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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

ym_76_oct19_blackbeasthlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

The Black Beast of Fulham

 

By Alice Wickham

 

When wise men travel from the Orient, gold flows like lava.

The House of Love had a hot-house flower called Blossom. In the basement of a crumbling Georgian Villa on the North End Road, in Fulham, men and sometimes women, worshipped at the altar of her sex, kissing the feet that were festooned with silver and gold.

A certain mogul, who, being advised of her charms, decided to visit the seductress in her lair. He sent word that he would come on a specific date when the moon was high. Ruby, the owner of the club, demanded ten thousand pounds. The servant called his master. Not a problem, said the mogul.

On the appointed date, the mogul arrived. He wore a black silk suit and gold jewellery. His Limousine cruised along the narrow London streets, curving into the North End. Passers-by wondered about the occupant. Who was it? A visiting dignitary? A drug baron? 

The mogul eyed the greasy, rubbish-strewn pavements. It excited him that hidden amidst such dross he would find the rarest of jewels. Nevertheless, a warning pranced into his mind, “Hell has three entries, greed, anger and lust”.

A chill entered his bones, and a small, nagging voice tugged at the mogul’s brain. Was it wise to visit a place such as this?

But thoughts of the girl spurred him on and besides, his servant had assured him that all was in order.

***

Ruby sat in the company of Mack, the new owner. She was drinking heavily.  

Mack listened to the story of Blossom, again. “This kid comes into the club, I looked her over. Scrawny but sexy if you know what I mean.  I ask her, “ow old are you love?” “Eighteen.” She says. "Course, you are,” I say. Well, she wasn’t no more ‘n sixteen, if that. Anyway, I let her in and give her a glass of wine. I say, “Have you danced before, love?” She goes, “Yeah.” I mean, “Where was that then?” She goes, “Paris.” Ruby laughed bitterly. “I thought, poor bloody runaway. They all say the same thing.” 

Ruby’s shot glass was empty, she snapped her fingers at the barmaid. “Gimme another, and while you’re at it, let me see that bottle!   

The barmaid sauntered over and showed Ruby the triple malt 100-year-old whiskey. She poured a shot into Ruby’s glass then screwed the top back on. She slid the bottle under the bar counter, swapping it for a bottle of coloured water with an identical label. 

“Keep it there,” Ruby said. “I paid for it, good an’ proper.”

Mack glanced sideways at the aging whore next to him. She had been a looker once, even up to her late forties. Even now, with her roots on display through auburn hair, she had a trace of her old sex appeal. But Ruby drank to cope with her demons. It made him nervous.

“All of us,” Ruby said, her voice slurring. “We was all under the spell of that girl.”

***

The Limousine trained its beams on the ornate porchway of the crumbling, eighteenth-century villa. Leaping out of the car, the driver opened the rear door, and the mogul stepped out. With arms outstretched he inhaled the night air. Then he shook his wrists. The click of his gold wristwatch drew an envious glance from his bodyguard. The mogul strode toward the stairs leading up to the porch, but before mounting the steps, he glanced up at the North star, visible over the rooftops that night. He thought it an auspicious sign.

He and his guard mounted the steps. At the top, both men stood next to an imposing statue of an erect lion. The guard pressed the buzzer and they heard the sound of locks being unbolted behind the main door. The door swung open and a heavy-set Arab stood in front of them with a menacing look on his face.

 “Welcome sir, we’ve been expecting you.”

The mogul bristled at the tiny but discernible hint of condescension in the man’s tone of voice. He said with high confidence and authority, “I am Prince Abdul Kareem, expected here. Kindly permit entry.”

The Arab bowed and the mogul and his guard entered the dimly-lit lobby, where indolent whores sat on large round cushions staring at their smart phones. An old woman sat watching over them, smoking a cigarette.

“This way,” the Arab said, opening an inner door. Stairs led down to a basement. The guard touched his jacket nervously—he breathed a sigh of relief, the shooter was still in place. Besides, the others were out in the courtyard, armed with their semi-automatic rifles.

The mogul was no longer nervous, he felt intoxicated by a strange perfume that hung in the air.  Normally, he prided himself on his wide-ranging knowledge of such things, but this scent was one he could not place.

The Arab led the men down two flights of stairs. They walked along a carpeted hallway, and wall-mounted lamps spread lurid red light over their approaching forms. With each step, the mogul’s excitement increased rapidly. By the time they had reached the inner sanctum, his heart was pounding in his chest.

He snapped at the Arab. “Where is the girl?! When can I see her?”

The Arab said, “Your guard must leave. He may not see inside.”

The mogul nodded. He turned to his servant and said in their own language, “Wait here until I return. If I am not back within an hour, come inside, and use your gun.”

On the other side of the veil, the mogul’s eyes struggled to adjust to the velvety darkness. A familiar musky scent assailed his nostrils. Tall candlesticks stood in the four corners if the room, their light cast a diaphanous glow. Long silk curtains hung from the ceilings, giving the room a gossamer effect. Six pale and beautiful girls sat naked encircling a dark ovule in their midst. The mogul did not give them a second thought. His hot mind searched for Blossom, who was hidden in their midst. He wanted to taste her with his lips and devour her.

The Arab escorted his guest to a comfortable couch, where a table was waiting, laden with food and wine, but the mogul had not come to eat or drink. Almost immediately, the dancers began their seductive arts, teasing him with their lithe young bodies.  He sat unmoved, awaiting the desire of his heart. She was strangely silent, her head bowed, covered in a black robe, as still and lifeless as a doll.

***

Ruby’s mind grew foggy as the details of her life were slipped away, yet she remembered the robe worn by the girl that night.  A black hooded robe it was, that shielded her nakedness and gave her an air of mystery. It was her mystery that captivated the mogul, as it did all men.  No one knew where she was from, or to what race she belonged.

At first, it didn’t matter to Ruby—Blossom was the goose that laid the golden egg, and that was all.

Later, Ruby grew obsessed with the girl, like everyone else. One night, she questioned her star dancer. “I don’t get it, why do you stay here, I mean you are so beautiful, you could marry a prince?”

Blossom looked at her questioner with deep, fathomless eyes.  She smiled knowingly, and her silence unnerved Ruby, who wanted to smash her open like a melon just to see what lay inside that exotic shell.

***

The mogul finally dismissed the blonde dancers. He summoned Blossom who rose from her cushioned seat and came and sat by his side. He made his request and slowly, deliberately, she unpeeled her garment. Long flickering shadows whipped at her pale brown skin, lashing at her tiny breasts. As the mogul caressed the cool dark skin, he struggled to control the burgeoning fires of chaotic lust arising in his body.  

***

Mack hated seeing Ruby crying in her liquor, her eyes streaked with makeup and tears. He slid the empty glass across the counter. “Fill it up.” 

The barmaid raised an eyebrow at Mack. Mack nodded, but he felt uneasy.

“We didn’t know…How we could know? Nothing like it before,” Ruby was saying in a slurred voice.

The barmaid poured whiskey from the special bottle under the bar counter. Ruby couldn’t tell the difference.

***

The mogul pushed himself into the girl.  A sweet scent filled the atmosphere, growing stronger, more piquant as his passion grew. Finally, his lust exploded in a spasm of pure joy, and the mogul whispered his last words on earth, “Oh my sweet dark angel.”

***

Ruby’s memories crashed in her befuddled brain. She heard that same loud buzzing noise—she felt the sickening vibration as the mogul’s torn and bloodied head thumped onto the floor at her feet.

Ruby moaned. The trapdoor to hell had re-opened, and she expected to die, but on regaining consciousness, she saw that the thing had gone.

The Arab was outside shaking from head to foot. The mogul’s men were pushing and prodding at his passive body, trying to get him to talk, to explain what had happened. They reported seeing a dark shape leaping onto the rooftops and streaking into the moonlit sky, leaving a red tail in its wake, like a comet.

In all, they gathered fifty pieces of the mogul’s body. The remains were terrible. The Arab lost his mind that night.  Ruby was slowly losing hers.

***

Mack had heard enough. Ruby’s drinking was tiresome and dangerous. She was describing a murder in his club. Some kind of female Jack the Ripper. It was crazy talk, it would turn his clients away.  

He looked at the old whore slumped over the bar, drunk and unconscious.  He didn’t need her any more. The deal was done, she had signed the club over to him for a pittance. Her time was up, the club belonged to him.

Mack clicked his fingers. A man slid from the shadows.

“She’s nuts. Total Jalfrezi.” Mack said. “Take her outside, get rid of her.”

At the side of the old house, where they kept the bins, the assassin unsheathed his gun, but not before Ruby opened her eyes, and moaned. The would-be murderer cocked the weapon, but a loud, buzzing noise caused him to look around.  

He kicked at one of the bins. “Fuckin’ flies.”

Ruby smelled that rotting meat smell and heard the sound of those flapping wings. She stared over the assassin’s shoulder, her eyes bugging with fear. “Oh, please, no, please no, not again ...!”

The assassin swung around to see what it was she was looking at. He tried to cry out but the scream choked in his throat.

The creature pinned him to the ground, eating into his mind with cold, fathomless eyes, and in the effulgent light of a yellow moon, it sucked the bones clean out of his body.

***

That night, a blood-curdling scream pierced the North End Road. None of the residents called the police; instead, they locked their windows and doors and went quietly to bed.



Alice Frances Wickham is an alumna of Birkbeck College. She participated in the Creative Writing programme in 2011. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Alice now lives in South West London. She enjoys the absurdities and contradictions of everyday life and is working on a compilation of short stories for publication in 2019. 


Alice’s work appears in Litro Magazine, New London Writers, Edge, Paradise Press, Tales to Terrify and other outlets.  

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019