Friday, March 20, 2009

"Dan Mead" - Excerpt: The TORTURER *Unedited* - Ryan J. Van Seters

His palms were sweaty. He hated it. He hated it enough to justify it; he wasn’t scared, he didn’t get scared; it was just biology, biology that no one could control, let alone him. His blood pressure increased, that was all; anyone’s would have; it didn’t mean he was frightened.

The man in the trench-coat would be out any minute now. E.S. had his stage set, and waiting; secluded, with good light, all of his tools lying neatly on a rather expensive towel; the kind that didn’t have loose threads, loose threads where like giant maps for cops these days; they could look at a single, infinitesimally small thread and it would lead them right to the killer. Not that he was a killer.

He had killed, that wasn’t the act that defined his occupation. There wasn’t a name for what he was. Torturer would be the most literal, but that didn’t justice to his work. Unless, of course by torture they meant exorcist of the evil inside of people; if that was a torturer than he would gladly adopt the pedigree.

If he had been a lesser man his heart would have raced at the sight of the business man walking out of his office building. He wasn’t a lesser man. He was vigilant, still, it was times like these that made him think of impractical things; the more victims he took, the less he felt the need for caution.

When he started he was cautious and nothing but, he slunk around corners, waited patiently for hours, days, even weeks. Now he was confident. Sure of himself, certain he could step out of his car and walk directly to the man in the trench and take him, take him without anyone even noticing. Or kill him. He still liked to think about killing them, even if he never did…intentionally that is.

A quick jab of the knife; from the front, right above the groin, just right of center; plenty of force so they think they think the wind got knocked out of them, until they felt the warmth of the blood over their skin. From the back, left or right, didn’t matter, just so long as it was right below the rib line, in the kidney, and you have to twist; if you don’t twist they have time to run after you.

Trench coat man was Charlie; Charlie told everyone to call him Chuck; Chuck was empty, E.S. didn’t need to follow Chuck for weeks to see that, he was as obvious as light in a snow storm. He was perfect. E.S. stepped out of his car, controlled, unnoticed.

Chuck walked with an itch, nearly skittering across the sidewalk to the parking garage; another thing the movies got right. Parking garages were perfect, they echoed and moaned even when unoccupied, everyone expected loud, uncomfortable noises in a parking garage, that was why everyone hated them. He didn’t think Chuck would scream, he didn’t think that Chuck would have time to scream, not if he did this right, which he always did.

He pulled his knife out of its cheap leather sheath, storing it carefully between his belt buckle and thermal shirt. Another knife tucked safely in his boot, as a precaution. He wondered what his face would look like.

Chuck drove a Volvo. A beige Volvo, fitting, E.S thought. A clean, suitable car, not too flashy and far from junk, a nice and orderly figure for an orderly man. It was another vale. Chuck felt guilty. The porn, sex, adultery, all of it must have felt out of place to him…not as things should be, so he made up for it with Volvo’s and Eddie Bauer rain coats.

The rubber on his expensive penny loafers scoffed against the concrete floor of the parking garage. E.S. felt his heart quicken. Up until this moment he had been working hard to convince himself that this wasn’t something to get excited about, the way older kids do with Christmas. It will be nice he thought, contented, but that’s all, not terrific, not life changing, nice.

His body betrayed his cool calm with a solid rush of adrenaline, suddenly all he could think about was having Chuck back in his torture room. He thought of the blade of his knife resting against the tender flesh of Chuck’s thumb. He could see it perfectly; leaning down, slowly increasing pressure, watching the blade advance smoothly but steadily into Chucks flesh. He could almost smell the black surge of blood spilling out of the wound, lapping over his blade into a larger pool of crimson red, all while Chuck screamed agonizingly through the knotted cloth in his mouth. He picked up his pace.

He was going to use the hilt of his knife at first, one quick blow with the thick blunt metal handle and Chuck would fall before his face could cringe. E.S. hung his head as his thick lips spread into a malicious grin. The rush was getting to him, and he liked it, he remembered it and made a promise to himself in that moment that he would never wait this long again.

Twenty feet and closing, Chuck’s skitter was even more nervous now. Energy? Wondered E.S. If I wasn’t here, would he still be so skittish. He was sure Chuck hadn’t seen him but nevertheless he was walking much faster now. Chuck pulled his hand out of his pocket, the Volvo beeped; even the car’s beep was distinguished; as if the car were in a library and didn’t want to disturb anyone. Less than a minute now.

Just wing it. His brain kicked in. Not like you haven’t done this before. He raised his brow. Yeah, he thought to himself, I’ll wing it. Chuck was listing left toward the driver side door. E.S. leaned down and set off into a sprint.

Chuck pulled the handle open and slid into the car. E.S. slid across the passenger side, pulled the door open and sank swiftly into the seat. Chuck pulled his trench coat up, out of the way of the door, lifted his left leg in and reached for the door. E.S. was still holding his breath when he swung the back of his fist into Chuck’s nose.

He wanted to watch the blood ooze out but he restrained himself. He twisted his body to face Chuck and slammed his fist into Chuck’s gut with enough force to make the Volvo lean back in its stall. He didn’t pull his fist back, instead he pushed even harder, forcing his fist further into Chuck’s already windless gut. He pictured Chuck’s spine sitting behind his stomach and tried to push hard enough to touch it, then he heard a crackle and a pop. He knew without looking that he had broken a floating rib.

He wasn’t sure if it was guilt or anger that was welling up within him but he made certain to quell it for the time being; he didn’t have the luxury of indulging his emotions while his fist was still buried in Chuck’s stomach, or while Chuck was still semi conscious. He reached around to the back of Chuck’s neck and pulled forward with all the force he could manage. Another crackle came from Chuck as his body went limp against the padded leather steering wheel. The white stitching in the leather wheel stood out in vibrant contrast next to the fresh blood.

He took a breath. His heart was pounding; the friction of his blood coursing roughly through his veins filled his ear. He hated the feeling, it made his stomach clench tight as if he swallowed a piece of bone whole. He fought back the temptation to gag and held his hand up, it was shaking.

This had been happening more frequently, with greater intensity, his body was disobeying him. He looked at Chuck with disappointment, as if he were a two inch thick steak that fell on the floor, the moment was ruined. Nevertheless he did what he needed to do.

He stepped out of the car, sighing hard as he slid the seat forward. He rounded over to the driver’s side. It was much more of a mess than he would have liked. He couldn’t help but think about his pants, and the stain that the blood might make.

He hooked his arm under Chuck and tossed him into the back seat. This was irritating; he thought he could use a part of his clothing to wipe off the blood and save his pants, but he liked his shirt just as much. The adrenaline took him away from his logical thoughts, and his patience.

He sat down in the driver’s seat and turned the key. The car swayed as slightly as it would in a breeze as the engine, silent despite the thousands of explosions that occurred within it, kicked on. He closed his eyes and flexed hard. He learned this from a Doctor. He was leaning over the doctor with a rather sharp pair of shears getting ready to cut a fold of flesh away from his face when his hands began to shake.

The Doctor, who had not only been held captive for three weeks and two days had also been on a steady dose of anesthetizing drugs for the same period of time; a torturing metaphor courtesy of E.S.. In His delusion the Doctor, noticing the tremble in E.S.’s hand, advised him to bear down, he called it a Vagal response, and assured E.S. it would drop his heartbeat and most likely calm the quiver in his hand.

Normally E.S. would have ignored the advice of his captive, but the drugs he had given the doctor had made him increasingly amorous; a sort of chemical induced Stockholm syndrome. Needless to say the effect was immediate, E.S’s hand stopped shaking. The Doctor gave him a satisfied smiled before willfully turning his cheek toward E.S. and his shears.

The sound of the blood in his veins amplified. He held his breath and flexed hard, when he finally exhaled his heart raced for a moment then immediately slowed down to what he guessed to be a comfortable sixty-two beats per minute.

He cracked his neck, gripped the steering wheel, and put the car in reverse. His usually dubious smile returned as he peered over his shoulder to back up and saw Chuck lying in the backseat, helpless and broken, his chest rising slowly and shallowly under his blood stained clothing. It was time to indulge.

The drive was calming. He felt at ease as the tires glided over the road. The night was welcoming; the smooth breeze sliding through the window was as welcoming as the idea of his blade slipping on fresh untainted skin.

Chuck was snoring in the backseat. If this were a normal abduction it would have bothered him, but tonight was special. He hadn’t indulged his inner demon for some time, long enough for his body to forget its lessons, long enough for his hands to tremble. Not for long.

He flipped his blinker and turned off the road. The car groaned as the suspension maneuvered over the dip off the freeway and onto the gravel road. In the distance the blue hue of black light flooded the front of the metal shack. This was it, the stage, he even had the black lights.

Chuck didn’t fight as E.S. hauled him out of the car, he groaned, almost inaudibly but he didn’t fight, he didn’t so much as blink. He pulled Chuck across the smooth walkway, being especially careful to watch his step. E.S. erected this building himself nearly four years ago.

It was the perfect abattoir; recessed off the road, dimly light, secluded on private property. Even the walkway was designed for his purposes, slick with several coats of both lacquer and wax, so the body slid; a trick he learned during his first year; abduction 101.

He promised himself he would tear the place down after four years, just to make sure any loose ends left behind were destroyed. Originally he was going to burn it, but that would bring attention. It didn’t matter now, not while he was dragging Chuck’s body over the threshold.

He pulled him to the base of a small ramp in the center of the room. Normally, he would have used the ramp to slid his victim onto a table, but tonight he decided to go with a different routine. He reached for two hooks dangling from the ceiling.

He never understood why Hollywood always insisted on victims being tied and bound, a real killer, rather torturer, wouldn’t be so benevolent. The tips of the tow hooks hanging from the chain shone with a brilliant shimmer. E.S. couldn’t help but admire them.

He had spent an entire week grinding them down, smoothing them over and polishing repeatedly. He would have spent two weeks on them if he hadn’t drawn blood when his finger accidentally grazed the tip; a part of him was sad that he couldn’t get them sharper.

He aligned the first hook with Chucks wrist. He leaned over him, stepping on both arms and then gently centered the tip on Chuck’s skin before pushing forward smoothly. The scream started out as a sort of sleepy moan. Just as Chuck was managing to get air behind his yowl E.S. slammed his fist into the already broken rib. Chuck’s agonizing scream broke off, catching in his throat. His eyes fluttered before his head hit the floor. E.S. prepared himself, the next stab would wake Chuck faster than the first.

He aligned the sharp tip and pushed. Just as the hook broke the skin he gave Chuck another jab in the ribs. Chuck’s eyes bulged in their sockets, the veins in his neck stood flared out like thick tree roots, but he didn’t make a sound, apart from his head hitting the floor again.

The pain was always too much for the body at first. E.S. made sure to drain the body of all its natural analgesics before getting to the point. He kneeled down, placing his fingers next to Chuck’s jugular. Minutes he thought, based on his rapid breathing and quick pulse he would be awake in minutes.

He stepped over the blood pooling on the floor and walked over to a yellow box on the wall. This was it, this was his version of a syringe full of brown liquid gently prodding at his skin. The electric hum of the engine filled the room as he pushed in the green button. The clink clank of chain links falling succinctly into the metal teeth of the pulley was just as pleasurable now as it was when he first installed the wench four years ago.

The screams erupting from Chuck’s slowly rising body reverberated off the metal frame walls in a horrific symphony. To E.S. the sound was as cathartic as sitting on the beach listening to the waves break over the gritless pebbles of sand. He closed his eyes, allowing himself a brief second to drink in the moment before walking over to Chuck and punching him in the throat.

Chuck choked against E.S’s knuckles. He swung his head around like a man just gone temporarily blind by a traumatic brain injury. His tongue limped out of his mouth and flopped like a dead fish. E.S. rolled his eyes, some people were dramatic no matter what the setting, Chuck was quite obviously one of them.

He would piss his pants within the next fifteen minutes. E.S. appreciated the irony, he was about to see what Chuck was like beneath his skin, both figuratively and literally.

He leaned over the wood bench inspecting the guitar string held taught between two grips. The red and black wire connected to either end were fastened securely, only one thing left to do before he could start sculpting. He flipped the electronic bypass switch, he imagined what the electricity looked like as it past through the wire heating it instantly. A stray strand of his hair sizzled momentarily as it split over the hot string. Perfect he thought useful, clean… he had many other words but lost them in the perfect simplicity of the tool before him.

There was no need to wait any longer, the wire was hot enough to cut through flesh just seconds after the battery had been turned on, but that wasn’t why he stopped. Something wasn’t quite right, he circled Chuck, as an artist looking at his canvas for the first time, deciding between horizontal, vertical or otherwise.

He squinted and spun, looking at Chuck from varying angles before walking back to his bench and pushing the green button in again. Chuck’s scream sounded more masculine as his body lifted further off the ground, his toes barely scrapped at the floor.


It wasn’t the first time he had fillet flesh. He was used to seeing the bloodied, mangled pieces of skin lying on the floor or hanging from bodies. This was different. For a moment he found himself at a loss, almost confused.

Slim slices of Chucks flesh, all of them elliptical in some way and still pink, lay heavy on the floor, denser, more pristine than before. Even Chuck looked different’ his flesh, which days before was round and untouched, was now square and angular. His body hung from the chains like a wax figure frozen in still life. He was glad he had decided to use the I.V., he was certain Chuck would’ve died if he hadn’t.

Peculiarly, Chuck had stopped screaming after the first day. E.S. couldn’t put his finger on it, nobody stopped screaming that soon, especially someone as cowardice as Chuck had been in the beginning.

The wire worked perfectly, better, actually, than he had anticipated. It hit Chuck’s skin the way butter hit a red-hot skillet; like a magic trick, smoke appeared out of nowhere, filling the space in front of him with thick white plumes. E.S. looked longingly at Chuck’s face, anticipating a raucous scream, instead he only winced with wide eyes; as if he had simultaneously been jolted with the combination of a heavy dose of caffeine and the simple prick of a needle.

E.S. was transfixed, as fascinated as an art history professor in the Louvre. It made perfect sense, the human body at work, in its most pure purpose, preservation. The white hot wire seared off the nerve endings and cauterized the wound; not a single drop of blood spilled, and the pain lasting only long enough to travel sharply up his spin before breaking off into a numb vibration that filled his body.

Not even the smoke alarmed Chuck at first. He was still disoriented from the hooks, for the first several cuts all he noticed were the wounds in his wrists. He begged E.S. to put him down, E.S. only returned his questioning glance with one of his one. It was only when he moved up from Chuck’s legs to his flank and abdomen that he began to really scream. Until that moment he hadn’t realized that the smell of barbequed meat was actually the smell of his own muscle and tissue separating from his body.

There was nothing that he could say, no key to escaping alive, no utterance that would touch E.S. enough for him to find a humanity that the rest of the world shared. E.S.’s frustrations were not shared by anyone else. He was tormented by joy and happiness, it was only suffering that consoled him. He would continue to feed his demon by thieving the joy from everyone he saw fit.

Three weeks he had Chuck hanging from chains. He was weak now, over half of his muscle mass had been stripped away from him, the other half atrophied. E.S. removed both of his thumbs with leather tourniquets and a hand wench; fitting for a man who’s hands rooted him to his shame.

Chuck only saw darkness and light now; E.S. placed fish hooks into his eye lids and strung the line over Chucks head and into his back with larger hooks , then he used an acetylene tourch less than ten inches from Chuck’s face.

It was possibly the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Looking at Chuck’s face through the tinted glass as every muscle flexed made him look almost ethereal, it was only then that E.S. believed Chuck had truly changed. He cried tears of blood for three days, never making any distinguishable sound apart from a dog’s whimper.

Fearing death was near, creeping about the rooming waiting for the opportune moment to latch on to Chuck, E.S. decided it was time to let him go. The hooks slid out easier than he anticipated; Chuck’s flesh had weakened and stretched over the weeks, and he didn’t put up a fight. He didn’t have enough life left in him.

Chuck was light enough now to be carried out. E.S. placed him in the trunk of the Volvo, bound his hands and ankles with zip ties and went back into the shack. It was cleaner than usual, E.S. smiled; he felt content. He held his hand in front of him, parallel with the floor, not a single tremor rushed through him. The only mess to clean up was the blood from the thumbs; he had done his best to cut off the blood flow to Chuck’s hands, but the second the skin and bone separated there was nothing he could do. Still, he wasn’t bothered.

The room looked different, seasoned, professional. E.S. smiled once more as he turned off the lights and walked outside. The drive back was just as pleasurable as the drive there. E.S. wondered what would happen if he turned on the radio. He didn’t. He wasn’t interested. In truth if he had turned on the radio he wouldn’t have heard anything.

While Chuck was gone, as his wife began to wonder, she visited his office. He hadn’t been there for over a day by then and the suspicion that rose wasn’t one of abduction, rather everyone seemed to believe Chuck had indulged in some secret desire, or even life that he had been building.

The suspicion was only confirmed when his wife searched through and old trench coat Chuck had told her he lost months earlier. A large blood stain covered the bottom length of cloth, where his coat would have covered his groin, and in the pocket she found a “Five Alarm Strip and Tease” admission ticket torn down the middle, with a hand printed phone number on the back. Just as soon as her search had started it ended. The next day the locks where changed.

E.S. turned into the parking garage and pulled into the same parking space he had left from three weeks earlier. Chuck hadn’t made a noise for the entire trip. E.S. would have been concerned if he hadn’t heard the slow, shallow breathes. He put the car in park, slide the seat as far back as it would go, and took one final look back. It wasn’t joy he felt as he looked at the tattered body behind him. He didn’t loom, instead he took in his last glance, and stepped out of the car, leaving the keys in the ignition with the engine running.

The sound of his footfall on the concrete brought him back to reality. He was nothing more than another man, just another nobody in the great expanse of the world. The sun was shining as he stepped outside, he felt the tremble begin to rise in his chest as the same uneasiness stirred inside him. He shook his head, disquieted by the already reemerging anxiety. He aimlessly surveyed the streets around him while readying himself to bear down again. That’s when he saw her, a young girl, no older than twenty five, walking down the street, clutching a handful of books, her eyes never leaving the sidewalk.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dan Mead - Excerpt - Ryan J. Van Seters

She barely noticed the demon’s careening on the second floor. If she had remembered she would have taken the elevator – they were there too sometimes, depending on who was riding the lift, but apartment 2B, apartment 2B was always swarming with them.

They scared her at first. Teeming around. their emaciated bodies crepitating on broken bones, blacker than darkness itself and all the more menacing. Their heads rolled around drunkenly, swaying as if severed at the crown of the spin. She wrote in her journal that it seemed appropriate for them to have a broken neck, the first vertebrae was named atlas, after the Greek myth of Atlas, the man who’s punishment was to hold up the world, and here, these fallen creatures, these spawn of hell where a collection of broken atlas’s, relegated to the innards of the earth rather than its crown.

They clung to the doorway, slid and slithered through cracks, walls, and ceilings. They never noticed her, thought they did notice everyone else. They approached some people the way cat’s do, slinking around, sniffing almost, pulling at their skin, even tearing off small pieces only to smell them and throw them on the ground. No one ever noticed, as soon as the demons jumped off their bodies their skin returned, as if it had never been touched. Then there was 2B, they were always at the door, sometimes more agitated than others. One thing was certain, Heston was right, and she was happy he was, they never saw her, though, at times, it seemed as if they smelled her; she did, in some way, have an effect on them, the essence of that effect she wasn’t certain.

The thought of knocking on the door of 2B had crossed her mind, but never more than that. She didn’t feel the need to intercede, she wasn’t even certain that she could help. She could see them, they couldn’t see her, she was a witness to something horrific, but whatever that horrific thing was she wasn’t sure, and she wasn’t in a hurry to find out.

She stepped over the writhing creatures, the wood floor creaked under her step as if it too was aware of the pressing darkness. The air chilled around her as she passed them, not the normal crisp breath of winter but a shallow, almost airless cold more likely to chill spine than skin.

The most unpleasant thing about being near a demon was the feeling of emptiness, being near them, their exhausting vacuity sullied any sense of hope or joy. It took the emotional equivalent of redlining an engine just to get the torque to pull away; the lure was as sickly and powerful as a heroin junkie in the bottom of a abysmal squat house.

Rounding the corner, as the heat slowly began to build in her chest, she saw him. Even outside the cathedral his presence was domineering, almost epic despite his small stature. There was something very different, something radiant, she felt drawn to him, the same allure that touted her toward the darkness was reversed now, pulling her nearer him.

“Heston…what are you…”

“WAIT!” Heston held up a finger and pushed past her. A blazing heat rushed through her as his hand brushed against her skin. He moved lithely, more enabled than he was just weeks earlier. Just as he lunged forward so did her vision; the space around her leaned out as if laying itself out on a canvas. Her reactions stayed the same but the world slowed immeasurably.

Heston’s gaze was transfixed, his eyes lustrous blue and nearly smoking. The change around her was nothing compared to the change in Heston. He appeared surreal and fierce. A determination burned in his eyes.

She turned to see the tar black demons spilling forward in ranks, rolling over each other like tumultuous waves fulminating into a continually moving barrier of black silt and ash. Heston reeled one arm back in a striking pose, his silk robe slipped from under his coat; even his skin trembled with light as if his flesh were the trembling surface of champagne. Heston lunged forward thrashing at the hoard in quick violent burst. Mary's eyes focused in on a thick black and gold crucifix in Heston's hand.

Her throat clenched as half the black mass erupted into a column of demonic figures climbing over each other and slashing tenaciously. Heston’s swing fell short. His body, following his fist, crashed into the doorway.

The hoard took no time to react, they descended onto the priests body like raining razorblade; dozens of sliver sharp nails thrashed violently at Heston’s flesh. Each furious pummel collided against the blue haze surrounding Heston’s body like flint against steel, sparks issued fissures of fire funneling in cyclones of tumultuous black and blue smoke.

As Heston reached for his cross the other half of the mass surrounded him, he shielded his face with the gold trim crucifix as each demonic figure vaulted in on him. Heston thrashed back, his face a mix of terror and panic; different now from how he looked when he charged the thick web of slick black creatures. They clung to his arms, no matter how hard he threw, thrashed, or shook they only held on more veraciously. Those that still had intact jaws clenched them around his body, not sparing a single inch; they clung to his feet, cinched onto his neck, and hands.

Their speed was terrifying, they disarmed Heston immediately. Mary was certain her vision must have returned to normal, nothing else would explain the fleetness with which the Demons struck. A thought broke into her mind; despite seeing Heston being slaughtered in front of her he hadn’t made a sound louder than grunt.

She stared into the swirling black hurricane, glimpses of Heston's face flashed behind the onslaught. He touting his cross like a double-edged sword. Something in his face was changing. Heat billowed forward covering her face like a blanket. Heston’s skin turned even more resplendent, the blue haze thickened, it rolled over the black soot and slag as if engaging in a battle of its own.

Heston’s words filled the room; Mary didn’t speak the language but she knew immediately that it was Latin. His voice enveloped the room harmoniously, trebling like a wind chime. The words were smooth as porcelain, ringing out like crystal strands of silk rubbing together.

His face became obscure against the undulating light emanating from his skin. The sickly smell of tar and sulfur slipped under the pungent aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon. His words came faster, likewise the light pulsed quicker. His pupils disappeared behind an opaque azure as the words left his lips in faint whisking whispers. The Demons kept rolling over him, though now the blue haze had pushed them out of reach; still they slashed behind the barrier of light that shoved them back.

As he drew in a deep breath the shimmering smoke around him retreated into his lugs. He closed his eyes as the swell of Demons lurched back to fall on him with all the force their tattered wings could muster. Mary hardly noticed she was holding her breath when a single word slipped through the paper-thin crease of Heston’s lips.

Her hair flew backwards. Blinding light erupted from Heston’s body with the force of a large explosion. Her hair cracked as razor thin bolts of electricity flashed across the room in brilliant blue light; the walls looked like shattered glass as the pulse of energy rushed through them; it jumped from the ground and ceiling into the chard skin of the Demons, popping and crackling like a down electrical wire. The cacophony shrieks of the Demons rang out for a fraction of a second before choking off under the electric heat. Mary’s hands went numb. Each Demon splintered into thousands of frayed threads burning in mid air. The room went dark; all but an amber hue burned momentarily in the void.

A static charge hung in the air. The dull, pale, glow of 60 watt light bulbs slowly spread across the hallway. Small scintillating electric blue orbs fell around them, each hanging weightlessly in midair like the minuscule white florets of a dandelion; one landed on Mary’s check, her skin blushed as the tiny orb disintegrated over her skin like a sugar cube over a flame. She gasped. Her body was stunned, as if mistaking the flash of light as a call for resignation; her lungs had forgotten to breath.

Heston’s body lay listless in front of her. The wood planks around him darkened with humidity, his hair near dripping wet. Mary didn’t dare move, she stared at him, lying against the door of 2B, an intricate crucifix lay next to him broken in three piece. Heston peered up obscurely. The thin layer of opaque azure still covered his eyes. He brought his hand up to his heaving chest, fishing through his coat and silk tunic until he produced a small, rather simple, cross. The true blue color returned to his eyes as he fixed them on Mary.

He sighed and stared. Despite her lack of breathing Mary’s heart beat steadily and slowly. Heston looked her in the eyes, a smirk spread across his face. Mary clutched her chest as her heart finally pounded away appropriately; a cool rush of elation spilled down her spine and out to her already numb finger-tips.

It wasn’t amorousness she felt, or the exhilaration of surviving death; she hadn’t felt that her life was ever in danger, only that she was surrounded by lifelessness. This wasn’t anything more than kinship, the simple joy of being near a dear and trusted friend. Despite her only having meet Heston’s once before, she felt connected. Judging by the look of thankfulness on Heston’s face he felt the same way.

She walked slowly toward him, watching her steps half expecting the crunching sounds of broken glass or splintered wood; the only sound she heard was the heaving rhythm of Heston’s deep breaths and the click of her hells tapping along the floorboard.

“Mary.” Heston said with a smile.

“Heston.” She lifted her eyebrows and squatted down. “What brings you to my
part of town?” Her lips pursed into a playful grin.

Ryan J. Van Seters