The Un-End

It started out like any other day – a lot of stories do. I was walking my dog, Patsy, at the usual time in the usual place. But there was something distinctly unusual about the air. It was cooler than the average autumn morning (if you can really call it morning when the sun has barely yet committed to rising). More to the point though, the air was heavy, as if it should have been thick with fog or humidity. Instead, it just seemed to weigh on Patsy and me.

After urinating on her favourite tree, Patsy bellowed a deep gurgled cry and began digging. Any other day I’d have left her to it, anxious to see what all the fuss was about. But not that day. On that particular morning, the cumbrous chill was burying itself in my pores and nesting an uneasiness all through me. I felt uncomfortable; irritated. I tugged on her fraying leash to hurry her along and had half a mind to bark back when she vocally resisted. I crouched down and plucked her off the soft grass, wetted by the fresh morning dew. She struggled to free herself from my grip – and that’s when I saw it. Her paws were caked with blood. I know you see that sort of thing in the movies all the time, but somehow I hadn’t been prepared for the absoluteness of having a stranger’s viscous, rancid, heart-juice pawed onto my chest.

So that’s the story of how Patsy found poor Bailey Marcus; a plain-jane, straight B student majoring in nothing, holding no special achievements with which to mark her gravestone. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but it’s true, and I’m sure she knew it. What the unremarkable Bailey could not have known on the night that she got done in, though, was that she was finally about to have a profound effect on someone’s life – mine.

See, it was right about then (the moment with the viscera and the barking) that I started obsessing about Bailey. Her blood was on me, and it doesn’t get much more weirdly intimate than that. I felt like I owed it to both of us to seal that bond. The problem, of course, is figuring out how one goes about sealing a bond with a dead girl. Thinking about it made my head blur and swirl, the way cream does when it hits the dark abyss of coffee in a black mug. Spinning in circles seemed appropriate, though, since I had no starting point and no idea what the end point would be.

After the police questioning, the bagging and tagging, and the four hour diner shift that managed to feel like 16 rather than the typical 8, I headed home intending to crash land on my bed. During the walk I let my head blur and swirl as it pleased until I looked up and realized I was no where near my bed. I’d wound up at the university. It was as if I had been drawn to it by a magnetic force. At the scene of the crime, I had overheard the detectives going through Bailey’s wallet. It’s how I had learned her name, and that she was a student. I guess I was curious. I never applied to university; never stepped foot on a campus until then, which seemed as good a time as ever. As did the next day, and the day after that. I had no idea what I was looking for, or what I was getting out of the experience; but somehow walking those same grounds that Bailey had walked brought me peace of mind. It felt natural; right, even. I hadn’t considered how strange it might be until a detective questioning some of her classmates noticed me.

October was just closing in and the air was dry and rough against the skin. I was sitting on a rock in front of the entrance to the Film Studies department. I suppose it looked as though I was people-watching, but really I was just in my own head. I had recently taken to making up stories about Bailey that would take place wherever I happened to be on campus. On this particular occasion, I was imagining she had sat on this very rock skipping class, reading The Bell Jar, when a fire alarm hurried everyone outside. She would have dropped her book in the crowd and had to crawl over people’s feet to find it. I’m not sure where that story was going, because it was abruptly interrupted by a stern man looming over me, his badge catching the only bit of sunlight peeking through the dense mid-morning clouds.

He obviously had no leads on Bailey’s murder yet, and asked me why I was sitting outside of her World Cinema class, and whom I was waiting for. I explained that I had no idea that it would have been one of Bailey’s classes, and that I just liked the scenery there. His inquisitive nature led to a few more questions, to which I gave snarky remarks. But when he left, my heart began to pound. I had managed to find Bailey, a real piece of her. World Cinema.

That day, I sat in on a lecture about the ephemeral nature of Italian Neorealism; how it has no beginning, and no end. How it is independent of rules, of law, and of death. The room was surprisingly warm for its size. With an amphitheatre structure, it was easy to just become another face in the crowd – Bailey’s, even. So as the days grew colder, and shorter, I was comforted by following the day-to-day of Bailey (or what I had created of her, anyways). And then it happened. It always happens when you least expect it, I guess. Death.

I was walking home from an evening lecture on Gothic Architecture (I had branched out my stolen studies), when I caught a glimpse of a shadow behind me. You always like to think that when it happens, you’ll do all the right things, and put shame to those scream queens on the silver screen. But you don’t. He came upon me with such force, such intent, I almost admired his gumption. I fought back of course, but it didn’t matter. Seeing his face became immeasurably important. I snatched off his hood, and pulled down the scarf. Lyle Jones. An obnoxiously well-spoken front-row student in Bailey’s World Cinema class. He’d been eyeing me, but not in a way that put me on edge. Actually, it was flattering. When he looked at me, it was as if a familiarity shot between us. But now, there was nothing between us except blood.

And that’s when I realized it. The story was never about Patsy finding Bailey, or my obsession with Bailey – hell, it wasn’t even about me. All along it’s been about this guy; Bailey’s killer. And now, I won’t get to see how it ends.

 © Shyla Fairfax-Owen

The Morning After

The sound of his heaving envelops you; your heart rate syncs itself to the chase. At some point you start to pant and realize your sweating – slippery, sticky, terrified. Your legs go numb. Your thoughts start to jumble. You try to plan your next move and the one after that. The only signal your brain seems to compute anymore is GO.

So you go. It’s all instinct, now. You go, go, go. You know you can’t keep going, and yet – you do. There’s a desire you never knew you had; a desire so strong it fuels you when you have nothing left to give. It’s the desire to live.

He catches your arm and in an instant it might be all over. Might be – but it’s not. Because you drive the knife right through him. And the skin is tougher than you imagined; everything under it, softer. Physically, it’s a difficult thing to do, but you do it. He drops. The blood seeps out of him and crawls towards you; disappears under your feet and surrounds you.

You did it. You survived. Now what?

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Walter practiced smiling sheepishly in the mirror, but it was useless. When he bared those sharp, inhuman, canines, his smile became a snarl; he became a threat. Everything about him from his piercing yellow eyes to his thick, tool-like, toenails screamed villain. There was no house of straw, or stick, or even brick that he couldn’t be accused of blowing down. No three innocents they wouldn’t have him hanged for killing. No creature in all the lands that wouldn’t hear his tale and cringe. Except, of course, Gale. He had to get to Gale. A man of his size, temper, and smarts would not turn Walter away – he hoped.

In Gale’s dimly lit office, crowded with antiques from far and wide, Walter sat as still as any of the statues that lined the walls. He could feel his chest anxiously heaving. Gale stood against his own desk, looking down on Walter – analyzing every last bit of him. His eyes narrowed, head slightly tilted; the intensity thickened the air.

“You’re a monster, Walter. Why should I take your case?”

Walter felt his left eye twitch at the insult.

“They made me a monster, sir.”

“And the three dead cops? Who do you suppose took them out, if not you?” Gale was lighting a cigarette now, the glowing ember directed right at Walter – a target.

Feeling a rage building in his tightening chest, Walter’s low voice slowly turned to a growl. “They came at me. I – Self-defence. We still allow that in this tyranny. Don’t we?”

Gale and Walter’s eyes met and locked into a hardened standoff.

“And the girl? Val,” Gale finally asked, not breaking his stare – not even for a blink.

Walter leapt to his feet and in one quick stride was overtop of Gale, breathing so wildly the ember began to flicker. The edge of the desk was digging into the small of Gale’s back now, but still, he didn’t blink. Slowly, he brought the cigarette back to his lips and sucked hard, reigniting its power.

Walter shook his head violently, as if to release his anger. He moved an inch or two back, and huffed.

“I loved her,” he finally said. “And she me.”

With the silence hanging heavy over them, Walter collapsed back into his chair, eyes torn away from Gale’s. He finished, “But – yes. I killed her.”

Tears pushed forcefully out of his eyelids, but he made no sound other than the heaving huffs of a madman. Gale watched patiently.

“She – She said she’d defend me. She said – she said she’d make them see what she saw.” After a long pause, Walter grunted. “I suppose that’s exactly what she did; let them see me as she saw me. Wild, dangerous, exotic. A monster. A monster she could call her own.”

Walter looked up after what seemed an eternity. The ember had gone out, and on the edge of the desk Gale now sat behind was a contract. Stunned, Walter looked up at Gale.

“I ask nothing of my clients but the truth. The truth can always be defended.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

 

Reflections

“Show me how to fight.”

Reese looked at Daria. There was a fire in her eyes that was beginning to match his own. In the short time that he had known this mysterious woman, he had seen her dark skin grow thicker and her demeanour grow rougher. He wouldn’t have described her as naive when they met, but he wouldn’t have imagined seeing her become this.

“You think you’re ready for that?”

“I don’t have a choice, Reese. Do I?”

After a long, dramatic pause, Reese clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth. “No. No you don’t.” He had seen what happened to people who didn’t learn how to fight; to people he let not learn how to fight.

She had been travelling for weeks. She was tired, worn down, skinny. It was painful to watch her try to muster the energy for a proper fight. If she was attacked alone, she was a goner. Reese tried not to let his fear for her show, but after the eighth time she hit the hard ground, he insisted they move on to target practice.

“Where’d you come from?” he asked as they loaded their guns. He had meant to ask a long time ago, but couldn’t.

Daria shrugged, avoiding eye contact. “A bit of everywhere, I guess.”

“And the sickness?” That’s what Reese really wanted to ask. He didn’t care where she grew up, where she came from, or where she was going. He just wanted to know if the sickness had spread; if it really was taking over the world.

“What about it?” she asked coldly as she raised her gun and aimed at her target: a dirty, broken bottle.

Reese shook his head. He could feel an angry heat rising in him. Why did she have to make everything so fucking difficult?

Daria shot. The bullet knocked over the bottle, shattering it from its centre.

“It’s everywhere,” she whispered, eyeing her handy work.

Reese wiped the sweat from his forehead. He used to burn in the sun, but after months of living nowhere, scrounging for food, killing to not be killed – he had adapted. When he caught his reflection now and again, it made his heart skip a little. It was unfamiliar, his tanned skin and hardened eyes. It was all so unfamiliar. He looked at Daria; her lips pursed as she re-loaded. He barely knew her, and yet he pitied her, knowing she too would soon enough jump at her own reflection.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

67 Days

April 2

“This is agent 445 to command. Agent 445 to command.”

“Static.”

“Ship is under siege. I repeat! Ship is under siege! Commander? Come in.”

“Static.”

May 4

“Agent 445 to command, reporting a crash landing. Agents 177 and 559 down. There’s… something… here. Soldiers – they helped me escape. They… they look just like us.”

May 17

“Soldiers from the planet they call Lux have taken me to water. I do not know my coordinates. I am told there are enemies everywhere. I do not know who to trust.”

June 8 

“…Hel-….. NO…  go of me… wha- wha-… ahhhh! Don’t look! Don’t look at it!… -ay back!…

Static.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

Song and Salacity

It had begun as a typical night.  There was a light howl in the wind, whispering desires through the air; a flutter to the crisp leaves that hung from the branches above, plotting their descent; a flap of wings, eager to dance to the sirens’ song.

Percie had just completed a tiresome novel by the fire.  The sun had just begun to set and she decided to ease her eyes by letting the night pour in.  She smothered the fire and breathed deeply, allowing the scent of char to wash through her.  In the kitchen, Percie prepared herself a cup of warm milk on the gas stove.  The crickets had begun their annoying symphony, but she knew her songstress’ would put an end to it soon.  Anything that bothered Percie was considered a threat in the eyes of her winged protectors.

As she sipped her milk, Percie gazed at the blackness outside of her back window.  It was not unusual for her to do this; it calmed her to affix her sights on something non-specific.  Otherwise, they grew weary, and she became utterly aware of her aching body.  But tonight, something felt different.  There was an eeriness about the night that seemed to be staring right back at her.  Believing it to mean her subconscious was warning her that she had forgotten to tend to her garden, Percie placed her cup down and reluctantly walked over to the sink.  The crickets had hushed and a low rhythmic humming was in the air now.  Her songstress’ had fed, but only a little.

Outside, she flitted about the garden, swiping her dainty fingertips against petals to check for dampness.  It did seem as though all of her plants had been watered, which all the more confused her.  Something was making her uneasy.  As her heart rate sped up, the humming grew louder.  Her songstress’ could sense her distress and were growing anxious by it.  She was happy to have their protection, but also needed to assure them that, for the moment, everything seemed alright.  If she did not, they may become undisciplined.  Temperamental as they were, she loved them.  She offered a reassuring whistle, lacing it with a familiar cadence that they returned before falling back to their quiet, watchful, humming.

Back inside, Percie let the rest of her milk flow down the drain.  She watched it spiral away, tickled by the image of disappearance, until she was jarred back to reality by a squawk so violently intrusive that she had to bring both hands to her ears.  Losing her balance, she fell over and cried out gently.

It was her songstress’; their worry and tension had suddenly turned to erratic vexation.

Percie scrabbled about until she was on all fours, simultaneously basking in the pain and trying to detach herself from it.  That was the thing about sirens, their pain was inviting. Even Percie, a keeper and beloved friend, was not immune.

The squawking continued to rise.  The pitch seemed impossible, and yet, there it was forcing its way into her.  The songstress’ had found a real threat.  Something terrible was out there.  Against her better instincts, Percie began the tedious task of crawling out to the garden.  For this, she had to rely upon her forearms and fingertips, for, her legs were incapacitated by the invasive song.  Her hair was in her eyes now, and she grunted in a high pitch, almost matching her songstress’ emphatic levels.

When she finally made it to the back door the squawking had begun to lull. Sensation tingled a return up Percie’s legs, making their throb more apparent.  Every muscle in her body screamed.  It was always like this when they fed – always.  Percie staggered through the gardens and around to the back of their tree.  She knew she would find them there, and she did.

As she came upon her protectors she squinted impotently through the dark, but their shadows were immediately apparent.  Three heads bobbed up and down excitedly.  Their song was now reduced to a croon, backed by a ruffle as their wings flapped with appeasement.

Although he made no sound, Percie could see their slender arms pulling and tugging at their victim.  A man who thought he could creep about, unnoticed – watching, lurking.  A man who thought he was a predator when in fact he was merely prey.

One feeder sensed Percie’s presence and rose from the earth, elongating her crouched legs.  Percie caught a glimpse of her bouncing breasts in the moonlight as she turned to face her.  She smiled graciously, knowing the songstress could see her well.  The other two continued to feast, though there could not have been much of the man left. The thrilling obscenity of the picture caused Percie’s heart to pound against her chest.

The standing songstress soon curled herself back to a perched position, guarding the others.  She let her wide bronze wings fold over one another so that only one eye would remain exposed.  Percie could not see this exactly, but knew the posture well enough to imagine it distinctly.  Drained from the ordeal, she let herself drop to the cold ground, and then lied flat against it.  All she felt now was an exhaustive satisfaction.

When the songstress’ had had their fill, they took flight over Percie’s amative body, offering a resuscitating breeze.  It was as welcomed as the bright moon.  Their eyes twinkled until they disappeared again into the treetops, while Percie slept deeply, and fully.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

(In)Satiable

Do you ever get that dream? You know, the one where the ground has melted into a thick sticky mess, dragging you beneath it. You keep falling, and you know you should scream, but you can’t. It’s almost like suffocating, but… lighter. Easier. Well, I get that one a lot.

I’m not going to bore you with the myriad of psychoses and upsets the dream reveals. Suffice it to say, I’m grappling with a lot. I don’t need some Freudian wannabe digging around in my head, disturbing the swarms of childhood traumas that I manage to keep fairly quiet. You see, that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that I never say no.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m overwhelmed at work, getting taken advantage of in the office and by friends. No, it’s nothing like that. The thing is – I have a gift. Around here, they used to call me the Angel of Mercy, but lately I’ve been hearing a little voice in my head that calls me the Angel of Death.

I can’t help it. I look into your eyes, and I see the truth. I see who you are – who you really are. I see what you’ve done. Sin. It makes us who we are. Therein lies the truth of a person. And I see it. All of it. And once I have – there’s no going back, no turning the other way. I tried to use my gift for good; to help people overcome their darkness. But the job was more than I could bear. So was the truth.

I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, that first kill. It was a mercy kill, you know. No one could live with the things this person had done. Afterwards, the burning sensation between my eyes eased, the heaviness in my chest evaporated, the anxiety – gone. That was the cure. To rid myself of the pain of truth, I had to rid the world of the evil causing it. For a while, everything was quiet. The voices had finally hushed and a calm had washed over me like warm sunlight on a cold winter morning. I knew I had done the right thing.

People came to me about their troubles. They came for my mercy and mercy for their loved ones. Soon I realized that everyone had a little evil in them. A little part of them that needed to be cut out, carved up, and buried. The numbers kept rising and that calm – well, that calm became the only thing in life I could look forward to. Before long, I needed it. And people need me. Mercy. Death. Whatever I am. I’m needed. I’ll admit though, I’m getting sick of that dream.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

Intuition

It started with nothing more than a quizzical glance from the girl next door on a stormy afternoon in September. It was the first time Jackson had seen her, and as he stared – as though marooned on a surreal planet made up of only her eyes – it occurred to him that her sudden appearance that day made perfect sense. If spring was a time of beginnings, it followed that fall would be the dawn of ends. She, he knew somehow, would be his death.

Noticing that he had mysteriously managed to grab her curiosity, if only for a second, Jackson decided to work up the confidence to approach her. He was not typically a shy guy, in fact he was usually downright impulsive, but something told him that this manoeuvre demanded a rehearsal or two. It was the way a simple glance from her seemed to tug at his brain and nestle in his gut like a parasite. She, he knew somehow, was a tumour.

Thanks to the storm, the bus was behind schedule, giving Jackson time to plan his attack. Her alarmingly green eyes, which had passed over him with an undeniable intensity, were now buried in a book. Her small umbrella seemed more protective of it than of her, and heavy droplets were rolling down her head and falling off of her pointed nose as a result. Having no umbrella of his own to offer her, Jackson opted for a more daring approach. He pulled out his phone and dialled a taxi. When it pulled up (luckily, before the bus), he gestured her towards it with a simple, “on me.”

“I’m Jackson,” he said once they were safely seated in the vehicle, which splashed silt up at the passer-bys as it took off.

She eyed him once more, squinting with persistence. Jackson almost worried that she was seeing through his veil of false-ease, but then decided to blame the dark grey day for her carefulness.

“Lianne,” she finally responded.

“Well, Lianne, where are we off to? Ladies first, of course.”

“Well, Jackson, that depends on whether you’re willing to play hookey with me.”

A subtle smirk appeared across her face just as a flash of lightening cracked through the sky. Had he not been stunned by her forwardness, Jackson might have noticed how it revealed a hint of monstrous salacity behind those increasingly haunting eyes. But wasn’t that always the story?

He, she knew somehow, would be just as easy as the rest.

©Shyla Fairfax-Owen

The End

It was unexpectedly beautiful, the end of the world.

The fires, blazing west to east. The waters flooding north to south. The earths opening up, devouring our very being. The winds scooping up whatever was left.

I watched it all in awe, and not once did I consider stopping it. There’s nothing quite like the rush of devastation. My only loss was its completion.

Welcome to HellHaven

“Welcome to HellHaven. Where innocence comes to die, and gratuitous desire comes to thrive.”

Catchy, Gina thought to herself as she watched the hostess give her rehearsed speech about the unique sexiness of an R-rated New Gothic Horror Theme Park. She still couldn’t believe she had signed up for this  gig – but she was about two steps away from desperation, and two steps past virtue. Sure, she hadn’t shelled out $20,000 dollars of art school tuition to take photos of tattooed thrill-seekers and Goth Lolitas – but maybe it would grow on her, with the right attitude. Gina sighed at the thought, and tried to tune back in to the hostess’ closing arguments. Although, it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the getup she donned. Red fishnets, pink leather mini, breasts popping out like they were planning an escape. A little farther north her purple do sat atop her head like a beehive, and the black eye shadow and fake lashes pulled it all together. Gina wondered what she’d have to sink into to fit in.

“Ahem”

Shit. Gina had tuned out again, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed. While the other new hires had scampered off she had lingered, staring at the hostess who was now staring back.

“Gina, is it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The “ma’am” was unintentionally tacked on to the end of her sentence like an afterthought which drained it of its respectful nature.

“Well, Gina. I see your hesitance. Resistance even. Now, if I cared I might ask you what’s on your mind and help you pro and con the scenario. But I don’t. Get to wardrobe.”

She pointed down the hall in the direction the others had left in. Ashamed, Gina nodded and launched forward, but a firm yet feminine hand on her shoulder stopped her. “And Gina?”

“Yes?”

“Smile, or growl. But don’t look indifferent. It’ll get you canned.”

By Gina’s fourth day, she had gotten just comfortable enough to not see it coming. She had succumbed to a pink pig-tailed wig and purple eye-shadow. She’d even tied up her blouse and undid the top button. But she had kept her jeans and runners – that somehow made her feel better. A quiet revolt.

It happened in the Tunnel of Horrors. She was perched between a few fake rocks that lined the blood river that “lovers” would row through in their canoes, passing bobbing heads and other appendages likely manufactured in China. Gina had propped one leg up which looked silly but gave her one hell of a shot. The objective was to get the screams of delight when the wrapped up plastic body (with a brick chained to it) unexpectedly fell into the water. The last three couples had cheered, but Gina was aching for a scream to capture. She would have stayed there all night if she had to. But, of course, she didn’t. The scream came – just not from any of the patrons.

Where the hell are they? Gina wondered impatiently as she checked her watch. The ride wasn’t on a schedule, but as one of the most popular, it usually ran twice an hour. Her body was beginning to cramp and she knew it was time to radio in a ride out, but she didn’t. That was her second mistake, the first being accepting the job at HellHaven.

When the boat finally came, Gina was so eager that she poked her head out farther than usual to catch a glimpse of who she’d be snapping. The person was alone in the boat, which was against policy. Immediately Gina grew alert. At that point, the figure was still only a shadow, but she was quite certain it was hooded. She thought to radio in for an explanation but knew it was too late. Her voice would echo and ruin the magic for this patron if it was indeed nothing to worry about.

But it was something to worry about. As his boat approached, Gina sunk back, gripping her camera, finger on the trigger. But when the body splashed down at them, the figure launched at her. He (as it turned out to be), knew exactly where she was, and had timed his own attack.

In an instance he was on top of her. Her camera dropped, crushed against the fake rocks, and finally lodged between two. Red dyed water lapped over its cracked lens as Gina fought for her life – grunting, growling, biting. The tunnel captured the sounds of her struggle, of the attacker’s laughter, and of his eerily shallow whispers: “Lets make this a real blood river, shall we?”

“Welcome to HellHaven. Where innocence comes to die, and gratuitous desire comes to thrive. Thrill seekers from far and wide travel here to lose themselves in just a few hours of monstrous glory, and it’s up to every single one of you to ensure they get every mile and penny’s worth of it. Why? You might ask. Why would people pay to experience a horror? The thing about horror is that it asks us to confront social boundaries, and to push them. Some people like to be pushed, so they come here. Others, struggle with their desire to be pushed, so they work here.”

The hostess smiled, and waited for her final statement to settle upon the crowd of new hires. A hand rose.

“Didn’t some photographer chick die working here last summer? That’s why I’m here.”

The hostess slumped, annoyance flashing behind cold eyes. “Are you a journalist? An investigator of some sort?”

The girl smirked. “No. Just a freak.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen