Fiends ssc, p.25
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       Fiends SSC, p.25

           Richard Laymon
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  Then, roaring, they all abandoned the table and attacked.

  All except Roger.

  Roger stood where he was. He met Jim’s eyes. ‘ You dumb fuck!’ he shouted. ‘Take care of him, guys!’

  The vampires tried. They all rushed Roger.

  But were met, first, by Specials. Some went down with spears in their chests while others tossed the women away or slammed them to the floor or snapped their spines or ripped out their throats.

  Jim rushed through the melee. He halted at the near end of the table as Roger cried out, ‘Is this why you’re here?’ His hands delved. Came up a moment later with a tiny, gleaming infant. ‘Not enough

  to share, I’m afraid.’ Grinning, he raised the child to his mouth. With a quick nip, he severed its umbilical cord.

  One hand clutching the baby’s feet, he raised it high and tilted back his head. His mouth opened wide. His other hand grasped the top of its head.

  Ready to twist it off. Ready to enjoy his special, rare treat.

  ‘No!’ Diane shrieked.

  Jim hurled his spear. Roger’s hand darted down. He caught the shaft, stopping its flight even as the wooden point touched his chest. ‘Dickhead,’ he said. ‘You didn’t really think…’

  Jim launched himself at Diane. He flew over her body, smashed down on her, slid through the wide V of her spread legs and reached high and grabbed the spear and rammed it deep into Roger’s chest.

  The vampire bellowed. He staggered backward. Coughed. Blood exploded from his mouth, spraying Jim’s face and arms. He dropped to his knees and looked up at the infant that he still held high. He lowered its head toward his wide, gushing mouth.

  Jim flung himself off the end of the table, but he knew he would be too late.

  He landed on the spear. As its shaft snapped under his weight, bloody vomit cascaded over his head. Pushing himself up, he saw the baby dangling over Roger’s mouth. The vampire tried to snap at its head, but the tide of rushing gore pushed it away.

  Jim scurried forward. He held the child in both hands until Roger let go and slumped against the floor.


  Afterwards, the Donors were released.

  They helped with the burials.

  Eleven dead Specials were buried in the courtyard, their graves marked by crosses fashioned of spears.

  Morgan, Donner and the Guardians, who’d all succumbed to the poison, were buried beyond the south wall of the estate.

  The corpses of Roger and his fellow vampires were taken into the woods to a clearing where two trails crossed. The heads were severed. The torsos were buried with the spears still in place. The heads were carried a mile away to another crossing in the trail.

  There, they were burned. The charred skulls were crushed, then buried.

  After a vote by the women, Doc and three Guardians who’d missed the poisoned squirrels were put to death. Jones had also missed the meal. But the women seemed to like him. He was appointed chef. Jim was appointed leader.

  He chose Diane to be his assistant.

  The child was a girl. They named her Glory. She had Diane’s eyes, and ears that stuck out in very much the same way as Jim’s.

  The small army lived in Roger’s estate, and seemed happy.

  Frequently, when the weather was good, a squad of well-armed volunteers would board the bus. Jim driving, they would follow roads deep into the woods. They would park the bus and wander about, searching. Sometimes, they found vampires and took them down with a shower of arrows. Sometimes, they found bands of outlaws and welcomed these strangers into their ranks.


  One morning, when a commotion in the courtyard drew Jim’s attention, he looked down from the north tower and saw Diane gathered around the bus with half-a-dozen other women. Instead of their usual leather skirts and vests, they were dressed in rags.

  Diane saw him watching, and waved. Her hair had grown, but it was still quite short. It shone like gold in the sunlight.

  She looked innocent, glorious.

  She and her friends commenced to paint the bus pink.


  Barbara bolted out of the bedroom and straight into Darren’s arms. He caught her, held her.

  ‘What’s wrong?’ he asked. ‘What is it?’

  ‘Suh… somebody under the bed!’

  ‘Oh. I’m sorry. Did she frighten you? It’s only Joyce.’

  ‘Joyce?’ Barbara struggled out of Darren’s embrace and gaped at him. ‘But you told me… you said she was dead!’

  ‘Well, of course she is. Do you think I would’ve married you if I still had a wife? It’s just like I said, the brain aneurysm three years ago…’

  ‘But you’ve got her under the bed!’

  ‘Sure. Come on, I’ll introduce you.’

  Darren took Barbara by the hand and led her into the bedroom. She staggered along beside him. On the floor by the bed was her suitcase, the one she’d taken with her on the honeymoon, unpacked that evening, and after her shower with Darren had decided to tuck out of sight.

  ‘Luggage doesn’t go under the bed,’ he explained. ‘I keep it out in the garage.’

  Barbara stood there, trembling and gasping inside her new silk kimono, trying to stay on her feet as Darren carried the suitcase over to the door. Then he knelt and slid Joyce out from under the bed.

  ‘Darling, meet Joyce.’

  Joyce lay stiff on the carpet, her wide blue eyes gazing toward the ceiling, her lips curled in a smile that showed the edges of her straight, white teeth. Wisps of brown hair swept across her forehead. Thick tresses flowed from beneath her head - a rich, silken banner that extended past her right shoulder. Her arms, close to her sides, were reaching upward from the elbow's, hands open. Her legs were straight, parted slightly. Her feet were bare.

  She wore a white negligee, a skimpy number with spaghetti straps and a plunging neckline. It was every bit as short as the nightie that Barbara had delighted Darren by wearing on their wedding night, and every bit as transparent. The way he’d dragged Joyce from beneath the bed had twisted it askew, pulling its deep V sideways so her right breast rose bare through the gap.

  Smiling over his shoulder at Barbara, Darren said, ‘Isn’t she lovely?’

  Barbara dropped.

  When she came to, she found herself lying in bed. Darren was sitting on its edge, a worried look on his face, a hand inside her kimono gently caressing her thigh. ‘Are you all right?’ he asked.

  She turned her head.

  Joyce stood beside the bed, six feet away, still smiling. The nightie blew softly, stirred by the breeze from the window. Though it concealed nothing with its sheer fabric, at least it had been straightened so her breast no longer stuck out.

  She has a better figure than me, Barbara thought.

  She’s more beautiful than…

  Barbara looked away, frowned at Darren. Though she wanted to sound calm, her voice came out high and childlike when she asked, ‘What’s going on?’

  Darren shrugged. He stroked her thigh. ‘It’s nothing to be upset about. Really.’

  ‘Nothing to be upset about? You’ve got your dead wife stuffed in your bedroom… and wearing that!'

  He smiled gently. ‘Oh, she isn’t stuffed. She’s freeze-dried. I found a place that does people’s deceased pets. She looks wonderful, doesn’t she?’

  ‘Oh, God.’ Barbara murmured.

  ‘And that’s her favorite nightgown. I don’t see why she should be deprived of it, but if you’d rather she wear something a bit more modest…’

  ‘Darren. She’s dead.’

  ‘Well, of course.’

  ‘You bury dead people. Or cremate them. You don’t… keep them.’

  ‘Why not?’

  ‘It just isn’t done!’

  ‘Oh, if I couldn’t have had her preserved so nicely, I suppose there’d be some reason to dispose of her. But look at her.’

  Barbara chose not to.

  ‘She’s as fresh as the day she died. She doesn’
t smell. What’s the problem?’

  ‘The problem? The problem?’

  ‘I don’t see any problem.’

  ‘You’ve had her here… in your house… all along?’


  ‘Under the bed?’

  ‘Well, only when I expected you to come over. I was afraid you might not take it well, so I felt it best to keep her out of sight.’

  ‘Under the bed? When I was here? All those nights I spent here, she was… Oh, God. You had this… this stiff under the bed while we…’

  ‘Not just any stiff. My wife.’

  ‘Oh, that’s supposed to make it okay?’

  ‘She was my wife, darling. What was I supposed to do, throw her out like an old shoe? I loved her. She loved me. Why should we part, just because she stopped being alive? I would’ve been… so lonely without her. And look at it from her point of view. Do you think she would’ve enjoyed being put in a hole, all by herself? Or burnt to ashes? Good Lord, who would want a fate like that? Instead, she’s here in her own house where she belongs, with her husband. Isn’t that the way you would want it? Really? It’s what I’d want for myself. It’s what I’d want for you if, God forbid, you should stop living before I do. So we would always be together.’

  ‘I suppose,’ she muttered, ‘it would be better than… those other things.’

  ‘No doubt about it.’

  ‘You should’ve told me, though.’

  ‘I was waiting for the right time. I’m just sorry you had to find out about her… the hard way. She must’ve given you quite a shock.’

  ‘Yeah, I’ll say.’

  ‘You’ve taken it really well, though. You're a champ.' With that, he spread open her kimono.

  ‘Darren!’ She swept it shut. Fast. And looked at Joyce. Who didn’t seem to be watching. The former wife’s gaze was directed, not at Barbara, but toward the open window beyond the bed, which she seemed to find pleasing, possibly a little amusing.

  ‘Now, now,’ Darren said. ‘Relax.’

  ‘But Joyce.’

  ‘She can’t see what we’re doing. For heaven’s sake, she’s dead.’

  ‘I don’t care. Not in front of her. No way.’

  ‘Now you’re being silly.’

  ‘Silly! Goddamn it!’

  ‘Shhh, shhh. Calm down. It’s all right. I’ll take care of her.’ Darren bent low, parted just enough of Barbara’s kimono to expose her groin, kissed her softly there, then climbed off the bed. Stepping in front of Joyce, he took off his velours bathrobe. ‘Forgive me?’ he asked. Then he draped the robe over her head. It hung down nearly to her waist.

  He stepped away from her. He faced Barbara. He smiled. ‘Better?’

  ‘Can’t you just put her out in the hallway or something?’

  Darren looked disappointed. ‘That wouldn’t be nice. This is her bedroom, too, you know. I can’t just put her out.’

  Barbara sighed. This would be their first night together in the house as man and wife. She didn’t want to make a stink. Besides, it wasn’t really so bad now that Joyce’s face was out of sight. ‘All right,’ she said.

  ‘I could put her back under the bed, if you’d…’

  ‘No, she’s fine there.’ Under the bed, she would be so much closer. Directly beneath them as they made love. Awful.

  Darren stepped over to the light switch.

  ‘No, leave the lights on.’

  ‘Are you sure?’

  ‘I don’t… want to be in the dark with her.’

  ‘Whatever you say, darling.’

  As he returned to the bed, Barbara sat up and took off her kimono. She glanced at Joyce, then lay down and shut her eyes.

  Darren sank down on top of her. He kissed her mouth. ‘I’m so proud of you,’ he whispered.

  ‘I know. I’m a champ.’

  ‘You are. You truly are.’

  Barbara couldn’t help it: every now and then as Darren kissed her and fondled her and plunged inside her, she looked over at Joyce. His other wife. His dead wife. Standing there shrouded by a bathrobe. Which wasn’t pulled low enough in front to hide how the diaphanous nightie, drifting in the breeze, brushed against the dark tuft of hair between her legs.

  He used to make love to her, Barbara thought.

  Here, on this same bed.

  Does she know? Does she know he’s doing it to me, now, right in front of her? Is she jealous?

  Don’t be ridiculous.

  Barbara tried to shake off the notion. But couldn’t.

  At the proper moment, she faked an orgasm.

  It took a while for Darren to recover. Soon after he was breathing normally again, he whispered, ‘See, it was just fine.’


  ‘She didn’t bother you at all, did she? Joyce, I mean.’

  ‘Not really.’ A lie. Why not?

  ‘I bet she made it better for you. She did for me.’

  What Barbara thought was, Oh my God. What she said was, ‘I don’t know. Maybe.’

  A while later, Darren said, ‘Maybe I should turn the lights off now.’

  ‘No. Leave them on.’

  ‘You aren’t still spooked, are you?’

  ‘Just a little.’

  ‘Well, that’s all right. I’m sure she’ll take a little getting used to.’ I’ll never get used to her, Barbara told herself. Never.


  Soon, Darren fell asleep. Barbara tried to sleep, but her mind was in a turmoil. She’d just married a man who kept his dead wife in the bedroom. Liked her there. As much as admitted that it turned him on to have her standing nearby while he made love.

  Weird. Disgusting.

  But it calmed Barbara whenever she thought about how things would be once she’d gotten rid of Joyce. Calmed her enough so that she was almost able to fall asleep.

  Each time she started to drift, however, she lurched awake with a sickening dread and had to look. To make sure Joyce hadn’t moved, hadn’t pulled the robe off her head, hadn’t crept closer to the bed.

  The bitch seemed to be staying put.

  Of course.

  All that ever seemed to move was the nightie, blown by the breeze so it floated against her belly and pubic curls and the tops of her legs.

  When Barbara woke up, the bedroom was bright with sunlight. She’d fallen asleep after all. Somehow. In spite of Joyce.


  She didn’t want to see her, fought the urge to turn her head, instead gazed at the ceiling and tried to appreciate the feel of the warm breeze caressing her body.

  I can’t spend another night in the same room with her, she thought. Just can’t. I’ve gotta make Darren listen to reason.

  She turned her head toward the other side of the bed.

  Darren was gone.

  No! What if he took his robe with him? What if she’s uncovered?

  Barbara snapped her head the other way.

  Joyce was gone.

  Gone where?

  Barbara bolted upright. Heart thudding, she scanned the room. No sign of the corpse. She blew out a shaky breath and filled her lungs with the sweet morning air.

  Not here. Maybe Darren came to his senses and…

  She went cold inside and her skin crawled with goosebumps.

  He put her under the bed!

  Moaning, she flung herself off the mattress. She rushed to the middle of the room and there, a safe distance away, dropped to her hands and knees and peered into the space beneath the bed.

  No Joyce.

  Thank God.

  But where is she? What’s Darren done with her?

  At least she’s not here. That's the main thing.

  Calming down slightly, Barbara got to her feet. She brushed some carpet lint off her hands and knees. She was still trembling, still shivery with gooseflesh.

  I can’t live like this, she thought as she returned to the bed. She put on her silk kimono, wrapped it snugly around herself and tied the sash. Then she turned toward the closet. She wanted her house slip

  What if Joyce is in there?

  She stared at the shut door. And decided it could stay shut. She could do without her slippers.

  Heading for the bedroom door, she noticed that her suitcase was missing. Darren must’ve taken it out to the garage.

  Maybe he’d also taken Joyce out to the garage.

  If only.

  Fat chance.

  She halted at the doorway, leaned forward and swiveled her head from side to side. The corridor looked clear. She rushed for the bathroom. Its door was open. No sign of Joyce. She entered and locked the door. Then had a few bad moments as she approached the tub. But the tub was empty. Barbara sighed, relaxed a little.

  She used the toilet, washed her face, brushed her teeth, sat on the edge of the tub and tried to work up her courage for venturing out of the sanctuary of the bathroom.

  This is crazy, she told herself. Why should I be scared of Joyce? She can’t hurt me. Can’t do anything but freak me out. And make me wonder if I’m married to a crazy man.

  He’s not crazy. He cares about her, that’s all. Can’t bear to part with her.

  Jesus H. Christ on a crutch.

  He damn well will part with her. It’s her or me.

  Right. What’ll I do? Where’ll I go? I gave up my apartment. I already quit my job, for godsake. Guess I can always find…

  Why should I be the one to leave? She’s the dead one.

  Just gotta talk to Darren. If he’ll only listen to reason and put her away someplace, everything will be okay.

  Barbara forced herself to leave the bathroom. As she walked down the corridor, someone stepped out of the bedroom. She flinched before realizing it was Darren.

  He’d already gotten dressed. He wore one of the bright red aloha shirts they’d bought on Maui. It hung loose down past the front of his Bermuda shorts. His legs looked darkly tanned above the tops of his white socks. He had his Reeboks on.

  ‘Morning!’ he said, smiling as he hurried toward her. ‘You sure slept in, didn’t you?’

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