An Interesting Scar
As chat up lines went, she’d heard worse. Although she wasn’t even sure if people called them that anymore. The terminology of dating had always been a cryptic crossword to her, where the clues stayed the same but the answers changed, depending on what year it was.
“Old burn, right?”
He wasn’t entirely wrong. The hook had been searing hot as it was driven into her finger.
One hook in every finger. One long, serrated hook.
“Cooking accident?” He asked before having a swift, polite peck at his pint. “Or is that sexist?”
“I think asking might make it sexist.”
She always sat in the far corner here, away from prying eyes. Away the speakers and the aging metal addicts with their long coats, long hair and long faces. She preferred the quiet edges of any room. The deep water, as she thought of it.
He was still looking at the neat, dark indent of skin just below her knuckle. She flexed it.
“I assure you,” he said, drink lubricating his words. “That wasn’t my attention. I like women. I cook. I wash. Of course, I also live alone.”
Was that hint? She supposed it was. Only her attention was elsewhere. It had dipped back into the memory of her rebirth. If you could call it that. It had been a spiritual re-stitching. A harvesting and hollowing of her soul.
“I live alone,” she said, absent from the conversation. “And I never wash up.”
She was back in that bone amphitheatre where she’d endured an agonising symphony of suffering before they were done with her. Overpowering to the point of overload. It’d washed away everything that had once been her.
Every finger torn on a dark, jagged hook. Every finger, every vertebra. Her thighs. Her knees. Her feet. Every hook held by a chain. A chain that rattled when she moved.
They had worked beyond the restrictions of time with their long, thin knives. The smiles on their faces carved in by similar blades. Hooks driven into the base of their necks, holding their recut lips to form those mocking grins. She could still hear their ragged breaths when she was alone.
“Well, if you need a dishwasher, I’m very reasonably priced.” He took another sip.
“I bet you are.”
The only mark they’d left on her was that little scar. A signature from of the hands that had rewritten her.
“I even deliver. It’s all very simple.”
He kept biting, but she couldn’t face it. This wasn’t where she came for prospects. It was so tacky. Going to bars, seducing drunks and dragging them home. Who did that?
The streets were full of people in the daylight. Lonely people who no one would miss. They were driven by a need for purpose. They were perfect for her. She could make corkscrew deals with them. She could bait her own hooks with perfume promises and lead them deep into bargains that always ended up with them being taken to the endless, windowless palace that rested on the very edge of pitch black oblivion.
“I can do other things as well,” he added when he didn’t get a response.
He raised an eyebrow. She could only shake her head.
“So, tell me, how does such a versatile man end up out on his own?”
The probing question slipped past her lips and filters. His smile went slick and prepared for action.
“Who says I’m on my own?”
They had taken out her teeth, her bones. They had reshaped her to suit their requirements and then hidden her form in this subtle body. This second skin. Camouflage and nothing else.
“You have something green between your teeth,” she explained over the dim, dark, brooding music. “Watercress, I think. A friend or a partner would’ve pointed that out.”
He visibly deflated. He sat back, so they were side by side now. He went to his drink, sips replaced by swigs.
“Divorce takes away more than just your money.”
His voice was harsh. Dusted dark with a bitter dusk.
“Not long enough. Or too long. If you know what I mean.”
She didn’t say anything. She knew. She could sense his desperation like a shark scenting blood on the currents. Only she could read the patterns behind the lure. She could hear his raised voice, feel his short fuse burning down.
A clenched fist in the dark. A rough grasp around a stuttering throat to turn someone over.
She picked up her own drink and drained the remainder of the double. The ice rattled against what looked like teeth and came away chipped, cracked and melting.
She set the glass down.
Her own lover had used her to buy time for his own bad deal. That was how she’d ended up pleading for mercy in those crooked corridors. Little had she known at first that mercy was a double dare in that place. A call to dinner. An invitation to violence.
She could still remember him. Her lover, who seemed so kind on the outside. Camouflage and nothing else.
She had loved him so completely that she’d never questioned the strange tattoo he’d talked her into getting. Or the strange smelling candles he’d lit around them that night.
Just a little roleplay.
Then he’d produced the crescent shaped sickle and she’d thought it was funny until he’d spoken in a language that twitched her nerves. Then the light from those candles had changed. Twisted, fallen, slipped down into a deep, dark, toxic green. The green of decay. The green of seeping wounds and chemical burns.
The green of the dark that lay beyond the furthest star.
She looked over at him. At the hope in his eyes.
“You want another drink?” she asked. “Or do you want to head somewhere else?”