FICTIONAL FRIGHTS: Heather Buckley’s “Streets”

116dfffWhat a way to dust off our FICTIONAL FRIGHTS column that this intense short story from film critic/journalist/Producer Heather Buckley (Dread Central, Fangoria, Vulture). One of the most unique voices in film journalism, Buckley writes the same as she speaks: with passion and fervor, with an in your face force of nature that is always interesting to read. A friend of Icons of Fright, Buckley contributed this story of murder and observation, one of my favorites to be included in Fictional Frights. Read on and if you have a story that you would like to contribute, feel free to contact us! -Jerry


1

“Bitch.” Eric breaks Dawn’s face with his fist— her nose twists out of place.FF

“Stupid fucking whore.” He batters her; kicks her down onto the concrete—a blow to her ribs, a blow to her temple, then a straight razor slash across her throat. She’s coming open easy for him. Bleeding, bled out, a velvet curtain of blood descends.

 

Eric just met Dawn a half-hour ago at the Diamondback Bar. Pub lights crowning her ratted red hair, her tight black dress, and  red dagger nails. Real fucking trash. After a few drinks, she literally threw herself at Eric, “Come home, have fun.” He just smiled. “Fun” is what he thought of now as her slashed Dawn’s face beyond recognition.

 

2

The alarms hollers out a ring. Morning. Three hours of sleep, a new world’s record.

 

Eric climbs out of bed, into the bath, then to breakfast—corn flakes and milk.

“Cereal.” He smiles.

 

3

Eric opens the shop at 9:00 am. Sharp. He sits down at the desk overlooking bookcases stocked with yellowed out paperbacks. The radio streams on about the weather, another hot one— humid as all hell. Summer in the city. Great he can watch the wallpaper peel for the next three months.

 

The name “Emily,” plastered across the tin sign behind his desk belonged to his Mother. She died a drunk and left him store. Eric has been buying time under all the dust and crap she collected over the years, but it pays the bills. Doctor Bills, laundry bills, cable bills, with some left over for those nights when he falls deep into a pint of Harps with no hope of ever recovering. “The Life” as it was. Indeed, Emily’s death left Eric with no one to question his future for him or how he spends his free time and god-forsaken nights. No questions of marriage either. No ma, your son’s never getting hitched.

 

4

Afternoon. The AC hums. The door opens.

 

Diane moves just inside the frame of the door—summer light pours in from the streets. Her hair hangs low, tied back with a silver clip.

 

“Diane.” Eric leaves his chair slowly spinning behind him.

“Have a nice weekend? I took my niece to the park…” Diane says.

“Nothing much. I read, walked around…”

“Doug called, I keep telling him to move on.”

“He harass you? ”

“A little …”

“No man should ever hit a woman…” He smiles.

“You’re kind.”

“Try to be.” Eric trades the invoices for my pack of Winston, which he taps against the old oak desktop.

 

“Any new shipments?” she says.

“Just some 50s repro. clocks.” Eric lights a cigarette.

“Hey are you doing anything tonight? Maybe we can go out for drinks or something…”

“I haven’t been feeling well. I was planning on staying in.”

“Feel better then. I’ll give you a call sometime ok?”

“Ok.” Eric motions with his hand to the door and circles back to his chair picking up the same stack of invoices in process.

 

5

8:30pm. Eric arrives home, half a cup of coffee in hand. The streets at this time a night are barren in the city during the summer. The whole town rolls up so tight; it bores him to meander around any longer on then nesscary. At home stands his couch and his security. It’s all roses. No worries.

 

The phone rings. He lets the answering machine pick up.

“Eric… it’s Diane…Pick up…”

“No,” he says as he looks through the blinds.

“Just seein’ if you are feeling any better, call me alright?” A long beep follows and the tape rewinds itself.

 

Eric stands at the window, rain streaks down the sill. It’s thundering. He reaches to grab hold of the wall. He’s trembles. He can’t breath. The white walls bend down on him.

 

7

The saturated light of morning slices through the Veniceian blinds, stripping Eric’s floor, striping his form.

He hasn’t been to the shop in three days. Six messages from Diane and his phone cries out again. Eric turns his head in the direction of the ring. Seven. Smoking.

“Hey, Eric, I haven’t heard for you in a while, hope you’re not horribly sick or anything… I’m worried about you.” Beep. Rewind.

Eric ignores the sound and continues his watch out the window. A truck has just wrapped itself around a flagpole, neighbors, grouped in silence, stare past the wreckage. He takes another drag. It’s like watching TV.

 

8

Night drapes itself across the city. Time to move. Go on. Get on. Out into the city. Nothing to fear. The thundering is just the Heavens calling you out to play. The crack just a truck accident. It’s all roses right?

 

Eric walks east towards the river; the sky shimmers with stars, the grounds spark with glass, crack dealers, and junkies. He’s here again, the Hammermill projects, where Roth iron fire escapes run zigger zagger across the façades abandoned brick buildings. The cops stopped coming years ago, deciding it best for “the animals” to mire in the squalor. No help. No hope.

 

9

A line of pubs inhabits the blocks following Hammermill. Eric enters the Roadside Bar. Three taxidermy deer heads are mounted to the water-stained, wood paneled walls—metal screams from the jukebox.

 

“Party Animal,” Eric mouths, as he reads the Budweiser baseball cap on deer head number three, leering at him right above the tap.

 

“What’ll it be?” the bartender asks. Eric still entranced with Spud’s saying orders a Coors. Ah the dinner of champions. Or was that breakfast? Does it matter really? This is “Paradise City” after all or at least the jukebox seems to think so.

 

“I can’t believe you said that!” a guy says; he stands under the wooden eaves of the doorway, with both hands on the bar, deer head number two above him. To the guy’s right stands a bleach-bottle blonde with two inches of dark root. Can’t a tramp this day and age get a touch up for fuck’s sake, Eric thinks.

“Funny huh? Martin then near stormed out the room, Blondie says.

“Think he’ll forgive ya?”

“We’ll see, got some flowers in the car.”

“Marty’s off from work soon?”

“As soon as I finish this drink.” She finishes the pint, gives the guy a hug and walks out. Eric leaves a five-buck tip and follows.

 

10

White lily. White Light. Crack in the temple with Eric’s brass. Her back arches towards him—red razor lines cross to tartan over it. His steel, held high in his right hand punctures her face, boring, round and round until it finds the other side of her pallet.

“I don’t even know your name. I don’t even know your name,” he whispers.

 

She stirs, open eyed, mouth in a twisted howl. Steel finds her eye pushing it deep into the socket and glides to her throat, which it rips open in a tide of blood. Eric’s lips move across the greenness of all those gaping holes. She shrivels from life. He moves into Red.

 

11

Eric heads home, his hands raw with blood, hidden in the confines of his pockets. A calmness settles over his features, takes 3 years off his face. Some people use creams and take pills. Eric kills. HMO’s don’t cover this sort of medication. Maybe they should…

 

He climbs the stairs only to find the bulb out on my floor. Another Cigarette, Another corner. His focus shifts in the twilight haze. Diane.

 

12

“7 messages on your machine, I tried callin’ you all night…”

Eric bites down on his Winston and stares past her.

“Eric?”

Eric bows his head down a tad and smiles.

“I missed you…”

“Oh you did?” Eric tilts his head right, then left, then dead on.

“Won’t you come in then?” Eric says as he walks towards the door, shoulders rolled forward. He keys open the lock, the dim light masking his hands.

 

Diana walks in, leaving the door open.

“Close and lock the door behind you, “ Eric says, “And the chain too, you don’t know what kind of fucking whack jobs live in his city. The heat now has probably driven them out of their cages…”

 

“Can’t you see my concern?” She’s pleading with him.  “Three days and no word, you could have fallen’ dead for all I knew.”

“But I’m not dead Diane…” He flicks up switch leaving a stroke of blood across the plate and the whitewashed wall. Light blinds the room.

 

Eric pulls the cigarette from his lips leaving a chunk of blood on his mouth. Black gore races down his hands and wrists into the depths of the jacket. He smiles. Diane claws at the chain lock.

 

Eric lunges at Diane, grabbing for the straight razor in his pocket. Flashed open, He strikes it across her face. She doesn’t scream. She’s in shock. The razor comes down again across her nose, serving it in half. Her wounds blossom open. She chokes.

 

Diane bends over and stumbles forward, away from the door—hand covering her face. Her lips screwed up. She whimpers as she watches herself bleed out. A rush of smoke exists Eric’s lips, as he opens her throat.

 

“I see your concern,” Eric says to Diane as she convulses on his floor. Her head rhythmly hitting the wood panels with a wet “whaping” sound.

 

“I’m incapable why do you even care?” Tears streak down his face. He laughs. “Why even bother?”

He laughs again “You could have fallen’ dead for all I knew …” He moves into the kitchen. “you could have fallen’ dead for all I knew…” He puts on a pot of coffee.

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