Bloody Heat

Sweat rolls off my brow, stinging my eyes as I look out the window wondering how we’d gone from wearing parkas to donning swim trunks overnight.

I adjust the temperature of the air conditioner hoping for a glacial blast, but the thing is ancient and has seen better days. I give the unit a kick and a piece of my mind, and then a smack for good measure.

“Bloody heat!” The unseasonable weather is getting to me and when I overheat I get hot under the collar. It doesn’t take long before my inner thermometer bursts, letting the beast out. I can’t be responsible for anything when that happens. I see red. It blinds my conscience and wipes out my memories. Same thing used to happen to my lousy excuse for a father. I guess it’s hereditary—or maybe learned behavior—I don’t know, but I have no control over it. 

I unbutton my shirt as I walk over to the freezer to get some ice to cool me down but all I find is an empty tray. “Shit!”  I slam the door and open the fridge.  A lonely beer sits in the middle of the shelf. I’m parched, so I pop it and guzzle.  The cheap brew fizzes right up my nose. I swallow hard and shake my head.

A flash of red assaults all my senses.  Blood.

I smell it, taste it, and feel it ooze through my fingers. I look down.  I’m standing in a sticky crimson pool of it.  I step backward, trying to blink away the image. In a second, it all disappears.

“Oh my God.” Beads of perspiration trickle down my face as I pant like I’ve just run a couple of laps.

“What lad, you don’t like the view?”

I swing around. A small, wiry man is standing in the doorway of my living room.

“Who the hell are you?” I shout. “And how’d you get in here?”

“Well now, is that any way to treat a neighbor, Max?” he says, a snaky smile creeping up on his face. “I’m just being hospitable.”

“What are you talking about?” The intruder’s got wild eyes under his bushy ginger brows.  His skin is tawny and lined with age, like an old leather bag.  Unruly hair sprouts from the top of his head, in various shades of ginger and gray.  It’s sweltering but he’s dressed like Paul Bunyan.  The freak gives me the creeps. “How do you know my name?”

“I know lots.” He winks at me. “I’m here to show you around. The boss…asked me to.”

“Show me around? I know everything there is to know about this town. I grew up here.”

“Is that right?” he says, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets. “Have you taken a good look around? You might notice things are… a little different.”

“Enough with the smartass grin. The only thing different around here is you. You’re no neighbor.”  I throw the beer can in aggravation. What’s left of my beer explodes against the wall. “Get out.”

“Ooh, calm down, calm down. No need to get your knickers in a knot. I’m here to help you with the transition. Easy you into your fated future.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down,” I shout, wiping the sweat off the back of my neck. “And what the bloody hell do you mean about my fate? “

“You get mighty testy, don’t ya?” The little man chuckles. “Is it the heat that triggers it?”

“Stop asking questions. I told you to get out!”

“I will, I will, but I got a job to do. I’m the official greeter around here. Let me do my thing and then I’ll leave.”

I narrow my eyes. The second I do, a glint of silver, a flash of mutilated ivory skin, and a piercing scream assault me.  I stumble back, aroused.

“What are you doing to me?” I’m burning up and gasping for air.

“Nothing, Max. It’s RMS. Repressed Memory Syndrome. You’ve got it, but don’t worry,” he saunters over to me, slinking his arm around my shoulders, “that’s why you’re here.”

The man leads me through the kitchen to the living room.

“You’ve been up to a lot of shit over the years. I’m impressed— especially how you’ve gotten away with it. “He thumps me on the back. “But you can’t hide behind RMS. I mean just because you don’t remember the killings doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible. Gotta give credit where credit’s due.”

I want to deny everything this guy’s insinuating but I get another staggering flash of violence in my head. Another woman, another gruesome scene but his time I’m holding the handle of a gore-covered knife.

“Another flash of memory, huh?”  He grips my shoulder. “See, we’re already taking care of that syndrome for you. You’ll learn to embrace your memories. Revel in the joy of who you really are.”

“I don’t want to remember.” I’m trying to twist out of the old man’s grasp but he’s as strong as an ox.

“Oh no no. It’s time for you to reap some rewards.” He turns me around. “The boss is all about giving his people what they deserve.”

He opens the front door with a flourish. Thick smog pollutes the air. The stench of burning flesh hits me like a two-by-four. A frantic tribal-like drumbeat accompanies moans of agony, pleasure, and ear-splitting screeches of fear coming from shadows and shapes writhing right across the street.  Heat and terror consume me.

“Where am I?” I whisper.

“It’s your new home, Max. On the other side.”

“But I’m not dead.”

“You are now,” my greeter says. “Welcome to Hell.”

The Ink Babes welcome you into a realm of deliciously dark places in the upcoming anthology,

BLEEDING INK – a collection of Dark Tales

Coming Soon…….

Ever Yours,

The Ink Babes

PS: The Ink Babes will contact contributing authors with official update via email.

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