The Living Ink
This end of the city always freaked Harv Callister out with its dark solemn menace; the crumbling tenements, the cramped apartment buildings elbowing one another for space all the way along the litter strewn street, making scant room now and then for the mouth of an alleyway to open into darkened corridors few would want to venture into.
Callister didn’t consider himself to be an effeminate pushover of a man by any stretch of the imagination-in fact in his mind he was certain he was quite in opposition to that example-but even he wasn’t entirely comfortable traipsing around the tumble down slums of the city.
“Fucking freak Nolan, next time I will kill the little bastard,” Callister cursed an unknown individual as he literally skipped hastily past a particularly dark alley lined by overstuffed garbage cans. “And to think that bitch felt pity for that little fucker…took pity on him…called me the bastard…ain’t that a fuckin cheek. Now I’m in Slumsville here. Fucking Nolan. Fucking piece of shit car.”
Callister wasn’t happy. Glancing furtively over his shoulder to make sure the street was still as deserted as it had been for the past twenty minutes, he quickened his pace a little. The sheer apparent desolation of the residential area, save for random lights gleaming in infrequent windows to indicate there were actually inhabitants somewhere in the abused buildings, unnerved Callister almost as much as if the rubbish bombed streets were crowded with junkies, freaks, murderers and violent souls intent on doing him harm.
The mere implication by the streets’ dark brooding façade that such folk did indeed dwell around these eerie parts was enough to send shivers up Callister’s manly spine.
“Fuck this!” He snarled loudly, breaking the monotony of hurried footsteps on cracked pavement with his angered curse. “This will take me all night to get back to my part of town…and then back to my car, fucking Nolan!!!”
He slammed one meaty clenched fist into the open palm of his other hand as if that hand were Nolan’s face again.
Up ahead, the streets were beginning to look oddly more ominous; more creepy little houses were appearing amidst the architectural ruin of ancient apartment blocks.
With these badly crafted shambles came trees. Dark, crouching behemoth trees lurking just off the spider webbed cracks of the sidewalks, snaking curled, fingerlike roots out to trip unwary bystanders and dragging twisted branches down to snatch at human heads.
“Could be any kinda fuckin’ loony hiding in the backyards or behind any of these trees,” Callister told himself. This city is a fucking dangerous place. For Nolan it was tonight anyhow.”
He allowed himself a hearty chuckle at that clever example of wit and thinking back on the events of the night prior to Maree calling him a bastard and then his car breaking down, it hadn’t really been such a bad night.
Thoughts of those events -particularly when he’d brutally floored freakboy Nolan with a classy right hook- cheered him up somewhat and chased cogitations on the seedy area he was traversing to the very back recesses of his mind.
Then a perilously cracked chunk of sidewalk appeared in front of him and as he was not paying a great deal of attention to where he was placing his feet, the toe of his left boot clipped the upraised block and he sprawled ungainly on the pavement, measuring his length.
“Fuck me drunk!” Callister bellowed as little pieces of granite and unidentifiable material punctured the palms of his hands.
As he attempted to right himself, crawling up on hands and knees, he saw a pair of black boots standing before him. The boots were attached to a pair of legs and his wary eyes continued on up the figure’s frame to stop on a familiar loathed visage.
“Nolan? What the hell? You tripped me over you dodgy little bastard! You sure are a glutton for punishment!”
Callister bounded up, doubling his fists up into the lethal weapons they were.
There was nobody standing in front of him, just a few wispy tendrils of smoke as if somebody chose to spark up a cigarette and then move on elsewhere.
“Huh?” Callister grunted in confusion and disbelief.
“Over here!” A voice called off to his right, taunting him with its playful tone.
Callister blundered off in the direction of the voice, leaving the relative sanctuary of the sidewalk for the thickly grown up area hunched between two apparently abandoned houses.
“Down here,” came the voice, virtually at his feet.
He looked down and recoiled with an instant shock.
Curled only a mere metre or so from his frozen figure was some massive reptilian beast, a snake of sorts, gleaming with dark jade scales and flickering an impossibly long tongue between venom dripping fangs.
The creature pinned him with its obsidian eyes -insanely intelligent eyes- and then sprang out of its coil, launching like a rocket.
The scream Callister tried to release was muffled by the giant head of the beast snapping shut over his face, punching twin fangs into his eyeballs.
Callister was dead before his body dropped to the ground.
Rachel West felt pretty damn proud of herself.
Proud of the way she looked, the way all the eyes in the room immediately locked onto her once she made her appearance in the club, proud of the way she’d haughtily avoided them all but total spunk Brad Bendon and ultimately proud of how she then managed to totally relegate Brad to putty in her capable hands, her servant if you will.
But under all of that she was sneeringly proud of humiliating that strange little Nicky Nolan in front of everybody.
How dare he come to her asking -no, begging, pleading- for a brief dance with her, a transitory flicker of popularity in the spotlight with Miss Prom Queen West?
Like that was even a remote possibility.
She recalled staring back at his questioning face as he nervously choked out his simple request and it made her laugh to relive the moment.
Not only had she told him ‘no way, freak’, but also she’d added a few choice barbs intended to drive home the fact that absolutely nobody liked him even a little bit.
She’d seen fit to upend the dregs of Brad’s drink all over his head and then suggest maybe he would have better luck with the janitor’s cleaning mop.
Apparently sometime after that he’d ended up getting his clock cleaned by big Harv Callister. She would almost have paid good money to see that.
“Thanks, driver,” she told the swarthy fellow behind the wheel of the vehicle carrying her home. “This is the one, 480 Vincent Parade.”
“Fifteen sixty, love,” the cabbie advised her and she tossed him a twenty.
“Keep the change, Rajah,” she called as she let herself out of the car. “Buy yourself some deodorant.”
“Fuck you, bitch,” the fellow responded and tore away from the curb like Schumacher in top form, belching exhaust.
“That’s gratitude,” Rachel West told herself with a smirk, as she began the long walk up the meandering driveway to the palatial mansion otherwise known as her parent’s residence.
All lights were out in the place, from what she could see anyway, so she assumed that either her folks weren’t home from their own night out yet or they’d come home much earlier and were now in bed.
Whatever the case, she was rather sorry she hadn’t brought Brad along for the ride. He probably would have wanted to chase after the Hindu taxi driver and trade racial insults.
As she neared her parents’ home she noticed something move just behind her mother’s prize rose bushes, sly furtive movement as if something -or somebody- was hiding back there.
Empowered by the Dutch courage half a dozen or so wine coolers instilled in her she called out,
“I see you, I’m not blind you know. Come out come out whatever you are, my dad has a gun and he isn’t afraid to use it!”
Instead of dashing away into the night, frightened off by Rachel’s threats, the shadowy figure stepped out from behind the rose bushes.
A look of revulsion and dismay materialized on Rachel’s face when she realized who stood before her.
“You? What in God’s name do you want? Here…at my house? Get your ass the fuck off my property!”
The character merely laughed and vanished elsewhere in the majestic garden, leaving Rachel stunned and outraged by the audacity.
Her mild intoxication served to stir up her righteous anger and she took off after the uncouth lout, disregarding the thorny rose bushes, which snagged at her party dress.
“Over here,” the voice came calling out of the garden and she plunged after it, fired up with indignant anger.
Then she froze as if captured by the stony stare of Medusa.
Up ahead in a small clearing, circled by her father’s fruit trees, paced something she certainly knew did not belong on her parents’ property.
Black as the night itself, with baleful yellow eyes watching her every move, lurked what could only be a panther, rippling with sinewy muscle and lashing a long jet tail as thick around as a man’s bicep.
Before she could manage to switch her brain back on and cut loose with a scream to wake the dead -or preferably her folks- the beast suddenly halted its fevered pacing and sprang straight at her.
Both paws of the animal tipped with razor claws slammed into her chest, and she felt slashes of agony there as the massive weight drove her backwards hard into the ground.
She had one brief fleeting moment of utter terror as she gazed helplessly up into the eyes of the beast, and then the giant head dropped to hers and the carnivore’s snarling mouth ripped her face clean off with a spray of blood.
Rachel West, her features a skinless bleeding mess, was still alive until the bone crunching maw of the massive cat closed like a vice around her throat and crushed her windpipe.
Sergeant Greg Sutton, known and despised by all and sundry in his precinct and the public, especially wild, lawless teenagers, was done with his shifts for the night and was making his way to a favourite little spot of his, a twenty four hour diner where he knew the coffee was hot and the doughnuts were plentiful.
This evening’s late run in with a couple of the local reckless youngsters had shaken his faith in the strength of his badge and as he was prone to do, he’d been prompted to step outside the limits of its power and act on his own instincts.
He knew he’d only approximately half an hour left of time to kill so hoping that nothing major was going to spring up to delay him the remainder of the night, he’d casually cruised down to the marina which was generally quiet but for a few random old salts trying their luck with fishing lines and nets.
Sutton always let these folk be; it was the younger generation who showed no sign of respect for what he stood for.
There hadn’t been any fishermen present when he had arrived; just a black van parked near the wharf with a young couple tangled up in each other’s arms.
They hadn’t seen him approach, but he was certain he had detected the unmistakable aroma of marijuana smoke trailing in the air.
He’d originally planned on a solid ear bashing lecture, but the behavior of the two made him suspicious and the young man was adorned with an extremely black eye and some superficial bruising underneath on his cheek.
Sutton went through the car -registered to Maree Caine- with a fine tooth comb and found absolutely nothing to incriminate the pair.
When they laughed heartily at his wasted time and his luckless efforts, so absolutely certain of the fact that he had nothing on them, he completely lost his temper.
Frustrated by a lack of ability to instill any semblance of respect for his authority, he’d been forced to first strike the already stricken fellow and then to arrest them both for the alleged crime of loitering.
Without making either aware of their rights, he then unlawfully detained them for the better part of an hour before deciding that next time they’d know better and released them; happy that they were suitably humble but unhappy with the hours overtime he’d had to do – overtime which wouldn’t be acknowledged unless he wanted to shine light on his illegal activities
Maree Caine and Nicky Nolan, he swore resolutely to remember those names and he was still remembering them as he pulled his car to a halt in the virtually abandoned car park of Sparkys Diner, open Twenty Four Hours.
Only two other vehicles populated the silent strip, a big rig hauling office furniture and a white utility truck.
To Sutton’s chagrin the Ute was parked in the spot he usually favoured for himself and he came up alongside of it, observing that it was empty, the driver obviously inside the diner; there being nowhere else to go at this time.
Maybe he should run a defect check on it, he thought the car seemed to be riddled with miniscule rust spots and the left rear tyre looked oddly bald.
He exited his own vehicle and walked slowly around the utility, noting that the license plate was partially obscured by grimy streaks of dried mud.
Then something crunched behind him like the sound of a boot stepping amongst strewn broken glass on concrete.
He swiveled around really quickly, all his cop senses wide awake now, half prepared to see a baseball bat swinging at his cranium.
No swinging baseball bats, just a quiet figure standing about six feet away from him watchful and silent.
“Jesus Christ kid! I thought I told you and your bitch girlfriend to get your asses home and stay there! I thought I made it clear that next time I saw you, you would both be sitting in a cell for a lot longer than one lousy hour!!”
Without a word in response the person slowly and deliberately extended a middle finger in an unmistakable gesture, and then pivoted and walked away, headed for the dark alcove behind the Diner.
The evident and blatant disregard for his authority -never mind that he was off duty- rejuvenated the angry fire simmering in Sutton’s gut.
He fairly galloped after the troublemaker as the figure disappeared behind the Diner.
It wasn’t as shadowy and dark back there as he’d envisioned it would be, and it was definitely not shadowy enough to hide a grown human being.
Yet the fellow Sutton had chased back here wasn’t immediately visible.
Sutton paused with his hand subconsciously hanging over the butt of his service revolver, nonplussed by the disappearance into thin air of the antagonist.
“Over here,” a voice called off to his left and he followed it around, fingertips brushing his firearm and unsnapping the catch on the holster.
No punk kid sitting in the shadows with a ‘fuck you pig’ grin and an upraised finger, just a huge black crow perched atop a garbage can.
Sutton gazed in disbelief at the monster bird; it looked like it would have the wingspan of an eagle and it possessed a wicked beak, curving slightly like a razor sharp butcher knife
Before Sutton had the time to debate where the feathered demon had come from, it flung its massive black wings outwards like a giant Dracula cape and arrowed straight for his face.
The butcher knife beak punched straight through his eyeball, lodging momentarily in a stubborn eye socket before being withdrawn, and stabbed through his cheek, seeking his tongue, snapping and wrenching it from its roots.
The wildly flapping wings beat against his bloodied head like industrial fans, while claws dug, thorn like into his throat.
Sutton dropped like a sack; his legs spasming as he battered desperately at the bird with one hand, struggling for his pistol with the other.
The gun slipped away from his bloody fingers and the crow ducked its blood dripping head in a savage slashing motion and took out his other eye.
Soon Sutton’s spasming legs were kicking sporadically in the seizure of death
“What a hell of a night that was. One of the best.”
“One of the best?” Maree sat up in bed, letting the sheets drop down to expose her abundant breasts, gazing quizzically at him, a tiny smile playing teasingly at the corners of her lips. “Which part in particular?”
Nick finished dressing, buttoning up his jacket with a flourish and looked back at her with a responsive smile of his own.
“All the parts which included you,” he answered honestly. “To tell you the truth, until I met you I was positive I was in for another bad night.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind undressing again….” Maree suggested, lewdly running her thumbs lightly over the stiff tubes of her nipples. “Maybe we can relive a few of those parts”
Nick hesitated and pretended to quickly undo the buttons of his jacket.
“Gotta go to work, Hun,” he told her, “but hold that thought.”
“Can you even see out of that eye?” Maree queried. “That bit included in the best parts of the night?”
“Not hardly,” Nick laughed, “but yeah…I can see fine. Otherwise I wouldn’t really be able to tell you what a gorgeous half naked goddess I am looking at right now.”
“Come and see me tonight after work?” she asked.
“Try and stop me. Wild horses couldn’t.”
He leaned over the bed and she grabbed him by the back of the neck, pulling him closer to share a passionate kiss.
“Have a good day!” she chirped as they parted and he made to leave.
“It will be. Thinking about tonight anyhow.”
Just as he reached the door she called out to him again.
“Oh Nick, one more thing…”
Nick Nolan paused in mid stride with a hand stretched out towards the door handle and swiveled back around in her direction.
Maree bounded out of bed like some over exuberant puppy dog and stalked across the room towards him clad only in very brief panties, her long dark hair bouncing on her bare shoulders.
“Show me your tattoos again, one more time,” she requested.
With a knowing smile Nick hastened to grant her wish, opening his jacket wide with a chorus of consecutively popping buttons and then rolling the shirt he wore underneath it all the way up his torso to the level of his throat.
Standing before him, Maree placed her small, cool hands on the smooth planes of his chest and stomach, areas that were vividly festooned with an array of colourful images.
The entire section was luridly decorated but it was the wildlife figures in the dead centre of the artwork that dominated.
Caught in mid stride with deep yellow eyes, so piercing they looked alive with eerie intelligence, stalked a midnight black panther, sleek and muscled.
High above them with a wingspan stretching across the chest from nipple to nipple flew a giant crow, its beak gaping, its hooked claws curling wickedly to close tight on some hapless prey.
With a finger Maree drew a triangle of sorts on Nick’s body from the snake to the panther up to the crow.
“You look after my Nicky,” she whispered.
About the author
Jim Goforth is a horror author currently based in Holbrook, Australia. Happily married with two kids and a cat, he has been writing tales of horror since the early nineties.
After years of detouring into working with the worldwide extreme metal community and writing reviews for hundreds of bands across the globe with Black Belle Music he returned to his biggest writing love with first book Plebs published by J. Ellington Ashton Press. Along with Plebs, he is the author of a collection of short stories/novellas With Tooth and Claw, extreme metal undead opus Undead Fleshcrave: The Zombie Trigger, Riders: Plebs 2-Book One and Two, The Sleep, co-author of collaborative novel Feral Hearts, and editor for the Rejected For Content anthology series (taking over the reins after volume one Splattergore. He also has stories in both Splattergore and Volume 2: Aberrant Menagerie).
He has also appeared in Tales From the Lake Vol. 2, Axes of Evil, Terror Train, Autumn Burning: Dreadtime Stories For the Wicked Soul, Floppy Shoes Apocalypse, Teeming Terrors, Ghosts: An Anthology of Horror From the Beyond, Suburban Secrets: A Neighborhood of Nightmares, Doorway To Death: An Anthology From the Other Side, Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers, MvF: Death Personified, Drowning in Gore, Trashed, Full Moon Slaughter, Moon Books Horror Anthology 2016, Dual Depravity (co-author), VS: US vs UK Horror, Bah! Humbug: An Anthology of Christmas Horror Stories, and several others.
He is currently working on several new novels, volume six of Rejected For Content, and Triggered, a new extreme anthology experiment.