short fiction, Uncategorized

Director’s Cut

His eyes were heavy lidded, the patches of beard, flecked with silver and his hair was a clotted lump atop his head. The single bulb overhead draped his face in unflattering shadows.

‘I’m sorry. I’m a repulsive human being.’

He lifted the gun to his head and cocked the hammer on the revolver.

The impact shoved him away.

He didn’t get up.

They cancelled the premiere of his film as a mark of respect.

 

2.

I don’t get out to the States much as I’d like. I’ve got friends there, but I’d spent a few days in bed with a woman. She had a whole other life to return to, so I found myself in Hollywood, California.

I was interested in what was going on. The wizard had not come out from behind the curtain and invited you to watch him masturbate. The horrible static of fear and anxiety isn’t pleasant, but it’s useful for a magician. I dealt with people who wanted magic or protection from it. There were people who dealt with Satan and tried to back out when the drugs wore off. Those people paid me to help them get out.

Mitch sent me a photo via an app through which you sent images and text for timed periods. He was frowning and holding up a black dvd case.

Want to see something cool?

I sent back a dollar sign and he replied with a thumbs up.

He sent me his address, but I knew it before. I play well with others but I like to know about them if things change. The tree which hung over his rear wall was a doddle to climb. His neighbours were senile with therapy and medication but I still took care to remain unseen.

He was flushed with drink as he answered the door.

‘You can’t watch this.’

I lit a cigarette and raised an eyebrow.

‘Fuck you, pay me.’

He shook his head, jowls flapping despite the trimmed beard.

‘It’s haunted.’

I pushed past him, snatched the case from his hand and strode through to the den.

‘How much have you watched?’

Five minutes. Too short to fear anything other than being disturbed by it.

Hollywood is a myth which keeps mutating. It provided meat for things which shouldn’t eat.

I told him to wait outside.

I shut the door and fished out a stick of chalk, drew a ward on the door to keep anything getting in or out and set up the dvd player.

He was too drunk and frightened to wonder why I knew the layout of his house.

I pressed play and sat down.

There was a swell of strings and a tracking shot of the Manhattan skyline in black and white. Pure award bait.

I took a deep drag on the cigarette and narrowed my eyes. I focused my attention between my eyebrows, visualizing an eye opening.

‘Hello.’

He sounded pensive and frightened. It used to be part of his act but he meant it now.

It was in the timbre of his voice, close like a secret.

‘For what it’s worth, I always liked your stuff.’

He sighed and thanked me. The film cut away to an establishing shot of the back of his head.

‘I thought this was heaven at first.’

He turned and looked into the camera.

‘It isn’t?’ I said.

From the right, the actress in the last superhero movie everyone went to, rushed in with a baseball bat and swung it in a smooth arc, connecting with the back of his head in a wet crack as he fell forwards. She leapt, full lips pulled back over perfect teeth in a snarl as she brought the bat down on his back over and over until the film faded to black.

After watching a fourth Oscar winner decapitate him, I moved to pause it. His severed head blinked at me as his tongue protruded between his lips.

‘It keeps happening and it gets worse every time. These aren’t even the women, you know?’

My mouth tasted of copper as an actress came up and stabbed his prostrate body with a carving knife.

You get the point here. I recognised the format, and the author of it.

He blinked at me. It was his stock expression, used to evoke laughter after heated confessionals. My stomach turned and I looked away.

‘Can you help me?’ he said.

I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers to my temples. I hadn’t wanted to see Erin after what happened in Burnley last year. My friend had traced the warm, pink scar running down my right side and telling her sunk me into a quiet melancholy.

‘I’m not doing this for you.’ I said.

He grimaced with a puerile warmth and I switched the television off.

The problem was a matter of infection. An idea fed on attention would spread through other recorded media. Imagine taking your kids to a movie and watching men being eviscerated whilst the talking dog and singing cat dance in the background. Reality takes a knee from time to time, and no one wanted something like this getting out into the world.

I told Mitch to double my fee as I walked out of the house. He was on the phone to the studio, barking at his director about the quality of the latest rushes. Mitch was on every big movie of the last ten years, it had given him two heart attacks and a desire to deal with things beyond his capabilities.

We did well from one another, Mitch and I. A perennial predator, but power got him hard in a way women never would. I was the bloke he called when things reacted to his actions. He held the phone to his chest and asked me where I was going.

I told him. He flushed red and shouted down the phone, jabbing the air with his index finger for emphasis. The ragged anger of his voice followed me out to the driveway.

Erin was an abbreviation and a pseudonym. Her real name disappeared before 400BC and her work keeps her young and mobile. It was obvious she had come to Hollywood, women’s anger was her meat and drink and the world was awash with it.

I worked a small charm in the front seat of the car. A small crystal suspended on a length of rawhide, pulling in Erin’s direction. She had rented a suite at the Everley and giving off waves of psychic energy which made my fillings hurt.

3.

The women in the corridor looked at me with a wounded malevolence as I stepped out of the lift. I strode down the hall, hands up and palms out as She opened the door and smiled at me, her canine face full with sharp, yellowing teeth. The snakes on her scalp twisted in the air and hissed at me.

I raised my hands as she stepped back into the room. I spoke to her in Mycenaean greek, which took concentration to remain fluent. It was a Bronze age language.

‘I come in peace. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working out for you.’

She waved me into the suite.

Erin was a bomb sight but every woman who had come forward provided the munitions. These things happened in cycles, but we were more connected now. When Erin came out to feed, it was a terrible harvest. Victimhood was like virginity, rare and often co-opted.

Erin. Abbreviated from Erinyes. She wandered the earth, feeding on pain, anger and vengeance. She fed on men who had given false oath, which was why I got the scar down my side.

‘I know you can tear me into chunks but I need a favour.’ I said.

She sat down on the couch, plucked a wet lump of something pink and glistening from a tray to her right, shovelled it into her maw and chewed. Her pointed black tongue licked at her teeth as she nodded.

‘You can’t put this stuff out there. You’ll be calling down things neither of us want sniffing around.’

She snorted and leaned forward.

‘It gives me permission to act as I see fit.’

I sat back, struggling to hold back my concern without angering her.

‘Unless you want to bring the Logos down on us, keep things quiet.’

She raised her muzzle and snorted.

‘I do not fear the Logos.’ she said.

I whistled under my breath and put my palms together, forearms resting on my thighs. I focused on my breath and felt the first curls of kundalini travel up my spine.

The Logos was the first entity to exist. It existed apart from nature, watching over the world with a stern, paternal eye. It policed those of us, gods, monsters and magicians, who risked pissing off consensual reality, and in return, we tried to keep things quiet. Erin was incoherent with power, at the point of the cycle where she was incandescent with rage, blind to sense and I had to make her see how much trouble we were in if she continued.

‘Erinyes, oh fury of the underworld,
you who has come from night,
Bathed in righteousness
I come not to deny
The rage which
Puts such light
In your eyes
As to blind me
I acknowledge
But the rage
Burns
Bites
Claws
And I ask you
To let it run
True to its nature
Not
Yours.’

The air crackled around us as she got to her feet. Her shadow thickened and crawled across the floor towards me.

‘I murder
Those who keep
Secrets
Let them
Hang
Witnessed
A literal
Falsehood
Metaphorical
Truth
It
Does
Not
Matter
I
Must
Feed.’

These negotiations were prone to collapse. The kundalini spread out to my limbs and I stood up, outstretched my arms and bared my throat towards her.

She smiled and came towards me. Her hot, damp breath brought blisters on my skin before she sunk her talons into my chest. I gritted my teeth and became the sacrifice she needed. She tugged at the muscles in my chest as pain made me seize and scream. My blood ran down my chest in hot showers, soaking through my shirt as I gave in to the scream.

Her fingers closed around my heart and everything went black.

4.

There was a swell of strings and a tracking shot of the Manhattan skyline in black and white. Pure award bait.

I took a deep drag on the cigarette and narrowed my eyes. The director sat there, gasping as I lit a cigarette.

‘What have you done?’

I blew out a plume of smoke. If I had to spend time in Hell, it would be a beautiful version of it.

‘I’ve traded myself. The thing which did it to you, I gave up my body for a while to keep this from getting out.’

He smirked in a way which made me want to punch him.

‘Welcome to Hollywood.’ he said.

The shriek of fury echoed across the ballroom as Marlene Dietrich started the petrol chainsaw. I took a puff on the cigarette as the director stood up.

‘You deserve this, you fucker. I’m just trying to stop this from fucking over everyone who wasn’t involved at all.’

He glanced at me.

‘Do you think I did it?’

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘Does it matter?’

I told myself Mitch would pay triple as Sandra Bullock stepped out from the shadows with the crossbow held to her shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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