THE TIME THAT’S RIPE FOR REAPING
(a bite-sized horror story by Sanguine Woods)
“I put on its skin. I put on its skin,” it said. “Must I put it on again tonight? I loathe it. It has an…odor.”
Narrow nostrils flared at the phantom scent of moist stinking flesh.
“You’ll do it. Again. Odor or no.”
A cracked iron pipe made a hissing sound.
Its head found the cup of its hands and rested there. A sharp wheezing whittled at the close air in which it huddled.
“I grow weary of hiding,” it said.
The sound of dripping off to the right.
“I tire of your hounding,” it said.
The dripping sound again. It made its left ear twitch. It swatted at the sound as at a whining mosquito.
The other noticed this; noticed the increased agitation cutting the air like a fume.
“We had an agreement.” He tossed it something dark and wet, wrapped in newspaper.
The sound of its hand, then—smacking at a puddle.
“I grow impatient with your masquerade!” It was almost a screech.
Rocking back and forth, now. Softer: “I grow impatient with this masquerade…” Water sloshing with the rocking.
The newspaper bundle disappeared into the folds of its long coat. A grunt; a quick rustle from the coat; a blur, really; and it was gone.
The surface of the puddle it had crouched in quivered empty in the blue light falling from a storm drain.
A quick puff, spent the candle.
He climbed the rusted iron ladder in the dark, until his fingertips felt the manhole cover. A thrust upward and he was in the alley again.
It was humid for evening. He cracked the bones in his neck. His fingers, worried at a wrinkle of loose skin around the opening to his ear.
A cab went past. A spray of gutter water behind its wheel. In the distance a woman’s laughter, and a rush of late-night bar sounds, sluicing from an open door just before it swung shut again. Above him, on a telephone wire, something made a flapping sound.
Bargaining with this…thing…was getting risky. He was running out of ideas. Something sharp played at the edges of his thoughts, fraying each one, little by little.
He was not ready to admit it was fear. Or he wouldn’t. Either way, it was risky. And risk, unmitigated, eats its way through the return on an investment, like rust.
He watched a pool of streetlight at the corner of the alley and 88th Street. The night stank of rain; the bereft precipitation peculiar to aged buildings, barren parks, withered boroughs. Within seconds the first drops were cooling his head.
The city wrapped protective wings about its nighttime sounds.
Crippled with moral decay, heavy with the parasite of disease; it shall, regardless, enjoy absolution this evening. In place of church bells: wheels ringing over a loose manhole cover; the symbol-like clang of a trashcan lid; the heavy thunk of a steel dumpster door dropping; the ping of lead pipe upon lead pipe somewhere in the darker corners of alleyways, resounding off ancient brick and wrought iron—back there, where the real transgressions were born.
I absolve thee. Harlot though thou art!
He chuckled to himself, arms outspread wings, turning slowly on his feet.
The sound of prayer beads clicked together in a memory; his mind evoked a Saint-Saëns bone-clatter, melting into the sound of the rain striking the roof of a parked car.
The irony had him tight around the gut and he felt the sudden urge to laugh out loud; combined with the urge to snap something’s neck.
It may be bitter, but it is my heart.
In a twist of leather and bone, he, too, was gone. A faint sound of metal links clinking together.
Then, a thud on the pavement where seconds ago he’d been turning: a dead pigeon; one eye staring at the sky; beak open. The feathers around its broken neck, a metallic orange in the light of the street lamp. ♢
Story (c)2016 by Sanguine Woods
(Images: Pinterest; Tumblr; Google Images. Unless otherwise noted, artists are unknown.)
This story was first published at HorrorMade.com. You can view the original publication and original artwork by Jeanette Andromeda, here…
And, you can view and purchase this and other art by Jeanette Andromeda, here…
Also, for a quick discussion on where the idea for this flash story came from, see my post below where I include the story after a quick word or two about visual writing prompts…