Hi I'm a Social Disease: Horror Stories (7 page)

BOOK: Hi I'm a Social Disease: Horror Stories
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I insist. You… performed an invaluable service. Besides, I still have another one right here, huh? Hey, between you and me—this is free money.”


You steal it?”


I
look
like a thief?”


Nah, you look honest.”


Take it and do somethin nice for your wife and kids.”

The vendor looked down at the bill and shook his head. “It’s been a weird goddamn day.”


For you and me both.”

The vendor slipped the bill into his pocket and glanced around suspiciously like he was guilty for having this much money handed to him at once.


You have a real good evening, mister.” The vendor went back to pushing his cart.

Myron turned and walked in the opposite direction, flipping a dismissive wave behind him.

He hailed a cab. He slid into the back. The cabbie was listening to the radio. The market had finished down for the day. Tough economic times were coming, all the experts agreed.

Myron sighed with relief. It felt like all of his tough times were coming to an end.

 

 

18.

 

Later, in the sewer beneath Harlem, after leaving the cabbie with the remaining hundred dollar bill, Myron watched Mama Hodap’s face light up as he presented her with the heart. The other members of the Enclave seemed ecstatic as well. It was a small victory. One they celebrated by roasting the heart over a pitiful fire and dividing it equally before eating.

There were still people like Chambers out there.

Still people who served the old gods.

The news spoke of a collapse and Myron knew this meant the hearts of Wall Street might lie low for a year or two years or maybe even more, if they were really serious about it. But they would be back. They would make another move to stake a claim on the modern world. And Myron and Mama Hodap and the rest of the Enclave would be there to try and stop them.

The Dust Season

 

The caravan moved from east to west. One of the last genuine freak shows, the campers and trucks rattled through the dust. That was about the only thing Bradley could remember. The dust. It felt like they were following some eternal drought across the continent. Everywhere, there was dust.

Through the bars of his trailer, at a gas station, Bradley watched the feet shift through the film. He couldn’t bring himself to raise his head and look at the faces that belonged to those shuffling feet. The faces seemed too sad. This was the bad time of year when the dust mixed with the humidity and formed some kind of airborne mud that filled the lungs. But, even though it was everywhere, the dust was the least of Bradley’s worries.

Something terrible had happened.

Flashes of it came to him, as flitting as his geological location. He went to sleep thinking Georgia, Georgia, Georgia, we’re in Georgia and it would be Mississippi when he came to. And with the waking, there was the surging electric blue pain, an afterimage left like a tear soaked postcard in his memory.

It’s a job, he told himself. Just like any other job. Think of it as a demotion, that’s all.

No. No. It was more than that. Although he had no idea in what capacity, what area he had worked in before, he was well aware of who he was now.

The attractions had their own separate booths, small places made hastily from garish, crudely painted plywood and pressed board. Nowhere near as alluring as the banners that adorned the outside of the tent. Bradley’s booth stank. It smelled like raw sewage, mildew, and rotting meat.

Helton was about ready to let the first group in. The grating sound of Helton’s voice as he shouted promises at the undoubtedly small crowd sent more memories shredding through Bradley.

Helton—the tiny, hideous leader. Substantially under five feet tall, with pale skin that looked like it had been painted on with a sponge, Bradley knew Helton had something to do with his demotion.

Bradley cringed. Helton’s voice, augmented through a cheap megaphone, made his insides squirm.


Ladies and gentleman! Prepare yourselves for spectacles that can’t be seen anywhere else. No sir. Rest assured that this is the only place where you will see a real, live giant. That’s right, he stands through these doors, waiting to meet your gaze. But it gets stranger than that. Mr. Magneto will show you how he can hang from a steel beam with nothing but the magnetic force of his skin. We have a man with gills. A man who can lift barbells with his tongue. And tonight, making her first appearance—the Painted Lady! Watch her get another flesh piercing tattoo right in front of your very eyes…”

More memories. More excruciating than the first ones. Longer in length.

The Painted Lady hadn’t always been the Painted Lady. She used to be Elastica, Queen of Bending. Unlike a lot of the other freaks, being the Queen of Bending didn’t involve any physical deformity or mutilation. Bradley knew her as Eliza, the Hideous Leader’s wife. But Bradley didn’t let that stop him. When Eliza beckoned, Bradley answered. Each time they met, whether they slept together or not, was heaven for Bradley—

He remembered now. He’d been the psychic, more of a money- raiser than a freakish attraction


and there were occasions when he really did have the gift. That’s one of the reasons he enjoyed being with Eliza, her mind was so open and easy to enter. He stared into her eyes, crawled into her mind, and started opening doors. He felt like they had created a dark and secret world between them. They talked about running away. When we get to California, they agreed. Before the sideshow doubled back.

They were in this mental dreamland, hiding in the blackly magical woods of Louisiana behind that night’s encampment. Before either of them could run off, the Hideous Leader, Strong Arm, and The Lift were upon them.

Helton’s small white hands glowed in the dark and gripped Bradley’s wrist, squeezing impossibly tight.

Strong Arm guffawed. “We thought you’d see us comin, future boy.”

They were both dragged out into the pool of light created by the circle of campers and trucks. The other freaks wandered out of their temporary homes, the only ones they knew. It was rare that they got to watch a show themselves.

Between the three of them, they had Eliza stripped bare in no time. She tried to struggle, tried to fall down, but they kept standing her upright. Mr. Fish, the man with gills, doubled as the resident tattoo artist. At that hour, he was a very drunk tattoo artist. The Hideous Leader shaved Eliza’s head and pubis, savagely dragging the razor along until too much hair got caught up in it. Then he simply rubbed the blade against the moist grass and went back to work. Eliza screamed when the needle went in at her crown. Helton barked around his cigar, “Go deep with em. We don’t want none of em wearin off.”

Eliza continued to scream. It wasn’t long before other onlookers were invited to join in the tattooing. A few of the men squabbled over her breasts and between her legs. Every few minutes, the Hideous Leader threw a bucket of cold water on Eliza to rinse the blood away and keep her in a state of semi-consciousness.

Bradley had stayed tapped into her secret place during the whole ordeal. What he saw, he guessed, was Eliza’s life flashing before her eyes. All of that hitting him at once was overwhelming. And over top of that, like a burning blanket, was the pain. Although her skin went numb to the physical pain relatively quickly, the mental anguish was soul draining and constant.

Bradley’s memory faded out as his mind had wanted to that night.

The Hideous Leader droned on: “That’s right. Just last week, she was the Human Scab, but here she is in her full, multicolored regalia. But that’s not all—t he Strongest Man in the World, Siamese Twins, the
real
Elephant Man and, this one, folks… this one I’m gonna bring out first… Now, it’s kind of an experiment so I want you to make him feel really welcome. Ladies and gentlemen—I give you the Quarter Man.”

The yellow bug-swamped light hit Bradley. He swooned, stuck out his arms to brace himself from the fall and—

When they were finished with Eliza they took her out and threw her into the dust. Bradley quickly learned what they meant to do with him. Struggle was useless. His breath came in harsh, ragged bursts. They threw him to the ground and tied his wrists and ankles to tent stakes. The Hideous Leader made sure to sharpen the knives by his ear, digging his little knees into Bradley’s back. Helton started on his backside, just below the buttocks, and removed each of Bradley’s legs. Mercifully, he was unconscious when they cauterized the wound, despite the Hideous Leader’s attempts to revive him.


and realized that there was no fall to brace. His hands were now his feet. His feet and legs were somewhere else altogether.

He looked out at those blank faces, wondering how he was still alive. Not for long, he thought. He could feel and smell the blackish-yellow tentacles of infection, working their way up his spinal column.

And from another booth came faint glimpses of the secret place, ruinous now, so much gray dust, filled with a sense of dread. When they covered her body with tattoos, they made sure to leave a few blank spaces. Tonight, the first one would be filled. By the time they got to the last one, the freak show would need another quarter man or, perhaps, a quarter woman.

The Man With the Face Like a Bruise

 


Eli,” she whispered into his ear.

Nothing.

She shifted in the bed, turning over to face him.


Elijah?”

He only whimpered and turned away from her. She leaned her head over top of his, feeling the heat coming off his face. She pushed her lips into the stubble that grew from his jaw line, sliding her tongue between her lips, pressing it against the stubble, running it up the sleep greasy sheen of his cheek until she could taste the tear that had trickled from one of his closed eyes.


Eli?” she whispered again.

Still nothing.

She rolled back over, pulled the sheet up to her chin, and closed her eyes against the dawn.

 

After the blueness had left the room, replaced with a yellow that was harsher and fuller of sun, Eli woke up. Maya was lying next to him, already awake. He reached over, beneath the sheet, pulled down a little lower now, and ran his hand up her silk smooth thigh.


Morning, Sweetness,” he mumbled through drymouth.


You were whimpering again.” She didn’t even look at him, just kept staring up at the ceiling.


Was I?”


Actually crying this time.”


Did I wake you?”


No, I was already awake.”

He rolled over and nibbled her ear.


Look, Eli, is there something you need to tell me?”


About what?”


It’s not like you, that’s all. The whimpering. The crying. I want you to tell me what the hell’s the matter with you.”

Eli leaned across the bed, over Maya and her fabulous heat, to grab his cigarettes and lighter from the nightstand. He brought himself back over to his side and propped the pillow up against the headboard, shook out a cigarette and lit it. Through the thin, twirling veil of gray smoke, he looked at their small apartment. They had something good. He liked what they had created over the past year. They never argued. They didn’t really have any worries and, until this past month or so, they had had some really great sex. Eli didn’t want to lose any of that.

Maya sighed into the heavy yellowness of the room.


Are you going to tell me?” she said.

Eli took another drag and crushed the cigarette out.


Yeah, I’ll tell you.”

 

Sometimes, when everything was blue, Elijah didn’t just see what was in front of him. There was something else. It was like the air around him was too thin or something. Almost like he could see through it. And it wasn’t just his sight that was affected. He heard things too, when everything was blue.

It started right before Eileen and Cynthia died. The week before, to be exact. June 15. More than two years ago. Two years and one week ago.

Dawn in the bedroom of their new house in the suburbs and Elijah had woken up and looked around the room. The blue filled the room and inside the blue, Elijah saw the swirling shapes. He got out of bed and walked into the middle of the room, deeper into the blue, Eileen sleeping soundly, Cynthia still tucked away in her room with the Dr. Seuss murals painted on the walls.

The blue wasn’t like any other color Elijah had ever seen. It almost seemed like calling it blue was to do it some sort of injustice. It couldn’t be categorized like that. It was the blue of a hundred different skies. The blue of Heaven, perhaps.

BOOK: Hi I'm a Social Disease: Horror Stories
6.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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