The long-legged blonde with a tattoo of St. Jude on her left arm staggers into the abandoned building, stumbles across a long dark hallway, and descends the stairs into the dimly lit basement. She knocks on a wooden door. Someone looks through a peephole. Slowly, the creaking door opens.
She enters the House of the Dead, a subterranean candy store with a cornucopia of mind-altering drugs. The laconic guard with one eye, an empty socket and a piece in his right hand, mutters, “Okay,” and lets her pass.
She scurries down the corridor like a rat in a maze approaching its coveted reward. At the end of the passageway she turns left and collides with The Ghost, a skeletal albino in charge of the drug den.
“Whatya got for me, Laura?”
She hands him the money.
“You need a fix, Laura,” he says maliciously, as he glances at her convulsive body and trembling hands. “Go sit in the corner and wait.”
After she shoots up and mellows out, she smokes and ingests a smorgasbord of poisons. Nikki, the androgynous necromancer, slithers up to her. Looking up at the pretty sorcerer with lapis lazuli eyes, she whispers, “Come back another time, darling. Don’t feel like talking to the dead now. Just chilling.”
“Of course, sweetie. But how about a quick Tarot reading?”
Gazing quizzically at the adept magician, she asks, “How much?”
“For you, me lovely princess, in this beautiful moment, here and now in the House of the Dead, it’s free.”
“Okay,” she purrs.
After Nikki spreads the cards out, he says, “Forget it. I’ll give you a reading another time.”
“What do you see, Nikki?”
“Tell me, please.”
“Can’t you see, baby? Look at the cards : The Tower, The Hanged Man, The Devil, and Death ain’t good. Something bad is coming your way. Someone wants to hurt you. Be careful.”
Nikki saunters off.
Now, in Laura’s tiny corner of the House of the Dead, within the whirling wasteland of her drug-infested mind, she gallops across a paranoid landscape. But is it true? Does someone wish her harm?
Is it Adam, her estranged husband, or Lisa, his slutty mistress? Or someone else? Someone here in this inferno? Is it Nikki or The Ghost?
Why is her life in danger? What does this monster want with her? And who is it?
If it’s him…, well, she never really loved him. How could he leave her? She’ll fix him real good with this unforgiving divorce. No mercy for her beloved spouse. But what if he is merciless too? What if he has taken out a secret life insurance policy on her? And what if he or Lisa kills her before the divorce goes through? Yet why would he choose Lisa over her? Adam will come back to her. He’ll tire of Lisa. But he’ll have to beg her forgiveness. No, Adam can’t be the one who wishes her harm.
“Men die to be near me,” she mutters. “Of course, they long for me-the femme fatale. But you – Adam – you took a bite of a poisoned apple.”
Laura stares blankly into space. “Who are you?” she sighs, as she drifts off into oblivion.
Later, she leaves the House of the Dead and re-enters the outside world.
Out in the shadowy streets, she senses the presence of a stalker.
Wearing a black miniskirt, the leggy blonde stumbles across the cul-de-sac in red stilettos, enters the lobby of her apartment building, and waits for the elevator.
When she turns around, she sees a stranger standing beneath the lamppost across the street. Is it really Adam or Lisa in disguise? Is it Nikki, or The Ghost or another freak from the House of the Dead? Suddenly, her hands shake uncontrollably. She averts her eyes. When she looks again, the person is gone.
Abruptly, she clambers up the stairs to her fourth floor studio apartment. As she reaches the landing, she hears someone on the stairs behind her. She hurries down the hall, grabs her keys, unlocks the door, and enters the claustrophobic cave she calls home.
Mindlessly, she locks the door and stands in the dark, trembling and breathing heavily. Eventually, she turns on the lights.
She removes a switchblade from her pocketbook and clutches it in her right hand. Her cold blue eyes, lost in a tempest, watch the knife and hand shake wildly.
A distant voice screams inside her head. Robotically, she looks through the peephole. No one there, she thinks. Yet she hears footsteps.
She staggers into the bathroom, hides inside the tiny tomb, looks in the mirror, and gazes at the frightened face she sees. “Help me!” she shrieks.
A long silence follows. Then she hears a noise somewhere in the studio. Is it real or imagined? Is her stalker inside, but didn’t she has lock the door?
The ominous sound grows louder and spreads, becoming a terrible clatter of rapid, intrusive sounds-footsteps rushing toward her and silent hands reaching out to grab and claw and kill her. Soon, the other stands outside her bathroom door.
“Come in,” she cries out.
The door creaks and slowly opens, and another face appears in the mirror. Impulsively and desperately, she turns around and unleashes her switchblade on the intruder, slicing the woman’s throat.
The blonde lies on the bathroom floor, her throat slit from right to left, alone in her studio, no longer stalked by Lisa, Adam’s imaginary mistress and her shadowy self that has lurked in the night. Now, after cutting and killing her alter ego, she ends the interminable paranoia forever.
The bloody blonde, seduced by mind-altering drugs and a merciless paranoia lies still and is free.
Dr. Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, and writer whose stories have appeared in numerous magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, DOWN IN THE DIRT, CC&D, PULP METAL MAGAZINE, INNER SINS, YELLOW MAMA, and AUDIENCE. A past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature and is the author of 11 books. Four of his mystery, fantasy, and horror stories were published by POSTSCRIPTS, a British magazine and international anthology, in October/November 2014. He recently completed an experimental mystery novel inspired by one of Freud’s case studies and is looking for an agent. He has been inspired for decades by his patients and their heroic stories of trauma and survival.