Chandelier poets sip crystal absinthe lounging within the walnut panelled walls of the cafe Jardines des Tuileries nestled within the 17th century mansions of Le Marais. Tinkling glasses, heavy feet of panting waiters mixed with the refined voices of bourgeois decadence amalgamated into a glossary of sound deciphered by the ear drums of a wolf. The muslin drapes bellowed softly from the soothing breeze sheltering the occupant from the harsh rays of sunshine that sought to trespass through the opened doors adjacent to the Juliet balcony.
He recounted to himself the visitation to the Turkish baths the previous afternoon where he had inspected the innocent bathers and had settled his eye upon a woman barely twenty. Her ripe skin flush with pale fading youth, her veins richly blue, translucent with beauty. He stared calmly at her legs splashing in the water, her arched back hugging each breath of her lungs. He would as was necessary with each feed ponder why he killed only that which he craved the most. She was the unmarried daughter of a local silk merchant, a bred debutant and a favourite of the aristocratic ballroom circuit. Such trifle details that merely amused.
Standing alone in the apartment he thought of her lush neck, corrupting and defiling the promise of a sacred life, imagining her body ravaged with festering maggots, her soul vomited with bloody gasps. This gave him no pleasure except to counter a debt with mortality.
His white snow powdered face haunted this corner of Paris, seen by spurious merchants, tailors, carriage hands and corset set maidens, each oblivious to the hidden game of chasing selected prey. As night ushered away the failing light he moved with ease through these characters of aggrandisement until alighting with a firm buckled shoe upon the stone steps of the Palais du Luxembourg. With gilt lined invitation he crossed the threshold to the first of the summer season gatherings announced as the fifth Viscount by a stoutly uniformed guardsman. Nodding a side glance of appreciation he flapped out his velvet tunic imitating the mating ritual of a duelling peacock.
For the next two hours he waited patiently seated in a crimson chair, occasionally seduced to dance with bell shaped butterflies. He saw her hovering behind a slightly drunk thick moustached Colonel who was fumbling to find his credentials. Her almost statuesque presence, wax like serenity stood patiently, seemingly oblivious to the embarrassed Colonel until she herself composed a steady descent of the stairs to the marble floor.
He stood, alert to the possibility that the string quartet would eventually play a waltz that demanded a liberal movement of women to each man. The cue came when the ballroom became quite crowded and a set organisation was needed to begin the formalities of courtship. Here the musicians played an old Russian favourite that split the women and the men and with each pass of the turn the men remained stationary while the women moved in a circle. Her gloved hand held out for a galant gentleman to take hold and lead forward. He found her more striking than he expected, sharp keen eyes softened by a crimson cheek moon face. He could feel her waist giving to his advances. The music stopped. They bowed.
Taking her leave to the balcony he followed. She seemed to move with the feet of a gazelle, floating away as if carried by a rapid current. His heart quickened as he gave chase, dashing through the tall doors onto the balcony. She was nowhere to be seen. A mischievous laughter rose from the garden below. He leant against the railings focussing on her rushing towards the manicured yew maze, it’s entrance and corridors lit with flaming torches erected on metallic posts. He jumped over the railings, falling the thirty feet to the ground immediately pacing forward as his feet touched the sodden earth. Her laughter ahead of him widened his eyes, arousing his senses to a rare keenness.
Entering the maze he found her discarded shoes. His prey now bare foot and care free was running giggling to the centre. He listened for the sound of any other guests or secret couplings that might have ventured into the maze. Upon hearing only the sound of her breathing, and the heartbeats contained in her chest he opened his shoulders spreading two wings outwards. Rising upwards above the maze he flew to the centre where she was waiting. He silently lowered until standing behind her, his nostrils filled with an exotic perfume that for a moment reeled his composure. She spun round.
For the briefest of moments he felt a pang of lost love, a distant memory that had haunted him for the last three hundred and seventy six years. Clutching his throat he collapsed to the floor, unable to scream as fluid spurted from his grey lips. His last eternal vision before his head was severed with a silver sword was the woman arching her back hugging each breath of her lungs, bearing blood soaked fangs.
The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition
Mallum Colt, proprietor of Colt’s Curiosity Shop, invites authors to explore the sinister shadows and crooked streets of his once splendid town of Shallow Creek.
Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.
These items shall act as a source of inspiration as Mallum Colt guides his guests through Shallow Creek and reveals the secrets and stories of a town bereft of sleep.
For more information and full terms and conditions click here…
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
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