Some stories turn out better than expected. This was one of them. It was published in the first annual Women in Horror anthology. It was also the first time I've written something that made me feel that I had found my voice, my unique niche when every one was trying to write either the next Harry Potter, Twilight or 50 Shades.
He was a constant explorer and that was what brought him to the dingy alley in Chinatown. The smell of old fish and moo shoo pork wafted through the steaming grates in the ground as the late October air whipped through his Maison Zilli trench coat. Being one of the richest men in the country afforded him the luxury of his eccentricities. It also afforded him a degree of anonymity. And that's the way he preferred it.
It was damp, dark, and hard to see, but he didn't need to see, he knew where he was going in the bleakness of the desolate alley. He found the secret door hidden among the dark worn bricks of the decrepit buildings that lined either side of the alley. He knocked twice, then stepped back and waited. A brick shifted, and then slid open to reveal two piercing black eyes. They peered at him briefly, then the brick moved back into place and the wall opened to reveal a small Asian man with thick glasses wearing a food stained t-shirt, old khaki pants an apron and black bedroom slippers that had seen better days. He waved him in impatiently, before slamming the door.
"Good Evening Mr. Walters. Back so soon?" The old Asian spoke in crisp clear tones, his English tinged with a slightly British accent.
"Mr. Cheng. And please call me Max." He slipped off his coat and tossed it on a nearby table. The room was warm and decorated in bright floral prints. The furniture was old French Country and smelled of fresh coffee and potpourri. Though he liked Mr. Cheng and the homey atmosphere, he didn't really fit in this room. He was a tall man, nearly seven feet tall, with coarse jet-black hair that was prematurely graying at the temples. His skin was smooth and tanned and he was in extraordinary physical shape. The startling blue eyes seemed the only semblance of telling his age. They were lively and seemed to dance when he spoke. Mr. Cheng motioned for Max to have a seat and he willingly sat on the plush floral sofa. It was as if he were back in his grandmother's living room. Everything seemed so pleasant in the windowless chamber; the mock fireplace glowing orange and casting warmth through the room. Delicate doilies lined the many shelves and tables, pedestals for the bric-a-brac and chotchkeys that Mr. Cheng and his late wife had collected over the years during their extensive travels. "Tea?" Mr. Cheng offered as he wiped his hands on the already dirty apron.
"No thank you." Max Walters shifted anxious to get to the matter at hand. "When you called you said that you had something different" Mr. Cheng nodded and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth.
"Yes, yes. Of course." He motioned again, this time for Max to follow him. They walked out of the room and down a narrow hallway. Off to the right was a bustling restaurant kitchen. Waiters and busboys in crisp white shirts moved back and forth in elegant dance of practiced efficiency. Mr. Cheng looked inside and shouted something in Cantonese, before leading Max to end of the hall. The further they walked the darker and more claustrophobic the space got. The walls seemed to close in on them, to the point that Max had to turn sideways and shimmy through the narrow space, the ceiling pressing down on the top of his head. When they reached the end, Mr. Cheng unlocked a narrow door. Ducking his head as he shouldered past Mr. Cheng, he stepped into the abyss laid out before him, his feet connecting with, what he pictured in his mind to be a dilapidated, wooden staircase. He paused, as he always did, and let his eyes adjust to the absolute absence of light and silent stillness in what felt like a cavernous emptiness. He wasn't sure, as he had never actually seen the staircase; he could only feel the wrought, exhausted railing that ran the length of the steep decline. Mr. Cheng followed him down a narrow staircase that creaked under their weight. The darkness surrounding the staircase was ominous, and on several of his midnight treks to this god-forsaken place, Max had felt as if he were descending into hell. The first time he'd been led down this path, he had feared for his life. A deathly chill had worked its way into his bones as he crept down the creaky stair case, both hands grasped the cracked wood of the banister in the airless, soundless abyss. He would have turned back and abandoned this endeavor, only his curiosity had been stronger than his fear.
Now, it was a routine that he relished. When he saw the growing pin point of light as they moved closer and he became exhilarated. His body was humming with the want of anticipated depravity that Mr. Cheng and his assistant had promised. As the pale pink light at the end staircase spread to expose an entry to a much larger room, he could feel his stomach twisting in nervous knots.
The room smelled of sweet smelling soaps and flowers. Mr. Cheng called to someone in perfect French, then gave Max a pat on the shoulder, before ascending back into the darkness. Max sat on one of the many soft colored leather sofas and looked around. The room was decorated in black and white art deco furniture. There were fluffy white rugs on the floor and elegant paintings of water lilies and English gardens on the walls as several young women and men milled around, all in satin pajamas and bedroom slippers. They were all young, and beautiful, and physically marred in some way. There were several youth missing limbs, one beautiful young girl with the most delicate blonde hair and large soulful brown eyes. She was lovely and had a gentle way about her. She was affectionately called Angel, as she had large flaps that ran along the underside of her arms and connected to her waist like massive flesh wings. There were the twins, known only as Pisces One and Two, a brother and sister, both with long dark hair and somewhat Asian features, both born with their legs fused together. There were more, maybe a dozen or so, the most extreme was a boy, found the jungles of South America, who had bright red and orange scales that covered his head like fiery plumage and followed the track of his spine to his tailbone. He had bright yellow eyes and spoke in a soft whisper of a voice. They were medical anomalies, and Max found them beautiful. They greeted him with bright smiles and hugs and kisses. Reaching into his pockets, they pulled out treats of candies and little trinkets that he always carried for them. The person Mr. Cheng had called, Max knew very well. She always seemed to appear out of nowhere, tall, blond, her hair pulled away from her face in a delicate bun. She wore no make-up and was the only person, other than Max, completely dressed. She wore her standard uniform of tailored, black tuxedo pants and a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned just enough to expose the curve of her ample bosom. In all his visits, he’d never seen her any other way. "Mr. Walters, back so soon?" She smiled as he rose to greet her. She offered her hand and Max gave it a brief shake. "Selena."
She nodded and turned on her silver stilettos and Max obediently followed her out of the room down a brightly lit hallway lined with doors. Each door had a name neatly painted in either black or pink lettering, beneath, which was a small shaded window. The walls seemed to vibrate with the sounds of sex, and he could feel himself getting hard at the thought of what was to come. He had been in many of the rooms, and knew of the pleasure that would come from being with these beautiful special people. They were all so eager to please in any way they could, and since he had discovered Mr. Cheng and Selena, regular sexual encounters no longer fulfilled him. He had found it more and more exciting to come to this place, night after night. It had become his home away from home and he found that even here, his depravity was more than he could handle. Selena paused at a metal door at the very end of the hallway. "This is her." There was no name painted on the door, instead of a window like the other doors, her door housed a metal slide large enough for one person to look in. He peered inside and saw a girl sitting at a vanity slowly brushing her shoulder length hair, which was a startling shade of red. Her skin was pale and her bright green eyes seemed to be too large for her face. She turned and looked at Max, a coy smile on her lips. Around her ankle was a shackle, and a heavy chain that was bolted to the wall. The room's walls were covered in satiny pink padding. It was like looking into a diorama of a doll's house, with a perfect porcelain doll at its center. "She's lovely." Max whispered, both disgusted and intrigued. "She is not what I expected. When Mr. Cheng spoke of her, he gave me the impression –"
Selena took a key from her pocket. "She is not what she seems, but I assure you Mr. Walters, she is exactly what you requested."
A little voice in the back of his mind began whispers of doubt as he waited for Selena to unlock the door. A voice that was slowly growing from a whisper to a dull roar, his heart racing as a strange panic overwhelmed him. Only when the door was finally opened did the voice quiet and his heart rate resumed it’s normal tempo.
Max stood on the threshold, his mouth suddenly dry, knowing that he could walk out of here, live a full and fulfilling life and never set foot in this place again. He could forget about Mr. Cheng's menagerie of fantastical creatures and never give the place a second thought. But the moment Selena opened that door; he knew there was no turning back. He was immediately drawn to her. She wasn't like the others; there was no hint of malformed limbs or even a scar on her that he could see. She was just a pretty girl in a room full of pretty things. "What's her name?" He heard himself asking, looking around the room.
"My name is Serenity." She spoke in a deep, husky voice, which belied her delicate, doll-like features. “Are you sure she is what I wanted?” Max asked Selena as found himself stepping into the powder pink bedroom, drawn by the lilt of her voice. Nervously, he glanced at Selena who seemed unfazed by the entire situation. "As I said, she is not what she seems. Serenity is very special. It is not often one comes across one like this." Selena cleared her throat and when Max looked at her she raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. He nodded, absently reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a large envelope stuffed with cash. Selena took it and began to back out of the door. She paused for a moment, her expressionless features creased as she expressed the first hint of emotion he'd ever seen. "Are you sure this is what you want, Mr. Walters? There are many others here you can try." He waved her off, his eyes drawn to the girl who continued to brush her hair and sing a pleasant melody. He was transfixed by the dulcet tone of her voice. She turned to look at him still singing that haunting melody, and he was drawn further into the room. Instinctually, he felt that this was wrong, even by his standards, something about this girl was wrong.
"Very well," Selena said with a resigned sigh. "As you wish." He didn't even realize that she was gone until her heard the door closed behind him with a slam, the sound of the lock, startling him. He glanced back, just as Selena slid the metal cover over the peephole shut. He was frozen in place, staring at the room. It was a child's room, complete with stuffed animals on the bed. She stood and came towards him, in her soft pink satin pajamas and pink fluffy slippers.
Sitting on the bed she stared into her eyes and smiled, then motioned for him to have a seat on her stuffed animal laden bed. He obliged, never taking his eyes off of her and that beautiful scarlet hair. She was a striking girl, with a playful smile. He motioned for her to sit beside him on the bed and she did, willingly.
"I'm Max." He said. She smiled brighter, shaking his hand vigorously. "Nice to meet you, Max." She said. She moved her ankle and winced in visible pain. The shackle was pinching her flesh and she tried to ignore it, but the pain was etched in her face. Max felt twinge of guilt as the chain rattled with every move she made. She leaned with her head on his shoulder, gently stroking his inner thigh. "My, you have such lovely red hair. It's very pretty." She looked down, knowing what was coming and began to undo his pants. "You are a very pretty girl, Serenity, but I guess you hear that all the time."
She shrugged non-committal. "I think you're very pretty." As she spoke, she placed her hand inside of his pants, stroking with delicate fingers until he became hard. "You have such a pretty mouth, can I kiss you?" She brushed her lips across his and in that instant, he realized that he wasn’t the predator in the scenario, he was the prey. "Your mouth is soft. You taste like honey. Sweet honey." She purred. He was taken aback by her aggression, the hunger hidden behind sweet innocence. This was not what he’d expected and everything in him told him to go. But he couldn’t.
"Did Selena tell you to say that?" She shook her head and kissed him again, gently pushing his shoulders back, until he found himself lying on the bed. The more she spoke, the more he felt as if something about this young woman, this girl barely out of her teens, was wrong. Her voice had an almost hypnotic effect on him, his body reacting viscerally to her every touch. She was too good at this, too skilled and he knew that this was wrong that she was wrong.
"Don't be scared," She mumbled. "I will make you feel good. That's why you came to this place Mr. Walters-Max. To experience the forbidden, the unexpected? And that is what you will get; the pleasure will be so worth it." The statement, he thought, was an odd one. But this girl was odd. Something about this situation seemed unnatural and rehearsed. She whispered sweetly nasty comments and stoked his hair. "I'm not afraid of you. And you- don't be afraid of me. It'll be painless, I promise." Her tone was teasing and light, but he still felt a tinge of anxiety. In his head that little voice was screeching at him to leave. From the moment he'd laid eyes upon her he'd had the niggling feeling and now it seemed to be a buzzing in his head.
She brushed her thin lips against his, her tongue slipped between his teeth and he was lost in the feel of her. There were no more thoughts outside of wanting her, needing her.
As she began to undress him, the warning bell in his head started to ring again. This was wrong, something about this was wrong. This room, the locked steel door, the padded walls. The chain on her ankle- this was uncomfortable and wrong. Yet, he couldn't stop himself from wanting this waif of a girl. The way she touched him, and looked at him with something that he could only classify as want.
"Kiss me again Max." She ran her fingers through his hair, as her mouth came closer her could smell her breath. It smelled of warm spun sugar. "Kiss me." Her mouth covered his in a hungry, expert kiss. It was as if she were trying to devour him, pushing her mouth hard against her own. He was startled by her strength and aggression, but, inexplicably, he liked it. The surrendering of control to this delicate girl seemed to excite him even more.
As her kiss deepened, the faint taste of almond filled his mouth; almond and something sweet and sticky, something both unfamiliar but comforting and soothing. His mind clouded over, and the room became hazy, as if he'd been drugged. He could feel her moving over him, undressing him with professional ease, yet he couldn't move. He could feel her body moving against his, and through the haze, the image of her nude body flashed before him. He could feel her mouth warm and moist on his bare flesh. And her skin seemed to be nearly too hot to touch, but he welcomed her warmth. He was lost in an unfathomable euphoria as she mounted him, taking him deep inside of her. She seemed to fit him, as if she were made for him, only him. He wanted to touch her, nuzzle her small breast, and run his hands through her flame red hair. That hair, that beautiful strawberry scented hair. He tried to reach for her and discovered that he couldn't move. He couldn't lift his arms. He could only lie and enjoy her surprising sexual prowess. She seemed to know how to bring him to the edge, and then back off just when he felt he was ready to explode.
"What did you do to me?" He could barely choke the words out, he tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth. Her only reply was a series of moans and the rattling of the chain against the side of the bed. She looked at him, excitement lighting her emerald eyes, then rocked her hips slowly, so slowly that the thrill was agonizing. The pleasure was so intense, so deep; it was like nothing he'd ever felt before. Unable to focus or move, he closed his eyes and gave into it, reveled in it, listening as she murmured words of seduction in her deepening voice. The soft girlish murmurs that had soothed him into relenting grew louder as she spoke in a language he did not recognize. Her sweet whispers echoed in his brain, an incoherent cacophony of voices screaming in his head. She twisted, seeming to bring him deeper into her, her body, slick with sweat, moved against him. Wherever she touched him, his skin prickled with new sensations, new bliss. She was, in a word, mind-blowing.
"What did you do-" He opened his eyes and screamed at the sight of her. No longer did his lovely Serenity there, with her shining emerald eyes and sweet face above him; instead, looming over him was a horrendous creature from a nightmare. That was the only way to describe it; a thing with bright blue and red soft scale like feathers that covered every inch of it. Its features were avian but beakless; its mouth running the entire length of is flat saucer-like face. It had human comparable appendages, from what he could see and breasts; there were breasts, covered in the same blue red scales. He screamed louder as it moved with an animalistic fervor over him, the bright green too large eyes staring at him. Paralyzed, he continued to scream as it climaxed, spilling a gooey pinkish black substance across his groin and stomach, before digging its razor sharp nails into the flesh of his thighs. He immediately went numb; it was as if she'd doused him in an anesthetic. Not only could he not move, he felt nothing. Without saying a word, but laughing in a deep husky baritone, it moved its face to his; sweet cotton candy breath engulfed and nearly choked him.
"Serenity is so, so, hungry," it said after sniffing him, then opened its mouth exposing three rows of pointed yellowed teeth. He opened his mouth to scream again, when its mouth clamped on his throat, tearing the flesh and bone away until there was nothing but a large bloody hole. Blood sprayed across the room in brilliant rivulets. He could feel the life leaving his body and the sense of relief filled him. This was the way it was supposed to be, he thought as the life drained from him and the creature that was Serenity fed upon him. There was no pain he realized as the room went dim, only the gentle and erotic sensation of being suckled at the neck. No pain, he thought. Just as Selena and Mr. Cheng had promised…she was worth every penny.