Last Run

It was a tough run, but we made it, we finally made it. With five minutes to spare, but time runs funny up here.

The boss promised me that this would be my final one, take one last load of Unbelievers up North and I’d be out, with a new identity and a fat bank account. Half a mile more and I’d be done.

As the train passed slowly through the city, the kids yammered on about elves. Elves and the Big Guy, all they ever thought they wanted to see.

They didn’t know.

I felt bad about what was going to happen to them, but that was the price of Unbelief. I knew all about that, I’d paid it myself. To look at me, I was in my fifties, but on the calendar, I wasn’t even seventeen. Heck, by Easter these kids will be in their early thirties. How else do you think the Man in Red can make all those presents in a single year?

“Ellllvesss!” For a moment I hoped that the kid had just seen some of the loaders. Older workers looked a bit like elves; decades of hard labor and a diet of nothing but reindeer meat and hot cocoa did funny things to the body. Elves, on the other hand, were bad news. I’d seen one once; it had gotten in through the sewers when I was about forty. They finally captured it, but at a cost. At the next roll call we all had to watch as it literally shredded seven of the flightless culls before being hosed down with napalm. And that was after it had been de-fanged. That demonstration had ended any talk of escape.

For obvious reasons, Mrs. C (yeah, she handled the dirty work. Surprised?) always gassed the sleigh loaders last, but these weren’t redshirts, these were Elves, real Elves, a mob of them boiling up one of the side streets. Must have breached the Wall. I heard a reassuring thump from overhead, and knew that my partner had seen them too. “You: four-eyes!” I barked.

“My name’s not four-eyes, it’s –“

Don’t care. You know who Ma Deuce is?”

His eyes lit up behind his glasses. “Yes, sir! The M2 Browning fifty caliber machine gun is a heavy –“

Thought you would. Ghost is setting one up on the roof. Now get on up there, he’ll tell you what to do. Pigtails! You’re pretty smart, think you’re smart enough to work a flamethrower?” She stared, uncomprehending. “It’s like one of those super soaky squirt guns, but it shoots fire. There’s one in the last car. Get to the platform on the back and hose down anything that gets close.” She gaped again. “For the love of Mike, GO!”

Who else? The kid from Edbrooke was already toast, curled up on the floor in a puddle of his own piss, but where was the other one, the troublemaker?

Smart kid, he was right behind me. “Listen, young man,” I said, taking one of the M4 carbines down from the concealed overhead rack, “we’re in some serious jelly, but we’ve got to protect this train. This,” showing him the gun, “kills Elves. Help is on the way, and if we’re lucky, we’ll live to see it.”

Of course, if the Elves didn’t get him, the little Unbeliever would spend the next decades of his year-long life in the Workshop, but the least I could do was give him the chance of a painless death. “If not, don’t try to be a hero, boy. Those things out there will make you wish you’d never heard of Christmas. If they get on board, save the last one,” I ejected a single round and dropped it into the pocket of his robe, “for yourself.”

Me? I locked myself in the cleaning closet. Didn’t get out of the Workshop and into the Conductor job through self-sacrifice now, did I?

Succession

A little tidbit to kick off the Holy Month of Halloween. I’m going to try and make a point of posting more often this month.

If it kills me.

 

The old King had fallen, beheaded by a terrified concubine who’d somehow managed to pull one of the ornamental axes from the wall. The palace guard, alerted, had managed to head off the Crown Prince’s escape attempt. Strapped to the throne, he was anointed by one of the Brothers of St. Lazarus, who, hooded, chained, and groaning, had been brought from their underground monastery to administer the sacramental Bite.

A scant quarter-hour later, the Lord Chamberlain appeared on the balcony. “The King,” he said, excitement shining in his eyes, “is Dead!”

“Long live the King!”

Final Hand

-a flash of something and he was…

Where was he?

At a black table, in a black room. It was all darkness, even the thing across from him, darkness moving in darkness upon the darkness.

We will play. The voice was not a voice, boulders grinding on bedrock in the depths of the sea, menacing.

“play what?” he tried to ask, but he had no voice, made no sound.

The figure reached into the blackness before it and a deck of cards came into being, a deck that shuffled itself in angles impossible, angles that hurt to try and focus on, planes without surfaces sliding perpendicular to perception until one moved towards him and

hurting hurting ow stop it please it hurts her arm, wrenched behind her back, pain as her older brother ground knuckles into the top of her head-

The memory was his sister’s. She was four, and he was the tormentor.

Play.

But how was he to play, what was the game? As he hesitated, the darkness in front of him seemed to grow and swell, he tried desperately to understand how to-

Suddenly a memory came, bright and unbidden. Young; his sister had had to stop trick or treating early, disappointed; she’d cried at how little candy she had, so without being asked, he’d put some of his treats into her Halloween bucket.

A small silvery coin dropped onto the sin, and both disappeared.

What had he done? Memory of- something?

It was gone.

But he understood the game now.

And its stakes.

So they played, and each time a fresh Card appeared and a fresh sin blossomed into his mind, he wracked his memory for something, anything, to make amends for it. Thousands, tens of thousands of slights, treacheries, cruelties small and not so small, each countered by a coin of charity, decency, respect, each pair vanishing from his mind as soon as it was played.

But the purse of his memory was growing light, and deck seemed undiminished.

Until the time when there was nothing left save another Card sliding towards him, a sin that made him weep though he had no eyes, sob though he had no lungs, choke though he had no throat. He knew he’d lost not only the game, but all of things that had made him whoever he’d been. As the darkness rose around him, the thought but wait, I forgot and a single tiny coppery coin appeared.

Not nearly enough to pay the outstanding debt.

But it was the last memory of goodness, the one thing left, not to spend, but to take with him.

The darkness would be incomplete.

One Night Stand

She helped him into his coffin as the sky to the east began to brighten. “See you tonight, my love” she said, but he made no response.

“Well,” she huffed, “that was rather rude, and after all I just let you do with, no, not with, to me.” A part of her knew that this close to sunrise, he was dead on his feet, bedroom exercises or not, but that part was burned out by the white hot rage flaring its way up from her core. She’d been a fool, a damn fool, to think that a vampire would be any more considerate than a human man. Men, vampires, werewolves, shoggoths, deep down they all turned out to be the same in the end: Selfish, inconsiderate scum.

“Let’s see how you look with a tan, you bloodsucking bastard!” she screamed, and began to drag the coffin up the stairs of the cellar, into the rapidly brightening world above.

Pondering Cthulhu: An Essay

Still a lot of personal stuff going on, and it’s not getting any better, but here’s something I’ve been working on for the last little while. Thanks for checking in.

 

So I think a lot about evil.

Surprise surprise, no?

How many people do you think were truly evil? You’ve probably got quite a few in mind; I know I do most of the time.

The problem is, how many of them thought that they were evil?

Probably not very many. I’ve already addressed this in a couple of my stories, and I think that most people are just muddling through, doing the best they can with what they have available to them at any given time.

This is true for the foot soldiers in some of the most evil regimes in history.

This is probably true for many of the leaders.

Some things that we think are evil, especially from the distant past, or cultures otherwise quite removed from our own, seem unconscionable. To our predominantly white, predominantly Judeo-Christian-Islamic lifestyles, they seem utterly barbaric.

In “The Mission”, the indigenous people are seen as barbarians for killing all children after their first two.

Then Jeremy Irons’ character explains that they do this because the parents can only carry two, and when they have to flee, any further offspring will be left behind for the slavers.

A fate worse than death?

Some people disagree on what is evil.

We now recognize slavery as evil, but the southern plantation owners were not only convinced of the African slaves’ inherent inferiority, but they had the Bible backing them up, with its passages setting forth the rules for slaves from within the nation of Israel, and the separate rules which justified slaughtering those outside the fold, not merely enslaving them.

The Southerners thought they were living in accordance with the dictates of a benevolent God.

Some Christians believe that preventing marriage equality is a step towards saving gay people from eternal damnation.

Even now, there are things that we take for granted that I believe will be viewed as abominations by future generations.

Had a good steak lately?

I have, and I’ll probably do so again in the near future, but I assume that in fifty or a hundred years, the consumption of higher vertebrates will be viewed with distaste. Hell, it’ll probably be illegal.

Does it bother me that I’ll be seen as an unrepentant barbarian? A little, but I’m too conditioned to being a predator to lose much sleep over it.

I’m sure cows see it differently.

Imagine being bred, born, and raised solely to die for the nourishment of others. What if cows have an understanding of what’s going to happen to them, what if, like the rabbits in Watership Down, they’ve taught themselves and their young never to speak of it?

Are you vegetarian? Vegan?

Did you know that mice sing songs of courtship to each other?

Do you know that harvesting combines slaughter them in their thousands?

But what if you were to become food for other beings, beings of a higher order than you? In “The Laundry Files” series, there are beings known as “infovores”, beings who served as the basis for the legend of the Frost Giants, who will bring eternal winter to the earth.

Frost Giants who bring eternal winter by draining all the energy from the universe, which is merely one amongst the multiverse.

An entire universe, drained and destroyed, to feed one of these infovores.

I like these books.

But do the Frost Giants think that they’re evil when they consume an entire universe, billions upon billions of stars, countless intelligent species leaving no trace at all of their existence as their entire reality winks out?

Do you hear the death cries of the yeast in the bread as you bake it?

You may not live by bread alone, and you’re going to end up killing something to survive.

Are you evil?

Is Cthulhu evil? Xe is often portrayed as using humanity, as using reality, for food.

Is it good for us?

No.

But is it evil? How can a cow or a stalk of wheat or a yeast cell hope to understand a human being and its need for food? Can a single celled animal understand Mozart? Do cows look up at the stars and realize that there are other worlds circling some of them, and that there may be other cows on those worlds?

So are we evil, or are those deaths justified by Mozart and the Opportunity Rover and the Big Mac?

We have our wars. we train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their aeroplanes, because it’s obscene. We fight for territory or oil or water or God. I’m a citizen of the most powerful empire ever to leave its bloody boot prints on the necks of the people of the world, and I like my lifestyle. If things were reversed, would all those people we’ve murdered in the name of Uncle Sam treat me and mine any better?

I doubt it.

We’re proud of our killing, aren’t we? I don’t mean the medals and the parades and the statues in the park, I mean the real mass killings.

The extinctions.

“What the hell do you mean? I’m not proud of causing extinctions!”

Oh yes you are. Not that you had much to do with it, personally, but you still think it’s a good thing.

Put your Greenpeace flag away. I know you vaguely mourn the dodo and the passenger pigeon.

I know you’re worried about the snow leopard and the polar bear.

And I know if you’re under about forty-five, you don’t have a rough circle on your upper arm, but if you’re older than about fifty-five, you do.

And that’s because that’s the smudged point in time when we declared smallpox extinct.

And we’re within striking distance of making malaria and the hookworm extinct, and if we do, we’re going to break out the confetti and make it snow in Times Square again.

But would it turn your hair white overnight if you found out that Cthulhu was a scientist, working to cure Earth of the disease of humanity?

No.

Depending on your enviro-politics, you might do what you could to help out.

So.

We don’t have to agree with them, but if we found out the Old Ones were feeding on us, or on our environment, we’d probably get it.

And if they were trying to get rid of us to protect either themselves or our environment, we’d probably get it (and some of us might fly the black-on-black banner that reads “Goodlife” in the right light, the kind of light that can’t be seen by human eyes or scientific sensors).

Nope, I think Cthulhu is the sensitive type.

I think xe has an eye for beauty that xyr fellows do not, and xe is preparing for xyr debut.

When the stars are right.

Jack Nicholson’s Joker said “I keep making art until somebody dies.”

Cthulhu, on the other hand, will keep making art until everyone dies.

But it will be art.

So when xyr unimaginable technology has prepared the medium, and the colors you can’t see come flowing through the gaps you cannot comprehend, when your soul flares out like a moth in a blast furnace, in that last moment as you and everyone you know and everyone you’ll never meet dies…

…because one man’s death may be a tragedy, and the death of millions a statistic, but if everyone is to die at once, with no one left to observe it, it never happened…

…may you take a certain solace, however brief, in knowing that something of you may remain.

And that something will be beautiful.

I’m not in any way affiliated with the creators of this video or any of their competitors, and truth be told, I hope to buy a sculpture like this someday.

Does that make me evil?

Okeegara

This was a difficult story to write. Although the central event is true, I knew nothing of the details surrounding it, thus any similarities to real persons or events are coincidental. I don’t think that makes it any easier.

 

Every night I see her. A toddler, beneath a table. Elderly, sitting on a gnarled root. In her teens, twenties, middle-aged, dancing, almost floating, barefoot, in the dappled sunlight of a silent clearing, smiling, inviting me to follow.

I long for sleep, dread sleep, doze off in class, wake up weeping, always seeing her, my little Megan, out there in the woods.

She was a quiet baby; she rarely cried, hardly ever babbled. Concerned, Beth and I had had her tested for autism. “Megan is just a very quiet little girl,” the doctor had concluded. “Be thankful, little Craig didn’t let me sleep for the first year. Colic.”

She liked to hide. At two, she christened her favorite spot “Okeegara.” It was easy to see when she was there; she’d never fail to take her shoes off before crawling underneath the oak dining set, protected in its forest of chair legs. Talking didn’t seem to be allowed there; the first time I’d slid myself under the table, I’d gotten no further than “Hey, honey” before being cut off by a fierce little scowl, her chubby finger to her lips. “Ssshhh, Daddy. Okeegara is a quiet place.”

She loved to draw. Always the forest. The forest, and her imaginary friends ‘Dikey’ and ‘Hero,’ who lived in Okeegara, up in the trees. At three, she made up her own alphabet, strange little squiggles she pretended were their names.

When she got bigger, Okeegara moved, became a few small trees in the backyard. Megan would spend hours out there, just sitting quietly, always shoeless, in her little woodland.

Kindergarten. Parent-teacher conferences, praise for her intelligence, cautious questions about her emotional development, her “lack of interest in socializing with her peers.” Beth defending Megan, repeating the doctor’s diagnosis: “My daughter is just a quiet girl, dammit, there’s nothing wrong with her!”

We moved. I found a new job at a new school, rented an old stone farmhouse, and she was in heaven. Her private forest, once under the dining room table, then in a suburban backyard, finally became the woods, real woods, behind the new house.

The spring before she was to go to high school, I got an offer. Tenure track, finally, at a university in the city. It included an apartment downtown for the first year, to give me time to get my bearings.

The move drove her insane. She couldn’t handle the city, the noise, the concrete.

No trees.

She broke down, retreated into her room, into her bed, into herself. Stopped talking. Stopped eating.

We got help. Inpatient care, at a private facility in the country. It seemed good for her. The counselors said she was becoming more social, eating again. They recommended weekly trips to a park, a forest, “quiet time to commune with nature and recharge her batteries.”

According to the incident report, an hour before she was due to be discharged, she asked to be allowed to go out and pick some flowers for us. They found her in a small grove, fifteen minutes later. She’d fashioned the noose out of braided dental floss.

She had removed her shoes. She was thirteen.

It was too much; Beth left. The dreams began.

Four years after Megan died, I got the letter. Her junior high English class had written letters to themselves, to be mailed in time for high school graduation. We’d moved, left a forwarding address, but never told the school about her passing. Inside the envelope, labeled with her made-up alphabet, was a drawing of the forest, with Megan, Dikey, and Hero, up in the trees. But the writing…

Not made-up. Not Okeegara.

Japanese. Aokigahara. The Sea of Trees, the haunted forest beneath Mt. Fuji, eternally silent, where Daiki, Hiro, and hundreds of others have gone to die, to hang in the trees forever.

Where Megan died so many times before. Where she’s gone again.

Where she calls me now to come and join her.

Soon.

The Girl in the Mirror

First time I’ve shown this to anyone, I hope you enjoy:

 

The little girl in the mirror was gone. Had been gone for quite a while now.

The first time I’d seen her, I was coming out of the shower. Out of habit, I’d pawed for my glasses on the stand beside the bathroom sink, but when I slipped them onto my face, I gave out an involuntary gasp. There was a little girl standing behind me, dark hair, pale face, hollow, empty eyes. Or so seemed my bathrobe on the hook on the wall behind me, reflected in the fogged bathroom mirror, seen through my likewise foggy lenses.

I felt silly, a grown man, scared of a towel. Good thing Shelly wasn’t around; she’d have given me no end of grief. Not that she’d ever seemed to lack excuses to do so, after all, I had no ambition, or I didn’t make enough money, or I didn’t help out with the housework enough, or I didn’t pay enough attention to her or… I shook my head, snapping myself out of the downward spiral. We hadn’t been good for each other, but that part of my life was over and done with, no need to dwell on it anymore.

Still, I tossed the robe into the hamper with a shiver, making my way, nude, to the living room, where my pajamas lay on the opened hide-a-bed sofa. Since the breakup, sleeping in the big bed just didn’t feel right.

A few days later, she was back. A casual attempt at cleaning earlier in the day had somehow left the impression of a face on the misty surface. Smaller than the reflection of the towel had been, but still somehow the same face, the same accusation in her shadowed eyes.

Wait, accusation? What had brought that word to mind?

The next night, she was a dark hand-towel, glimpsed out of the corner of my eye as I opened the medicine cabinet, looking for a fresh tube of toothpaste. Later that week, a random swirl in my shaving cream took on the familiar shape.

I was seeing faces where there weren’t any, like when NASA thought they saw a human face on Mars. A quick check of the internet put a name to my problem: pareidolia. Like the cheerful expression of a Volkswagen.

Or the scary little girl hiding in my mirror.

Obviously, something was bothering me, but I was damned if I could figure out what it was.

So I gave her a name and made a point of greeting her when I came out of the shower. “Good evening, Miss Emily, and how are we doing tonight?”

“Oops, sorry Emmy, didn’t see you there, mind if I get my towel?”

She wouldn’t manifest for a few days, but then, there she’d be, a cobweb in the corner, a wisp of vapor coming out of the shower.

“Emily, you get to bed this instant. What would your mother say if she saw you spying on me?”

And then she was gone. I kept greeting her, carrying on conversations at times, as I shaved or toweled my hair dry, but one day I realized I hadn’t seen her for….

A week? Two?

I found myself trying to look around the edges of the mirror, pushing my cheek, my forehead, my chin right up to the glass as if I’d be able to see through, beyond the frame and past the silvered surface. Where was she?

It was useless.

One night, months after her first appearance, I grabbed a second mirror, one of my ex-wife’s old hand-helds that she’d left behind when she’d gone, trying to find the source of an itch between my shoulder blades, and, while unsuccessfully manipulating the doubled reflection, I saw her again, clearly this time, standing in the doorway, the front of her white dress soaked in blood. The mirror slipped from my hand and shattered on the floor below.

“Shit, Emily, what happened to you?” and I turned, but she was gone. Reaching down, I picked up the largest shard, a long, thin wedge the length of my hand, and looked again, just glimpsing the hem of her dress, disappearing in the direction of the bedroom. Stepping carefully, I backed out into the hallway, gaze directed firmly into the reflection of the world over my shoulder.

As I made my way into the bedroom, I began to hear her as well. It was a wet, gasping, bubbling noise. I momentarily lowered the fragment to my chest, and the sound diminished as I opened the door that had been closed since…

I tried not to look at the reflection of the bed, at the spreading stain, the glassy stare, but then a hand, fingers small and perfectly formed, reached over the top of the shard of silver. “Daddy, why?”

I raised the blade again.

I. Storm

Somewhat of a true story, at least at first. I was in Japan for the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and last year a typhoon came through. Not much damage locally, but nothing like any storm I’d ever experienced before. I hope you enjoy this, and come back for II. The Morning After

 

When the elevator doors opened, a gust of hot, oily wind whipped out of the shaft. The whole building was thrumming with the winds from the approaching typhoon, but from the open landing, the night skies still looked clear. Stepping into the carpet lined box, I pushed the button for the first floor, then the “close door” icon. The elevator bounced slightly as the doors slid shut.

And then opened again. The gusts coming down from the roof were getting stronger, I could hear the cables rattling against each other. Suddenly the stairs didn’t sound like such a bad option, but before I could do anything, the doors shut themselves again.

And then opened.

“Right, fuck this,” I muttered, stepping smartly back out to the landing. “Don’t need to sleep in here tonight.”

The stairs were really more of a concrete fire escape molded to the side of the building, with steel doors that would have served well for security had they had locks. Don’t know much about fluid dynamics, but what I do know is that the shape of the stairs and the angle of the wind was sending things all kinds of crazy. The air seemed to be battling with itself, nitrogen and oxygen and all those trace gases in a war of all against all, howling up and down the stairwell, and beyond that I could hear it starting to whistle through the power lines, now at eye level over the rail.

I’ve heard tornadoes before. They’re supposed to sound like freight trains, but never quite did to me. There’s something so much… more…about them than a mere few hundred tons of steel rolling through the countryside. This isn’t like that. There are a lot of treble notes coming off of things at ground level, a flute played by a madman whistling against the buildings and power poles. That’s normal here, the place may be called “Top of the Mountain”, but it should be “Top of the Windy Mountain”. The midrange, higher up in the atmosphere, is pretty common around here too. That’s what I had thought a strong wind sounded like. The local grocery store’s sign, three stories up on a pole, is visibly twisting, and I’m starting to wonder if being out here is such a good idea, but if this thing settles in and fucks us up, I don’t want to be out of beer. Priorities.

But.

My ears pop.

There’s another sound, not deep, not the blast of the klaxon from War of the Worlds, but… My mind flashes back to 2011, burning houses ripped from their foundations being swept miles inland across roads and fields and rice paddies. After the first hit, the tsunami that destroyed northeast Japan wasn’t violent, it

Just

Wouldn’t

Stop

The power of the whole Pacific Ocean brought to bear on one stretch of coast.

And the air tonight is the same, the depth of it, miles and miles to the edge of space, thousands of kilometers, passing Guam and the Marshalls and Hawaii and all the way to California and Oregon, the winds far above are scraping at the girders of the sky itself and what’s happening on the ground is just little breezes, toying with the litter on the streets, but the sound from above, like the punch in the gut of high explosives at a distance, this cannot be the mere movement of air on air, to stand in it wouldn’t be like getting hit by a truck, or a train, rather trying to force continental drift to reverse itself, subducted plates ratcheting backwards and re-emerging from their fiery graves. The sky rips its own belly open with nothing but a blade of air, spewing guts of hot rain, giant drops, drops that don’t splatter but crunch, something wrong, the liquid is sharp, in the glow of the streetlight I wipe my face and there’s blood on my hands, but it can’t be, it’s only rain, only rain. Rain, hot rain, slithering through my hair, the pain sets in, I can feel them crawling over my scalp, the raindrops, droplets that move down, and up, and in, tentacles burrowing into the skin, but never at my fingertips, never there, nor there, always just to the side, phantom stretches of scalp under attack while the blood streams down, down, thick and red it should be washed out and pink by the downpour but my shirt, save the sticky collar, is dry, like the streets are dry, like the world being blasted by the roaring winds from above is dry, dry, so dry.

I can feel droplets massing on my eyebrows. Soon, they’ll break free.

 

Continued next week in II. The Morning After

Love Bite

The first story I ever had accepted for publication, on the now-defunct Microhorror.com. I hope you enjoy it, and as always, thanks for reading.

 

Jen had soon found out that living and working downtown wasn’t the endless parade of designer shoes and smorgasbord of attractive men that the Sex and the City reruns had made it out to be. Life as a paralegal was an endless loop of long hours and high stress; her salary, after the bills had been paid, usually left just enough money for her to head to Fifth Avenue for a day of window shopping.

Her social life was limited; her love life was non-existent. Dating coworkers was dangerous, not to mention against company policy, and her limited budget and wardrobe made the idea of clubbing seem foolish. As for her, well… She’d had to make compromises. Even before she’d heard about phthalates, the idea of trying to satisfy herself with one of those awful ‘toys,’ which always somehow reminded her of giant, mutant pacifiers, had turned her stomach.

The first time she’d gone shopping at the supermarket, she’d been so sure her purpose was obvious that she’d put two kinds of lettuce, dressing, even croutons in her shopping basket before choosing a cucumber, and still ended up blushing furiously at the checkout. Once she’d realized that no one noticed or cared what she bought, she’d become the produce section’s best customer, stopping in every few days for cucumbers, carrots, even a squash once. That hadn’t gone well. You just haven’t had a man in way too long, girly, she’d said to herself, and blushed.

And so earlier today she’d found herself in a cafe, one of two dozen singles looking for love at a speed dating event. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon, she’d thought ruefully. It hadn’t started off well, either, the room was full of people in whose eyes she could see a certain desperation, hoping that the look wasn’t mirrored in her own eyes, knowing that it probably was. The event was a string of blandly anonymous faces and strained small talk, punctuated every five minutes by the bell, and a new face. Halfway through, however, he had sat down in front of her, darkly confident, stunningly handsome, and before she knew what she was doing, she’d scrawled her cell number on the scorecard and slid it across the table to him.

“Um, miss?” It was one of the hostesses, “You aren’t supposed to provide your information directly…”

“Jen,” she’d told him, standing, oblivious to the woman’s consternation, “Call me. Soon.” It wasn’t until she got home that she realized she hadn’t even gotten his name.

His call, an hour later, had asked, no, had summoned her to dinner, and she’d found herself dressing to be undressed. Down, girl! Had it been that long? Just the sight of a nice face and the sound of a deep, masculine… Stoppit!!

At dinner, however, she’d found herself mesmerized again, with no idea what she was talking about with him, just a sensation of warmth flowing from her core every time he spoke. You, girly, are practically drooling for this guy, and you know what I mean. She never noticed the food, never seemed to see him eat but somehow, the check had arrived and been paid. In a cab together then, thighs touching, lips touching, walking up the steps to her apartment. Magically, it seemed, their clothes were on the floor, her marveling at his rigid perfection. Much better than a cucumber, she thought, and pushed him back onto the bed, straddled him, oh god it has been soo long…

She gasped when she felt his teeth graze her neck, and a chuckle rose from deep in his chest, a chuckle that rapidly changed to a high-pitched scream of terror and pain as he felt her teeth, the teeth of her ravenous nether mouth, biting down, and beginning to chew…

So much better than a cucumber.