Something Wicked This Way Comes

Friday, May 20, 2016

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS - THIS I KNOW PART 2



Hey friends and readers. It's that time again. I'm recovering from some pretty major oral surgery (which is way worse than any other kind, IMO) so the conclusion to this week's flash fiction is fully a homage to the food I *can't* eat, and the food I've largely been living on for a week. How's that for some vague? At any rate, I hope you enjoy the second part of This I Know.


* * * *

This I Know Part 2; by Tucker McCallahan:

The heavenly scent of genuine Mexican food rolled out the door as it opened. Angel strutted out dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He looked as good as he smelled. He saw me and did the head-tilt-chin-lift thing that passed as a greeting, but then his lips curved up into a sexy smile.

"Hey china."

"My name's Anthony."

He laughed.

"I like china better. My little brat."

I ducked my head as a blush stained my cheeks. This guy drove me crazy. He started walking down the alley behind Harvey's at a brisk pace. I had to jog to catch up to him.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Gonna take you to TJ's and feed you." His dark eyes danced as he glanced in my direction. "Less you want me to call you flaco instead of china."

"I don't speak Spanish."

"Mexican." His spine straightened and that chin came up again. "I'm Mexican."

"I'm a mutt. Melting pot American."

"Maybe you got some Mexican in you."

"I don't think so," I said.

"You want some?" he asked with a throaty little purr. I blushed–again–but met his eyes this time.

"Definitely."

We walked the four blocks to Tijuana, also known as TJ's, in silence. Angel's presence at my side keyed me up like nothing else had in longer than I could remember. I was hyper-aware of him, of his every movement and expression. I wanted his arm around me, or my fingers entwined with his. It was all totally out of character for me. I was anxious and aroused at the same time, my heart thudding and lurching as we got closer to the restaurant.

As far as I could tell, TJ's was closed for the night. Not surprising since it was after 2AM. The entire building was dark and closed up. I frowned, unsure of where to go. Angel jerked his head to the side, and we headed around to the back of the place. He produced a heavy key ring from his pocket and unlocked the back door. He opened the door and held it for me before following me inside. With an ease that could only come from being fully familiar with the building, he reached a hand into the darkness and flipped a few switches.

Light flooded the commercial kitchen and left me slightly dazzled. The kitchen looked like all it was missing was Gordon Ramsey front and center, barking orders. Every surface inside the massive space gleamed.

"You look surprised."

"It's huge."

Those luscious lips curved up for me again as he held my gaze with his. "Yes." His smile transformed into a smirk. "It's huge."

I went up in flames on the spot.

"You have to stop doing that." 

"I like watching you turn pink." He strolled over to one of the industrial refrigerators and opened it, peering inside. "You still hungry?"

"What I want isn't in that frig."

"Don't be so sure." He vanished into the depths of the tremendous machine and reemerged with several covered containers. "You like spicy, yeah?"

"Love it."

Settling the containers into the crook of one arm, he extended his free hand to me. A zing sailed from my chest down to my balls as I curled my fingers around his. He led me through the kitchen into the dining room.

Chairs were turned up on wooden tables that had probably been all the rage in the 60's. The wooden floors and pillars gleamed with high-gloss polish. The lush aroma of live plants filled the air, and in my mind I imagined a Aztec temple scene, exotic blooms side by side with ferns and banana trees. Without all the lights on I had no idea where the scent actually came from, and I didn't really care. My fantasy was no doubt better than reality.

Angel handed me the containers and divested a large table of its chairs, righting them and setting them on the floor. I started to open the top container and he stopped me, taking the covered dishes from my hands and setting them on the table. His dark eyes smoldered.

"Strip."

"Here?"

"What, you want the men's room instead?"

"No."

"So strip."

My fingers went to the collar of my shirt, fumbling with the slick little buttons. At the rustle of cloth, my eyes flicked up. Angel's t-shirt fell to the floor. His skin was the same dark honey color of the polished wood and gleamed just as brightly. I wanted to see more of him so badly I wasn't sure whose belt to reach for: his or mine. He made the decision for me by tugging my belt free and opening my pants with a few quick jerks.

Clothes flew in a frenzy, neither of us paying any attention to what landed where. Angel's lips hit my chest, his hot mouth closing around my collarbone and sucking as cool air swirled up over my exposed flesh. I yanked at his tight jeans. He chuckled and I shivered, chill bumps racing ahead of his breath. My hands connected–finally!–with his skin and we came together in a clash of heat that sent my eyeballs rolling back into my skull.

Nothing that had happened in the Harvey Wallbanger men's room excited me even half as much as Angel. His mouth moved like a machine, chewing and sucking along my chest and up my neck. I trembled against him, sweaty and aroused, hands gripping and sliding over his perfect ass. His shoulders bunched and bulged as he lifted me off the floor and plunked my ass down on the table. My thighs fell apart, eager to cradle his body against mine. He was like some dark god, all burning eyes, black hair, and eager hands.

He laid me flat on the table and I moaned, back arching to keep our flesh pressed together. I heard the telltale tear of a condom wrapper and shuddered. My hips tilted up, but the pressure and slick fulfillment I needed were not forthcoming. I opened my eyes and found him staring down at me. He looked as hungry as I felt.

One of his hands reached above me. Just as my lips parted to ask what he was doing, the smooth tip of the condom nudged me. I tried not to squirm and failed. His low chuckle caressed my ears like velvet.

"So eager."

"Need you." That breathy voice couldn't possibly belong to me.

"Open your eyes, china."

I obeyed, though I didn't remember closing them. Angel hovered over me, his mouth curved into a sensual smile. A long, finely tapered, green chili pepper dangled from his fingers. My heart skipped a beat.



Angel rested the tip of the pepper on his full lower lip long enough for me to admire the contrast between red and green, and then slowly sank his teeth into it. My pulse hammered as he chewed. The scent of fresh jalapeno saturated the air. He bent his head and wrapped his lips around my left nip.

The oil from the fresh pepper in his mouth hit my skin like lava.

I hissed, hands shooting into his hair. His mouth came away exactly long enough for him to eat the rest of the pepper. Nip burning and eyes wide, I watched, fingers twisted in his hair as he chewed. The tip of the condom pressed against me. Then Angel lunged, and liquid fire rained across my chest as he thrust inside me.

The sex was like a detonation. Flames licked along my flesh in the wake of his tongue. Heat poured over me as his mouth landed on mine, his lips burning me with every kiss. Sweat rolled down my skin and tears leaked from my eyes as he fucked me hard and deep. My arousal built so fast and hot I had no control over it. My orgasm was a splatter of cool wetness, consumed by the inferno of Angel's body.

He fucked me until I gyrated on the table, a writhing mass of burning skin. Inarticulate sobs slipped from between my clenched teeth and were lost in the noise of the table pounding the floor and Angel's roar as he came.

My head spun. I twitched and jerked uncontrollably. As good as the orgasm was, the relentless burning was getting to be too much. I was frantic for relief and moaned in agony.

The splash of cold shocked me. My whole body jolted. Angel's laughter sent tingles racing along my skin. I blinked in surprise as more cold liquid drenched me.



Milk. He was pouring milk all over us.

I stared in utter astonishment as streams of white liquid ran all over me, puddling between our bodies, on the table, and dripping onto the floor.

"Open," Angel commanded.

I blinked again, fluttering my eyelashes to see through the huge mess.

"Your mouth, china," he explained patiently. "Open your mouth."

Like an idiot, I opened my mouth, and he poured a thin stream of milk into it. I choked, coughed, and spit half of it out before managing to swallow. I rose up on my elbows and surveyed the damage. I'd had messy sex before, but this was a definite record.

Angel stood at the foot of the table, a lazy smile on his gorgeous face, body covered with sweat and milk. He backed up and helped me to climb off the table.

"How much trouble will you get in for this mess?"

"Eh. Not much." Angel shrugged. "My cousin owns the place."

I glanced around and couldn't see my clothes. My stomach growled loudly. Angel laughed.

"Guess I should feed you for real."

"If you feed me, you might have to keep me."

Angel wrapped his t-shirt around his neck and held out his hand.

"This I know."

* * * *

Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 

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Friday, May 6, 2016

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS - THIS I KNOW PART 1


Hey all! Welcome to another round of Free Fiction Friday. This week's story is posting in two parts, so the conclusion will post next Friday, 5/13.

Head out this weekend and enjoy the eye candy and action of Marvel's Civil War if you get a chance. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is always good, and my resident comic-geek spouse has informed me the actual movie is good as well.

That said, enjoy Part 1 of This I Know.


* * * *

The problem with fucking in the men’s room at Harvey Wallbanger’s wasn’t the tiny little toilet, or the fact that it had no tank for balancing. It wasn’t the graffiti on the walls, either. The crude cock and ball drawings, dirty limericks, and “for a good time call” phone numbers that looked vaguely familiar were actually entertaining. It wasn’t even the guy I’d taken in there, whose name I couldn’t remember now. Ted? Ned? He might’ve just said, “Hi, gimme head.” The volume of the dance music in Harvey’s and my general social malaise made meaningful conversation impossible.

No, the problem with fucking in Harvey Wallbanger’s men’s room was the smell.

I stood there, perched really, on the tiny little toilet that had no tank in a stall that was too narrow with walls covered in familiar graffiti, while Right Said Fred tried his best to slot up and make some magic happen, and the smell of Mexican food overwhelmed me.

I don’t know if the bulimic twinks who populated the club’s VIP section finally eliminated the middle man and just threw their food straight into the toilet, or if some idiot got so stoned he ordered Loco Louie’s all-natural Mexican eatery to deliver his dinner directly to the men’s room. But somebody had authentic empanadas and tamales. The spicy combination of the chorizo and corn masa in the tamales perfumed the air with a sultry aroma that teased my senses far more effectively than Jed, who was still mindlessly rutting behind me, clueless.

I inhaled deeply, letting the fantastic mélange of scents bombard my olfactory nerves. For the first time in my life, I lost all interest in the sex I was having. My erection fell like a deflated meringue as my stomach growled. The sound effect was so loud that Ahmed froze mid-thrust.

“Bra, what the fuck was that?”

“Did you just call me ‘Bra’?" I slid off his dick and looked at him with utter scorn.

"It's not like I got your name."

"And that's a good thing." I didn't even bother wiping the lube off. I yanked my jeans up and exited the stall, buttoning and zipping as I went.

I ignored the pair of guys doing lines of anonymous white powder off the sink and followed my nose. It led me through the men's to the janitor, who leaned against the wall waiting to mop. I stopped short and stared at him. He was gorgeous.

"You got a problem?" His voice was heavily accented.

"Tamales."

His chin came up, heavy dark brows furrowing over darker eyes as he shoved off the wall into an upright position.

"Fuck you, mariposo."

"No, you don't understand." I groped for the right words before the hot Mexican janitor beat the fuck out of me. Then his words registered. "Wait. Did you just call me a butterfly?"

"No!"

A string of what I'm sure were negative and derogatory insults spilled from him mouth in a foreign language flood. Now I was hungry, horny, and confused. The four years of high school Spanish I'd taken were so hazy I didn't remember much past being able to ask where the bathroom was and say thank you.
    
The men's room door opened and a guy in a suit came in. He glanced at the guys doing lines, and then at me and the janitor. He made a face.


"No fucking while you're on the clock, Angel."


My inspiration for "Angel," Draven Torres.


The janitor's hands clenched his mop so tightly I was sure he was going to crack the thing in two. But his eyes and face reflected perfect blankness. The suit made a quick circuit of the bathroom and left. The instant the door closed behind him, the janitor glared at me and growled through clenched teeth.

"Get the fuck out!"

I fled.

I didn't go far, though. That heavenly aroma faded the moment I got back inside the club, and I felt like I was starving. Besides that, the janitor was more interesting than Ted-Ned-Fred-Ahmed-Jed-Zed.

I didn't bother with another too-strong drink. Instead I waited against a convenient pillar, one eye on the door to the men's. When the janitor emerged shoving the rolling mop bucket before him like a plow, I snaked through the writhing bodies of sweaty boys in that direction. I caught up to him at a door marked Employees Only. I had to shout to be heard over the din.

"Hey!"

He either didn't hear me or he ignored me, and walked through the door. Before it could close and separate me from that holy aroma of goodness and the body it was attached to, I stuck a hand out, pushed it open, and slipped inside behind him.

"Hey–" I stopped as he brandished the mop like a weapon. "Whoa! I just wanna talk."

"You can't be in here."

"Who's gonna say anything?"

"My boss."

I inhaled. I couldn’t help it. He smelled so fucking delicious.

"What's wrong with you?" He let the mop drop back into the bucket with a plop.

"That's what I wanted to say to you." Like some high school kid, I blushed. "You smell amazing. Like tamales and empanadas."

"I work at TJ's before I come here."

"I've never been there. I've heard it's good, though." I inhaled again and my stomach growled. A surprised look spread across his face and he laughed.

"When's the last time you ate?"

I shrugged.

"You don't remember when you ate last?"

"Eating isn't a big priority–usually."

His eyes darted nervously to the door…and then to me. He checked me out like I was a side of beef. My legs went weak.

"Meet me at the back door in an hour."


He turned away without waiting for my answer. We both knew I'd be there. 

* * * *



Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 

Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

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Friday, April 15, 2016

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS - BAD


Welcome back. I've working under a serious time crunch here, so we got nothing fancy this week. I hope you enjoy this little flash piece. Have a great weekend!


* * * *

BAD
by Tucker McCallahan

A twenty-ounce Mountain Dew sat beside my feet.  Three or four other guys in wife beaters and long shorts lounged around me on the stoop of 746, drinking forties, smoking cigarettes, and generally looking like lazy thugs. Old school Public Enemy blasted from a random phone. My head bobbed to the hardcore beat. Couple of the regulars showed up and I took care of them with the easy slide. I was in the middle of a text to Shane telling him to shuffle his ass my direction and take over for me when I looked up.

I deleted the text.

One of my dudes stopped the kid ten feet in front of the stoop. I read the body language going on and knew he was telling the kid to take off.

"It's cool, bro." My words didn't carry over "Fight the Power." I raised my voice and repeated myself, adding, "I know him."

"Smell like bacon, yo."

I grabbed my soda and stood up.

"He's aight."

I left the comfort and safety of the stoop and approached the kid. I didn't know him, but I knew the look. I could practically smell the desperation. I held my hand out and the kid stared at it for the longest second ever. He finally reached out and slapped my palm. I gripped his fingers before he could pull them away and yanked him toward me for a shoulder-bump-back-slap.

"Long time, man. Let's talk."

I shoved one hand in my pocket and headed around the side of the building. I didn't check to see if the kid followed me; I could feel him. Two massive dumpsters sat cockeyed up against the peeling paint of 746 about halfway down the alley. I turned sideways and dipped between them. Normally I would've tapped one of the dumpsters to make sure the spot was unoccupied, but I'd been out all day. I already know nobody was back here getting off.

I slid sideways and leaned up against the naked brick. The kid stood in front of me, his face telegraphing his nervousness. I set my soda on one of the three plastic crates among the used condoms, rubber gloves, dirty needles, balloons, and wadded-up bags scattered all over the concrete. Hooking another crate with my foot, I dragged it over in front of me, and then grabbed some serious eye contact with the kid.

"Who?"

"Jamie. Uh, he goes by Lil J?"

"I know him." I motioned to the crate in front of me. "Cop a squat."

"I really need–"

"I know what you need. Question is whether you can pay for it."

He fidgeted, eyes skipping around the ground.

"Look at me, kid."

His eyes snapped back up to my face; they were blue like summer pool water. I bet he'd been a looker before he got strung out. His face was all hard planes and sharp edges, fined down from more dope than food. But his skin was the golden brown of the toasted cheese that came on the top of a bowl of French onion soup, and I had no doubt he'd be just as delicious.

"You got no cash, right?"

He shook his head and shivered. His nose was running. He was gonna be in a real bad state three-four hours from now.

"So it's your thing. Pay in trade or break out."

He said nothing, but reached for me. I brushed his hands aside. In exactly three seconds I had my dick exposed and in my hand, stroking slow. Usually I amped up with my eyes closed, my head filled with the visual of sliding between my last boyfriend's full, moist lips. But this kid hit some kind of nerve, and just staring at his dark eyelashes fluttering at he gazed up at me turned me so solid I had to stop.

He licked his lips and leaned in, but I retreated.

"Chill baby."

I slid a condom from my pocket and rolled it on. I treated everybody like they were infected with Ebola. Last thing I needed was my dick rotting off. He stared at me like I'd done some incredibly sweet thing. I wasn't sure if his gratitude was because I'd called him baby or because I didn't intend to make him swallow. Didn't really matter either way. Another stroke or two over the latex and the show was all him.

And he was perfect.

Those dark eyelashes fluttered again as he engulfed the head of my dick. The heat of his mouth was fucking fantastic, and I put my hands behind my head so I wouldn't be tempted to touch him. His hands fisted the heavy denim of my shorts, drawing the material snug across my ass. I didn't expect that sensation and groaned. When he yanked my hips forward and used his grip on my clothes to fuck me deeper into his throat, I gave up hope of making it last. He worked me like a machine. Several more deep thrusts and I came hard.

If my hands hadn't been behind my head, I would've slammed it into the brick wall.

As it was, I scuffed my knuckles and didn't care in the slightest.

Kid drew off nice and slow, his tongue tracing all the way up my dick. Then he sat back and let me deal with the condom. I dropped it and tucked up, fixing my shorts. As I did, I reached into the little pocket inside and pulled out a bundle.

"What do you need?"

Those pretty blue eyes flicked from me to the dope and back.

"One to get well, one to get off."

I counted three off and held them up, pulling my hand back as soon as he reached for them.

"The third's yours…if you tell me your name–your real name–not some street shit."

"It's Aaron."

I handed over his dope.

"Da'Von."

He pocketed his stash and turned to go.

"Ain't gonna get right here?"

He turned back, his face a picture of disgust as he shook his head. I cocked my head, considering.

"I'm 'bout ready to bounce. You wanna hang for five?"

He briefly considered a proposition I hadn't made to another customer, ever. Finally he pulled a bag from his pocket. With easy proficiency, he opened it, slipped a pinkie in, and brought a taste up to his nose, inhaling hard. Then he closed the bag and made it disappear.

"I can hang…if that's what you want."

Those long black eyelashes fluttered and I was totally lost. I nodded and pulled my phone out to send that text to Shane. We squeezed through the space and headed for the stoop.


* * * *


Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 

Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

Follow all your favorites and read the first 100 words on the group’s website: 





Friday, March 18, 2016

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS - THE COST


Welcome back to Free Fiction Friday at A Little Something... Wicked. This week is sort of special. I was invited to submit a selection for a fiction anthology, the proceeds of which will all go to charity. Every story in the anthology, titled Stardust Always, is inspired by the lives and careers of either David Bowie or Alan Rickman. The charity that's been chosen is St. Jude's Hospital. The event can be found here. The release date is set to coincide with National Cancer Survivors' Day, June 5th.

I chose to write a short piece inspired by The Hunger. As a forewarning, this story isn't erotica. If you enjoy it, please consider purchasing the anthology.



THE COST
by Tucker McCallahan © 2016

"Oh my god! It's like walking onto the set of Evil Dead!"

"The original or that shitty remake?"

"Either. Wow. Is there a trapdoor that leads to the basement?"

"It's called a root cellar." I dropped my bags onto the dirty floor and gave my two companions a tired glare.

"Scary." Tina flipped a light switch and jumped when it worked. Light flooded the main room of my grandparents' cabin. She gazed around and made a face. "And this is your idea of relaxation?"

"No." I stretched and went to open a window. "I wanted to come alone, remember?"

"Uh huh." Rick strode through the room, one hand pulling the large cooler and the other dragging his suitcase. "You're not well enough to be alone."

"Thanks for the reminder, Captain Buzzkill."

"Be nice." Tina's hand trailed across my shoulders as she headed for the door. "We love you, remember?"

I said nothing. In seconds, Rick returned from the kitchen and went back outside to help Tina unload the rest of our gear. Standing there alone, the depression I couldn't seem to shake rose up and owned me. Nothing was worse than waiting to die, and lately, that's all I'd been doing. This trip, coming up to the mountains, was supposed to make me feel better. So far it wasn't working.

We devoted the next few hours to making the cabin habitable. Nobody had used it since my grandmother died, so we had twenty years' worth of dust, dirt, and rodent droppings to dislodge. My energy flagged after less than an hour, and Tina sent me outside to get some fresh air while she beat an area rug like it had personally offended her.

The view of the mountains was spectacular. The cabin was far enough into the foothills to be considered remote, but civilization was only about an hour away. As I stared down into the far valley, I realized what had been pristine land when I was a child was now covered with houses.

It made me feel old.

I walked around the cabin, intending to enter through the back door. As a kid, I'd loved this place. My memories of it were full of fun, adventure, and magic. Now I noticed the gutter had rotted off the roof, and the forest had encroached to crowd up against the back of the cabin. The clearing I had played in was gone, consumed by multiflora rose shrubs. I shuddered. Getting through that bramble of thorns would require a flamethrower at this point.

I went back inside. Tina chattered at me, but I ignored her. I went back to the bedroom I'd slept in as a kid and uncovered the tiny twin bed. The old mattress stank like mold and felt damp to my hands.

"I inflated an air mattress in the other bedroom, babe. Why don't you go lie down in there and I'll get this room set up?"

Rick stood in the doorway, a roll of duct tape around his wrist and a Dewalt cordless drill in his hand. He'd taken his button-down off and wore a plain white T-shirt that already showed his perspiration. He was everything a healthy man in his mid-forties should be, and I hated him just a little bit for that. I forced out a thank you and went to what had always been my grandparents' room.

I didn't think I'd be able to sleep surrounded by the scent of decay and memories of dead relatives, but surprisingly enough, I drifted off quickly, birdsong and the hum of Rick's drill in my ears.



"Wake up, sleepyhead."

I blinked and rolled to find Tina leaning over me.

"Hey." My mouth was bone dry. "What time is it?"

"Four-thirty. Why don't you get up and help me make dinner?"

I climbed off the air mattress with Tina's help. My left shoulder hurt. The damn port they'd put in for chemo always ached if I slept on my side. I caught a glimpse of my reflection as we went into the kitchen and ran my hands through my hair; the back was sticking straight up. Tina giggled at me.

"I liked the bedhead."

"Oh yeah, I'm a stud."

"Always." She kissed my cheek and pointed at the counter. "Why don't you make the salad?"

"Where's Rick?"

"He went hunting."

"He's hunting alone?" My face showed my shock. "He doesn't know these woods!"

"Calm down, Grizzly Adams. He's got his cell." She chuckled. "He doesn't want pasta tonight, and I told him if he wanted something else he'd have to go kill it himself."

"Mornings are the best time to hunt around here."

"Well, when he comes back empty-handed, you can razz him mercilessly about his lack of knowledge and skill."

We managed to light a burner on the gas stove without setting the cabin on fire. Tina sautéed slices of zucchini for the pasta sauce while I cut up cucumber and tomato. Before we knew it, dinner was ready and the sun was dropping toward the horizon.

Rick was nowhere to be found.

Tina stood between the cabin and the SUV, her phone held aloft as she sent yet another text message.

"Service sucks here!"

"Do you know which way he went?"

I sat on the edge of the sagging porch and loaded the clips for my Beretta. The M9A3 was new, and I'd never fired it anywhere but at a range. Vivid memories of my grandfather shooting coyotes from this porch played through my mind as I loaded the gun and slipped the spare clips into my pocket.

"No. Over there?" Tina waved her phone toward the thick woods that crowded the cabin. "Do you think he's ignoring me?"

"He's probably not getting the texts."

"I don't think you should go looking for him."

"And if he fell or sprained an ankle, and he's sitting out there waiting for help?"

Tina chewed her lip. I could almost hear her thoughts. She was worried I wasn't well enough to go tramping around the woods, and she was right. I didn't have the stamina for it, and the sun was sinking.

"I'll go with you."

"What if he makes it back to the house?"

"We'll leave a note."

"Tina, have you ever gone hiking?"

"No."

"It's getting dark. You'll slow me down."

"But–"

"Look. If I don't go now, I'll run out of daylight before I run out of energy."

She dashed over to the SUV and grabbed a huge roadside flashlight. I slid the gun into its holster and took the light from her.

"I won't be gone long."

"What happens if you don't find him?"

"You drive out of here, and as soon as you get a good cell signal, you call the cops."

"OK." She wrapped her arms around her torso. If she kept gnawing on her lip she was going to make it bleed. "Go."

I slipped the light into my backpack and brushed my lips over Tina's. I had no idea what Rick took with him when he left; Tina hadn't paid attention. I wouldn't have gone anywhere without a first-aid kit, matches, water, and a good knife, but I'd spent every summer here for over a decade. Most of the wildlife was harmless, but we had cougars, coyotes, foxes, rattlesnakes, and copperheads that weren't so innocuous. I'd grown up with a healthy respect for wild animals.

I walked straight into the trees, checking the setting sun as I went. I really didn't have much time before I'd be walking blind, and a sense of urgency propelled me forward. Rick, Tina and I had been a trio for over twenty years. A pang of guilt hit. Rick agreed to this trip because of me. I hoped like hell he wasn't hurt.

Forty-five minutes later, twilight had fallen. I needed to turn back. My lungs burned from the thin mountain air. My lower back and thighs were on fire, too. I stopped where I was and swung my backpack off. I cracked open a bottle of water and took a pain pill. I capped the bottle and was zipping the pack when the sound of running water filtered through the rest of the forest noises. I'd made it to the creek.

As a kid, I'd traced the creek up and down the mountain. I could follow it through the woods to the clearing that wasn't clear anymore, and then make it back to the cabin. The idea of skirting an entire field of brambles and thorns didn't thrill me, but it was better than walking blind in absolute darkness. Heartened that I had physical landmarks to guide me back, I headed for the water.

I almost tripped over Rick.

My guts surged up into my throat. He wasn't hurt; he was dead. I knelt, swallowing the bile and blinking back tears, and pulled the big flashlight from my backpack. I looked him over, trying not to touch him. He was very pale. Blood had leaked from two rips in his throat and pooled under him.

Staring at the injury, the image of a cougar sprang into my mind. Cougars used their big paws and claws to trip their prey, and then held it down while delivering a kill-bite to the throat that usually broke the neck. They had massive fangs and a jaw powerful enough to drag down elk and moose.

I shone the light around. I couldn’t see any drag marks or signs of a chase. Rick's rifle lay on the ground not two feet away. I forced myself to shine the light on my dead lover again. He had no other injuries, not even to his hands. If the animal was hungry, there would've been flesh missing. If Rick had surprised it or run from it, he would've been clawed up. My confusion and grief turned to fear. Full darkness had fallen. Hungry cougar, spooked cougar, feral cougar–I'd take D, none of the above.

Looping the light's carry strap over my arm, I shrugged the backpack up onto my shoulders and picked out the edge of the creek. I needed to get back to the cabin. Tina would fall apart over this; we'd been preparing for my death, not Rick's. We had to call the county sheriff. We'd have to tell Rick's parents and his brother. I wept as I walked, guilt, grief, and anger snarled in my head.

Hiking back took forever. When the glow of the cabin's electric lights finally appeared in front of me, relief spread through me like an antidote. I found a burst of energy I didn't know I possessed, made it to the porch, and stopped.

The front door was wide open.

Fear flooded my mouth with an awful bitterness. The sweat down my back and over my forehead suddenly felt ice cold. I drew the Beretta, thumbed off the safety, and moved through the doorway.

The living room was a mess. The coffee table looked like kindling. A standing lamp lay on its side, shade askew, bare bulb spilling light across the floor.

Tina lay on the floor. At first I couldn't make sense of what I saw. My brain needed time to put the puzzle together. Somebody crouched behind Tina, as if holding her in an embrace. Its mouth pressed to Tina's throat, and as I brought the gun up, it glanced up at me, its mouth smeared with blood.

"Let her go."

It ignored me, lowering its face back to wounds identical to the ones I'd seen on Rick.

"I will shoot. Let her go."

When it continued to ignore me, I took aim and shot it. My bullet hit its shoulder, punched through, and ended up in the hallway wall behind it. It stared at me, though it didn't stop sucking at Tina's neck. I emptied my clip into the thing with no effect.

I reloaded. I didn't know what else to do. This thing had no fear; not of me, the noise, or the gun. I'd just chambered a fresh round when it let go of Tina. She slid out of its arms onto the floor with a dull thud.

"Save your bullets."

I froze. Its voice was musical. I couldn't tell if it was male or female, and it didn't really matter. Its face was as beautiful as its voice.

"You aren't in any danger." It seemed to think about its words and then smiled. "Well, not danger from me anyway."

"You just killed my family. I think I'm pretty much fucked."

"I don't know what that means."

"It means I don't believe you."

"I do not require your belief." It gazed at me, its nostrils flaring as it inhaled. "You are...wrong."

"What?"

"Wrong." It stretched slowly, its body undulating like a serpent though it appeared to be fully human. "Unwell."

"I have cancer."

"You are unfit for feeding."

That struck me as funny. This thing was telling me the same thing I'd been telling myself for months: I wasn't good for anything. The adrenaline I'd been operating on ran out, and fatigue swallowed me as I laughed hysterically. I backed up against the wall beside the open door, gun up. I tried not to choke on my laughter as I slid down the wall to sit on the floor.

The androgynous creature stood and approached me.

"You are dying."

"Yes." I struggled to get a good breath. "So it doesn't matter whether you want to eat me or not."

The thing sank down beside me. It touched my face with a slender finger.

"Do you wish to die?"

"No."

"If you could life forever, would you wish it?"

"What's the catch?"

"I do not understand."

"What's the price for living forever?" I glanced at Tina. She never moved or made a sound. "Nothing good comes without a cost."

"True." It regarded me with interest. "You presume living forever would be good."

"Better than dying."

"You presume death would be bad." Its gaze followed mine and landed on Tina. "She enjoyed our communion."

"Doesn't look like it. Looks like she fought like hell."

"Some fight." It shrugged. "Some do not."

"Guess that depends on how badly they want to live."

 It looked into my eyes and my pulse sped. It had no iris, just solid green eyes with a vertical pupil like a snake. Its voice came out in a whisper.

"How badly do you want to live?"

That was the question I asked myself repeatedly over the last year. Every time I went for radiation, every time I had a chemo drip, every time I begged off doing something because I felt like crap, I asked myself if it was worth it–if I wanted to work so hard to beat the disease that might win anyway.

I had my answer, finally.

"Bad enough to fight for it."

"Why?"

"Nothing good comes without a cost."

"You would fight for such a small amount of life."

"Yes."

"You would wish to live forever then?"

I thought about it. If I was willing to fight for my life now, what would I do to live forever, to never face death? But even as I thought the question, my brain clicked on and I voiced my answer.

"I don't want to watch anymore people I love die."

"Are their deaths more important than a stranger's passing?"

I blinked; it was a good question.

"To me, yes, but to the universe, I suppose not."

"The universe?"

"You know." I gestured with my hands, the Beretta still clutched in one. "Life. The universe. Everything."

"I do not understand."

"You don't spend much time around people, do you?"

"For many years I lived among men." It sat back on its haunches and studied me. "In another land, across the water. Things were different then."

A long silence passed, and it wasn't comfortable. I didn't like the way it stared at me, unblinking and contemplative.

"You never told me the price for immortality."

"You would not pay it."

"I'd have to kill people, wouldn't I?"

"All living things must feed."

It took great care to move slowly. Its cool fingers stroked my face. Its touch was soothing, almost lulling, though my heart beat so fast it seemed to stutter and trip.

"Think of it. You could join me. Live free, go where you choose, do what you choose."

"What about family? Lovers? Children?"

"The families of multitudes will live in you."

"Because I killed them."

"Their lives will sustain you."

Despite the depression I'd suffered for months, this wasn't a difficult choice at all. I didn't want to die, but I certainly didn't want to spend eternity eating people alive, like cancer. I shook my head, never breaking eye contact with the strange creature.

"No."

"Then I shall leave you to your slow death."

It rose with uncanny grace and walked out the open door into the night. I trembled so hard against the wall it hurt. The relief of surviving was almost as strong as the guilt of it. I made myself take slow, even breaths and tried to slow my fluttering heart.

An arm snagged me from around the edge of the door.

I slid through the doorway to end crushed up against the creature's chest. Its arms were steel bands, its breath hot on my throat. I fought like a madman, but it didn't budge. Its shriek hit my eardrums like shards of glass. The fingernails on one of its hands grew into talons. With one stab, it pierced my throat.

All the heat flowed out of me. I shivered uncontrollably, clutching at it. Dizziness swept over me and knocked me off my feet. Pleasure coursed through me like a morphine injection. I was floating in perfection and had no desire to move. I was going to drown in bliss.

Its face appeared in front of me, hovering like an apparition.

"Why?" I whispered.

"It's what I do."

Using one of its talons, it sliced its wrist and pressed it to my lips. Unable to resist, I lapped at what flowed into mouth. It chuckled.

"What we do now. Together. Forever."

THE END


Inspired by Whitley Strieber's novel and the David Bowie film, "The Hunger."

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