|Vernal Equinox 2001|
S. Lawrence Parrish is a member of HWA. He has had short stories published in Stigmata: A Heliocentric Net Anthology, Night Terrors, Pulp Fiction, Not One of Us, Dread: Tales of the Uncanny and Grotesque and Fangs. He will appear in future issues of Shadowland, Agony in Black, Eclipse, Mindmares and Carpe Noctem. Another will be published by the Poe Taster's Press in a book entitled Once Upon a Midnight. He has written first drafts of five horror novels and an ever-growing book of short stories entitled Collections. He is currently flogging for publication what he considers to be the best of his novels, a werewolf tale entitled Shape Shifters.
S. Lawrence lives in Calgary, Alberta with his wife and three children. He teaches English in the public school system (a man has to make a living).
I park my truck out behind my apartment block in the alley. A Ford F-150 sold to me cheap by my father. He had the truck for fifteen years, never had a problem with it. Rust has only just begun to show interest. It runs great--except for the morning when I first met the orange cat.
Her name is Tabby.
So here comes Tabby, strutting towards me across the alley with all the posture of Her Royal Highness. "Hey, Tabby. Here kitty, kitty…"
As she strolls closer in her circumspect way, the fear rises in me. Her face bears no malice. I know she expects what's coming, demands it. Cats are like that. But every morning--once she's close enough that I can see her eyes are as orange as her coat--I start to sweat.
She saunters to the rear of my truck, lays in the gravel next to the garbage dumpster, rolls on her back and bares her furry belly. There's no denying her.
So I reach into the truck's box.
Most of the stuff is held in place by ropes and bungee cords: the mower, the big box of garbage bags, the weed-whacker, the rakes. All except the spade. The spade sits tight between the mower and the box. A long-handled spade, given to me by my father. It's solid and heavy, a relic of decades-past craftsmanship.
I hold it with two hands. I glance up and down the alley to confirm that no one's around, that no one will see. Would it matter if they did?
Tabby's rolling around in the dust. She bats her orange eyes at me. Her fluffy tail sweeps the gravel around. She mews like a kitten.
I stand a few feet from her, glance round once more, then raise the spade high over my head. I hold it there--an executioner having second thoughts. Tabby never flinches. Just blinks at me, anticipating what comes next.
The first time was an accident. Happened three weeks ago.
I've got a summer job working for Sherman's Lawn Maintenance. I met Sherman at the college. He fancies himself an entrepreneur. Not my idea of a great guy, but he gives me steady work. My morning routine had been set. Until I turned the key to start my truck. Usually the old F-150 fires right up, but this time there's a squeal and a whine. A meaty chopping. A soul-searing shriek.
I turn off the engine. It can't be a mechanical problem, not with a noise like that. I hurry out of the cab, go around to the front. There's something dripping from the radiator. Something thick and glistening. Is it oil? Transmission fluid? But then a pitiful Meowl! tells me what it is.
"Oh no," I whisper as I pop open the hood.
I"m not a bad guy. Really, I'm not. Just as compassionate as anyone. But I'm late for work this morning.
There she is, kind of mashed up in the plastic cowling surrounding the fan. She must have crawled up in there to keep warm. I'm feeling a chill myself--there's so much blood.
How to get her out.
She solves that problem on her own. Twitches and falls to the ground with a loose thud. She mews and then crawls toward me, pulling herself along with only her front paws.
She's all red and orange. Most of her fur is peeled off her back, like pants pulled half off. I notice her tail, so thick and bushy, like a raccoon.
So much blood.
I look up and down the alley. There's no one out here this early. She struggles another inch forward, they lays still in a growing, red puddle.
What to do. I'm already late. Sherman will kill me--I've got the mower.
I pull a garbage bag out of my truck, wrap it over my hand like a plastic glove and grasp the cat, feeling her warmth. I fold the bag over her. She slips inside as I pick it up.
Is she dead?
She must be. So much blood.
Then I hear it. Mew ... mew...
She couldn't possibly survive a wound like that. I tell myself she's dying.
She's suffering. I can't let her suffer.
I lay the bag at the foot of the dumpster. Nothing appropriate to the task within sight.
In the back of the truck--the spade. I pull it out, hold it in my trembling hands.
I tell myself this is something I can do.
I raise the spade over my head, sudden panic sweating cold rivulets down my back. Heavy steel hangs high. No more thought, only action. I pull the spade down in a wide arc. Air whistles. Whack!
I do it again and again and again, giving in to a sudden, hot pulse of maniac strength.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
I'm breathing hard. The bag lays there. No sound, no movement. The job is done.
I toss the spade in the truck, starting at the metallic clamor. Has anyone heard?
There's no one.
I reach to the garbage bag, try not to feel its wet, limp weight as I toss it into the garbage dumpster. I'm back in the truck. It starts right up. I try not to imagine bloody gore drying on my engine block as I drive away.
A week flies by. Sherman works me hard.
Two weeks. I've forgotten about the orange cat.
The morning routine again. Except that someone else is up. She's at the dumpster heaving in a bulging bag of garbage. I probably would think nothing of it, but the bag splits and trash spills to the ground.
She curses. "Ah, shit."
Then she sees me standing there with my truck keys in hand. She flushes red, smiles and shrugs.
I return the smile and walk toward her. "Can I give you a hand?"
She nods. As I near her, I notice she wears a lot of makeup--most of it black, just like her clothes. But even under all that inky make-up, I can tell she's pretty. She's around my age. Dyed-magenta hair. Her right cnostril is pierced. She's not my type. That's too bad. But I'm still flattered by the interested gleam in her eye as I bend to pick her garbage off the ground.
"I just moved in," she tells me. "A few weeks ago." She points a black fingernail at the apartment block across the alley from mine. "My name's Kitty."
"How do you do, Kitty. I"m Ryan."
I give her hand a shake. She holds on to mine. Again, gleaming eyes. She cocks her head to one side, studying my face. She's wearing a tight, black T-shirt over braless breasts. I can't help glancing at her nipples, grown stiff from cool morning air.
She grins through her black lipstick.
"Well ... I guess I'll see you later, Kitty," I say as I pull my hand away and walk to my truck.
"Bye." She waves at me. "And thank you, Ryan."
I don't see her again until the end of the week. Fridays mean a quick shower after work, and then off to the Den for beer and chicken wings--fifteen cents a wing. I usually meet Mike Harris there. Beer and three or four dozen wings, then the two of us decide where we'll go and what we'll do. But Mike doesn't show up tonight. Then I remember he had plans to visit his parents over the weekend.
So I'll eat by myself, maybe take in a movie. The waitress comes by.
Black mascara eyes light up when she recognizes me. "Ryan, right?"
"That's me. And you're Kitty."
"Right," she says, grinning very white teeth.
She's still dressed all in black. And all of it form-fitting--I notice her form is very decent.
"How long have you worked here?" I ask.
"This is my third shift. I start courses at ACA in one week."
"An artist? I"m studying just up the hill at Fields Technical."
"Well, hey, maybe we should meet at the mall one day and do lunch."
Maybe we should. A sliver chain runs from her pierced nostril to an earlobe stitched with at least eight silver hoops. I decide it doesn't bother me. I order a dozen hot and a dozen teriyaki wings. Kitty brings my beer and a smile. Then my wings and another smile. I take my time eating. Kitty stops by my table often. We talk, get to know each other.
By the time I've finished my chicken wings, the bar has filled with its standard bursting-at-the-seams Friday-night crowd. Kitty's busy now, and I notice with a sort of pride that she's an excellent waitress. I mix and mingle with the regulars, watch Kitty and smile and wink.
Closing time comes. Kitty needs a ride home, and my F-150 awaits. I'm kind of drunk and invite her up to my apartment. She's says no. I'm disappointed, but try not to show it. Then she asks if I'd like to come up to hers.
I follow her across the alley, eyeballing her ass, wondering if I'm going to get laid. I could sure use it. Two months ago, I broke up for good with Erica, who'd been my girlfriend for five years. I figure the setup is perfect. I'm sure Kitty is a fox under all that black makeup. She's got a nice body. She lives right across the alley. And she's not the type I'll fall in love with. Not like Erica. Erica is a blond, all peaches and cream. A real Ivory girl.
Kitty's apartment is on the fourth floor. She unlocks the door and I step inside. All is in shadow until she switches on a light. She calls in a sing-song voice, "Tabby! Tabby! Come on precious."
A cat strolls out from the kitchen nook. An orange cat, fur rumpled and lumpy-looking, bushy tail striped like a raccoon. Orange eyes light on me and widen.
A stomachful of chicken wings and beer surges.
Kitty picks the cat up, cuddles her close, kisses her. "My precious," she tells me. "You wouldn't believe it. About a month ago, two kids from down the hall knock on my door. They say they watched me moving in, and they know I own an orange cat. They show me what they found outside in the dumpster. It's Tabby. She's all cut up and bleeding, barely alive. I have no idea what happened to her."
I look at Tabby. Tabby looks back, eyes accusing but somehow amused. She meows. I can hear her purring, low and steady, as she nuzzles Kitty.
Kitty walks into the living area. She lays Tabby on a couch. "The kids' mother was watching from her door. She said I should take Tabby to a vet, have her put down."
Kitty plucks a lighter off a coffee table littered with stumps of candles. Black candles. An incense burner sits on a CD player. Kitty lights a stick of incense, inhales the smoke and smiles.
She's going about the apartment touching orange fire to black candles; they're all over the place. "But I knew Tabby wouldn't die," she says. She switches off the lights--now it's only guttering candle flame--settles on the couch, lithe as any feline, next to Tabby. She looks up at me where I'm still standing just inside the door. She pats the cushion next to her. "Come sit down."
Incense smoke is thick and heady. Beer boils in my stomach. I feel dizzy.
Kitty doesn't seem to notice that I flop into the couch as far from her as I can. She shifts her position, sidling closer, pulling Tabby onto her lap. The cat looks up at me, candle flame flashing in her orange eyes. Kitty has a black remote in hand. She presses a button, and her CD payer starts to spin. Music fills the room, low and unfamiliar. Some new age stuff, reedy like the wind. Wolf howls echo from a distance.
Me, I'm into new country. Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. But I find Kitty's music soothing. My heart's been racing ever since I set unbelieving eyes on Tabby; now my pulse starts to slow. It must be the half-dozen beers I quaffed.
Kitty says, "Tabby likes you." She's scratching behind the cat's ears. "I can tell. She usually runs from strangers."
I resist an urge to tell her we've already met. I ask, "How did you--how did she get better?"
Kitty lays a hand along my thigh. I squirm a little. Kitty doesn't move her hand. "Do you know of Wicca?" she asks.
I shake my head.
"The old arts," she says. "White magic. The power of the Earth Mother."
I stare at her.
"It really works," she says, smiling. "I've worshiped the Earth Mother ever since I was thirteen."
She starts running her hand up and down my thigh. Tabby's watching me, purring. The music howls on. The candles and incense burn.
"But you know what? White magic just doesn't cut it. It was fun when I was a kid. But I'm a woman now; I find pleasure in darker devotions."
Tabby purrs louder. She squints at me; I swear she's smiling. Kitty has cuddled close. Her arm has gone around my shoulders.
A hand hot as fire stroking my thigh, running over my groin, squeezing.
I cry out.
"Does it hurt?" Kitty asks. She's smiling; Tabby's smiling.
"No," I mumble, my tongue thick with the smoky taste of incense and candle wax.
She squeezes again, harder.
Black lips kiss my neck. White teeth nip at my ear lobe. Tabby's in my lap; she lays hot, purring like a vibrator against my swollen crotch. Kitty's kissing my lips, driving an insistent tongue into my mouth. I taste her, and arousal quickens my heartbeat.
And now Kitty's in my lap. Where's Tabby?
"Don't you worry about her," Kitty growls into my ear; then she swallows my mouth with hers.
My hands have crawled up her shirt. She seizes them, leans back, forces them over her breasts. She's squeezing my hands, her breasts. She's ruthless. Knuckles pop. I must be bruising her. But she's smiling.
"Feels so good" she purrs.
Then her hand lashes out, across my cheek. The pain is quick, intense. I pull away and gape at her. She pulls my hands back onto her breasts. Squeezing so hard. She strikes me again.
She moves her face close to my flaming cheek, hisses in my ear. "Do you like it?" she asks.
I realize, Yes, I do.
She leans back, laughing, stands before me and hikes off her shirt. I see my red handprints all over her breasts. "Such a sweet boy," she taunts me. "But he likes it." She tugs at my hand. "Come with me."
I follow, into her bedroom. Candles flutter orange eyes. The shadows are cloudy, like my brain. Instinct tells me to run; I take perverse pleasure in ignoring it. Kitty's behind me now. She pushes me. Something (Tabby!) trips me, and I fall on her bed. The sheets are cold and crinkly beneath me. Satin? No! Plastic. Candlelight glistens. Plastic sheets cover the bed, the dresser, the walls.
But now Kitty is out of her clothes, white and naked. Tabby jumps up on the bed. My heart races. Kitty swings a leg over me, smothers me with her breasts, stifling any protest. "Bite me," she moans. "Bite me!"
She slaps my face when I don't respond, so I give her what she wants. Her flesh is warm and succulent.
All of my Christian upbringing--all my father's efforts to engender in me a respect for things decent--fizzles in a flaming tide of forbidden pleasure. Kitty has reached to my pants, has unzipped and pulled me out. She does things with her tongue and teeth that fill me head with images of studded black leather, of masked women with whips, cat-o'-nine-tails, sweating men in chains groaning out dark ecstasies. Kitty rakes sharp fingernails over my chest, pain like fire singeing flesh.
She tears my clothes from me, flings them away. Then she presses me back onto the bed, straddles, me takes my screaming hardness and impales herself on it.
"Love me," she moans, and reminds me how with a hard hand to my face.
I crush her breasts. Slap her again and again.
She drives fingernails into my shoulders, and I bite her wrists. She's riding me with a demon frenzy. All around us, candlefire burns.
Tabby watches, her tail twitching.
Orgasm begins to swell within me. I can't resist. Tabby leaps onto my thigh, claws me, sinks fangs into me. The pain in my leg cools the pleasure burning in my groin. I'm simmering mid-orgasm. And still Kitty rides me, rides me. Bites at my neck. Sucks. There's something dribbling down my chest.
Is it ... is it blood?
Kitty reaches under the pillow, pulls something out, thrusts it into my hand. Cold steel. She's given me an old-fashioned razor, a straight razor. I recall my childhood and my father at the barber shop. The barber sharpens his razor against a leather strop. Back and forth. Back and forth. Polished metal that makes six-year-old boy shudder but want to touch it.
Kitty screeches in my ear, "Cut me!"
She punches me in the face. Rides me with renewed fury.
"Cut me!" she cries.
She grasps my wrist with two hands. The razor folds out of its handle, gleams candlefire. My cock burns. Stifled orgasm threatens incineration.
Kitty yanks my hand down. The razor kisses the flesh between her breasts. A thin, dark line grows, drips. The razor strikes again. A smeary black "X" painted on Kitty's chest.
The razor claws repeatedly. I realize through a black stupor that no hand guides mine now. Blood soaks my chest, pools in my abdomen and then rushes off.
Kitty is squealing, tearing at me, slapping bloody handprints on my cheeks.
The razor bites. Kitty's hissing through clenched teeth, gyrating a frenzy. She moans a rhythm that matches the bucking of her frantic hips. I'm lost to our molten-slippery dance A volcano heart flares in my balls. The pressure swells; there's no denying it.
My passion erupts. Kitty seizes my hand in hers, presses the razor against her throat, scores a jugular slice. We arterial heat sprays over me. Pumps over me. Pumps, pumps, pumps. Kitty envelops me with bloody fumes. We grind together like tectonic plates. The universe explodes in a red fiery ball.
I have no idea how long I lay lost to bloody oblivion.
When time once again achieved forward momentum, I found Kitty sleeping contentedly, snuggled into the crook of my arm. One candle flame fluttered in a puddle of melted wax. It showed me that I lay in a dark, sticky mess.
And in the middle of it all--Tabby.
She's calmly cleaning herself. Licking her fur. Lapping up tonguefuls of...blood.
I retch, fling Kitty off and tach to the sink in the kitchenette. When the heaves finally stop, I look down at myself.
There's so much blood.
Kitty makes me shower before I leave her apartment. She gives me Band-Aids for the scratches on my thigh, kisses my bruises. She says not to worry--I won't scar, and neither will she. I can't look her in the eye.
I go to my fathers' for the rest of the weekend, help him pour a cement pad for the garage he's building. He asks me how my life is going. I tell him fine, just fine.
Monday rolls around. I begin the routine. Up early and out to my truck.
I see her there, in the alley by the dumpster.
She strolls toward me, lies at my feet, purring. I look into her orange eyes, and know what she wants. Dark pleasure. Tabby's no kitten.
I reach into my truck, grasp the spade, check up and down the alley. No one around.
I raise the spade. Bring it down.
And so it goes every morning this week.
Today's Friday. I find a note under my door as I'm leaving for work. A short note from Kitty. She says she had a wonderful time last weekend. She misses me. Let's do it again. She says meet me at midnight.
My heart palpitates. Sweat cools my brow. But I'm already thinking up excuses to give my father; he wants me to stay over this weekend, help him frame his garage.
I feel sick to my stomach. But I've also got a hard-on.
Outside, into the alley. There's my truck. And there's Tabby.
What else can I do?
"Hey, Tabby. Here kitty, kitty ..."
© 2000 S. Lawrence Parrish, all rights reserved
Vernal Equinox 2001 Issue, Updated March 21, 2001
BLOOD ROSE is Copyright © M. W. Worthen.