Her neck glistened in Romeo’s rear view mirror. Perspiration bubbled up through her skin and popped against the hair curling at her nape. She’d be mouthing at the driver in the Chevy behind if Romeo hadn’t taped her up and painted a grin over the bumps where her lips should be. Strapped, wrist by wrist to either side of the backseat she looked like she was straddling a honey. Honey wasn’t there; the leather between her thighs gleamed clean.
The girl struggled. Romeo drummed the steering wheel to her desperate dance.
“Told you, sweet thing. I’m taking you all the way home and we’re gonna fuckin’ party.”
He spat into his palm and forced the wet hand into his Levis. With a buck and a country-shuffle he managed to grasp himself, flicking his gaze between the mirror and his crotch. Tonight’s girlfriend flailed and the car lurched with her violence.
“Hey – bitch! Cut it out.”
Romeo drove with his knees and used his spare hand to reach for the Colt Cobra sliding around the passenger seat but the bastard thing slipped to the floor. He glanced quickly at the road in front then slithered down to grab it, cocking the revolver on his way up for the girlfriend’s benefit. Romeo shot a look at her reflection, and shot a hot load into his hand.
She was smiling back at him, no tape over the mouth, arms still shackled to the seat. Romeo’s dick shrivelled to a worm as he tried to take in what he was seeing. The woman’s head had rotated on her neck in a spiral of twisted skin.
Still chasing eighty Romeo turned in his seat to stare. The car was empty save for him and an ammonia stench. He wrenched his sticky hand from his jeans, attempting to wipe it clean and not have a heart attack. Where the fuck had she gone? The locks were on – no way had she jumped. The next exit was still another fifteen miles north but he had to get off the road. Right here. Right now.
Outside, a cold mist began to rise. Romeo slowed his speed, suddenly sober; his breath juddered in his chest. The Chevy pitched past him, straight into the fog. Romeo raised a fist but the words stayed tight in his mouth. He felt across to the passenger seat for the bottle of Jack. Instead he found flesh.
“Jesus fuckin’ H!”
What sat beside him was neither female nor male, but both; completely naked with sagging, purse-like breasts, the nipples blue and pendulous. In the curling, writhing forest between its legs twitched a ferocious prick. The being shoved Romeo’s hand between its thighs and clamped him there, breaking his fingers with metal muscle. It grabbed the man by the hair, forcing him down.
“Suck on this, Romeo.”
Romeo screamed, his mouth brushing the waving cock, all control of the car lost. Romeo died just seconds before the crash, not from the spin as the Buick left the road nor from the impact of the signpost it hit, but from the monstrous phallus that suffocated him, crushing his tongue, penetrating his throat and ejaculating boiling torrents of gravel rain into his gullet.
When they found the body, it had been skinned.
My name is Manesha. Call me Ikthee. You wanna steal me? Do your thing with me? Then do it, if it saves a girl’s life then I’ve dropped another rock and made it into a diamond.
“Ya see this, Bigs? They think they caught the fucker that killed your sister.”
Charlie ‘Bigs’ Chivas snatched the newspaper from his colleague’s hands.
“Who is it? Where’s his fuckin’ face?”
Charlie scanned the words then realised the bastard was already dead. They’d got him on DNA and teeth. His sister Lara had been bitten where no human being should – it was the worst of indignity and the Chivas family had only been relieved that the murderer had eaten part of his victim after killing her. Frustration knotted in Bigs’s gut. Romeo Carnalli had been scalped, skinned and thrown to the elements before his corpse was picked up. But a vague promise of post-mortem revenge sparked his soul into action. Someone did this to the spineless little shit; somebody knew. And Bigs intended to find out who.
Working in security at this level had its perks and it only took a few phone calls to discover Romeo was no… romeo. Associated with a dozen rapes and murders in this state alone the cops were crossing off names faster than they could pull out the evidence files. It should have been national news; it barely hit the broadsheets.
But what really interested Bigs was the skinning. Carnalli was the fifth, the fifth crim in six short weeks to have his flesh peeled. Four men; one woman. All known to the police. No convictions.
Bigs dug deeper; called in a few more favours. They had a single witness and that was from the Carnalli case. Someone had seen Lara’s killer, and was driving a Chevy around town.
He parked the car on his driveway right in front of the garage door. Light bathed the porch as soon as Mr Chevy stepped onto the path but the interior remained in darkness. No-one else home. Single? Divorced? Bigs observed the man’s slumped shoulders inside the expensive suit and concluded the latter. He waited for the depositing of keys, the grabbing of a beer and a change of clothes before crossing the guy’s lawn.
“Mr Hurst?” he said, flashing his security id. “I’m sorry but we need to ask you some more questions about…”
“Ah, holy shit. I’ve already told you everything. Give me a break man.”
Hurst turned his back but left the front door open in a state of invitation and wandered back into the house, bottle in hand. Bigs shut the door behind him, carefully scanning the neighbourhood to make sure nobody else was out there, watching him, watching Hurst. He followed Hurst into a long, thin living-room. A fake fire blazed with repetitive flickers against a stone-clad wall.
“Beer?” Hurst asked, not meaning it.
“No thanks, I’m…”
“On duty. Sure. Okay fella. Let’s just get this over with – again.” Hurst’s sigh was weary. That of an old man dissatisfied with his lot; not even a guest in his own house wanted to have a drink with him. Bigs felt a reluctant pity; the guy was thirty-two. He looked fifty.
“Can you just go over it again please sir?” He pulled out a small tablet and pretended to flick through a few screens to find ‘the case notes’. “Ah,” he said. “I have naked Caucasian woman, staring from the back-seat onto the road, seemingly attached to the seat by the wrists. Long chestnut hair, heavily made-up “with a drag-queen smile” and tits you apparently couldn’t take your eyes off.”
“Yeah, man. They were like… pert, you know?” Hurst made as if to weigh a bag of flour in each hand. “At least, they were to start with.”
This was new.
“What do you mean by that?” Bigs pretended to type with the tablet’s keyboard. “Fucking fat fingers,” he swore. “Sorry, sorry. I’m a notepad and pencil man. Hate these things.”
Hurst laughed. “Why don’t you voice-record it? Here, let me show you.”
It was all Bigs could do not to snatch the tablet away from the witness’s grasp.
“No, no,” he said. “If I don’t learn, I don’t gotta job. Anyway, my memory’s straight; I can always write this up after I leave.” He grinned. “Save me making a fool of myself.”
Hurst smiled back. Bigs hoped he wouldn’t question why the officer was there alone until after he’d left. Hurst took a long gulp of the weak beer and belched.
“’Xcuse me. Yeah, I was saying. The woman was weird – I mean weird, man. She had this constant smile going on – red lips kinda rippling across her face, but her eyes…” He shook his head, hardly trusting his own memories. “They were pleading like she was in agony. And her tits, they were – you know – beautiful, fine magazine tits. Then… shit, how can I put this? They drooped.”
“Yeah, like they’d been – I don’t know – sucked dry or something. It totally freaked me out.”
Bigs didn’t really understand what he was hearing. Hurst clearly didn’t believe what he was saying. “I was right up the Buick’s ass,” he said. “Trying to get a better look. Horny as hell. But when those nubs turned empty I looked back up at her face and… Jesus.”
Hurst strode from the room. Bigs followed, hearing the clink of glass against glass and the hhhhssshhhh of a bottle. Shit, he could do with one himself, but he didn’t want to slip, not now. In the kitchen, Hurst paced back and forth sipping at the beer, running a hand through his thinning hair.
“What did you see?” Bigs asked, as gently as a two-hundred-eighty-pound ex-street-fighter could manage. He let Hurst take his time.
“Her tongue,” he said eventually. “I watched this massive tongue tear out of those lips like a snake. She licked the entire back windscreen and the Buick was shaking all over the road, and all I could see was that disgusting tongue and those eyes getting bigger and bigger and then she…”
“What? What did she do?”
“Nothing.” Hurst said, shaking his head. “She disappeared, right in front of my eyes. Scared me so fucking much I shot out into the next lane without even looking and overtook. Didn’t see the crash, I promise. I just wanted to get home. I just wanted to get the fuck home and forget all about it, about her. I…” He choked back a sob. Bigs decided it was time to leave the poor bastard alone.
Later, in his bed, Bigs mulled over Hurst’s confession and the additional information the guy had been too ashamed to tell the cops first time around. Sleep finally overwhelmed him at three a.m. What Bigs saw when the alarm woke him at six almost stopped his heart. Scrawled across the full-size mirror – a remnant of his fighting days – a message written in scarlet lipstick:
My name is Manesha. Call me Ikthee.
And below the statement, a length of letters and numbers. Latitude and Longitude.
Bigs grabbed his android tablet and, considerably more adept than he’d declared to Hurst, entered the map co-ordinate into his browser’s GPS. The marker told him everything he needed to know. ‘Ikthee’ was in the apartment.
The temperature in the bedroom plummeted, raising tiny bumps of complaint across Bigs’s skin. With an involuntary shiver he shouted into the room, spinning, scanning the wide space as he moved.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The mirror shattered, showering him with a myriad of reflective shards. Blood bloomed in a thousand drops; it dripped into Bigs’s eyes and he rubbed them with his hands, only worsening the sting. He’d been injured often enough, he should have known better. Slowly, his vision returned and there, on the bed lay a woman of extraordinary proportions, just as Hurst had described her but more beautiful still. Despite the pain, despite the flakes of blood troubling his lashes, Bigs’s cock stirred. The woman, Ikthee… Manesha… whatever – seemed unimpressed.
“You found me,” she said, her mouth round as she over-pronounced the vowels, leaving her lips in a pursed crimson pout.
Bigs turned away from her and pulled on a gym robe. “I found you?” He heard her laugh, a triple sound of soft, yet manic harmony. “Woman, I don’t know whether to thank you or kill you.”
She sighed then, the thing on his bed. “I’ll take the thanks, if it’s all the same.”
Bigs nodded, took a breath and slowly, casually retraced his steps to the bed. With a heart that belied his fear, he sat down next to the creature.
“Lara?” he asked.
Ikthee nodded. “I knew your sister. She worked in Amsterdam. Did you know that’s where she’d been, all those years?”
Bigs said nothing. He’d had no idea. It wasn’t until he’d received the call, when they found the pocked, infected body that he even discovered his own sister was a junkie – working the streets like any other common whore. But Lara – she wasn’t like them, she was… she was Lara. His little sister.
Ikthee was still talking, her hands tightened into fists.
“She’d been back here a month when Carnalli picked her up. I felt it, heard what he did to her. By the time I arrived it was too late for Lara, and Carnalli had moved on to others. He needed to be disposed of, and I cleared up some other vermin on the way. Stupid shit was so spaced the night he picked me up I don’t know why I bothered with this disguise; he’d have fucked anything.”
“But if it hadn’t been you?”
“Yeah. He would definitely have taken someone else. So if I saved one life, it was worth it.”
Bigs only wished she’d got to Lara first. He looked Ikthee in the face.
“What are you? An angel, a demon, Mother-fucking Teresa – what?”
Ikthee shrugged her shoulders.
“Whatever suits; I’m not fussed.”
“Or some kind of super-hero?”
“And now it’s my turn? You’re going to kill me.” Bigs felt strangely resigned to his fate; he had no desire to fight like he’d done all his life. “Why don’t you just get it over with?”
The woman pulled herself to her knees, her skin rippling with a dark rainbow of colors, of scales. Her eyes belied amusement but the smile had dropped from her mouth.
“It’s not that easy,” she said. “You owe me, and I owe you; we’re bound by the blood of your sister. And there’s living scum out there that has no place in a world where innocence is a commodity.”
Bigs frowned – this was too religious for him. “Sin?” he said.
Ikthee kicked him, hard.
“Fuck sin. I don’t believe in definitions written by men. I just do what’s right. And Charlie?”
Bigs flinched. Nobody used his first name, ever.
“I need a partner, someone that knows this city, someone with connections.”
Charlie ‘Bigs’ Chivas nodded slowly. “Do I have any choice?”
The Manesha entity known as Ikthee flipped a snake-like tongue from her mouth and wrapped it around Bigs’s throat. It bit him gently on the lips, killing him instantly.
“No, big man, you don’t.”
She tore him quickly back and introduced him to the in-between. Bigs sucked up a breath, revived. This life was brighter; death – deeper.
Bigs and Ikthee.
Ikthee and Bigs.
Super-victims or the new saviors.
They dropped into the street without walking, stopped a dozen hearts before even reaching the end of the block and ripped those souls to shreds, no regrets.
Redemption has no favorites.
Revenge wears a dirty face.
Lily Childs dallies with demons. They feature heavily in her dark fiction which has appeared many times in print and on e-zines. In February 2013 her tale of the ravenous ‘Kilcrops‘ demon will be published as The Twistweaver’s Son in The Demonologia Biblica, a new anthology from Western Legends Publishing.
Lily’s own e-books are all available from Amazon: Cabaret of Dread: a Horror Compendium Vol.1, Magenta Shaman and Magenta Shaman Stones The Crow, and Courting Demons – a Collection of Dark Verse. She has contributed to many other anthologies, also on Amazon.
Lily is a Spinetingler Award nominee and Horror Editor at gritty e-zine Thrillers Killers ‘n’ Chillers. She blogs at The Feardom, and you can follow her on Twitter @LilyChilds and on Facebook.
12 thoughts on “Skin Seeker by Lily Childs”
A fine feasting fest of darkness. So urgent, so sexy, so gritty and raw. Great story, Lily.
AJ, thank you – I must confess it was a pleasure to write.
Lily always creates a visceral sense of horror in her stories. The Magenta Shaman is the mistress of physical horror and this story exemplifies that.
My thanks to you Richard for your observations, much appreciated. I may take this odd couple on to the mess of other city streets – see what they can do. Hmmmnnn…
That was full on , gripping and very unexpected , good read , great characters , strong story line
Thanks Nigel; always value your opinion. x
Hey Lily, enjoyed this story. The beginning is great with the strapped girl and psycho perv (I kept thinking of penny wise the clown). The next segment with the bro adds tension, and I was dreading the final kill. Ikthee is a mysterious, erotic creature threading in and out of the story. Looking forward to more of their blood bound adventures.
Thank you so much for enjoying Skin Seeker and Ikthee, Jodi. Hope all’s well in the literary land of MacArthur.
Now that was an intense tale!
“penetrating his throat and ejaculating boiling torrents of gravel rain into his gullet.”
It was seamless, one of those few and far between pieces where you forget you’re actually reading until you reach the end.
Cheers Lee. I ‘aim’ to please 🙂
Bloody’ell, Lil! Where the f**k did you just take me?
Brilliantly written. Proper escapism… er, unless your name is Romeo, or Bigs, or…
Lee beat me to it re’ my favourite line.
To be honest Col – I was as surprised as you were – it’s nowhere I’d ever been before.
Thanks for reading and enjoying.