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K. M. Rodgers
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dontreadthis.jpg
Art by Jeff Fallow 2010

“WARNING!
DON’T READ THIS!”



K. M. Rodgers


Warning! Don’t Read This!” it said on the cover, the same as this.

 

She looked it over before reading on.

 

“Now you’ve done it!” it said. “You’ve sealed your fate. You’ve signed your own Death Warrant! Just remember . . . I tried to warn you, just like I tried to warn all the others. . . .”

 

She kept reading. 


          “I remember the first person I tried to warn,” it said. “I didn’t know her name.  I didn’t know any of their names, just like I don’t know yours. She was just one of the many, just like you. She was a beautiful young coed at the college. She had feathery blonde hair, the kind that almost seems white. She had on a white knitted sweater and jeans with brown shoes. She was sitting on a cement park bench, much like the one you’re sitting on right now with her petite legs crossed at the knee, just like you
.” 

 

The young coed looked around; she was indeed sitting on a cement bench with her legs crossed at the knee.

 

“This very story, the one you’re reading now, was sitting there next to her, waiting for her to pick it up, just like you did. I warned her, just as I warned you. She didn’t listen, either; none of you ever listen, until it’s too late.” 

 

She stopped reading as the bus approached; she slipped the

manuscript in her book bag with her textbooks as smoothly as if it were Cosmo or something. 

 

On the bus, she sat down, and pulled the manuscript out of her book bag and began reading again. 

 

“From that moment on, her fate was sealed, as is yours. That’s when I saw ‘him’.” She folded the papers and tucked them under her arm with the rest of her books as the bus arrived, oblivious to the one that got on the bus behind her, just as you were oblivious to the one who got on after you.”

 

She glanced around her at the other passengers and then read on.


         “He practically appeared, materialized, out of the thin air.  It was as if her possessing the story gave life to him. He was a dark, evil thing. It was like looking at a living shadow, or more like a negative of a living picture.  His face was that of a clown in reverse. Like something that had gone wrong with a circus picture in the dark room.”

 

She glanced behind her before reading on.

 

 “He was dark where he should’ve been light and light where he should’ve been dark; yet it was more than just that. His smile was upside down in a surreal frown. It sounds so vague, I know, but he was hard to see; it was hard to hold the image of his figure. He kept slipping in and out of focus. He was hard to follow with the naked eye.


        “He put one of his shady fingers to his lips and shushed me, and then dragged it across what I took to be his throat. Warning me of what would happen if I should try to warn her again. An evil, dark grin spread across his face. Then he took that same dim finger and beckoned me to follow.


        “I followed.”

 

       A girl in front of the bus pulled the cord and got up. The coed saw a man get up and follow her off, and then she resumed reading.

 

      “She led him back to her apartment. She lived in an apartment building near mid-town, not far from school. It was one of those old houses, the kind that used to be really big around the turn of the century, with the nice woodwork.  You know, with molding around the doors and chair rails that started at the baseboards and came halfway up the wall, and had that ornate crown molding. It was dark and drab; the breezeway had been painted a sick pea-green and the light was suspended from a broken fixture that cast the light eerily at weird angles and created deep shadows where there should be none. The locks were heavy and old; they opened with the resounding clank of metal on metal, just like where you live.”

 

         The coed pulled the bus cord and got off at her stop. 

 

        She stood looking up at her apartment building.  It was indeed one of those ’50s styled-houses with the large front porch that had been converted into apartments. She put the key in the latch and it gave way with the heavy clanking of metal-on-metal. The fixture in the hallway was broken and cast eerie shadows on the pea green walls. 

 

       She set her books down on the table and threw her coat on the couch.  She pulled at her pink satin blouse to get it to hang more comfortably as she went into the kitchen. She washed the dishes her roommate had so carelessly left behind, and fixed a steaming hot cup of Earl Grey. She placed the tea on a saucer and sat down at the table next to her book bag to finish reading her purloined letter. 


      “I followed him around the back side of the building, behind the bushes that had grown up around the windows, almost to the point of clogging the air conditioner. She was in the kitchen clanking dishes together. She came out of the kitchen with a steaming cup on a saucer, just like you did. I was amazed at his audacity. She walked right by him and never even glanced in his direction.”

 

        She glanced around her before resuming reading.

 

      How could she not see him? I know she probably had other things on her mind, but how could she not see that ghoulish face? How could she not feel his hideous presence? Didn’t it make the hair on the back of her neck stand up just to be near him? Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you be able to tell if someone were so close to you that they could see the color of your eyes?  If they were so close that they could tell if you had bad breath? Or when the last time you had bathed? You’d be able to tell, wouldn’t you? You haven’t yet, have you?”

 

Absently, she rubbed the back of her neck.

 

        “She sat down at the table next to her book bag with her back to the window and pulled ‘it’ slowly, inexorably, from her book bag. Inch-by-inch, it slid out from its hiding spot beneath her textbooks. She took off her sweater to reveal a shiny pink satin blouse. She threw her sweater against the back of a chair and took a sip from her hot cup. It warmed her against the fall chill. She began reading and then it happened again.

 

“He was outside with me. I could see him, just barely, but I could see him. The more she read, the more he disappeared from my sight, and the more he appeared inside. It was like osmosis, molecule-by-molecule he seemed to be fading away from my sight and becoming more solid inside. I could see his evil form growing, becoming more solid behind her. He didn’t make a sound; I don’t think he even breathed. He was as quiet as a church mouse, or more appropriately, a snake in the church!”

 

          When her cat hissed, she jumped, nearly spilling her tea. She went on reading.

 

        “Her cat hissed; the fiend hid himself behind the floor length curtain, his shoes protruding ever so slightly.

 

          She glanced up, over at the curtain, then back down.

 

       “You can see him there, can’t you?  How could you miss him? Can’t you smell his foul odor? Can’t you smell his breath? You can feel him, can’t you? Listen carefully; you can hear his breathing over the rustling of the curtains just behind your ear, can’t you?”

 

          For a moment, she stopped reading again, and listened. Again, she jumped, as the cat ran out of the room.

 

      “He kicked at the fat calico; it ran into the other room. She sipped from her cup once or twice. He didn’t flinch; he just kept inching closer and closer. Mockingly, he reached out from his hiding spot and waved, and smiled that evil smile at me again, as she went back to her reading, just like you. Like the fog rolling in, he didn’t seem to be walking, yet the distance between them shrank. He ran his hands down the length of her hair. He was so close, the static from his hands lifted her hair ever so slightly. He sniffed at the remnants of the perfume that she had dabbed behind her ears this morning. He was so close, he could read from over her shoulder. She shivered and ran her hand across her slender neck.” 

 

          Her hair was sweating. She didn’t want to turn around.

         “I guess she hated that feeling of someone reading over her shoulder, don’t you? Reading over your shoulder, reading word for word right along with you?”

 

        She forced herself to keep reading. 

 

       “The more she read, the closer he got. The ends of her hair made his nose twitch. 

 

       “Can’t you feel your hair tickling his nose?”

 

        With a shaky hand, she turned the page; she was almost to the end.

 

        “She was right about here, where you are now . . .”

 

         She wanted to stop, but kept on reading.

 

       “I turned away, I couldn’t bear to watch. What would he do when she read those ill-fated last words? I sat in mute horror, afraid to move, afraid to speak, afraid of the inevitable. I peeked nervously between my fingers, like a frightened child, too horrified to watch and too enthralled to look away. . . . 

 

        “I didn’t know then, but I do know now. Should I tell you? Do you want to know? What would you do? What do you think he would do? What do you think he did? What do you think he’ll do to you when your time comes? Can you imagine?”

 

          Her heart pounding, she turned to the last page.


       There was the sudden chill of death in the air as the lovely, young coed turned the last page. He hung over her like the dark cloud of death he was, so . . . ominous, so oppressive, that I could feel his weight from outside. I could see the weight of his presence descend upon her, causing her to hunch as she read, bending her very soul, closing in all around her, engulfing her in his darkness. By the time she read the final words, she was almost totally obscured from my sight.  

 

        Just like I’m losing sight of you.” 

 

        She stared blindly at the page.

       “Let me ask you. . . . How do you feel? Do you feel his presence pressing down upon you? Can you feel the growing weight of his darkness bending your very soul ever downward? Can you feel his mounting anticipation as he waits for you to read those exact words that all the others before you have read before they realized it was too late? How does it feel to know that he’s right behind you, coiled like a snake waiting to strike as soon as you read . . .


THE END!”

 

** *

 

         “Warning!  Don’t Read This!” it said on the cover. 

 

         She looked it over before reading on.

 

        “Now you’ve done it! You’ve sealed your fate. You’ve signed your own Death Warrant! Just remember . . . I tried to warn you, just like I tried to warn all the others. . . .”

 

 

babycakes.jpg

Babycakes

 

Keith M. Rodgers

 

 

            “Now, what kind of club is this?”  Marie asked.

            “I don’t know,” Marty answered, straightening his tie in the mirror, “I promise to tell you all about it when I get back.”

            “You say it’s down on East Thirty-fifth street?”

            “Yes ma’am.  Down on East Thirty-fifth Street.”  Marty knew from twenty years of marriage how this would go.  Marie would keep asking him the same questions over-and-over until she found a hole in his story for which she could pull out the truth.  He chalked it up to her merely being uncomfortable.  He knew answering her questions would help put her mind at ease.

            “Isn’t it kind of late for a club?

            “Unless it’s an after hours club.”

            “Do they serve alcohol at this club?

            “I don’t know, I guess so.  Tell you all about it when I get back.”

            “Is it a ‘social’ club, or one of those ‘gentlemen’s clubs?”

            “I think it’s more of a ‘social’ club.  Spoony doesn’t seem like the type that would go in for a ‘gentlemen’s club.”

            “I don’t know, all those old rich people could be closet freaks.  Remember: they have to be ‘in’ the closet before they can come ‘out‘.”

            “If it were that kind of club I don’t think he would’ve invited me.”

            “Never know, they might just want a ‘change-of-pace’ in the place.”  Marie giggled from over Marty’s shoulder.  “Do they allow women in this club?”

            “I don’t know, Baby.  I’ve never been there before.  When I get back …,”  Marty gestured with his hands, “I’ll tell you all about it.”

            “Well, why did the boss invite you, Marty Robinson?  You mean to tell me that some old rich white guy invited you to some secret mid-night rendezvous at a secret club, and you accepted without asking one single question?”

            “Well, …,”  Marty thought about the weight of her argument, “yeah.  I mean, it’s not like he’s a total stranger.  I’ve known Ol’ Spoony since I started working for The Firm.  He seems like an okay guy to me.  He’s never given me any indication that he’s anything else but what he seems.”

            “O’ my poor sweet darling, my poor sweet ‘innocent’ darling.  Don’t you know anything about these types?  They always seem normal on the outside: until they get you alone in the dark and then …,”  her voice trailed off.

            “Then what?”  He chuckled

            “I don’t know, you’re the one traipsing off with your white friend in the middle of the night, you tell me.” 

            Honk!  Honk!

            “That must be my cab now.”  Marty Robinson said to his wife as he finished tightening his tie.  “I’ll tell you all about it when I get back, okay?”  Marty kissed his wife on the cheek and grabbed his coat as he dashed out the door.  “Don’t wait up.”  He shouted over his shoulder as he shot down the stairway of the apartment building.  He ran down the stairs practically faster than he could have fallen.  Marty knew every creak and groan the staircase made.  He knew which ones where loose and which ones where sturdy.  He knew where the weathered spots were; where you would pick up splinters and where the banister had been freshly varnished, (it hadn’t been even slightly varnished in the twenty years that he and Marie had lived here).  Outside the bitter cold wind of a Nor’easter took his breath away.  

            “Whew!”  Marty said as he mad a dash into the cab, slamming the door behind him.  It only took a second for the biting cold to penetrate every layer of clothing he had on and freeze him to the bone.  “The hawk is out tonight!”

            “Where to Mac?”  The cabby asked.

            “249 B, East 42nd St.” 

            “Whoa boy,” the Cabby whistled.  “That’s a ritzy neighborhood.”  The Cabby said in a low, raspy voice.

            “Is it?  I don’t know, I’ve never been there.”

            “I’ll say.  Whatcha’ doin’ up there this time of night?” 

            “Meeting a friend from work.”

            “A nightcap, eh?”

            “You could say that.”

            “Is it cold enough for you?”  The cabby asked.

            “Yeah, cold as a witch’s teat.” 

            “What do you know about a witch’s teat?”  Marty noticed the cabbies demeanor change. 

            “Nothing, really.  It’s just a figure of speech.”

            “Nothin’!  You’re absolutely right about that.  You know nothin’ about a witch’s teat.  They could be hot as hell and you wouldn’t know the difference, now would you?”

            “No.”  Marty answered, “I wouldn’t.”

            “Well, take it from someone who knows: a witch’s teat isn’t always cold.”

            “Isthatso?”  Martin asked.

            “Yeah, that’s so.  I’ve suckled from a witch’s teat, and at times it was as cold as the north wind is tonight, it was so cold it would suck the breath clean out of ya’ like a drowning man.  At other times it was hot in your hands, warm to the touch, warm to the tongue, and brought such pleasure as a man ought not to know.  Look at me,” the cabby asked, “how old do you think I am?”  Marty regarded the cabby; he had more dirt-gray tuffs of hair growing out of his ears than around the edges of his bald pate, dark bags hung down from his eyes like a tired hound dog, liver spots covered his shaking hands that Marty took for the beginnings of Parkinson’s.  His shoulders slumped badly like they had lost all the strength of his youth. The skin hung from his face—making his cheeks look hollow.  Marty could hear his loose dentures floating around in his mouth when he didn’t have that big toothy grin flashing.  Truth to tell, he didn’t look like he should be driving a cab at all.  He looked like he should be in an old folks home waiting for the ‘chariot’ to ‘swing low’ and ‘carry him home.’ 

            “About 70.”  Marty was trying to be kind, the old man had to be upward of 80.

            “You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m probably not much older than you.  What are you?  44, 45 maybe?”  Marty nodded.

            “Around that.  Wha …, happ …,?”  Marty stuttered, fumbling for the right words without being insulting.

            “What happened?  I’ll tell you ‘what happened‘, alright.”  The cabby began his sad tale:

            “It happened when I was a young man, younger than you.  I was about 25; ‘young and dumb and full of cum’ the Sergeant would call us.  I’m from a small town down near Tupelo, Ms.  I was hanging around at ‘The Spot’.  It’s a little juke joint where all the fellas would get together and swap stories over drinks.  It was a little rundown, whole-in-da-wall kind of place, you know.  It had one way in and one way out.  The kind of place where everyone sits with their backs to the wall.  Well, I was fresh out of da Army, I was still in uniform, my little cunt cap tilted on the side of my head.  You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t sharp.  Well, I was down there with some of my buddies from High School who hadn’t ever got enough gumption to leave that little one horse town when a couple of fellas I had never seen befo’ walks in and slams down their pistols on our table.  That meant they wanted our table and we could both get up and walk out, or get carried out.  Well, I thought I was hot shit anyway, you-know.  I was ready to jump up, my buddy put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘Walter, if you don’t have nothing’ in your hand besides skin then you’d better calm down and come with us.’  He saved my life that day.  We picked up our little pint of whiskey that we had wrapped in a paper bag and went outside. 

            “It was a full moon outside, some might call it a hunter’s moon—the way it lights up everything; some might call it a witching moon, just depends on which way the wind was blowing—that night an ill wind was blown out of the east.  The east wind is supposed to be poison.  This one was poison; it was an omen.  We walked down by the riverside and had us a drink.  We were passin’ da bottle around pretty good when this woman walks by.  I remember it like it was yesterday:  I said “Who is that?”  They all clucked their teeth at me sayin’ “Man, you ain’t been gone that long, have you?  That’s ol’ Babycakes.  She’s been walkin’ these here streets since befo’ you could walk.” 

         “Babycakes?!” I said, “Yo, sho’?”  I don’t know if it was the whiskey or the moonlight, or some witchin’ spell she put on me but she looked alright to me.             

         “Do you know what you get when you cross a donkey with an onion?”  The cabby interrupted his story to ask.

            “No.”  

            “An ass that’ll bring tears to your eyes.  That’s what we call an onion booty, an ass that’ll bring tears to yo’ eyes, an’ she sho’ nuff had one.  Man, I’m telling’ you!  It had to be jelly ‘cause jam don’t shake like that!  Yeah, her body was bangin’, but she had what we called a ‘butter’ face.”

            “A butter face?” 

            “Yeah, a ‘butter’ face.  Her body was a brick shithouse, ‘but ‘er face’ was tore up!  She looked like me in the face, and I mean like I look now.” 

            “A definite two-bagger, huh?”

            “Yeah, man.  I’m telling’ ya’.  You put that second bag on in case the first one falls off, and a burlap sack so it doesn’t rub up against you.”    I don’t know what happened, but her body was young and strong like Serena Williams, you-know, the tennis star, but her face?”  The old man’s voice trailed off.  She had on this old piece of matted up wig, and these dark hollowed out cheekbones and no teeth.  She could barely keep her head still.

            ‘How you boys doin’?’ She asked us.

            ‘Fin.’  We all answered together.  I don’t know if it was me, the uniform or because I was hold’en the bottle, but she walks right up to me, all close like ‘Can I git a sip of dat?’ in this school girl voice that all women seem to have when they wants something’

            ‘Sho’.  I sez, like a big ol’ stupid country boy that aint never been offada’ farm.  My buddies is just a waven’ me off behind her back, but I can’t see a thing, because when she sidles up next to me I can see clear down her blouse!  Them titties are just sittin’ there, glisten’ in the moonlight.  The cool night air had her nipples standing at attention like soldiers at inspection by the General himself.  She rubs ‘em up against my hand that I’m holden’ the bottle with, ‘n’ they’z just as soft ’n’ firm as my momma’s down pillows, and my little soldier begins to stand at attention with a quickness so that I have to adjust myself.  She kno’ what’s goin’ on between my legs, and I’m a little embarrassed but she ain’t. 

            “She takes a swig and presses up against me and when she does all the smells and odors of the riverside fades away.  My nose is wide open and I can’t smell none of the dead fish from the river, or the trash, or even the sewer drain we’re standing on.  All I can smell is baked goods:  Fresh baked bread, momma’s biscuits on Sunday morning, hot pumpkin pie with cinnamon spice and nutmeg.  My head was swimming.       

            “She offered the bottle back to my buddies and they all wave her off, “No, Ma’am.”  They sez, “You can keep that.”  and “No, thanks.  That’s yours now.”  They was smarter than I was, or just luckier.  She pulls me by the belt buckle, I wanted to tell her not to get her fingerprints on it on account as I had shined it down to the metal - I was right proud of that - but I couldn’t say a thing.  “Come on, you.”  She pulls at my belt again, “What sez you’n’me goes and finishes this together?”  I wanted to tell her ‘hell naw’, and ‘get yo’ hands off of me’, but I couldn’t say a word.  She just pulled and I followed.  I was being led to my doom by my groin.  My buddies were just a laughin’ and jeerin’:  ‘Walter’s gonna’ get him some tonight!’  and ‘Go head, Walter.’  None of ‘em tried to stop me, none of ‘em tried to save me.  I don’t fault them tho’.  They couldn’t have known what was going to happen’, none of them could have known what she had planned for me, none of ‘em could’a known what she was going to do to me, could they?”

            “What happened?”  Marty asked.  “What did she do to you?”

            “Well,” the cabby continued, “she leads me down river to this little shack.  It’s a little run down, ramshackle of a place that don’t look like it can stand a strong wind.  She leads me in by the belt buckle and I can’t see a thing!  I mean it was pitch black inside, which is good because, not only can I not see my hand in front of my face, but I can’t see her face atoll!.  I can feel the softness of her hands as she takes off my shirt. I can feel the warmth of her body as she presses her nakedness next to mine.  Her skin is as soft ‘n smooth as the day she was born under my roughened hands.  I start kissing her shoulders, her neck, her titties, those wonderful, succulent titties.  I kiss her everywhere but on the lips:  after all - this is sex, not love. 

            I lays her down on this pallet of old rags she has piled up on the floor and I enter her and it’s all goodness, you know?  I mean it’s like that feeling you get when you take hot sheets out of the dryer, just warm goodness all over, right?  Well, we starts out slow moving together and we start to picking up the pace as the rhythm picks up.  Faster and faster we go and then it hits me.”

            “What, what hit you?”

            “My heart.  It felt like a cramp in my heart.  I had one of her titties in my right hand so’s I reach for my chest with my left except I can’t open my hand.  I try to tell her to stop, something’s wrong but I can’t speak.  Right then that ol’ moon, that witch’s moon shone through the window and I see’s her face, it aint the face of an ol’ woman, it aint the face of a young woman: It’s the face of a demon!  Red eyes, slobbering jowls, the works.  Her little piece of matted wig falls off and there’s horns underneath, little hooked horns.  That ol’ east wind begins a blowing and that little shack is swaying’ to and fro and I’m frozen stiff.  She looks at me through those hot demon eyes and laughs.  She flips me over and starts riding me.  I looked at my hand that I had clutched to my chest and it was turning into a claw.  Her breast turned cold in my hand, bitter cold; although she sweated her body ran cold: all that love making that started out so hot, turned deathly cold.  Her color that had once been so enticing in the moonlight drained away until she was ashen like the color of the living dead.      

            “Now my heart’s a beating like it wants to jump out of my chest, and I can hardly take a breath through the pain.  I manage to suck in a little air like a drowning man coming up for his last breath, not much, but enough to stay alive.  Somewhere inside of me I know it’s coming to the end.  I know once I cum it’s all over for me.  The demon will suck all the life out of me and leave me an empty shell of a man to rot forever.” 

            “What did you do?”

            “I did the only thing I could do, I closed my eyes and prayed:  ‘Dear Lord, Jesus, help me!’  And do you know what?  Just then I found enough strength to kick that demon off of me.  Babycakes fell to the dirt floor screaming bloody murder. 

            The spell was broken.  I jumped up and fled from that place and never looked back.  I didn’t stop running till I was clear in the next county.  I stopped at the bus station that was closing down.  I went in to use the toilet and when I looked at myself in the mirror I looked like this here near about.  My hair had turned gray, and my face was old, and my hands have been shaking like this here ever since.”

            “What did your friends say?”

            “Don’t know, I never saw them again.  I figured I couldn’t go home like this.  My own Momma wouldn’t recognize me, besides I couldn’t bear the shame of what I did, and who I’d done it with.  The bus was pulling out and the man said it was the last one of the night, so I got on it and didn’t get off of it till it got here, and I’ve been here ever since.  It’s been almost 30 years.  I go over that day every night; I’ve tried sober and I’ve tried drunk, I’ve tried hung over and I’ve tried high.  I’ve washed two and three times a day and still I can’t get clean, I can’t get it off of me, I can’t get the stain off of my soul.  If only I could have that night back again, I’d give anything to get that night back again, to have my whole life ahead of me, I wouldn‘t waste it like I did.  The only thing that can save me know is what saved me before, the blood of Jesus Christ.”  That sat quietly as the cold nor’easter blew outside of the cab.

            “Looks like this is your stop, Mac.  That’ll be 37.50.”  Marty pulled out a fifty dollar bill and handed it to the old timer.

            “Keep the change.  You deserve it.”  After Marty excited the taxi the cab driver took the bill and gave it a big kiss, “Works every time!”
 
 

Keith Rodgers is a disabled veteran of the U.S. Army and describes himself as a Postal Worker with an overactive imagination. You can find him on facebook, myspace, and lit.org. He is a fan of “The Childrens’ DefenseFund”, and Michael Baisdesn’s Million Mentor Program”, and is a supporter of Breast Cancer Awarness, and is a Volunteer at Ele’s Place. Direct all comments to kmrdgrs326@yahoo.com

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