Basement Beauty by Carmilla Voiez (Excerpt)

Guest Blog by Carmilla Voiez

1779138_512295965551070_207854951_nCarmilla Voiez is a proudly bisexual and mildly autistic introvert who finds writing much easier than verbal communication. A life long Goth, Carmilla lives with a daughter, two cats and a poet by the sea. She is passionate about horror, the alt scene, intersectional feminism, art, nature and animals. When not writing, she gets paid to hang out in a stately home and entertain tourists.

FIND OUT MORE AT – www.carmillavoiez.com

TWITTER – https://twitter.com/CarmillaVoiez

GOODREADS – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4893389.Carmilla_Voiez

FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/Author.Carmilla.Voiez

Excerpt from Basement Beauty (in Broken Mirror)

Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales by [Voiez, Carmilla]‘You’re too beautiful to be killed, Tay,’ Lynsey assured her, brushing a manicured hand through freshly lightened hair.

‘What the fuck do you mean?’ Amalthea shook her head, jostling afro curls and revealing a petulant frown that drew her plump cheeks inwards.

‘Aint you heard? All the victims were ugly. Aint gonna happen to you, kiddo.’

Amalthea gazed at the empty pint glass in her hands. ‘Ugly?’

‘Yeah, not grotesque freaks or anything, just plain ugly: big noses, crooked teeth, greasy hair, you know. When I went to the dentist this morning they told me everyone and their f’in dog’s booked in for cosmetic work.’

‘Isn’t that odd?’ Amalthea rotated the glass this way and that between caramel fingers.

Lynsey shrugged. ‘Dunno.’

‘I think it’s odd.’

‘Whatever, girl. Just stop stressing, okay. You’re too beautiful to die.’

Amalthea glanced over the bar at the almost empty nightclub. ‘Seems quiet tonight.’

‘Yeah, well it’s still early. Heard there’s a gig on. Lots of people probably there. They’ll lurch in here eventually.’ Lynsey wiped down the dark wood counter with a damp, blue cloth.

‘Hope so. Drags when it’s this quiet.’ Amalthea placed the clean glass on a shelf at knee level. ‘Makes me want to open a book.’

Lynsey nodded. ‘Why don’t you? Hey, you alright for a minute if I pop out for a ciggie?’

Amalthea nodded toward the dimly lit room and grimaced. ‘Uh yeah. I think I can manage these three alone.’

‘Cheers, babes.’ Lynsey kissed Amalthea’s cheek and exited through a door between rows of optics.

Amalthea dried another glass from the crate and set it on the shelf. She repeated the action until the crate was empty without being disturbed by customers. When she looked up again she noticed a young man had entered the club and was strolling towards her. She recognised him from poetry nights. As always, he arrived alone. This evening he carried a slender book. She tried to see the cover, but it was angled away from her.

‘Hi,’ she said as he sat on a stool.

He smiled warmly. He was pretty, for a white boy. His skin seemed to have the soft glow of health that was rare in young men from this Scottish city. He reminded Amalthea of the father she hadn’t seen in over a decade, except this lad was even paler and his eyes resembled emeralds held in front of a flame.

‘Coffee, please.’

Amalthea nodded. She had never known him to order alcohol. Most of the patrons were ardent drinkers and this boy… man stood out for his lack of inebriation. Was he was still too young to drink or was he a recovering alcoholic? Would he frequent a club if he had a drinking problem? It was more likely that he simply found other ways to relax – those words clutched in his hand or the ones in his head? He fascinated her, although she wasn’t sure why. Physically, sexually, he wasn’t her type at all, but there was something about his gentle calm that attracted her and what better time to strike up a conversation than a quiet night like this?

She switched on the coffee machine and poured in freshly ground beans.

‘Seems quiet,’ he said.

‘Very,’ she answered. ‘What brings you here tonight? I normally just see you on poetry nights.’

‘You notice?’ he asked and his eyes gleamed brighter.

She stepped back and swallowed. Not another one? This club was full of would-be creeps and admirers. It was often hard to tell the difference between the two from this side of the bar. She hastily backtracked. ‘Sure. I know all my regulars. Do you write poetry?’

‘I’m not sure it’s any good.’

‘Ahhh, you should perform a piece here one night. It’s a friendly crowd. They won’t bite.’

He laughed. ‘Yeah, maybe. It could be fun to perform for… everyone, I guess. Do you write?’

‘Prose,’ she answered. ‘Nothing published. What book is that?’

‘Not mine. I’ve not been published either. A bit of Plath.’ He flashed the cover at her.

‘You like Sylvia Plath?’

‘I guess I have a thing for desperate sorrow.’ His face flushed and he suddenly appeared vulnerable.

She nodded, warming to him again. ‘There’s a lot of that in this town.’

‘I’m Daniel.’ He extended his exquisitely manicured right hand towards her.

Her hand met his half way across the bar. Her chewed fingernails, chipped purple polish and brown skin made an interesting contrast, worker versus what – public school boy, intellectual, rich kid? He seemed so different to her and yet the same. It confused her. It always did when she met people from such different backgrounds with a shared love of words. ‘Amalthea,’ she said. ‘Or Tay.’

‘Delighted to make your acquaintance, Amalthea. Do you work here every night?’

‘Almost.’

The machine’s noise altered as the dripping coffee filled a cream-coloured mug. She passed Daniel a black coffee with no sugar – his usual order.

‘Thank you.’ He nodded and took a sip. ‘And what do you do when you aren’t here?’

‘Sleep, write, oh and I’m studying English at the Uni.’

‘Busy…’ He seemed pensive for a moment. He teetered on the edge of something. Whatever it was, he decided not to ask. Instead he stood up and picked up his mug. ‘Thank you, Taya,’ he said and walked to a leather chair below a green spotlight.

Lynsey bustled back through the door, dragging cold air and the stench of tobacco with her. ‘Did I miss anything?’

‘Not much. I put the glasses away and we have a new customer.’

Lynsey stared across at Daniel and exhaled. ‘Seen him before, a bit of an odd ball, quiet, always alone.’

Amalthea nodded. ‘Maybe that’s the way he likes it.’

Amalthea stood outside the unlit entrance to The Pit and breathed in the cool, pre-dawn air. One hand brushed wild curls from her mouth and tucked them behind her ear. They sprang back across her cheek immediately, untameable.

As her skin acclimatised she drew jacket sleeves over her arms. A movement at the edge of her vision attracted her attention and she peered towards the shadowy alley where the night club bins were stored. Her direct gaze didn’t reveal any ghoul, goblin, animal or person skulking in the darkness, watching and waiting for her to leave, but her mind created a sinister shape anyway. For the past six weeks the evening news had continually reported unnatural deaths city-wide. Rumours of a modern day Jack the Ripper were rife. Now every alleyway had become hostile territory and every shadow a killer, preparing to strike.

With her meditative moments, of simply being, stolen by fear of the impenetrable darkness, Amalthea decided to button her coat and get moving. Home wasn’t far away, a mere ten minute walk and at four in the morning most of the drunks were already home, sleeping it off, or standing, unsteadily in taxi queues, waiting for chariots to return them safely to their beds. That was one thing to be said about fear of what might lurk the dark – it was good for the economy.

Gentle but pervasive drizzle vainly attempted to flatten her hair. Street lights mutated into dancing constellations and pavements were dotted with quicksilver puddles. Amalthea’s boots leaked and the liquid made her toes squelch. Sucking and dripping sounds masked the noise of her footsteps and the perfectly matched slapping of shoe leather behind her. Of course, when she glanced back, the street was empty, but the moment she faced forwards she felt his presence behind her, as always, matching her stride. He was the shadow from which she fled, unseen but perceived through all her other senses, making her hairline tingle – the man who wasn’t there.

She had tried to tell Lynsey of this consuming fear, but her friend hadn’t understood, dismissing her fears as paranoia. She decided in the future to only mention this deep, primal knowledge to her diary and wondered for one terrifying moment whether his other victims had known they were being hunted, but had kept silent or were disbelieved until the moment their vacated shells were discovered. She considered why she had dogmatically given this disembodied threat a male gender then shook her head. It was perfectly natural; serial killers were almost always male, weren’t they? The one who kills me will probably be male too, she reasoned.

Her scalp itched. Realising the utter pointlessness of another backwards glance, she balled her fists and marched onwards. Just five more minutes and she could lock the darkness outside, for what that was worth.

A shriek broke through the pittering-pattering shroud of raindrops. It echoed between tall Victorian town houses, converted into flats and bedsits – a cat or a baby waking from a nightmare? She waited for a repeat of the noise until she became aware that she had stopped moving and was standing as still as a statue as the rain continued to fall around and upon her. The sound didn’t return. Shivering, she willed her right foot to make its journey, one step forwards and asked her hip to tilt and her knee to bend. Movement didn’t follow her commands so she concentrated on her left foot instead – still nothing. Swallowing hard, she wiggled the toes of her left foot. Water moved between skin and cotton; the sensation made her nauseous.

‘Just walk, Tay,’ she whispered.

Rain hissed in her ears. Beneath her chin a waterfall tumbled onto her chest.

‘Just walk… five minutes!’

Ahead of her a tree that overhung the path shook water from its leaves like a huge dog. Large drops splattered as they hit the ground. What waited beyond that tree, hidden behind the trunk? She considered taking a longer route home where the streets were less shadowy and the traffic more regular.

Shivering from cold and fear, she watched as the heavy branches bent and purged until the urge to vomit returned. One hand stretched out to a rough red-brick wall beside her, knees bent and hips angled yet her feet remained bolted to the spot.

How many had been killed already this year – ten, no twelve, would she be the thirteenth? She shook her head; this fear was not rational. She wasn’t being hunted and her home was a mere five minute walk from this spot. Five minutes… she could walk for five minutes. Five minutes… no distance at all, yet one step forwards felt beyond her reach.

‘Tay, get a grip!’ Her mind used her mother’s voice, dominant, matriarchal and full of a rich, musical patois. She nodded, fighting her foolishness and the paralysing fear of what – a tree, a shadow and a lone shriek? What set her off this time? ‘You is fierce, a powerful woman. This shit is beneath you, Amalthea. You shame me.’

Amalthea pushed against the wall, straightening her hips and knees. Raising her head, she blinked diamonds from her eyes. The raindrops altered their route and formed puddles within the cradles of her earlobes. With Herculean effort, she stepped forward. Once freed from their traps her legs adopted their natural rhythm. Swift and sure she passed beneath the branches as a single sphere fell and trickled between her neck and jacket collar. In less than five minutes she reached home, pushing bolts into place and turning keys in locks.

The breath she took filled her lungs with warm, dry air. She gulped it down as though it was her first breath then headed for the bathroom and a towel.

 

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~ by Sumiko Saulson on July 14, 2018.

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