Happy Halloween

The room was bathed in a warm, golden glow. Candles flickered on the table and a fire crackled behind the grill, its embers popping as they wafted up the flue.

Viola cupped her lover’s face, her fingers lingering against his soft stubble. She couldn’t get enough of this man. Even after a year, just his touch made tiny fireworks burst behind her eyes.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year since we met,” she said. “Such a perfect year.”

She took a sip from her glass, the deep red liquid staining her lips.

As Viola’s tongue darted out, gathering every, last droplet, she saw her lover’s eyes lock on her mouth, and it was all the invitation she needed.

She leaned in and pressed her body hard against him, sliding her palm under his t-shirt and brushing it across his strong stomach.

He groaned, his muscles flexing and twitching beneath her tender caress.

“I don’t think I can wait any longer,” she said, as her heart thundered against her ribcage.

He whimpered in response, and Viola thought she might explode.

When the doorbell chimed, they both jumped.

Viola leapt up. “Trick or treaters!” she said and planted a kiss on the tip of her lover’s nose. “I’ll be right back. Then we can really celebrate our anniversary.”

***

“Trick or treat,” the children sang, their happy faces beaming.

Viola looked around the kids to their mum standing by the gate, “Wait! Are you dressed as Nancy from The Craft?”

The mum shrugged. “It was my husband’s idea. He has an unhealthy love of that movie.”

 “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of witchy love!” Viola said with a laugh. She looked down at the kids and scooped an array of colourful candy into their jack-o’-lantern buckets. “I love your costumes too.”

“I love yours,” the little girl said. “I have a black cat at home!”

“You do?”

Viola wore a black jumpsuit, eyeliner whiskers, and a kitten ears headband.

“Meow,” she said, stretching out her arm in a cat scratch motion.

The little girl giggled.

“Come on you two,” the mum called. “Thank the nice kitty.”

“Thank you,” they sang in unison.

“Happy Halloween, guys,” Viola called after the kids as they wandered down the path, checking out each other’s haul. She glanced across the street and noticed her neighbour glaring at her from his porch.

“Pagan whore,” he hollered.

“Happy Halloween to you too, Mr Jenkins,” Viola hollered back with a cheery wave. She set the bowl of candy on her front steps and closed the door, flicking off the outside light.

“That’s enough interruptions.”

***

Viola ran her hand through her lover’s hair as she moved behind him pausing for a moment to drink in his beauty. His broad chest rose and fell with deep, fast breaths, and his pale cheeks had a pink blush. A shiver of delicious anticipation ran down Viola’s spine, “Now, where were we?” she said. “Oh yes.”

She took a dagger from the table and sliced it along her lover’s arm, holding her wine glass below the wound to catch the falling blood.

A muffled cry escaped around his gag.

Dipping her fingers into the sticky liquid, she traced an upside-down cross on his forehead, before sucking the remnants off her fingertips.

“You taste really good,” she said. “The best yet.”

 He whimpered again, and she pressed her bloodied finger to his gagged lips.

“Shh, my darling. Your soul will be an All Hallows’ Eve gift to our Lord Satan himself. Pretty cool, huh?”

A single tear trickled from the corner of her lover’s eye.

Viola raised her dagger high above her head. “Ready?” she said.

He thrashed wildly, struggling against the ropes that bound him to the altar table; his eyes wide, his frantic screams subdued by the material stuffed into his mouth.

“Oh, stop making such a fuss,” Viola said, and she swiftly swooped the blade down, plunging it into her lover’s chest and silencing his cries.

“You always said your heart belonged to me.”

© Amy Hutton 2020

The Cruel Sea

Should I tell Jackson what really happened? Should I confess to him my secret? 

The music from the ballroom wafted on the breeze as I breathed in the salty air, its sweet tang settling in the back of my throat. We stood alone on deck and took in the stars; the tiny pinpricks of light peaking through the swathe of darkness. It had been such a beautiful evening. Perfect. Dancing, laughing, singing, swaying in Jackson’s arms. It made the last time I was on a ship seem like a distant dream. A distant dream preceded by a nightmare.

~*~

Jackson knows nothing of the man I loved before him. The man who made my every day a living hell. Whose cruelty still marks my body and my soul. He knows nothing about what I endured. The humiliation. The brutality. Will he understand if I tell him everything? Will he understand if I tell him the truth about the night the man tumbled overboard and vanished into the inky ocean?

“Somebody, help me!” I remember screaming.

Eventually.

“No. Please. No,” I remember crying.

In public.

But behind closed doors, I secretly celebrated. The joy was almost painful, it was so acute. I didn’t feel sad about it. Not for minute. Not for a second. I mean, I wouldn’t have shoved him over the rail if I didn’t want him dead.

Sometimes I wonder how death claimed him. The man. Was he dragged into the frozen depths and sliced into tiny pieces by the ship’s giant propellers? Or did he scramble to the surface and bob in the great expanse of water until sharks despatched him in a bloodied frenzy?

These are the sweetest of musings.

Jackson never questions me about what happened that night. He never asks for details. He says with grief, he knows the score. He understands that sometimes, it’s easier to keep the pain hidden than it is to share it.

Dearest Jackson with his kind eyes and sweet smile. He saved me in so many ways. He brought brightness back into my bleak world.

~*~

I gaze up at him, the silvery glow of the moonlight illuminating his gentle face. For the first time I know love, and if I’m going to spend my life with this man, then he deserves the truth.

“Jackson,” I say. I notice the thump of my heart pounding against my chest. “There’s something I should tell you.”

Jackson smiles at me, “I know all I need to know.”

“But you don’t.” A quiver colours in my voice, as the beginnings of tears prick at the corners of my eyes. “I didn’t tell you everything…”

“About the man?” he says. “The one you killed?”

“What?” I breath out.

Jackson’s hands suddenly slam against my chest, and the force of his shove makes me stumble backwards.

“Jackson!” I cry, as I bash into the guardrail. The metal impacts across the middle of my back and I yelp in pain and shock.

He shoves me again, and this time my balance falters completely and I tumble over the side.

I somehow manage to grab one of the rails as I fall. But it’s cold and slippery from the spray of the sea and I struggle to hold on. My fingers ache with strain as my feet scramble wildly against the hull of the ship trying to find a hold.

“Help me! Please! What are you doing?”

“I’m doing to you what you did to my brother,” he says, coolly.

I hear myself gasp, and in that moment, I see his face switch from kind to cruel. They have the same sneer, Jackson and his brother. The same ugly, vile sneer.

“You don’t understand,” I say, as I plead for my life, hoping he has more compassion in his heart for me than I had for his brother. “I’m sorry, Jackson. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m not,” he says, and his foot comes down and stamps on my knuckles.

I watch his smirking face get smaller and smaller as I plummet. My arms flailing in front of me, grasping at the air. My screams lost on the wind.

The surface of the ocean is like concrete when I hit it, and the shock of the impact explodes the air from my lungs.

I disappear beneath the waves and the foamy wake of the ship.

 I’m kicking now, kicking and kicking. My hands reaching for the light as I struggle for air. I break the surface briefly and glimpse the stern ship as it disappears into the black night. I wave frantically, but a whirlpool of freezing water is sucking at my legs and dragging me down, and I know I can’t fight it.

Will Jackson raise the alarm, I think, as my lungs start to burn from craving breath. Will he feign panicked devastation while he secretly celebrates?

I know he will. That’s what I did.

I’m dying now, my mind is dimming; my heartbeat slowing. And as the darkness of the inky ocean pulls me into its depths and swallows me, I no longer need to wonder about the man’s death.

Because I’m living it, and in a moment, I will understand everything.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Panic

Panic: Noun. A sudden and overwhelming fear, which may or may not have a cause.

Five letters.

Panic: That feeling of utter dread when you know you’ve totally fucked up.

P-A-N-I-C.

Lydia scrawled the word out on a notepad, underlining it with angry, black scribble that ripped through the page, and continued determinedly onto the page below. She was currently experiencing an attack of the word, complete with sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a loss of control over her breathing that saw her gulping at the air like a possessed guppy.

“Calm down, stupid. Don’t be such a moron. It’s no biggie. You screwed up the monthly report. So what? People make mistakes. And hey, if you get fired, well you don’t like this job anyway? You hate this stupid job. Fuck this job. Fuck everyone here. You should get up and walk out before they escort you out.”

She reached for her bag and attempted to shove her half-full mug of tea inside. Tepid, brown liquid splashed across the white leather, running down her arm, and dripping off her elbow.

“Shit. Idiot. IDIOT!”

She dropped the soggy bag to the floor and peered furtively over the top of her computer monitor towards the glass walled corner office and the meeting being held inside.

“Shit shit shit. Shit to everything.”

Suppressing the urge to run to the bathroom and puke, she instead closed her eyes and kneaded the sides of her temples in aggressive circles, causing the hair around her face to ball up in messy clumps.

“You alright, Lydia?”

Lydia jumped. Her lids sprung open to see the alarmed face of her co-worker Jeff.

“What? Oh yeah. Fine Jeff. Fine. Just spilled some tea. Like a moron. Ha ha.” She gave him a smile which she hoped looked reassuring and not like some crazed, maniacal clown.

Jeff’s eyebrows soared towards the ceiling. “Ohhh-kay,” he said, as he inched slowly away.

“Crazed maniacal clown it was then.”

The door to the corner office opened, and her manager’s head popped out.

“Oh shit. This is it.”

“Lydia, you got a minute,” her manager called, waving Lydia in.

“Sure,” Lydia sung out cheerfully. A little too cheerfully it happens, as all eyes swung in her direction. She smiled brightly about the room, quickly gathered up her scratched up pad and a pen and sauntered as casually as possible towards the office whistling “When the Saints.” Like a demented parrot.

“Ah Lydia, take a seat,” her boss said.

Lydia silently slid into the seat beside her manager.

“We just wanted to go over last month’s financial report with you…”

“Here we go Lydia, get ready for that dole queue.”

“…We found a discrepancy…”

“Told you, you shouldn’t spend all your money on clothes.”

“…In your role, you must ensure absolute accuracy, I can’t stress this enough…”

“At least when you become homeless, you’ll be chic homeless.”

“…But everyone makes mistakes. So, we wanted to go over it with you, and make sure you see where you went wrong. Okay?”

If Lydia’s life had a soundtrack, this is where the record scratch would have happened.

*Screeeeech*

“What?”

“Please make sure you double and triple check everything next month.”

“Um, yes.” Lydia spluttered. “Of course. I’m Sorry.”

“Excellent. Janet will run these numbers with you, so you can see where they went awry.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Is everything else alright?”

Lydia looked around the room at the expectant faces.

“Um. Yes?” she said, sounding more like she was asking a question than giving an answer.

“Good. Well, let us know if you need anything.”

Lydia walked back to her desk and dropped into her chair looking like a relieved stunned mullet. She stared at the notepad that was still in her hands, with its angry, black writing and furious, page-tearing scribble.

“Told you it was no biggie. Also, you should probably try to do better with that self-love stuff.”

Picking up her pen, she added in all caps;

IDIOT.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020

Serendipity

“You just have to have faith.”

“Faith in what?”

“Destiny.”

Beth spoke along with the characters on the screen. She couldn’t count how many times she’d watched Serendipity. It was her favourite movie and she threw in the DVD whenever she needed a pick me up. Like tonight.

It was New Year’s Eve and Beth was sulking on her couch as the rest of the world celebrated. “At least I have John Cusack,” she thought, smiling at his face on the TV. With his dreamy eyes and floppy hair. He had been her favourite actor ever since she was a teenager, swooning while she watched him shotgun beer in The Sure Thing.

“Can you keep a secret,” she whispered to her dog, Cassiopeia. The staffy’s tail wagged, thumping against the cushions. “I lost my virginity after shotgunning beer, with a guy named Greg, in the back of his van at the caravan park my parents used to take us to for the school holidays.” She laughed at the memory. She had never told anyone that. Not even her best mate Sharon. She always said her first time was with her first real boyfriend, when she was twenty. But it was at fifteen, with Greg, with his dreamy eyes and floppy hair.

Suddenly Beth had a brilliant idea. She peeled herself off the couch and padded barefoot across the tiled floor; Cassiopeia’s nails tapping behind her. Searching through a kitchen draw, she pulled out a biro pen. She opened the fridge, grabbed an Asahi beer and gripped it tightly in her hand. Raising the pen above her head, she swooped it down dramatically punching a hole in the side of the can. She quickly sealed her lips around the hole and pulled on the can’s open tab. Frothy liquid rushed down her throat, spilling from her mouth, and dribbling off her chin. When she finished, she wiped her palm across her face and let out a loud belch. “I still got it,” she said, grinning at the dog by her feet. Hesitating for a split second, she shrugged and pulled another beer from the fridge. It was New Year’s Eve, if she wanted to shotgun ten beers she would. But it turned out her limit was three.

Back on the couch feeling tipsy and a little bloated, Beth checked the time on her phone. It was almost midnight, so she stopped the movie and turned on the ABC. Charlie Pickering was already counting down to the fireworks, “Six, five, four…” When the clock struck twelve and the fireworks exploded, Beth leapt into the air, the dog excitedly joining in. The pair bounced around the room, Beth whooping “Happy New Year,” as Cassiopeia barked. Until breathless and sweaty, Beth dropped back on the couch in a heap. John.” She sighed wistfully and pressed play.

 “When did you get to be so unabashedly romantic?” Beth said, as she spoke along with the characters on the screen.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Freedom Ride

The glow of the moon peeked through a small, rust hole in the corner of the trunk of the car. It was the only light The Boy could see. A tiny ray of hope in the darkness. The air was full of dirt and gasoline, their fetid odour mixing with his own sweet and pungent stench. Tiny droplets of sweat trickled off his hair, stinging the corners of his eyes. His jeans were wet from urinating where he lay. In that trunk. That trunk to freedom.

This Younger Man said that he was there to help. Told The Boy he would get him out. Help him escape from the cage The Boy had lived in since the Older Man took him all those months ago. The Boy didn’t know exactly how long it had been. He had stopped counting after a while.

This Younger Man had come to fix the generator, the one that lit The Boy’s dank cell. He told The Boy to hide in the trunk of his car; to lay silently on the cold and greasy metal. He told him he would take The Boy to the cops. That everything would be okay. That the next town was only an hour away. But now it was night time and The Boy was starting to wonder if he’d made another stupid mistake.

The Boy should never have got into the Older Man’s car all those months ago. Should never have been so trusting. But he was desperate. Desperate to escape a father who turned his fist to his son, once his wife was no longer alive to beat on. He’d seemed nice, the Older Man. He wore a crisp, white shirt, with a pen poking out of an ink-stained pocket. “Damn pen,” the he had said. “I’m just going to drop by my place to change, then we’ll be on our way.”

The Boy had sat on a scratched and weather-worn sofa on the Older Man’s porch, sipping lemonade. He was on a farm. Land spreading out as far as he could see. The Boy had never been on a farm. Never been out of the city. He was enjoying the warmth of the sun, the cool liquid running down his throat.

Then, he awoke in that cage.

The Older Man never touched him. Never spoke even spoke to him. Not even when The Boy screamed and cried and beat his head against the bars until he bled. He kept The Boy fed. Even gave him a TV. The Boy asked why he was there. He begged to be set free. But the Older Man only ever smiled. The same smile The Boy had trusted the day he got into that car all those months ago.

“Not long now,” The Boy heard whispered through the steel above him. Then the thud of footsteps, followed by the metallic slam of the door. As the engine came to life with a shrill squeal followed by a roar, fumes seeped through the small, rust hole that had given The Boy such hope. Then the car started to move again. But towards what, The Boy didn’t know.

© Amy Hutton 2019