Note #1: This hypnofetish story features not-terribly-explicit sexual activity, much of it interracial. It also contain examples of fictional characters doing illegal, immoral and/or impossible things to other fictional characters. If you are under the age of consent in your community, are disturbed by such concepts, or want hard-core ‘Tab A into Slot B’ sex in your pornography, then for goshsakes stop reading now!

Permission granted to re-post for free to any electronic medium, as long as no one's being charged to view it, and this disclaimer and e-mail address ( are not removed. It would also be nice if you told me you were posting it.

Copyright Voyer, 2000.

Note #2: This story is set in the same universe at ‘Shades of Night Are Falling,’ ‘Cut Off,’ et al, and you should really read them first. It also has instances of both maledom and femdom MC.

For George Hamilton, because of his unparalleled contribution to the Night Life.

He crouches on the roof amidst blackness, and he stares down at the long riverside hulk which gleams rustily beneath the flash and the spin of the cluster of searchlights. He watches the people coming and going from the hole punched in its side, many of them appearing to be tasty morsels. Quite tasty indeed. His black tongue darts out for a moment, like a lizard.

Or maybe not so tasty. He frowns black-eyed under his long single eyebrow and he scratches restlessly at the red bricks of the low parapet with his fingernails. There is something about that place which makes him deeply uneasy even as it pulls at him, a scent of rotten carrion carried on the night wind. He’d certainly never go inside there himself, even if it were easily done for one in his position. And the people who spend a lot of time there... seem somehow... tainted. He of all people should know.

He turns away decisively in a swirl of something that is not a black cloak. It doesn’t matter in any event. He has bigger plans. Better and more succulent morsels waiting patiently for him. He is off across the rooftops of the city.

Phil stood in the shadows, and the handle of the knife was slick with his sweat.

He had bought the thing off one of the venders who worked a beat up and down the sidewalks of the Way, constantly pushing or peddling or riding their dinky little carts along in the shadows of the double row of tall white and blue-gray office buildings which loomed overhead. Going to work even as early as he did, Phil had seen the seller lots of times while he rode the tram; strangely, she mostly sold fancy wrought-iron birdcages, and she seemed to do a steady business.

But she also sold knives. He had only slowly caught onto this fact, since to start with he only saw her a few seconds each day from his seat as he wooshed by. The first time that he saw someone buying a knife from her, he had thought that she was being mugged: the customer was waving the blade between them as if he was going to stab her with it. But she was back apparently unharmed and unscarred the next day, and a while later Phil realized that the guy must have been merely testing the weapon’s heft and balance, for he saw another customer doing essentially the same thing. The first had been a large nasty-looking brother, dressed in an freaky collection of gray patches. This second was a seriously snooty white woman, black-haired and tall and wearing a truckin’ business suit and skirt. The brother had been flipping around a piece of metal which you could have just about used to gut a damn grizzly bear in hand-to-hand combat, while the woman was clinically tilting a stiletto back and forth in her hand, her red nails very glossy in the early morning sunlight. Phil couldn’t decide if he was relieved or disturbed, but eventually let the matter go and tipped his Sirens cap lower over his face. After all, up on the fifteenth floor of the AW Building, his usual mop and bucket and industrial-strength vacuum cleaner were waiting for him, along with Enrique, Bill and the bloated white sack of guts that was Ackerly, the chief janitor.

Then a few weeks slipped by and he suddenly found that he was in serious need of a knife.

He had met her in the club.

The club. It was called Below Decks, and it had been set up inside the rusted-out hull of some big-ass old ship, which had been towed as far as possible up from the harbor, past Mayor’s Island, and then permanently lashed to the seedier bank of the river (the south bank, at that point in the river’s wanderings...) in the shadow of a bunch of old clapped-out warehouses. The club’s metal catwalk interior sprawled over several levels, filled with dozens of stairways and nooks and crannies, all pulsing with thumping music and multicolored lights. In some of the lower places, water had leaked in somewhere from the river, forming oily pools with lit candles bobbing in them, and rising and falling a little with the tides. Phil had always been vaguely aware that the club took up less than half of the bulk of the ship, and he once took a second to break off from the partying to examine the heavy sheet of metal which had been welded across one of the openings to the rest of the hull. (Or so he guessed; with all the twistings and turnings, it was damn hard to say if it wasn’t actually just cutting him off from some other room of the club...) It seemed ordinary enough, but then he touched it and it seemed to faintly throb with a beat that was different than the club’s music, but also the same somehow, something deeper, further down inside the ship somewhere, done with large hammers and metal gongs... It abruptly reminded him of sounds that used to come from that house over on Banyon Street, near where he had grown up, the house where the witch-woman lived...

His stomach churned and he turned away, seeking more comprehensible riddles, women who wore slinky dresses and weren't witches...

From their secluded corner, the two of them watch the lanky black man stare at the wall in puzzlement for a moment before disappearing back into the crowd. He grins and whispers some sarcastic comment in her ear, and she giggles.

Then there is something behind them, the air moves and there is a breeze, dank and foul. They turn and stare.

There is a hole suddenly in the wall, where there hasn’t been one before, gaping and black and dropping down fast into even deeper darkness. Before they can react something gray comes lashing out, long and thin, and it stings him, lashing across his rather puffy neck with a vicious barb that drips poison. He gurgles purple and goes down in an instantly crumpled heap at her sandaled feet. She stares down at him, her mouth hanging open, before looking back up. She starts to scream, but then there are the colors the wonderful colors spinning and spinning and the pulse hammering up through her feet shaking her legs and her brain and the colors the bright sticky colors are inside her head, the colors are totally in charge the colors know what was best and she nods slowly, understanding completely, her mouth still hanging open. Her body goes into action. His blubbery bulk is very heavy, but she somehow is able to pull him inside with superhuman strength grunting and sweating and cursing, pull him through the hole which snaps shut seamless behind them.

Then she sees what is attached to the colors back there in the darkness, and it is of course far, far too late. She stands very quietly, until they come for her, up out of the Dark Places. They come and take her back down with them, dragging his body behind them with their large iron hooks and dancing and singing in their shrill voices. Even before they get all the way down she has learned the steps and she is singing the tune...

Another night, another weekend. He had been dancing with a fox named Rhonda, but then she had been spun away into crush of the crowd, as sometimes happened, and he started circulating again with only a bit of regret.

“Hey there, handsome.”

He turned in surprise. She had appeared out of seemingly nowhere and was a fairly small woman with long straight shiny hair. She wore a slinky red dress. She was dark, except for her teeth, which were very white. “You wanna have a little fun?”

She was already pulling him out onto the nearest sliver of dance floor, not waiting for his reply, knowing his reply and relishing it. As they danced, close and hot, he stared at her, not in lust, not exactly, but more in puzzlement. Even though he now vaguely remembered seeing her around before, if someone were to come up, spin him away as Rhonda had been spun, and ask him what his dance-partner actually looked like, he wouldn’t be able to say, not even if she was black or white or whatever. He looked in her eyes and tried to pick out their color. She flashed another smile. Tolerant on the surface, but with something else roiling thick and bottomless underneath.

“Stop that.”

“S-stop what?” Her hands were busy. The heat was rising, bending the air around them into strange obscene shapes.

“Stop thinking. Thinking just gets in the way.” She breathed on him, and her breath was hot and spicy and made the world go all fuzzy. His knees went all wobbly, and she propped him up without seeming effort.

“Who... who are you?”

“Everyone knows me. I’m Vixen.” Another breath, thick and cloying, making him gag and almost black out. “Now for the last time, stop thinking.” She growled this and her eyes flashed black and deep.

He stopped thinking.

He came back to himself sitting at a round table with wobbly legs and a scattering of spilled drinks on it. Darkness behind him, walls. Flashing lights and people milling about in front. He couldn’t remember where he was, who he was. He rubbed his face and then his close buzz of hair with both of his hands and slowly it came back, like a jigsaw puzzle being slapped back into place a piece at a time. Phil. Below Decks. Dancing with Vixen.

Vixen. The name seemed to echo inside his head as he thought it, filling the space entirely. His stomach roiled, along with other parts of his anatomy. Where was she? Why weren’t they still dancing? They were supposed to be dancing. He needed to be with her, to hear her voice and her laugh, feel her burning touch against his skin. He needed it.

He tried to get to his feet and his legs wouldn’t work. Somehow he finally got himself untangled from the chair and staggered back forth into the din.

But something was wrong. He couldn’t talk, couldn’t get the air out of his lungs to make the words. The crowd spun slowly around him, tilting side to side and then settling back almost on the level. Everything smelled like Vixen, everything sounded like her and looked like her, but she wasn’t there, she was gone and he needed her. They needed to be dancing.

He bumped into someone, and they turned in annoyance. Just a phantom, though. Useless. Vixen but not Vixen, dressed in red. He blundered on through the crowd, watching her bodies swirl and squirm. Someone grabbed his arm at one point, and he heard a half-familiar sound (a voice, he used to call ‘em voices...) that almost touched him, but it wasn’t Vixen and the fog came back in and twirled her (Rhonda?) away, for good this time.

Hours passed. Days. Lifetimes come and gone. Up and down the staircases. Faces, countless faces babbling nonsense sounds but no Vixen. No dancing. He weeped and raged.

Then he bumped into one last person and something changed. It wasn’t Vixen, but...

“What’s your problem there, pal?” The voice was... well, it was a voice, to begin with. It was also somehow simultaneously cheerful, annoyed and mildly curious. He scrounged up the only word in his vocabulary as it rattled around in the bottom of his brain, and he gamely deployed it.


“Ahh...” A sound of enlightenment. Something slapped his face, hard but glancing, a hand, and the fog cleared a little. Just enough. When he focused again, he was looking up at a man, a blindingly white guy in a black leather jacket trimmed with metal and precious jewels, standing about ten feet tall and grinning with fifty thousand teeth. His enormous eyes burned like vast black suns. “Vixen isn’t here, my friend. She’s done for the night. So why don’t you go home, too?”

“Go home?”

Slowly the words gained meaning.

“Thaat’s right.” Gloved hands turned him and gave him a push, to a general round of laughter.

“Go home.” He was standing outside the club. “Go home.”

He went home, after having the brainstorm of looking up his address on his ID card, sounding out the words, one letter at a time. Home.

It was better in the morning, Vixenday morning, but only by comparison. He could focus a little, so he lay in bed all day and watched the TV and actually understood what the little Vixens displayed there were saying and doing. Weather and tarot readings and bank holdups and golf. They kept putting on red dresses and dancing far too close to him and breathing him down into blackness, but that was something that he felt that he could deal with. Finally he slurred down into sleep again and dreamed about her, snuffled her hair, breathed her scent, for long black hours.

By Monday morning, he was functioning enough to clean himself up, get dressed, scarf down a breakfast of Vixen Flakes and make it to work on time, barely. As he did so, he watched Vixen drive the tram and advertise toothpaste from the billboards and commute to work and push her carts endlessly up and down the Way. She was also waiting for him up on the fifteenth floor, but she was fat and white and she yelled at him just like Ackerly. He somehow kept from sniggering at the imitation, at least to her face, and he spent the day pushing his vacuum very carefully up and down the long carpeted halls of Vixen and Co., dodging Vixens as she went by in her suits and ties, talking fast and ernestly on her cellphones. He cleaned her bathroom and emptied her garbage cans, endless shreds of red dress spilling into the company’s private incinerator tube. Strangely, she also wore a worksuit like his and helped him with these things...

He wore his sunglasses all day, so that redness wouldn't blind him.

Tuesday, as he munched dry toast and drank milk that teetered on the edge of spoiling, Vixen was on TV again, but now she was co-hosting with Biff Anderson, the morning guy on Channel 4. He wondered what had happened to Cindee whatserface, who had always made the Biffman there look like frigging Einstein.

Vixen probably killed her and ate her. The bitch is like that. And she won’t dance with me anymore.

Ackerly was back on the job at Laird and Co. after his day of slacking off, which made Phil sort of sad. At least Vixen still occasionally walked the halls with the male members of the company, wearing one-piece red business suits. There were papers and apple cores mixed in with the dress scraps.

Wednesday morning he woke up and realized in a general sort of way what she had done to him. He was fully back inside his head, and so was she; he didn’t see her outside it all day. But he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Not really. Not for a minute. And she still wasn’t dancing with him. When he got to work, he just looked at Ackerly. Just looked at him from under his eyebrows and the bill of his cap, and the bag of lard shut up and made himself scarce. Enrique and Bill seemed to avoid him as well, for some reason.

Thursday, Phil woke up and found he could think about something besides Vixen.

He started thinking about knives.

He went at his lunch half-hour, marching almost defiantly up the Way with his hands stuck deep in the pockets of his grungy overalls. Suddenly as he walked he was focused again, aware, as if his decision had swept away the last of the red-clad cobwebs that filled his mind. He looked around himself. It was another lousy day in a city somewhat famous for them, pissing splatters of rain. Nevertheless, the vendors were out in force, going by in a steady stream. It slowly dawned on Phil that he had never really looked at them before, never realized just how damn weird they all were. They all went in the same direction, and he walked against the flow, scoping out their wares. Cooking pans. Cheap sunglasses. An entire cart full of nothing but those metronome things. Another with nothing but stuffed toys, mostly snakes with red and yellow marbles for eyes. One selling cheap-ass, no doubt pirated, computer disks and CDs; the black names 42/42, ZORK IV and MASTER PC jumped out of the jumble as it went past him. The vendors were as strange as the stuff they sold; the gray-haired white guy with the computer cart, for example, wore a tweed suit that while about a thousand years old was actually almost sorta with it, topped off with a checkered flat cap that perched jauntily on his head. The woman with the snakes was dark-skinned but not a sister, India or Iran or one of those, and wore a getup that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of those old Sinbad movies that Phil and his brothers used to watch late at night on their crappy old black & white TV after their folks were asleep. With the metronomes, there were two sellers; the cart was pulled by a stupid-looking red-haired bull who wore an awful lot of leather-and-metal straps, while the actual sales went down via by a bony twitchy woman who was connected to the cart by a long cheap-looking chain which was hooked to a rusty metal collar she wore around her neck.

Then there was the knife-seller. Finally he saw her approaching. Seeing him, she immediately stepped out of the procession, pushing her cart to a stop.

“What can I do for you today, sir?” Her voice, while genuinely polite matched her appearance by being both gravely and twangy. She was one of those white people who had spent so much time out somewhere under a hot sun that she was thoroughly brown and cracked. Under a brimmed yellow rainhat, she wore her gray hair pulled back in a long ponytail, and she was... not fat... big-boned. That was the word. Not quite as tall as the metronome-cart puller, but almost a match in other respects. And not that ugly, really, all things considered, even to Phil, who found most white women to be seriously lacking. A corner of his mind admitted that she was also sort of scary.

He shuffled his feet, then spoke, keeping his hands in his pockets.

“I been seeing that you sell stuff besides those cages.”

She nodded as if it was no more than she expected, and casually flipped up a hinged wooden panel on the side of her cart, exposing a long shallow hole.

The weapons were sheltered in rows, resting on velvet-lined pegs. They ranged from stuff like the grizzly-sticker all the way down to those things that doctors use to cut people open. Scalpels. He’d had vague dreams of being a doctor when he was a kid, but people living in the Miller Hills area of the city didn’t generally become doctors. Not real doctors with white coats and a matching white skin. Still, the thought of buying a scalpel felt good for a moment. Then he pushed it away. It was good, but it wasn’t right.

“I’m... not sure what I want.”

“What do you need it for?”

“I... well...”

“Sex?” She said the word like she was discussing the weather.

His eyes narrowed for a moment. Finally...





“I... no.”


The word clicked in his mind, filling a hole.

“Yeah. That’s the one. Revenge.”

She nodded again, satisfied this time, popped one of the knives from its holder and wordlessly handed it to him. The whole thing was about seven inches long, with a jagged cutting edge. The handle was made of some kind of bone, and carved with odd twisting shapes, all interlinked. It was a nasty knife, a knife for cutting, and it fit well in his hand. He tested it against the air.

A knife for revenge. He smiled, his eyes glittering behind his sunglasses.

“I’ll take it. How much?”

She told him. It cleaned him out totally, but it was worth it. It was right, and he strutted back to work, feeling ten feet tall, with eyes like black suns. As long as the knife was in his pocket, he could stay totally focused, do his job. Ackerly displayed unexpected survival skills by staying totally out of sight, while Enrique kept shooting him nervous glances and keeping as far away as their jobs allowed.

Night falls, and she wheels her cart off the Way, into a particular narrow side street. She is a woman who has gone to many strange places and done many brave things, but even she will not stay out on the Way after dark.

No one stays out on the Way after dark. Only the police drive by, and they do it fast, in pairs and with their windows rolled up.

Waiting in the side street is a good-sized truck, the back already open and the ramp extended. She pushes the cart up the ramp into the truck with only a slight grunt. There are several strange and bulky items cluttering the back of the truck, some strapped to the sides, others hanging in bulging net-sacks from the roof. The cart fits neatly into a space. Numerous sturdy latches click snugly into place around attached metal bars and lock the cart down so it won’t roll around. She tugs it once, and is satisfied. The ramp is already pulling itself back into the truck, and she hops back to the pavement with unsurprising agility. The truck door rattles itself down and locks as she walks around to the passenger door of the cab. It stands open for her, and she get in, settling into the padded seat with a sigh of comfort.

The man lounging easily behind the wheel of the truck is stringy, and as grayed and tough-looking as her. He flashes a gap-toothed smile at her from the shadows beneath his battered, feather-plumed cowboy hat, and she smiles back.


“Evening yerself. Dinner’s in the pan there, straight from the kettle of ol' Weng-Chiang hisself.”

“Now I remember why I married you.”

They kiss, not with passion perhaps but certainly with sincerity. He speaks after they part.

“We ain’t married, wench. Want me ta make an honest woman of ya? I’m still willin’ if you are.”


“Ah well.” He philosophically tortures a hand-rolled cigarette to life. “Have yerself a good day?”

“Yeah. In fact, we snagged ourselves a real good one, today. We’ll have to watch this weekend, and just see what we see.”

He grins again, starts up the engine, and flips on the truck’s headlights.

There is a man standing in the street in front of the truck, his legs slightly spread, his hands resting casually on the knob of a walking stick.

In less than a second, they both have a weapon pointed at him out the windows; a shotgun and a small but quite lethal-looking crossbow. She speaks out the window, very cold.

“Can we help you with somethin’, Mister?”

The man casually hefts the stick in one hand and steps forward. He is tall, thin and quite bald. He smiles cheerfully, not squinting in the blasting glare of the headlights. He gives a little bow.

“Ms. Montez. Mr. Phillips. Good evening. I certainly hope so.” With two careful fingers, he slowly extracts something from an interior pocket of his dark suit. He holds it up for a moment and then places it on the rumbling black hood of the truck. A small but suggestively-shaped packet. The weapons do not waver and he takes a couple of steps back to his original position before continuing. “My name, if such things matter to you, is Black. I am somewhat new here in town....”

“Heard of you.” She displays no enthusiasm or fear or anything else.

“How gratifying. As it happens, I am finishing up the furnishing of my new home, and I now find myself in need of a rather... ah... specialized item of decor. My inquiries on the subject have led me to believe that you are the two people with whom I need to speak.”

Without pulling in the shotgun or looking away from the bald man, she takes something from the crowded gun-rack mounted behind them in the cab, a long pole of metal with a pair of wicked-looking graspers at the end. The packet is promptly snagged and retrieved. The contents are studied in a gloved hand and shown to the man beside her, who raises his eyebrows and points his cigarette at the ceiling. She smiles a little and speaks in a slightly more friendly tone, keeping the shotgun very handy.

“You got yourself a bird, Mister Black?”

The man leans forward over his stick and smiles back, although he can’t possibly see her face.

“Ms. Montez. It just so happens that I have myself a very big bird.”

Friday night, and straight back to the club, not even bothering to go home and change. The usual crowd was there, doing the usual things. He stalked through the shadows, very cool, very calm.

Except for his hand, which was very sweaty as it gripped the knife.

Time passed.

For a moment his path was disrupted by the sudden sight of a familiar figure: a man in a black leather jacket dancing with about four women at once, all clustered around him. Phil paused, feeling a deep surge of sparkling friendship, awe even. He started to go over and thank Johnny for what the man had done for him last weekend, but then he realized that Johnny already knew how he felt, and that he (Johnny) was sorta busy right at the moment and didn’t want to be disturbed. But maybe someday he would ask an equally big favor of Phil in return, and that was OK. That was cool. Phil could only shake his head as he turned away and walked on further into the club.

“What a guy...”

He circulated and he circulated. He could walk the stairs all night, if he had to.

And then he saw her, and everything else dropped away, even Johnny. She was dancing with a bulky flat-topped brother in a tight red T-shirt which matched her dress, although it didn’t sparkle. Several other similar specimens lounged around her in a protective circle. They didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Phil stood under one of the large metal struts which still held the hull together, and watched the two dancers. For a very long time he watched them, holding his knife and thinking slashing red thoughts. One by one he cut through the things that were attached to his brain.

The last thread holding him back snapped. He started forward.

He took a single step, and a hand fell onto his shoulder, a grip like iron. He jerked with a strangled cry and spun around. The threads came twisting back.

It was another white dude wearing sunglasses. Not Johnny; he was still in sight a level or two up, dancing now with just one partner, some half-dressed Asian bitch. Or maybe he was just cutting to the chase and doing the deed with her while their clothes were still on. It was hard to tell in the flashing lights.

The shoulder-grabber was a little taller and quite a bit more muscular than Johnny. (...Although not nearly as slick or handsome...) His black leather jacket was more like a trench coat, and was entirely free of metal trim. While clean-shaven, he gave off a definite sense of hairiness, the sort of dude who goes through a three or four razors in a week. He spoke.

“Don’t do it.”

Phil stared for an eternity, finally somehow coming up with a reply.

“Don’t do what?”

“What you are about to do.” The man was Phil’s mirror, or at least the Phil of a moment ago, very cool, very unemotional. Phil became aware that there were two other people observing the whole situation, one standing on either side of the man like a set of bookends. Two more b... women, one colored like the snake-lady back on the Way, one blonde, sporting oddly matching fizzy haircuts. They wore short black leather coats which were snug around their waists. Beneath that, four bare legs, very bitchin’, and four high black boots, very shiny. They had the dude’s same calm iciness stamped across their faces. They stood absolutely still, the lights flickering in the glass of their shades.

They scared Phil, even worse than the knife-seller. But not as bad as... as...

“I don’t... don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”

“Leave. Go home. Better yet, leave town. Unlike some, you still can.”

“Are you threatenin’ me man?” Phil tried to make it sound tough, but it came out more like a reedy whine.

“No, sport. I’m not threatening you.” A pause, and the corner of the man’s mouth may have twitched up just a bit. “Would it help you to leave if I did?”

Again Phil stared. Finally, he opened his mouth, not at all sure what was going to come out.

“But... but she deserves it.” The venom ran deep and corrosive.

A vastly indifferent shrug.

“Maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn’t really matter. Because you’re doing what she wants you to do.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“She wants you to go over there with whatever it is you have there in your pocket. She wants you to pull it out and start waving it in her face. Because then she’ll snap those nasty little fingers of hers and her friends there will cheerfully drag you outside and do very unpleasant things to you. At great length. With your own tool, probably. When they are done, they will throw what is left of you in the water and she will go on dancing and having fun and doing whatever she did to you to other men.” A pause. “Actually, no. If you are lucky, that is what will happen. If she’s really in the mood to party, well... Either way, after tonight she won’t ever even think about you again.”

“So what... what can I do to her?” For some reason, the thought that the dude might be mistaken or crazy, like so many white people were, never occurred to Phil.

“Nothing. The only revenge you can get, however slight it might be, is to just walk away and never come here again. Well...” Another slight smile. “Maybe go find some nice girl somewhere, and make her happy. Get married. Improve yourself. Go buy a condo in the suburbs or something. But just go. Go now.”

As if asleep, Phil turned and stared yet again at Vixen, still feeling the knife in his hand, feeling the nasty shapes carved into the handle throb eagerly, even angrily, against his callused skin. She danced and laughed, dancing as the Asian girl had, pressed up against Johnny. Only Vixen was pressed up against the man in the red T-shirt.

And it wasn’t the same at all. Two puppeteers and two puppets, but the puppet strings flowed in opposite directions.

She looked over at Phil, directly at him, still dancing, and she smiled. Her teeth glittered, bits of diamonds. Fangs. And her eyes... Her eyes were far worse.

hey there handsome

For a moment, Phillip Joseph Washington saw what Vixen really looked like.

He turned, spun really, and started stumbling up the stairs for the exit, trying not to throw up. A voice. Not her voice, thank god, but the dude.

“Hold up.”

He spun back, still hunched over. He spoke through gritted teeth, not looking in a certain direction.

“What? What do you want now, man?”

The man studied him thoughtfully, looked up at the ceiling as if testing the breeze, then nodded to himself, once, and held up his hand, palm up, his fingers curled slightly. One of the creepy silent women slapped something in that hand, as smooth as a nurse in operating room, and the man held it out to Phil, handle-first.

It was a gun, black and bulky, a well-crafted revolver of a make and model that Phil didn’t recognize.


“You’re going to need this. Take it.”

“I’m not gonna kill her! Or myself!”

A flash of annoyance.

“Of course not. But since you’re going home for the night... right now... you’re going to need it nonetheless. Whatever it is you’ve got in your pocket there isn’t going to cut it. So to speak.”

Phil twitched, then let go of the knife, reached out and snatched the gun out of the other man’s hand. It fit in his own hand much better than the knife, slick and excitingly cool and easily soaking up all his sweat. Phil swallowed hard, then turned for a final time and again stumbled from the club, unseeing.

Charles watches the skinny black man stagger drunkenly away, and sighs, rolling his eyes a little behind his sunglasses. He turns so he is looking at the dancing woman and her entourage. He speaks.

“We ready here?”

“Yes, Charles.” A chorus of feminine voices.

He extracts a black cell phone from his pocket and flips it to life. Surprisingly, considering the massive amounts of metal surrounding him on all sides, someone answers. He speaks.

“We’re in position. Is it still a go?”


“Yes, Ma’am. OK.”

No more voice.

He snaps the phone shut, stows it.

“Let’s do this thing.”

The women each hold something in one gloved hand, a black stick vaguely like a policeman’s billy club. There is a flicking sound, and two collections of metal slivers pop into view from black slits, curved and sharp, a cross between antennas and razor blades. Charles holds something similar, but bigger, almost like a medieval mace. The things that pop out of it are truly ghastly.

The three of them advance and the crowd automatically parts around them.

Past the bored lounging bouncer, down the artificially rattling gangplank, back to dry land, or at least the wood of the pier. After a moment, Phil swayed to a halt under one of the moth-infested streetlights, sagging against the poster-covered wooden pole and trying to collect his thoughts, watching his breath mist out in front of him. Absently switching the gun to his other hand, he pulled the knife out of his pocket and he stared at it for a long moment, twisting it so that it glinted in the light. The gorge rose in his stomach again, and he viciously flung the blade from himself, into the sea of darkness beyond his little island of light. It clattered loudly against something and came to rest. He switched the gun back, and re-settled the collar of his coveralls against the sharp evening chill. Gradually he became aware that there was a steady stream of people trickling past him and the light, also leaving the club. Some were laughing and chattering as usual, but a distinct minority looked nervous, continually glancing back over their shoulders at the bulk of the ship as they hurried away. Stepping away from the light, he looked up at the ship himself. His eyes adjusted a little. Nothing unusual. The set of searchlights on the roof/deck/whatever still stabbed into the sky and the thump of the music was still faintly audible. But...

Phil became very nervous. He walked away, almost running, again hunched over as if warding off a blow.

High whispy clouds began to scuttle their way over the moon.

The streets rapidly became empty, his footfalls the only sound apart from the very distant sounds of traffic. It was a long way to the nearest tram station, and they didn’t run much this late at night...

“Hey there...”

He almost screamed, spinning around and barely keeping his feet. If it had been Vixen’s voice, he didn’t know what he would have done. Probably had a heart attack

But it wasn’t Vixen. It was nothing like her rich throaty purr. This voice was cool and chill and sweet. She came wafting out of an alleyway between two of the warehouses, tall and pale and very, very thin. Her collection of long white rags floated around her in a ghostly swirl, mixing with her equally long white hair.

“Hey, handsome. Would you like to have a little fun?”

“No.” The word didn’t come, his tongue had swelled up.

She smiled, and came further into the light, such as it was. She was carrying something in one hand, a pale globe maybe the size of a basketball which glowed sickly white like an enormous dying firefly. Or maybe was it floating over her curled hand...

His lifted his eyes to her face. Above her high sharp cheekbones, she had no pupils; her enormous eyes were white and pure and dazzling. She continued, whispering through snowy teeth and lips touched perhaps with just the memories of roses...

“We’ll have ever so much fun. I’ll take you home with me. I have toys...”

She already had him backed up against the rough brick wall, reaching out with her free claw, her bone-thin arm far too long. The nails are pointed and streaked with black wet dirt.

He never really remembered the gun. It just came swiveling up, the barrel quivering madly. He squealed the words around his useless tongue.

“Stay... back...”

She smiled. It was even worse than the thing Vixen had made out of her exposed teeth, because far, far at the back of it, there was something smothered and hopeless. Somewhere, a lost woman was desperately sorry for what was about to happen, knowing exactly the terror that he was feeling.

He pulled the trigger and wet his coveralls.

The explosion was enormous. It ripped a massive smoking hole through the thing’s face, but there was no blood, no gore. It blew apart like mist, reformed. Even so, the impact forced her back a step or two, and a distinct look of featureless surprise flickered across her face. Then the smile was back, and she held up the globe. It began to glow brighter and brighter, fat slugs of light worming their way up towards the surface from the core, reaching out for him with toothy maws...

This time he did scream, and felt another spray of urine in his coveralls. Even as his body did these things, his finger pulled the trigger again. Ever after, he was not entirely sure if shooting the globe was his idea, or if the gun pointed itself.

Either way, it worked. The globe exploded, not in a spray of mist, but messily, thickly. Spatters and ribbons of pale greenish ichor blew forth in a massive uniform spray, coating everything. The wall of the warehouse. The street. Phil. Somewhere close by, something stopped laughing with a sharp click and there was a very long moment of shocked stillness filled only with the echoing of the shot. The white thing slowly swiveled her head so she was staring wide-eyed (even wider than before, as if that was even possible...) at the remains of the object which now lay, definitely lay, in her hand. It was rapidly decomposing, oozing through her long fingers. Phil stood frozen, only the gun waving even more violently than before, his breaths coming like hiccups.

Slowly, painfully slowly, the woman fell to her knees. She was beginning to mist, fade around the edges, more and more rapidly. Unraveling. She looked up at him, and for a moment, there were black pupils in her eyes. She brushed a gentle hand of benediction across the knee of his doubly-befouled uniform.

Thank you...

And she was gone, blown away on a passing breeze. Her garments swirled aimlessly about him for a moment before disintegrating as well. The globe festered at his feet.

Phil clicked on the gun’s safety, put the weapon in his pocket and walked to the tram station, very slowly, not using his knees.

A darkened circular room with no visible ceiling, filled with controls and panels of displays and rows of large cabalistic symbols traced in garish red neon. There are no windows, but it is night. Two people are visible. One wears a fussy white lab coat and thick black-rimmed glasses, and studies the endless readouts spread out in front of him, making occasional minute adjustments with pudgy but sensative fingers. The other stands in a much smaller womb-like chamber behind a thick sheet of glass, her glistening arms and legs spread slightly away from her body and each other, as if she is wet and dripping. She stares straight ahead, unblinking. The strobe lights flash patterns and runes over her skin and her shredded clothes.

A set of smoked glass doors slide open, and a new figure jerks into the main room on long legs, sort of hugging herself and smoking a long cigarette in a somewhat jittery fashion. The short man in the lab coat turns and bows and the newcomer speaks.

“Dr. Matsuma. Report.”

“Honored one. She is quite promising. Much better than expected, actually.”

A long fiery drag on the cigarette. “So our corpulent friend downstairs might be interested in purchasing her?”

“Absolutely. In fact...”


“She might be over-qualified for any position that... ah...” Matsuma touches his fingertips together carefully. “...‘our friend’ might have for her.”

“So you’re saying that we should keep her in-house?”

“That would be my recommendation, honored one.”

Must you call me that?”The glowing cigarette ash flares in her hand, even though it is not attached to her mouth.

“My apologies... Miss Green.” Another careful bow.

“Thank you ever so much. Hmm...” The cigarette-smoker paces, critically examining the woman trapped in the red room from several angles. She suddenly seems much more assured. “Now that you mention it, we might have just the position for her after all...” She flips the cigarette away, and it disintegrates in a leasurely puff of smoke.

It was of course Kristal’s idea that they go to the rally. She had always been more into such things than him; he had commented on more than one occasion that he didn’t think there was really much more to modern politics beyond ‘one from column A or one from column B’.

But it was lovely late-summer day, and he admitted he wanted to get out and enjoy the sunshine. So he finally capitulated with his usual gentle smile and laugh and they went.

They drove her car down to the shopping mall where the rally was being held. Actually, she drove, as was usually the case when they went anywhere together. He had gotten his license with her help even while they were still just dating, but he had once admitted that, having lived so long in the city with its tram system before meeting her out here in the wilds of suburbia, he had never really become a driving enthusiast. And she liked driving him.

She liked doing all sorts of things for him. That was of course the point of being married, yes, but somehow, there was something more. He was still young and healthy, Doctor Hitchens had assured her, but even since they had first met in that community college class, there were times when he would suddenly look so drawn and thin, and she just wanted to take him in her arms and comfort him. Often she did. The days when he had to drive into the city for meetings at his company’s head office or whatever were especially bad.

And they never ever went into the city at night, not even to see a movie at the Panopticon or attend a Sirens night game, the latter being something she had dearly loved to do with her father as a child.

But there was something more to being nice to him, more than just being his wife. It got all hazy and deliciously fuzzy around the edges, but it had started that day she came across that cardboard box with some of his old possessions in it, stuffed in the very back of the duplex’s hall closet. It had been her day off, and she had decided to do a little cleaning. He had come home... she didn’t know how many hours later... and found her kneeling in front of the box, still staring down at what she had found. He had been angry like she’d never seen before. But then...

Everything just went hazy, but it was good kind of hazy, like sniffing laughing gas at the dentist and floating weightless on endlessly pink clouds. Yes, there had been something in the box, something wonderfully slick and black and he had calmed down and even given her permission to touch it, and then they had...


It didn’t matter. All that mattered was he kept something very special in that box along with his old music magazines and toy cars, and on equally special occasions, their first anniversary, her birthday, he had taken it out and held it up and let it shimmer in her eyes.

Just thinking about it made her want to simultaneously cross her legs and spread them, even as she drove.

She shook it off as they pulled into the vast mall parking lot. There was a surprisingly large crowd pouring in from all directions; Karnin’s campaign was really starting to pick up steam, and the latest polls showed him almost pulling even with that pompous windbag Maxell, despite the latter’s hefty campaign fund, accumulated from his years at the lobbyists’ trough. Kristal had put up a Karnin campaign sign in their half of the yard and would have volunteered with the campaign herself, but she knew Phillip wouldn’t have approved. He certainly wouldn’t have stopped her or anything, but maybe he wouldn’t hold up the thing, the thing in the box and

let her watch it shimmer slickly in the moonlight... wouldn’t let her kneel before him and

slowly wrap her lips around the icy-cold black shaft and

suck and suck and suck while he spoke in a different voice a grating Miller Hills voice, the one he had worked so hard to get rid of

saying terrible vicious red-hot sexy things and

looming up as a hulkish thug not slender like normal and

slowly clicking the cylinder on the gun and

slowly clicking the tumblers in her brain and

she sucked and she sucked and

she waited for him to

pull the trigger and

smear her useless blonde brains all over the walls of their bedroom and

then he would go out on the town and

get hisself a new skinny-assed blonde bitch

maybe even one of her co-workers at the insurance office, Lucinda maybe and

have her clean up the mess,

pick up Kristal’s bloody fragments one by one with her teeth and

make her love it, like Kristal was loving it and

he finally cocked the gorgeous black gun, slowly, teasingly and

he triggered her

She had to bite her lip to focus. It wasn’t usually this bad. Usually she couldn’t even think about it at all when it wasn’t actually in the process of happening. Maybe they could just hang around long enough to hear Karnin’s speech, and then go back to the duplex. She’d have to do something extra-special nice for him to make up for all this...

As it happened, they had arrived just in time. They were at the back of the milling crowd as some pudgy guy in a bad toupee and a gaudy checkered suit finished up his preliminary remarks and gave the usual introduction:

“And now, our next state senator from the 23rd district, Dennis Karnin!”

The crowd hit its mark like pros and cheered and waved their signs, and a tall distinguished man popped out onto the flag-festooned outdoor stage, waving. He was followed by a woman in a simple but tasteful print dress; Kristal immediately recognized his wife Valerie from the campaign literature. Karnin stepped up to the microphone and raised his hands for silence, still smiling. Something suddenly prompted Kristal to look over at Phillip. He was staring at the stage as if he had been poleaxed, not at the man at the microphone, but at the woman who stood to one side. He mouthed a word that she couldn’t quite make out.


She looked back at the stage, at the woman. She stood with her hands demurely crossed in front of her, and gazed at her waving husband with shiny-eyed adoration, the standard posture of a thousand political wives. But there was something more...

Kristal Washington had a sudden sharp vision.

A hall. A front door opens onto night, and

two people step through into the house. They are chatting and

laughing with each other. There is no sound, only pictures. One of the two is Karnin, carrying a briefcase, while the other is a woman who Kristal has never seen before, fairly tall and skinny, with a face like a shifty fox and

unpleasantly red hair. He puts his case on a table by the door and

a second woman appears in the scene, coming out of what must be the house’s palatial living room. Valerie. She wears the same sort of dress she has on at the rally, but with something extra: a tooled leather collar secured around her throat, from which dangles a shiny padlock, plated in real gold and

etched with a symbol in red, in blood, the exact same color as the first woman’s hair. Instead of wearing a pair of sensible flats, she is barefoot, and

she carries a large drink in each hand, one with ice, one without. She silently hands one to each of the new arrivals, and

kneels before Karnin in one graceful motion. She ceremoniously kisses his black shoes, once each, smack and

smack. Still on her knees, she turns and

repeats her performance with the woman’s pointy gray shoes. She then looks up, and for a moment her face is unrecognizable; it that of an enraged beast straining foaming-mouthed at the end of its tether, with gleaming fangs and horrible, horrible eyes. Then it is gone, and

she the good obedient little wifey again. The collar is gone from around her neck, but it is still there. It is always there, locked very tightly in place. The red-haired woman makes some smirking comment and

Karnin laughs cruelly and

takes her hand to kiss it briefly. Walking together, they disappear into the living room. Valerie crawls slowly after them, her long all-colored hair spilling around her face.

Again she turned to Phillip. He was still staring at the stage, but with a new expression on his face. Almost smiling. What had he just seen?

“Can we go home now, please?” She detested the way her voice suddenly sounded, reedy and desperate. He looked over at her, his eyebrows raised.

“Of course, baby. If you want.”

“I’m sorry I made you came.”

He laughed, quite cheerfully, and slipped a gentle black arm around her as they started back towards the car. She nestled against him gratefully.

“No, actually, I’m glad we came.”

“You are?” She stared up with wide blue eyes.

“Yes. I learned that I’m definitely going to be voting for Karnin...”

He got the thing out of the box that night, and it was the best and the worst ever. He blew her brains out not once, not twice, but three times.

She woke up later, and lay next to him in bed for a very long time. Staring at the ceiling. After she was sure that he was asleep, she slipped out of bed, going outside in her beloved old bathrobe and her bare feet. She stalked through the chilly grass, calmly ripped up the Karnin sign from the yard and ceremoniously burned it on their new barbecue. The flames danced in her eyes, shimmering, shimmering...

Then she went back inside, and was happy.

The proper place at last. He comes swooping in from a neighboring roof. The wide window blows gently open, and he is in the room, straightening up and his not-cloak falling elegantly into place around his multi-jointed form.

The woman stands waiting for him in the middle of the wooden floor, her hands at her sides, the hem of her long white dressing gown ruffling now in the night breeze. Her neck is suggestively bruised in small patches. He smiles and gestures with the three fingers of his hand and she drifts closer in response, staring at him with her dark eyes, unable to tear away. She is starting to look a little thin and haggered, but there is still plenty of juice left in her.

So tasty. So succulent.

They are nose to nose, or would be, if his face featured such an object. He smiles and speaks with a voice of glittering ice, deep and black.

“Greetings my dearest dove. Shall we dance?”

She gives a little choked helpless moan, and her long black hair twists like her gown. Then she remembers what she is holding in her hand and she clenches tight around it.


The stiletto flashs up and goes into his chest like it was cutting through layers of tissue paper. A thin black liquid bubbles out, and he screams, a horrible thin scream of surprise and rage. She jerks down, hard, using both hands now, ripping through layer after layer. The not-cloak flails around him, suddenly awkward and broken-backed. He staggers backwards, all the way to the window, the handle still sticking from the ruins of his chest. Still he screams, the tortured whistle of a boiled-dry teakettle.

Snarling, she charges forward and pushes him hard, and he spins back out into the night, crumpled and flailing. Down, down five stories, cracking onto the pavement of the sidewalk, landing exactly between two of the silvery trees which line the street. A pile of broken black twigs. Up above, she throws her head back and gives an animalistic howl of triumph, clutching at her windowsill with both hands. Then she is cold and calm. She pulls something out of her gown; it has been hanging around her neck on a silver chain. A whistle, curiously shaped and made of some white-green metal. She blows on it, and there is no sound. Dogs start barking madly in the middle distance. The whistle corrodes between her fingers and melts to nothing.

There is a pause of several moments, and then a manhole cover on the street below abruptly pops up, shifts to one side. The dogs fall silent. For two blocks in both directions, the streetlights flicker and then go out. Several somethings come swarming up out of the manhole, scuttling bipedal collections of dirty rags. With darting speed they converge on the thing lying on the sidewalk. Some sink in their hooks, and haul it away. Others mop up the black liquid with ragged towels, getting every last drop and finishing by splashing quantities of water over the spot from an enormous and surprisingly clean glass jug. In moments they are all gone, back down out of sight. The manhole clatters shut and the lights come back on. A few of the dogs start up again, but only a few.

The woman closes the window. She pulls shut the curtain and she goes back to bed. She stares up at the ceiling with her black eyes and she smiles.

To be continued?

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