short story

The Trumpet Player

     It had been almost three months since we had said goodbye. There was crying and raging and my favourite vase got smashed. The nice blue one my mother gave me just before she died. It had all been too much. The late night jam sessions fuelled by booze that brought a black clouded mass to our white washed apartment. The filthy dishes piled up in the sink, the overflowing ashtrays, the empty syringes. You had me so trapped with those addictive poetic mumbles that spurt out your mouth into mine before travelling down to settle in my heart.

     Farewells are rarely forever and your sugar-laced voice still holds me tightly against the wall, your fingertips remain gently entwined around my wrists. “Just one more time” you promise me.

     Saturday night comes around quickly and I make my way downtown. The last glimpses of sun highlight the sky various shades of orange. I slip through a crack in the doorway and wander down the cement smeared corridor entering the dark intensity of the club. The walls are painted smoky shades and people are already seated three feet from the red and blue illuminated stage. The tables are small and candle lit. The naked flames dance away in the reflection of my eyes. I drink down the cool, clear sparkle of my vodka tonic in silent anticipation for all the players to take their places.

     It takes two shots of whisky and a flat, foreign beer before finally the trumpet player arrives. Slowly and gingerly, three men leave their drinks at the bar and make their quiet way to the platform. Each one is about forty and dressed in a bohemian array of old suede sneakers, faded black jeans and corduroy. They all have a fine shadow of stubble and their hair generously licked with grey. The trumpet player lifts himself up from his chair and stalks his way over to join the other musicians, a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Once positioned, he unwraps his instrument from her velvet shroud and runs his fingertips along her thin neck. Wetting his lips in anticipation, he tips his face towards the sky. Cautiously he begins to weave his humming breath and the crowd is suddenly charmed like cobras with taunting bursts of sharp melody. The kaleidoscopic judder hits the ceiling, fractures and scatters down greedily consumed.

     The supercharged drummer taps away furiously. An exotic explosion of tribal Moroccan beats reverberates around the room, moving bodies in seats and feet in empty spaces. Every now and then during one of these solo confessions the trumpet player crouches down on one knee. Cradling his instrument like a lover in his arms he looks down at her with a glimmer of contempt while nodding his head to the strong, bird wing flutter of the bongo drums. He takes a quick sip of a pink alcoholic mess of a drink and wipes sweat from his heavy brow. His glassy eyes flash a cold razorblade gaze through the soft naked flesh in front of him. This executioner raises his brass seductress back to his lips and breathes into her, bringing the world back to life. In the planned chaos, a complex fusion of deliberate composition and improvised verset resounds through the crowded floor space embedding dynamic vibrations in every open ear. An exquisite clamour in the lust speckled, spirit soaked room.

     When it is all over I am left supercharged, my body enticed, my blood churned. Then suddenly you are there surrounding me. Your sweet, electrifying touch envelops me and claws away at my senses. “Just this one more time” you whisper in my ear. We stumble out into the hazy night, sensually infused and ride in the back of the taxi seated like anxious lovers. Back in my den my blonde mistress prepares herself. She is eager and warm and ready to penetrate. The silver spoon already discarded I press the needle tip into my arm and I admire the way the light dances in her amber coloured tears. I slowly inject the yellow junk into my vein before leaning down and picking up my trumpet. As that familiar rush surges through me I place you gently against my lips and begin to play our song, one last time.


Hell Hath

     “You are lucky to be alive”, the nurse told her.

     “Can you describe him?” Asked the policeman.

     “Describe who?” The woman asked.

     “The intruder. The person who attacked you.”

     Had she said that? Had she really said there had been an intruder? The woman could barely move on the hospital gurney. The stitches pulled with each breath and she was thirsty. She watched news reports about a young woman who had been attacked in the kitchen of her home and was now recovering in hospital. She didn’t realise at first they were talking about her. Her work colleagues sent her flowers and her mother visited every day. He came too of course with false sincerity and crocodile tears in his eyes. Not for a second did she doubt that after he left each night he went to ‘her’. He and his slut were free to roll around on the 1200 count Egyptian cotton sheets all night if they wished, now that she was conveniently confined to a hospital bed.

     It took a little while for her to realise that the physical description she had given of the intruder matched her husband perfectly. The police noticed it sooner. When they questioned him he denied it of course but then she played them the voice message from his whore telling her was a terrible wife and that she should “just drop dead”. She had her phone in her hand when the maid found her outstretched in a pool of blood on the marble kitchen floor. Her husband turned up much later at the hospital with no alibi. Naturally his fingerprints were all over the knife. It was the one he used to cut up meat when they had barbecues. She didn’t exactly say he had tried to kill her but for some reason any effort to protest his innocence refused to push past her lips.

     The lawyer told her it was an open shut case. They were even considering a charge against his bitch for conspiracy. Of course she didn’t tell anyone the stab wound was self-inflicted. That she had listened to the voice message, walked calmly into the kitchen and grabbed the knife. She had fully intended to bury the cold steel blade deep into her heart but filled with misery the poor organ must have retreated to the size an acorn. When she plunged the sharp edge into her chest she missed her heart completely. A full recovery was expected. With the attempted murder charge against her husband, she was sure she would get to keep the house. She made a mental note to burn the sheets.


The Snap

The bathroom door slammed shut.
     What am I going to do?
     Sandra pleaded at herself in the mirror. Her lips were twisted tightly together, her face a stark white, her eyes frightened and wild looking. She was shocked for a moment by the unfamiliarity of her own reflection. Then she noticed she was naked. She didn’t have her towel anymore having dropped it in the bedroom when that thing had leapt at her. Sandra felt a deep uneasiness. She felt vulnerable and self conscious. She wished desperately she had brought her pyjamas into the bathroom so she had something to wear. Anything to put a barrier between herself and that thing. The dirty sock hamper offered no solution. Neither did the soaking wet bathmat.
     The hand towel? There was no point.
     Sandra shrieked as something violently struck against the bathroom door.
     Jesus! Find something to defend yourself!
     Sandra’s eyes raced around the small, windowless, square bathroom but there was nothing. Turning towards the mirror again she opened the doors of the medicine cabinet. Rummaging through it she desperately searched for some kind of weapon. She found a cardboard nail file, tweezers, cotton balls, lipstick, roll on deodorant.
     Nail scissors or safety razor?
     Neither offered any real protection but Sandra grabbed the three inch nail scissors.
     Sandra jumped and with scissors in hand she backed away from the door.
     It hit even harder that time. The door jumped on its hinges and suddenly seemed very flimsy and useless.
     God! It’s going to get in!
     Sandra tried to control her breathing but her panic was building up to hysteria.
     It’s going to get me!
     In the few seconds she had seen it Sandra knew that thing meant her harm. Real, actual harm. She didn’t just sense it. She knew it. Knew it wanted to hurt her. Make her bleed. Slowly shred her flesh and play in her blood. Her mind screamed at her to think of something.
     The small lock jutted open.
     Sandra grabbed the lock and swiftly threw it back in place.
     It’s going to get in! I need a plan! What should I do? Hide behind the door and when it opens I can throw the shower curtain over it and stab it? Yeah right. These scissors barely cut my nails! Besides I’m not going anywhere near that thing!
     Sandra stepped out of the shower and wrapped the blue towel around her midsection. Wiping the steam from the fogged up mirror she had briefly admired her reflection. Barely thirty, she could easily pass for twenty five with her clear skin, full lips and big blue eyes. She picked up her plastic comb and ran it through her long blonde hair.
     Sandra cocked her head to the side.
     “Mike?” she called.
     All she heard was silence. It was a little early for her boyfriend to be home. His shift at the hospital didn’t usually end until midnight and it was only just after eleven. Sandra listened. All she heard was a strange scraping followed by a hiss and a snapping sound.
     “Mike?” Sandra called louder this time.
     There was no reply.
     Damn it.
     Sandra would never admit it but she hated being in the apartment alone every night. Ever since they had moved to the three story brown brick two months ago, she always felt a little creeped out.
     This time Sandra jumped. Throwing the comb into the sink she looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were wide for a moment and then she smirked.
     You’re such a chicken shit.
     Sandra spun around and confidently opened the bathroom door. Without another thought she stepped across the hall and into her bedroom. The room was illuminated by the streetlamps outside.
     Didn’t I leave the light on?
     The curtains were drawn back. Sandra thought for a second that the window was open ever so slightly. Something moving in the room caught her eye. Something faced away and bent over in the corner. For a moment she thought it was Mike playing a prank. Instead that thing, crouching on all fours, slowly turned around and started creeping its way towards her. It’s back hunched up awkwardly it sort of resembled a man. An oddly deformed man with a slick, pale body that was too thin. The face was half covered by stringy twine-like hair. The yellow glowing slits of its eyes completely unhuman. The pine needle like teeth suddenly stretched out unnaturally in a demented grin. The long talon claws made a scraping sound across the floorboards. She saw it preparing. She heard it hiss and flinched at the loud snap of its jaws. She saw it had an erection. When it leapt at her Sandra was sure she saw it. That terrifying, revolting thing had an erection. As it pounced Sandra lunged backwards instinctively and found herself back in the bathroom where she quickly slammed the door.
     The memory made Sandra’s whole body shudder.
     She screamed and saw the door jump again but somehow it held shut. A hiss came from the other side and then silence. Sandra strained to hear. Nothing.
     Sandra stood for a second listening but all she could hear was her own rasping breath and the pounding of her heart. Sandra’s ears were still straining when her eyes wandered up the bathroom wall and came to rest on the air conditioning vent above. It was more of a manhole actually. Man sized.
     It would fit! It could get in!
     Panic flew through her like an electric shock. A scream curled up out of her chest but refused to push its way past her lips. It sat in her throat choking her.
     FUCK! What do I do? Should I run for it? What if it was waiting? Should I stay here? What if it was coming?
     A loud scraping sound came from the vent above her. Sandra gasped. She tore open the bathroom door and bolted. Just in time to feel something tug at her hair. She felt the tension. Heard the hair audibly rip out of her head and then heard the SNAP! She cried out at the pain but didn’t dare stop. Sandra sprinted through her apartment and flung open her front door, slamming it hard behind her. Naked and hysterical she ran down the hallway.
     It’s behind me!
     She was sure of it. Almost tripping Sandra scrambled down the three flights of stairs and only stopped when she reached the front door of the building. Sandra’s wet body slapped hard against the glass.
     Where am I going? Should I run out naked into the street?
     The whole block was security apartment buildings. She wouldn’t even be able to get into a lobby. Her hand let go of the silver door knob and she spun herself around bracing her back up against the door. There was nothing there.
     Maybe it didn’t follow me. Maybe it’s still in the apartment? I shut the door didn’t I? Maybe it’s trapped.
     High above her Sandra heard an apartment door close. Whimpering, her breathing was unnaturally fast. The light in the entrance hall was dim. The globes were set on power save at night. She looked hard towards the staircase. For nearly a minute she didn’t blink. Her eyes stung as she searched the darkness for any movement. Nothing. Dragging her eyes away she scanned the foyer. She could make out the stairway she’d come down, the pattern of the tiles and the door just beyond the stairs.
     Mr Janz! He was always home!
     The building manager was a fit and sturdy sixty year old widower. Handy with a hammer. Sandra tried to inch her way towards his apartment but she felt paralysed. Her bare feet were firmly stuck in place and she couldn’t move. Her back was pressed so hard against the door that her skin was stinging. She wondered for a moment what she must look like from the other side, her wet bare buttocks pressed against the glass. Willing herself Sandra slowly peeled her back from the door and began inching her way along the wall. The wall was covered in course concrete that gravel-rashed her skin. Terrified, she kept staring up into the stairwell. Blackness filled the space at the top. She couldn’t tear her eyes away but she kept moving. She had made it halfway when she heard a sound on the wooden stairs above. The unmistakable scraping of claws. She was sure she heard its jaws snapping. Sandra ran and crashed so hard against Mr Janz’s door she was surprised she didn’t go right through it. Desperately she pounded on the wooden surface.
     “Mr Janz!” she frantically screamed. “Please let me in! Mr Janz! PLEASE!”
     Sandra tried to turn the knob.
     “Mr Janz!”
     Suddenly the door gave way and she fell forward landing with a hard smack on the floor in front of her. Her whole body aching and the wind knocked out of her Sandra struggled to her feet. Slamming the door behind her she latched the safety chain. She spun around quickly and tried to locate Mr Janz.
     Did he let me in?
     She peered into the darkness of the apartment.
     “Mr Janz?” she whispered. “Mr Janz?”
     Where is he?
     She couldn’t make out very much around her. The only real light source seemed to be coming from a room directly in front of her. Down the hall and off to the right.
     Is that the bedroom?
     She imagined the layout was the same as her apartment. Her eyes adjusted slightly to the dark and she could now make out a little more clearly a gap in the bedroom door with a vertical beam of light shining out. Carefully Sandra made her way towards the light source. As she moved she listened intently for any sounds of movement especially from behind her. When she reached the half open door she heard only her own breathing and her heart threatening to bust out of her chest.
     Mr Janz?
     She wanted to whisper but the words wouldn’t form in her dry mouth. She slowly pushed the door open the whole way and saw a lamp on the floor near the outline of a bed. Sandra’s hand searched the wall for the light switch but all she felt was smooth painted plaster. The rest of the room was dark. The curtains must have been closed. Crouching low, Sandra crept over to the lamp. Picking it up she rested it on the nightstand where it illuminated half the room. Half of the bed. Half of Mr Janz. His broken, torn up, naked body lay in two pieces on the bloodied sheets. His intestines trailed out of his stomach cavity onto the floor. Both they and his face looked chewed on. One dead, blank eye stared up at her. The other eye was missing. Sandra stumbled backwards into the hallway, a scream about to escape her lips when she heard the scraping of claws. She heard the loud SNAP! Only this time she felt the teeth biting down and penetrating the flesh of her neck.

Original published by Death Head Grin, Anthology of Horror 1.