I can't recall if it was the exquisite cover art or the cheeky character of Ella that first captured my attention on Twitter, perhaps both. What was it about this enigmatic beauty that delighted and intrigued me? And then I purchased and read the book by Stephen Moran and understood my fascination.
Let's be clear. Ella Thomas is not your typical heroine, no cardboard cut-out she. What the author has created is a fabulously-flawed and deviously-delicious flesh and blood persona, a woman on a mission of discovery and destruction. In the hands of a lesser writer, this book might fall into the category of 'just another book about a serial killer' but this could not be further from the truth. Beautifully-crafted, the book's locales are detailed for texture but never ponderous, the flashbacks both terrifying and poignant, a remarkable feat given the subject matter.
This book is mesmerizing mayhem from beginning to end, one I shall read again and highly recommend. More please, Mr. Moran.
Sirens and horns wake me and I roll off the concrete slab bed onto the dusty cracked tile floor. Batons clang against the bars, creeping closer to my hole, shadows of faceless guards shrouding the feeble light. A monster with broad shoulders unlocks my gate and steps inside, dust and debris pluming into the small space, forcing a cough from my lungs.
"Strip." He doesn't have a voice of a man, the metallic echo of a robot or appliance emanates from underneath the hood covering his massive skull.
Shedding the crusty hospital gown to the floor, I shiver with cold while my brain presents a disjointed array of images of the myriad ways I'm about to die.
The monster grabs my upper arm and drags me out of my hole before thrusting me forward into the line of naked humanity forming in the hallway. I keep my head down and follow the herd of men, which trudges and sways with exhaustion and fear, the endless sirens ripping at sanity.
The faceless monsters force the line into a dark doorway, no light to reveal our collective fate, but screams echo along the walls and ceilings. Some resist and try to push the door closed, but the faceless men eliminate the rebellion with a cattle-prod type weapon, pressing it against the naked flesh of any fighting to administer an electric shock. Once shocked the men fall like the dead and the rest continue into the dark open door without a fight.
I'm at the front of the line, hands propel me forward into the darkness. Screams attack my ears and more hands pull me through another doorway. Suddenly, I'm bathed in light so intense it burns my skin. I'm in an auditorium of sorts, rows of seats surrounding a small stage.
Scattered throughout the auditorium are televisions enclosed in cages blaring the same address from the fearless leader of our land. He screams and gesticulates, the sound seeping into my pours. After each break in the speech a round of screams echos as if in response. Leader speaks, the citizens scream in agony.
The herd pushes me toward the stage, where a woman in a dress that was once white, but now mostly red with the blood of those screaming response at fearless leader holds court with a sword in her hands.
I'm third in line. Individual 438. My death approaches. The first man steps on the stage and knees before the woman. As fearless leader speaks and rages on the television screen, the man makes the sign of the cross. A bell rings and the woman raises the sword high in the air.
"He told another lie, I sentence you to death."
Swinging the sword, the blonde woman severs the man's head and kicks it from the stage as the body spurts blood. The man in front of me screams and attempts to run from the line. Nobody stops him.
The televisions go dark and fearless leader screams no more. The woman on the stage wipes blood from the sword and approaches me.
"You got lucky. He told 437 lies."
She smiles and taps at my naked parts with the sword. A monster appears by her side, this one with a face of scars and burnt features for all to see.
"What shall I do with the one that ran?"
"Feed him to the dogs," the blonde woman answers, wiping blood off her face with the back of her hand.
"And this one, the lucky one?" The monster asks, nodding in my direction.
The woman hands her sword to a male assistant dressed in a long white robe.
"What to do with you?"
Every light in the room illuminates. Voices extinguish like spent matches and those remaining turn to watch. She steps closer, heels clicking like gunshots in my brain, pale blue eyes sparkling with mirth and hate. Standing close enough to taste of her pale flesh, she whispers in my ear.
"I pardon you."
A shiver passes over me, but I don't answer. I wouldn't know what's proper to say.
"Go now before she changes her mind. Run, boy," the monster pushes me back the way I arrived. I trace my steps as fast as my legs will allow, filled with wobble and water. Slamming my hand on the doorknob, I pull with all my strength, but the door won't open. It's locked and a wave of nausea washes over me. I close my eyes and count to regulate my breathing. Don't have a panic attack!
The clicking begins again, the sound growing louder in my skull with each step she takes in my direction. I can't open my eyes. I don't want to see.
She presses into my body, the blood on her dress cold and sticky. The sensation of the blood with the reverberation of the endless clicking unnerves me. Wetness runs down my leg and I can't even feel shame at urinating in front of her because I'm so afraid.
"Sleep," she whispers, plunging a needle into my neck.
I manage one scream before the spinning takes me down into the blackness.
5.0 out of 5 stars matryoshka doll of a story inside a story
January 7, 2019 Verified Purchase Stephen Moran’s writing style is casual current and probably not like any other author you’ve read! I turned each page because it was so drawing but also I really wanted to see where Moran was taking the story(stories). I love not figuring out the twists and turns!! At the end I couldn’t help wonder if Moran was just setting things up and there will be even more. Sequel? I hope so because there was one character in particular I’d love to see reappear. Or am I only dreaming? The Terrorist Of Providence Street was one hell of a cool read!
Excellent character development... Tightly woven narrative. December 30, 2018
L.M. Bryski delivers a thriller that has every element necessary for great storytelling. Characters with elaborate backstories are revealed over time via tasteful use of flashbacks. A prop triggers the memory of a detective and leads him in the right direction. Medical/scientific backdrop is used in a way that suggests the author knows a thing or two on the topics she writes about. It’s a tightly woven narrative with realistic characters with whom I empathize.
Blood Chill takes place in the city of Janus, and the novel spans throughout a great deal of the community. Ranging from those who inhabit the newly renovated homeless shelter to the rich who run the show, there’s no class or age group left unaddressed.
These characters have the greatest pull in the story. They’re so well fleshed out and realistic, flawed and funny, weighed upon by the past and other regrets. Commentary between police officers is the main source with comic relief, and I found myself enjoying the banter of Roy Fletcher whenever he’s on the page.
I find it difficult to review thrillers of this nature because I want to delve into the details that hooked me, the feeling when there’s an epiphany regarding a narrative arc, and my thoughts on the villain(s). The fun of these reads is in unraveling the mystery, and I loathe to give anything away.
With that in mind I’ll keep it short. If you’re looking for a smart, funny, and at times culturally satirical thriller with a scientific backdrop then you must check out Blood Chill by L.M. Bryski.
Ryan arrived at the airport an hour before her flight was scheduled to land. He didn’t pay attention to much of anything on the drive, indeed, not noticing an elderly woman ignoring a stop sign and nearly colliding with his car. He kept on his way, oblivious. He feared being late and rushed at every point that day, somehow imagining he’d show up only to find her having had arrived early and left again.
He parked his car and taking with him a notebook and the flowers he’d purchased for her, made his way into the terminal. He’d been there many times and seemingly without trying made his way through the airport towards the arrivals terminal, his eyes focused on the gray carpet as he walked, ignoring the bustle around him.
He stopped in the waiting area and put his flowers down on the row of seats next to where he stood. He kept his eye on the clock and on the board, which displayed incoming flights.
'Gate four,' he whispered to himself.
His fingers were busy, picking at a half-ripped belt loop in his jeans, his nervousness showing. He'd gotten his hair cut that morning and remembered to shave. He felt as good as he could expect to feel, the crispness of his pressed shirt and new pants reassuring.
He glanced at the flowers resting on the chair, which he'd bought at the florist on the way to the airport. Twelve pink carnations, adorned with wild flowers he'd picked outside his apartment.
He smiled, thinking again about her. Closing his eyes, her features appeared in his mind, and he imagined the feel of her lips against his. After all those months, six to be precise, he would finally meet her. The talking and promising to meet would be at an end; soon he would see her in the flesh. His mind felt pregnant with thoughts, one crowding upon the back of the other, each asking for attention. Would it be the same? True, he thought, you can know someone from their words, but would he feel desire towards her, and she him? What words would he say? He didn’t know the answers to these questions and the number of them in his mind left him feeling disoriented.
All those moments together, the hours of talking would meet in one moment, the wait almost over. Sweat gathered upon his forehead and on the palms of his hands.
A bell sounded, announcing the arrival of flight 102, from Seattle. He opened his eyes and watched the passengers enter the waiting area, seeking out love ones, lovers, friends.
He watched a pretty blonde girl leap into a man's arms, her father, and wished she would run to meet him in a similar way.
'I can't wait to see you,' she'd said. He kept hearing the words in his mind.
'When I lay down at night, you are all that I can think of, imagine,' he'd responded. He wondered if those words conveyed how he felt. He hoped she understood and wished with all his heart she felt the same desire for him. But, could he know for sure?
He checked the clock, twenty minutes to wait. He sat down and opened his notebook, an idea crawling around in the recesses of his mind.
You, with pleated plaid skirt and a school girl heart. Come down the blueberry hill towards me, into my arms for the last time death waits in the air, a putrid rotten incense and sticks in my clothes. ice in my veins, I grow cold. you are a stranger, a dandy humming show tunes, pigtails and all. and I feel in my heart, we all go round the mulberry bush we all fall down.
Ryan closed his notebook, pleased. He smiled and crossed his hands across his lap, the time near. A man wearing a gray suit and carrying a tan overnight bag sat next to him. He studied the man, but did not speak to him, instead content to stay in his thoughts of her. He flipped through his notebook for a moment, but the man next to him interrupted his reading.
‘Whom are you meeting?’ The man asked. The man wore thick glasses and looked to be near fifty years of age.
Ryan didn’t know how to answer. How do I say I’m meeting a girlfriend? He thought to himself.
‘My girl,’ he said.
‘How long has it been since you’ve seen her?’ the man asked.
Ryan gritted his teeth and remained silent. He debated on how to answer the question. He shook his head and sighed deeply, gripping his fingers together tightly.
‘I’ve never actually met her.’
The man looked at him, his eyes wide and shocked behind his thick glasses. He clucked his tongue and wagged his finger at Ryan.
‘This is one of those internet romances, isn’t it?’ The man smiled, pleased with himself.
The man nodded his head, as if he understood everything. Ryan wondered if he understood it himself.
‘I knew of a guy that met a woman he met on the internet. He talked to her for about a year before he saw her for the first time. He lives out in California though, that sort of thing is to be expected out there.’
Ryan gripped the arms of the chair and tried not to speak. He took a deep breath before he responded.
‘And?’ He asked the man.
‘Oh, yes. Well, as I understand it, he married her.’
Ryan laughed and released his grip on the chair. The man stood up to take his leave, gathering his bag in his arms.
‘Good luck to you.’ The man extended his hand. Ryan shook it in silence, watching him make his way through the terminal towards the exit.
He sighed and ran his fingers over his cropped brown hair as he sat down. His toe tapped soundless on the carpet as he watched the clock tick. Four minutes past two. The announcement board gave the information that her flight was on the ground, causing his nervousness to increase. He began biting at his finger nails and tapping his foot more rapidly.
I hope it is the same as it was online.
A bell sounded, announcing flight 450, from New Mexico. He stood, grabbing the flowers off the seat next to him.
Elderly gentlemen holding cane three young giggling girls, between them trying to discover the meaning of life a nun, stoic and grumpy four businessmen in heated discussion walking quick for the exit grandmother meeting waiting grandchildren, smiles on their faces middle aged woman greeting with kiss her lover, husband stewardess, pilot, baggage handlers nothing emptiness.
Ryan stared at the gray door, as it slowly closed, sealing off the gate from the airport.
He scanned the room, confused, remaining motionless for some minutes. He tried to breathe, but his chest felt tight, the same feeling he used to get when he’d dive deep into the swimming pool at camp to retrieve quarters.
Without a word and a dull smile on his face, he turned and walked out of the terminal, dropping the flowers in a trash receptacle near the eternally revolving exit doors.
Blood Chill by L. M. Bryski will be on 99 cent sale on Amazon Kindle from 11/16 - 11/22. To purchase at Amazon, click the cover link above OR click here.
Moran Press will be gifting review copies to all the readers that want one. To claim a free copy simply comment on this post, contact Stephen Moran via Facebook or Twitter or e-mail at MoranPressGroup@gmail.com
A description of Blood Chill:
In the blood chilling winter of 2046, the world has survived the Aging Virus epidemic although the threat of disease remains.
Top researchers at the Janus City Virology Institute are seeking a cure, but Dr. Karin Bhaima, a scientist given a second chance, wants to know—why is talentless hack Graham Mogden one of them?
A corpse has been found frozen under a bridge, another missing and murdered woman, and the people of Janus City are demanding answers. Detective Sonny Merrick wants in on the case and relief from his own guilty secret.
When teen orphan Marble Glass becomes the latest missing victim, can a detective with a painful past and a disgraced scientist find her alive and solve the mystery of the murdered women of Janus City?
The clicking of my stilettos reverberates along the hallway, which stretches from my apartments to the rear wing of the mansion. I follow George, tapping my phone and checking stock quotes while I walk. Ray would be proud of me, multi-talking in heels and a dress. The green silk against my skin makes me smile and I’m ready to face the day. George clears his throat and stops as the hallway ends at two immense black double doors.
Tucking one hand behind his back, George opens the doors to reveal a wide chamber. Against the far wall are ten men bound to metal contraptions that look like portable torture vehicles out of a science fiction movie. Spikes and leather straps secure the men’s faces and limbs and I laugh at the scene in front of me. All eyes follow me, waiting on me to speak. This room contains specimens for the trial today and I’m going to select a participant.
“Welcome to Holden Farms,” I say, moving my eyes over the naked flesh. It’s difficult not to laugh at some of the unimpressive bits and parts on display, there being only one man endowed enough to make me pause for a second glance.
Turning from the rapists, I inspect various cutting weapons that line the walls. Swords, axes, knives of varying shapes, and in one corner – a portable mini-guillotine contraption on wheels. A giggle escapes my lips and Saul laughs with me. This must be his invention.
“I’ve been working on this for some time. It’s hard keeping secrets when I’m chained to your side every moment of the day.”
“Tsk, tsk, Saul. You know I hate whiners. Besides, you don’t complain about being so close to me when I let you…” my voice trails off and I do not finish the statement. The man with the huge bits and pieces stares at me with an intensity I dislike. I approach him, heels tapping against the concrete floor.
“Each of you men will make a choice today.”
The hate flowing from this man reminds me of father and sends a jolt of anger through my body, settling in my stomach and making bitter mix with the coffee I consumed at breakfast. Pausing before I continue my speech, I make a closer examination of this man. Dark brown hair with eyes black, like coal. Scars line his face, neck, and arms. And that cock of his, hanging like an impressive thick hose between tree truck legs. Gripping it with my hands, I twist until he grunts with pain.
“Not such a tough guy, after all.”
“Let me free and we’ll see about all that.” Pushing against his restraints causes flesh blood to stream down his face, the spikes digging into his skin. Droplets of blood fall on my arm and George hurries to my side with a towel.
“The choice is simple. Give the rest of your life over to me. Serve me however I wish. Or die.”
The eyes watching me contain a mix of fear and hope. How many will take the deal I offer when I explain the details? I open my mouth to speak when I hear that man laugh.
“Did I say something funny?”
“These men are as crazy as you if any of em believes leaving this room alive is an option. I heard about you on the news.”
Shrugging, I turn my attention to the other men, scanning the faces and eyes and twitching bodies for tells of how each man till react to my offer of a deal. Approaching the first man in line, I stop and rest my hand on the metal cage imprisoning him.
“What do you say? Live and serve me or die?” Extending my hand, Saul places a metal object in my palm. My special knife.
“Ahh…” the man stammers.
“This is not a difficult question. Live or die?”
The man fights to control his fear and manages to speak. “Live. I want to live.”
“One final question. The file states you vote Republican. Is that true?”
“What?” His eyes swim with confusion. I allow his tiny rapist brain time to process my question. “Yes, I’ve voted Republican, but not for many years because…”
I don’t allow him to finish. With a swing of my arm, the blade slices through his windpipe, sending a stream of blood into the air. Angry jets of red escape the gaping wound and I laugh and laugh while he bleeds onto the floor.
Turning to face the other men, I wipe the blade with a fresh towel George presses into my hand. “Any other Republicans in the room?’
The man with the coal black eyes speaks. “Kill a man for being a Republican? The worst mistake this country ever made was giving women the right to vote.”
“Being a Republican in my mansion is punishable by death.”
“Except her husband,” Saul cuts in.
The man laughs again and spits. “You’re sick. Didn’t your daddy hug you enough?” I laugh and tap the blade against his cage. “You and I are going to have a lot of fun this afternoon. Well, I am. You’re going to scream.”
GET A SIGNED COPY OF ELLA or Get a Custom Edition with Handwritten Short Story inside the book
Michael woke to the sound of the phone. He remained still in bed until the ringing stopped before reaching for a cigarette. He lit it and inhaled, which caused a pleasurable burning sensation in his throat. He knew the pain was intensified by staying awake with four nameless others until all hours of the morning discussing with vehemence the administration’s latest stand on Persia. The conversation went along the same predictable, sing-song mantra, academia lines that hundreds, if not thousands of discussions Michael had involved himself in over the years.
Snippets and sentences of tired platform statements rolled in his mind as he studied the room, eyes settling on the bookcase beside the bed.
“We the educators, students, and artists of the nation need to have our voices heard,” a nameless professor of art history said. Others urged a petition drive to protest the administration.
We, 1984, Brave New World.
“This can’t be our reaction,” Michael said to the professor and to the others. “All we’re going to do is sign a petition in response to an act of international aggression?”
“Yes, that is exactly what we are going to do,” The professor responded with vigor. “Fill the mailbox of your local elected representatives until we are heard. That is democracy in action.”
Michael sighed as the others agreed, the very memory of their weakness causing him to close his eyes. He opened them again, seeing a picture of Malcolm X on the bookshelf. Below the photo were more books: The Possessed, Fathers and Sons, and One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.
We don't need a petition, he said to himself, crushing the cigarette against the ashtray. He rolled out of bed and threw a bathrobe over his shoulders. Turning on the television, he sat in the easy chair next to the bed, running ragged fingernails over the worn brown cloth of the chair’s arm.
The news drawled on, the hate of the new day much like the one before it and the day the previous week he first heart of possible operations against Persia. He glanced up at the world map hanging above the television. “Between which two countries does one find Persia?” He asked, his voice cracking with cigarette strain and hollow mirth.
“Tic, tac, toe.”
He turned off the television and left the bedroom, ready to begin his morning routine. He started the coffee, measured the previous evening before turning in for bed. Opening the front door, he picked up the morning paper from the top step and brought the mail inside to the kitchen table.
“Death, taxes and war. The usual.”
He poured coffee and began flipping through the mail, tossing aside official looking envelopes.
“Bill, bill, bill, junk, junk, and more junk.”
Two pieces of mail demanded attention; a letter from a writer Michael knew and a plain envelope, lacking stamp or address marked only with the word attention. He pushed that aside for the moment and opened the first.
Michael, I have not heart from you in some time. How goes the battle? Has there been any progress on your novel? I speak of your novel of revolution and not the romance rubbish you had planned. I fear you may lose heart if you isolate yourself, so please write or come to the city for a weekend. Edgardo
Michael lit another cigarette, leaving the letter open on the table before him. Had he made progress on his novel? He hadn’t made progress in months, the last entry in the manuscript reading like a helpless plea.
“What can I do to stop the train of current events? I am merely one ant in a sea of billions.”
He shook his head, as if to dispel the thought and took up the envelope marked, Attention. He opened it and removed a single sheet of paper, which contained four typed lines.
Inaction ends today. The revolution begins today at ______ building. Meet in the back room.
Nothing was printed on the reverse side, no name or contact numbers. He knew the building referred to in the note, an abandoned warehouse outside the jewelry district, approximately a mile from downtown and less than two miles from his apartment. Checking the time, knew he could make the appointed time if he left immediately. He ran his fingers over the letter and took one final sip of coffee.
“What can this be about?” He entered the bedroom, changing into jeans and a navy blue sweatshirt. “I might as well see who sent me this memo.”
With haste, he grabbed a jacket and cigarettes and stepped into a rainy early spring afternoon. He walked quickly, not giving notice to his surroundings or even to the traffic passing him. In less than twenty minutes, he reached his destination, standing across the street from the warehouse.
He observed no movement of any kind, save for a bit of trash which blew about in the light spring wind. The paper stopped at his feet and he picked it up off the ground. It was identical in every respect to the note he received in the mail that morning. He crumpled the paper, dropped it to the ground, and crossed the street to reach the warehouse.
Faded brick greeted him, cracked in places, holes large enough to see through in others. The building stared back at him in silence, a shouting stillness that unnerved him, bringing sweat on his temples. He reached for the door, a giant of peeling fire engine red and turned the knob. With a show of intended boldness, he pulled the door open and stepped quickly into the darkness.
He guided himself along the wall, the dirt and grit of years falling from the wallpaper. He followed a dim light through a doorway into a wide open space.
“Hello.” He heard a voice.
He froze, his knees threatening to fail below him, the sinking sensation in his stomach nearly causing him to vomit. He spun round to find a man in the archway to a side room, chewing on a cigar.
“The others thought you wouldn’t come,” the man said, his voice a cold steel monotone, which Michael felt deep inside his chest.
Michael tried to swallow, but his throat failed him. The man walked towards him, bringing into focus his features. He was a tall, bald man of sturdy build wearing a long brown overcoat. Michael didn’t recognize his face or his voice.
“I told them Michael. I knew.”
He lit the cigar and stood for some moments in silence, puffing, keeping his eyes on Michael. Michael became aware, slowly, with dawning knowledge, of the presence of others, lurking in the quiet and shadows, watching him.
“What is your name?” Michael managed to ask, his throat dry and cracked from cigarettes, which made speaking painful.
“You’ll never know.” Michael could see the weapon in his hand, glinting glow red with each puff of the cigar.
“What of the note?” He asked to fulfill a final curiosity.
“It is not a deception. It tells you all you need to know. You are, after all, the writer my friend.”
Michael felt the anger rising useless and red from his stomach, bringing bile to his throat.
“I’m not your friend, Nazi.” He said spitting his words with all the contempt and hate he could muster.
The man laughed and the other faceless, hidden men joined the cold, steely mirth, laughing with empty identical guttural sounds, a vocal applause.
“A Nazi?” Hardly, my friend. I am an American. I am here to protect my country, which I love with all my heart,” he said, no emotion to be heard in his voice.
“Liar.” Michael said.
“I am an American!” The man roared, the sudden violence in his voice making Michael jump back in shock.
The man came closer, within arm’s reach, and pressed the weapon into Michael’s ribs. Michael saw the empty cold hate inside pale gray eyes, which bore into his own with an energy that made him lose all hope.
He pushed Michael in the direction of the stairs at the end of the room, following closely behind and pressing the gun into his back. The man grabbed his shoulder and stopped him at the top of the stairs, reaching past him and turning on the light with the pull of a hidden cord. Michael saw the bodies piled upon each other at the bottom, arms crossed with legs, all bathed in blood red and the stench of death.
He exhaled a moment before a flash of pain exploded in the back of his head. Michael fell and fell, his scream extinguished as he landed in the mass of bodies at the bottom of the stairs.
I couldn’t even say why, not now, not even all this time later. There are small parts of memory, segments if you will, which attempt in some small part to explain the events of July tenth. Oh, but i shall not harp on the point, it happened. There are no powers north or south to reverse these days. I can’t but feel the small time hour gods laughing.
I am intent on telling you, trying to give you a reason for my action. Can I tell you it was all for shits and giggles? I know, small excuse, little reason. What else can I say; I am a single entity, wronged in spirit, ready to avenge my birth.
I know I’ve lost you. Let me start again, from the beginning. Please, allow for my digressions, I can’t see all of this in one piece.
She stood at the bus terminal downtown, wearing next to nothing. I know her name, Celia or something of that nature. Her skirt showed it all, legs, bright and bare opened before me, shifting from one foot to the other. When indeed would the bus arrive?
The heat burned, fire; the road hot through my shoes, all the while I watched her, eyes dark and rimmed with mascara. She gazed at me, casual, an empty look, full of nothing, still shifting her feet aimlessly in the sand.
I approached her, not so much sure of what to say as aware of a need to be near her. A few steps further found me next to her, close enough to see the small pear shaped bruise on her ankle, close enough to smell her scent, at once strong and quiet sweet, a solid wave of apricot and spring soap. Details pressed into my consciousness: the peeling bench, green in places, the faded word ‘downtown’ missing the last ‘n’, and the constant cracks in the cement, worn smooth by shoes and boots and sandals, like the pair she wore, showing painted toes, smooth white skin painted red.
Looking at her, up from the red of her toenails, to those legs, still and forever smooth shiny and sun tanned golden, which led neat and placid into a white tennis skirt. She demanded attention, without a word, which I gave to her, to the constant stillness of her navel, tight and tanned, which seemed to spin the hazy hot air around me, dulling and spinning star shapes into my vision.
“Hello.” I said, slowly, drugged on blonde curls and tanned skin, upon which the sun danced and danced as she moved, from one foot to the other, a dance of sparkle and glitter delight. She turned, her hazel empty eyes uncomprehending, looking upon me coldly, with no interest, not even of contempt.
“Hi.” She shrugged, her blonde ringlets shaking out her greeting as she spoke.
Paralysis spread quickly over me, taking my tongue hostage, my very thoughts. I saw but blonde and gold and light refracted. All else faded: the peeled paint, the sign announcing the downtown bus, the potted palm plant next to the bench, gone, all save gold locks and tight navel.
No words or motion, just paralysis and waiting; for the bus, for her to speak, for her to move her painted foot, dragged haphazard over sand and gravel and cracked cement. Utter silence ripped through the air, passing over me in shrill waves, the sound of bus approaching failing to register until mine eyes spied the blue and white shell of metal, floating formless towards me.
Bus eased to a halt with squeal, her feet moving towards the curb. My sense of balance failing as I follow her with my eyes, I almost fell in an attempt to move. I reached for change, an automatic reflex from years of riding bus, and mounted the steps after her, my eyes against her legs, touching, caressing, and tasting the golden flesh.
Boarding, change places, one dollar thirty five, continue on following tanned haze; light shadow light shadow, a seat across from her- a perfect view. She played motion with my mind, adjusting her hair, changing her lip color, brushing thin fingers over her legs, the motion causing me disorientation. What is the day? What time zone am I in? The time, the year, confused.
“Are you okay?” She asked. The very gods ask me ‘Are you?’
Sweating and stiff with fear, I nod accent, with flutter in my stomach, the knots of mannequin desire pull strong.
“I am okay.” I manage with a smile and wipe sweat from my upper lip, trying to show control. Do I control my basic functions, my breathing?
“You look pale.” She says. Her red tongue moved slowly over pink lips, torture of heaven.
“I feel feverish.” I say, sun plays tricks, light destroys thoughts. I remember being young and riding my bike in the summer heat, with sweat in my eyes.
“I have aspirin.” She says. She looks concerned, a line upon her brow, heaven frowns!
“I’ll be okay.” I say. I doubt it, knowing my mind is feverish, hot and agape, trying to keep pace with my desire.
“How far are you going?” She asked concern still visible, one furrowed line upon her forehead.
“I do not know.” I answer, slow, careful with each word. Am I correct? Am I making sense?
She looks upon me still, her eyes narrowed and filled with concern.
“You are making me wonder. You seem ill.”
I doubt my sense of hearing. She did not say those words. I am imagining, making believe. She is not talking to me. Am I indeed on bus? How would I know the difference between reality and dream? I feel bus under me; lumps, bumps, crevice of road beneath, the blink blur of words on street signs and billboards, advertising places I’ve yet to visit, products of which I know nothing.
To the dentist, to fix bad teeth, perhaps? To the bank, to see about checks bounced and negative balances. Or simply, following a nameless she, a constant sure beauty in a white tennis skirt? I can’t say, I shall not guess. If pressed I say ‘to the coffee shop’.
“What is your name?” She asks. She smiles and for a moment I forget my nerves, my fever, name and smile back at her as though I didn’t hear her speak, as if she hadn’t asked me a question. Her face is close, close enough to see the lines in her makeup, the texture of the powder on her cheeks, close enough to...
“Jacque Cousteau.” I answer. I give her a smile, secret memories in my eyes.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Cousteau.” She says, laughing, her teeth showing white and shiny behind pink lips. “I’m Kate.”
Her laugh contains a rainbow and I hear hidden mirth, devilment, the great man trap, as her eyes search mine, inviting me, leading the way down, down, down. The world slows and her lips move slowly, silvery in half time. The words flow unheard over me, but I feel rather than hear. She takes me down.
I see her walking in front of me on a sidewalk, which leads to a set of stairs; darkness surrounds, the way downward hidden in the blackness. I see the light gold of her skin shining against the opaque steps, from which I feel heat, throbs and waves of heat. I follow one step, two steps, the heat growing, becoming oppressive. Three steps, four steps, I see an archway hover over black void, an empty space, which she leads me towards, the heat searing my skin, my eyes, my thoughts.
“Come to me.” She says, standing on the edge of the void, sheer black behind her, hand outstretched, welcoming, inviting, and her cream colored fingers cool to my burning touch.
I focus my eyes, with effort, and the blink blur of bus motion is once again visible through blonde curls. I move closer, apricots filling my senses, my arms moving of their own volition. My hands grip the soft velvet of her cheeks. I pull her close, close. My lips touch hers, without struggle, warm wet and full against mine. I kiss and kiss and kiss her, pulling her closer, closer, feeling her tongue inside my mouth, hot breath exhaled. I feel her lip and I bite, hard and vicious, savage blood trickles down her chin as she pushes me away with both hands.
I laugh, tripping my way forward. The bus screeches halt and I exit, tripping and laughing, the warm taste of blood fresh on my lips.
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