Ashes to Ashes by Ken Goldman


I know your thoughts, Doctor. I could read them in your eyes the moment I walked in. The woman is batshit crazy, you told yourself. First this total stranger calls you at home at this Godforsaken hour of the night begging to speak to you – insisting to speak to you – and then she sits for thirty minutes in your office without saying a word, expecting you to watch as she smokes an entire pack of cigarettes in your face. Oh, this Miranda woman is really a live one. Go immediately to section eight and do not pass ‘Go’. 

Well, I’ll tell you my story, Dr. Andrews, don’t you worry about that. And I’ll wager that if we had called this session during working hours you would be ringing up those boys from the lab to take a real close look at me before they took my measurements for one of those long- sleeved jackets. I never really expected anyone to believe me, but if I don’t talk to someone about this I just might come unzipped. 

There’s plenty of room in this ash tray for a few more butts. Do you mind if I light another one? I’m sorry if I seem a little nervous, but I’ve never really spoken to a therapist before, so if I start to ramble, well–I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. What do they call it, free association? Okay, then, let’s start with this …

Take a look at this ring, Doctor. Derrick gave me this diamond last night, two and a half carats of flawless rock. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I’m sure it must have cost him a Philadelphia bank roll. This little sparkling beauty almost blinded me into believing that love might work this time for me. You see, all women belong to the same sisterhood, Dr. Andrews. Whether you’re talking about a madonna or a whore, you can never take the need for romance out of a woman. But love can be a real shit kicker too. It can keep a woman alive while it slowly kills her. 

How’s that for free association, Doctor? A trip beginning with love and ending in death. Maybe we’re on to something ..

Well, was I really asking for so much just to be loved? The insane part is that even after I told Derrick the truth, he didn’t care. That’s what makes this so hard. I thought – I honestly wanted to believe – that Derrick’s loving me would make a difference, and that my loving him would mean we had a chance. I told myself that maybe this time the lovemaking wouldn’t end with—

Christ, this is so hard.

Did you know I caught you staring at my legs when I first sat on this couch? Yes, I know all about that professional detachment you’re supposed to hide behind, but that didn’t stop you from staring, did it? I know men better than you may think, Dr. Andrews. You were wondering how this body looks in the flesh, weren’t you? Well, Doctor, I don’t believe in the fast shuffle when it comes to telling the truth. I’m a goddamned feast for the eyes, I don’t mind telling you, a regular chum line to a school of sharks whenever I walk alone into a bar filled with men. But it wouldn’t do for a man to say “Nice set of bagpipes you’re packing there, Miranda girl,” would it? Men have to keep those dirty little thoughts safely locked inside, even those men who have fancy sheepskin medical certificates on their walls.

Oh, I’ve embarrassed you. I’m sorry if that came out wrong. It’s just that with Derrick it was different, and I was different too. I was someone else, someone better than I’ve ever been, Dr. Andrews. He could have had any woman he wanted, and he chose me. He stayed with me even after I told him the truth. Even when I explained to him why we could never—

Do you want to know the first thing that man said to me on the night we met, Doctor? I was alone sitting on a bar stool inside some back street mid-town watering hole, and he walked over the moment he saw me. “You’re shivering,” he said, and offered me his coat. Most times, when a guy acts that gallant to impress a woman, he’s probably just another horn dog planning a quick excursion into her pantyhose. Most men check their sincerity at the door the minute they’re inside a bar. But I thanked him for the coat and told him my name. Derrick just smiled and said, “Miranda. That’s a very beautiful name.” The way he said it was so completely unassuming, so direct. The line actually worked because I knew he meant it. A woman can tell. 

It was funny that he noticed I was chilly, because I really was cold. I was freezing my ass off in there, although that beer hall must have been up to ninety-nine degrees with every man in the place jockeying for the best positions close to the bar. Derrick draped this terribly expensive English waistcoat around my shoulders and I felt his warmth surround me, I felt the smell of that man fill my pores. My blood warmed to him the moment his hand touched mine. I knew right then that Derrick was the one.


A woman has urges she feels in secret places inside her. You must know all about a woman’s urges, don’t you, Doctor? But do you know about the yearning, the hunger that a lonely woman feels? The longing screws with more than a woman’s head, Dr. Andrews. It screws with her blood , and that blood seers throughout her whole body like hot acid until she can’t feel a goddamned thing inside except that burning hunger. Is that kind of desire mentioned in your medical textbooks, Dr. Andrews? Probably not the kind I felt knowing that I had to have Derrick close to me, pressed against me, warm inside me. And all the while knowing that I couldn’t 

I think I need another cigarette.

It’s funny how little a man knows about the blood that flows inside a woman, don’t you think? I’m not talking about the stuff you smear on your test tubes or the red flag your wife flies once a month. I’m talking about the stuff of dreams, Dr. Andrews. I’m talking about the blood that separates a healthy woman like me from some dried up crone with ice floes in her veins who has forgotten how wonderful a man’s taste feels in her mouth. I’m talking about the hot liquid that bubbles to a rolling boil whenever a yearning woman is in the arms of a lover she hungers for. Do you know about that kind of blood, Doctor Andrews? Do you really know?

Well, some men know, Doctor. Men like Derrick know. A woman who finds one of these men is not about to let him go.

Most men look at me and I know what they’re thinking. Now there’s a woman who will give my bedsprings a workout for the price of a drink. And they’re usually right, because most of the time I don’t give a shit about them, and I’m happy to slam dance under them. But every now and then a man like Derrick comes along, and I remember that I must never—

Well, maybe the time for the truth has arrived. I’m glad you’re not one of those techno-shrinks who keeps the Sony recorder handy. This is hard enough for me to talk about. I appreciate your being such a good listener. Because what I’m about to tell you most men would probably not listen to for very long.

Do you know what a succubus is, Dr. Andrews? The term is not in your medical journals, not unless you feel like cross referencing through several centuries. A succubus is a kind of demon, a woman who fucks men because fucking men is what keeps her alive. It keeps her blood from turning to ice inside her veins. You see, if she waits too long between men, her blood grows cold and she dies. But it’s not all fun and games for the man who beds her either, Doctor. The lady is not the same as your garden variety nymphomaniac because she also sucks the life out of every man she gets it on with. She really can’t help it. Oh, she’ll give a guy the time of his life for a few minutes, but soon she’s giving him a blood enema until the poor jerk has gone bone dry. A succubus is worse than a vampire because any guy she goes down on never has the option to join the undead. He just kind of implodes, then dries up and blows away like a fistful of dust. Kind of like these cigarette ashes here in this fancy ashtray of yours. 

No fuss, no muss, but not especially pretty to watch. The problem with the whole procedure is you’re not likely to find a succubus who is asked out on many second dates, are you?

So, Doctor, as a therapist you may wonder just how would a succubus deal with this dilemma if she were to fall in love? She might ask herself how can I ever sleep with my lover? How can I let him hold me, even touch me? How do I control the yearning, the hunger, all that hot burning blood inside that destroys everything within me, making me feel so empty? The more empty this woman feels, the greater her desire becomes to fill that emptiness. And the greater the desire, the hotter the blood. 

Do you see my problem, Doctor? Now do you understand why I had to do what I did? I knew that if I could quench that desire, if my hunger could be satisfied by another man’s passion, maybe on that same night I might chance having Derrick as my lover. The blood of a woman is a complex liquid, Doctor. Abstinence numbs it, abundance excites it, passion heats it, love keeps it warm. 

I’m sorry if I fooled you, Dr. Andrews, I really am sorry. But I figured this was the only way for Derrick and me, the only chance we might have to really be with each other, the only way we might know for sure. I guess you could call it a trial run for all of us.

The papers claimed you had met with certain patients late at night. I read how you almost went to court a few months back when that teenaged manic-depressive you were treating cried foul. The charges were dropped when the girl was found incompetent to stand trial. But a woman who listens closely hears many things, Doctor. You were conducting your personal brand of therapy on quite a few of your women patients right here in this office, weren’t you? I knew that if I came to see you alone at this hour of the night, you would make your move. And once you did, I made mine. 

Now here you sit in this ash tray right alongside all these cigarette butts I’ve been stubbing out for the past hour. I imagine your cleaning staff will sweep up anything I’ve missed, no questions asked. Ashes to ashes, right, Doctor? 

I really should thank you, though. I think our little session tonight did help after all. But I believe our time is up. So, if you will excuse me, Dr. Andrews, I should be getting back. I have a man at home who is waiting for me, and the hour is already late…


Ken Goldman, former Philadelphia teacher of English and Film Studies, is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association. He has homes on the Main Line in Pennsylvania and at the Jersey shore. His stories have  appeared in over 940 independent press publications in the U.S., Canada,  the UK,  and Australia with over twenty due for publication in 2021. Since 1993 Ken’s tales have received seven honorable mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. He has written six books : three anthologies of short stories, YOU HAD ME AT ARRGH!! (Sam’s Dot Publishers), DONNY DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (A/A Productions) and STAR-CROSSED (Vampires 2); and a novella, DESIREE,  (Damnation Books). His first novel OF A FEATHER (Horrific Tales Publishing) was released in January 2014. SINKHOLE, his second novel, was published by Bloodshot Books August 2017.

Published 2/10/22

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