TKnC welcomes Christopher with this eye-watering debut...
"She knows now, Vic. She knows! You'd think I would make out good in the deal. I told her weeks ago he was cheating on her," Mike Peters droned on, his voice a high-pitched drunken slur. Vic the bartender tried to pry the glass of vodka away so Mike would leave as the bar was closed.
"Why won't she just give him up and stay with me?" Mike continued. "She keeps inviting me back but spends twice as much time with him. Hell, Vic, she knows now."
"So what?" Vic yelled, exasperated.
"So . . . well, hell, Vic. She was pissed when she found out. Really pissed. I told her weeks ago and I think it should bring us closer together. It proves I love her more. I didn't cheat on her."
"So what's the problem?"
"I was over there earlier tonight. I mean if she knows now and she's really pissed . . . I should be the recipient of all her built up sexual tensions."
"I wasn't." Mike sat with his arms spread, shrugging his shoulders. "She told me I'd have to leave, she didn't feel well. What kind of bullshit is that?"
"I don't know, Mike. Go home," Vic said tiredly.
"Vic, where's your sym . . . sympathetic ear. You're a bartender."
"You're a pain in the ass. I want to go home."
"You come in here three or four times a week and whine about this woman. You're a simp. Get a new woman. I don't see this other guy, what's his name, Derek? I don't see him in here whining."
"Come on, Vic."
Vic turned to wash off the bar top and fill the sink with hot water when a man crashed through the door. He was big, his shoulders eating up the doorway. His long, dark hair was drenched in sweat, thick strands sticking to his haggard face like leeches. Only one arm was slung through his black leather jacket. Hidden underneath his shirt up to the elbow was his other arm.
"We're closed, bud." Vic announced. But the man rushed past and into the men's room. Vic started toward the restrooms but Mike stopped him.
"That's him. Derek." Mike nodded for Vic to go back to work. He straightened his tie and pressed down on his mop of hair. His gait to the bathroom was wobbly. This was not the ideal condition to be in when he confronted Derek, but he wasn't going to turn back now. Mike pushed the door open and entered.
The restroom appeared empty at first, but then Mike saw a pair of legs in the last stall. He ambled over and pushed in the unlatched door. Derek looked up at Mike with tears of pain running down his face.
"What do you want?" Derek snarled.
Mike smiled insipidly. Standing with his hands in his pockets, he rocked back and forth on his heels. He was satisfied that Sophie had given his rival the boot and he couldn't help gloating.
"I just came in to freshen up before going over to console Sophie. She must be so upset."
Derek swallowed hard. He softened his gaze and his voice and said, "Don't go yet. I need your help."
"Help? I'm not going to help you in any way, shape or form."
"Listen to me! I'm not kidding." Derek stood up and took a step forward. Mike backed up quickly. Mike was only an inch shorter than Derek but sloth and alcohol had left him a weakling. Derek’s mountainous upper body came at him like the flared neck of a cobra. Mike's backward momentum was stopped by one of the restroom's sinks, which he grabbed to hold himself up.
"Looks like after tonight, Sophie's all yours, Mikey” Derek growled. “But the bitch gave me a going away present that I don't want." Derek held out his left hand, thumb raised. Blood was seeping out the top, trickling down his arm. He held a cloth in his right hand, soaked red. Mike turned a shade paler than he already was as he turned his head to stare at the wall.
"I gave Sophie a present of my own tonight," Derek continued. "A diamond stick pin. She went crazy, telling me how much she loved it. She said she didn't want to go to dinner anymore." Derek moved closer to Mike. Mike tried to back away, but had nowhere to go. He cringed as Derek got so close he could smell his breath.
"Sophie was hot tonight. She had my clothes off before I knew what hit me. Then she asked me if I'd ever been tied up. She ever tie you up, Mikey? Sexy, man. I'm lying on my back, hands tied to the bed posts, and she's got every muscle in my body tingling. Just when I think she's going to ride me into oblivion, the bomb drops. She knows about me and my old girlfriend getting back together again. Needless to say, Sophie's not too thrilled and I'm helpless to defend myself. That's when she decided to give back my present."
Derek grabbed Mike's face and turned it back to look at him. Then he wiped the fresh blood off his thumb and held it directly in front of Mike's eyes. A small diamond, still sparkling, but now a muted red color, stuck out the top of Derek's thumb. Mike looked at Derek in shock.
"She drove that son of a bitch through my thumb, Mike. I can't get it out. It's been about a half an hour now, so the throbbing feels like a jackhammer. I need to get it out."
Mike tried to figure out how this confrontation had gone so wrong. He was just supposed to gloat for a few minutes and then head over to Sophie's. Now he was not only scared of Derek but also of his girlfriend. Sweat slid down the sides of his face and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his jacket.
Derek was holding his thumb close to Mike's face, the whole hand trembling from the intense pain. Mike grabbed his handkerchief and gently wrapped it around Derek's thumb. As Mike pinched the head of the diamond between his fingers, Derek turned away, unable to look. Mike paused momentarily and then pulled on the pin.
It budged just slightly at first and then wouldn't move at all. Derek was clenching his teeth and rumbling, trying not to scream. Mike let up for a few seconds and then pulled again, but the more pressure he applied the more resistance he got, like another force was pulling the pin downward at the same time. Mike backed up to brace himself fully on one of the sinks. He pulled with all his strength, but the pin refused to loosen. Finally Derek could take no more and roared in pain pulling his hand away. He slammed into a stall door, falling to one knee.
"I'm sorry, Derek. I tried."
Derek's head was resting on the cold metal of the stall door. His hand hung limply at his side, fresh blood dripping onto the tiled floor.
"You're not done. Give me a minute to rest and then try again."
"I can't. It won't budge. You're bleeding like crazy."
"Doesn't matter," Derek growled. "The blood will stop when it's out."
Mike started to sidestep toward the door. "Derek, I really have to go. The bar is closing, and you should go to the hospital for that, really."
Derek leapt from his crouched position and slammed into Mike. They both crashed into the restroom door and bounced off. They fell to the cold floor in a jumble of arms and legs. Derek quickly recovered, wrapping his right arm tightly around Mike's neck and jamming his left hand up to Mike's face.
"I'm losing my mind to the pain! Pull the damn thing out!" Derek's face was contorted to a monstrous pattern and spittle fell from his clenched teeth. There was nothing Mike could do but try again.
"I can't get my hands up to yours in this position," Mike wheezed, his breathing being restricted by Derek's wrestling grip.
"No. No more tricks from you. I don't let go until that pin is out." With that, Derek shoved the head of the pin between Mike's teeth.
"Ahhg, shitsh!" Mike yelled. He tried to pull away but was no match for Derek's strength. Derek pushed his right hand against Mike's face and pulled his left hand the opposite direction simultaneously. Mike screamed through the blood seeping into his mouth and pushed desperately at Derek's back. Derek pulled harder, but the pin wasn't moving, like it was embedded into the bone. Derek screamed until his lungs were spitting fire. Tears welled up in his eyes.
The blood had filled Mike's mouth. He felt like he was drowning. Finally he was able to part his teeth a little to let some of it flow out onto the floor. This allowed Derek's whole thumb to slide into Mike's mouth. Mike gagged and grabbed wildly at Derek's clothing, but Derek was lost in a world of severe pain.
Mike felt the warm, wet flesh of Derek's thumb enveloping his teeth as his head was shoved down. Derek pushed harder and shifted all his weight on top of Mike's head. Then Mike heard a crack and felt a great jolt of movement. With another push, Derek's thumb cracked again, and Mike felt the bile rising in his throat as he realized his teeth were driving into the bone of Derek's thumb.
Squirming like a bug on its back, Mike managed to get to his knees, but he had very little leverage. His head was still crushed to the floor under Derek's full body weight. Derek felt Mike gain some ground and gave one last push. This one smashed Mike's teeth into the bathroom floor as he bit off Derek's thumb.
Derek finally loosened his grip on Mike and rolled onto his back, the cold floor tiles soothing his sweating, overheated body. His left hand lay peacefully on his chest. The thumb-stump was pumping out blood, but Derek felt no more pain. He lay with a relaxed smile on his face. After a few seconds, he stood, tore his shirt, and wrapped the rag around his hand. He stumbled out of the bathroom, the door creaking shut behind him.
It was a long time before Mike Peters could move again. He still knelt on the floor, his head lying flat on its right side, in a mixture of water, blood and urine. A human thumb rested between his teeth, two of which were now loose in their sockets. When his daze finally lifted, he scrambled for the toilet and vomited.
When Mike finally exited the restroom, he saw Vic sitting behind the bar, his arms crossed, an expression of exasperation on his face.
"I saw the other guy leaving, bleeding like hell,” Vic said. “I thought you must have won the fight but now I'm not so sure."
Mike smiled. Vic raised an eyebrow at this. It wasn't a forced smile or a tired one, but a satisfied Cheshire grin.
"What are you so happy about?"
"The 'fight' was more of a draw, but I've won the war."
"Oh, how's that?"
"Sophie broke it off with Derek tonight. I'll wait a few hours, get cleaned up and some sleep. Then I will go and claim my spoils."
"So she kicked Derek out. What makes you think you can just walk in and take over?"
Christopher Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books and the echoes of music. He has recently been published in the Winter Chills and 100 Horrors anthologies. A book of short stories, "The Spaces between Your Screams" was published in 2008. He can be visited at www.chrishivner.com.