The watcher stood motionless in the shadows.
He wanted to feel.
The street lamp flickered, casting stark shadows like lightning against the black asphalt of the new development. A breeze passed him by, carrying a little whirlwind of leaves. He inhaled the dead space that should have been scented with the promise of snow in the moonlight.
He opened and closed his hands into fists at the thought of running through the icy coolness of a frigid night, then plunging into the warm embrace of a cottage glowing with the orange light of a hearth fire. The streetlamp hummed; its electrical buzz seemed to mimic the splinter in his mind, the hunger, the longing. Was this the night? Soon she would be there, bathed in light, walking into the house to prepare dinner; 7:30 as usual. Then it would be television 8:30 to 9:00, check e mails 9:00 to 9:15 unless she had a lengthy response, then it would be 9:00 to 9:45. One time she went to 11:00, but that was just the one time and it was one hundred forty seven days ago, so the odds were good she would be done by 9:45. Ten o’clock was a bath, then ice cream and reading until she fell asleep.
She was so beautiful when she slept.
But there was also cause to be hopeful tonight. She was late, and she was never late. He sensed that she might be ready, but after so long...-
He sank deeper into the shadows and began to fantasize about all of the things he would do with her. He smiled; his eyes two pinpoints of flickering light.
Oh to take hold of her, he thought.
He wrapped himself in his arms and closed his eyes, imagining the smell of her hair, the smoothness of her skin, and of course…there was the ice cream. He smiled and licked his lips. Mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Why do they all love that so much? Is it the mint or the chocolate? Maybe the cream.
He never understood the obsession with chocolate. He had always loved strawberries and cream and was desperate to try it as ice cream. Sweet strawberries and fresh cream; not that horrid stuff spewed from a can these days; but freshly whipped. He giggled.
Sweet, creamy, and freshly whipped…like the perfect girl.
He had never tasted ice cream as a child, and as an adult it hadn’t been that common where he had lived. Before now.
Now now now…when is now? When was then? When is when?
He turned and grimaced as if struck. These questions always goaded him into dwelling on the past.
The past means the present and the present means…- No; strawberries and cream was the dead past; strawberry ice cream was the now, the new; strawberry ice cream…and her.
He remembered the first time he had taken a treasure. So long ago it seemed. There had been so much confusion in the beginning. His mind drifted to the others with whom he had played. Girls, boys, men, women, it didn’t matter; they were all ultimately the same, one choir singing with different voices. He thought about the first one to save him. She was so alluring; not quite innocent, but, full of life and wonder. She had fought bravely; but the struggle just made her surrender that much sweeter. He had come to love the taking just as much as the having. That was strange. He remembered how surprised he had been at the one that hadn’t fought; the one just lying there, limp, motionless, boring; a dullard with doll eyes; a meat marionette with thick muted strings that flapped around at his whim. He thought he would enjoy that, but it had irritated him to no end. He had made that one suffer for not fighting, which of course was silly because he felt the sting of every lash and stroke, pull and thrust. But there had been a kind of pleasure there too; the cigarette burns, the whisky in the back of the throat washing down the nectar of her latest penance. He laughed at the little starlet looking at herself in the mirror on her hands and knees swaying forward and back to the pounding rhythmic grunts of the latest brute behind her.
She was a fucking whore anyway, he thought bitterly, his mood suddenly darkening. I made her what she already was, just like all the rest, just like this one.
He always hoped they would be different, but once he slipped inside them and got a good whiff of the air they gasped, he knew; whores, every one. They liked what he gave, what he took, why else would they secretly yearn to be his, call to him; be so…inviting. He sighed. But there were rules. He couldn’t just barge into the temple unannounced, unwanted; that wouldn’t do at all. All that thrashing about, bruising and exhausting the poor girl; no, much better to wait for the invitation. They always invited him in the end. They couldn’t help it, it was their nature. And they had the audacity to call him a predator. They were the whores who moaned for him in the dark corners of their souls. Why should he be denied his pleasure and sustenance because they were weak and gullible!?
He watched a cat emerge from a bush to his right, a small bird gripped lightly in its jaws. It strutted proudly for a few steps and then seemed to sense his presence. He smiled; a Cheshire cat grin in honor of his fellow predator; after all, who was he kidding with his protestations. He knew what he was, and he loved it. The cat paused and looked up at him. He was thrilled at how they always seemed to sense his gaze. Even from the shadows they somehow recognized their own. It began to back away slowly, a low snarl rumbling from the depths of its throat through the feathers of the prize it still held so closely.
Good for you, he thought.
He liked cats. He empathized with their skill and grace. They were so much alike, and soon he would be holding his own prey close, enjoying a milky smooth cocoa butter scented throat of his very own. The cat ran off and another numb breeze blew by. He tried to still his mind by taking a deep calming breath of the stale emptiness but was only more enraged by it.
Focus. She’s almost ready. You’ve waited this long. It’s almost time. Soon you will be sharing strawberry ice cream together, maybe even tonight!
He had good reason to hope. The turning point had come when the signs had appeared on the front lawn; the little blue and white campaign billboards stuck in the front yard in support of some political candidate. The name was irrelevant, all that mattered was the ideology; secular, progressive, Godless. He grinned and turned his head, closing his eyes, clutching his fists to his chest. Soon she would be empty; her faith supplanted by doubt, fear, despair, and hedonism. Then he would take her, ripe from the vine. He covered his mouth with one hand like a geisha girl, trying to hide another giggle. How funny they were to call themselves progressives. If they only knew what it was they helped to progress! He calmed himself, bringing his attention back to the bleakness of the moment.
Mustn’t get carried away. Oh sweet, sweet, poor lost Jenny with your churchless Sundays and your political apostasy!
It was these little things that brought him solace in the long numb winter. Faith didn’t fall in sweeping dramatic gestures. It cracked slowly, one razor fissure at a time; hardly discernible to the untrained eye, to the fat and complacent, to the satiated. Only the hungry could see it, the patient, the alert. Then one day the walls would come down, and he would be there, and winter would thaw with warm hands on warm flesh and icy eyes would melt into tears of spring. She had been despondent lately, listless, depressed. He couldn’t figure out why. But this new Jenny appealed to him. Her eyes had lost some of their twinkle, her head a bit more stooped with every step. Maybe it was the loneliness, a killer as slow and deadly as any cancer. Maybe it was the creeping darkness and doubt that secretly gnawed at all the faithful. He grinned. He remembered when he had lost his faith; it was the moment he realized he had never really had any to begin with. He pouted in mock sympathy.
Poor little church girl. Could Jesus not fill your whore cunt with his holy spirit? Was the drip drip drip of inevitable mortality finally eroding the mountain of belief; leveling it into a fertile field easily traversed by your new savior?
He remembered the pain and doubt; the betrayal of his youthful fantasies and the cruelty of those who had been God to him; with their robes and incense, their private booths and crosses, their whips and fingers and stinking breath and salty communion.
Fucking liars and whores and devils.
But now he would be the one to cover mouths and whisper “Shhh…shhhh”; now he was the one wielding divine power and baptizing; now he was the one who told them God wouldn’t let it happen if they didn’t secretly deserve it, want it. Now he was the one who swooned in euphoria while absorbing their screams. And there would be screams. Silent, fearful, painful. But soon they would give way to cries of pleasure and laughter and sweet passion. There would be pain there too, and he would delight to see it in her eyes, trying to hide, trying to resist, and then accepting, then craving, then begging for more. He could feel his pulse quickening, the roar of blood rushing in his ears. He smiled at the absurdity of such impossible notions but reveled in them all the same. He folded his arms across his chest and began to rock imperceptibly forward and back. After a moment his pale half lidded eyes looked across the street to her bedroom window and he became perfectly still once more; and resumed his vigil.
Suddenly beams of light streaked across his hiding place and he cringed. Then he saw it was Jenny’s car and he almost moaned in anticipation. He watched as she pulled into the driveway and then saw immediately that she wasn’t alone; someone was in the passenger seat. There was a pause before the door opened. He tensed as he saw her lean forward slowly and rest her cheek against the steering wheel, a slight smile on her face. He felt an electrical pulse slowly make its way up his spine and along his neck. Something had happened. She was so close. He felt the distance between them shrinking. He wanted to run to her and scream her name and make her his…but not yet. He twitched in the shadows, his eyes narrow and unblinking; and waited. She opened the door slowly and then he heard the laughter. The passenger door opened next and a man emerged, partially stumbling as he made his way around the front of the car to help her from the driver’s side. She was still leaning against the steering wheel smiling dreamily.
“Oh my fucking gawd” she giggled. “What the fuck waz in tha shit?”
His heart began to race as he saw the dull sheen in her eyes and the slow awkward movements she made getting out of the car. The man with her laughed.
“I told you it was some good shit. Fuck we WON, and pretty soon it will all be legal and we can fucking party in the OPEEEENNN!” He twirled around tilting his head back and swinging his arms laughing.
The watcher emerged from the shadows; his fingers spreading, his hands beginning to reach for their prey. He could feel the infinite distance between them closing, and when he saw the small pin pricks in her arm and the needle on the dashboard he shuddered in ecstasy knowing that at long last his wait was over! He roared in fury as he crossed the final gap between them.
Jenny’s head snapped back as if she’d been struck and she tumbled to the ground in a heap.
“Jenny! Oh shit Jenny.”
Max kneeled beside her and gathered her in his arms while looking around to see if anyone had seen what happened. There was no one in sight.
“Jenny! What the fuck? Are you alright?”
He patted her face as she slowly opened her eyes and looked up at him confused.
“Max?” She whispered.
“Yeah” he said “What the fuck. I told you, you gotta take it easy with this shit.”
She shook her head and looked around as if trying to get her bearings, then turned to meet his concerned gaze.
“Max I’m ok, really I’m-”
She laughed giddily as she looked at her arm and then touched her face, “perfect.”
Max eyed her, his brow furrowed with concern. “You sure?”
She swatted him playfully, “Yes silly, I’ve just been partying too hard on an empty stomach. I need some food. Now help me up.”
Max grinned and helped her carefully to her feet. She smiled reassuringly at him and placed a warm hand on his arm. “Max, thanks.”
He blushed at the momentary intimacy and tried to fill the suddenly uncomfortable silence. He wanted to avoid her powerful eyes which seemed to be boring into him now with a strange intensity.
“Oh yeah… no prob. Ok so I’ll run to the market and get us some food. What do you want?”
She pursed her lips for a moment and cocked her head slightly. Then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath savoring the night air.
“You know” She said without opening her eyes. “For the longest time, I’ve been having a killer craving for strawberry ice cream.”
Copyright © 2017 Short Stories by Christopher Daniel Barnes - All Rights Reserved.