Tyler Fitzgerald threw himself down at the bar, sweating profusely. “Gimme a whisky.” Seeing the bartender’s scowl he added, “please.”
He mopped his brow with a handkerchief already sodden with perspiration. How long did he have? Not long, surely. His gaze strayed to the door but it remained closed. There was almost no one else in the bar, just some other lowlife at the far end nursing a PBR.
The whisky came and he slapped a twenty on the bar before upending it. The burn at least distracted him for a moment. He had to think.
“You okay, mister?” The young barkeep looked concerned, though it was probably for the trouble a dead man might bring than any desire to keep Tyler healthy.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m…fine.” His ticker might have disagreed with that assessment. Hypertension: it was the worst. Doc said he ought to be more careful, stay away from certain things.
Like a tune that wormed into memory and wouldn’t get out until you got another equally annoying refrain stuck there. In his head those words she taught him repeated. Who isSylvia that all the swans commend her? It was some poem. Probably Shakespeare but he wasn’t sure. What swans had to do with anything he didn’t know.
She told him that back when they started.
He heard the click of heels—or thought he did. “This place got a back door?”
That’s all he needed to hear. Tyler bolted. The bartender murmured something about his change or whatever but he wasn’t listening. The door stuck for a moment and his heart leapt up into his throat.
Then it creaked open and the night air smelled sweet even in this dirty old town. Tyler took a lungful, closing his eyes to enjoy it before he had to rush on. Which way? He peered into the dark. The alley extended into blackness.
Blind panic seized him. There had to be a way out. Tyler ran into the black but it proved to be a grimy wall of concrete blocks, black from god knows what and far too tall to scale. He scrabbled at the coarse surface anyway, hoping that his fingers might grip something, anything.
And then he heard the clicking of her heels behind him and knew it was over.
“Tyler, whatcha doin’?” If she could have chewed gum, she would have been snapping it then, but she was just a ham on heels and had no mouth.
“Sylvia, you’re killing me!” Tyler sank to the ground, helpless before her as she sauntered toward him. He could smell the salty brine. He licked his lips. “You gotta stay away.”
“But I’m so very tasty,” she crooned and he wondered yet again how she could speak with no mouth.
He wished even more that he belonged to some venerablereligion that would keep him from every letting such a tasty morsel pass his lips. “My doctor…my doctor tells me…I gotta…I can’t…Sylvia, show some mercy!”
She stopped just a short step away from him and started to do a striptease. All that succulent meat! It was too much. “Baby, just a taste, just an ickle bitty taste.” The stiletto heels flashed in the moonlight like warning lights.
Tyler closed his eyes but that ham on its heels had seared on his retinas. When he dared open them again a small, almost bacon-like strip hung before him. It was too much. He opened his mouth and it was good , so good. Salty and briney and so very very tasty.
His heart seized up and it was all over in seconds. His dead eyes stared blankly as Sylvia hitched up her fishnets and sauntered away. There was another man out there with a taste for it. She’d find him soon enough.
A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. EXTRICATE is out now from Fox Spirit Books; the print edition also includes the novella THROW THE BONES and a dozen short stories. https://grahamwynd.wordpress.com/
*Image credit S. L . Johnson (sljohnsonimages.com)*