Updated: 7 days ago
by Silver Webb
The following excerpt of "Mt. Auburn Danse Macabre" is from Silver Webb's All Hallows' Eve: The Thinning Veil, an anthology of 13 wicked tales, now available in our bookstore and on Amazon.
Lafayette had expected to spend the night in a Harvard dorm room or a basement in rent-controlled Chinatown, not a crumbling Victorian in South Boston. Ringed by weeds and dirty needles, the house was a mauve mourning gown, slowly slouching into the uneven sidewalk. The woman next to him on the bed, no less macabre or inert, unaware of the danger she was in.
“Oh, dark goddess,” the lump of fishnet and doom groaned. “Make it stop.”
“I can’t stop the sun from shining.” Lafayette didn’t like the light streaming through the curtains any more than she did. Strange symbols swam on the slate-grey ceiling of what had once been a fine parlor, now stripped down by the years. Lafayette knew the feeling. Rendered in chalk were drawings of Hecate, a murder of crows, the scimitar moon. Sigils of sorts. Signs. Every Goth girl in Boston had one tattooed on her arm.
“Coffee. Coffeeeeeeeeee. Must—have—it,” the pile of regret moaned, face down on the bed. She likely thought it was cute to moan and speak of thirst. Twenty-somethings thought everything they did was cute. She knew nothing of thirst. Nothing.
“I am not kidding. Coffee.” A thin wrist extended itself and waved a knife with a crescent moon on the handle. New-Age stores carried them in bulk now, ceremonial athames. Her blade was silver and a good instinct on her part, although he doubted she knew how to use it.
“Amusing athame,” he said. “It’s your house. Are you really out of coffee?”
She lurched up, hair a Betelgeusian nest, ravaged by the coital ritual that had left Lafayette largely unruffled. But through her black strands of hair gleamed a neck that made his jaw click. A paining streak of hunger blew through him.
She looked at him slyly. “You haven’t eaten or drunk anything since I met you last night.”
“Call me a picky eater.” He wondered if she was truly young. Perhaps the night had played a trick on him. A chance meeting, it had seemed. Walking through the grounds of the Evensong Mansion, lit with Jack-o’-lanterns; couples had promenaded in swaths of plum, violet, black. Most had been graduate students and club kids, thinking it would be an adventure to go farther than the Red Line’s last stop. But she had seemed different. Too still. Leaning against an elm tree in devastating black silk. Eyes like hearses. He’d asked for her company, offered his arm. Walking through the ghosts of hydrangea and roses already succumbed to fall’s first frost, he’d felt the intriguing sensation of belonging. It had led him back here, to her house.
“Are you straight?” she asked with no warning.
“Excuse me?” Lafayette turned his full attention to her.
“You didn’t seem that interested in me. It’s okay if you like guys. Just say so.”
Lafayette hid his surprise. Most women were too mesmerized by his presence to notice his lack of engagement.
“Interested in you, yes. In the act? No. I derive no pleasure from such things, Moon Dark.” He used her Goth moniker. Her real name was probably something intolerable like Patty or Karen. He produced his phone to mollify her. “Three shots?”
She brightened. “Pumpkin spice frapp.”
“I didn’t take you for a pumpkin spice sort of woman.”
She looked at him reproachfully. “Get a pumpkin seed muffin for Mina too.”
She smiled at him, and for a moment it seemed there was something sharp behind those lips. He should’ve fed last night, when she was floating in a cloud of pheromones. He’d done it often enough, met plenty of girls at Goth events, but inevitably beneath their black corsets beat ordinary hearts with ordinary dreams. It made it easier for him that twisted wardrobes so often belonged to the straightest of souls. A quick glance toward Moon Dark’s open closet suggested that for her, jeans and sneakers would be a costume.
Lafayette scanned his phone until he found a café with the necessary muffin and beverage. The irony was upon him as he pressed purchase. Nothing for him.
Moon Dark got up from the bed, body rounded and magnificent with a snake tattooed up her spine, and hair like Medusa’s. She paused under a section of the ceiling with broken boards and whistled lightly.
Lafayette wasn’t in the habit of breathing. But he stopped all pretense of doing so when a full-sized raven hopped down from the gap and landed on the naked woman’s outstretched arm. Its dark beak lay flat against her lips, brushed over her face.
“Nice canary,” he grumbled.
“Mina destroys what does not deserve the night,” she said cryptically. As if it were nothing out of the ordinary, or worse, nothing that she intended to explain to him, she walked into the bathroom with a bird of prey perched on her shoulder and closed the door. The hiss of the shower followed.
The hunger was obscene now. This couldn’t drag on any longer. A stabbing in his temples, a longing in his veins. He dressed and then paced the boards. On the table in the middle of the room lay a spread of tarot cards, crystals lined around them like a demi-stadium of spectators. Over it, a ring light and a camera, a list of appointments. Something must drive a woman, young or otherwise, to rent a derelict parlor, make a meager living by the cards, and yet spend her money on things like the Evensong Ball. Perhaps one night was not enough to discover what that was. Then again, some enigmas were better buried.
He walked quietly to the bathroom and opened the door just a crack. It would be the work of a moment to surprise her with a kiss on that expanse of soft flesh. The delight in those hazel eyes, and then their dimming.
But the raven was there. Watching him. Claws like switchblades. There was no mistaking it for a crow. It perched on the top of the shower rod that surrounded the clawfoot tub. Moon Dark stood under a stream of water, her body a shadow behind the shower curtain.
He calculated. The bird did the same, one eye tracking him.
“Let me guess,” he muttered. “Nevermore?” He pivoted away from the bathroom, down the stairs and to the front door. The sound of a vehicle’s engine shutting off, the slap of shoes on the sidewalk, then the creak of the porch floor. Cologne lathered like mayonnaise on bread. Lafayette didn’t prefer men, despite what Moon Dark might think. But he was too famished to dicker about the menu.
Lafayette swung the door open, took the Frappuccino in one hand and the man’s neck in the other.
“Hey!” the man objected. Although like most, he found the shock of his neck being crushed and ripped open too much to process or defend against. Lafayette’s teeth bore down, gashing the skin. Beautiful warmth gushed into Lafayette’s mouth, a rich sustenance that only human blood could give, something of the man’s soul in the liquid. Lafayette had tried the blood of deer, of cows, of fish. It only made him ill. This was the necessity of his genus. It must be the blood of man. Or woman. Really, women tasted better, and that was a culinary statement, not a sexual one. It took little time for the man to go limp, crumple down, silent. Lafayette tossed him behind the pile of firewood stacked on the porch and scanned the houses across the street. Not the kind of people to call the police.
The delivery man was something to someone. To Lafayette, he was a latte.
Back inside, Lafayette set the drink on the counter, and tossed the pumpkin seed muffin toward the gap in the bathroom door. A black beak poked through, stabbed the offering, and dragged it back into its steamy den. Lafayette really should go now. It was unlike him to linger.
“I’m begging you to drag me down with you, to hit the last nail in,” the warbling of misquoted lyrics came from the shower. Lafayette shook his head in pained humor. She was a sigil doodler. An off-key Cure fan who kept an athame under her pillow. And a raven in the attic. Perhaps Moon Dark was, at last, the dinner that was too charming to devour.
“I’m going soft,” he grumbled and dipped his pinky nail at the corner of his mouth, using it to write in red on the butcher block counter.
Mt. Auburn Cemetery, All Hallows’ Eve, midnight –Lafayette.
How does it end for Lafayette and Moon Dark? Answers await in Silver Webb's All Hallows' Eve: The Thinning Veil, an anthology of 13 wicked tales.
Silver Webb is the editrix of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her food-writing and interviews have appeared in Food & Home, Still Arts Quarterly, and Pacifica Post. Her poetry has been in Peregrine and Burgeon. You can find her stories in Danse Macabre, Underwood, Litro, and The Good Life, as well as in the anthologies The Tertiary Lodger, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, and Running Wild Anthology.