Monday 2 February 2009

SMOKE AND MIRRORS by Vallon Jackson

Here's a horror tale to get the slightly darker themes rolling. But it's also a crime story and (hopefully) thrilling...


The fireworks went off in his skull when Lucy Chalmers showed Gerry Brook the body in her car. It was a man. He had a single wound at the centre of his skull, as though some trepanning enthusiast had gone at him with a hammer drill.
Outside of a hospital bed, it was the first corpse Gerry had ever seen. The dead man was an anomaly that his confused senses couldn’t make sense of.
“Is he dead?”
Lucy blinked her large blue eyes at him. “Yes, Gerry. He’s been shot in the head. What do you think?”
Moving closer, Gerry got a whiff of the blood that was turning the seat cover coppery. It was the same smell that wafts from the steel bins at the rear of the butcher shop where he worked. There was a slow plop as semi-jellified blood dripped into the growing pool in the foot well.
“Who shot him?” Gerry laid a hand on the open window frame, then snatched it away as though avoiding a snake’s fangs. Fingerprints, he thought. Not good to place his fingerprints at the scene. He didn’t want the blame for this!
Lucy opened her handbag and showed Gerry a gun stashed between her Radley purse and the other indescribable objects that only women carry.
“You, Lucy?”
“Yes, me,” Lucy said. She gave him the kind of look reserved especially for him in these moments of supreme idiocy. “You know that I had no other choice.”
“But…the police?”
“The police wouldn’t help me. You know that. I went to them and they thought I was nuts!”
“I meant that the police will now be coming after you.”
“Not if we get rid of the body,” Lucy told him.
“We? You want me to…” Gerry shook his head wildly. “No way! I’m not getting involved in a murder!”
“This isn’t murder, Gerry. He was a monster. A thing. I’ve just stopped something very evil.”
“But how could you know that?”
“You’ve seen the news haven’t you, Gerry? All those bodies turning up with their throats ripped out and drained of all their blood?” She pointed at the dead man. “What do you think was responsible for that?”
Gerry peered into the car. A slow ooze of blood welled out of the hole in the man’s skull like something inside was pushing its way out. “But what if you’re wrong, Lucy? What if he’s just a man?”
Lucy ignored him. “We must see to things properly. Immolation’s best.”
“You want to burn him?”
“To ashes. But we must decapitate him first. Bury his skull in salt so he can never come back.”
Gerry rubbed trembling fingers over his face. “Shouldn’t we ram a stake through his heart as well?”
“That’s just nonsense from the movies.”
“Immolation and decapitation isn’t? It looks to me like a bullet through his brain did the trick.”
“That has only killed the vessel that carries his spirit. To finish him once and for all we most force a disincorporation of them both. Otherwise he’ll just come back in another body.”
Gerry dropped his hands by his sides and blinked at her. He’d never heard the term disincorporation before. Lucy wasn’t even sure that she had used the correct term. “I heard that once: something to do with sundering the flesh from the soul. Could have been incorporeal…”
Gerry gawped at her.
“Any way, it doesn’t matter. We have to get on and do this before nightfall.”
“If he’s what you say he is, how could he be out in the day time? Shouldn’t he have burst into flame or something?”
“That’s another myth from the movies. So is turning into a bat, or becoming smoke so he can get through a crack under a door.”
Gerry looked at the dead man. His blued lips were peeled back in a grimace of horror. “I suppose the sharp teeth are made up as well?”
Lucy tapped a manicured fingernail against one of her own incisors. “We all have teeth made for cutting, Gerry. They don’t have to be any sharper than our own to break the skin.”
Gerry tested his own teeth with his tongue. He nipped himself a little too hard. He pointed at a crucifix around the man’s neck. “What about that?”
“They originate from all faiths, Gerry,” Lucy leaned down to study the cross hanging just beneath the dead man’s chin. “Maybe he was Buddhist or something.”
Gerry wasn’t known for his sharp mind, but even he twisted his face at Lucy’s logic.
“It doesn’t matter,” Lucy said. “He’s the same one who has been following me. Every where I went he did, too. He was staring at me like he was sizing me up. He was planning his attack I’m sure, but I’ve stopped him.”
Gerry stood alongside the car. “I can see his reflection in the mirror, Lucy.”
“More myth,” she said. “Now are you going to help me or not?”
“Yes, I’m going to help you. It’s just that I’m frightened, that’s all.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, Gerry. Not if we disincorporate him like I said.”
Gerry bunched his hands in his pockets. He fumbled with a heavy object that tugged down the front of his hooded top. “That’s why you asked me to bring a meat cleaver, huh?”
“You’re a butcher by trade. Cutting it up should be no different than a side of pork.”
Gerry glanced around quickly. The alley they were in was deserted but the brooding eyes of windows stared down on them. “You want me to do it here?”
“Of course not. We’ll have to take him somewhere more remote.”
Gerry squirmed. “You want me to drive that car? It’s all bloody.”
“We can shower afterward,” Lucy said. She gave him the other look she reserved for him. “Together if you’d like.”
A man’s corpse proved not so different from a side of pork when Gerry got down to business. Once the head was removed and the clothing stripped away, the man’s slightly rotund body, all pink and hairless did bring to mind the countless pigs he’d dismembered over the years. Lucy saw to the head, taking it away and burying it in a hole that she filled with rock salt from a container they found at the side of the road. The salt was for gritting the road surface when the weather grew frosty, but it did equally well in salting the earth.
Gerry concentrated on chopping the man to manageable chunks of meat and bone. Then he dumped them in an old oil drum, sloshed them with petrol and threw in a burning rag. Black oil and a smell not unlike cooked pork fat surrounded him.
That done, he turned and saw Lucy walking back towards him. How she managed to remain spotless after carrying the bloody skull on its stump of neck amazed him. He was splashed with gore all down the front of his jacket and he was scarlet to the elbows. He was also feeling a little pleased with himself. Kind of empowered. Lucy made him feel like that. He was also as randy as hell.
“You should dump your clothing,” Lucy said. “Throw them on the fire and get rid of the evidence.”
“You want me to strip right here?” Gerry’s breath quickened exponentially.
“Why not? No one is here to see us.”
“But the shower?”
“It can wait.”
Gerry tore at his clothing while Lucy watched him coyly, the tip of her tongue caressing one eye-tooth.
Afterwards Gerry wanted a cigarette.
Standing bare in the forest glade, the smoking oil drum throwing heat on his sweat-slicked skin, he looked down on Lucy. She was as naked as he, lying in the grass and looking up at him with her deep gaze. Her clothes lay in a loose pile beside his discarded underwear and amongst them was her handbag. He could see the butt of the gun, her Radley purse and a pack of JPS poking out the semi-open bag. She’d given him cigarettes before when he’d wanted one and he reached for the pack. Beneath the pack was what looked like a man’s wallet.
“What’s this?” he asked. Lucy just watched him steadily.
Gerry teased out the wallet. “Is this his? We should throw it on the fire.”
Lucy sat up slowly, watching as Gerry’s curiosity got the better of him and he opened the wallet.
“Oh, fuck!”
“It doesn’t make any difference,” Lucy said.
“But…but…he was a police man?”
“They come from all faiths,” Lucy reminded him, “and all kinds of backgrounds. It makes no difference that he was a police man.”
Gerry stared at the warrant card with the man’s identification and photograph. Detective Sergeant Crowley. “This is the same officer you said you spoke to when you went to the police station. The same man who you said brushed you off when you said a vampire was responsible for the killings.”
Lucy nodded. “He was looking at me funnily.”
Gerry's jaw dropped open and he turned slowly to look at the flaming oil drum. “You killed an innocent man, Lucy. And I helped you get rid of him.”
Lucy stood up silently and took a step towards him. She reached out and placed a palm on his shoulder.
“He was suspicious of me, Gerry. He followed me. I had to stop him.”
Gerry spun around and stared at her with wide eyes. “You shot him, Lucy! Where did you get the gun?”
“I took it off him.”
“You took it off him?” Crowley had been a big man, trained and used to dealing with violent offenders. Lucy was a slip in comparison.
“It was easy,” she said. “He thought that all he had to do was wave that stupid crucifix at me. He had more faith in Jesus than he did his Glock. So I showed him what was more powerful.”
Gerry was caught in that stunned immobility that comes with terror.
“It’s true, Gerry. Vampires do exist. And DS Crowley knew it.”
Gerry shook his head wildly.
“Of course, he didn’t know all that Hollywood stuff is just nonsense,” Lucy went on. “Vampires aren’t supernatural beings, just a different strain of humanity. Crosses don’t work, sunlight doesn’t burn, they do cast reflections and they have nothing at all to do with bats. The only thing that Bram Stoker got right was their lust for blood. They must drink to live. Through a hole in the neck or from a bullet wound in a skull, it doesn’t really matter.”
Gerry tried to step away from her but felt himself rooted to the spot.
“Oh, that’s something the movies have got right,” Lucy said, “the vampire’s ability to mesmerize a victim. I’ve been doing that to you since the moment we met.”
Gerry wanted to shout but his mouth wouldn’t work. His eyelids widened as Lucy took a step towards him.
“Plus, about the teeth?” she said. “I lied.”
The last thing that Gerry saw was the widening of her mouth, her glistening fangs lengthening as she launched herself at his exposed throat.

1 comment:

  1. Never trust a woman who promises sexual favours! Correction: never trust a woman! Only kidding. Nice one, Matt. Enjoyed that.