by T.A. Wardrope
(Doom Hippy Reading Version)
Whatever mixture of bullshit and confession that was about to fall out of Alex’s beer-coated lips could be the very evidence he’d been waiting for. Dru wanted to hear Alex brag about how he had violated the Criterion, even if unknowingly. Not that Alex knew anything at all about Criterion. If Lena had given the Gift the way it was supposed to be done, Alex would know that the Gift that flowed in his veins was closer to a parasite than a virus, a parasite that watched him even as it filled him with the new power he clearly enjoyed. Criterion ruled over The Gift with absolute power.
Enough sins against the Gift and Criterion would demand that someone would finally take care of Alex. Besides Lena, Dru was the Gifted closest to Alex, so it fell on him to judge if Alex was worthy of The Gift. Dru pulled his jacket closed, adjusted the compact, machete-like Parang knife under his jacket. He hoped Criterion could see his eagerness to please.
“She was a fucking vision, bro,” Alex said. “I mean walking out of a magazine perfect. Not this amateur stuff.” He gestured to the stage again. “So I looked at her and I just took it all in, I knew I was staring but I just didn’t care. I’m sure she’s used to it. I got this feeling, bro.”
Dru pulled a pack of smokes out of his pocket. The smokes were mostly a prop, a way of giving Alex something else to feel superior about. Alex could talk all night about the bar flies he’d brought back to his room, about the coke he’d snorted off of a seventeen-year-old’s ass, but he still felt comfortable judging smokers to their face. There was enough of the humble man Dru had been, prior to The Gift, to display the submission and insecurity that Alex fed upon. The Gift had lifted him from a life of mediocrity, missed opportunities, and lonely nights. For Dru, the world of Criterion was lifetimes better than the world without. His life may no longer be his own, but it was a much better kind of existence.
Alex paused and gave Dru the look that he had seen on a daily basis for the last few months. The look was an interrogation; a cold, dead stare that was supposed to make you fear what would happen if you didn’t measure up. Dru nervously pulled on his smoke.
“So after the second drink, she pushes me on the shoulder until my back is on the couch. I just sat and stared at her, hoping she’d touch me again. Her touch was like coke, man.”
Dru scooted forward in the deep easy chair. His posture shifted like an animal that caught a strange scent. He hoped Alex the shark was about to swim into the trap and Dru the reluctant hunter could go back to his own unnatural but still mundane life.
“See, I told you,” Alex said. “This is the good part. So she lets the straps fall of off her shoulders and out pop the two most amazing tits I have ever seen in my life. Perfectly round, perfectly poised nipples.” Alex held his hands up in the air as if he was balancing two melons in his hands.
“You know what? They weren’t the important thing. I could hear the pulse underneath her seriously pale skin. I could smell the salt on her like you smell a steak house when you drive by. I am just staring at that marvelous body of hers, and before anything else happens, she pulls a goddamn box cutter out from under the table and pushes the blade against her neck. Not breaking the skin, just hard enough to make a dimple.
‘Do you want me?’ She asked.”
“I should’ve been freaked out or left the room right then, but before I could do anything, she leaned her head away from me, so the skin is even tighter against the razor blade, and the she lets it slice through the skin and cuts a bloody line down her throat.
“The blood ran down between her tits. I didn’t know what to do, and then, I felt it. Before I knew what I was doing, I could taste the salt of the blood in my mouth and the tenderness of her cut skin. I am sucking and chewing all at the same time. I nibble a little, then I suck a few gulps of blood and then I take another bite.”
Then, like a burning candle lit in his brain, Dru got the message he had waited for months to hear. The answer was no sound he could make with his tongue, and no word he could make in his mind. The best he could do was translate and the message he understood was “unworthy”. The Gift had to be emptied from Alex. Dru looked up from the sink and pressed his flesh together, assuming the Gift would stop bleeding out. The blood poured out, raising the bloodline higher onto the porcelain bowl. A string of alien thoughts grew dominant in his mind as a shifting, uncertain figure formed in the drifting current of plasma.
This multi-armed figure was as much inside of him as it was reflected in the blood pool. This thing resembled a Hindu god, with four spider-like arms, a different sort of blade clutched in each of its taloned hands. The face was both elegant and wrinkled, somehow alluring and repulsive at once, ruby orb eyes sat in the fixed grimace, a set of sabre-like fangs draping out of either side of its mouth. Beneath the head, twin pairs of swollen breasts sat in two rows. The breasts looked as if they might burst, and the red fluid within darkened the nearly transparent skin. His own body tingled with a combination of adrenaline and electricity as the Gift vibrated in ecstasy. The Blood Mother. Criterion revealed itself to him.
Looking down, he could see Sapphire relaxing in the easy chair taking sips out of a glass in her hand. Whatever small part of him remembered what it was like before The Gift felt slight pity for her and Alex. They were caught up in something they would never be able to understand. They wouldn’t understand that what was going to happen to Alex wasn’t really murder. A long time ago he might have thought that, but then he discovered the world was simply divided between Gifted and the Giftless and he couldn’t feel like a traitor to humanity for long, because he was no longer a member.
Alex pushed the white curtains apart and dropped back into the chair without saying anything. The woman put down her drink and made sure the curtains were shut tight. Her legs straddled the chair and she ran her hands over his chest.
“You’re just so tasty looking,” she said. As she leaned forward to kiss his scarred chest, a small but shiny blade emerged from Alex’s left hand. Dru jumped down the stairs two at a time and then took wide strides across the red carpet toward Alex’s booth.
A waitress tried to ask him if he needed anything but he stepped past her like she wasn’t there. He unbuttoned his jacket and slid his right hand under the coat. The Parang’s wooden handle felt perfect as it settled loosely into his palm. With his left hand, he pulled the curtains apart just wide enough to slide into the booth. The music was loud, the dancer was fixated on Alex and Alex had his eyes closed. Neither of them noticed as he approached with the Parang wielded like a sword.
He wrapped his left hand around Sapphire’s shoulder. She startled sluggishly, as if she were drunk. With a swift tug, he yanked her off Alex and onto the floor. Alex’s eyes snapped open like a trap, he coughed on empty air before he found any words. “What the fuck?” He asked.
Dru thought for a moment that Alex didn’t see the blade hanging in the air two feet above his head, but as Alex shook his head “no”, he knew the knife was evident. Dru stared at him coldly, like a farmer might consider a chicken on the block, but then let a little smile sneak through.
“Sorry, Alex, Lena didn’t honor our standards,” he said. There was a small mercy in that Alex was so dumbfounded by the statement that he didn’t see the flash of cutting steel as it swung down. Maybe he didn’t even feel the blade as it cleaved his still shaking head. Dru stepped away as the head blasted to the floor, propelled by the exiting spray. The stump of a neck unleashed a volcanic torrent of cold red blood onto the white curtains and dark carpet. There was gurgling, but he couldn’t tell it was air from the neck or Alex’s last words.
Sapphire crab walked away from the dying body, her face frozen in a mix of shock and fascination. The thick sweetness of Alex’s spurting fountain filled the room, and Dru noticed exactly when the full effect of The Gift swept over the woman. Her eyes narrowed and she shifted from terrified, cornered prey into ravenous predator. She stood and advanced toward the spurting neck. Dru returned the knife to its sheath under his coat. He stepped toward the corner of the booth, not to hide, but stay out of the way of what was about to happen.
Sapphire climbed back onto Alex’s useless body, but instead of grinding into it like she had been, she dug her hands into the stump of the neck, pulled it apart like an orange and then snapped her mouth shut on the exposed meat. Chewing and sucking at the same time, she didn’t seem to mind the spray that was still shooting up into her nostrils.
The unsoiled curtain burst apart as waitresses and dancers surged into the booth. They scanned briefly, like a hunting pack, and then ran to where Sapphire was working her way down what remained of the jugular. Two waitresses leapt to either side of the exposed torso and tore into whatever they could reach. The dancers twitched with agitation then ripped Alex’s coat and shirt away. Strikes from their hands opened the skin, gave The Gift another way out. The dancers clamped down on the wounds like lamprey.
Intermingled scents of glucose and protein filled the Golden Goose like a butcher shop. Dru stepped out of the booth and paused in the main room. Everyone else in the club was making their way toward the source of the scent; some cautiously, some with focused stalking and some with such glee that it looked like they had waited their whole lives for this moment. Dru remembered, with sweet nostalgia, the first time he smelled The Gift, the blood that was impossible to resist. The thirst for the real water of life, the thirst that could never really be sated. He walked through the empty room toward the front door.
©2019 T.A. Wardrope