in motion, and then it came. A knock on the door. Nobody ever knocked on her door, unless she requested the services of the handyman, which she had not done for nearly three months.

Looking through the peephole and seeing nobody, she felt the hairs on her arm flutter as she put her hand to the knob. When she heard another knock, she almost gave in to the impulse to ignore it and run into the other room, slip back under the duvet and try starting the day over again, but she could hear her father’s patronizing voice saying, “Hilary, you’re a woman, now,” as if he suddenly realized the truth one day. She turned the doorknob expecting to find one of the neighbor children standing outside looking up at her more confused than she felt at the moment.

What she found was an unattended package wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine, with the letter J written in red marker. Oddly, the letter ran over the cord, as if it had been added as an afterthought. The thing was too small to be the CARE pack she expected from her father, and she became unnerved. She glanced toward either end of the empty hall, and down again at the package, standing in her doorway for several minutes not knowing what to do.

Read responses by:
Ed Dean
Grey Johnson
Paul de Denus

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2009/10/27

How Satan Moves in the World

by mdjb

Now, she dances Salome. Choreographed by a shaman, inspired by Aubrey Beardsley. She dances half naked, her nipples aflame, aureoles the size of shillings. Diaphonous veils barely cover her vulva. Indeed in odd moments all is bared. Though it is the tale of Salome and in the latter part the head of The Baptist will be presented, mouth hideously agape, on a silver platter, Salome’s dance is that of Eve expelled from the Garden. It is the dance of the mother of time. She is all women.

This is Zorina’s specialty. A dream of a dance within a dream, mesmeric. She is intoxicating.

Edward leaves the theater unsure of whether he has witnessed a performance or merely dreamt of a goddess calling to him. Convinced only of a need to return on subsequent nights to relish his discomfort.

Then a dream wherein the serpent slithers through a quicksand environment in his backyard and the bedclothes are like sand and the snakes are everywhere. Impossible to escape. Tongues flick his skin and Zorina has come to him. Naked, stripped of the last of her inadequate veils, she lies beside him and he mounts her. He is unable to substantiate his position. She is inside him, though he knows this is improbable. She has entered him as smoke infiltrates a temple.

He was certain she was a goddess to be worshipped though she is baser than that. The succubus. Sister of Lilith. Salome/Eve merely a disguise she dons to deceive, to gain entry. And as in quicksand, he cannot purchase a foothold, but he gladly succumbs to her power.

In the morning his bags are packed and there is a note from her:

I am the Serpent. I have ALWAYS been, since the Beginning. I was Zorina. Now I am Edward. Go and repeat the process.

His conviction to return to the theater, to sit entranced, has beeen sublimated by a desire to witness destructrion. He wishes to disseminate fear. He will promulgate carnage.

This is how Satan moves in the world. Evil needs hands. Minions with dexterity. Change and adaptation prevent him from growing stale.

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2009/09/26

Graffiti

by mdjb

This story has been taken down for an overhaul.

Thanks to all who read and commented. Your kind words and advice have inspired me to rewrite parts, and this piece has been published on Out of Ruins where it fits in nicely.

Thanks again.

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2008/05/15

The Open Window

by mdjb

The boy lay bathed in sweat on his bed, awake. Water covered every inch of his body, and as he lay there in only his briefs there was nothing to absorb the flood of perspiration. His hair was matted and soaked. The sheet was sticking to his back every time he moved.
His eyes were red and swollen. In desperate need of sleep, he closed them a few times and tried to rest, but he was too uncomfortable. Something was making his brain itch. Something would not let him sleep.
He was alone in the apartment, but he had been alone many times before. Nothing so simple as being by himself should irritate him. It shouldn’t. He tried to think of something else.

People were passing in the street below and adding to the din of Harbor Avenue. It was late, but quite a few were out and about, but as he heard them milling below, it reminded him of his being alone and he had to turn to something else. He picked up a paperback book and began reading a dog-earred page, but soon he remembered it was a murder mystery. That would never do. He tossed it on the bureau.

God! He was sweating buckets! He knew he should open a window or two, but it was his wont to keep every one closed and locked. The doors were locked also. He dabbed at his neck and face with a damp handkerchief. It didn’t do much good so he took a clean one from one of the drawers in the bureau. Hundred and thirty-nine dollars that bureau had cost on a Labor Day sale. It looked like crap. He was sweating and the wood felt sticky.

Still searching for something to do, he picked up a comic magazine. It was light-hearted enough, but when he finished with it, he realized there were no more lying around.
He lay down again on the sweat-soaked sheet and closed his eyes, but it was useless. He could not sleep. Something would not let him. He did not, as a rule, suffer from insomnia, and could find no rationale for this perverse sleeplessness. He could say it was too hot and there was little air circulating in the room, but he had fallen asleep under these conditions many times before. He could say he was overtired, and the room was not dark enough, and there was the din in the street, but these things also he had hitherto conquered.
He sat up again and turned on the radio on the night table. Out came a song he had heard many, many times before. Listlessly, he lay there and let the words drone through his head:
Ahm gonna give ya mah love, girl,
Gonna let it fly in through yer window.
Ahm gonna make love to you…

Suddenly, it came to him. He had certainly locked the doors as soon as his folks went out, front door and back, and shut the windows, but he was not quite sure about the window in the kitchen, at the other end of the apartment. True, he could not feel any breeze blowing through the apartment, but it did not settle his mind. He was afraid to leave his room to check on it, but he knew he would not be able to fall asleep until he did. Well, then, he thought, he would just stay awake until the folks came home. When Mama and Frank got in they would open most of the windows, but that would be all right because the three of them would all be there in case anyone ever tried to break in or something.
No! He couldn’t stay awake until that late. Besides, they might be tipsy. He should be asleep when they came in.
Why should he be so paranoid about an open window? That was silly, right? To prove to himself how silly he was being torturing himself in this dreadful heat, he opened his bedroom window a few inches, opened it a crack as Frank would sometimes say.
He could hear noises from the pier and sounds of people below on Harbor Avenue more clearly.

Then he thought, sure, this is fine. There’s nothing outside this window but the street. There was a fire escape leading up to the one in the kitchen, and it came up from a dark back yard.
He must get up and close it or he would never fall asleep. He was afraid. Afraid enough to feel a chill, a chill which, even in this heat, was not welcome. All he had to do was go out and close it quickly, twist the lock and go back to bed. That was all. Then he could even open his bedroom window all the way. That was safe enough. There was no fire escape out there.

Slowly, he crept through his doorway to the sitting room, and from there, slowly, ever so slowly, through three more rooms to the doorway of the kitchen.
He stood there looking across the room at the window. It was wide open. The short cafe curtains were fluttering in the slight breeze, which he could now feel hitting his bare chest, making the short hairs of puberty stand on end. He felt a sickening sensation inside that adolescent chest.

Breath held fast, he strode across the room and stood before the window, ramshackle window, cheap curtains, slightly soiled and billowing carelessly.
Why had he felt so frightened? God! He felt like such a wimp!
Oh, well, might as well get it over with. It was best to play it safe anyway. He was not afraid anymore, but he thought, with a fire escape outside, this one window should be kept closed, and yes, maybe locked also.

He reached up, put both hands on the window to bring it down, and then it happened. A man stepped out of the darkness where he had been standing and stared open-eyed into the boy’s face.
Slowly, the boy’s fingers lost all their feeling and his legs wouldn’t hold him up. His vision blackened and he fainted dead away, crumpling in a heap on the floor in front of the window.

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