Good day, my friends,
For those of you who’ve been following my blog posts, you’ll know I’m in the throes of creating a finely crafted collection of short horror tales, tentatively titled Tales of the Damned. I had earlier decided to take most of the summer off, but my muse crashed one of my beach parties, kicked me in the ass, and said, “Get back to work!”
Don’t worry, the party wasn’t exactly stuffed to the brim with guests. Unless, that is, you count my mannequins, squirrel and seagull friends.
So here I am. In the office again. Writing. That is, at least until Mother Nature invades my office and invites me to another wonder-filled and raucous beach party.
I guess it’s not a question of if. It’s when.
Until then, it’s back to work.
As a teaser for what’s coming down the blood-soaked pipe, I present to you, dear readers, The Spot, a short horror story that will form part of my haunted collection.
It’s a freebie and I hope you enjoy it. Enjoy your day and thanks for your support.
TALES OF THE DAMNED
Balboa, or that’s what he liked to be called anyway, moseyed his way through the raucous house party. A stop here. A pretty blonde. A wink. A flexing of the six-pack abs. A look from her. That should equal a little fun in the midnight moon later on. He moved smoothly through a gregarious laughing crowd, making his way over to the rum punch bowl, but not before another stop, another wink, and this time flexing his right bicep to an attractive brunette. Blonde or brunette, it mattered not to Balboa. He was built like a brick shithouse, and very proud of that fact. It got him attention. It got him respect. It got him laid, which was what was on his mind now. He reached the punch bowl and, using the oversized serving spoon, refilled his plastic cup.
He noticed a scrawny, nerdish-looking dude loitering around the punch bowl blinking furtively at the throngs of revelers, evidently lacking the self-confidence to approach anyone.
“You too shy?” Balboa said, extending a meat hook. “I’m Balboa.”
The man’s eyes widened at Balboa’s imposing, muscle-bound physique. “A little bit.” Then he hesitated, spilled a little rum punch onto a pencil-stuffed shirt pocket, and nervously offered his hand. “Ralph.”
Balboa squeezed, grinning as he watched the little man’s face flush with pain. When he released his iron grip a few seconds later, a few seconds too long, Ralph quickly withdrew his hand, set his drink down, and began rubbing his knuckles.
“That’s a vice-grip you have,” Ralph said, a single tear sprouting and glistening on his lower left eyelid.
“Oh, that,” Balboa said, looking approvingly at his massive forearm and bicep. “My old man always told me that a firm handshake is a sign of self-confidence and strength. Nobody wants a wet rag. Right?”
Ralph wiped his eye, studied his reddening hand, picked up his drink, and gulped two large mouthfuls. “I guess so. You… you look familiar. Is Balboa your real name?”
“No. Brad Powers. But everyone calls me Balboa.” He racked his brain trying to remember where it was he might have met this little twerp before. In the cavernous space between his ears, nothing materialized.
Ralph took a few steps back as two women approached the punch bowl. “You mean as in Rocky Balboa? From the movie, Rocky.”
“You got it, Einstein,” Balboa said, a spark of recognition flashing across brain circuits but sizzling out before producing a mental image. As the giggling women stepped up to the punch bowl, Balboa scooped up the ladle and pushed the punch toward the ladies.
“Sure, a pretty blonde said, holding her plastic cup unsteadily above the trickling pink liquid. “Don’t mind if I do, and thank you, Mr. Strong Man.”
“You’re very welcome, my dear.”
The other women, a short-haired bubbly brunette, extended her cup and Balboa seamlessly refilled the ladle and refilled it.
She grinned drunkenly, attempting but failing to curl her hand around his massive bicep. It was like trying to wrap a paper clip around a sledge hammer. “Wow, you’re strong. You’re huge.”
“I am indeed,” he said. “And you’re only scratching the surface.”
Both women laughed.
Ralph backed up a few steps.
“Who’s your friend?” the short-haired brunette said after the laughter had subsided.
“That’s Ralph,” Balboa said. “And I’m Balboa.”
“Ralph?” the blonde said. “He looks like he’s gonna be sick.”
All three of them laughed boisterously. Ralph silently shrank to the size of a mouse.
The brunette hugged Balboa’s bicep with both arms and brought her mouth close to his ear. “We’re over there,” she whispered, gesturing with a finger. “I’m Sarah and my friend’s Sandra. Come and join us and we’ll promise you a little more than scratching the surface.”
She kissed him on the cheek and both women wobbled off. Balboa watched as they joined hands in an effort to stabilize one another, weaved ten feet into the dance floor, spun around and simultaneously winked at him, seductively licking their pouty red lips.
Balboa polished his drink, refilled it, and turned to Ralph, who had returned to the rum punch table and was now leaning on it like it was the only thing in the world propping him up. “Excuse me, I have to go rescue two damsels in distress. Duty calls.”
“You have something on your face,” Ralph said.
Balboa had always prided himself on his impeccably clear complexion and chiseled warrior-like features. “What?”
“It’s a spot. Looks like skin cancer to me.”
“Where?” Balboa said, worry lines creasing his youthful face.
Ralph pointed below Balboa’s right eye. “Right there. On your cheek. I’d get that checked out if I were you. Melanoma’s a bitch. Fast-spreading cancer. Can kill you off in a matter of weeks.”
It was likely just an eerie coincidence, but Balboa felt a tingling sensation exactly on the spot that Ralph had pointed to. He felt his face flush and a vein popped on his temple and snaked its way down toward the spot, creating a slight stinging sensation. Fucking jealous loser.
From his peripheral vision Balboa noticed Sarah and Sandra off in the corner of the large home, seductively gyrating their tight little asses on a table top and waving to him. He knew it was only a matter of time before some other drunken losers would move in and try to take over where he’d left off. No fucking way.
But the fear he was beginning to feel was palpable. He touched the spot on his cheek, took a few deep breaths, and tried to assure himself that it was only the tiny scar left over from a small cut he’d suffered from a brawl a few weeks ago. He’d flattened an acid-witted loser with a straight right to the jaw in the parking lot outside of a bar after the man had upstaged him in front of an attractive woman he had been oh-so close to closing. Surprisingly, the man had gotten to his feet a few seconds after the shot, smashed a beer bottle in half on the lid of a metal garbage can, and swiped at his face. A sharp edge of the bottle had sliced his cheek, before he’d hammered the man with an uppercut and knocked him out cold. After the incident, malignant narcissist that he was, he’d carefully disinfected the wound before applying a topical antibiotic and bandaging it with a small circular adhesive Band-Aid. A week later, he’d grimaced at the small quarter-inch scar in the mirror; yet he’d finally come to terms with it, reassuring himself that “battle scars add character and make you look tough.”
Ralph was grinning at him now. “I see you’re worried about it. As I said, I’d get it checked out if I were you. Melanoma’s a bitch.”
But Balboa found his usual arrogant confidence, seeing Ralph steal a longing look at the gyrating hotties. “I’d invite you over as a wing-man. But who the hell wants a shy, chicken-shit wing-man anyway?”
He spun around and walked purposefully toward his prey. A hunter he was. A hunter he would always be.
More than Balboa’s big head was throbbing the following morning after waking up in a strange and disheveled apartment in Calgary’s downtown core. He blinked a couple of times, gouged the sleep from his eyes, and watched as two blanketed heads bobbed and weaved, expertly working his swollen member. He lay back on the pillow, reminisced about the wild threesome last night, and enjoyed the carnal pleasures of the here and now as Sandra and Sarah expertly sucked him to a shuddering climax.
Sarah pulled the blanket away, licked her lips, and wiped a sticky milky ribbon from her chin. She winked. “I see you enjoyed that.”
“I did. Thank you.”
“You were a fucking stud,” Sandra said, popping out from underneath the blanket and rushing into the bathroom.
Sarah wiped her sticky finger on Balboa’s leg, stood up and held out her hand. “I think you got your money’s worth. That’ll be six hundred bucks. And a bargain at that.”
“Call it eight hundred,” Sandra said from the bathroom as the pitter-patter of water droplets could be heard cascading into the shower. “Two hundred more for the blowjob.”
“Right,” Sarah said. “Eight hundred it is then.”
In spite of the throbbing in his head, Balboa got out of bed quickly and grabbed his underwear. As he put them on, he said, “What? I never agreed to that.”
Sarah stepped forward and jabbed her index finger into his muscled chest. “Oh yes you did. Now cough up. By the way, what’s that spot on your face? Looks like melanoma to me. Melanoma is a killer, you know.”
In a lightning-fast move, Balboa reached out and grabbed her hand, twisting it back at an awkward angle as she winced, groaned, and quickly bent to her knees. Subdued. He applied a little more pressure, comfortable in the knowledge it would be smarting for a few minutes and would give him a chance to get dressed and escape. The other bitch was in the shower. Occupied.
As Sarah shouted and screamed, Balboa scrambled around the apartment, picking up his clothes and dressing. In no time, he approached the door, checking his back pocket, feeling for his wallet, exhaling a deep sigh when he felt the warm and leathery, cash-stuffed mound.
The dim recollection surfaced. Balboa, in his drunken stupor, had agreed to the threesome. Had agreed to the fee. And he had the money. On him. Thanks to a two-million-dollar inheritance three years ago from his deceased mother—he was still angry that his snobby sister had received ten million—he wasn’t hurting for cash. That inheritance had allowed him to quit his security guard job, downsize, invest modestly, and live off the interest. And pursue his dream. Prey on women. Intimidate men. But he wasn’t the kind of guy to throw money around, even if he had agreed to it.
As he opened the door, he heard a loud clang, and felt a sharp pain on the back of his head. Dazed, confused, and indeed seeing stars, he spun around to see Sandra, buck naked and dripping wet, grinning and holding a cast-iron frying pan high in the air. Raising it up. Coming down for another strike. Reflexively, he brought his right pipe up. She slammed the frying pan down hard on it, so hard it squirted loose from her hand, and bounced on the front porch of the house as Balboa, blood dripping profusely from the head wound, staggered out the door, found some momentum, and fled.
Two weeks later Balboa waited anxiously in the skin cancer specialist waiting room. He was dazed for at least a day or two after the blunt force head trauma, but he hadn’t bothered to get it diagnosed, instead taking it easy until the goose egg had subsided on its own. But he had sought a diagnosis for the spot on his face, the one that fucktard Ralph had pointed out. He had called his doctor and gotten a referral to a dermatologist—one Doctor Ray Burman.
He had become obsessed with the spot, analyzing it ad nauseam every day in the mirror. He had even begun to have terrifying nightmares of the spot growing rapidly, covering his entire body and destroying his cells one agonizing cell at a time.
The waiting room was full of patients and he had already been sitting there for well over half an hour. One woman came in and sat next to him. Her face was mostly covered with a white blood-stained bandage.
She focused with one bulbous eye on the spot. “Looks like melanoma to me. That’s what I got. I have to get half my face cut off. Complete facial reconstruction.”
Balboa didn’t respond, looking away as he felt this morning’s bacon and eggs churn in his stomach and start clawing up his esophagus—an acidic puke ball. He swallowed hard, tasted egg, bacon and horseradish, combined with orange juice, and coughed.
“You might be lucky,” the cancer-stricken woman said. “Mine is stage four. There is no stage five you know. Well, I guess there is, but it’s six feet under.” Her mouth opened, exposing rotten teeth. A single drop of blood leaked out, clinging precariously to her bandage-wrapped chin.
Balboa felt a bead of perspiration pop on his forehead, dribble down his head, and lodge in his bushy eyebrow. He wiped it away, tried unsuccessfully to smile, then got up and sat in another chair. She was starting to creep him out big-time.
She tssk-tssked him away with a pointed finger.
He picked up an outdoor adventure magazine and began flipping through the pages, seeing but not seeing the kayaks, mountains, campfires, lakes, rivers and wildlife. Would this be his last chance to really live? Everything’s gonna be okay. It’s nothing. You’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine.
His mind drifted back to where it had all begun. Ralph. His nerdy image had popped into his head a few times over the last few weeks, and he was still dumbfounded as to how he knew the man. If I see him again, maybe I should apologize. Fuck that. Fuck him. Just as a dim recollection of where he knew Ralph from began to settle over him, he heard his name called.
“Doctor Burman will see you now.”
He wiped a sweaty brow and stood. “O… Okay.”
Five minutes later, Doctor Burman, holding a large and sophisticated magnifying glass, stepped back, a pained expression on his face.
“What’s wrong?” Balboa said. “Am I gonna be okay?”
Doctor Burman put the magnifying glass down and rubbed his knee. “My knee hurts,” he said. “The joys of old age. It’s arthritis.”
Balboa felt little sympathy for the aging white-haired man. “What about the spot?”
Doctor Burman slowly removed rubber gloves and tossed them in a wastebasket. He went to a sink, scrubbed his hands, dried them with paper towels, crumpled them, and tossed them into a wastebasket. “We’ll have to cut it out and get it biopsied. That’ll tell us for sure what it is. But to my trained eye, and I’ve been doing this for over thirty years, it’s a very common, slow-moving skin cancer. You’re gonna be fine. Nothing to worry about. Make an appointment with my receptionist and I’ll see you in a week or two.”
Out on the busy street, soaking up cancer-giving rays of bright morning sunshine, Balboa was elated. He felt like he had a new lease on life. Maybe it wasn’t too late. Not too late to turn his self-serving ways around. Track down Ralph. Apologize. Return to Sarah and Sandra’s house. Pay them out, even give them a handsome tip. Say sorry. Write down the names of all the people he’d wronged. Right the wrongs.
“That’s it,” he shouted, jumping for joy, tripping on the cross-walk curb and falling head-first into the busy intersection. He rolled on the pavement, began to spring to his feet, and then his mouth formed a wide O of horror as he saw the speeding bus descend on him.
Crunch… crunch… crunch!
Balboa felt his bones snapping like brittle twigs as the large tires squashed and splattered him into the pavement. He felt his skull caving and cracking, his eyes popping from his sockets.
The bus dragged him along the road for about a half block before the tires spat his crumpled remains curbside.
As the last vestiges of life drained from Balboa, he remembered Sarah, Sandra, and Ralph. He had used and abused the two women in high school, probably devastated their self-esteem and led them into prostitution. One night stands. Dropped them like a ton of bricks. He had bullied Ralph to no end, mercilessly stripping the man of his self-esteem and self-confidence—helping to mold the loser that Ralph had become.
But as the skeletal hand of the grim reaper slowly enveloped him in blackness, he realized three things: It’s too late for redemption. Karma’s a bitch. And then you die.