Climax, Part II
“Track,” he parroted back. “You forget, I’m a fast motherfucker, too.”
Heather swiveled her head slowly.
Behind her: a remorseless concrete wall that felt cool and humid. To the sides of her: alternate points of egress sealed shut by security grates, which looked like interlocked mastication. Before her: a shadow made of man.
Heather heaved onto her hands. The open-palm slap rode her high onto her knees. Bent-back and breathless, she reached along the epoxied floor. The room was dim. The night had begun mantling the walls like very-many velvet fingers; it was the sort of dark that was thin and penetrable, capable of breathing. And in its uneven exhalations it had created a vaporous shadow. And in that shadow was a figure sitting on the workbench; it pulled away from the center of the room in a quiver.
Heather had felt the movement. Absorbed it. It had felt like anatomical dissection.
He was moving.
She felt down the front of her leg. She still had the gun.
But, she knew, an even more important weapon lay just out of reach. It looked up at the rafters with a single slit-lidded eye. It had an almost forlorn look about it: a tenuous crack had begun splitting its face.
The shadow scraped along the floor, and Heather watched mutely as the cell phone lifted and disappeared into the dark nexus.
And Heather felt the near-universal pang of loss one feels when one’s digital lifeline is taken, teasingly, indulgently from the reaching motion of their fingers. One pessimist’s inch more – just one – if she had just reached one pessimistic inch more, she would have been able to reach her cell phone in time.
But he had whisked it from her with barely a shudder of fabric to betray the intent.
Instinctively, she retracted her hand. A tremor had gripped it. And that tremor threatened to travel down the length of her arm. She clutched it to her chest as though shielding it from a wild animal.
She felt naked and exposed crouched over the floor; shut in. Watching as her cell phone was cavalierly manipulated by his hands.
It felt terrible, like physical violation.
And there was a sound; it was reaching across the dark: a faint murmur with curlicues of amusement. And it was, she realized, a voice. It was his. He was speaking.
“Never changed it, huh.”
“…my password,” she said, feeling thick and dumb in his proximity. “…h-how?”
“I’m a Scorpio, remember?” He deadpanned. “Only I get to keep secrets.”
“Secrets,” she repeated hollowly. A beat of silence, then: "Secrets?! You want to talk secrets –
But he cut across her with a flippant: “Unknown?! Man, Kitten. I can’t believe you went with unknown. That’s cold.”
Heather felt a lick of anger; anger that was enough to sublimate her fear, so much so that she forgot to feel it. “You might as well be a fucking unknown with what you did – what you can do, I can’t even… I - how?!”
But he remained unmoved; instead he continued searching through her phone. It filled the room with a sad meager glow, offering a dull but sufficient source of direction. The bottom half of his face – over-bright – floated, seemingly, above the corona of light; the rest of his face retreated into a convex of shadow.
Heather was disturbed by the optical illusion. She looked away.
She could feel the tingle of the seconds along her skin. The inaction was setting her on edge. “What are you doing?” She blurted.
He looked at her levelly; said nothing; and returned to her cell phone. But, then, offered a placating: “Catching up.”
She could scream; she could cry. Had he always been this frustrating? And why did she have the grace to forgive him in times past for such willfully obtuse behavior?
But Heather had not the luxury to meditate on this, because the feeling of the seconds sliding along her skin became something insidious; her bowels contracted. Heather tried to absorb the convulsion with grace, but she could see that he had caught her pain with a preternatural flick of his eye.
The sudden, feral up-tick of interest telegraphed by his face reminded her, nauseatingly, of a wolf watching a wounded rabbit. She had an instinctive pang that he wanted to see her roll over.
She did not know how to properly weaponize herself against such feral behavior because it was so alien; but what she did know, she knew acutely, and she knew not to show fear.
Don’t show him your fucking belly, Heather.
“Well, what’s there to check up on? Hello, hi: I’m here. Right in fucking front of you. I’m alive, kicking, strung out on a pharmacy cocktail, in the middle of fucking withdrawal pangs and - oh - I’ve learned my ex boyfriend is - is a fucking… monster, demon, boogeyman thing that isn’t entirely human. I don’t know what happened to my friends, so I’m kind of going through a lot right now. Actually, you know what? What happened to Tammy? Let’s start there.” She paused for effect, then: “What the fuck did you do to Tammy?”
“I broke her hand.” He replied flatly.
“You - what?”
“Well,” he reprised with a touch of amusement: “Her fingers, actually.”
“Why,” Heather breathed.
“She was trying to take shit that didn’t belong to her. Besides, now it’s harder for her to use her phone.” For illustration he held up Heather’s cell phone.
That crack widened inside of her. Her lifeline was hanging from his fingers.
“And Joey?” She said softly.
“Bleeding out on your apartment floor.”
Heather froze. She swallowed the knowledge; it was hollow in her stomach.
With punitive glee: “See, that’s the thing. Running around with pointy things like that… you never know. You might trip; fall; impale yourself.”
Heather felt stricken.
But he had not the sympathy to let her recover, he continued with a verbal jab: “I’m almost impressed, Heather. Your body count is commendable.”
"Excuse me? What –
“Everywhere you go, you leave a trail of bodies behind.”
Heather looked at him mutely.
“Tammy’s hand. Joseph. Yo’ mom’s head.” He deliberately paused, and after a calculable second: "It didn’t have to turn out like this. If you had just –
“No!” She cut across. “Don’t make this about me! Don’t put this on me ! Don’t you dare! You - you try to spin shit around and - and make it about me, and you try to gaslight me.” She could break down and cry. She could become the little girl again and sob. Wondering why she wasn’t good enough. Wondering why things like this happened to her.
He intimated a shrug. “Very clever, though. Using Joseph as a decoy. You didn’t even give the poor boy a parting glance when you ran out. You used him and abused him to his last.”
“Stop,” she keened. Her voice was raw; open. “Stop.”
His eyes glittered knowingly at her. “Hit a nerve?”
"How the fuck - how would you know anyway, why do you know that –
“He’s your dealer? And he’s in love with you?” It was not a question.
Heather looked down at the floor in black shame.
“Ohhhh,” he started coyly, “I’ve been keeping tabs.”
"You’ve been stalking me? how - when - "
“Bet you never saw the painter.”
Heather looked at him; really looked at him. The insufficient glow of light was inadequate, but enough to illuminate his frame. As ever, he was tall, as ever he was overwhelming. And, unlike most tall people, he did not present the illusion his limbs would run away from him; he was proportionate, balanced by muscular shape. He had a snake-like curve from his broad shoulders down to his slender waist that had given him a
thrillingly erotic stance. When he moved, there was something supple and seductive to the movement.
And what was wrong, what was glaringly wrong, what snagged her attention - finally - was the manner of dress. He was in cheap, stained workman’s clothes. Heather looked to the discarded articles (still across the chair and the table) with new clairvoyance. He had undressed and redressed like a snake changing its skin in order to melt into the crowd and follow her.
And for how long did he carry out this fool’s errand? For how long was she his mark? And why?
“Guess not,” Heather said glumly. “I wouldn’t have recognized you in overalls anyway, since you’ve never worked an honest day in your life.”
He barked a stiff laugh. “That’s what I liked about you, Heather. You never cared about my money. Mama didn’t raise no gold-digger.”
"Why are you here? "
"No; really. Why are you here. Why are you following me? Why are you –
“Fate,” he said with a deadpan roll of the eyes. “Imagine my surprise when you crossed my path. I had to know what you were up to. I couldn’t resist.”
She fixed him with a look. “Why?” He wasn’t telling the truth; not all of it. She could tell.
He began - and if she were pressed, she would have said it was with delicate preamble - “It’s been a year. And I was… well, a lot of time went by at this point, and I was wondering…” he paused, and tightened up his tone: “Well, you dropped off the face of the planet, which, well… there was a lot left behind; a lot unsaid.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
He fixed her with a look. “I wanted to know if - if you remembered. And, well,” he intimated a shrug.
Been a year. He had been keeping track of time after all; counting the days, the hours. Did that mean she meant something to him? Something more?
Fear roiled around in her stomach; anger inched up her spine and she clapped back with: “Remember?! You want to know if I remembered?! For fuck’s sake, I had thought I was going crazy and meanwhile you dropped off the face of the planet, and then you resurface and ask me if I remember.”
The enormity of what happened, the shadow of it slid between them, and Heather - suddenly tired of this game of parsing symbols and metaphors - poked it savagely with a stick. She refused to rot in the silence of the cancer. And with him a scant arm’s length away - why not? Why not uncage it? Her - him - them? Why not throw open the floodgates.
“You have the nerve to sit there, in front of me, happy as a clam, and actually ask me if I remember you trying to eat me?”
And she regretted it the moment she said it. It felt terrible; it felt absurd when she said it aloud. She sounded crazy. And saying it externalized it. Saying it made it have color, texture, membrane; made it real. And that tiny fault-line, that tiny, tiny crack that she had tried to hide in, to find hope - against all evidence - that the very real possibility of it all being fake of it all being a misunderstanding, was now at peril of collapsing in on her.
He did not respond. He meditated on her.
Heather continued in a sharp pant: “I sound crazy just saying it out loud! Tell me I made it up in my head ! Tell me I was high ! Tell me I - I misremembered the entire thing! Tell me!”
His voice was rough; hoarse. “Well, do you?”
Heather licked her lips. The crackle that had so-animated her, dissipated. There was something she was inching toward; something terrible and foreign and dangerous that was alarming the bell. And despite - or because - she had fantasized about this a thousand times, a thousands times and more: punitively attacking him with a barrage of questions until oh-so righteously wrenching the answer from him with her clever verbal fencing, that she had envisioned it differently: she had envisioned that she would have brow-beat the answer from him, and she would revel in it and that he would bend to her, because of her unyielding, unbending defiance –
– not, this.
Not him looking at her keenly with his pupils so-expanded, they were black. Not with his body suddenly tilting forward in a fantastical stasis.
And how had she not noticed the wooden stirrer before? The one he was dragging along his teeth in the analogue of a cigarette?
It made her skin crawl.
He remembers, she realized. And he knows that I remember, too.
But she would not give him the satisfaction; she deflected as he would have. “Well, at least you didn’t try to eat Tammy,” she said moodily.
“Why do you look at those videos, Heather.”
It was not a question. And his voice, although flat, was like a blade; it could still wound.
Something had changed. It was imperceptible like a wind-shift; but there. The mood before: characterized by a sort of dark nihilistic levity, had now suddenly flattened into a quiet, metallic calm that was punctuated only by the soft click click click of the wooden stirrer against his teeth.
I’m in trouble, Heather thought, suddenly. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from the wooden stirrer; it was mesmerizing.
What first she had surmised was the analogue for a cigarette now revisited her with new meaning. It’s me. That’s me. He’s fantasizing about me.
“What. You thought you were gonna send me those videos and those texts, and actually get away with it?”
He caught her gaze, held it, gave the wooden stirrer a long, showy lick; and his pupils fastened over hers, probing the obscene gesture into her.
Heather looked down in a spasm of fear. Her hand reflexively touched the front of her pant leg.
In a plea to distract him: “How d-do you do it,” she breathed. “I-is… it a drug? A-a vial? A syringe? S-some sort of Illuminati technology?”
He tilted his head in a feral gesture of amusement; and smiled a slow, stalking smile at her. He moved his fingers through the air in an elaborate pantomime of conducting a magic trick. “Nah; it’s all me. It’s my ‘black magic.’” He teased with verbal air-quotes.
Oh God, he does it. And for some reason, the very fact that this was somehow intrinsic to him, a discrete inborn ability conscripted in him by nature (Or God?), was more terrifying than if he had co-opted an alien technology. Because: he was it. He was the weapon; he was the single shot across the bow. And he could control it.
Heather’s mouth gaped open. (He was looking at her in full, open amusement now). “W-what are you?”
“Does it matter?”
"Yes; fuck yes it does… it - " (she slowly wriggled her hand down into the lip of her pants pocket) - “It matters. I need to know what I’m dealing with here! If-if, you’re some sort of fucking devil, or demon or-or alien… or.”
“You know what the difference between an angel and demon is, Heather?”
“Don’t,” she held up a hand, she could swear she saw him shift closer toward the edge of the table, as though getting ready to spring: "Don’t - don’t tell me. Don’t fucking sit there and tell me - don’t you dare say you’re some goddamn fallen angel, or demon or –
“Etymology.” He said simply.
Heather very nearly swallowed her tongue. “So: it happened,” she said softly, sadly. “Y-you reduced me. And - and you tried to - to…” she couldn’t bring herself to say it. The nihilist in her had fled to become the sad, scared little girl again because something godless had stepped out of the sheep’s clothing to torment her.
“Yes,” he said simply, his voice dropping, becoming heavy: “I tried to devour you.”
There was a hiccup of confusion, then the dull, flat feeling of shock as she absorbed the mental whiplash that he had actually said it. Her skin prickled at the near-tangible thrust of the word ‘devour.’
He was, if nothing else, always calculable with his words.
“Why,” she said lamely. Then: with raw, bracing pain: “Why me? Why so sprung on me? Why so - so obsessed with me? I hate it! It’s not like I was your fucking first! Go after some other floozy!”
“Actually,” he said softly, almost intimately. “In a way you were.”
Heather instinctively backed away. When had he slipped down from the table? She tried to make natural the gesture of reaching deeper into her pants pocket. (Please, God, let me grab the gun and blow this motherfucker away, please just… please… it can’t end like this. Not like this).
And he still had her cell phone.
But she was unable to stop herself, it was too romantically redolent. What did he mean? “The first? How? Wha-what do you mean?”
In a contraction of movement he was closer. “You were the first that got away. See: this is new to me, too.” And with great purpose, with great excitement, with great potential - building like a thunderhead - he blurted: “It’s exciting. Getting to talk about this, all of this, to someone. To actually speak about it. Speak about it, to you. It’s sexy as hell.”
The first. She had been right. There had been many. And the quality of his voice, the cavalier yet smug tonality, told her - without needing to tell her - that his victims were many; innumerable. So, why was it he had failed with her? She looked over the universe’s lip into the great protraction of why and couldn’t stand the mystery any longer.
“How did you, parading around in all your greatness, fuck up so royally?” She asked coldly.
He barked a laugh. “It was an accident. I didn’t mean to get that far.”
“An accident?” She echoed back. “No. An accident is when you stub your toe, not - not,” she waved her arm emphatically: “This.”
“You’re standing here now, no?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Should I bow to the king?” (He made an annoyed sound). “God I hate you. I can never tell when you’re lying.”
He ghosted closer.
Heather felt that fissure inside of her widen even further. Instinctively, she retreated; she moved in two big steps. Her fingertips grazed the handle of the gun. She could feel it; it was solid and cool. Her heart leapt in excitement; her bowels contracted in fear. She turned wild eyes on him as he quietly advanced.
“Stop.” She held up a hand to deflect him. “I’m not your fucking play thing.”
“And I’m not target practice.”
Heather tried to bite off her surprise; he reached half-heartedly for her leg; she cantered backward.
“Touch.” She blurted. “It works with touch. You need to touch me. You need to,” she was babbling now, and she didn’t care. She had to put distance between them. She had to stay out of reach of this abomination that was slowly, indulgently moving toward her. "Otherwise you would have made me teeny-tiny by now, I think – " she felt her shoulder blades scrape up against the cement wall; her fingers tightened around the gun grip.
And he still had her cell phone.
Alarmingly, he crouched. Heather watched him with wild-eyed mania; she could not divine his intentions.
Then: a scrape. A clatter. A bruising pulse of light as something pressed up against her foot. Unthinkingly she felt for it in the dark. He had slid the cell phone along the floor back to her.
“I fixed it.”
She looked down at it, not understanding. Why return her lifeline to her? He stood, and gave her an expectant look.
She looked down at the message thread on the glowing screen. And she understood.
Once, she had tried to unknown him. She had tried to render him nameless, faceless. To excise his identity. But in her attempt to unknown him, she had ascended him, exalted him; and he had re-surged as something that straddled the line of disbelief.
She had anonymized him because there was nothing more horrifying than a name., and nothing more intimate than the utterance of it. Because a name - his name - was the connective tissue to her reality, the incantation that brought to a fine head all of the moving parts.
That he existed. That he tried to eat her. That he failed. And he returneth to try again.
But it was a beautifully clever ruse, because as she had cast her watery eyes down to her cell phone screen, keening aloud his name in an exclamation - to match the sudden exclamation of the gun muzzle wrenching free from her hand - she felt her face crumple, her body shake as his streamed forward.
They nearly, nearly touched.
“Danny,” she mewled, hating his name; reveling in it; fearing it; embracing it; feeling paralytic with the onrush of feelings, of sensations, of emotions as she stared, mystified, as the gun now receded from her vision, falling away to the floor in a great clatter.
Heather reminisced, remembering better times when she would feel at peace with him. Hand in hand. Fingers awkwardly laced. It had been a simple, pedestrian gesture, they needn’t always be obscene. He had been a man, too.
Heather snapped back to see him wave his fingers invitingly, drawing attention to his hand.
Is this it? Is he gonna touch me and do it? Is it over?
But she refocused her gaze.
Open palm, a sign of open honesty and open intentions. And in the bed of it, like a lovely, disrobed purple woman: her pill.
“My pills,” her voice croaked.
She swallowed thickly, once more blinking back a wave of emotion. Heather made the muscular contraction to reach for it; stopped. What perverse olive branch was this?
“The phone,” he murmured. “You can look. But you can’t keep.”
Heather did not think; she simply did. She tossed her cell phone to the ground, aware - distantly - she was bartering her life for this beautiful poisoned chalice.
Fulfilling her end of the bargain, her forefinger and thumb pinched the pill – and careful not to touch him, she plucked it free.
He moved like a weapon; she moved like desperation.
Pain rocketed up her spine. Numbly, she was aware the pain was telegraphing up from the concrete wall. Had he jumped her?
She froze. She slowly absorbed her surroundings; she slowly took inventory of their bodies.
His fingers had found her wrist. This is how we met, she thought, sadly. And his shoulder had found her chest. In a surge he redoubled his hold, slamming her against the wall again - a scream wrenched from her as he bound her to him.
He’s on me. He felt like stamped steel and arrogance.
The pill fell and rolled into the shadows below.
Heather looked down at it, blank.
His mouth ghosted up her skin, finding her ear. And it was not quiet in its quest to claim her. She could hear him, the ministrations of his mouth.
He’s tasting me. It was no longer an erotic, wanton gesture; it was now pockmarked by the knowledge he wanted to consume her like a delicate Thumbelina.
His voice was low; spiced with need, spiced with sex. “Why? Cuz I can’t stop thinking about it. What happened. I was close, so close.” Panting, he prickled her neck with his teeth.
“I thought it was an accident,” she ground out; her breasts heaving.
“I never specified,” he remarked coyly. “It was an accident: it was an accident letting you out.”
Out sounded so sinister for what it represented; he had let her out of his body, out of a powerful pair of jaws that would have squeezed her so greedily into his twisted intestines.
Once, she had wanted to know if she had made a dent in his racing thoughts. And now, she was dismayed to learn she did nothing but plague them; a woman-shaped heroin that, for reasons unknown to her, had been ejected from his mouth at the precise moment he had sought to swallow her.
Heather felt the silken glide of his tongue, and heaved. She showed her teeth in a distinct snarl; he started to apply a slow pressure; her neck flared in heat, in pain. Heather gasped. It was the vivid sensation of a needle-prick; something entered her skin.
He’s biting me.
The warm on-rush went down the side of her neck. He made a low, appreciative sound.
And whatever he was scenting, he was tasting (my blood?) it compelled a swallow from him. And the sound: a wet sloshing, and subsequent cartilaginous click as he swallowed, nauseated her; it wrenched a heaving paroxysm from her chest. Her bowels contracted again.
Heather looked strained; embarrassed, the split second before -
Danny jerked backwards.
Somehow, he had evaded. Which created distance. But it was enough.
Heather dove to the floor.
He reached for her –
She shot her hand out, (this time reaching that extra pessimist’s inch), and wrapped herself around the pill.
His fingers closed over her arm –
And she tore herself free, violently shoving the pill into her mouth.
Is this how you like it, Danny? Is it?! Only if this were you, then we’d be evenly matched.
She stuck out her tongue, revealing the pill. He watched without expression.
I won’t give you the satisfaction. Her eyes said. She would die her own way, high and mighty in her own realm. “Fuck –
Danny crashed into her. His mouth clamped on her throat –
Heather gasped, twisting backwards. He remained latched to her, like a parasite.
But, ever defiant, she swallowed.
And he spasmed backwards.
"No,” he said.
Then, sharper. “No.”
He staggered, face cast to the side to obstruct her view; tongue working madly inside his mouth to dispel the chemical taste.
The toxins were already flooding her system.
Panting, he reviewed the sequence of events: she had stood, proud and righteous, as though a demon-slayer under her war-banner, war-drums coursing through her veins; fingers so-very delicately poising the pill on her tongue.
As though an analogy to him, she had found the sheer delight in it; knowing the damage it imparted.
Look at me, her eyes had challenged, never leaving his face.
And in a moment of clarity she had been the one to use her throat as a weapon. And how powerful her master-stroke had been. She had not even begun to conceive just how effective it was. True, she had meant to commandeer her final subconscious moments under the lullaby of the drug, to wrench her lucidity away from him; but her sin had been worse than that.
She now tasted like the pill itself.
“How long,” he muttered. His voice was a rasp; ragged at the ends. How long, what, his brain mocked him. How long since they’d seen one another? How long since he tasted her? How long until the sweet little pill did its job and started seeping into her blood stream?
With a sudden jolt of clarity, he looked up. He flung his body into her, and gripped her.
“Is this what you were trying to avoid?” He hissed.
And she became like a humming bird: stilted, but lovely, flittering in place - and then in the next moment, she was gone –
only to reappear again, cupped in his hands –
tiny, and perfectly replicated down to her eyelashes.
End Part II