The heavy rain muffled the sound of the car’s approach but the headlights gave it away, illuminating the drenched ground beside a never-ending stretch of asphalt. David kept walking, despite the temptation to hold out his thumb and hitch a ride. It was too risky; he’d barely said a word to anyone since being let out of prison the previous morning. The most significant exchange he’d shared was with the guard who handed David his box with all his belongings in it. It didn’t amount to much: a change of clothes, a leather wallet with a few dollars in it, and a silver chain.
The plan had been to rent a car and keep driving. David didn’t have a precise destination in mind, other than it would have to be somewhere remote. Someplace where he wouldn’t have the opportunity to hurt anyone. In that spirit, he kept to side roads and only bought food and drinks he could get out of vending machines. Everything was going fine, until the car crapped out in some nameless stretch of the midwest. David had no choice but to walk. Even if he could figure out what was wrong with the car, he had no clue how to fix it.
Two hours into the trek, things only got worse. The trees along the road went from sporadic bursts of nature to a dense forest, sucking in the darkness as night settled. Clouds rolled overhead and sealed in the last of the gloom, before slitting open to release fat, freezing raindrops. David was drenched in no time. His shoes became waterlogged, and squished against his drowned socks with every step. By the time the car showed up, even his bones felt soaked through.
The car passed on David’s left, and once again he flirted with the idea of hailing the driver. His conscience raged at him for even considering it. Ashamed, he pulled the hood of his sweatshirt further over his head, determined to stick to the plan. Up ahead, the car eased to the side of the road and came to a stop. A sharp click announced the locks being disengaged, followed by the dull whirr of the passenger side window receding. A woman’s voice called out from inside the vehicle.
“Hey, do you need a ride?”
David’s feet stalled by the open window. A slender blond woman stared out at him. She looked to be in her late twenties, around his age, and had dirty blond hair. It fell into her eyes when she motioned for him to come closer, briefly hiding half of her face.
“Get in, I’ll drive you to a phone. “You can call a taxi, or a friend if you have one nearby.”
While he needed a phone, it had to be in a public place where the risk would be minimal.
“I’m fine. Just tell me which direction the nearest town is in.”
“You’re going to walk all the way to town in a storm? That’s over ten miles.” She shook her head. “Just get in, you can call a tow truck from my place. You’re going to get sick if you stay out in this weather.”
David told himself to turn away. What was she going to do, force him into the car? He took a deep breath, which pressed the waistband of his jeans against the gun at the small of his back. A new strategy occurred to him.
I can take the car, he thought. When we get to her place, I can pull the gun on her. By the time she manages to call the police, I’ll be long gone.
“Do you live nearby?” he asked.
“Five minutes, tops.”
David told himself it would be safe. Eight years in prison had passed without incident, what did five minutes matter? Five minutes was nothing.
David crossed to the other side of the car, and got into the passenger seat. His wet clothes clung to his skin like a thick layer of pond scum. The woman leaned forward to crank up the car’s heater, before pulling back onto the road.
“Better?” she asked, as the temperature increased.
David nodded, careful to keep his eyes to himself.
“I’m Kai,” she said. “I live out by the lake.”
David pointedly looked away from her and out the window. He hoped a display of disinterest would end further attempts at conversation.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” she went on. “I should have known. No one our age lives around here, unless it’s tourist season.”
The rest of the drive was spent in complete silence. A few minutes later they arrived at a small lake, surrounded by half a dozen rustic looking cabins. Kai parked the car in front of a trailer, next to a small wooden building with “MAIN OFFICE” written in sloppy red letters over the door.
“Quaint isn’t it?” Kai asked. “Mostly we get fishermen and hunters. This time of year, the place is dead.”
She was out of the car and halfway to the trailer before David thought to reach for his gun. He consoled himself that it was smarter to do it inside. Since he was going to leave her there before he took the car, it would be a good idea to make sure she lived alone. The last thing David needed was a surprise.
The inside of the trailer was immaculate. No, David corrected himself after Kai turned on the lights. Immaculate implied there were things to clean. Aside from a few pieces of furniture that came attached to the trailer, he saw a lamp and a pack of cigarettes. Either money was tight, or Kai was practicing to be a monk.
“Where’s your phone?” he asked.
She pointed at a laminate table in the dining area, to an old rotary phone David had missed. David eyed the cord. With nothing in sight to gag Kai with, he would have to get creative.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,“ she said, “but you look like a drowned rat. You need dry clothes and a hot drink.”
David tried to argue, but she talked over him.
“Wait here. I have some of my brother’s old stuff in the bedroom. You two are about the same size.”
David cursed Kai’s relentless desire to be helpful. Like so many before her, she was making things dangerous for herself. He pushed back the thought, and the stress that came with it. His brain responded with a migraine, which brought the stress rushing back. David winced and massaged the bridge of his nose. When he opened his eyes, Kai was back with a black sweatshirt and matching sweatpants.
“You can change in the bathroom,” she said. “I’ll go get you something to drink.”
As soon as he closed the bathroom door behind him, David wrenched off his clothes and let them fall to the floor. He put the dry ones on the toilet lid and his gun on the tank behind it. A burst of cerebral pain doubled him over, and he scrambled to open the medicine cabinet. A painkiller would take time to kick in, but just knowing relief was on the way took the edge off.
Three narrow empty shelves stared back at him. David ran a finger along one, and it came back thick with dust. Baffled, he stared at the sullied digit.
The metallic scrape of shower curtain rings interrupted the moment. A cheerful voice whispered up at him from inside the bathtub.
“Hi there, buddy.”
David closed his eyes and willed the voice away. It wouldn’t work, it never worked, but he desperately wanted it to.
The voice in the tub sighed.
“You disappoint me, David. How long has it been since we had a chance to play together? It wasn’t very nice of you to get yourself arrested like that.”
David swallowed hard and tried to keep his body from shaking.
“I don’t want to play,” he said.
“Why David, that’s awful,” the voice pouted. “Don’t you even care what happens to that poor girl out there?”
David turned towards the tub. Twisted Nicky grinned back at him. The diminutive creature never disclosed what he was or why he chose David in the first place. He had simply shown up one day to take over David’s life.
“She gave you a ride, David,” Twisted Nicky cooed. “Wasn’t that friendly of her? I think maybe she likes you.”
Twisted Nicky grinned wider, showing off sharp, blood stained rows of teeth. The blood always looked fresh, which made David wonder how many other people Twisted Nicky had under his thumb. He always insisted that David was his one and only, a sentiment that made David feel sick inside.
“You know how the game works, David. You kill her, or I will. And you know what happens when I do it.”
Twisted Nicky tapped the side of the tub with the knife he always carried with him. Like his teeth, it was streaked with gore.
“It’s not a game,” David hissed. “It’s you being a fucking monster.”
“Did I ever say I wasn’t?” Twisted Nicky raised the scarred, contorted flesh above his right eye. “I eat people, David. And I’m going to eat her, one way or the other. But you’re a sweet boy. You don’t want the good little Samaritan to suffer.”
That was always Twisted Nicky’s excuse. The first time, David had resisted. He was a kid then, and couldn’t have imagined what the consequence would be. He remembered telling himself that dead was dead.
It was a terrible mistake. Twisted Nicky ate the woman alive, carving away muscle and guts as his blade meandered from her toes to her scalp. He made sure she stayed aware until the very end. So she could see how her son had failed her. Ever since that day, David always did what he was told. He learned to work fast, and inflict as little pain as possible.
The years without Twisted Nicky, locked away on a bar-room assault charge, were a reprieve from hell. They also gave David time to think. His fingers twitched as he considered the gun on the toilet tank. He wondered, as he had every day for eight years, what effect his death would have on Twisted Nicky. Maybe none. Or maybe Twisted Nicky needed him. If nothing else, it was the only way David would be free. The fact that the bastard waited for him all this time proved that.
David lunged for his gun, but Twisted Nicky’s knife caught him across the chest. The pain made David stumble back, but he quickly recovered and repeated the effort. This time the knife sliced across his stomach. David looked down, expecting to see organs ooze out, but Twisted Nicky had been careful. There was a lot of blood, but the wound wasn’t fatal.
“Bad David!” Twisted Nicky hissed. “You aren’t playing by the rules!”
Twisted Nicky waved the tip of the knife at him. David watched, transfixed by the motion. When the knife pointed towards him again, he took the chance and tried impale himself on the blade. Twisted Nicky easily evaded, then lashed out in a flurry of red and silver. David’s sides, arms, and hands wept blood. It ran in rivers, splattering the bathroom floor. Behind him, Kai pounded on the door.
“Is everything all right in there?”
David opened his mouth to tell her to run, but the air was driven out of his lungs as Twisted Nicky bulldozed into his chest. David crashed into the door, which flew open to spill him onto the floor. Kai shouted his name, as David scrambled away from the bathroom.
“Run,” he gasped. “Get in the car and drive as fast as you can!”
She knelt and tried to help him up. David pushed her away and repeated his command.
“She’s not listening David. Shoot her,” Twisted Nicky cackled.
David whirled around, using his body to protect Kai. Twisted Nicky leaned against the sink nonchalantly.
“Come on, where’s your gun? Better find it before I change my mind.”
David instinctively reached for the weapon, having forgotten that the weapon, along with his pants, were still in the bathroom.
Twisted Nicky giggled. “Unless you shoved it up your ass, I think you’re shit out of luck!” He held out the gun. “Come on. Come and get it!”
David threw himself at Twisted Nicky, who caught him by the throat. Bony fingers dug into David’s flesh until he was on the edge of passing out. With a disapproving cluck of his tongue, Twisted Nicky tossed him across the room like a child’s toy. The back of David’s head hit the wall and his vision went fuzzy. Kai rushed to his side.
“She is adorable, David,” Twisted Nicky mocked. “I can see why you’re too much of a pussy to blow her brains out.”
Twisted Nicky winked at Kai, who wrapped her arm around David. Her fingers slid through the blood smothering his chest as she pulled him close to her.
“Get away from him,” she ordered.
David cringed at her bravado.
Undeterred, Twisted Nicky came closer. “You know, sweety, you look good enough to eat.”
Kai cocked her head, as if trying to get a better look at the little monster. “Funny. I heard the same thing about you.”
A large thud from the bedroom shook the trailer. Twisted Nicky snapped his head in the direction of the sound. “Who’s there?”
The bedroom door opened, disgorging an amorphous collection of idly undulating tentacles. One of the longer, thicker ones cut through the air and launched itself into Twisted Nicky’s gaping mouth. Twisted Nicky’s body went spastic. He jerked grotesquely, and shook like a tuning fork as the tentacle invaded him. It retracted with an enormous slurp, along with Twisted Nicky’s lungs, stomach, and intestinal tract.
Its bounty held aloft, the blob adjusted itself to reveal what looked like a large puckered anus, which opened to show a maw studded with jagged teeth. A series of tentacles assisted in shoveling Twisted Nicky’s organs into the crude mouth. When that was done, the invertebrate creature moved on to Twisted Nicky’s crumpled carcass. The bones made it take longer to eat and created a cacophony of crunching, like someone tearing through a bag of potato chips.
With nothing left to eat, the blob rolled into the shadow cast by the bedroom door, where it disappeared like an octopus tucking itself under a rock. The only hint that it had ever existed was a moist stain on the carpet.
“Gross,” Kai muttered.
She helped David up and into the kitchenette. There she dampened a handful of paper towels with a bottle of water and used them to clean the blood off of his body.
“What was that thing?” He asked.
Kai shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. I’m just the bait.”
“You’ve done this before?”
“Many, many times.” Kai threw the paper towels into the sink, and used the remaining water to rinse her hands off. “You’re going to get cold.”
“You’re still naked.”
“Oh.” David heard everything she said, but it felt like the words slipped away before he could make sense of them.
Kai smiled and took his hand.
“Come on. Let’s get you dressed, and get the hell out of here.”
He fought the urge to pull his hand away. It wasn’t that he didn’t like to be touched. It had just been a long time since he could.
“David,” Kai said softly, “you’re going to come with me now. Everything will be all right.”
He looked for the trick or the lie that had to be hiding behind her eyes, but couldn’t find it. Maybe it was over, he told himself. Twisted Nicky was dead.
He wondered how long it would take to believe it.
Natalie L. Sin is a horror writer living in the Midwest. She has been published in a variety of publications including Necrotic Tissue, The New Bedlam Project, and Shroud Magazine. In addition, you can find her stories in the newly released Old School and Ante Mortem anthologies (Belfire Press). When not writing Sin enjoys strong coffee, abusing Youtube, and Japanese rock.
© 2011 All rights reserved Natalie L. Sin