Vampy

There was just something about her. Something about the way she moved. She wasn’t like the other girls at the party – she was dark and mysterious. She had this aura, this silken web spun out from her, tantalizing me, calling me, pulling me in. But she was clearly out of my league – she’d never even talk to someone like me.

And so I was surprised to find us in her dorm room, her hands all over me and mine on her, caressing her pale skin and tracing the long flowing lines of her tattoos as we kissed.

She pushed me down onto her tiny unmade bed and it creaked. She kissed me hard on the mouth and stood back.

“I wanna put on a record,” she said. She unearthed some vinyl from a mess of LPs in the corner, piled in their dust jackets like bones, and set it onto the player nearby. The record spun and music filled the room.

She crawled back onto the bed and mounted me and we kissed passionately. How had I come to be here? What had we even talked about? Who was she? God, I was drunk. She fell down onto me and began kissing my neck.

My surprise only grew when I felt her teeth plunge into me, two sharp fangs, and then my hot blood gushing into her mouth. I tried to scream but I couldn’t. I heard the music filling the hot impassioned air of the room as the life drained out of me and my vision faded:

It’s in the blood, it’s in the blood
I met my love before I was born
She wanted love, I taste of blood
She bit my lip and drank my warmth
From years before

The Artist

Great artists are never appreciated in their time.

Van Gogh was the very portrait of the troubled, starving artist. Would he ever have become famous had he not gone insane, cut off his own ear, and eventually brought about his own demise? Monet was never accepted during his life but is now the father of Impressionism. Poe was an itinerant alcoholic who died, broke and alone, in a deserted alley, never appreciated for the master he was. Kafka was a tortured soul who never succeeded as a writer, his genius only appreciated many years after his death.

Great artists are never appreciated in their time. But I am different. I will be.

The others – the hacks, the copycats, the imitators – they try. But they do not understand art. They don’t appreciate it for the ineffable thing that it is. They don’t elevate it, don’t revere it, don’t worship it with the awe I do.

It’s not about the individual pieces, but about how they come together to form the whole. It’s about balance. How all the small touches, the little flourishes and dashes of colour, come together to comprise one glorious work.

My strokes are gentle; curving, loving even. My precision, bordering on fastidiousness, unmatched. I see it all coming together beautifully. It’s at that crucial point now, that beautiful point between being a blank canvas and becoming the immortal creation of my hand: uplifted, exalted, perfect.

Just a few more days. Hours and hours of love and care and labour and my latest masterpiece will be complete. I never tire in my quest to become the greatest artist that has ever lived. I will be appreciated. Respected. Lauded with the praise I deserve.

I set down the blade for a moment to examine my work.

“Please,” she sobs, tears running down her face and mixing with the congealing blood. “Stop. Please….”

Froggy

When I came back outside Sandy was over by the edge of the pond amongst the bulrushes, crouched down on her little haunches in her bright purple boots.

“Sandy!” I said, picking up some more dirty plates from the patio table. “What are you doing over there, honey?”

She didn’t look, just called out in her cute little 4-year-old voice I never tired of hearing: “Playing boats Mommy!”

I set the dishes back down on the table and strolled over to her. Pushing aside the tall grass I saw a tiny paper boat floated toward the center of the pond, slowly sailing with the last of its inertia from the push my little girl had given it.

“Honey, where’d you learn to play boats?” I said, crouching down next to her.

“Froggy!” she said, hugging me. “Froggy lives in the pond. Froggy and I love playing boats!” And then she ran off back into the house.

Isn’t that cute? I thought, but part of me still wondered where she learned to fold a paper boat like that. Must have been at kindergarten.

That night I awoke that in the darkness to a scream, a scream I recognized in even my sleep to be that of my little girl. It had come from outside. I ran out of the bedroom in my nightgown, down the stairs and out the back door onto the grass.

“Sandy!” I called. “SANDY!”

Tiny footprints led to something white by the edge of the pond, pushed in the damp earth and surrounded by the dewy grass. Slowly I followed them over and picked it up.

It was Sandy’s paper boat, limp and soggy, and beneath it sunk into the mud was a massive webbed footprint, the first of a trail which led out to the center of the pond, where a single purple boot floated.

In Plain Sight

I used to work in central intelligence. I only mention it as it’s something that sets me apart from everyone else: my ability to notice small details, in even times of disorder or panic. It is because of this that only I know the truth.

Stirring my coffee with a dirty spoon, I looked up to see a ratty, disheveled man in a dirty brown coat at the far end of the diner. I watched him stand and it was then I noticed his mouth was bleeding. The other patrons took notice and started to stare as well as he bent over and began to grunt and groan and mutter.

And then his coat exploded in a splatter of gore, and long green tentacles writhed from his back. They shot out in all directions, grabbing the other customers, twisting up their bodies in slippery slick coils and lifting them from the ground.

Pandemonium ensued. Tables were overturned. Silverware spilled out on the checkerboard tile of the diner floor and glasses shattered. I was caught up in the fleeing mob, but as I glanced back over my shoulder I saw the man’s back had transformed into a gaping maw with fearsome giant teeth and was devouring the victims the tentacles pulled in.

We stampeded out onto the sidewalk and the creature followed. Our panic spread to the crowds in the street. The brown man gave pursuit, carving a path of mayhem and destruction. Bodies were eviscerated and devoured. Cars overturned. Hydro poles splintered like matchsticks.

But the details, oh, the details.

The boy behind the counter in the diner wasn’t among us. When I’d glanced over my shoulder I saw him still slowly wiping down the bar in the erupting chaos, as if nothing at all was happening. The man on the street corner smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper hadn’t joined the fleeing mob; I saw him calmly turn a page while the brown man devoured a banker in a business suit, briefcase and all. The old vendor of the hotdog stand kept shaking his head in time to the music of his cheap radio as I fled past him. I saw him flip a sizzling sausage like he had so hundreds of times before, unshaken.

This isn’t an isolated incident. And it isn’t an invasion either. They’ve been here among us all along, just waiting for the right moment.

This is only the beginning.

The Lost Ring

Where could it be? Where could it be? Oh no, oh no, oh no, how could I have been so foolish? Beatrice Benedict was in a panic. It has to be here somewhere. It has to be here somewhere. Oh my God, my God, I’ve got to find it or Ralph is going to kill me!

She’d turned the whole house upside-down already in a panic. At first she’d not even noticed her ring was missing. It hadn’t been until she’d finished cleaning everything.

Beatrice Benedict trembled at the thought of her stocky husband bursting in through the door, coated in grease from head to toe, then turning bright red in anger when he discovered she’d lost it, the one true symbol of their beautiful union, and then the sound of his thick leather belt flying through the air and the thwack thwack thwack as the blows rained down upon her. God help them, she knew Little Johnnie could hear it, even from upstairs in his tiny bedroom beneath the comfort of his little rocket ship bedspread.

Oh God, oh God, I’ve got to find it! Beatrice overturned all the couch cushions she’d vacuumed only an hour ago and turned over only 10 minutes before once again. She shook them out above the ugly brown striped pattern of the sofa, hoping, just hoping, that her repeating the same process and expecting a different result wasn’t insanity. That her precious missing wedding ring would fall out onto the floor, and then she could breathe a sigh of relief and all would be well again. But it wasn’t there.

Beatrice collapsed to her knees on the carpet, buried her face into her hands, and sobbed. She cried and cried and cried, the sound seeping out into the surrounding beige walls of the simple bungalow she and Ralph called home, and the walls watched silently, shaking their heads in disapproval.

Oh Bertie, Bertie, Bertie, the one wall, the one behind the China Cabinet, cooed out to her. It seemed older and wiser than the others. She felt that maybe it was their mother. Could walls have mothers?

You’ve gone and made a real mess of things, haven’t you? the wall continued. Ralph was right all this time. You really are worthless. How could you lose the ring like that? Don’t you care about Ralph? Don’t you care about your marriage? About Little Johnnie? What’s wrong with you Bertie?

Well, I’m not surprised. We walls all saw it coming. We see everything. And we’ll see it all when Ralph gets home soon and lays into you with his belt again. Just like he has so many times before.

Beatrice stopped crying and sat up. She’d already turned the living room over a dozen times. Then she thought maybe it’d fallen from her finger and gotten sucked up by the vacuum. She’d emptied the bag out and pawed all through the dirt with her bare hands. She’d gone through all of the bedrooms, tearing apart all the sheets and comforters on both her and Ralph’s and Little Johnnie’s bed, but there was not sign of her missing ring.

What was she going to do?

Wait, the bathroom sink? Or the drain in the tub? No, she’d put on her stretchy long yellow latex gloves as soon as she’d started on the bathroom, just like she always did, because she so hated cleaning the bathroom. She knew that the chemicals for getting rid of the kind of filth in there – stray pubic hairs and evil bacteria and mold caked into the grout and festering disease and rot and microbial death – were harsher than anything else she’d use to clean anywhere else in the house, harsher than anything she’d use in the kitchen.

Of course. The sink. She’d taken her ring off and set it on the counter next to the faucet, hadn’t she? Terribly absent-minded of her. But had she put it back on? And that clattering in sink had been that fork the fell from the drying rack, she’d seen it. But if she’d accidentally hit her ring with her elbow at the same time the fork had fallen then…

The garbage disposal. She had to look.

Dark and foreboding, the circular maw of the metal beast gaped at her, taunting her. I’ve got your ring, Bertie, now what are you going to do? You should have listened to the walls! The metal monster laughed maniacally at her.

Beatrice peered down into the depths of the hole, but could see nothing. She glanced from all angles but all was black; there was not so much as a gleam of light reflecting off the blades at the bottom.

She ran to the hall closet and bent down to the bottom shelf, rifling amongst the ratty old comforters and a big box of ancient used batteries. She found it, the big yellow plastic flashlight, the one her and Ralph had always taken camping with them each summer those first few years after they were newlyweds. Beatrice Benedict pushed the big black circular button with her thumb and it made a satisfying click-click. The beam from the light was still strong and lit the rusty brass hinges of the closet door next to her.

I don’t see it. I don’t see it. Beatrice squinted. She tilted her head every which way, this way and that way and a hundred other ways, but it was just so damn hard to see anything down that little hole, even with the light of the flashlight. Please God, please. Let my ring be in there. Beatrice tilted her head again and squinted into the depths of metal tunnel leading into the belly of the garbage disposal.

And then she saw it. Thank you God! A glimmer of light reflecting off her wedding ring.

Beatrice took a deep breath. She knew there was nothing in the kitchen, no implement, no wooden spoon or whisk or spatula or pair of tongs or scissors that would reach the bottom of the disposal. She’d have to reach down there with her arm and nimble white fingers and pluck the ring from those hungry metallic depths herself. It was the only way.

Think. Think about Ralph. Think about your ring. What that ring means.

She rolled up her sleeve and then stopped, recalling horrible stories she’d heard about household appliances turning on by themselves. About young boys reaching for things in the bottom of blenders and having their fingers turned into strawberry milkshakes with crunchy pieces of bone. About housewives falling headfirst into clothes dryers and being tumbled-dried to death, roasted alive all alone in empty basements while their cries for help went unheard, echoing in the scalding air of the hungry metal drums.

No, Beatrice Benedict thought. I have to. For Ralph. For Little Johnnie.

Beatrice took another deep breath and stuck her arm down the black hole, down into the hungry maw of the garbage disposal, and felt around with her nimble white fingers for her precious wedding ring. Her hand pawed and slipped against the wet steel, and she swore she could smell something foul rising up from the throat of the beast, up into the sink basin and assaulting her nostrils. Her digits danced a clumsy dance in the darkness. It was there. It was in there. I saw it! Just a little deeper. Just a little deeper. Before Ralph gets home.

There was a loud bang as the front door swung on its hinges and slammed shut. Beatrice looked up from the sink with a start.

“Bertie!” her husband called out. “I’m home!”

Oh God, it was Ralph! He’s home early! Beatrice thought. I can’t let him find me like this! And the ring! Oh God, the ring!

And then Beatrice realized her arm was stuck. And then she began to panic. She pulled and pulled and pulled but her arm was jammed in the hole of the drain at the elbow – she was like a minnow that had swum into a steel trap and but couldn’t squeeze its way back out.

She pulled and pulled but the circle of the drain was a snake coiled around her arm. She heard Ralph’s footsteps coming toward the kitchen. “Bertie? You there?” She was panicking now. She yanked and and twisted, and then her elbow turned the screw in the sink assembly and the metal monster roared to life.

Beatrice Benedict screamed as the garbage disposal ate her arm.


“She’s heavily sedated,” the doctor in the white coat said. “But she’s conscious. You can speak to her now.”

“Thank you,” Ralph Benedict said heavily. His wife lay docile beneath the hospital green of the bedsheets, an IV snaking down to her left wrist and surrounded by beeping machines keeping vigil.

“Ralph?” she said weakly. Her eyes fluttered. “Are you there?”

Her right arm was hidden within the cast. Ralph knew it was a courtesy. A sham to hide an ugly truth. He knew beneath that plaster his wife’s arm was all ground up to hell, a potpourri of flesh and skin and bone. The doctors did what they could, but had already told him she’d never regain use of her arm, let alone her hand, for as long as she lived.

A tear welled in the corner of the burly man’s eye, and slowly wandered down the side of his face. He hadn’t cried since his father’s funeral when he was 11.

“Ralphie,” Beatrice said weakly. “I’m sorry…”

“I’m sorry too,” Ralph said, reaching into his pocket for something. He set it down on the tray above the bed.

“It was in the car,” he said. “Found it beneath the passenger seat on the way home. It must’ve fallen from your finger the other day. You’re just so careless, Bertie, just so damn careless…”

Ralph Benedict’s wife cried.

“I’m sorry, Ralphie!” she sobbed. “I’m so sorry! I just didn’t want you to be mad! I’m so sorry for everything….”

“I know,” he said, rubbing his face with his hands. “I know. So am I.”

He took off his ring and set it down next to the other one the tray over the bed, and it rolled in place in a circle, rattling against the cheap plastic. The monitors behind Beatrice kept their steady pace, but nothing would ever undo what had been done.

Ralph Benedict stood and left. A doctor passed by the open door to the room, and the halls of the hospital continued to smell of antiseptic.