We met in the rain. Yet, your hair wasn’t wet because you held an umbrella flush to your chest. The drops cut through the burning street lamps that lined the cobblestone road, leaving behind blurry streaks of blue. Squeaking boots from streets over left us alone but reminded us it was not, truly, just the two of us.
Your dark eyes searched me for what? Money? Or sex? Both.
You took my hand but I tugged you in the opposite direction of your pull. You whispered your name in my ear and I whispered mine in yours. I didn’t believe that Roxy was your real name but, my god, was it appropriate, for the way that your hips swung and the way your hair cascaded like a drifting wave of gold your name had to be something rich with sexual prowess.
I walked underneath your umbrella, shielding my brow from the pattering rain. I wrapped my arm around your waist and you nuzzled into my shoulder. The air smelled of gasoline and damp pavement, you smelled of nectarines and cigarettes.
“Right here, love,” I said to you and you just smiled like you had known my apartment was so close. All I had to do was round the corner to find you. I knew you would be there because I’d seen you before. The darkness of your eyes and the enigmatic hemline of your dress pulling in the passersby.
Inside, I sat you in front of the fire. Your damp clothes squeaked against the leather of the chair and you shook like a misbehaved dog, the slightest lift of a hand causing you to tremble and sweat. The silver trim mirror above the fireplace reflected the closed navy curtains that sat still until a great wind came down from the chimney and stirred their folds into a crashing sea.
I sat across from you and lit a cigar that had been a gift from a generous uncle.
“Would you like some?”
You nodded and I smiled.
“It smells delicious,” you said, your voice was like that of a mouse, quiet and trepidatious. I flicked my fingers, moving them one at a time and then patting them on my lap. You stood from your chair with a dripping, grimacing squeak. You stopped in front of the fire to dry your stockings.
“Come here,” I said, growing impatient.
You leaned your head against the mahogany, pressing the wood into your skin as you pulled your hair to one side revealing your pale slender neck. Golden blonde hairs ran down your spine and underneath your dress like they were the teeth of bronze clasps at the back of your bodice. You closed your eyes. I wondered if it would be better to put you back out into the rain.
You, finally, finished crossing the room. You straddled my lap, hiking up your dress and revealing bits of your thighs where your stockings were torn. You plucked the cigar from my lips.
“Hmm you’re much bolder than I thought.”
You swirled the smoke of the cigar in between your lips that were the colour of a piglet’s skin. You pushed the smoke out in concentric rings of white. The smell of the cigar, your sweat, the nectarines knocked me into a sweet daze. I brought my tongue down onto your neck and licked up your scent like a kitten lapping up milk.
“Open your mouth.” Your voice was still so quiet, so bracing. I felt along the back of your dress, searching for the strings of your corset. You were so gaunt and thin that I could feel the sharpness of your shoulders sticking out and creating small tents in the faded cerulean fabric of your dress.
I parted my lips.
You brought the cigar back to my mouth. Then, you shoved it down my throat.
I choked on the taste of tobacco. The ash singed my tongue, burning and branding me like a cattle prod. You convulsed. I gasped for air. I reached up to pull the cigar from setting fire to my esophagus but you stopped me by wrapping a black hand around my wrist. You squeezed with black fingers that seemed to darken more with each second.
There was a great creaking sound of metal. Iron wings burst from your back, slicing through the air and flicking off blood as they extended to a range that took up all the space in the room. It spattered the navy curtains, the mirror, the fireplace in red.
I couldn’t scream. The cigar still blocked my airway, preventing me from crying in anguish for help.
Your face split into two. Your skin peeled away revealing, at first, your skull as white as flour and then another face underneath, the face of a monster. Your eyes were replaced with slanted narrow blue strips. Your chin transformed into jowls that were filled with rows upon rows of canines, sharp and yellow and tearing into my shoulder. Hot blood dripped down and soaked into my cravat. Spit dribbled out from either side of my open, choking mouth. The chair legs snapped beneath us as your limbs were replaced with black skin like that of worn, hard leather.
The back of the chair cracked backwards. The beast laid on top of me: it’s wings twitching, blood and saliva splashing onto my forehead, it’s claws reaching into the wound on my shoulder, reaching for something deep inside me. The sharpness of its fingers ran through and underneath my skin, cutting through my cells, my organs, my being. The cigar slid downwards, blocking the air completely. I could feel my connective tissue ripping and snapping like rubber with every movement of the beasts hands. A deep blue, almost black, drifted in and out of my vision. With every breath that I took, the drifting midnight became more permanent.
There was a mysterious voice. A flash of white. The pressure in my chest came loose. The beast was thrown off of me and it smashed into the mirror, spraying glass and blood in all directions. The mirror tumbled from its place over the mantle and crashed over the back of the beasts head who threw it across the room like it weighed no more than a thimble.
“Watch yourself, you nasty little shit.”
A huge African man and a middle-aged woman with fire-red hair stood in the doorway. They were both wearing shiny suits, hers was silver and his was navy like the curtains.
The beast snarled and then released a demonic scream.
I turned over onto all fours and vomited the cigar onto the ornate rug that had been a gift from a Finnish Baron. It streamed out in a slick tube of brown, red and white. More vomit came and with each heave, blood coursed from my shoulder and chest, creating pools of bile and blood that reflected the surrounding madness in shiny rippling streaks.
The African man pumped a silver tool in his hands and it released another flash of light that hit the beast square in the chest. The beast thumped against the wall and stepped into the fireplace but it did not burn. It kicked the coals and logs into the two strangers with one swift movement of its great black feet.
Glowing red coals flew across the room, shimmering like rubies in the dim light cast by the fire.
“Argh!” The red-haired woman exclaimed as a coal hit her on her chest, immediately leaving behind a circle of cherry-red blisters. “That’s enough, Greg.”
“Come on, you guys. This one’s a complete ass just let me finish him off,” the demon suddenly spoke in the voice of a man, relaxed like he was negotiating a sale of goods.
“Ya nasty, Greg. Don’t you think this is a little much?” The African man spoke up, pointing the silver tool at the beasts snapping teeth.
“You know we have to write you up for this.”
“Nooooo.” The demon whined like a child. “Take it easy.”
“You got…” The woman looked down at her wrist, at a glowing blue square. “6 already. 6. That’s 3 over the limit.”
“You think I care? You filthy cunt.”
“Jesus. What’s wrong with you?”
The man stepped over the broken chair, took the beast by the arm and snapped, first a glowing muzzle over it’s teeth and then chains on its wrists. The beast muttered from behind the buzzing blue lines of the muzzle that looked like surging electricity.
“If you’re not careful, they’re going to use you for scraps and make missiles out of you.”
The African man pushed the beast towards the doorway, its wings sadly tucked downwards as it shuffled forwards.
“Make sure you send him to the right coordinates and the right time. Last time, you processed ‘em wrong and they ended up at a Burger King.” The red-haired woman pointed towards the beast and then at her partner who was nodding along but rolling his eyes. “Just hang on. I love being in the 19th century, before the internet, so we can just blame it all on God or Vishnu or Mohammed.”
She approached me. She knelt in front of me with her hands on her knees, the watch on her wrist whirring.
“This is a sign from god. If you do not change your ways, you will reap the consequences most severely.” Her voice was thick and soft with an accent I didn’t recognize.
I gulped. All I could taste was tobacco.
She gave me a small pat on my uninjured shoulder and I watched as, in one blinding flash, the demon, the woman and the man disappeared.
I was left, in a pool of my own vomit and blood, swallowing down remnants of the cigar, alone in my sitting room and I prayed for the first time in 16 months. I prayed to God that I would be released from the memories of the night and if not, I would become a disciple, a true steward of his good word. I would tell all of the story of the demon disguised as a whore, the smell of nectarines, the iron wings, the shiny suits, the blinding lights. I would devote myself to the Church, take in children that weren’t mine, bring warm food to the poor, donate all of my wealth and gold. I swore it. Yet, I never got the chance to prove myself to God because they had me committed to an institution where I sit completely sane, unequivocally of sound mind, speaking my story to anyone who listens.