I owe you a longer intro. I really do. But the fact is I got busy with family and this post, which should have gone up last Friday, is the latest I’ve ever posted my weekly flash fiction. Three days late.
Sincerely, I apologize, both for the delay and the lack of a real introduction. Eh, it’s the holidays. Things get crazy.
I will say, however, that I like this story. I sat down with no idea of what I would write and this just came out. It’s weird and twisted and dark, but I like it. A lot. Enough that I’m sure I’ll revisit it.
I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, yourself. I’ll be back tomorrow with my On Writing post, and later this week with another story. Till then, enjoy.
“So, what did you tell him?” I asked.
Hamm was looking nervous. Little piggy. That’s what I liked to call him. It fit, and not just because of the name. Wee, wee, wee all the way home.
“I told him what he wanted to know.”
I was sitting behind my desk. It was a fortress of a thing, papers stacked tall along both sides. No computer in sight. I know the times. I can use one. I just don’t like them. I prefer the smell of stationery, the threat of paper cuts. That small, delicate things can draw blood has always intrigued me.
“Hamm, I wish you hadn’t done that,” I said.
He was holding a glass of Scotch. On the rocks, the Philistine. But he wasn’t drinking it. The glass rested in his hand, amber liquid sloshing back and forth with each heavy breath. The ice clinked from time to time. It was a sad, little drum beating out his death march.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” he whined. “I mean, I know it was stupid. I hated myself for it. That’s why I came straight to you.”
He set the glass down on the edge of my desk. I glanced at Markus. Without hesitation, he emerged from the shadows and slipped a stone coaster under the glass like a ninja butler. Hamm didn’t even notice.
“Please, Mr. Senef,” Hamm said.
I inhaled slowly. It was theatrical, but the smoke and mirrors matter. Anyone as old as I am knows that.
“What did I tell you when you first came to me?” I asked.
His lower lip quivered.
“Not to betray you,” he said.
I nodded. “And yet, you have. We brokered a very specific deal, you and I. Such is the nature of our arrangement. Your son–how old is he now?”
Hamm could stave off the tears no longer. Fat, wet droplets slipped from his eyes. They ran twin lines down his cheeks, a race to his chin where they leapt like suicide jumpers to the lapel of his cheap suit.
I brought my hands together, fingertips touching to form a triangle in front of my face. A classic villain move, sure, but sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
“And the prognosis? What do the doctors say?”
He wiped his nose on his sleeve.
“A year at the most,” he mumbled. “Maybe less.”
It was already done, of course. The decision made. The die cast. We were actors on a stage, reading lines for an audience that wasn’t there. But had there been an audience, they would have known. Hamm wasn’t weaseling his way out of this. The only real question was the nature of his descent. Would he die with solace, or would he meet his end in failure?
“You’ve seen how I live,” I said. “You’ve watched. You’ve brought guests here, yourself. You’ve been on the other side of the door, listening while I…entertain. Do you still desire such a life for him? Or would death be more merciful?”
He shook his head. “I don’t want him to die,” he said. “He’s too young.”
“And if he never grows older?” I asked.
“I don’t care,” he whispered. “As long as you save him. As long as he doesn’t die.”
That almost made me smile. I’m not in the business of saving anyone. But the fact is, I liked Hamm. Few in my employee had been as reliable as he. Few had been as down to earth. It had been five centuries since anyone had gone about the task with as much devotion to simple, unquestioning duty.
Until the hunters found him. Until they labeled him my familiar. Until they questioned him, threatening the lives of his wife and child. Then he broke, and the fact that he ran to me immediately after didn’t change anything. I would still have to go to ground. A new identity. A new location. A new home. I’d done it all before and would do it again, but I’d hoped to wait a few more years first. He cost me time, and the fact that I had an eternity of it didn’t dampen my disappointment in the least.
Besides, I have appearances to keep up. It didn’t matter that I liked him. He would have to pay.
“Then I leave it to you,” I said. “We have little time. I must leave tonight. Your son is in the next room–scared, no doubt, and unaware of why he’s been brought here. His mother waits with him. I have a refuge not far from here. It’s not suitable for long-term use, but it will serve for a month or two while other arrangements are made. I am willing to fulfill my part. If you agree, the three of you will accompany me, and I will…’save’ him.”
“Thank you, Mr. Senef!”
I narrowed my eyes. “There’s more. Your betrayal cuts short your term of employ by several months. To satisfy the debt, I require substitute payment.”
He looked confused. “We have no money,” he said.
“I don’t care about money.”
His hand went to his neck.
“Nor that,” I said, rolling my eyes. No doubt his blood tasted of cowardice.
“I don’t understand, then,” he said.
“Your son’s first meal,” I said. “I will turn him, as I’ve promised. You and your fair wife will watch. Then, I will lock the three of you in a room. When he wakes, he will feed for the first time.”
The blood drained from his face.
“There will be no negotiation. Answer me now, or I leave without you.”
Hamm clenched his jaw. The tears had stopped. I could see it–his mind struggling to weigh two lives against one. Finally, he nodded.
“Yes,” he said.
Piggy didn’t squeal. Not then. Not even the following night when, newly reborn, his seven-year-old son sank his baby fangs into his parents’ tender flesh, rending life from the very ones who’d give it to him. Twice.