OK, since it's the Eve of All Hallows, or Halloween, or Samhain (as we Irish like to call it), I'm going to go a little crazy and have six of my short-short Hundred Nightmares in one post. Including my Halloween-themed one, of course!
I type this in Ballymun as fireworks crack, rumble and ripple outside, without a moment's let-up. Ballymun is the suburb where most of my life has been spent, and it does Halloween in a big way. The massive bonfires I remember from my childhood might be a thing of the past, but I did see the embers of one bonfire in our little housing estate, which pleased me.
I spent the early part of the evening in Clondalkin, the suburb (at the other end of Dublin) where I'm renting at the moment. It has fewer fireworks, but more trick-or-treaters. In fact, no trick-or-treaters came to the door in Ballymun last year. But I had four or five groups come to the door in one hour in Clondalkin, and all the goodies I'd bought were gone. (I'm not saying I didn't have some of the Oreos and Smarties with my own cup of tea...) This greater prevalence of trick-or-treaters might be because Clondalkin is a socio-economic notch above Ballymun. Or maybe not.
But I couldn't miss Halloween in Ballymun, so here I am in my father's house, as the sky erupts with fire-crackers.
Hope you enjoy these nightmares!!
(Note: I said in my introductory post that, since I wrote these tales before I started practicing my faith, some of them are grittier and more explicit than they might have been otherwise. You'll see what I mean by some of today's batch. I don't want to offend anybody, but I thought it was best to leave them as they are. I was in a state of considerable spiritual tension at the time, under the surface, and I think the provocative nature of some of the stories was related to that.)
Nightmare Eleven: A Halloween Story
“I wish I’d said something”, said Alan, tossing a penny into the fountain. It rose in a neat parabola, bounced off the rim of the bowl, and plopped into the water.
“Don’t torture yourself”, said Samantha, clasping his wrist, squeezing it gently. “There’s no point to it now.”
“Waiting too long”, said Alan, shaking his head. He licked his ice-cream again. “I always wait long. A bit like when my mother died—“
“Stop”, said Samantha, sitting closer on the bench. “Stop. You do the best you can with the day you have.”
“The problem is that I don’t”, said Alan, and he sighed.
They sat on the bench, licking their ice-creams, watching the devils and the clowns and the vampires passing by. Every few moments, Samantha—- a plump but attractive lady with dark curly hair—- shot Alan a keen look. But he didn’t look around. He stared into the fountain, into the shimmering reflection of the indoor shopping centre’s overhead lights.
She wondered if she’d been wrong to tell him about Caroline. Perhaps she should have told him before now, but Caroline had always forbidden her. And who could have foreseen what had happened? How ironic that Caroline, who avoided cars like they were black cats, should have died in a pile-up.
He just looked so miserable. And Caroline hated it when Alan looked miserable, and she filled with pleasure when he smiled.
She thought that he might be pleased to know that Caroline had feelings for him after all. Or at least, as pleased as a man could be when the woman he loved had died suddenly.
“If I’d said something”, Alan began, every syllable loaded with pain, “then she would have been driving with me, and she never would have—“
“Shut up”, said Samantha, sharply.
He looked at her, bewildered. But the was smiling gently, and her eyes were pools of sympathy.
“It’s ridiculous to think like that”, she said, her voice soft now. “Who knows where all the forks in life’s road could have led us? Nobody. Look, I’m going to Miriam’s Halloween party tonight. Why don’t you come? Take your mind off it? Please?”
Alan looked back into the shallow waters of the fountain and shook his head. “No”, he said. “I’m sorry. Not yet. Maybe soon. But not yet.
Walking home through the darkening streets, looking at the glowing plastic pumpkins in the windows, hearing the early rockets, Alan found himself thinking about a book he had on the shelves at home.
He didn’t know where the book had come from. There was nothing very strange in that. There were hundreds of books at home, and some of them had been around since his grandparents’ days. But the book itself was certainly odd.
It was simply called Old Wives’ Tales. There was a picture of a comical owl embossed on the black cloth cover. There was no introduction, no acknowledgement, nothing besides the publisher’s imprint, The Dagda Press, and the year, 1828.
Alan knew that the Dagda was a Celtic mythological figure, but he couldn’t find any reference to the Dagda Press in any list of Irish publishers. And he had searched and searched. The fact that 1828 was well before Celtic revivalism became fashionable made the name even odder.
He had been fascinated with the book for years. It began conventionally enough, with recipes, jokes, and proverbs. Then the weird stuff began.
There were folk cures. There might be nothing weird in the fact that folk cures cropped up in such a book. What was weird was that they actually worked. Alan had tried them. He had got rid of an agonising toothache by burying a splinter of hazel wood in a field the morning after a lightning storm, digging it up three days later, and swallowing it. He had successfully treated a horrendous migraine by taking soil from a child’s grave and mixing it with blood and rainwater.
After the folk cures came the spells. Some were innocuous enough—love-charms and rites to bless the earth—but others were more alarming. There were spells to curse an enemy, spells to make a woman fertile—- or infertile—- and spells to raise the dead. There were spells to strike down your enemies, spells to sicken their cattle, spells to sway a judge or a jury.
And then there was the one that Alan remembered now. The spell to be reunited with a dead loved one, forever, in a “country beyond death”.
There was a long and elaborate list of preparations, but the finale had made him laugh when he first read it. The last step of the spell was to walk into a bonfire on Hallowe’en night and allowing yourself to be “devoured by fire.”
He didn’t feel like laughing now. He stood at his kitchen window, nursing a brandy, watching the glow of bonfires, listening to the endless fireworkers, and thinking. Coming to a decision.
Man Walks Into Fire, Dies. A Dublin man, stilll to be named but believed to be 36 years of age, stunned onlookers by walking into a Hallowen bonfire and allowing himself to burn to death. It was about seven minutes after midnight, in the early morning of Wednesday, November the first.
Nightmare Twelve: Jim Reaper
“What are you saying exactly? That you killed this Declan guy?”
Sinead threw her cigarette on the ground and stamped on it. She wrapped her arms around her torso. It was a cold November morning. Her smile was withering.
“I know it sounds ridiculous”, said Jim. “But look at the facts”.
“You went to a Halloween party and a couple of other people who went to it died”, said Sinead, shrugging. “It’s horrible but it happens.”
“But the pictures, Sinead”, said Jim. “The pictures. They both put them up on their Facebook pages. I was in both of them.”
“And you were dressed as Death”, said Sinead, sardonically. “And that means you killed them?”
“They both died the morning after they put the photos up”, said Jim. “What does that tell you?”
“That you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd”, said Sinead, pulling out her mobile phone and looking at the time on its display. She was on a break from Good on Paper, the newsagents where she worked. “All these junkie college kids. Makes me glad I didn’t go to college.”
“There wasn’t any drugs there”, said Jim. “Least, I don’t think so. But they had a cocktail—Death on the Rocks, they called it—I don’t know what was in it, but I drank gallons. I can barely remember the party...”
“Death on the Rocks”, said Sinead. “Nice. Look, you forget I’m a working girl. I’ve got to flog some more soft porn and true crime magazines. You didn’t kill anybody, Jim. Get over it.”
She slapped him on the shoulder—a slap that just stopped short of hurting--- and disappeared back into the shopping centre.
He felt better after talking to Sinead. She had always made him feel better when his imagination was getting the better of him. He felt a bit foolish, but wasn’t it better to be a fool than a murderer? He shook his head at his own silliness, and started to walk to the bus-stop. He had design class at two.
* * *
His good humour evaporated when Kimberley Crean, who had also been at the party, phoned him up to say that Jessica Jones had died of a brain haemorrhage. That very morning, she had pinned a picture of herself and Jim— herself and the Grim Reaper—to the noticeboard of the DIY shop where both girls worked nights. They were both grinning and giving a thumbs up to the camera. Everybody in the DIY shop had said how brilliant Jim’s costume was, Kimberley added. She was obviously in shock, and talking at random.
“Kimberley”, said Jim. “Listen to me. Where can I get the phone numbers of everybody who went to that party?”
“I don’t know, Jim”, said Kimberley, after a silence of a few moments. “There must have been at least a hundred and fifty there…people were coming and going...I’ll give you Derek’s number. It was his house...”
* * *
He cut all his classes the next day. He phoned partygoer after partygoer, bewildering most of them. He was astonished at how few of them knew about the deaths. Even when he told them, most them didn’t seem too impressed.
“I just think it would be disrespectful”, he told one girl, who asked question after question, apparently fascinated by the whole macabre business. “I think we should respect their memories.”
“Totally”, said the girl. Her name was Mary. Or Miriam. Or something like that.
“So you won’t?”, asked Jim.
“Won’t what?”, asked the girl, after a pause.
“Show anybody any pictures that might...that might have me in them. You know, me dressed as the Grim Reaper.”
“You were the guy dressed as the Grim Reaper?”, she squealed. “That was awesome! How did you do that?”
Jim couldn’t remember much about the night, but he remembered that everybody seemed to want a picture taken with him. He’d had his arm around a lot of girls, he remembered that. Many of them assumed they’d given him their phone numbers and forgotten about it. They seemed resentful when he told them his real reason for calling, but one by one, he got their promise. He didn’t make any friends, but hopefully he’d killed the picture for good.
* * *
“Isn’t Sinead in today?”, Jim asked Caroline, the other girl who worked behind the counter at Good on Paper.
“She’s gonna be a bit late”, said Caroline, as she tidied the arrangements of the chocolate bars. “She had to take her little brother to school. Hey, are you and her, like, going out?”
But Jim didn’t answer. He was staring at the front page of the Northside Newsletter, the local freesheet. Underneath the caption A Reap Good Booze-Up!, was a photo of him.
Dressed as the Grim Reaper.
Surrounded by at least fifty people, all of them giving the camera a thumbs-up and grinning.
Nightmare Thirteen: Far Out Man
“George Harrison dying was the beginning of it. Since then…well, it’s just seemed like one long funeral procession. It’s spooky.”
Zak Friars shivered. The weather itself would have been enough to make him shiver, aside from any morbid thoughts. A cold wind was blowing off Lake Magnificent, and the enormous pines that lined it were swaying.
“This is such a beautiful view”, said Bella, looking up from her notes towards the massive sheet of grey that stretched towards the horizon.
“I spend more and more time sitting here”, said Zak, his tones almost singsong. “Just looking out. Do you know what I like best?”
“What?”, asked Bella.
“I like straining my eyes, looking out so far that I can’t tell the sky from the water”, said Zak. “And seeing a figure out there. A man in a boat. He’s out there now. Do you see him?”
Bella stared into the distance. “Just about”, she said. “A neighbour?”
“I don’t know anybody out here”, said Zak, leaning back on his deckchair. “I hardly know anybody anymore. Let’s go on.”
“OK”, said Bella. She cleared her throat. “Let’s talk about The Old Gods.”
Zak Friars laughed wearily, and closed his eyes. He looked like a very tired old man. And why shouldn’t he? He was dying. “Do we have to?”, he asked.
“Well, there’s been rumours flying around about it for forty years”, said Bella.
“Before you were born”, said Zak, and she heard wonder in his soft tones.
“Just a little bit”, she said. “Is it true that you destroyed all the recordings?”
“You make it sound so furtive”, said Zak, opening his eyes again. They were misty grey eyes, in perfect harmony with the day. “The truth is we wiped The Old Gods because it was terrible. We were embarrassed!”
“But some of the stuff Trans made before that...The Seventh Paradise, A Million Years of Silence, One Hand Clapping...well, it makes Revolution Number Nine look like a ditty. You’d already pushed psychedelia beyond anything anybody else had done. How much further out could The Old Gods have been?”
“Even we knew it was just noise”, said Zak. He was gazing towards the horizon again. Bella had the strange feeling that thousands of miles lay between them, rather than two feet. “Even back then”.
“I think the fact that the band broke up immediately afterwards fueled the rumours”, said Bella, wondering if the dying star was even listening to her. “I mean, Bobby and Sandy dying within a few years, and Gail becoming a born again Christian, renouncing all her music, saying that the whole sixties had been a trip into hell...a walk right up to the precipice, she said.”
“I always thought we should have called an album that”, said Zak. “Trip into Hell. We could have slapped some Dante-esque image on the cover...”
“And then there were the stories of the production crew”, said Bella, gently pressing on. “Doug Piers said that The Old Gods was still in the vaults somewhere, then he denied he’d ever said it. Linda Bellamy claimed she heard some of it, that it put her into therapy for years.”
“Dear old Linda”, said Zak. “Anything to get her name in print. Look, the guy is just shimmering between visibility and invisibility. Look.”
Bella looked up, stifling her impatience. The boat was the faintest speck on the distance.
She marshalled her courage, and began again. “I think The Old Gods has survived.”
Now Zak looked back towards her. There was an amused smile on his lips, but his eyes were cold. “Oh yeah? And why’s that?”
“Let me just read you this quote from The Aquarian Times, March 1972”. She looked down at her notes, and read: “Expression isn’t a choice for artists. Good, bad, cosmically screwed up, it doesn’t matter. Awards don’t matter. Critics don’t matter. I mean, it’s amazing to get all the respect and love, but it’s ultimately irrelevant. An artist has to say what he has to say, he has to be heard. It’s just like taking a dump. Or breathing. It’s life.”
She looked back up. The smile had faded from Zak’s lips, but now the light in his eyes was softer. He gazed at her wordlessly for a minute or more, and then said: “I used to believe that. And you know what? Scoop for you, honey. We didn’t wipe The Old Gods. I couldn’t. I kept it in the vaults.”
Bella sat up. She had probably never felt more excited in her life, but she tried not to show it. “Oh yeah?”, she asked. “And where is it now?”
“Now it is gone”, said Zak. His voice trembled. “I threw it into this very lake, on the last day of February, 2007.”
“You’re very specific about the date”, said Bella, suddenly feeling crushed.
“Oh yes”, said Zak. “A few hours later, I found out that I was dying. Look! The man is gone.” He closed his eyes, and lay back in his deckchair. “Over the horizon.”
Nightmare Fourteen: Beware the Dog
Darren was furious. He’d rung four doorbells in a row, and nobody had answered. It was a cold day, and he didn’t want to be standing around.
They’d all had burglar alarms, too. And you could bet that the police would hurry post-haste to a street like this one. Cavendish Road was a shrubby quarter mile of redbrick houses, each standing a respectable distance from its neighbours.
Added to all that, his bag seemed to be getting heavier by the minute. He should have taken half this amount of rugs, he realised. Did he really think he was going to sell so many in one morning? He’d drop half of them off at home, right after he’d tried this next house.
There was a name worked into the wrought-iron gate. Mount Carmel. So they were religious freaks. Darren hated religious freaks. He’d become an altar boy once, for pocket money, but he had to give it up after a few weeks. He felt like he was suffocating in church.
On his last day, he’d stolen the priest’s wallet.
He opened the gate and walked in, past the crab-apple trees and rose bushes in the garden, and rang the bell on the paneled front door. There was an ornate sign above the letter-flap. BEWARE THE DOG. Those signs always filled Darren with rage. They were so smug.
He expected to draw another blank, but after a few moments, the door opened.
A black woman was standing in the hallway. She was wearing a dark blue top, a snowy-white blouse, and a stiff blue skirt. A silver crucifix, complete with Jesus, hung around her neck.
She was astonishingly beautiful. She stared at him, wide-eyed. Behind her, a ribboned shih tzu was frantically barking, or yapping.
“Would you like a rug, love?”, he asked, unzipping the bag that hung around his shoulder. “These would cost you two hundred quid anywhere else.”
The woman shook her head. From the way she looked at him, it was obvious that she couldn’t understand a word he said. And, skulking behind her, the shih tzu’s frantic barking went on.
Maybe it was the dog’s barking, the ridiculous bluff of that poxy sign. Maybe it was the maddening beauty of the woman. Maybe it was just the fact that she’d opened the door so wide, that she had left such an inviting space.
He stepped in, closing the door and slapping his hand over her mouth. He knew, even without thinking about it, that nobody else was home. Why else would she have answered the door? Besides, it was in her look. It was the look of a woman alone. He pushed the front door shut.
The shih tzu’s yapping was as rapid as a hummingbird’s heart now, though it had retreated a few steps. But Darren surprised it. His foot shot out and caught it square on the snout. There was a clicking noise, and it flipped backwards, howling. He laughed with pleasure, and dragged the woman towards the nearest door, assuming it was the living room.
It was. He kicked the door half-shut and looked around.
Oh yes, he thought. The enormous TV was too big to take, of course, but there was a DVD player, a whole shelf of DVDs, and—best of all—in the corner, a computer desk with stacks of computer games lying next to the computer.
They would all fit easily in his bag, even with all the rugs.
But before business, pleasure.
He threw the woman towards the couch. She didn’t scream, like he expected, though her eyes looked like they would pop from her skull.
He went to the TV and switched it on. Using the buttons under the screen, he raised the volume as high almost as high as it would go. The great thing about detached houses was that noisy neighbours were rarely a problem.
He unbuttoned, unzipped, and pulled his trousers down to his knees, enjoying the look of horror on the woman’s face, as Bing Crosby began to sing White Christmas.
He crossed to the couch, but she surprised him. Her fist lashed out at his face. He caught it easily, and laughed again. She was going to make it fun.
* * *
Don was surprised that the TV was so loud, but not that surprised. Bing Crosby was striking the first bars of White Christmas, and Sister Charity was a glutton for musicals.
He smiled as he closed the back door behind him. It was amazing how much fun you could have with someone who didn’t speak a word of your language. He’d been a little nervous when Mr. Steele asked him to watch over his African sister-in-law, while him and his wife toured Spain. And even more nervous when he’d heard she was a nun without a word of English. But it had turned out to be a ball. Charity made him tarts, and lemonade. They went on walks together. But mostly they just watched TV and movies. She was such a sweet lady, he’d found himself looking forward---
“Gabriel!”, Don shouted, as the dog pulled forward, freeing itself from the leash, rushing towards the kitchen door and through it. It was barking like crazy, and the house echoed with its barks. Hiro was howling, too, in the hall, like he was going out of his little mind.
The dogs were the worst part of the deal. He couldn’t even walk them at the same time.
Really, who kept a shi tzu and a bloody great pit-bull in the same house?
Nightmare Fifteen: The Whole Love Thing
Harry had been such a child since Kate had rejected his proposal. She’d expected more of him, but why should she be surprised? The world was full of emotional cripples. No matter how happy-go-lucky and fun-loving a man seemed at first, pretty soon the neediness popped out, like a cloven hoof.
If it kept up, she’d drop him like a dumb-bell. He was just so damned hot.
She liked his floppy fringe, his sky-blue eyes, his perfectly-carved lips. She liked the way he swaggered when he walked. He was one of the few handsome men she knew who never sneaked looks at his reflection in shop windows and mirrored doors. He was too self-assured to be really vain.
She liked that he owned his own business. He could take the entire day off if he wanted, and he did. He’d hardly spent an hour in the office since she’d met him.
Kate was a voice actress, and she worked whenever the hell she liked. There was always work. The whole country knew her sexy tones, even if they didn’t know her face or name. That was just how Kate wanted to keep it.
Harry had sulked for two whole days, but now he was beginning to come round. He was beginning to realise how pointless it was.
They were on a rowboat now, in the grounds of Carrigmorgan Castle. Harry liked her to take her away from her other people as much as possible. Specifically other men. Men’s eyes followed Kate like a poodle following its owner.
“My father used to take me here”, said Kate, enjoying the swish of the oars in the water. Insects buzzed in the summer air.
“You never talk about him”, said Harry. “You never talk about your family at all.”
“What’s there to say?”, asked Kate. “My father was a drunkard. A pious drunkard. I spent my entire teens listening to his lectures.”
Harry stroked her knee, and asked: “What did he do? For a job, like?”
“Oh, he worked in a charity”, said Kate. “African babies. That sort of thing. He set it up, actually.”
“That’s pretty impressive”, said Harry.
“I knew you’d think so, Mr. Forty-Eight Hour Fast”, said Kate.
“Where is he now?”
“Still living in the house where I grew up”, said Kate. “He met a woman after Mum died, but she left him.”
“So he’s all alone now?”, asked Harry, his eyes darkening.
Kate sighed. “You’re going to lecture me, aren’t you?”
Harry shrugged. “It’s just...he’s your father, Kate.”
Kate looked away, into the cloud of insects dancing around them. “Look, save your breath. The whole love thing...I don’t get it. I mean, there’s six billion people in this world. Am I going to get weepy about them all?”
Harry kept rowing, watching her face.
“And why are you so touchy-feely about parents, anyway?”, she asked, her eyes flashing with sudden mirth. “The man whose mother cursed him?”. The last words were almost lost in the explosion of laughter that overtook her, and she shook uncontrollably. The boat rocked.
“I’m glad you find it so funny”, said Harry, struggling to smile. “It wasn’t funny at the time. It was five years of hell.”
“Oh honey”, gasped Kate, grasping his straining forearm. “You’re adorable.”
* * *
Kate stood in the dawn-dim kitchen, reading the note that Harry had left for her in his nervous, twitchy handwriting.
You have no idea how much you hurt me last night. How could you casually tell me something like that? Did you really think I’d be OK with it?
You’re the crassest, shallowest, most selfish person I’ve ever met. Enjoy your new lover.
As for me, I’m my mother’s son. Harry.
She scrunched up the note and threw it in the pedal-bin. He obviously hadn’t felt too outraged to stay the night. Screw him.
She turned on the radio, looking for the music channels, but her finger paused on the dial as she heard a sombre voice announce: “At least twenty-six people have been killed, and dozens are believed to be injured...”
The voice went on, describing the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Kabul.
To her own amazement, Kate began to weep, and within a minute she was kneeling on the ground, holding her head in her hands, shaking with uncontrollable sobs.
She felt as though she had died herself.
Twenty-six times over.
Kate was learning what the whole love thing was all about.
Nightmare Sixteeen: How the Other Half Lives
It began when Conrad bumped into a man on Montgomery Bridge. He was turning to catch a bus, and he ran straight into him. He didn’t the notice the man at the time, besides the expensive scent of his aftershave. After a few muttered apologies, he was running after his bus. He just missed it.
The weird stuff began a few moments later.
Conrad realised he was seeing two things at once.
As a schoolboy, it had often struck him as strange that he could see one scene with his eyes, and hold another in his mind. This was just like that.
He was looking down the road, keeping an eye out for the number 24 bus, but he was seeing something else, too. He was seeing the suits in Fabrizio’s, the prestigious Dane Street men’s drapers.
He could feel the warmth of the shop, contrasting with the chill of the street. He could smell the fabric of the tweed and woollen coats. He could feel them with his fingers, when the other man reached out to teach them.
But there was no soundtrack. He didn’t know why it should be so—-was the man deaf?—-but he heard none of the sounds that belonged to the sights, smells and other sensations.
It was freaky and astonishing, but by the time a 24 bus arrived—-which, admittedly, wasn’t as short an interval as it might have been—-Conrad was getting used to it.
He learned something else, before the bus reached the suburbs. He could step out of the man’s experiences whenever he wanted. It was like unplugging a television. Two sets of experiences became one in a moment.
But why would he want to do that? The man had some life.
After the draper’s, he went to a classy restaurant. It smelled of money, and more than money—- class. It was the kind of restaurant you didn’t go to unless you moved in the right circles. Just being able to pay the bill wasn’t qualification enough.
Conrad closed his eyes as the bus moved through Brook Road, savouring the red wine and the seafood dish that his newfound twin was putting away. After that, a thick, rich coffee unlike any he had ever tasted. And after that, a walk to his city-centre apartment, which had a pool table and a jukebox.
He enjoyed a bubble bath in a deep, circular tub, much bigger than any tub Conrad had ever sat in. The delicious, hot scent of the bath salts caressed his nostrils, and the sparkling of the multi-coloured tiles seduced his eyes.
He shared none of the man’s thoughts. He’d tried to catch them, but nothing came. He didn’t know if the man—- disturbing idea!—- was experiencing Conrad’s life, in the same way. He shared none of the man’s reactions, emotions, impressions. Just a mass of sensual information, as though it was being broadcast straight to his brain.
But that was enough, Conrad thought as he slipped under the blankets that night. He gave his wife a desultory kiss, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the late night snack—- salmon paste on soda bread—- that his mental Siamese twin was eating at that moment.
He woke up around six a.m., with a cry of pain. He reached out, and felt his smarting chin. It was bleeding.
He stepped back into his counterpart’s mind. The man was standing before his bathroom mirror, an old-fashioned razor in his hand. He’d cut himself shaving, of course. It was only a nick.
Conrad stared at the face reflected in the bathroom mirror. Boy, he was handsome. Handsome like a movie star.
“What’s wrong with you?”, asked Diana, Conrad’s wife, groggily.
“Shut up and go back to sleep”, said Conrad, sitting up. “I’m off to work”.
The man went to work, too. He worked in an office, and looked at sheet after sheet of figures. Conrad switched off for those parts. They were boring. But, since he’d seen Errol’s face—- he’d taken to calling him Errol—-he was feeling excited. As long as he didn’t turn out to be a homo, Conrad was in for some fun, he guessed.
And Errol didn’t turn out to be a homo. Or celibate, either.
Two days later, he had dinner with a beautiful, golden-curled lady that Conrad decided to call Simone. There was a lots of tedious yapping, which Conrad couldn't hear, and didn't much want to hear—-though even looking at Simone yapping was fun-- and then they went home to Errol’s flat and the fun began. Simone was so lady-like in public, but molten lava in private.
And they met every few days. Conrad found himself living more and more through Errol. So much so that-- as he discovered during one of Errol's never-ending business meetings-- he could no longer "unplug" himself from the connection.
But so what? Enduring a bit of boring office work was well worth it, for Simone’s smoking-hot body.
There was no real explanation for what happened two or three months after the whole thing began.
It just seemed like a spat with Simone. A little bit of shouting, but nothing Conrad didn’t go through with his own wife every week. At least.
Errol must have been a sensitive chap, though. He went home to his apartment, locked himself into the bathroom, took out his cut-throat razor, and held it against the carotid artery in his neck.
Desperately, Conrad tried to pull out of this other life. But he was locked in now.
He clenched his eyes shut, and then he felt the blade cutting—