~~~

He listens to the sound of the stream as the last of the day’s light reflects upon its surface. The luminescent glitter ripples downstream past the edge of his father’s property and into the dense forest beyond. Young Russell stares into the water wishing he, too, could dissolve into the fast flowing liquid… where the pain would never find him again. He lies back on the small bank and loses himself in nature’s soothing symphony. This is a temporary reprieve from his noisy and violent existence where Mother and Father hurl verbal arrows into him every evening. He loves this place and hides here in the summers whenever his parents forget he’s alive for a little while.

The filthy orange tabby with the limp and half its right ear missing has joined him, as was there custom. Russell welcomes his purring friend and rubs the stray cat beneath the chin. He does not mind the trash-can smell, the dark patches of fur, or the torn apart condition of the pitiful creature. And the cat has accepted him likewise.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Patches,” Russell says.

The cat rubs its head against his leg.

Young Russell named him this after the first three times he had encountered the poor animal. Each time, Mr. Patches showed up, he looked like he’d fought through hell just to make it to anyone who would love the dumb animal. And each time, Russell would tend to his wounds, patching up the cat, until that name stuck.

“Well, I’m glad to see you, too.” Russell smiles. “And I’m glad you’re still in one piece for a change, you stupid cat.”

Mr. Patches simply stares at him.

“You shouldn’t mess around with that foul fucking animal,” a deep voice says from behind him.

Russell turns, startled to find his father here. He stands up and lowers his head, assuming he’s in trouble again. It doesn’t matter what his father is mad at him about, or even if he’s done nothing wrong to warrant the man’s volatile temper, Russell has learned not to question and just accept his fate.

He is a tall man with long black hair and a well-trimmed beard. Donny Bower is holding an open beer can in one hand and a hand gun in the other.

Russell notices right away that his father’s eyes are bloodshot red; this is a portent of abuse to come. The question was whether he would be the target tonight, or his mother.

“Why the hell are you always coming out here?” his father asks. “You should be hanging out with kids your own age, not wasting your summers away back here fucking that damn nasty cat.”

Russell wisely remains silent.

Donny takes a long sip from his beer and stares into the woods. “Relax, boy… you’re not in trouble… that is… unless I find out you’ve been fucking off when there’s work you haven’t finished yet.”

“I did everything she told me to do,” Russell quickly chimes in.

His father glares at him. “Don’t get mouthy with me, fucker!”

“Sorry.” Russell looks back at his feet.

Donny shook head. “No matter. I only came out here to find that sonofabitch coyote that’s been tearing into our trash again. Have you seen it?”

“No sir.”

He stared hard at his son. “Well… if I catch that fucking thing, I’m going to fill it with so much fucking lead, and then have your mother cut it up for supper.” Donny looked at the cat which was now wrapping itself around Russell’s legs. “By the looks of it, I’d say your furry friend there has already had a run in or two with that fucker. Coyotes get hungry enough, they’ll eat anything, especially a dumb-ass cat with no sense. They’ve been known to snatch babies right out of strollers. Can you believe that shit?”

Russell remains quiet. He wonders what he’d do if he ever came out here to find Mr. Patches all torn up with a coyote feasting on him.

“Do… do they really hunt cats… and… and babies?” he asks.

“Yeah… fucking cats, dogs, babies, anything small enough that they could drag off into the woods. Hell… you’re frail enough… I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of ‘em didn’t try to snag you, too. They work together, those fuckers, so you better watch your ass if you’re gonna keep coming out here.”

Russell nods.

His father sizes him up for a moment and then shakes his head with a laugh. “Probably wouldn’t bother with you though, you smell too much like a pussy. Your damn cat’s got more balls than you do.”

Russell looks at Mr. Patches and smiles. “He is a tough cat… but stupid.”

This made his father laugh. That was always a good thing. Sometimes, Russell almost liked his father… almost.

“Speaking of stupid, let’s get your sorry ass back inside before your Mom turns bitch on you and me both.”

They started back.

Two minutes later, Russell heard Mr. Patches cry out in pain.

“Those fuckers!” his father yells. “All they were waiting for was for you to leave the dumb animal alone.”

“No!” Russell cries out. He starts to run back to the stream, foolishly ignoring his father who yells after him to stop.

By the time Russell reaches the river, he sees two coyotes fighting over Mr. Patches as the cat tries to fend them off.

“Get away from him!” he shouts.

The coyotes back away from the injured cat and snarl at Russell.

Before the wild animals turn on him, Russell hears two gunshots. The first coyote falls to the ground dead. The second one runs off.

“Mother fuckers!” Russell’s father yells after the one that got away. “I’ll get you bitch! Just try to come back again!”

Russell doesn’t care about the coyotes or his father’s rage. He is staring at Mr. Patches, lying on the ground. His fur is covered in blood. Russell runs over to the cat.

Mr. Patches manages to wobble to his feet and hiss at Russell.

“It’s alright,” Russell says through tears. “You’ll be okay, Mr. Patches.”

The cat slowly retreats into a tree and then calms down as Russell approaches. He pats the cat on the head as the animal struggles to breathe. He removes his t-shirt and wraps the cat up, trying to stop the bleeding.

“That cats done, Russell,” his father says from behind him. His voice is unusually soft… almost tender. “Best thing you can do for that dumb animal is put it out of its misery.”

Russell turns and snaps, “No! He’s fine. Mr. Patches is tough. He’ll make it through this like he always does.” He attempts to pick up the cat and cradle it. Surprisingly, Mr. Patches lets him.

Donny Bower laughs. “Now that’s damn strange. Fucking thing should’ve scratched your arms up for being so damn stupid. You never pick up an injured animal.”

Russell doesn’t hear him. His only concern is for his friend.

“Put him down, Russell,” his father says. “Since you’re too much of a pussy, I’ll take care of it.”

Russell turns toward his father who is holding up the gun. “He’ll… he’ll be fine. Please… leave him be.”

His son’s eyes are streaming with tears making him uncomfortable. Donny sighs heavily and says, “Look… son… you’re not doing that thing any favors. Just look at the fucking thing! Those coyotes have been picking him to pieces a little at a time. Maybe the cat lives this time… or maybe it dies overnight in agony. Either way, your pussy cat has been suffering for a long time now.” He kneeled down next to Russell and reached into his pocket. His father pulled out a small utility knife. “Look, we don’t have to shoot it, alright? But you need to take care of it. You want to help that pitiful creature, don’t you?”

“How?” Russell asks.

His father hands him the blade. “You see how calm it is right now… how you holding it just makes the fear leave its eyes because it knows you and trusts you?”

Russell nods.

“Well, that’s a good thing. You hold his life in your hands right now. Either you can be cruel and patch that cat up just to feed it to those coyotes on another day, or you can end it now, and save him from this fucked-up world. You do want to save him, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Then do the right thing, son. Take the knife, slit its throat, and be done with it.”

“I… I can’t.”

“Then you’re as bad as those beasts that just tore pieces out of your little friend. You want Mr. Patches to suffer some more?”

“No.”

“Then end his suffering once and for all. If you don’t, that cat will get mean and turn on you. After it’s been tortured enough by those coyotes, Mr. Patches will die inside… and there will be nothing left of the cat you remember ‘cause the world is cruel and turns everyone evil eventually… if the suffering becomes too much and we allow it.”

Russell looks at the utility knife and then into Mr. Patches’ soft eyes. “You mean… I… he won’t be the same cat anymore?”

“No, Russell, he won’t. And you’ll be sadder on that day because you let it happen, when you could’ve ended all that pain right now… while he’s still the cat you remember.”

Russell holds the blade to the cat’s neck.

“That’s the way, son. See… he doesn’t mind. It’s like that damn thing is ready to die, and you can be merciful because you do this out of love.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Patches,” Russell whispers. He closes his eyes and slits the cat’s throat quickly. He can feel the animal’s warm blood soak his hand as Mr. Patches stops moving.

“You saved him, Russell,” his father says. “That’s how you save them all.”…

~~~

…The storm rescued him from the dream. He opened his eyes as the distant boom of thunder resounded. Lightning momentarily lit up the few windows which mocked his inability to be free. Russell was immediately dismayed to discover that it was still dark within the cabin. He tried to move again but was only able to turn his head toward the crackling sound of the fire. Alysa was there again. She wasn’t wearing her usual cloak to fend off the cold, but rather, a transparent material that revealed the silhouette of her slender form beneath as she moved about in front of the fireplace.

Where the hell is the sun? he wondered. This was the third night in a row that he’d awoken to the darkness, and each time, he felt exhausted. It was possible that his body had simply adapted to Alysa’s late night regiment of chicken noodle soup and story time, but he suspected there was more going on. What did this strange woman do during the day while he slept? She’d mentioned going out on runs and it was clear that she had acquired supplies from somewhere. And where the hell was ‘here’? It was time for answers.

He took a deep breath, intending to call out to the woman, but stopped.

Alysa was facing him but preoccupied with whatever she was doing. She was standing before a large tub in a light-colored gown. Her usual braided hair hung down over her shoulders as she leaned over the tub and placed her hand within.

Russell continued to observe the girl, hoping to gleam something about her that he could profit from… now that she was unaware that he was awake.

Alysa stood back up and stared hypnotically into the fire. She then absently removed the gown from around her dark-skinned shoulders and let it fall to the floor. Once naked, she stepped into the large tub and sat down to bathe. She glanced briefly over at her patient.

By then, Russell was feigning sleep. The last thing he needed was to add the accusation of ‘pervert’ to their already strained situation. He continued to watch her through squinted eyes until she looked down into the tub, reached beneath the water, and retrieved a sponge.

He watched as the unbashful woman began to wash herself.

Russell was puzzled. In light of recent developments, namely, the naked woman in the tub, the other one should have spewed forth a dozen lewd and vulgar comments by now, but the savage remained surprisingly silent.

Strange. He was tempted to summon his vile half, something he’d never had to do before, but then stopped himself. Don’t screw up a good thing. Just let it be for now. Maybe he’s sleeping in.

Alysa ran the sponge slowly, deliberately, up around her shoulders and then down across her chest, lingering around her small but well-proportioned breasts. She looked casually over toward Russell and then turned back toward the fire. Alysa was smiling.

This is for your benefit, Russell thought. He was certain she’d seen him looking. He frowned and finished, She’s playing games. Dangerous games. What does she hope to accomplish? And then he understood.

Alysa was finishing up. She slowly stood and then turned away from Russell, making sure to bend over in front of him before retrieving a towel. She stepped out of the tub and quickly dried herself off before the fireplace. After a few more minutes, she left her hair down and put the thin gown back on.

Russell turned his head away and closed his eyes. He heard another rumbling from the night as the storm threatened outside. He pretended to sleep while already calculating his next move. When Alysa comes for you, and she will, she’ll try to subdue you with the oldest of weapons in a woman’s arsenal.

He could already hear her approaching.

Alysa stopped before his bed, placed what he assumed was the lantern on the nightstand, and then sat down in her normal seat. He could hear her breathing in a more slightly elevated rhythm than she normally did. She should be relaxed after bathing, but she was anxious… expectant.

“I know you’re awake,” she finally said. “It’s okay. I know you were… watching me.”

Russell opened his eyes and turned to look at her.

Alysa sat in the chair, legs crossed, her gown loosely covering her body. Her hair flowed erratically down the front of the gown. Russell could smell the coconut oil again. She smiled at him. “Did you sleep well?”

“Not really,” he answered. “How was the bath?”

She laughed. “Heavenly. It takes a lot of effort to prepare, but it’s well worth the effort. A woman’s got to indulge when she can.”

“Obviously. May I ask you something, Alysa?”

She turned her head and gave him an inviting look. “What would you like to ask me, Marcus?”

“Why is it always dark when I wake up? I’m starting to feel like I’m trapped in the longest damn night of my life.”

Alysa looked annoyed by the question. “Do you like me, Marcus? I mean… do you find me attractive? I don’t mean to be so straightforward, but… it’s been a very long time.”

She will attempt to dominate you through sex, Russell thought. And if she’s allowed to have this, Alysa will be able to make meaningless what she thinks Gina means to you… and essentially win her argument that ‘Love is dead’. She will use what she perceives as intimacy to control you. She cannot be allowed to have that.

Russell smiled. “I think you’re very attractive, Alysa. But maybe we should slow things down a bit. If you haven’t noticed, I’m in no condition to… accommodate.”

She laughed teasingly and said, “You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll help you. That is… if you want me.” She stood up and removed the gown. “Do you want me, Marcus?”

Russell could find no words as he stared at her flawless skin.

She smiled and then moved around to the foot of the bed and slowly pulled down his sheet. “Just relax,” she said. “You’ll enjoy this… I promise.”

Russell was surprised to discover that he was entirely naked. When had she done that?

Alysa slithered up on top of the bed like a python, slowly moving her way over his legs. Lightning flashed outside as the rain began to fall harder. He tried to focus on the sound of the rain striking the roof of the cabin… anything to keep his body from reacting to this seductress.

She lightly exhaled over his cool flesh. The warmth of her breath made every hair on his body stand as she knew exactly how much was required to maximize stimulation. Her dangling breasts made contact with his manhood as she lingered long enough for her nipples to make contact. She moved up toward his chest, pressing down on top of him. She lightly kissed his neck as her left hand reached down and began stroking… stroking…

He wanted to let this happen. Not because it was wise, but because Alysa reminded him that he was still a man, susceptible to pleasures that only a woman could incite. His lower member betrayed his arousal. Russell would have to act quickly, before he was inside of her.

“How does that feel?” she whispered into his left ear.

Russell lightly moaned as her hand performed magic below.

She smiled and kissed him on the lips. “We belong together, Marcus. Stay with me and I’ll make you feel like this all the time.”

“I… I can’t… Alysa.”

She moved her perky breasts up over his face and teased his lips with her nipples. She moved back down and breathed into his right ear. “You want to. I can feel that you want to.” She rubbed her pubic area over his burning loins, inviting him to penetrate. “There’s nothing out there for you anymore. Stay with me. We can do anything… together… make this world what we want it to be, take whatever we want, be passionate whenever we want.”

He was almost out of time. “I need to get back to her. She needs me.”

Russell could feel Alysa tense up. But she would not back down. “Gina’s dead, Marcus. They’re all dead. You’ve done enough for them. Do something for yourself now. You can have me… and I’ll make it worth your while.”

Russell was looking into her eyes now… her confident, commanding eyes.

“Does Gina treat you as well as you deserve? Does she do this for you?”

He smiled up at her. Within, he wanted to laugh at the irony of his next move. The other one was not present, but nonetheless, Russell knew exactly what ‘he’ would say now.

“No,” he said. “Gina’s not like you… not like this at all.”

Alysa smiled like the devil. “That’s good to hear, Marcus.” She kissed him again and then finished, “I want you inside of me so bad… is that alright with you?”

Russell’s face changed. Alysa was caught off guard by his strange expression.

“Something wrong?” she asked.

“Oh… YES!” he mocked. “Do it, you cheap fuckin’ whore! Just stop talkin’ already and wet my fuckin’ pole!”

Alysa stopped. Her face went dark as another flash of lightning lit up the cabin. “Don’t,” she cautioned. “Don’t do this.”

“Do what, you horny bitch? I’m the one that can’t move right now so get to the humpin’ already. The sooner you get ta’ pushin’ those pretty little hips of yours, the sooner I can get finished fillen’ up that Boston Crème pussy of yours.”

She slapped him. Hard.

“Oh, yeah, baby! I can dig that rough stuff, too. As soon as I’m able, I’ll bend you over and pound that ass like a jack hammer.”

Alysa leaned in over his face and yelled, “Shut up, you filthy… fuck! Why? Why the hell would you say such foul things?!”

Russell stared defiantly back and answered, “Because you ‘ain’t half the woman Gina is, dead or alive. And I’d sooner make love to her corpse, than pretend to give what we’re fuckin’ doing any real value. So go ahead… get your hole punched, than get the fuck off me, bitch!”

She wanted to tear his tongue out and rip his face off with her nails. Instead she got off him and knocked the nightstand over. She let out an infuriated scream and balled her fists.

Russell watched the humiliated woman stand there naked, her back turned to him, as she tried to control her breathing and calm the tempest within. He believed that if she turned around now to look at him, she would murder him immediately. Either way, he’d ended her game and reestablished control. His death was irrelevant.

After what felt like an eternity, Alysa finally spoke while putting her gown back on. She still refused to look at him. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, Marcus,” she said calmly. “But it isn’t going to work.” She then turned around and smiled through tears. “You want me… I know you do. I felt it. You felt it. But that bitch won’t let you be free. I can see that now.” She quickly buttoned her gown and then ran her hands through her disheveled hair, trying to maintain some sense of dignity.

Russell did not trust words. He waited.

She started pacing the room. “Yes… yes… that’s it. Your guilt caused you to lash out… I see that now. I made you feel like you were… betraying her… but… you know that’s not true. I know you know.”

“Then you know that I love her,” Russell dared to say. “And no matter what this is… I can’t love you… I won’t.”

Alysa’s eyes blazed at him. Suddenly, she stormed over to the bed and raised her fists.

Russell did not flinch.

She barely stopped herself from pounding his face in. “DON’T YOU EVER SAY THAT AGAIN!” she spat into his face. She pointed at him threateningly and started backing away. She started to laugh and sob at the same time.

At last, the truth comes out, he thought. She is insane… insane with loneliness and desperate for anyone to validate and share in her miserable existence.

The storm intensified outside. He could hear the wind howling through the trees as a blast of thunder rocked the night.

Alysa looked toward the cabin door, briefly distracted by the storm. “I’m leaving for a while,” she announced. “I need to… I need some time to think.”

Russell tried to move again. He was not able. “Where are you going?”

The sick woman grabbed her large cloak and started putting it on. “Maybe I won’t come back at all,” she laughed. “Maybe then you’ll appreciate how good I was to you while you’re lying there dying from your injuries. Maybe your precious fucking Gina will come and save the day.”

He could not tell if she was bluffing or not. Russell wanted her seduction attempt to end, but he still needed her… for now. He had to try to calm her down. “Alysa, I’m sorry for what I said. I was… confused. Please… don’t leave. I do need you.”

She frowned at him. “Yeah… you need me… you need me… but you don’t want me. I can see it in your eyes every time I look at you. You despise me because I’m not her! Well… fuck off, asshole. Maybe I’m done needing you.” She wrapped her arms around her cloak to fight off the chill. She hated the cold. Alysa walked toward the front door and opened it. The wind blew rain into the open doorway. She looked back once. Her face was stone. “I wish I’d never found you. I was… better off before I met you… when I didn’t realize how alone I was. Goodbye, Marcus. I hope you rot in that bed.” She stepped out into the night without another word, leaving the door wide open behind her.

He immediately felt the cold night air invade the cabin and strike his naked body. She had not bothered to cover him back up before she left.

Shit.

And then he noticed something peculiar. The wounds he’d seen two nights ago, the deep gashes from the tree branches that tore into his chest when he’d fallen from the cliff, they were closed and scarred.

There’s no way they could have healed that quickly in two days, he thought. And then the light came on. How long have I really been here?

~~~

Next Episode 37-11

Previous Episode 37-9

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 37-10: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. Gylion says:

    What stuff was in that “Chicken Soup” lol.

    Like

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