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

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

 

 

 

Daddy’s Little Girl (Part 4 – Finale)

“It’s the winter’s moon, I think,” Charlotte posited as they stalked through the castle halls. “He’s simply not right, during it.”
They kept on the move, sneaking past his chambers and then his office. Not knowing where he was made the task of hiding from him all the more difficult. But Charlotte led the way, fearlessly and cautiously. Ellie remembered her as a child, so full of energy, and questions. She had always been such a treasure to spend time with, and always enjoyed spending it with her maid. It was peculiar, when she began calling her Ellie rather than Ms. Eleanor, but it was welcomed. As she grew, their affections did too until they built a true friendship. It was the real reason Ellie stayed, even when things were strange.

Charlotte motioned for Ellie to run to the front door while she hung back standing guard. With the coast clear, Ellie broke for it and jammed her key into the appropriate hole. When the door opened, a slight breeze whistled in and the two of them froze and winced at the sound. When no one seemed to be coming after them, they exited and ran down the grounds path. It was only then that Charlotte felt a pang in her stomach, wishing she had left a note for her mother. But, it was too late and she was betting she would understand. Their feet slapped hard against the cement and their lips blued as they fought against the cold air, but neither slowed them down. However, it wasn’t long before a coach and carriage blocking their way stopped them.

At first, it was difficult to see who the culprit was though the fog. But between the swirls of haze Charlotte eventually caught the eyes of her prince. He was early. Damn it. He was early. His eyes pierced her own, amused by her rambunctious nature and pleased with his own triumph. He reached out and locked a hand around her dainty wrist.

“How nice of you to come out and meet me. We shouldn’t waste time with goodbyes then, shall we?” He laughed. It was the type of laugh that buried itself inside of Charlotte’s chest and made her heart thump with resentment.

Charlotte pulled away but it did no good. His grip just grew tighter, his smile wider.

“Don’t get me wrong Princess, I like a good hunt, but I’m not stupid enough to release an easy catch.”

The moonlight reflected off of his teeth and his sharp incisors sparkled ominously. Before her eyes, they seemed to grow. She tugged harder now, and Ellie wrapped her arms around her waist to pull. But the two women’s efforts failed miserably, and made the Prince’s laughter heartier. Through the blue haze of nighttime fog, Ellie squinted in disbelief. His eyes glowed red now, she was almost sure of it.

“NO!”

In a heartbeat, the man became more beast, growling in disdain. His skin tore open revealing fur black as darkness and as thick as a wolf. His height increased along with his muscles, and he towered over them casting a shadow of pure evil across their faces. He lunged at Ellie, and she let out a mortal cry that must have shattered her windpipes as it carried across the Kingdom. It was only then that the horse reacted, crying out and wrenching back on his hind legs. The coachman, who had been otherwise invisible, was thrown landing akimbo on the ground.

Charlotte watched it all unfold, and it was as if time had slowed down. The sound of the crickets pierced through the muck in her mind, along with the flap of a crow’s wings above her head. She tried to blink away the disaster but it didn’t work. The prince – the monster – was headed for Ellie and the only thing Charlotte’s body could do was counter. And it did. Adrenaline surged through her as she leapt through the air, making direct contact with the beast. She landed flat on top of him and felt a bolt of electricity push through her skin until it burst open. Her teeth sharpened and her maw widened to release a vengeful roar before she tore into the prince’s furry throat. Charlotte could see only in red, and wasn’t sure if it was her anger, her eyes, or the blood she was guzzling. All the same, she kept fighting, kept growling, kept feasting.

It wasn’t until the prince’s monstrous head had been disconnected from his body that Charlotte stopped to take in her surroundings. She rose slowly, half-beast half-woman, and all rage. Ellie was on the ground, unconscious, as was the coachman. The crow she had heard was perched on a low hanging branch within her reach. The fog had begun to dissolve and the moonlight was brighter than ever. Charlotte could only hear the pace of her heart banging against her chest now, and could only feel power inside of her. It was like nothing she had ever known before.

A slow and steady clap began behind her. It was the King. His smirk told Charlotte that he had witnessed enough of the event, and was impressed.

“You’re fiercer than I expected. I underestimated you – a woman and a half-breed. But I suppose you really are daddy’s little girl, after all.”

With that, he turned and headed back to the castle, where Charlotte could see her mother gazing down at her from a window. There was absolutely nothing behind her eyes.

THE END.

Read Part 3

Read Part 2

Read Part 1

Daddy’s Little Girl (Part 3)

“AHHHHHHH!”

The shriek entered through the open windows and echoed through the castle. The Queen shot upright in bed, assaulted by the fresh morning’s sun. The screaming continued as she jogged through the halls to alert the guards. Of course, they were already making their way towards the sound, so the Queen followed unnoticed. Outside, the cook stood over the garden, looking as pale as death. At the arrival of the concerned crowd, she looked up, and whimpered.

“I came to get tomatoes,” she whispered through quivering lips.

At her feet lied the gardener, or what was left of him. He had been torn to shreds. His blood was splattered across the vegetables and ground into the dirt. His limbs were unattached, his head evidently gnawed upon by something inhuman.

“Wolves Madame, the wolves are back,” the guard stated calmly, and started away.

******

“How could you? He was a perfectly humble man. No trouble at all,” the Queen pleaded uselessly.

The King cut his eyes at her, and sipped his red wine. “He had become trouble,” he finally said.

The Queen rolled her eyes and plopped into her chair. It was nearly dinnertime, but they had asked for privacy tonight. The King would not need to eat, anyways. And the Queen was losing her appetite by the minute.

“He grew, curious,” he continued. “Always out there, at all hours. He’d seen me on my runs. Eyed me when I’d come in.”

“Why would he be out so late?” the Queen asked, genuinely concerned.

“Watching me, I suppose.”

“Well, it would seem he got an eyeful.”

“Yes, it would.”

The King gulped back the rest of his glass’ contents and set it on the table in front of his Queen. She sighed, and refilled it. On the other side of the wall, the maid pulled her ear away from the door and gasped. Shakily, she ran back to her chambers, chased by the memory of the beast.

******

Outside, a thick fog was rolling in. The prince would be sending a carriage for Charlotte at dawn but in such conditions it was sure to be late. She wanted her last evening to be special, but could barely pull herself out of bed after the morning’s events. She had decided to visit her greatest confidante, the maid. Only she was not in her chambers when Charlotte arrived, but hurried in just moments later, grasping for air.

“What’s the matter Ellie?” Charlotte asked.

The maid turned with a start. She had expected her room to be empty.

“Oh! Princess, you frightened me.” She tried to smile and catch her breath but Charlotte was not convinced.

“Do tell me,” she insisted, rising from the bed now.

Still shaken up, Ellie broke into tears and embraced the girl. She wanted to blurt out the horrible truth, that the King was a monster – the beast she had seen so many years ago. But she couldn’t. Instead, she wept for Charlotte, who had to carry this man’s genes.

“Is it my father?” Charlotte whispered in a calm, omniscient, tone.

Ellie looked into her eyes and saw in them beautiful, pure, truth.

“We should get out of here,” Charlotte whispered lower now, never breaking her stare. When the maid did not respond she repeated: “Ellie, please. Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to go with the prince, nor stay here with my father.”

“You know?” Ellie asked.

Charlotte nodded and looked away. “I saw him, just before my… illness. He tore our coachman to bits and pieces. It was horrific. That’s why he – that’s why he got rid of me.”

Ellie fought the dizziness. The coachman? The coachman who had suddenly quit last winter? Of course, that coachman. How many of the resigned groundskeepers and castle employees had really just been – no. The thought was too much. Charlotte was right; they had to leave.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Night From Within

Dusk was settling in; no escape.

In the distance, a wrangle echoed.

Her propinquity with night suddenly ignited.

Like the blackness of pupils fixated forward,

The night called out her name.

An opal moon peered down devotedly.

Transfixed, she glared back at it.

A snake-like sensation crawled through her.

The night; it felt so divine.

Frightening; tantalizing; misinterpreted – a warning unheeded.

Provoked by its charm, she transformed.

With morality shadowed; monstrosity shined through.

The darkness was always so inviting.

Edacity came from within, of course.

The night was not at fault.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

 

Throbbing Penitence

It is just passed the witching hour, and I make the regrettable decision to put out the fire. As the vibrant embers asphyxiate under the weight of the tepid well-water, they get their revenge by transmogrifying into a vengeful smoke that happily chokes me.

Immediately, I seek an escape from the caliginous prison that the room has become. Of course, there is none.

Outside, beasts howl at the moon, aching to taste my flesh and bones, and to swallow me up under the veil of darkness. I shudder at the thought and resign to sleeping away my nerves. By candlelight, I creep reluctantly through the empty house, romanticizing the security of my bed. But before I reach it, the ritual thudding begins.

From below my feet there comes a wretched pounding, the throb of a monster that is my own penitence. For below my feet I’ve laid a body and a soul which refuses to rest until I am by its side – as I should be. Suddenly, the beasts outside seem more inviting than the beastliness inside of my home; inside of that casket; inside of me. My own soul rots by the day, guilt crushing it from the inside. It won’t be long now until that soul gets its final wish.

Outside, the night knows my secret, and watches me in the form of a crow perched at the windowsill above my bed. As I sink below it, it takes flight into the unforgiving sky, the way a damned soul will not.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©