By D.A. Hernandez
Lissie took a long drag off her cigarette and leaned her head back against the wall. She couldn’t believe how bored she’d become despite the attention she was receiving. The boy on his knees before her couldn’t get her off to save his life. It wasn’t for lack of trying.
I’m not a total bitch. I give credit where credit’s due.
He exuded enthusiasm, but lacked technique and she was in no mood to train him properly when he should have studied more in high school, or at least taken a semester of community college.
It also didn’t help that he wasn’t as gorgeous as she first thought, grinding her ass against his pelvis. The garish street lights and the stench of piss did nothing to enhance his smeared Goth make-up and his hair was a wet death shroud pasted to the side of his gaunt face.
As if I look any better? I feel like I’m roasting over a spit, it’s so hot, puddling in the bottom of my knee highs and I’m in an alley, the length of my pleated black baby doll dress hiked up and this Thrill Kill Kult reject trying to work me into a frenzy, when all I want to do is take that broken beer bottle I spy in the corner next to a cat I think might be dead, and tell him to back off. “Go out with me,” Jeanette begged. “It’s Goths and Dolls night.” I could be sitting at home scraping the bottom of some Häägen Dazs, tweaking out on reality television, but no I’m here suffering the poorest form of oral sex I’ve ever experienced – that any woman has ever had to endure since the days of yore and damn it. If that wasn’t bad enough, I think my leg is about to cramp up.
It wasn’t the first time she’d been pressed up against a wall. She didn’t define herself as an all and out whore, (no matter what Jeanette might say) but she was an exhibitionist of sorts—that and she really needed a cigarette.
“Okay,” she said flicking the ashes of her smoke and lowering her leg. “I think we’re about done here.”
“What’s wrong,” he asked, wiping his mouth.
He looked up at her with droopy puppy eyes. She could have slapped him, but remained a lady.
“Not a thing, doll face. I think I’m just over it for tonight.”
“I was terrible, huh?”
“You were…fine…Nothing you can’t fix by reading a book or catching reruns of Sex and the City. Just stay away from Lifetime. Those women are messed up.”
Lissie shoved her cigarette into the corner of her mouth and smoothed the hem of her dress. She scrunched her unruly mane of dense curls, made frizzier by the humidity in the air and cast an eye down the alleyway. She felt like a coked out nymphet with big Diana Ross hair when she walked out the door that evening, but Jeanette in her Betty Page number, assured her she was a dead ringer for the Voodoo Dolly Contest. A few cocktails later she was out on the floor, buzzed and gyrating to Depeche Mode remixes, mouthing the lyrics to Personal Jesus in between sticking her amaretto flavored tongue into the open ashtray that was her dance partner.
She missed the contest—figured she wouldn’t win anyway—and was now confronted with the defeated gaze of her wounded puppy.
Could this night last any longer?
“Look, it’s not your fault. I’m in a pissy mood. I shouldn’t have come out tonight.”
He stood up and slicked his limp hair behind his ear. His white make-up was mixing with the black. He looked bruised, more pitiful. She felt kind of bad she was being a bitch to him.
“It’s cool. Maybe you’re just not into dudes, dyke.”
And there it was. Dudes were nothing if not opportunists.
With her cigarette in between her teeth she twisted her lips into a snarl that would have made Courtney Love hard and said:
“Maybe you’d rather be polishing off some of the lads down on 4 and Lavaca instead of sniffing around skirts, because with the lack of action you got going on there, you’re going to have to switch sides yourself if you ever want a date. So now that we have the snide remarks out of the way, let’s go back inside, have ourselves a drink and say ‘Adieu’ because I’m so through with this night.”
“Least you could do is to return the favor,” he said groping his crotch through his leather pants.
“Jerry, hon…” she couldn’t believe she remembered her name. Her buzz needed resuscitation. “I just did you one.”
Lissie turned and faced the back door and wrapped her black lacquered nails around the knob. It wouldn’t budge. She hammered against it. No one responded. The sound of the music pulsed through the walls, little quakes humming through the back alley exit.
“Guess we’re going to have to take the long way around.”
She sauntered down the alley, tossing the butt of her cigarette at the tabby cat lying in the corner. The fading embers singed the dusty fur. It didn’t move.
Huh, dead after all.
Down the alleyway a homeless man crouched beside a derelict hunk of wall standing alone in a vacant lot. An old orphanage once stood in its place, but burned down years ago. All save the wall was cleared out, making room for a future parking garage next to an adjacent high-rise in the process of renovation. Lissie couldn’t remember when the fire had claimed the building. She was in high school, she knew that much. High school was a blur, an everyday Eeyore’s Birthday.
Since then, Austin had become a construction war zone, the city leaders working to transform the neighborly network into a sprawling metropolis of concrete and glass. The wall was on their list to topple, but protestors and dignitaries proclaimed it a historic piece of Austin’s past and so begrudgingly the wall remained standing, a chewed up community art fixture engulfed by disorderly graffiti and back alley rebellions, not to mention the occasional belligerent pissing at its feet. But such is the rotten life of a landmark.
The old man stooped before it was no different, marking his territory for the evening, but as Lissie and Jerry got closer the homeless man, alerted by their impending presence, shifted his weight, busying his hands with something unseen.
“Hey man, what you got there?”
Lissie kept a safe distance. Her experience with the homeless populace in Austin had been like trying to avoid catching the flu on a crowded bus. She didn’t detest them, rather the opposite, but her sympathy was unmatched against their nastiness if you weren’t forthcoming with coin and at night huddling into storefronts on Congress, they could be downright rude if you disturbed their slumber. She didn’t treat them with contempt. She was a monster too if she didn’t get her full eight hours rest.
“My wall always was, always will be,” the old man chimed.
He continued toiling away in the dark, and Lissie worried that they were on the verge of interrupting a very private moment.
“I think we should head on to the club. I’m getting a little thirsty.”
Jerry shushed her and refocused on the old man.
“Mommy told me stories of windows and doors,” the old man murmured sing-song. “Of chimneys and closets not mine and not yours…”
He leaned up against the broken wall and dug in his pocket for his smokes and fired one up. As he brought it to his lips, a quick succession of spasms shook throughout his leather clad body.
What the Hell?
“Holy shit, you’ve got to feel this!”
“First there came the Great Ones, and then there came the rest. Once a door opens, you have to make room for the guests…”
He reached out for Lissie, but she declined the invitation with the roll of her eyes.
“I’m heading inside.”
Jerry pressed his entire back against the wall and again a series of shudders shook his limbs as if he were about to dance or have a seizure.
“Catch that naughty tiger sniffing round the gate; let him off the leash and it might be too late…”
Lissie’s eyes drifted to the homeless man. He moved aside slightly and she could see what he was fussing with: a thin piece of string spilling out from the lower corner of the wall’s foundations. The man tugged and pulled at it, manipulating it with his hands like a fisherman warring with a stubborn fish. He did not look up once to inspect his audience.
The homeless man continued to pull the rope from the wall, laughing feverishly. He swatted at her as she approached Jerry and she stepped back, his dedication all consuming.
Jerry remained rooted at his back, eyes wide orbs, strong black coffee dilation, manic and absorbed.
“Look Jerry, this has been fun and all, but I got to....”
She couldn’t finish her thought. The old man had begun singing again.
“Old Mother Twitchett had but one eye. And a long tail which she let flies; and every time she went through a gap a bit of her tail, she left in a trap…”
First came Jerry and his weak ass tongue, Lissie sang to herself. And now this fucking lunatic is killing my buzz.
She could seriously use that drink.
“This feels…I can’t describe it. It’s like hundreds of hands are moving all over me.”
Jerry’s excitement was obvious now. He spread his arms in the shape of a T, a sexually tumescent gothic Christ. His fingers clawed the face of the wall, spasms quivering up his legs and into his pelvis. He swirled his hips and grinded his jaw, pleasure overwhelming him from unseen origins.
Lissie stood unaware of Jerry’s involuntary copulation and instead focused on the homeless man. He sang his song with religious fervor as he extracted the string from the wall. It kept coming, gradually relaxing so that it was withdrawn faster and the faster it came out, the thicker the string became. Within seconds it was a rope and this thickened into tighter tubes, slick with glistening black strands of slime.
Lissie’s eyes darted to Jerry. His body convulsed and he clawed the wall harder, grating his poorly painted nails across the stone. He sighed with pleasure, groaning and hammering his back against the wall violently. And the more rope the old man removed from the wall, the more extreme the violence erupted.
Okay, now I’m starting to wig out.
Jerry began to scream and it was not the screams of a man in the throes of intense passion, but of mortal terror.
Lissie watched with her own creeping horror as Jerry bashed his head against the wall. His entire body followed and thrashed wildly. He tried to move, to push himself away from the wall, but the crag of stone would not allow him to escape. Those invisible hands which he regarded with pure elation now towed him close in their spectral embrace.
“Jerry, what the Hell is happening?”
He could not answer. His throat seized up with so many ghostly fingers pliant and teasing sliding down his esophagus.
Lissie urged the old man to help them, but he could not be deterred from his work. Pulling the rope consumed the stranger, seducing him as the unseen had entranced Jerry.
However, the rope wasn’t actually rope, at least not anymore.
The old man extracted a long veiny cord of intestine, a gelid black filth lathering his hands as it coursed through his fingers.
“Oh my God,” Lissie gurgled, her amaretto sour and maraschino cherries she snagged from the bar riling up her throat.
She retched across Jerry’s boots, her hand landing against the wall to steady her. A pinching suction tugged at the skin on her palm. The sensation caught her off guard, mid hurl and she stumbled backwards on her thin heels and teetered onto her ass.
Jerry’s muffled screams echoed in her ears as she spewed the last of her night’s liqueur onto the ground. She looked up mortified by the shape of his mouth, a perfect O, but he might as well have been choking on his own tongue. The invisible force she’d felt at her hand reined Jerry’s back against the wall. He shivered like a butterfly pinned to Styrofoam.
“Old Mother Twitchett had but one eye…”
The old man jerked the meat rope hand over fist. The wall’s intestine unspooled like thread on a spindle gathering into a soggy heap of bloody yarn amongst pieces of broken glass. Each pull of the rope tugged at the left side of Jerry’s body like the strings of a marionette, yanking at his arm and pulling his left leg apart like a wishbone.
Lissie’s ears popped at the sound of Jerry’s appendages breaking with a crisp, wet celery snap, the bones spearing through skin, muscle and tendons separating; a bodily schism savagely dividing him from his right side.
“And a long tail which she let flies…”
The graffiti on the wall began to ripple across the surface, myriad shapes and colors swirling together while dark fissures opened like the buds of ghostly, black orchids.
Lissie couldn’t look away. She was a roadside observer ruminating at a six car pileup; a front row spectator at a hellish freak show.
“And every time she went through a gap…”
Even as the wall began devouring Jerry, dragging him into oblivion and the void of its flowering mouths, her eyes remained transfixed. The black rainbow of graffiti consumed him piece by piece with each heave orchestrated by the old man’s furious hands. Every haul siphoned and blinked Jerry out of existence: fingers dissolving into red waves, bloody tides crashing against the colored stone, rinsed into the oily depths.
“A bit of her tail, she left in a trap…”
This was the work of a profound and patient evil, a derelict portal awaiting the twist of the doorknob; as easy and tempting as a loose strand in an intricate tapestry. All that it required was a gentle tug and the stationary, metaphysical wall obstructing the lines of reality and the pathways in between had come undone and it was absorbing Jerry as its first course.
Aware and reeling, Lissie got to her feet. The back of her leg throbbed. In her captivation, she failed to notice a shard of glass piercing the back of her calf.
“Stop, you’re killing him,” she raved, balling her fists and battering against the old man’s back. He wouldn’t budge, unfazed by her pathetic attempt to dissuade him. “You’re killing him!”
She reached out to grasp Jerry’s right arm. His entire left side was…gone.
He no longer screamed, his vocal cords severed, mouth split. She could see the insides of his body as if he’d been cleaved clean in twain. She clung to the last of him – to keep what remained together, but he ebbed into nothing in her hands; no bones, no flesh.
It was not death that laid claim to Jerry’s body. Death could be accounted for by the physical remains, but this was ethereal dissolution, an erasure of body and soul, leaving behind only an inkblot silhouette rimmed in smudges of crimson. A vestigial image that could be mistaken for any number of the various spray painted wraiths haunting the face of the wall.
Lissie barreled into the old man with all her force and slammed her fists into his back. The old man rose up on his heels still clutching the intestinal cord. He was taller and stronger than she had presumed and he shrugged her off with great ease, shoving her into the wall.
It was too late.
The suction and rapturous throb flushed throughout her body coiling numerous fingers around her spine like the stem of a flower. She could honestly say—if she could have moved her lips—that she wasn’t bored anymore. It was sensual, a surging awakening of nerve endings, a complexity she’d never experienced. The fine artistry of being plucked, her pulpy flesh stretched and kneaded. Coming together then coming apart.
The seams burst, unraveling; an exchange that required no thrust, no technique, only its own natural mechanisms: adult to baby; fetus to zygote; egg and sperm; cells separating and swallowed in the silence of creation.
The old man turned his head to relish the moment, unthreading her one seam at a time. His face was a dingy yellowed mask of dry cracked papier-mâché, eyeless and weeping long cords of black tears from dark clotting sockets. His mouth was a repugnant impish smile, toothless and fragrant as spoiled meat.
“So feeble, so feeble the walls of the world,” the old man sang through lips that did not move; a voice as distant as the stygian void gleaming around Lissie, daring her hands to caress the lips puckering to envelope her in their kisses. “One pull and they all come tumbling down. They’re coming, no running. Hold tight little girl. Where one doorway closes, another can be found…”