A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Thomas Neubauer
In the darkness of my own contemplation, I surveyed the four walls that made up each foundation of my existence. This empty space had proven a dank formidable fortress in which I could reflect nightly like this on the dull, uninteresting life I’d been leading. The framework was bare but filled vividly in my memory with objects I adulated to have once again, someday. Succumbed instead by squalor, I went to these dreams and lived out my happiest days.
Whispering in the darkness, I felt a deep echo reverberate. It started low at first and tumbled closer and closer inside this feeble frame. My stomach lurched forward like a sprinter beckoning the last free steps his spent muscles could afford. The sheer velocity sent me spiraling from my hole and into the world. It needed, and I long decided not to give in to such primal urges that I had been cursed with. Tonight would afford me an absence of will from which I’d spent many months quietly resenting.
Creeping down the stairs as quietly as a mouse, I spied him. Nary, he did not catch me, trespassing; I lurked to the shadows scurrying out of sight. He always entertained in my darkest hour. Like most nights, he was not alone. Her scent lingered in the air and danced its own forbidden dance around my nostrils. Into a sea of flower petals, I dove into each heavenly waft desiring more of this innocence. The luscious red gown she wore only illuminated the golden locks curling down to the base of her spine.
She naively twirled a pendant hanging nervously from her neck, ogling her muse from head to toe. The similarities between them were striking at first, yet contrasted in movement. His suave demeanor and impeccable timing seemed to swoon even the stuffiest of women. In a way, I pitied him. So many chances at love, yet he never brought home the same girl twice. He must be a melting pot of VD by now.
As I was blessed with mousy ears, I screwed them tightly to hear her soft voice soar over the classical music he had begun to play for her. She giggled at his whimsy and enchanted him into a slow awkward dance that left her gliding on the floor like it was made of butter. Each step had my crimson angel gliding higher and higher. The room twirled around her, and she gave unto it her fullest attention. Enjoying its freedom, a single strand of hair floated past the gentleman; the buoyant sliver had wafted it in the breeze and it fell gently to earth behind her. The dark man bent over to grasp it carefully with his tender hands and took in its succulent aroma while his prey spun her ballerina dance.
Staring into the void, I couldn’t shake a sense of ominous intrusion. It didn’t feel right leering into this personal affair. Yet I found myself glued to this ledge, peering into a dream. Her sway mesmerized as his gaunt arm extended out to reach towards hers, then gracefully ushered her to the next room. I followed along, sighing sincerely as a deep sense of envy fell across. I returned to those dreams, of happier times when this home was more than the rat infested, barren wasteland that it’s become.
The hour was late and dusk would fast approach, so I continued my tour of the household. Sensing nothing to tame my desire any further, I stole to the kitchen. Nothing available appeased my carnal fixation. The cupboards were bare and the refrigerator would no doubt be empty also. It had been years since it had been working anyway. I contemplated my choices and reserved that it was far too cold outside to leave the bungalow. This left me to scavenge the loft for anything manageable. I put my rodent-like senses to good work in situations like these and scampered along.
“There it is–the platter,” I mused to myself. “But I shouldn’t give in to such cravings. It’s not safe.”
The back of the house was in utter chaos. Most attention had been spent on keeping the viewable portions of the house relatively clean. The filth in some areas was staggering, tantamount to a meat-house or some really bad slasher flick. I’d never get around to cleaning it. It almost seemed easier to burn the place down and start anew elsewhere.
I could hear the bathtub was filled again. The leaky faucet had not been tended to in some time, and so the basin regularly filled with liquid which spilled over into the rest of the house on most nights. A small jewelry box had been knocked over in a haste to sop it up the previous night. Its remnants shattered in stained memories and lay scattered across the counter top in forgotten disarray. I nosed past them on my quest, but to no avail.
Her shrieks of joy grew louder. By the sounds of things, my mystery woman was thoroughly enjoying herself. The panting and sweating in her voice grew faint as I delved deeper into my domain. I had been certain I reserved myself a snack somewhere in this heap. I would just have to look a little bit harder. The cravings grew stronger, but I shuddered them to the back of my mind and thought of only the girl in red. Her coo filled my piquant head and lulled me into a stupor of euthanasia.
The wind carried on outside, knocking a stray branch into the shutters of this old dilapidated building. Rapping louder and faster, it matched my fervor step for step. I trespassed closer to the commotion.
“Perhaps a nibble, a nibble wouldn’t hurt,” I trembled. “It’s been so long, you deserve it…” but gave pause for a minute to glance at the glint of metal streaming in the still pale moonlight. It flashed its true beauty to me, hypnotically. The wooden platter beckoned my eyes. I stared into oblivion again, but each time my eyes only found their mark on the golden bounty my heart so desired.
“Do I… should I…?” The words stumbled around in my head like a sack of marbles tossed violently against a wall. “YES,” I exclaimed. “Tonight will be my night. You will haunt me no more.” I quickened my pace for it, the tips of my claws billowing deeply into the soft wooden floorboard like those of some carnivorous rabid animal. A thick layer of thirst came from my lips with each waking step that brought me closer, bedded back down by the knowledge of what I’d be given in return.
I paused before its splendor and took in the moment. It was auspiciously quiet now. Not a single sound filled the world; this was my moment to shine. Yet, my focus immediately shifted back to my floating goddess. I escaped my euphoria for one moment’s glance. He grinned widely while standing over his triumph, and I gazed enviously back to him. Embraced in coitus of love that felt to be my own, I shared his happiness.
“Consume,” I felt myself murmur. And so I did. Each bite of my final treat tasted sweeter than the next before the steel trap snapped around my spine. Time stopped, and suddenly the only thing that mattered was the intense amount of anguish born from the weight pressed against the wood platter that would become my crypt.
Across the room, her lustrous laboring turned to dire pleas at the glimmer of her lethal betrayer. A flash of metal streaked from across the room as the hilt drove directly through the pillow and muffled her innocent screams. The giggles that reverberated in my ears were no longer the sweet sullen voice of young love. Instead, they were now filled by the shrill bellows of a psychopath standing over his next victim.
My limbs became numb and twitched of their own accord. The seething pain seared through my severed veins, as I watched in subdued horror. Each breath drew shorter as I weakened to my own eventual surmise. Our eyes met at last and bound like a finger, broke forever. Her arms limply fell to the side of the stained mattress as he scooped her out of sight. I shuddered with each footstep the devil took to his bounty. The demon carried the necklace from the bathroom. He marveled at it, taking in its magnificent innocence before he placed our baby blue jewel into a box he found on the sink. The lid slowly shut, and I wondered if I would ever see the girl in red again.