Short Story: Dead Men

It wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t. Not in a million years. Jake was dead. The trial was over. Martin was cleared of all suspicion. He’d done everything right. He’d passed all the detectors. His lawyer had made all the right arguments. Yet here he was, staring at what appeared to be a live image of Jake Cooper; recent adulterer and still-fresh corpse. The body hadn’t begun to decompose yet.

It had to be a tech trick, he knew. There was no explanation otherwise. He’d broken Jake’s neck himself. Felt the snap. He’d done it in just right, too. He’d had to. Otherwise, there would’ve been no doubts of reality.

As it was, he’d almost cooked his own goose leaving evidence suggesting he knew of the affair. The prosecution had a field day with that. Both Martin and his lawyer stood firm; he knew, but he’d still been deciding how to handle it. He was torn between disbelief and refusal to admit it to himself.

It worked. That was what mattered. The courts, the jury, the judge, his lawyer, everyone believed his version. They believed, per usual, he and Jake had been drinking heavily at his home; that he’d passed out on the couch; that Jake got up to piss; that inebriated as he was– and his BAC concluded– he fell, broke his neck against the bathroom sink; that he wasn’t found until Martin awoke around noon, hung-over and in a panic.

Everyone believed it. All of it. It was a masterful play. One for the ages. If he could only tell someone.

Courtney was still off somewhere, quietly mourning the asshole dicking her despite the five-year relationship with Martin. She was the type to want cake and eat it too. Or in this case, want cock and eat it too. He should’ve known years ago.

He found out in the most mundane way. It still angered him to think about it. He deserved better than looking at Courtney’s phone, being suddenly met with Jake slamming her from behind. Hell, they’d been friends twenty years. He wasn’t even snooping. He was looking for something from an old party. A picture of the two of them. If he’d wanted to snoop, he would have.

But then, there it was: her getting railed from behind. In front of a dirty mirror. Her face half-visible and Jake’s blotted out by the flash. All the same, Martin recognized the tattoos, had seen that filthy mirror often enough. He didn’t need to guess anything.

In hindsight, Martin was proud of himself; of his handling of things. Premeditated murder notwithstanding. He didn’t fly off the handle, and for all he knew, Courtney still wasn’t sure he’d seen the picture. The trial’s nonspecific terms, and his own lies, put the revelation on a discussion that had never taken place. The conversation said the adultery was formed of another, drunken circumstance. Courtney too, enjoyed getting shit-faced. And dicked too. The two collided.

She was just lucky he couldn’t bring himself to off her too.

Martin had killed Jake with his bare hands. Premeditated. No fit of passion. No irrational rage. Rather simple, measured vengeance. Intentional. Indifferent. Not cold. Not hot. It just was.

Just as it was that Jake now stared at Martin from the other side of a vid-call.

Tech. Pre-recorded.

But Jake didn’t know shit about computers. He worked janitorial. He wasn’t the brightest bulb. For that matter, neither was Martin. Nonetheless, he didn’t know shit about tech. He could barely program numbers into his cellphone– though apparently he knew how to coordinate taking a photo with dogging his best-friend’s girl.

The dead-stare in Jake’s face contained the slightest hint of amusement. It told of more to the state of things than a simple VOIP-call.

“SurprisedI’m back from the dead?” Jake asked suddenly. Martin vaguely noticed his own repulsion. “I seethe terror in your face. Don’t worry. My death’s our little secret… for now. I just wanted you to know why I did it. I figured the time would come, sooner or later, when you’d find out.”

Martin cast aside all doubts of a recorded message. It was clear by his implication. Jake managed to pre-record and program a vid-call. He wasn’t sure he’d ever known how to, but he was too focused now to care.

“Fact is, Mart, you’ve always been a cunt.” Martin reeled. “Can’t say I really cared for you most of the time, but brothers’re brothers, right? Can’t choose your family. Just happens. Something kept us friends all these years. Until…”

“Until you start railing Courtney, you fucking asshole,” Martin blurted.

There was a laugh. Too on-point and lag-free to be software. Or maybe not. Fucking eerie. It forced a shudder along Martin’s spine. Goosebumps rippled his limbs.

Jake was chuckling, “Yeah. Courtney.” A “hmm” trailed off into an obvious “mmm.” Martin grit his teeth. Jake ignored it, either in life or death, whichever was represented. “Fact is, Marty ol’ boy, you were a cunt. A royal one. You treated her in accordance with that mentality. You manipulated her with small nudges, quiet words. Everything an asshole does.

“And you drove her straight to me. And I let you. Because she deserved better. Hell, you didn’t even know how to fuck ‘er. Just spasmed on top’a her like a dying fish. Then you had the nerve to go and off me for giving her what she wanted. What she needed.”

Martin’s eyes doubled in size.

“Oh yeah, I know. Dead or not, I know.” He smiled, chuckled. “Funny thing is, Martin, I know a helluva lot more’n you do. A helluva lot more’n you think. For instance, I know how to wire an entire apartment for video and sound without making it look it. I know how to continuously offload that data to an encrypted, remote-server, to spool forever– or until the cameras are destroyed.

“I also know how to automate a botnet to search for relevant news keywords and program it to await specific phrases. For example, “Idiot fuckhead cleared of murder charges in killing of friend.” Then have it send the collected data… well, wherever I want. To an old girlfriend, say.”

Martin’s pulse began to race. He wanted to flee, knew it would do no good. Not yet. He had to know the rest. Had to know what else he was missing.

Jake smiled; a sinister smile. It told Martin more was coming than he wanted. “I know how and when to strike to get the best drop on people. I also happen to know there’s no conceivable way a dead man can be convicted of murder. Even if he were, I know he wouldn’t have two shits to give anyhow.”

The sinister smile tightened. Darkened corners emerged in Jake’s face that terrified Martin. He’d never seen such a monstrous creature before, especially not one in the guise of someone he knew so well.

“Most of all, Martin, I know if you mix a series of house-hold chemicals into a clay-like block and place it in the vicinity of a proper, electrical charge, it will level a building. A charge that, say, could easily be generated by the short in an overclocked computer chip.”

Martin was up, fleeing. Malevolent laughter followed him. He bridged half the distance to his door. Then, nothing– for dead men do nothing more.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: To Endure

In the streets the dead walk.
Around them, survivors scamper and scour.
There are no dreams;
save death coming on swift wings,
rather than a long un-life.

Those alive wish they weren’t.
Wish they’d perished when it all set in–
or during the unrestful aftermath.
Now, somehow, they carry on.
Survival is more instinct than intention.

Rotting corpses shamble through shadows.
Their bowels drag. Leave trails.
Rot. Filth. Decay.
Groans fill darkness.

Gnarled and mottled feet,
tramp across a ruined civilization.
That which nature,
with her indifferent persistence,
intends to reclaim–
through her devouring,
swallowing more and more each day.

But even through the despair,
the stink of hope is palpable.
but the dead find sustenance with it.
Seek those weakest to it.
Even still it remains;
a spark of life, infinity.

For among the mottled flesh,
the rotted bone,
there is an ever-present ticking clock.
An invisible pen,
which scrawls in time,
the tales of one species’ dwindling existence,
and of another’s wounded limping–
for even total war may be lost,
to attrition of a sterile species.

And to that,
it is said,
if there is one thing,
Humanity is known for,
it is its undeniable ability,
to endure.

Short Story: Cold Moon

The moon had risen cold that night, duller than it had any right to be. Just another sign something was wrong, or heading that way. The highways were deserted. Only once did headlights meet to warn then bypass Austin from the oncoming lane. He barely noticed them. To him the road was merely an endless series of ups and downs, micro-turbulence, and wide curves. For all he knew, he was flying.

The dull-Mooned sky was cloudless. An occasional wisp of fluff drifted by in the distance, but never bothered the dampened sheen of incandescent white. The two were like opposite sides of a coin, ne’er to meet. Somehow that didn’t affect Austin. He merely drove, staring, almost lifeless. His motions automatic.

Even after, he wasn’t sure where things had gone wrong. There was a deer in the headlights moment, with Austin the deer. Moments where, even long after the accident, Austin swore there’d been no-one there. It was as if one moment the road were empty. The next, a boy had materialized. The blood stains said otherwise. His damaged car said otherwise. The boy’s grieving father said otherwise.

Austin knew the kid was dead. He was just sitting, waiting to hear it confirmed. A police officer sat beside him. He’d come to take a statement. It was simple: “I was tired, but alert. Like always. I drive that road twice a day. No-one’s around on late-nights like mine though. Still, I check the mirrors. Always. Mom was killed by a drunk driver ‘cause she merged without checking her mirrors. I always check them.”

The cop was forced to re-focus him.

Austin stared at the floor, completely shell-shocked. “I checked my mirror to change lanes. My exit was next. You know how it is. I look up, and this kid’s in the middle of the road. I didn’t see him before. It was like he’d come outta’ thin air. I didn’t… didn’t see him. I was checking my mirrors.”

Austin wasn’t much use after that. He descended into a fugue state. Traumatized. The officer stayed near him. Eventually Austin suspected it was as much for safety as support– the last thing a prosecuting entity wanted was a vigilante murder out of grief. Austin didn’t think it would’ve been all that bad. Then again, he didn’t feeling much save complete and total dread.

Before long, a doctor appeared. He stepped from earshot with the officer, muttered in low tones. This was the moment. Austin knew it. In seconds, the officer would lock-step over, relay the news. He couldn’t help but feel the soul-shattering crack in his chest. It still echoed through him as the officer escorted him to his bloody car and promised to be in touch. Austin drove toward home, front-end one headlight less than usual.

He wasn’t one for bars, but he knew all of them in his dingy town. He knew the upscale ones. The ones that attracted the best women. The ones that brought allowed underage kids. He even knew the ones that stank least or offered the best drugs. He wasn’t interested in any of them. He went to the only one he was certain he’d never wanted to approach. It was a dive-bar for dive-bars. A place where nobody knew your name because no-one had names there, because no-one spoke. They just drank, hunched over, acting as small as they felt.

He hid in there, and within there, like all the other so-called barflies drinking away sorrows. No-one bothered him. No-one would. The bartender didn’t even ask what he wanted. He just set two-fingers of whiskey on the counter. It was warm, vile, felt like Austin’s insides felt. Whether clairvoyant, or prescient, the bartender never needed to speak. If someone needed another drink, or a change of taste, they got it.

Perhaps that was the reason Austin found himself returning nightly. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was something entirely unrelated, inexplicable. Or, perhaps, it was just another of life’s mysteries– like how a child living twelve miles from a highway mysteriously appeared there without his family knowing he was missing.

Like everyone else, Austin drank with his head down. This was the way such people were made– how places like the dive-bar survived. They fed off the souls of those slowly killing themselves there. Not directly. Indirectly. And not through money. Not a single person, Austin included, ever paid. They were never asked to. Their tabs were kept and tallied, in as much silence as everything else, to be paid by their next of kin. All of it was overseen by one man; a creature of silence like the rest.

Somehow, perhaps from lack of awareness, or the desire to keep quiet, drown sorrows, the man that joined the barflies every night in the corner was entirely missed. He sat with legs crossed, just out of range of Austin’s peripheral vision. Atop his knees was a book. Beside it on the round table, a Mojito. A curious drink for such a place. More curious was the way, every few minutes, he dabbed sweat from his forehead, sipped his mojito, and scratched his book with a pen.

Had anyone bothered to look, they might have noticed the rhythm. Had they bothered to look, they might have noticed him at all. Then, they might have thought to step near him. They might have smelled the hint of sulfur to the air. They might have seen the ink colored of fresh blood or drying to a deep, brown. They might have noticed too, the curiously Latin and rune-like writings in the book. If anyone in the bar had thought to notice him at all, they might have noticed these things too. Indeed, they might have noticed the names of their fellow liquor-jocks, or even themselves.

And if they’d thought to stick around long enough, observing closing time, they might’ve seen the man rise to disappear out the door. Were they able to inhabit multiple places at once, they might even find themselves near a highway and at the bar simultaneously. Then, with a flicker of surreal reality, the man would disappear from the door while a boy materialized on the highway.

Perhaps, if someone thought to look, they would see these things. But no-one ever did. And no-one ever would.

Short story: Hungry

Lily-white skin glowed beneath blue-white LEDs. Chrome and black inflected their tints from fixtures, furniture, appliances. The soft pin of wrists against ceramic tile floor ensured she’d try to resist. She did. With the smallest force manageable. She tested her strength against his, back arching. It wasn’t enough to break the bind. Good. Strong– strong enough, anyway.

Half-shaved, platinum-blonde hair writhed against tile. Nails tensed at his shoulder. His face sank between milk-white breasts streaked green with veins like streams of fallen water. Pink nipples throbbed, hardened atop perfectly round areola: Olympus-Mons duplicates in pink and white on either breast. His face pushed past them at the behest of her slightest touch. Her wrists stayed pinned, slid along slender curves, and the dusting of white-blonde pubic hair. His face sank between warm pink.

Hips bucked. Pelvis twisted: Back. Forth. Back again. The rhythm repeated. The first gasp escaped. It had been trapped too long. In a tower. It’s vengeance was the simple act of existing. The first moan started with a purr. It growled from silence into the back of her throat. Another gasp. It slipped out: soft, light. Her hands tensed. Nails dug deeper. His tongue worked. Her mouth opened, shoulders twitched, hips rocked back. Back. Forth. Repeating. A breath came. Louder. The purring moan crept in. It grew. Shifted. Twisted. A deep groan.

Another slight touch. His body moved automatically. In a moment, he was inside her. He threw his head back. Sucked at the taste of her in his mouth. He pressed against her. A flinch. Resistance faltered. She writhed and twitched. The silken warmth was surpassed only by the ambrosia lingering on his tongue. He was drunk on it. Stupid. She was shuddering, body heaving pleasure.

He managed to open an eye: she was glowing. The lights made her look as he felt. The tile floor stole what it could but couldn’t take enough to remove it. He pumped in rhythm. Her hips guided him. Nothingness enveloped his closed eyes. His strength waned: wanting to cum, incapable of it. On the verge. Ready to. Unable. His breaths shortened. Body shuddered. Part of him wanted to scream joy. Another terror. Something was wrong.

He opened his eyes. Confusion. He was inside her. She was writhing. Cumming. She was warm silk, wet, inviting, making him throb. Beneath was pain. How? It was like surfing waves of euphoria. Cocaine-ecstasy sprays inhaled with each breath. She was glowing. He probably was too.

No. She was glowing. He saw it. It tore his mind apart to look. An eagle-eye view of their sex: She was glowing. He was translucent. Pain pulled at him. Pulled him into her. He screamed. She screamed louder. Hers engulfed his. Darkness ebbed in. His eyes were heavy. His gut light. His head spun. The moans grew. The glow brightened.

She turned bright-white. Shining, like a beacon. It pulsed. Everything glowed. Tints inflected infinitesimally on it: Chrome. Black. Pink– slicked wet or swollen. He began to fade. Little-by-little, he disappeared. His screams were quieter. Hers weren’t. They remained level and loud, piercing the growing emptiness in him. He felt himself disintegrating, swallowed by them. Piece-by-piece, his mind shattered. His body flickered. Flash-bulb strobes emitted from her torso. Streams of light snaked from her mouth, throat, nipples, groin, feeding the glow in her torso.

It strobed. He flickered. Alternating blinks: he was gone. There. Gone. Then, gone for good. She still writhed. Her screams echoed along the walls. The whole kitchen breathed. Out, bowing. In, constricting. In its center, she was a beacon of agonized pleasure. He was gone. Dissolved inside her. It didn’t matter. Her hips thrust. Back arched. One last scream. Body rigid. Tense. It pressed up, out. Something inside the light shifted.

All at once the moment passed. Her body collapsed. Twitches fluttered through limp limbs. The light was gone too, her breath trembling. She inhaled sharply. The room breathed a last time, then settled. Then, nothing. All was still.

She came-to in the middle of the floor. Right where she’d been left. Right where she’d left herself. He was good. Strong. He’d had something of the Nords in him. Good, pure blood. It wasn’t enough. Already the hunger was returning. Soon enough, she’d need another. It was becoming as difficult to maintain her appetite as the deceptions. The bartenders all knew her. They’d all seen her leave with the men. The women before that. Soon enough, she’d have to leave again. Sell her place. Shred her identity. She’d done it before.

The next city would need to be far. She could turn to women again. The cravings would go away for a while. The hunger would be sated. For a while. She’d have to go back to men, eventually. Then, it would return; like always, she’ll have gone through all the women, brought on too much suspicion. She’ll have to resort to men again for a while, until they weren’t enough.

Men were easier: they didn’t think about their comrades disappearing with a beautiful woman then never reappearing again. Even if the woman reappeared, the man didn’t have to. He’d fulfilled his conquest. It was never really them conquering. Not when she was involved. Problem for her was, women were the real source: Love. Innocence. Praying off those was power. Even the other women knew it. But women tracked other women. They worried for them. Cared for them. Chasing the real power meant jumping from city to city, always moving. It was difficult.

Then again, maybe she’d finally set down somewhere for good. Plant roots. Find a way to become obscure enough not to stand out. Somewhere it wasn’t as obvious– where people were as much commodities as anything. Parasite-colonies. That’s what they were, what she needed. Places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Chicago, Berlin, London. She loved them, but stood out too much.

Trends and fashions would change. One day. She’d become as much a background beauty as any could. Then, she’d make her move. Now, she was too in-style. Too noticeable. It would change. It always had. She’d made it through a thousand years of Human existence. Feeding. Fucking. One in the same for her, for all of them. There were worse ways to go, no doubt. Feeding something like her was an honor by comparison.

At least that’s what she’d convinced herself of. In the end all that mattered was her hunger. Hunger: for flesh. Blood. Heat. Already clawing at her. She pushed up off the floor to redress and head to the bar, hungry.