Fashion Of Flesh – Tony “Cult-Metal: Painter

 It had been two hours, a close approximation really as she was unable to look at her watch or her cellular device, (as requested phones were turned off and confiscated promised to be returned later) since this motley crew had boarded. It was a medium sized van and there were eight of them. Eight girls and each was beautiful and unique in her own way but all were beyond annoying. Stephanie, the eighth, had only been in their collective company for about an hour. It was long enough to realize that no common interests were shared. It was not hard to fathom that the other girls families wealth dwarfed any that hers could could ever hope to come close to. This the probable reason why she was shunned and left out of conversations and introductions. To pass the time on the journey they had started to sing, a close enough approximation, childish songs.

..”the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round..”

 

She grew tired of hearing this…noise. This tune was devoid of even the slightest bit of melody, seemingly becoming more of a mind numbing mantra. Stephanie directed her attentions toward this expedition. Their destination was a closely guarded secret, no questions were to be asked and she had accepted the challenge willingly. The amount of money that had been transferred to her miniscule bank account was ridiculous, with the promise of the other half following her performance. The sizable sum was more than enough to comfortably pay off her modeling college debts and cease the endless harassing phone calls from her myriad of debtors.

She recalled a minimum amount of protests as the blindfolds were passed out. The vehicles windows were blackened and the partition between passenger and driver compartments blocked out any light and sound. She could not remember any noises coming from the front of the van since the journeys beginning. If it wasn’t for the luxurious interior, which blindfolded they couldn’t fully appreciate, she would swear this was a cargo truck delivering packages of meat. She shuddered, what a morbid thought. She might be able to relax if only they would stop butchering that deplorable and childish tune.

Hand fumbling she finally manages to encircled the neck of her beverage container. Raising it to her mouth she takes a sip. The relative humidity of the vans exterior was making her a little drowsy. The headrest was soft and surprisingly comforting slowly her attentions drift elsewhere.

 

..”the wheels on the bus go roun-…and roun-…”

 

Frustrated the teacher illustrates to her again, and again, the correct way to “turn and glide, glide and turn“…“like this, see“..

Grimacing, her features transform into that of a constantly disappointed parental figure. Her focus is quickly focused elsewhere.

Stephanie is fourteen, slender of form and athletically gifted. Several months earlier, whilst visiting the local mall, a talent scout had pulled her aside with the promise of an illustrious and quite lucrative career in the exciting, and fast paced,  world of modeling.

..”I can see your face in a magazine” The expensively dressed man stated. Smiling, lightly touching Stephanie’s face he continued.

..” You have fantastic bone structure and an excellent complexion. It would be a pity for it to go to waste..”

The next few weeks had been an exciting blur. After conferring with and talking her parents into the decision she had enrolled into the academy recommended by the smooth talking scout.  Her weekends were spent not with friends, like any normal teenager, but in arduous training. As if high school wasn’t stressful enough. The scout had though failed to mention one ’little’ detail. The expense.

It wasn’t until the schooling was completed that the bills started to roll in, and pile up. In disbelief and shock her parents turned to a second mortgage and quickly fell into financial troubles of their own. Within two years they had filed for bankruptcy, training expenses were still hardly touched. Stephanie was forced to work long hours for barely minimum wage to help. Applications and resumes were handed out like wanted posters but no modeling work was forthcoming. Applications it seemed were dependent upon the talent being represented by an agent, and an agent was, at this time, financially out of the question. A rift had developed, because of money and the lack thereof, between Stephanie and her parents. She reluctantly moved out, she could find no other way to possibly salvage the rapidly dwindling relationship.

All hope of a fantasy vocation seemed lost. She held on tightly to the dream even though it appeared to be slipping uncontrollably from her grasp. Feverishly resumes and applications were still distributed with vain hopes that one might slip through the cracks.

Then the call came, and here she was.

The van continues to its unknown destination and Stephanie drifts further into sleeps all encompassing warm embrace.

 

It had been a hectic and very frustrating week. The toilet had overflowed (twice) and the plumber had arrived later than promised, stinking of liquor. He was obviously still drunk, however, the job was completed in record time with the promise that the authorities wouldn’t be called and made aware of his inebriated driving whilst on the job. The power of leverage and coercion at work. There was no charge.

It was now the weekend, it wasn’t going to be the average Brown family lazy weekend. Earlier in the week an envelope had found Mr. Brown. It had been deposited in his hold-all. The envelopes contents were intriguing. An invite to a once in a lifetime event, for him alone, all expenses paid. Mr. Brown had the slightest inkling and idea as to who it was from. Admittedly he was a little perturbed that a message could be slipped into his case without his knowledge though grateful with relief that his family were still unaware of his nefarious ‘business’ activities.

..”Did you remember your toothbrush?..” His wife, Mary, ever thoughtful, was the queen of packing. She had ran out after him on several occasions in this past week alone with either his forgotten case or lunch bag.

”Again you save my forgetful hide dear..” He deposits a kiss upon her freckled features then lingers in a loving embrace.

..”Love you my Emerald Isle lass.” He cradles her face lovingly in his hands ..” Keep Bowen in check please, I’m hoping to return to a family computer not crammed chock-a block with nekkidness..” He winks as Bowen retreating sheepishly inside disappears from view.

It was a family joke. Bowen had just turned twelve. Recently he had been caught ‘pants down’ in the family room, the monitor displaying barely legal teens giggling and frolicking sans clothes. He still blushed, whenever the family gathered, at even the slightest mention of the computer.

Mary chuckles, it was the sweetest of sounds. A smile develops and widens upon her angelic face.  As Mr. Brown drives away his wife continues to wave and becomes smaller and smaller in his rear view. His mind starts to race with lurid scenarios with what possible pleasures may await.

 

The van comes to an abrupt stop which jolts Stephanie from her brief slumber. Doors are yanked open. The blazing warmth of sunlight barely makes an impression upon the dark clothed blindfold she wears. An air of excitement is palpable, they may have reached their destination.

”OK. Ladies we are here.”

They had arrived.

The speaker was jovial, spoke very clearly and had no discernible accent.

..“Please be gracious enough to leave the blindfolds on. We will inform you as to when they can be removed. Have no fear it will not be long now. Your patience and understanding are very appreciated. Please stay seated and we will assist you in exiting the vehicle..”

The sound of shuffling feet, nervous giggles and unanswered questions build and fill the air.

Stephanie feels a gentle guiding hand upon her elbow.

”Gently Miss.” it’s a different voice from the earlier speaker.

”Steps” Blind she allows herself to be prompted forward.

The eight are assembled unhurriedly into, what Stephanie can only assume to be , a large cavernous room. A door closes softly but still leaves the whisper of an echo.

..“Ladies… you can now remove those cumbersome, I’m sure you’ll agree, pieces of cloth from around your beautiful eyes..“

Stephanie removes her vision impairing fabric slowly in order that her eyes can adjust to the change in light without complication. The others turn and point around her, poking and hugging each other with relief.

Alone Stephanie marvels at the sight surrounding her. She still has not been accepted into this ‘Society‘. She has always been an outcast, it is something she has grown accustomed to. Raised without the blessings of a silver spoon Stephanie and her family had always sweated and worked hard to gain a foothold upon the ladder of life. While others pointed and laughed shitting upon them from far above.

She noticed that everyone here wore designer cut pant suits in the latest style or an expensive tailored dress. She was the only girl here, casual, in jeans and shirt, straight from the rack from a local nationwide retailer.

The speaker continues. ”This Ladies..” He spreads his suited arms wide ..”is the Auditorium.”

A brief pause filled with a chorus of Oooooh’s and Aaaaah’s.

The large chamber is circular in shape. Large rectangular tables are scattered throughout, roughly forty chairs accompany them. Each table set as if for a formal dinner. All seating face the expansive raised platform, in front of them, which concludes in heavy and dark draped curtains falling from dozens of feet above. Columns of dark mottled stone surround them for the entire circumference of the room. Large sculpted images, barely perceivable because of the dimmed lights,  adorn the walls. Spaced at regular intervals they show a gradual progression in styles and quality of craftsmanship, some are obviously much older than others. The door behind them is expansive, constructed from what appears to be heavy wood and thick iron. Even more impressive for having been so quietly closed earlier.

Standing close to six foot the speaker wore a well fitting charcoal suit. He had a face you would soon forget if passed on the street.

..”For generations my family has used this historic site for occasions such as this,  none that you will read about in any rag published today. A very prestigious event. Among the spectators are people you may recognize. Please do not be startled or draw attention to yourself.”

A smile designed to put someone at ease perches itself upon his lips.  “Refreshments are ready, please”

He turns and directs attention to the heavy fabric, at the end of the raised runway, parted slightly it reveals tables stacked generously with mouthwatering culinary creations. No expense has been spared. Upon closer inspection Stephanie realizes she has never tasted or even seen a catering display such as this before. Legs of braised meat with tiny chefs hats also pale fish portions atop miniature rafts of rice. Stephanie is speechless it is quite the “Spread”.

She is not surprised to witness the others barely touch their plates, after all maintaining a supermodels figure demands a lot of attention. Apparently eating is not high on that list of priorities. Stephanie does not waste the opportunity. She loads her plate with exotic delicacies she couldn’t name, if asked, and promises herself she will taste, at least, each and every last one. The break is short lived, however, as a summons is issued. The eight congregate and when directed follow a small creature (apparently she is of some importance) and her entourage, who appear to cower under her every breath, into narrower quarters. Stephanie decides the ’creature’ could hardly be called a lady, or even a woman for that matter. Devoid of shape she is severely hunched over and barely four feet tall. Surprisingly she moves  easily and swiftly. Her attire that which, Stephanie could easily imagine, a Jim Henson’s puppet crone might sport (on a lounge day), hardly that befitting someone with any bearing.

“Through here..” A short, sharp bark. An order issued with a practiced and stern tone that demands undivided attention and utter obedience.

“These are your dressing quarters. My assistants are here to fit and clothe you. Their duty is this, not yours!“ She pauses looking at each and every girl in turn.

“Please allow them every discretion they desire. These garments..” With a dramatic swoop of the arm she introduces numerous racks which her assistants carefully wheel closer.

“..are one of a kind, priceless and irreplaceable. That is all. Be professional and above all else savor this… Experience.”

An unexpected flash of a smile, as if she has just remembered a private joke, then without the aid of a broomstick she is gone.

“Disrobe please”

Whisked back from fairy tale land musings by the commands of an emotionless ant like worker Stephanie begins to feel a little uneasy.         “Lets do this ladies” False sincerity and cheerleader like enthusiasm is spewed forth from one of the more skull cavity vacuous of the eight. Her name is Jasmine. Lets not forget the heart shape replacing the dot above the “I“. Stephanie smiles, peeling her off-the-rack shirt from her shoulders, having doubts that she could even count to ten.

 

He was alone, in the shadows, far from prying eye and loose tongue.

He took wicked pleasure in his secured voyeuristic vantage point. He could spy the merchandise in all of its delicious unrobed glory from his current lofty position. Fine specimens for sure yet a little slender and malnourished, even for his tastes.

Gabriel had been here before. These walls had witnessed his unique talents on a few occasions in the not so distant past.

 

The scuttle and scrape of furniture could be heard behind the curtain. The eight had been informed that show time was very near. The sound of coughs and light conversation carried informing the performers of an audience now in attendance. The throng of assistants performed final tweaks and last minute adjustments to the ladies outfits. The first ‘wave’ was about to go out.

Stephanie was rather taken aback. This was her first show and from what she’d seen and heard fashion events were hurried and frantic affairs, This was neither of those. Extreme care and diligence had been taken in the tailored fabrics application to her young body. No fumbling from stressed and time crunched hands, those upon Stephanie were relaxed and experienced. Nimble yet unhurried they manipulated the garment she currently displayed to fit snugly, not tightly, promoting curves and attributes even Stephanie was unaware of.

She confidently swaggers toward the curtain.          Dontbenervousthisisyourfirstshowremembereverythingyouvelearnedbeconfidentbesassyrelaxtakeabreathandenjoythepowerthatcomes from being the center of attention

 

She is a little nervous. The curtain is held aside, taking a deep breath and her cue, Stephanie applies an apathetic mask and strides purposely forth. The lights are a little brighter than they were before but not by much. A classical soundtrack provides ambiance and plays at a comfortable volume from well concealed speakers.

She can make out perhaps twenty or so seated spectators. Many alone and most are male. There are several couples also, who watch with bored and uninterested looks. Older regal looking gentleman are paired with obviously younger beauties in strangely conservative attire. Stephanie wonders briefly if any non-escorts are in attendance.

She performs a ’glide and turn’ perfectly (she had had enough practice) trying her hardest not to smirk.

With her eyes fixed on a ‘focal point’ as trained, ad nauseam, she heads gracefully backstage. On the way she is passed by Jasmine who rolls her heavily made-up eyes in distaste and disapproval.

Jasmine is  closely followed by Cassandra. Whose mesmeric beauty Stephanie believes the most capable here of stopping traffic. Ironic really as repeatedly this morning she’d wished and prayed that it be destroyed by some.

More hustle and bustle backstage, apparently the pace has picked up a little. Several of the models have been out several times already. The garment racks have become visibly depleted. The throng of attendants move toward her as a single entity, their dedication and lack of emotion unnerving.

In their collective grasp a new garment the likes of which Stephanie has never seen. The thin yet heavy material is gauze-like and strangely familiar but yet so utterly alien. Practiced and deft fingers work their magic. Application is swift and the fit is excellent. The materials translucency causes Stephanie to blush a little. Fully clothed and draped in its foreignness she looks naked as the day of her birth. She slowly steps to the curtain. The show must go on, Stephanie is near naked but stranger things have happened. It was only last year that she remembered a show, the cable channel took pride in its exotic locale, in which a model was draped in meat.

What a ridiculous display, the irony laid in the fact that a four course meal was served after, the main dish was a fruit stuffed boar.

It was apparently captured and dressed by one of the shows featured designers.

Victoria is currently owning the runway, her long dark tresses flowing with the rhythm of her unhurried step.

As Stephanie passes she is shot a glance. Its not the usual disgusted ‘what do you think you are doing playing in the big league’ look but rather one containing a quizzical raising of the eyebrows and a slight frown cast of the mouth.

Several footsteps onto the catwalk, and the puzzling looks meaning is deciphered. With her eyes set on a focal point she can still witness the scene from her periphery. A table situated slightly off to her right was noticeably askew the couple around it engaged in an activity usually reserved for the bedroom or a very adult feature. The receiver lay back in his seat, drooling slightly with his gaze still affixed to the activities upon the stage. Stephanie could not see his shoes, they were obscured by his female companions knees. Her dress was hiked up around her waist, and her hair entangled in his fists. Her mouth busy and full. Pumping her head viciously, as if trying to churn the last of the homemade ice cream at the bottom of the barrel, he turns his direct attention to Stephanie. She can feel his stare and lustful yearnings attack her spirit. She breaks a cardinal rule of the profession and steals a glance back. Acknowledged with a  smirk, his fierce eyes blaze with a dark and searing ancient passion. Stephanie regains her briefly lost composure and focal point.

 

Keepitincheckgirlitsaprivateshowyourebeingpaidamazingwellforgetit

She continues to glide and completes the end of catwalk turn with a surprising high level of professionalism. The sudden sound of a tables scraping leg is not enough to break her newly established concentration. New sights, to her now right, startle her but are not altogether remarkable based upon the other tables antics.

The man situated here has his expensive suit carelessly tossed to one side, and shirt sleeves pulled high. Groans and shrieks of delight issue from his disheveled companion. Her legs are spread impossibly wide her ankles pushing crystal liquid filled glasses across the table with jerky movements caused by the clenched fist entering her. Viscous liquid cover the tables edge, splatter added to and made worse by the swiftly pumping angrily shaped hand.

Stephanie reaches the curtain with a huge sense of relief thinking to herself that the show must now be close to its finale.

 

In the shadows Gabriel smiles. It wouldn’t be long now. If the events from past years were any indication then this show was close to an end and a messy climax. Again he had been promised a morsel, a plaything of his very own. It was now time to receive his bounty to do with as he saw fit. Standing he collects his heavy case from beside the table and heads towards the concealed stairwell ever closer to his next paycheck.

 

The racks are now near empty, the slaves to the garments noticeably more relaxed.

“Ladies, ladies..” It is the voice instantly recognizable as the hunched over dwarf- like-creature from earlier. The throng of assistants perk up immediately and spring to attention.

..”Penelope will be the last to return, before this evenings finale, here she comes now. Please… Let us go out as one to thank our gracious benefactors in a fitting manner”.

She disappears as quickly as before ignorant of protests and questions thrown her way by many of the shocked and shaken models.

..”What the Hel-!..”

..”kinda place is thi-!..”

..”where are we, isn’t that shit illegal-!..”

As the eight move forward the heavy fabric curtains are slowly parted. The empty catwalk is greeted by stunned silence. Stephanie isn’t the first to realize the absence of tables, chairs and dinner settings.

A thunderous noise from behind causes them all to turn. A barricade has been dropped, now the fabric divider leads to nowhere, heavy wood barring any hope of retreating backstage.

Amber, whom Stephanie refers to as the -One-brain-celled-blonde, shrieks in terror.

“What the Fuck is this now, nah! Motherfucker, nah! You gotta be freakin’ kidding me.” Jasmine ever the articulate one continues.

..”You bitches better let us leave. I got kids and I just bought me a decked out ‘Merc’. I ain’t drove yet. Fuck,fuckfuc-!”

Her angry tirade is cut short. Her attention becomes fixed upon the menacing blood drenched man, draped in shreds of suit and shirt, dragging his date by a handful of hair unceremoniously beside him. He advanced toward them. Stopping he cocks his head to one side. The runway was at waist height a short distance away. Blood dribbles from his gore covered chin as he manhandles his captive and holds her barely conscious form inches above the floor. Making  whimpering and wheezing noises the unfortunate one was well past her apparent usefulness.

“Time for fresh meat” The words are slurred, as if an answer dragged from a deep sleepers waking tongue, barely recognizable as English, the sentence is punctuated by a sickening crunching noise as he slams his victim into the edge of the catwalk. The impact is face first, and her skull shatters like fine porcelain. Using the motionless broken shell as a impromptu ladder, bloodied brownstones trample her fragile spine and locks of platinum hair. He places his first step on the expansive stage.

Chaos erupts. Like cockroaches with the light suddenly turned on, the rainbow of gaily colored fabrics scatter in search of cover.

Squeals, screams and useless prayers, to gods abandoned and long forgotten, drown out the peaceful ambiance of a centuries old symphony. Beauty and masterful manipulation of ivory keys and taut string heavily blanketed by the soundtrack caused by the gradual erosion of sanity.

 

”Damn, damndamndamndamn… DAMN-!”

Mr. Brown had missed the off ramp, again. He pounds the steering wheel angrily with his fists. Navigating whilst driving was definitely not  one of his finer talents, though nor was relying upon the intelligence and direction giving skills of people local to the area. He was literally in the ‘middle of nowhere’ and most probably irretrievably lost.

“Bugger blasted fucknuts!”

He slows his car and pulls into a gas station, whose trademarked weathered sign he does not recognize.

Atlas in hand he leaves the warm seat he has now occupied for several arduous and frustrating hours. He begins to unfold the folded behemoth of a puzzle upon the cars rapidly overheating hood, thinking to himself that the fresh air will probably do him some good and calm his frazzled nerves.

An unexpected gust of wind kicks up and barrels across the meager parking lot. Dust and discarded chip packets taken on a mad journey in the whirling spin of a miniature cyclone.

Trying his best to pinpoint his current location Mr. Brown leans over the maps gridded anarchy. He is blissfully unaware of the whirling dervish heading in his direction. Without warning or introduction it whips the map from under his scrutiny and waltzes it away, high into the air, to the tune of his screamed dismay and frustration.

Mr. Brown shakes his head in exasperation, lowering it toward his chest in defeat.

“Now what the fuck am I supposed to do”.

 

At the bottom of the stairwell was a plain unimportant looking door. With knowing fingers Gabriel reaches to reveal an obscured peep hole located at eye level. He moves closer. He can see the girls cower upon the catwalk, most disoriented and indecisive of direction to take, they shy away from the advancing gore drenched menace.

Gabriel had been invited to feast with the guests but had declined. He wanted to keep a clear head. He had work to do, and he knew that this events ‘haul’ would fill the current months quota. Gabriel had plans for the end of the month that didn’t include prepping, severing or disposal. He was a Reaper and deserving of a much needed vacation, besides which he wanted no association with the ‘Blood lust’ drug. Cocaine and heroin had recently lost their edge (now becoming more of a street trade) ‘Blood lust’ was the newest “high” for the ultra-rich, and he had witnessed firsthand its devastating aftermath.

He knew he would have to act quick if he wanted his (promised) ‘cut’ of tonight’s action. Seizing what he believes is a slither of a chance he unlocks the unassuming door. One of the more adventurous of the group has clambered down from the raised catwalk with abject difficulty. It was amusing to Gabriel as her movements are drastically hampered by the form fitting garment barely covering her lithe torso, it was definitely not designed for a situation such as this.

Tears ran down her face and her makeup slithered leaving black oily trails. She had the look of a terrified raccoon, in a dress, that had escaped from horrifying events at a child’s tea party. Frantically searching for an exit her dilated eyes dart from side to side.

Gabriel offers his hand from the shadows of the concealed doorway.

“Here, come here. Its safe. I know the way out.”

Olivia takes the hand offered, the spoken promise of escape like a ray of hope in a sky suddenly blanketed with fear, not looking back to her companions as the door closes behind her.

“This way” Gabriel leads the way.

Olivia does not need any prompting. She follows the stranger up the steps, finding solace in his firm grip and guidance.

“Cr-cr-crazy..” Fear and terror choke her ability to form words, she can feel her heart beat loudly in her ears adrenaline courses madly throughout her being, taking deep breathes she continues.

..“Th-the stage is closed off, and this ma-monster he was covered in blood, coming for… us”

Gabriel reaches the top of the steps and pulls the scared and still stuttering girl through the door after him. He turns, smiles reassuringly in her direction, then locks the door.

“We’ll need this” Bending he retrieves the case from where he had positioned it earlier.

“I’m a technician..’ He lies convincingly. ..“I’ve been working on this places lighting system all morning. I swear its ancient. I heard the ruckus and went to investigate.”

Gabriel is not surprised when she doesn’t question his decision to only have assisted her in an escape.

 Another selfish brat with no care for others He muses.

“Are you alright, you must have gotten quite the frigh-!”.

His sentence is cut short as Olivia throws her arms around him, her mascara smeared cheeks tight against his shoulder. Slightly taken aback he drops the case but not the item he had stealthily withdrawn.

“Thank you, thank you…Oh my god” Words barely audible as her lower face smothers his upper chest. With one hand he strokes her long dark hair, the other arm pulling back to abruptly descend.

Olivia gasps as the syringe pierces her flesh. Gabriel pulls back on her hair, entangled in his hand, and watches in fascination as her facial emotion transforms from relief to shock in the blink of an eye. The needles system numbing cargo unloads rapidly into her unsuspecting body. She slumps wording epithets that turn to lover like whispers as her body ceases its meager struggles.

Taking care not to damage the product He arranges her upon the rooms only table, which is already shrouded in plastic. She is virtually weightless and easily maneuverable. It still amazes him what lengths some would go to be accepted and appreciated by others.

 

From the corner of her eye Stephanie watches as Olivia is pulled to safety, she had not recognized the entryway before. Part of one of the ornate stone columns it was excellently concealed.

At this moment escape was not, however, an option as the bloodied man had somehow managed to corner her.

The others were reluctant to leave the relative safety of the stage. Lights that were dim before were now bright enough so that the edges of the vast room could be seen. Tables and chairs in disarray, piled high, the remainder of the audience no longer in concealment of shadow. Hunched over some watched the events unfolding upon the stage,utterly transfixed, whilst others engaged in violent displays of bestial savagery over the spoils and the grisly strewn remains of their earlier dates.

The beast lumbered closer, Stephanie was cornered, he was in no hurry to secure his next victim.

“Hey Motherfucka-!”  Distracted he turns enabling Stephanie enough room to wriggle past. Jasmine now has his complete attention. He lumbers toward her, quicker this time, no longer toying with his new prey. She halves the distance with a spinning movement. Amazingly graceful in the snug low cut garment she wears. Her leg is raised in a fluid practiced movement designed to deliver a stunning kick to his upper body. It lands, but the beast now has her leg in his grasp.

With a swift yanking movement accompanied by a nauseating ripping sound, much like the tearing of a chickens leg taken from a bucket, Jasmine is pulled off balance and her leg from its socket. She slides ending in an awkward heap inches from her aggressor. He pounces as scarlet fluid commences its swift journey from the wound.

As Stephanie stealthily exits the macabre show that is the gradual dismantling of Jasmine she hears shuffling noises becoming louder. Three more ghouls are approaching the stage.  A slight relief only in the fact that most are still engaged in disputes further out at the rooms edge. The sudden shifting of precariously stacked furniture traps a few, the cacophony of shattering crystal and fine china for a moment louder than the ongoing shrieks of confusion and terror.

The trapped writhe in frustration, stringing curses nonsensically, the wooden detritus shifts again and the movements and curses cease.

Stephanie carefully drops down from the stage, not an easy feat in her sheer outfit, and makes her way toward the location of the door that she’d seen Olivia escape into mere moments before.

“Don’t leave us..” A plea. She turns her head to see Amber and Victoria, hand in hand, giving chase.

Slightly in the lead, still running, Amber leaps recklessly from the raised walkway. She lands on the outer edge of her foot, still encased in high heel, and the snap of her fibula garners the attention of the oncoming ghouls. The starch white of the exposed bone like a beacon, a flashing neon sign that screams ‘I’m helpless and its… Dinner- time’.

A mere second later, with more of a graceful landing, Victoria follows. The heel of her right shoe shatters and she plummets onto her friend. The impact ruptures Amber’s tibia. The weight and force of the fall catapults Victoria face first onto the rigid sharp bone, it travels through the soft flesh which is the underside of Victoria’s jaw. Piercing the roof of her mouth it continues and buries itself into the soft yielding tissue of the brain. Her hand falls slack, and Amber screams in agony and despair as it falls from her grasp.

The ghouls approach and Stephanie vows to escape having no choice but to leave her companions to the ghouls bestial and unnatural cravings.

Within the few steps and short time it takes her to reach the door she witnesses others afflicted with the same disturbing unexplainable malady.

One stands slack jawed and hunched over. His hands cradle a mass covered in bloodied gore encrusted hair which he pumps ferociously against his crotch. Making brief eye contact he leers producing a puddle of milky crimson liquid at his feet.

Another whoops and hollers a strange tune, a war cry of sorts, as he gallops toward the four remaining. They still cower in a pathetic huddle upon the stage, secure in each others embrace. Rampant with anxiety, their fear is palpable. The stench announcing more than just the rumor of leaked bodily fluids.

Brandished within his grasp a length of studded matter, spraying gore as it is swung viciously above his head. With relief Stephanie finally reaches the door, sickened she realizes what the improvised ‘weapon’ might be. Several yards behind the frenetic beast lay what may have, at one time, been his date for the evening. She now lay sprawled as open as a Kama Sutra in an drooling thirteen year old’s trembling fingers.

The light glints from silverware erect in her flesh. Her pale torso is pierced deeply and at random making a formal setting for a lunatics feast. A maze of spooled intestine lay ripped and shredded in a wide radius, the remainder of a crushed and disintegrated rib cage carelessly tossed aside.

Pushing aside the macabre image Stephanie focuses on her own escape. She opens the door thankful that it wasn’t locked.

A poorly lit stairwell leads up, a door to her left. She moves toward the door. It opens onto a curving hallway, assuming that it lead  toward the large door the group entered through earlier, she decides to head in its direction.

Aware that any moment could mean a confrontation with any number or assortment of untold dangers Stephanie treads lightly. Within a few strides she spy’s a door that is slightly ajar and to her right, light pours from its opening. Moving closer she can make out some muffled noises from within and an unmistakeable voice. Curiosity gets the better of her judgment and she edges closer still within the safety of the shadows. The merest sliver is all that’s needed for Stephanie to fully comprehend the rooms purpose.

Hooks hang from the ceiling, they run in channels that originate through thick plastic curtains from another room. One is in the center of the room displaying its cargo. Knife in hand the order barking crone, from the fitting rooms earlier, assembles grisly trophies upon a scarred wooden counter beside her.

Stephanie watches in morbid fascination as the knife ascends. Suspended upside-down from the hook is a carcass, definitely human and devoid of most of its contents. Splayed open, the bones are visibly clean and clear of most tissue and cartilage. The crone diligently scrapes, humming a cheerful melody as she does so, the remainder of the bloody matter from the epidermis . Carving and flaying the crone wields the blade with precision, it is only then that Stephanie fully understands the nature and origins of the “One of a kind garment” that she and her companions had unknowingly fashioned mere minutes ago. She shudders uncontrollably, within grotesque shell she is currently engulfed within, and the door moves with a squeak. The crones archaic melody is cut short as her attention is snapped toward the door.

“Ooh child, do not be afraid.” The words are spoken in a sickly sweet  manner, meant to entice and soothe. The Brothers Grimm would be impressed Stephanie thought to herself, she was the ideal candidate for the role of a pathetic old lady in a new age fairytale.

..”The blade is wickedly sharp, its caress divine. Your death will be like the most delicious orgasm as it tenderly kisses and dances upon the expanses of your flawless flesh.”

Can she see me, hear me?

Trying her best to slow her erratic heartbeat and shallow breathing she shrinks back into the hallways meager shadows.

“Child. I can smell your fear. You may be able to outrun me for I am but a feeble and bent over old lady..”

Amused she chuckles to herself and continues.

..” but the true question is can you dodge my friend the hungry blade.”

Shuffling footfalls announce her presence nearing the door.

“Come child let me preserve your beauty. You”ll make a lovely ves-!..”

Stephanie sprints toward the door as its gap widens, she could see the crones weathered claws gripping its edge.

At a run and with all her weight she connects with the door. The noise upon jarring impact is comical, the startled hag tumbles and flails back across the room. She crashes into the corner of the bench and the carefully arranged cadaver piecemeal is thrown haphazardly across the room, the suspended carcass sways madly as it too is knocked from its peaceful axis.

As the door closes with a slam Stephanie picks herself up from the tangled heap the doors collision has left her in. Gaining her bearings she ignores the searing angry pain in her throbbing ankle, and as quickly as she can manage, she hobbles away from the door and further into the dimly lit hallway.

 

Mr. Brown thought he may now actually be close. He had followed the directions, which he had somehow memorized, from the infuriating map and directions given before they had been whisked away.

 Bastard wind  He had been cursing the elements probably more than was necessary on the way here, the radio offering no adequate distraction from his frustration.

He was circling now, driving slower than the speed limit, and he knew soon he would have to stop and make a choice lest he arouse unwanted suspicions. There were a few buildings to choose from, and he knew he was in the right area but could not remember the specific address.

He slows the car and pulls over to one side of the deserted street.  He decides to walk around a little in hopes that street signs and building addresses may jog his memory.

Turning the key, cutting the engines power, he happens to glance across the street as a dark nondescript sports utility vehicle hastily pulls away. Strange, he hadn’t thought about it before, it was the only vehicle he had seen in the last hour or so. The truck had left from the side of a large historical looking building. It offered meager light, there was another vehicle. From its shape Mr. Brown knew it to be a large passenger van, perhaps a mini bus of sorts.

He now had no doubts… he was finally at the right place.

 

Finally finished the product was all boxed up, secured and ready to go. Gabriel was very pleased with the days haul. Having no complications or distractions he had worked swiftly.

Recently he had been experiencing problems with a number of his tools, promising himself he would invest in new ones always procrastinating in the costly purchase. This evening though the tools in question had performed splendidly, not jumping, stalling and threatening to cut out whilst separating muscle and sinew from bone,  his procrastination would continue.

Happy with himself he speeds down the deserted dark highway turning the expensive sound system to an obnoxious level, the smooth sounds of Motown filling the vehicles interior. The ‘Jackson five’ leaving an impression on the peaceful surrounding countryside.

Gabriel did not notice the dark sedan coming to a stop in the gravel bank across the street.

 

Stephanie continues to hobble down the hallway. The occasional sound stopping her dead in her tracks heightening the beat of her already pounding heart. Frequently she glanced behind, sure that the crone would give chase.

 You’ve seen too many horror movies where the villian is seemingly invincible. C’mon this is real life, no fairytales, no Lochness monster, no Bigfoot and definitely no zombies.

Mumbles she tries her hardest to convince herself. The blood hungry sex crazed ghouls she had narrowly escaped from threw chunky grisly gore dripping doubts at her logic.

The hallway straightens out and ends in what appears to be a recessed doorway.

A way out, finally, Stephanie muses, mentally she crosses her fingers. As she nears she can see scuff marks on the stone floor originating from a doorway, she had not noticed before, on her left.

Closer to the doorway something reflects the meager light, upon closer inspection, and a few more hobbled pain electrifying steps, Stephanie recognizes it as a small splash of dark crimson liquid… blood. The splash dribbles into droplets and the miniscule amount leads to the door, which is slightly ajar. A small wedge in the corner of its frame obstructs its closure, the pale object has a painted nail. Elated, Stephanie’s spirits soar.

Sure, theres a severed finger on the floor in front of me but it’s holding the door to my escape open.

Calming her excitement she takes tentative small steps toward the slither of light that is the doors opening.

Over the fevered pulsing of the blood in her ears she can hear nothing. A peaceful night oblivious of the atrocities commited within the structures ancient walls. Stephanie nudges the door open a little wider preparing to cross the threshold.

“CHILD-!..”

The silence is shattered. Hurried thundering footfalls accompany a very recognizable nerve shredding voice at a volume loud enough to wake the recently deceased.

..”How foolish of you to think there is any esca-”

Using her undamaged leg Stephanie kicks the pale finger fom the doors edge, and taking care not to stumble she expertly spins around the door edge – And thats where the ‘glide and turn’ comes into play – Stephanie chuckles amazed she can find amusement in a situation as dire as this. Palming the door closed with a slam she surveys the encompassing darkness, her elation rapidly deflates however as she resigns herself to the fact that she is in the middle of nowhere.

Movement and a flash of muted light startles her. A car door opens across the expanse of dirt that counts as the highway.

Stephanie quickly weighs her options and decides to take a chance. Between a car and a possible broken ankle the four wheeled option would win every time. She lifts her arms, waving frantically. She feels a stabbing pain in her side as she stumbles away from the entryway.

“HEL-p …me..” Stephanie collapses a few short steps from the door, her cry of assistance feeble and unfinished, defeated by exhaustion and blood loss.

 

Mentally preparing himself for the possible debauchery that may hopefully await Mr. Brown rubs his hands and smiles.

“Guess I didn’t need a dang map after all.”

Excited he opens the door in a fluid motion, light floods the cars interior, he swings his legs as if to exit and is stopped in his tracks by a whimpered cry not far away.

Intrigued he looks to its source.

The doorway showcases a seemingly naked form motionless and facedown, a rapidly widening pool reflects the dim light supplied by a singular hanging bulb overhead.

A Samaritan like instinct overrides his excitement and he rushes to offer aid. A few brisk strides bring him closer to the body.

She had appeared naked from a distance though she is not, a sheer garment covers her from mid thigh to neck.

Blood seeps down her leg, it forms a crimson puddle in the dirt steadily encroaching upon the object that may have caused the wicked looking wound in her side.  Only a barely perceivable rising of her shoulders and shallow breaths may seperate her from death.

Mr. Brown knows he has to act fast. Removing his jacket he tears from it an arm. Splitting it down the middle he fastens it securely around her midriff hoping that the pressure will aid in slowing the flow of blood from her wicked looking wound.

“We n-n-need t-t-to leave”

A whisper, lacking strength falls from the hemorrhaging girls lips.

A sudden fevered pounding upon the door, but a few steps away, cements the messages urgency. Mr. Brown scoops up the frail body easily turning to leave. He doubles his stride, toward his locked vehicle, as an unexpected cry and curse coming from behind the door rapidly reaches a crescendo.

“CHHIIIIILLLDDD…You cannot escape me.” A vicious voice chokes on words screamed with startling malicious intent. They quickly turn to snarls and unintelligable grunts as the door endures more punishment.

Mr. Brown fumbles reaching for the keys in the darkest corners of his pocket, carefull not to drop the injured beauty cradled in his arms.

He barely manages to place Stephanie down in the expansive rentals backseat just as a splintering thunder heralds the doors demise. He jumps into the driver seat and guns the engine and Mr. Brown sees for the first time the beast intent upon the girls capture. He has no desire to hang around and find out the reasons why.

Tires spin spitting loose gravel and gears change in lightning fast succession as Mr. Brown’s foot stomps to the floor. He steals a glance in the rear view to see that the twisted gorgon has given up the chase. She stands hunched over, partially obscured, in the dust cloud glaring at their departure.

After several miles Mr. Brown slows down. His heart beat has slowed considerably and he can no longer feel it pounding in his neck.

“Are you alright back there.” Adjusting the mirror he strains to see the form sprawled in the backseat.

No answer,murmur, not even a stirring.

“I think the worst is behind us.” Mr. Brown adds an uplifting tone to his words.

Still no answer.

Concerned he pulls the car to the side of the road, theres still not a vehicle to be seen, and exits. He opens the passenger compartment. Noticing that a foul dark stain has already claimed the floor mat, blood still coagulating on its ardous journey to it.

Mr. Brown doesn’t worry its a stain a bucket of bleach and a self service carwash will fix. The worst case scenario, that the backseat is soaked, this he knows he can talk his way out of. The car is equipped with a sunroof, he’ll fabricate a small lie and mention that he thought it to be closed whilst driving through.

Stretching he places a hand to the beauties neck.

Theres no pulse.

No rising of the chest.

Her eyes are cold and unfocused, the mouth slack and open.

Mr. Brown sighs, she is lost to this world.

He has no idea what he will do with the body.

A smirk touches his lips.

He does, however, know what he’ll do to the body.

He reaches down pulling at his belt.

 

——————————————————————————————

 

This is the second story from our friend Tony Painter. You can and should follow him here

@cultmetalflix

 

 

 

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