Fiends ssc, p.21
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       Fiends SSC, p.21

           Richard Laymon
 
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  His mother held a razor in one hand. Her left leg was out of the water, its foot propped on the rim of the tub under one of the faucet handles. The cut was midway between her knee and the place where the water rippled around the wider part of her leg. I’m afraid I nicked myself shaving, she said.

  Charles nodded. He gazed at the wound. He watched the strands of red slide down her gleaming skin. They made the bath water pink between her legs. She had a hairy place down there. He couldn’t see her dingus. He stared, trying to find it even though he knew he shouldn’t be looking at that place. But he couldn’t help himself. He felt sick and tight.

  You didn’t cut if off, did you?

  Cut off what, honey?

  You know, your dingus.

  She laughed softly. Oh, darling, mommys don’t have dinguses. Here. And then she took gentle hold of his hand and guided it down into the pink, hot water. She slid it against her body. Against a cut - no, not just a cut - a huge, open gash with slippery edges. He tried to jerk his hand away, but she tightened her grip and kept it there. Go on, feel it, she said.

  But doesn’t it hurt? he asked.

  Not at all.

  It was almost as long as his hand. Warm and slick inside. And very deep. She squirmed a little as his fingers explored.

  Her voice had a funny sound to it when she said, I’m made this way. All mommys are. She released his hand, but he kept it there. That’s enough, now, honey. You'd better put that Bandaid on my leg before I bleed to death.

  Then Charles had the bandage ready. As he lowered it toward the small bleeding cut on her leg, she said, You aren’t gonna faint or anything, are you? But it wasn’t his mother’s voice. He turned his head. The woman sprawled in the tub was Lynn.

  ***

  At dawn, groggy and restless, Charles climbed out of bed. He didn’t know whether he had slept at all. Maybe a little. If so, his sleep had been a turmoil of dreams so vivid that they might have been memories or hallucinations.

  He felt better after a long shower. Returning to his bedroom, he sat down and stared at the alarm clock. A quarter till six. That gave him just more than ten hours before returning to work at the library. And seeing Lynn again.

  He saw her naked beneath him, writhing as he slit into her creamy skin.

  ‘No!’ he blurted, and stomped his foot on the floor.

  There were ways to prevent it. Tricks. He’d worked out lots of tricks over the years to feed his urges - to ease the needs, to keep some control.

  Weller Hall seemed huge and empty. Charles knew that it wasn’t empty. But he saw no one as he eased the door shut and made his way to the staircase. Those few students and professors unlucky enough to be burdened with ‘eight-o’clocks’ were already snug in the classrooms, probably yawning and rubbing their eyes and wishing they were still in bed.

  He climbed four creaky stairs, then stopped. He listened. Beyond the sounds of his own rough breathing and heartbeat, he heard a distant voice. Probably Dr Chitwood. Dr Shithead to the students who had to suffer through his mandatory (this being a university of Methodist origin) History of Christianity class. Known as Heist of Christ. Not only mandatory, but boring, and forever scheduled for 8 a.m.

  It was one of only three classes taking place in Weller Hall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at such an ungodly hour. Chitwoods’s room was right at the top of the stairs.

  Grinning, Charles pulled out his knife. He pried it open and dug into the smooth, worn wood of the banister. He carved a neat, two-inch slot down the rail’s top. He scraped it clean of splinters. Crouching, he ran his thumb over a grimy stair. He rubbed his thumb against the pale cut on the handrail, darkening it with dirt, camouflaging it.

  Using needle-nosed pliers, he snugged an injector blade into the slot.

  He straightened up and admired his work.

  The edge of the blade protruded just a little bit above the surface of the rail. It was hardly visible at all.

  Shivering with excitement, Charles hurried outside. He waited on a bench and watched the entrance to Weller Hall.

  This’ll be great, he thought. It was always great.

  But he’d never done it on campus before. He began to worry about that. He even considered returning to the stairway and pulling out the blade. He could walk into town and set up the trap somewhere else, somewhere safer.

  He didn’t want to do that, though. Too often, the trick ended up wasted on somebody old and ugly. He couldn’t take a chance on that happening. He needed to slit a co-ed, a fresh young woman. One like Lynn.

  The minutes dragged by. When people began wandering into the building, Charles feared that he might miss the event. He waited a while longer, fidgeting. Then he rose from the bench, trotted up the concrete steps, and rushed inside.

  A few students were wandering the corridor, lingering near doorways, entering classrooms. Nobody on the stairs. He strolled to the far side of the hall. He removed a paperback copy of Finnegan’s Wake from his briefcase, opened the book, leaned back against the wall, and pretended to read.

  From here, he had a good view of the stairway.

  The book trembled in his hands.

  He held his breath when a couple of girls walked past him and turned toward the stairway. They looked like freshmen. They acted like freshmen, the way they talked so loudly and laughed and gestured.

  The girl on the razor’s side of the stairs held books to her chest with her left arm. Her right arm swung free. At the first stair, she rested her hand on the banister. It slid up the rail as she began to climb.

  Her shiny blonde hair swayed against her back. She wore a sleeveless sweatshirt. Her arms were slender and dusky. Her white shorts were very tight. Charles could see the outline of her panties. Skimpy things.

  His heart slammed.

  As she stepped from the third stair to the fourth, she jerked her hand off the railing.

  Got her!

  But she didn’t flinch or cry out. She simply chopped her hand through the air. Some kind of damn gesture to accompany whatever inane point she was making to her friend.

  She was almost to the landing before her hand returned to the banister.

  Charles sighed. He felt robbed.

  It’s not over yet, he told himself.

  She’d been so perfect, though. Pretty and blonde and slender like Lynn. A few years younger, but otherwise just right.

  I couldn’t have seen the look on her face, anyway, he consoled himself.

  From above came a thunder of footfalls.

  Charles perked up. Heist of Christ was out, the students stampeding to escape. In seconds, the first of them rounded the landing and rushed down the lower flight. Trembling with excitement, Charles watched those near the banister. A boy in the lead. Luckily, his arm was busy clamping books to his hips. Behind him came a lithe brunette, breasts jiggling the front of her T-shirt. But she carried a book bag by its straps and didn’t bother with the rail.

  Coming down behind her was a fat guy in a sweatsuit. But behind him was a real beauty with flowing golden hair, her shoulders bare, her torso hugged by a bright yellow tube top. Her hand was on the banister!

  Yes!

  ‘Ow! Shit!’

  The fat guy.

  No!

  He jerked his hand off the railing and halted so abruptly that the blonde nearly crashed into him. He lifted his hand to his crimson, stunned face. Blood dripped off, streaking the front of his sweatshirt. ‘Fuckin’A! Looka this! Jeeeeez!’

  Kids started to crowd around him.

  Before long, someone would find the razor.

  Releasing a long sigh, Charles closed his book. He tucked it under one arm, picked up his briefcase and strolled up the corridor.

  Later that morning, after his seminar in Twentieth Century Irish Literature, Charles sat on a park bench along one of the campus walkways. The bench was fairly well hidden by hedges at both ends and an oak to the rear.

  He took two X-Acto blades from his briefcase. Each was about an inch in leng
th, V-shaped, with fine sharp edges. At the blunt end of each blade was a tab that could be slid into one of the several handles which were part of the kit. Charles hadn’t brought the handles with him.

  With the blades cupped in one hand, he pretended to read Joyce. He watched the walkway. People kept coming by.

  Patience, he told himself.

  Before he could find time to plant the blades, a couple roosted on the bench across from him. They had bags from the Burger King a block from campus. Charles waited while they ate and gabbed. He waited while they snuggled and kissed. Finally, they wandered away, the guy with his hand down a back pocket of the girl’s short denim skirt.

  He checked the walkway. Clear at last!

  Working quickly, he planted one blade upright in a green painted slat beside his right thigh. He scooted away from it, then dug a place for the other blade on a slat of the backrest. After checking again for witnesses, he inserted the blade.

  Then he roamed across the walkway and settled down on the bench where the sweethearts had wasted so much of his time. They’d left a fry behind. He brushed it to the ground. He opened Finnegan’s Wake, and waited.

  People came by. A lot of people. Alone, in pairs, in small groups. Students, instructors, professors, administrators, ground keepers. Male and female. Slender, lovely girls. Plain girls. Slobs.

  ***

  Into the afternoon, Charles waited.

  Nobody sat on the bench.

  Nobody.

  Still, Charles waited. Over and over again in his mind, beautiful young women sat down on the bench. Their faces twisted and went scarlet. They leaped up, shrieking. They hurried away, blood from gashed buttocks spreading across the seats of shorts and skirts and jeans, blood from ripped backs staining blouses, T-shirts, flowing down the bare skin of those who wore tube tops or other varieties of low-backed garments.

  In his best fantasy, it was Lynn who sat on the bench. Wearing a white bikini.

  He often returned to that one while he waited.

  Lynn stopped in front of him.

  He gazed up at her, puzzled. She wasn’t wearing a bikini. She wore a white cotton polo shirt, pink shorts that reached almost to her knees, and white socks and sneakers. Her huge leather shoulder bag hung against her hip.

  ‘Hi, Charles,’ she said. ‘How’s it going?’

  He shrugged. He tried to smile. He was reasonably certain this was Lynn, not a figment of his imagination.

  ‘Ready to head on over to the salt mines?’ she asked.

  He glanced at his wristwatch. Ten till four. Impossible! he couldn’t have been sitting here that long.

  ‘I guess it’s time,’ he muttered.

  Lynn tilted her head to one side. ‘Are you all right?’

  ‘I didn’t get much sleep last night.’

  ‘I had kind of a restless night, myself. So, are you coming?’

  ‘Sure. Yeah. I guess so.’ He put his book away, lifted his briefcase and rose from the bench. With a last glimpse at the other bench, he started walking with Lynn.

  It’s Fate, he thought. He’d tried to direct his need away from Lynn, but his efforts had failed. They were meant to fail. He was being guided by forces beyond his control, forces that had ordained Lynn to bleed for him.

  ‘Check out my finger,’ she said as they walked along. She raised it in front of his face.

  The bandage was gone. Charles saw a tiny curve of white fringe on the pad of her finger. His heart thudded. ‘It looks good,’ he said.

  ‘Almost as good as new.’ She smiled as her upper arm brushed against him. She lowered the hand to her side. ‘If it wasn’t for your first-aid, no telling what might’ve happened. Who knows? I might’ve bled to death.’

  Charles knew she was joking. But his heart pounded even harder. Heat spread through his groin. ‘From a paper cut?’

  ‘Of course. Happens all the time. It’s the leading cause of death among librarians and editors. Honest to God.’ She looked at him. ‘You do know how to smile, don’t you?’

  ‘Sure,’ he muttered.

  ‘Let’s see one.’

  He tried.

  ‘Miserable,’ she said. ‘You know, you’d be a pretty handsome fellow if you’d smile once in a while.’

  He gazed at her. He pictured how her face would look with bright red blood streaming down it. He imagined himself licking the blood from her cheeks and lips.

  ‘That’s more of a leer than a smile, actually,’ Lynn said. ‘But it’ll do. You just need more practice.’

  Even after all the books were shelved, Charles stayed in the second-floor stacks.

  If he went downstairs, he would see Lynn. She would be sitting on her stool behind the circulation desk, checking books in and out, or maybe wandering the floor, cheerfully offering suggestions to students in need of assistance.

  As long as I don’t see her, he told himself, nothing will happen.

  A few students came up. Some searched for books, while others slipped into carrels along the far wall and studied. There were girls, but he paid them no attention. It would be Lynn, or no one.

  He ducked into a carrel himself. For some unknown reason, it had been placed in a corner away from the lights. That suited him well. He felt snug and hidden.

  He folded his arms on the desk top and put his head down.

  Maybe I’ll sleep, he thought.

  He closed his eyes. He pictured Lynn suspended from a ceiling beam, wrists tied, arms stretched high, feet off the floor. He had no rope, though. Too bad. Go back to his apartment and get some? The emergency exits had alarms. He couldn’t leave the library without passing Lynn’s desk.

  Maybe use my belt, instead?

  That had worked before. He’d put a loop around the girl’s hands and nailed the other end high on a wall.

  No hammer. No nails.

  A rope would be better, anyway. Even though he didn’t have one, he liked the image of Lynn hanging helpless. He knew she was wearing a polo shirt. In his mind, however, she wore a regular blouse. With buttons. And he saw himself slicing off the buttons, one by one.

  Charles flinched awake when someone stroked the back of his head. Her jerked upright in his chair. Lynn was standing close beside him, frowning down with concern on her shadowy face.

  ‘You really zonked out,’ she said. Her voice was little more than a whisper in the silence.

  ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t…’

  ‘That’s okay.’ Her hand stayed on the back of his head, caressing his hair. ‘I was a little worried about you, though. You just disappeared.’

  ‘I was shelving books up here. I felt so tired…’

  ‘No problem.' A smile tilted the corners of her mouth. ‘I thought maybe you were trying to avoid me. You’ve been acting so strange ever since last night.’

  ‘I’ve been feeling pretty strange.’

  ‘Are you still upset because I cut myself?’

  ‘In a way, I guess.’ He stood up. The chair made a loud squawk as it was scooted away by the backs of his knees. The noise made him cringe.

  ‘I haven’t been quite myself, either,’ Lynn said.

  He turned to face her. ‘Really?’

  ‘Really.’ Gazing into his eyes, she took hold of his hands. ‘The way you acted last night… You were so sweet, getting me the bandage and everything, putting it on my finger even though you have that phobia about cuts. I just suddenly realized… how really special you are, Charles.’

  ‘Me?’

  ‘Yeah, you.’ She lifted her hands to his face. Gently caressing his cheeks, she eased against him. She tilted back her head. She pressed her mouth against his lips. After a slow, soft kiss, she looked up into his eyes. ‘We’re all alone,’ she whispered. ‘I’ve already locked up for the night.’

  All he could say was, ‘Oh.’ He was trembling. His heart was punching, his breath ragged. His groin was tight and the way Lynn pressed against him, he knew she must be able to feel his erection.

  She stepped back to make a space
between their bodies. Her hands roamed over his chest. ‘I was awake all night,’ she said. ‘Thinking about you.’

  ‘I was awake thinking about you, too.’

  ‘You were?’ He heard a tremor in her voice.

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Oh, man.’ She made a soft, nervous laugh. ‘I should’ve cut myself a long time ago.’

  Her trembling fingers unbuttoned his shirt. She spread it open. She kissed his chest.

  With one hand, Charles stroked her back. With the other, he dug into the pocket of his pants. He squeezed the plastic handle of his knife.

  Staring into his eyes, Lynn plucked at the bottom of her polo shirt. She pulled it free of her shorts, drew it over her head and dropped it to the floor.

  Charles felt as if his breath had been sucked from his lungs. He struggled for air.

  Lynn fumbled at the waist of her shorts. The garment slipped down her legs. She stepped out of it, nudged it away with her sneaker.

  The plastic knife handle felt greasy with sweat.

  ‘Do you like how I look?’ Lynn whispered.

  Charles nodded. ‘You look… beautiful.’

  So beautiful. Slender and smooth, naked except for her skimpy white bra and panties, her white socks and sneakers.

  She had a calm, dreamy look on her face. A hint of a smile. Arching her back, she reached both arms up behind her.

  ‘Don’t,’ Charles murmured.

  Her eyebrows lifted. ‘I was just going to unhook…’

  ‘I know. Let me?’

  Her smile brightened. ‘Sure.’

  Charles pulled out his knife. As he opened the blade, he watched Lynn - ready to grab her if she should try to flee.

  Her smile went crooked. She stood motionless, eyes on the knife. ‘You’re kidding, right?’

  ‘I have to.’

  She lifted her gaze to his face. She seemed to be studying him. Then she shrugged one shoulder. ‘Go ahead, Charles.’

 
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