You can hear me read this story on episode #61 of R.B. Wood’s Word Count Podcast. The story prompt this time was quite simply to write something dark and twisted for the special Halloween edition of the podcast.

This tale is pretty dark. It also starts off with a spiked drink and a date-rape scenario (be warned), though it is twisted and there is a twist…

I’m so grateful to R.B. Wood for having me on his podcast. Writing and reading stories for this podcast has been one of the highlights of my year.

demon2

The Demon

I’m on my third frozen margarita before I realize the booze is spiked. I’ve never been drugged before, but I’ve been drunk enough times to know it doesn’t affect me this way: legs turning to jelly, face numb.

I try to say “Someone put something in my drink”, but my tongue won’t move.

Around me, the bar is buzzing. It’s Halloween, after all, and the place is full of gory snacks, ridiculously named drinks, crazy costumes, and “Monster Mash”. Across the table, Ted is sipping his beer, fiddling with the red and black demon mask he brought but hasn’t put on yet.

For an instant I almost believe he didn’t do it. He’s Billy’s friend, a nice guy, really, and he’s been so supportive since Billy and I broke up, he even asked me out tonight, just as a friend of course, because we’ve been around that bend a few times and he knows I’m not interested.

But then…oh, then…he looks at me and his face slips, a grin slithering across his features as he leans closer.

“Can you feel it?” he says, patting my paralyzed hand, his moist breath against my ear. “That’s what you get for turning me down all those times, sweetheart.”

He downs what’s left of his beer and hauls me to my feet.

I try to speak, scream, bellow, but all I can do is curse him in my head.

He more or less carries me outside: one arm locked around my waist, my head on his shoulder, my feet dragging on the floor while zombies, slutty vampires, and gorillas swirl around us.

“She out of it?” someone asks as Ted wrangles me into his car.

“Just had one too many,” he answers. “Bad breakup. I’ll get her home.”

The drive is a nightmare. I drift in and out of consciousness and every time I’m lucid, there’s Ted with something dark skulking in his eyes that I’ve never seen there before. Or maybe I have. Wasn’t that why I turned him down all those times?

“I was going to take you to my place,” he says, “but then you told me your grandma’s away and, you know, that house is much more private than my apartment.”

Before he carries me through the pouring rain into the house, he puts his mask on. My vision blurs and shifts, making it seem like the black and red plastic fuses to his face: Ted’s blue eyes staring at me through the eyeholes.

The house is dark and silent as he fishes for the key and finds it in my purse. In the car, I entertained the hope that grandma would be back early from her “geriatric Halloween sleepover” as she called it, but only the cat is home, curled up on a heating vent in the hallway. Ted gives it a kick when it tries to follow into the bedroom.

He keeps the mask on as he arranges me on the bed: the grinning, smooth red plastic gleaming in the dim light, and for a moment I slip into the darkness.

“You shouldn’t have turned me down, Alicia,” he whispers when I wake up, my hands tied to the bed. “I just won’t stand for it. You understand that, right?”

He has stripped me to my underwear, and the mind-fog makes it hard to see, harder to keep my thoughts together.

“Sweet Alicia…You won’t remember this tomorrow, they never do. But I will.”

His hand slips down my neck, my chest, and there’s a ragged edge in his voice that is worse than anything else so far.

Behind him, the door opens: just a crack, just a sliver of light. Ted turns, his demon mask as tight as skin on skin.

“Fucking cat,” he says, but the cat is already on the bed: I can hear it purr, see the lustre of its black fur, the glow of its luminous yellow eyes. Grandma never told me its name. “Just “cat” is good enough,” was all she said when I moved in after I walked out on Billy.

“What the fuck is up with this cat?” Ted snarls, grabbing the animal by the scruff.

I feel it then, a sudden heat, like opening the oven door, as Cat opens his mouth, and a blazing foot-long tongue of flame leaps out between his fangs, the white-hot fire singeing Ted’s fingers.

“I wouldn’t do that, Ted,” Cat says, his voice reverberating as if it’s coming from a vast cavern of stone far below the ground.

There is an impossibly high-pitched shriek from Ted, his demon face torn away by a swipe of claws. I can’t make sense of what happens next, it’s a blur of movement – Ted, Cat, and something else – a looming, writhing shadow, rearing like a panther in the dark. Then the ensuite bathroom door slams shut and for a moment the room is absolutely silent. All I see is an orange fire-glow flickering around the edges of the door.

“Well, let’s get you sorted.”

Grandma?

It is. Her rough, calloused hand touches my face, and somehow that touch lifts the fog, unbinding my limbs and tongue.

“Ted…he…”

“I know. Cat told me when he…alerted me.” She shakes the water off the object in her other hand: an old broom, the one she usually keeps in the kitchen pantry. “That’s why I hurried home. I told the coven Cat and I could handle it. Damn fool weather to fly in, though, even if it’s just a few blocks, but what can you do.”

I glance at the bathroom door. There’s a muffled cry, the sound of something smashing. Grandma smiles.

“He’s a good cat…most of the time. But it is Halloween after all.” There’s a glint of flame in her eyes when she turns towards me. “Don’t worry, Alicia. Cat will clean up once he’s done. Now, let’s go make a cup of tea.”

© Maria Haskins 2016.

Note: This story is a sequel of sorts to ‘Miriam And Cat‘.

The cover-art for this was made by me using CANVA, and the painting used is “The Nightmare“, by Johann Heinrich Füssli.

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