#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.

#1567

Tell me, nameless one, do you long for those distant shores? Did I, in giving you the blood of an ancient race, also etch into your heart the longing of all your people for gray ships and white gulls and silver glass? Is that why you stand at the edge of the waves and gaze out to the horizon? Do you long for a time when you can set aside the burden of your charge and finally pass into the west, leave all this, your past and present, your battles and failures and triumphs, far behind in another age? Is that why you can find no home on this side of the water?

Don’t answer the call of those white shores. Not yet. I promise I will set you free one day. Until then, I still need you beside me on this journey.

#1562

Some days I want to glean meaning from your death. Other days I know it was just some random shit thing that happened. In my dreams society has crumbled, humanity reduced to warring factions and desperate survival, and still what I miss most as I stand by the ocean is hearing songs on the radio that remind me of you. Upon waking I struggle for a moment, wondering why my mother is dating someone, until I remember (over and over and over) – you’re gone.

#1557

I wonder what kind of mother could birth a child like you. I used to think she must have been worthless, a nobody, just some drug addicted teenager who didn’t give a shit about the life she brought into the world. That would explain a lot, wouldn’t it? And maybe that’s all she was, just a sad stereotype, but… I wonder. I wonder if she was chosen to carry you in her poisoned womb, a meth-thinned wraith with a swollen belly impregnated not by some john but by Fate itself, by a cycle that demands constant resurrection and death. I wonder if, watching you grow, she felt a thrill of inexplicable fear. Did she understand what she had birthed? Did she look into your dark eyes and see everything you would be capable of – the violence, the madness, the tragic divinity? Maybe that’s why she couldn’t stay. Maybe that’s why she fled, leaving you to face the world’s cruelty alone. Maybe she saw the future and, unlike Mary, could not bear to watch her son grow to become something foreign and unknowable. Something eternal yet doomed; beautiful yet terrible. Maybe she just wasn’t ready to be the mother of a prophecy.

#1555

Your madness is a strange comfort; I slip into it like a warm bath, holding my breath and submersing myself until it blocks my ears, my nose, my eyes, until I am encased in a substance that would gladly drown me if I gave it the chance. The world is different under here – muted, remote, unreal – and I linger as long as my body and mind can handle, heart pounding, lungs burning. Yet even though there comes a point when I must return to myself, your madness clings to my skin as I surface again, little trickling drops that pool between my lips and weigh down my lashes, that drip drip drip as you flex my fingers, testing.

#1554

The moment passes too quickly, as always, and Tanim is left hollow and listless in its wake. With trembling hands he lowers Daren’s head to the carpet, smooths the hair from his brow.

No, not Daren. The fantasy passes along with the rage and suddenly the face before him is no longer his lover’s but a stranger’s, unfamiliar beneath the mask of blood and bruises. There are similarities – that broken nose might once have been sharp and angular, those bloody lips thin and sardonic, the hair a pale blond that in the right light might be mistaken for… – but not enough. This man isn’t Daren, just some whore whose name Tanim has already forgotten or never knew.

“Shit,” Tanim gently draws down the dead man’s eyelids over dulled eyes that are blue, not black; he can never get that part right, not completely, and in the end it’s always the eyes that give the strangers away, that stir the spark of anger inside him into a maelstrom of wrath and misery.

“You act as if you didn’t know this would happen,” The note of mockery in the voice makes Tanim flinch and he shakes his head, scrubbing at his mouth with the back of one hand as if to wipe away everything from the last hour; the taste of unfamiliar flesh and semen, of blood and alcohol, the sobs that threaten to vomit up from his throat even now. “Shut up,” is all he manages to growl, a whimper breaking through the words. “And yet you continue to do it,” the voice presses in amusement. “Why?”

“Because it’s not you!” This time the sob does burst forth, a ragged, broken howl as Tanim turns red-rimmed eyes up to his companion. He falters as he meets the others cold black gaze. “It’s never you…” The man leaning against the windowsill only shrugs, clearly unimpressed with Tanim’s outburst, and nods to the broken body at Tanim’s side. “You better clean up soon,” he cautions, “you only rented this room for two hours.”

As Daren turns his head to gaze out the window, Tanim averts his eyes once more to avoid glimpsing the jagged, seeping wound where the back of his lover’s skull has been crushed in.