#1589

She doesn’t knock. She doesn’t have to. Daren senses her presence somehow, not so much a tingling on the back of his neck as a disturbance in the air of laughter unheard. Blade held down at his side, he makes his way to the door and opens it part way, one foot positioned to block it from being pushed farther. “What are you doing here?” he demands flatly.

“Is that any way to greet me after so many years, brother?” The woman on the other side of the door frowns as if injured by his callous greeting. “I thought you’d be happy to see me.” Daren sighs, keeping a firm grip on the door handle with one hand and his knife with the other – still out of sight, though he has no doubt she expects him to be carrying it. “What are you doing here, Mage?” he asks, trying for a slightly more civil, though no less threatening, tone.

“I’ve been worried about you, of course,” She lays a hand over her breast as a show of sincerity and he almost laughs aloud – like she even has a heart in there. “I wanted to see how you’ve fared since we both got out of that awful place. You’ve been terribly hard to find of late, you know. You were living on your own for some time,” she inches closer, lowers her voice with a smirk, “but that’s not true anymore, is it?”

“Leave him out of this,” Daren snarls before he can bite back the response. Mage chuckles, her smile smoothing sweetly. “He’s very handsome, this friend of yours. And he must be rather rich, too,” she adds, eying the glimpse of the apartment she can see past Daren. “I wonder what he sees in you, Brother?”

“Call me that again and you’ll have a knife in your throat,” He moves his hand just enough to catch light on the blade held at his side. Mage’s cool green eyes flicker to the blade and back and she laughs delightedly. “Such a temper! They couldn’t break you of that, could they? Good,” her eyes narrow, a feral grin he knows too well, “I like your anger. It suits you.”

Daren refuses to rise to the bait this time. “You should leave,” he growls. “Now.”

“I see your hospitality hasn’t improved much,” Mage shakes her head woefully. “Won’t you even invite me in? Offer me a drink for old times’ sake?” When Daren doesn’t respond she sighs, pouting her disappointment like a child denied a toy. “Fine, I’ll go. But do say hello to your companion for me, won’t you?”

“Fuck off,” Daren slams the door in her face, a gesture of finality and dismissal that betrays his unease. As he pockets the knife he hears her laugh softly on the other side of the door and murmur, “See you around, brother dear.”

#1588

No one will ever admit this, but it is true nonetheless: there is something sacred about those who sell their bodies. They are cherished by the deities of love and lust and abundance, are like oracles in their knowledge of humanity’s capacity for mercy and malice. Even the lowliest prostitute bears a grace and self-worth which can never be bought or sold. Their spirits burn bright even in the slums, shaming those who come for their services even as they willingly pay.

Of course, the same cannot be said for those like myself who take no payment, who are bought with a smile or a drink or a rough hand beneath the table. We are beloved of no gods, carry no secrets worth keeping. We are sluts and whores, as much a step down from prostitutes as the gutter is from the palace. I suppose there’s something to be said for self-awareness, of course; we know we have no grace, no dignity, no worth. We care as little about our bodies or souls as the people to which we happily surrender.

Still, I wonder what it would be like to be worthy enough of some sum, just once.

#1585

Sure, they’ll call you King and God, but they’ll also call you Sacrifice. They’ll bring you gold and precious stones and perfumes, but where will they be when your hands are bleeding around cold iron? What good will all those pretty names do you when it comes time to produce a miracle out of stilled flesh? You’re only the prodigal son if you return from the darkness triumphant; otherwise you’re just another failed revolutionary who thought himself a¬†prophet. Wouldn’t it be easier, then, to just stay gone and leave this¬†world to fend for itself? Don’t you remember how heavy that crown is, beloved?

#1581

bare your neck
bare your teeth
sweat and blood
breath and heartbeat
tear flesh, dig bruises
swallow me down
gripping, gasping, gaining
surrender, release
brother dear
you are a beast
you are a monster
devour, destroy, consume your love
gunpowder lust
cannibal hunger
blood and semen, sweat and flesh
dear brother
brother dear
I just want to see you bleed
you look beautiful in red

#1573

A gun, while classic, would be too messy, he thinks as he selects today’s suit and tie.

He considers asphyxiation as he slicks back his hair, but it would be difficult to make it look like an accident.

Stirring sugar into his coffee, he wonders about poison, a possibility though traceable if done incorrectly.

As he picks up his briefcase he toys momentarily with blunt force trauma, but once again that one’s difficult to disguise unless stairs are involved.

“Goodbye, dear,” he says as he kisses his wife on the cheek and heads out the door.

In the car he lights a cigarette, briefly entertaining fire but tossing aside the idea as too grandiose and liable to get out of hand.

The parking garage makes him think of carjacking and he wonders if he could fake a robbery-turned-murder, though it might require some self-harm for believability.

“Hello, darling,” he says as he walks into his office and kisses the handsome young man who waits there.

Poison or strangulation or gunpowder, it doesn’t really matter; he’ll think of the perfect solution in time. After all, he did promise til death do us part.

[ Tanim has loved this song for years. It gives him… ideas. ]

#1572

The first time Tanim enters the house he is bombarded by the voices of the dead, so many speaking at once he can’t even determine their number. But it’s what isn’t being said that sends ice crawling down his back. Amid the emotional cacophony of the spirits around him, there is one presence inside the house which does not speak. He cannot see it; he can only sense it like the weight of a storm front looming somewhere in the distance.

The entity never makes itself known during his first session in the house, though Tanim can feel its awareness of him as he moves from room to room. He doesn’t acknowledge it, instead focusing on the other spirits clamoring for his attention. They are a startling range of ages, genders, time periods, and tragedies unlike anything he’s experienced. Yet beneath individual anger, sorrow, and confusion they share one common emotion – terror.

Records show no deaths associated with the property, though Tanim’s heard rumors about a suicide so long ago the details are lost. Why, then, the amassed dead? Tanim digs through archives, basements, attics, local myths and legends, but nothing explains the presence of so many dead. Even the findings of past mediums make no sense; no one seems to have encountered the same spirits twice in the house, and no one else has reported sensing the unknown entity which watched Tanim so closely.

The second time Tanim enters the house, he tunes out the noise of the dead as he passes methodically through each room. Beneath their racket he can still sense the unseen entity, its presence growing in strength as if it laid a trail for him to follow. And perhaps it has; Tanim feels himself pulled ever higher, up to the base of the attic stairs. There are no dead on this floor, which explains their density down below – they’re too afraid of what waits upstairs to venture closer.

Tanim climbs the stairs into a dim, dusty attic. Nothing stirs, yet he knows he’s not alone. The storm front sensation builds until the pressure tightens around Tanim’s chest, making him sink to his knees as he struggles for breath. Then the pressure lifts like the storm breaking and Tanim raises his head to see a man standing before him. He has just enough time to register pale skin and white hair, dark clothing and narrowed black eyes, before the figure vanishes again.

A single word accompanies the vision: Daren.

Tanim retraces every step of his research, yet still can find no physical records of the suicide or even anyone in the town named Daren. It makes no sense; other death records for the area go back to the founding of the town, certainly long before the house existed. Why, then, was this one death never recorded, if not in a newspaper then at least by the medical examiner?

Unless this death was meant to be wiped from the collective memory.

The third time Tanim enters the house, empty rooms and silence greet him. The dead who packed the house like frightened refugees are gone; only the single entity remains like a spider at the center of an empty web. Tanim can feel it waiting as he climbs each staircase and once more enters the attic’s oppressive gloom. Though he longs for the spirit to show itself again, fear makes him hesitate to call it out. He’s encountered entities that feed upon the energy of others before, but never one so powerful it could pull other dead from miles around and trap them in one place. This isn’t a normal haunting and he must tread carefully.

As Tanim takes a step forward, the entity appears. The spirit’s form is that of a young man, possibly Tanim’s age, with an angular face and thin, sardonic lips. It wears black clothing of an indeterminate time period, the color melting into the dark attic so only the figure’s face and hands are entirely visible. Those same hands twitch periodically as if the entity wants to attack Tanim, yet holds itself back.

“You must be hungry,” Tanim finally says as he watches its fingers’ slight spasms. “You’ve drawn everything in the area to you, haven’t you? You’re running out of prey.” The spirit says nothing, but that doesn’t surprise him. This one clearly doesn’t like to talk. “If you remain in this house, your power will eventually dwindle. You’ll become just another shade trapped where it died.” He approaches the entity, pleased when it neither moves nor disappears, only watches him with wary curiosity. “Of course, if you attach yourself to me, you could leave this place and go anywhere. We could find all sorts of things for you to eat.”

The entity seems to consider the offer for a moment. Then a wolfish smile spreads slowly over its face and it closes the distance between them.

Every time Tanim enters a new house, he watches its resident spirits scatter away from his approach; they sense the predator lurking within him, though they can’t know its exact nature. “Have fun, Daren,” he murmurs to the man standing at his side. The entity’s only response is soft, hungry laughter.