Halloween Challenge Honorable Mention
Caroline. Ca-ro, line. Fire me up and punch me in the gut, that was Caroline. Slag, if I ever knew one. She would flick her eyes, glancing through dark eyelashes and everyone belonged to her, trailing her every step. They were sheep and Caroline was their wolf. Dressed in wolf’s clothing, she was voracious, and they fell to their knees willing and ready to let her devour them whole. She was the big, bad wolf and the whole world was to be her Little Red.
She opens her mouth and all anyone saw was warmth and the blush on her cheeks and little white teeth. Let me destroy you, she whispers. And I let her.
When she has chewed all the flavour out of my broken bones, she spits me out to tumble to my knees at her feet. And I see her. I see her for what she is.
Devil. To remind myself, I scratch the word with my pocket knife into the cold dead wood of the bench as I sit in the pew behind her. A man leans over and breathes an empty spell into her ear. A tinkling laugh escapes her lips and she lifts a white-gloved hand to smother the sound. Heads turn at the interruption, but the only reprimand she receives are private grins and lust-lidded looks before the sheep swallow their wave of desire and return their attention to the sermon.
The sunlight catches her hair as a golden lock slips over the back of the pew and she leans over to return the whisper. Her lips are as red as blood against the white-gloved shield of her hand. Dark shadowed eyes catch mine behind her. She watches me as she whispers into the poor fool’s ear and I imagine the warm breath of her at my own neck. Flashing a grin, she gives me a wink and I flip her off. A storm washes over her eyes, mimicking the one outside.
For a moment, the hairs on my arms stand to attention as a wave of unease ripples through the congregation. At the end of the pew, a child fidgets in their seat, the old woman beside me rubs the goosebumps on her arms, the preacher’s face scrunches into a frown and the wrinkles in his forehead betray his stifled confusion. The shift is unnoticeable to most, but I see it.
Time shutters to a standstill before the clock reluctantly shivers its hands back into place and an unbidden laugh claws its way out of my throat. Caroline stiffens in her seat, her precious face distorted by the disgusted snarl on her lips.
The preacher pauses in his sermon and the chapel falls into an irreverent silence. Not a single one of them thinks of God. How can they when Caroline is in the room?
The old woman next to me gives me an impatient tap on the knee and I get the hint. No lust-lidded glances for my unruly laugh. I leave gladly, with no need to look back at the pure hatred burning up Caroline’s face.
The worn wooden door swings shut behind me. It slots back into place with nought but a whisper to disturb the congregation inside. Heavy rainclouds wash out the worst of the sun but my eyes still sting after so long sitting in the candlelit chapel. I groan to myself and a curse slips from my lips as I shield my gaze. The biting kiss of the rain outside is enough to cool my churning anger so I don’t linger on the chapel steps long before I make for my preferred place of worship, the bar. My mouth waters to think of her and I intend to drown the taste of her from my lips.
The sky is dark when I stumble onto the street smelling of whisky and a dense fog abandoned by the rain obscures the sharp edges of the buildings. I step onto the cobblestone road and let the thick cloud envelop me, dulling my own edges. The moonless night paints the street in shadow, though the scattered lampposts provide pockets of light swirling in the mist. For a moment, I am lost in another world.
The hour is quiet, save for a stray cat yowling in the damp. I spin to catch it, but the fog is thick and impossible to see through. I drunkenly wander through the cloudy limbo for a time, startling myself and chuckling when unexpected shapes cut into my path. It distracts me for a moment but it’s not long before I mutter to myself, tasting the shape of her against my teeth. Ca-ro, line.
All that whisky, and still she lingers, haunting me.
The taste of iron floods my mouth so I spit and lurch toward the ground as I miss a step, and my shoulder knocks into a lamppost that has sprung, as if on cue, from the mist. But the cold, solid pillar is a welcome change, so I lean into its strength and allow my limp head to droop toward my chest.
Somewhere in the depths of the haze, sharp disembodied laughter peals like a bell through the mist. The tinkling echo pulls at the hollowness that has settled in my bones.
“Do not laugh at me,” I murmur. Whisky churns in my stomach and I grimace as it gurgles within me. Nothing rests there long these days and the wait is short before it forces its way back out. The alcohol burns my throat as it escapes the wasteland of my stomach to flood the cobblestone at my feet. I wince as some vengeful shadow of sobriety returns.
A figure moves in the corner of my eye and my gaze flicks up, scanning the fog for a fleeting glimpse of golden hair. But all my sight catches are the forgotten shadows of ghosts. Until there, the writhing shape of a being emerges. It shifts and bulges, a gurgling grey shape in the dark white shadow and I wonder if perhaps my sight is still whisky-tinged. I abandon the island of my lamppost and reach for the ghostly figure but my fist closes on wisps of nothing.
A drop of misty dew pools at the base of my neck and cold drips fall down my spine. My skin skitters but I can’t tell if it’s the sharp sting of the mist or a stutter of unease in the night. I twist in the fog, checking behind me, and I find nothing but more dark cloud. I curse my mistake of leaving the lamppost as I turn on the spot unsure of which direction I came from.
Uneven cobblestones still wobble beneath my feet. So I know, at least, that I remain on the street, wandering, but lost in the fog. I strain my hearing for some clue until a hushed moan catches my ear. I lift my upper lip into a resigned grimace and follow the sound until I catch the scent of lavender and I know she’s near.
Even drunk and lost in a world of fog, it is a scent I will always follow, and it’s not long before my palm rests on the brass knob of a door.
I step into an empty hallway. A dying wick flutters in its glass prison as I press the door shut behind me. The soft, earthy ghost of her smell lingers in the stairwell, and I revel in it. Moans echo in my thoughts as I follow the breadcrumb trail she has left me.
Death, I think, will be my only reprieve. The room is a den of humidity, and the sheen of foggy dew on my skin shifts to a thin layer of sweat before I remove my coat. My eyes gloss over the forms writhing on the bed. It works until I hear her sharp intake of breath and can’t help but imagine the brush of her lips against the beating pulse below my jaw. She wears her favourite disguise, mewling like she is discovering the pleasure of another’s body for the first time. Her fingers trail like spiders down the man’s back and a blush sparks across her cheeks. A hushed giggle slips from her devilish mouth when she catches my shadowed gaze behind them.
My throat dries and I throw open a cupboard. My grasping fingers shuffle through a forest of glass until I find a bottle heavy enough to weigh me down. I pop the cork and take a long swig. The clink of glass and the sudden scowl that scours her face draw the man’s attention. He startles from his rut, covering himself in sudden shame.
I nod at him, tipping my hat. “Don’t mind me,” I mutter as I slouch into a pile on the settee, pulling my cap down over my face. A hiccup escapes me but still, all I taste is her.
“You’re home,” she says. The barest flicker of her gaze notes the door I locked behind me.
“Caroline,” I throw her the lopsided grin she hates, but she isn’t stirred. I peek from under my cap and catch a glimpse of the elusive grin on her face and hungry shadows dull the blade of my hate. My mouth waters. “Who’s your friend?”
Her eyes flutter as she tears her glance from me and turns to the man standing naked between us. His hands are still clasped between his legs, protecting himself.
“I found him at the chapel.”
The man hesitates, reaching for his pants and glancing at the half-empty bottle in my hand, “Perhaps, I should go.”
“Nonsense,” she says. She opens her mouth and all you see is the warmth of her tongue, the rush in her cheeks and little white teeth. “Let me destroy you,” she whispers. And it is easy, easy to get lost in the taste of her. Easy to get lost in her delicate touch as it trails over your shoulders, the softness of her lips as she presses them below your jaw. Lured in by the dishonest scent of lavender. Ignorant of the wolf beneath you until the sudden sting of her bite pierces your skin and blistering pain cuts through the fog of her dark gaze until you find you are not just lost but drowning in her touch.
She is voracious and insatiable in the way she steals us from a dream with one small snap of her teeth. You will not be long for this world, already I see the light fading from your eyes. Her own swirl in delight as the taste of you fills her. Still, she remains delicate in her bite, soft in the way she cradles your head as you sink together to the floor.
And I, I stumble over from the couch. My shadow blocks the dim light dangling from our ceiling as I stand over you, my lips curled in disgust. She reaches up for my hand and pulls me into a crouch beside her.
With concentrated effort, she pulls herself from your neck. Blood drips from her little white teeth onto her bottom lip, and her tongue darts out to catch the last taste. She grins, her eyes alight as she caresses my cheek.
“Come, let’s have a drink,” she says. I kiss her until iron fills my mouth and feverish hunger forces me to pull myself away from the sweet feel of her. My Caroline. She flicks her gaze down, glancing through dark eyelashes, reminding me of the sin between us. I obey, I always do, and tear into his throat with unruly anger for what she has made me.
And I intend to drown in the taste of her.