Okay. I’m going to be honest with you. I’m… disappointed. The new book isn’t selling at all. I’ve done practically everything I can think to do short of whoring myself to try to get someone to buy it. I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve, though. So here goes:.
I’ve looked on Amazon and their free preview of the book involves the entirety of the first story in the book – Demon Speeding Blues, and at least a portion of the second, Trick Candles. So since they’re giving away a considerable portion of my book for free, I’m going to give you a free sample. After much thought and consideration, I’ve settled on Trick Candles. You can already read Demon Speeding Blues practically for free, and frankly, it’s the weakest story in the book. Trick Candles was pretty good though, if I do say so myself. The book is called Flies in the Leaves of Glass. If you’re looking for something to twist your perspective a bit, get the book.
So, without further ado, here it is. Obviously, copyright on this story belongs to me, all rights reserved, 2016, etc. etc.
Johnny hitched his backpack higher on his right shoulder and walked on in the late afternoon sunlight. He felt amazing. He felt strong. Above all else, he felt free. He would never have to be afraid again. Nobody… and he meant nobody… would ever hurt him again. Every other time Phil Williams had put his hands on him, he had allowed his mother to talk him into staying. She would run crying into his room as he was packing what clothes he had and beg him to stay, wail that Phil did not mean it. It was the beer and the coke, this was the last time, they would go to counseling and she would make Phil go to rehab, blah blah.
The abuse had been going on since Johnny was six. That was the year his father died in a freak accident at the local mill. That was the year his mother started drinking her feelings away. That was the year Phil came into his life. At first it had been relatively gentle. Phil did not like Johnny and never bothered to hide it. After about six months of living with them and sleeping with his mother in his dead father’s bed, it turned hard.
Phil told Johnny to go get him a beer out of the fridge and by God he better “keep your fucking hands on it this time. If you drop it like the last one I’m gonna thump yer skull for ya!” Between the condensation on the can and Johnny’s clumsy, shaking, six-year-old hands, he never had a chance. Phil opened the can he was brought. Beer sprayed him in the face. The next thing Johnny was aware of was that he was sprawled on the floor on his stomach, soaking wet and stinking of beer. There was a throbbing pain in the side of his head and he was dizzy. That was Johnny’s only clear memory of that first time. Of course, it only got worse from there.
He was eight the first time he awoke in his bed to find Phil’s hand wrapped around his, which was stroking Phil’s cock. When Phil noticed he was awake he forced Johnny to open his mouth.
“You suck at everything else so you may as well learn how to do it right, you little faggot!”
After a while Phil was no longer content to just stick it in his mouth. When Johnny had tried to tell his mother she called him a liar and slapped him. When Phil found out he gloated that nobody would ever believe a little faggot like him so he had just better keep his mouth shut unless Phil wanted him to open it. Then he made Johnny turn around. Twenty minutes later if anyone heard the muffled moans and cries coming from the woodshed, they chose not to investigate.
When he was ten he ran away the first time. When he was twelve he attempted suicide. Now he was done. He had heard stories while growing up of boys having enough of their mothers’ abusive boyfriends or husbands and beating them within an inch of their lives. The problem was those boys were always bigger or stronger than their abusers. Johnny had missed out on the genetic lottery payoff. He was of average height, but had a small build and was thin even for that. He had none of the wiry strength the other farm boys his age developed and knew he never would.
His mother woke him early this morning so he could get started making breakfast. She had to work early in the diner, so he needed to make Phil’s eggs and bacon today. He reluctantly got out of bed to get started. Johnny knew what would be coming and was in no way looking forward to it. His eyes burned as he brushed his teeth.
Phil awoke to the delicious aroma of bread frying in bacon grease. The bed was empty, which was just the way he liked it. Her side of the bed empty meant she was already gone. Which meant he had time to… play… before he had to get to work. The boy was not good for much, but over the years he had learned several important skills: how to cook, how to suck, and how to bend over. There was not much fat on him, but he had enough where it counted.
Phil was not gay. He had made that fact perfectly clear to the boy over the last eleven years. He did not find the boy attractive and damned sure was not in love with him. For Phil only two things mattered where the boy was concerned: power and pleasure. This was his secret way of keeping the boy cowed, and his way of getting what Johnny’s mother would not give. There were just certain things she refused to do, and it was easier getting those things from Johnny than anywhere else. Phil was a strong believer in the old adage, “any port in a storm”.
He got out of bed, got dressed, and went to the bathroom to address the necessary. Fifteen minutes later he was shaved, his teeth were clean, and his bladder was empty.
“What’s cookin’ there, boy?” Phil asked as he ambled into the combination kitchen and dining area in the small house. Johnny flinched at the sound of his voice, just the way Phil liked it.
“Fried eggs, crispy bacon, potatoes with onions, crumbled sausage and cheese, and fried bread. Mom said you were gonna have a long day today, so I needed to make you a big breakfast. I’ve already got your lunch packed. I made you two BLTs and a fried egg sandwich. There’s a pickle in there, too.”
“Good. How long until it’s ready?”
“I’m about to make your plate.”
That made Phil smile. He rewarded the good news by grabbing the boy’s ass and grinding up against him. The boy jumped and pulled away.
“Not while I’m cooking, Phil.”
“After breakfast then. Your room. And if you try to fight me again I won’t be quite so gentle this time, you little faggot.”
The boy wheeled around, anger blazing in his too-bright eyes.
“Stop calling me that! You’re the one who gets his rocks off by fucking little boys! As far as I can tell the only person here who’s ever stuck his dick in someone else with a dick is you!”
Phil’s voice was deadly quiet as he stood. “Boy,” he said, “I do believe you just called me a faggot. Let’s get something straight here. You’re the one who sucks dick and takes it up the ass. That makes you, by definition, a faggot. It makes me sick just looking at you, knowing I raised a fucking faggot. Now you’re going to get on your knees and swallow what I give you to swallow by way of an apology, or I’m going to split your skull open.”
Phil’s eyes widened in surprise. “Say that again? I don’t think I heard you right.”
“NO!” the boy shouted at him, tears spilling from his eyes.
Phil lunged at Johnny; Johnny swung the frying pan still in his hand, hot bread, smoking bacon grease, and all. The contents struck the side of Phil’s head just before the rest of the skillet. Phil bellowed in rage and pain as he clawed at his eyes. Johnny bolted.
Johnny’s hand was on the doorknob when Phil caught him.
Five minutes later he was bent over his bed, his shorts around his ankles. He screamed with every thrust. Phil, in his anger, had gone in dry.
Twenty minutes later, Johnny lay curled on his mattress, crying. His shorts were still around his ankles. Blood and semen coated his thighs. His left eye was puffy and swollen where Phil had hit him and blood trickled from a corner of his mouth. Phil stood at the door of Johnny’s bedroom, buckling his belt.
“You ever try anything like that again, boy, and I’ll fucking kill you. I mean it. Now, I’m going to go eat my breakfast. Then I’m leaving. When I get back here this afternoon, I’d better find this place fucking spotless.”
Thirty minutes later Johnny heard the front door slam. He got up and went to the bathroom to clean himself up.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed his mother shared with Phil. Phil’s gun was in his hands. Over the years he had entertained this thought more times than he could count. He spasmed with silent sobs. Phil had threatened to kill him, and Johnny believed that he would do it eventually anyway. Happy fucking birthday, he thought. He was seventeen today. Still a minor, and still trapped here for at least another year. He looked at a framed portrait hanging on the wall. He and his mother stood around a seated Phil.
The anger flashed before he could even begin to try to stop it. He seized the portrait, smashed the glass, and ripped it to shreds. He picked up a piece of glass and made a deep long vertical cut up the inside of his forearm. Blood gushed onto the floor. With his uninjured hand he snatched the gun from the bed, put it to the shelf of his chin, and pulled the trigger. The world exploded into innumerable shafts of white light. Then all was darkness and oblivion.
Three hours later, his eyes flew open.
Johnny sat bolt upright. He had the worst headache he had ever known, and there were shooting pains in his left forearm. The bright morning sunlight had deepened into afternoon. He looked around. He was still in his mom’s room. The portrait was still shredded to bits and glass was all over the place. Blood was everywhere: the floor, the bed, the nightstand, him.
He looked at his arm and was surprised to find it uninjured. The skin was red and raw, but otherwise whole. He stood up and the world lurched. He stood still until the vertigo and nausea passed. Johnny made his way to the dresser and looked in the mirror. He looked as if he had just starred in a B grade horror movie, and somehow he was naked, but other than that he was fine. His eye was no longer puffy; his lip was no longer split. Gingerly, he reached behind his head, terrified of what he would find. To his astonishment and great relief, he found the back of his head intact. Then he looked back at the bed and screamed.
Lying on the bed in a pool of blood was his body missing half its head. The darkness took him again.
Phil enjoyed his Saturdays. That is to say, he usually enjoyed his Saturdays. His wife almost always worked a double shift at the diner in town on Saturdays. He got to sleep late before going out to work the fields, and he almost always managed to dip his wick in the boy at least once. Today was different. The boy had bucked up at him. Worse than that, the boy had hit him with a hot frying pan. The side of his face was burned bright red where the bread and bacon grease had splashed him and his entire head ached from the heavy skillet. He had applied a zinc oxide cream to his burns, but it still hurt like hell. When he finished up for the day he was going to put a hurt on that damned kid he would never forget.
Phil had never liked the boy. From the first time he saw him, Phil had taken him for a clumsy scrawny runt. And he was. The boy’s grades were never something to write home about, he had a habit of dropping and breaking things, and he was too scrawny and weak to even be much of a help out in the fields. The boy was too weak to sling hay bales and too incompetent to drive a tractor. As far as he could tell, the boy was only good at opening his mouth and bending over.
Phil sat in the shade of an old and towering oak tree, pondering the morning’s events and growing angrier each second as he ate his lunch, when his cell phone rang. He half-listened to the woman’s voice on the other end as he pondered his rage.
“Uh-huh. Yeah I figured you’d take the extra hours. No, it’s fine, we can use the money. How the fuck should I know what he’s doing? I can tell you what that no-good useless bastard isn’t doing and that’s fucking working! Whatever. What time do you think you’ll be home? Fine. I’m gonna knock off around three. No, I’ve just got a headache is all. I need to get under the tractor and check it out. I thought I smelled oil burning. After that I’m calling it quits for the day. Yeah. Love you too.”
He had figured out how to explain away the burn on his face while he was on the phone with her. Never underestimate the power of denial, he thought to himself as he gathered up the remains of his lunch.
Three hours later, he was heading back to the house. His face still burned like hell and his head was only slightly better. The boy was definitely going to pay for this. His mood was black as he opened the front door.
Phil paused for a moment in the front room of the house. All the lights were off and there was no sound. The house had a strange feel to it which he found impossible to identify. It felt empty, yet not. He had never been superstitious, but in that moment he felt a cold chill travel up his spine in that particular way only hauntings can cause. He reached for the wooden bat which lived by the door and cautiously turned on the light. The room was exactly the way he had left it.
He walked through the house, turning on lights as he went. His anger deepened when he saw the kitchen and dining room in the exact same condition as they were when he had left. I told that worthless bastard to clean this place up, he thought as he continued through the house. Phil looked in Johnny’s bedroom as he walked down the narrow hallway and found it messy, but no Johnny. It was then he saw the shape in his own bedroom.
“Johnny? Is that you?”
The shape neither moved nor answered. Phil clutched the bat tighter as he flicked the light on. What he saw horrified him. The boy stood facing away from him, naked as the day he was born and covered in red. Phil felt ice water run through his veins as he surveyed the ruin of his bedroom. When he saw what was on the bed he felt the bottom drop out of reality as his brain refused to accept what his eyes tried to show it.
The corpse of his stepson was melting into a puddle of ichor as he watched, but was still plainly Johnny. The gun lay beside what was left of the body, though Phil was too dumbstruck to grab for it.
“Hello, Phil,” the boy standing at the foot of the bed said, “welcome home. How’s your head?”
Phil could only look in horror as Johnny turned to face him. The expression on his face made it plain to Johnny that Phil would not be useful for pretty much anything ever again.
“I know what it looks like, and yeah, it’s pretty fucked up,” Johnny said, “it took me a while to wrap my head around it too. I mean, I blew my brains out with your gun, but here I am. Of course, I’m there too.” Johnny waved at the thing on the bed. “I don’t get it or how it happened, but there you go. I’m dead, but still alive.”
Phil’s gaze shifted from the thing on the bed to the thing standing before him.
“Oh yes, I’m alive. I’m not a ghost or anything like that. I checked. That,” he pointed at the mess on Phil’s bed, “was actually the second time I’ve committed suicide today. Believe me, it’s hell on the head. And the mattress, I’m guessing. Anyway. Now that the situation has changed somewhat, let me make something very clear to you”
Johnny took a step toward Phil, who stumbled backward as he raised the bat. The front of his pants grew visibly darker as Phil’s bladder let go.
“You will never touch me again, you sick fuck. But I’m going to touch you.” Johnny’s lips peeled back in a very sharp, pointed, and hungry smile. “This is for eleven years, you son of a bitch.”
Phil tried to swing the bat as Johnny lunged at him, but the space was too confined.
Twenty minutes later, if anyone heard the muffled screams coming from the house, they chose not to investigate.