Anthony Self’s New Short Story – The Lock

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The Lock


Anthony Self

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Edward sheepishly stood surveying the room. It was almost devoid of any character; a door to his right, which he assumed was the toilet, a bed with black rumpled satin sheets at the far end and a simple dressing table with two chairs resting to his left. There were no windows in the room, but Edward wondered if there were any tiny holes in the walls – with perhaps camera lenses staring back through the void. There was a suitcase on the dressing table; it looked ancient and battered. He noticed some fabric from the corner of it peeling off. The woman behind him came past now, deftly sloping an arm around his shoulder which, within a second, snaked its way down to his lower back. She pinched his bottom playfully as she walked towards the dressing table.

He couldn’t remember her name, although he was certain she had said it twenty minutes beforehand downstairs in the lobby. Billy, Owen, Mark and Edward had all seated themselves nervously at one of the dingy tables, having bought a couple of beers for themselves. Of course they were asked to buy some drinks for the girls and they had agreed without any fuss. The woman sat down on one of the chairs at the dressing table and produced a pack of cigarettes. He found that quite amusing, as she was wearing so little he couldn’t fathom where she had been hiding them. She crossed her legs, adjusting the stockings slightly. There was a faint snap as the nylon slapped against her flesh. Edward liked the sound. He liked it very much. She lit the cigarette; a trail of blue smoke coiling and twisting amongst the dust motes in the room. She eyed him with mischievous intent. Finally, breaking the silence, she informed Edward that sex would be one hundred pounds for an hour. Fifty for half, and twenty five for just a hand or blow job.

Edward nodded absently and started to fish inside his pockets for his wallet. The woman tut-tutted, advising him that payment came after. He apologised for being insincere and perhaps hurting her feelings, but she merely cackled and stubbed out the cigarette. She looked pale, even in the dimly lit room – her hair was short as a fuse, slender bones that made her look girlish. There was something about her eyes, Edward noted – that implied she was anything but.

She motioned for him to lie on the bed. He complied, testing the resilience of it with his hands first. It was hard. He noticed that he was too. She came behind him, silently like a ghost and wrapped her small hands around his waist.

“You’re nervous.” She said. “First time?”

His first impulse was to laugh it off, or maybe to act insulted, but when he looked into her deep brown eyes he knew her expression was of genuine regard. He mumbled something under his breath and she told him not to worry, that everything would be okay.  Lie down, she told him. She lay next to him. He wondered how the other guys were getting on.

“If you open the suitcase, you won’t have to pay me anything.”

Edward thought this an odd line of foreplay. He sat up, looking at the dressing table. The suitcase looked beige in colour; but he couldn’t tell under the oppressive light in the room. From this angle, he could see it had a small roll lock combination and two latches on the side. He asked her what she meant; and she explained that if he simply opened the suitcase, he wouldn’t have to pay her any money whatsoever.

“What’s in the case, then?” he asked, the kernel of curiosity starting to sprout like wildfire.

She eyed him intently, hooking a leg over his, rubbing against him. “Only death, my love” she purred, “only death.”

Edward looked numbly at the suitcase. He lifted himself up and walked over to the dressing table. He glanced over his shoulder at the succubus lying on the satin sheets, toying with her flesh. “What’s the combination?” he whispered, feeling quite peculiar in this whole situation.

At this, she sat up, leaning towards him expectantly. Her playful demeanour was lost now, those dark brown eyes serious and direct. Her voice was like sandpaper. “Whatever number of loves you have lost.”

Edward turned back to the suitcase and fumbled with the lock. He snapped the locks free and opened the case.

There was nothing inside. For a moment he thought he saw several small figurines, plastic men curled up in foetal positions and frozen in poses, like the green army men you played with as a youngster, but he blinked and saw nothing.

The woman let out a small squeal and lay back down on the bed. “Now all your inhibitions are like leaves in the wind,” she said mildly. “Now come over here and lay with me.”


As Edward left the grotty building in Soho, he felt a sudden and acute sense that he had left something behind in the room with the sultry blonde woman. He checked his pockets: he had his wallet, phone and keys with him, which relieved him instantly. He couldn’t wait to meet up with the lads at the pub and tell them about his experience – he took another couple of steps and then a strange foreboding clouded his mind. He looked back at the steps leading up the building, trying to remember something…after a few seconds he dashed the thought into a million pieces and continued on his way home, content. A week later he would try to call Mark, Owen and Billy and would only receive their voicemail messages. A police investigation would be launched into their disappearance and public appeals would be made, but it wouldn’t be until he was a sixty year old man, lying almost comatose in a hospital bed that he would remember looking into a suitcase in a brothel situated in Soho and see three miniscule figures bound and gagged in a beige coloured suitcase on a dressing room table.

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Photo by Tomek Dzido

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