Month: October 2014

Wrath of the Norse

Dull pain echoed across his body before Marcus opened his eyes. He lifted his head out of the frigid dirt that caked onto his forehead and face, anchored there by dried blood. His chest caught fire every time he took a breath and his brain pounded against the wall of his skull.

Marcus sat up and tried to get his bearings. The woods spread behind him. There was a light frost on the ground and the sun climbed to high noon behind a veil of grey. The air carried no noises: no chirping of birds, no chopping of wood, nothing. Normally the morning brought forth a symphony of sounds, but now there was an unearthly stillness. The smell of fire filled his nostrils.

Marcus rose on unsteady legs and prepared for a sluggish journey home. It was when he turned that he saw the origin of the fire: his village. As he approached, he saw the ruined remains of his once calm corner of the world. The sea-weathered stone houses had been torn down and their roofs set aflame. Overturned baskets and simple furniture littered the ground. And then there were the bodies. Men and women laid dismembered across the ground with spears and arrows sticking out of them. A hatchet protruded from the town blacksmith’s back. Blood splattered across the ground.

What little air that was in his chest vanished. This couldn’t be real. He had woken up that morning and the lazy sounds of the village morn were present as they always were. Now there was silence and death. This couldn’t be right. This isn’t right. This doesn’t make sense.

Like a dream stepping into dawn, the memory of that morning slowly came back to Marcus. He remembered his papa tasking him to check the traps they had set in the woods the evening before. He was walking up the lone dirt path when something emerged from the woods. It was a man, a burly armored hulk of a man. He’d carried a great round shield and an axe. The last moment Marcus could recall was the crack of his nose breaking as that shield came across his face.

Throughout the village were footprints and tracks. There must have been more of the strange warriors in the woods. His mama had always told him of dangerous men that came from the sea to grab children who misbehaved, but he always thought those were stories for his younger brother and sister.

He limped down the main path to his hut near the storehouse. Despite his exhaustion, the reality of the massacre was starting to set in. Panic was crawling up from his stomach and fueling the burning pain in his lungs. With each body he passed, Marcus braced to see his dead family. When he came to his home, he saw his papa slumped against the stone wall of the hut, his woodcutting axe still clutched in his hands. Dried blood left dark crimson stains in his tunic. Mama was closer to the shore; a spear was standing upright in her back. Marcus felt his heart sinking deeper and deeper into his damaged chest. He wanted to sit down and cry, but he knew he had to find his brother and sister first.

He made his way to the shore where he found a few more dead villagers but no sign of his siblings. He walked down the beach and saw a strange track in the sand. It looked like a trail of a fishing boat but was much larger. It also seemed to come from the land. Next to the track, Marcus saw the necklace that his mama had made for his little sister, Hilda. It was a small, unassuming thing: just a simple woven necklace of a horse. Marcus knew the pretty green and gold threads that his mama favored. A horrifying thought crawled into Marcus’s mind.

Could the men from the forest have taken his sister and brother?

He collapsed in a heap on the beach, looking out to the dark and churning sea. The quiet was more oppressive than the devastation around him. Marcus held his head and let his tears flow. He wept in silence. He had started the morning, annoyed at still having to perform the childish chore of checking traps. As the tears ran down his bruised face, Marcus wished harder than he ever had before to wake up and start that morning over.

The pale sun disappeared behind the clouds and the world grew darker.

Hooker Heels

Emma knocked on the door and waited for an answer. Tonight was supposed to be her night off but money was money. The door opened and there was the man in question.

“Mr. Krueger?” she asked.

“Yes, please come on in,” he said and showed her in.

The room was barren and dimly lit. In fact, it was hard to tell that anybody was even living there. No bags, no personal effects, not even the bed was untidy. That made her stomach clench for a second. She took a breath and gave him her professional smile.

“So, have you ever used our service before?” she asked.

“Uhh, no, I haven’t. Sorry, I’m…new to this,” he said. His dark green eyes were sunken and dim. He wore a collared shirt but it hung on him like ship sails. Fine stubble grew on his cheeks.

“Well, that’s not a problem. You’ve paid in advance, and if you want more time, we’ll settle it then,” she said. “But I have to call in.” Best to get the details done up front and let him know someone would miss her. He nodded. It caught her by surprise that he didn’t try to negotiate or make any comments. It was almost as if he wasn’t paying attention.

“So, the floor is yours. What is it you’d like to do?” she asked him, with a little laugh. He didn’t look bashful or embarrassed by being put on the spotlight. He simply made his request with those forlorn eyes and undid the buttons of his shirt.

She could see all across his chest and back there were scars and cuts. On his arm was a tattoo of two crossed fire axes over an Irish flag with the number 14 below it. He was in shape, but he looked emaciated. She wanted to ask him about the tattoo, or maybe the scars but didn’t. Chances were he’d talk about it.

Most of her clients weren’t really there for sex; they were there to talk, to unburden themselves of their lives. Maybe their jobs were sucking away their souls, maybe their kids were ungrateful wastes of genetic material, maybe their wives were just wearing them down. She’d heard all kinds of stories. She’d had guys stop mid-fuck to spill their guts. A couple of them even started crying. She always joked that she was better than a shrink and a lot more fun.

“Do you want me to leave the heels on?” she asked. It was common request from her guys.

“No, that’s ok. Those look like a pain in the ass to walk in,” he said, unlacing his shoes. With an invisible sigh of relief, she stepped out of her god-awful stripper heels and rubbed her feet on the soft carpet floor. If nothing else, he gave a shit about something other than getting his nut. She walked up to him and turned around.

“Mind unzipping me?

###

Emma collapsed back down onto the bed, sweat clinging to her body. She had been with rigorous guys before but there was something different about this one. It wasn’t perversion or some sense of guilty pleasure driving him. Anger and sadness resonated out of him. This wasn’t sex or even aggressive fucking to him. He was unburdening himself of something. The whole time, he didn’t say a word. No self-congratulating, no disgusting comments asking if she was enjoying it. It almost seemed like he wasn’t even aware of what was happening. It was a strange sensation, to be with someone who was so totally physically commanding of you but so distant and opaque.

“There’s a shower and fresh towels in the bathroom. You’re more than welcome to both,” he said, grabbing a cigarette from a pack. He offered her a smoke and she grabbed the last one. He held out a zippo lighter and she lit up.

He was such an odd customer. So detached from everything but more courteous than anybody she’d ever been with. She waited for him to unload, to ask her to stay, to do something. She wanted to know what the hell was up with this guy.

“You know, we’ve got another 15 minutes on the clock. Do you want to do something else or do you want more time?”

He looked at her for a minute, cigarette burning between his fingers and smoke coming out of his nose, and he opened his mouth slightly as if he might speak. His eyes were like dark tunnels. Maybe that was it. They had the look a stranded man gives to a lifeboat that’s just out of reach. It went beyond the pain etched into the lines of his face. Like fucking a dead man. She shivered a little, and he swallowed.

He said, “No, that’s ok.”

She took a quick shower, and after he slipped her another 200 dollars, she was back in the hallway. It was clear that this guy had some serious, fucked-up personal baggage. It wasn’t the sense he was damaged goods that stuck with her because everyone was damaged goods. This guy was holding something in and the cost was wearing him down. She’d never seen anyone fight so hard with ghosts. He was losing. It was slow and painful.
As she left the hotel lobby and walked back to her car, she thought back to the face he made when she asked if there was anything else he wanted. Did he want her to ask if he was sure? Was she supposed to force his hand? She contemplated for a half-second, going back up.

Forget it. I’m off the clock, she thought to herself as she pushed the night’s events from her mind and started up her car.