Black Petals Issue #102, Winter, 2023

Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Betterment Day: Fiction by Malik Mandeville
Bridget Magnus: Fiction by Dean Patrick
Cemetery Road: Fiction by Richard Brown
I Quit: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Ivory Tower: Fiction by Aron Reinhold
Letter from a Poison Pen Pal: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Neck of the Woods: Fiction by Harris Coverley
No Angels: Fiction by Kilmo
It's A Dry Heat: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Requited Love: Fiction by Travis Mushanski
Stuck in Transit: Fiction by Michael Woods
Cold Yearning: Flash Fiction by Kat Sandefer
I Married a Zombie: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Snack Time: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
The Boy Who Loved Bolt: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Cutting Room: Flash Fiction by Karen Schauber
Dirty Blue Bandana: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Bidee Bodee, Bidee Beaux: Poem by Thomas Fischer
Blood of Whitechapel: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Rotten to the Core: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Seque into Shadows: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Sensitivity to Light: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Boo Hag: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Paranormal Parasites: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Huggin Molly: Poem by Richard Stevenson
In the Morgue of Memory: Poem by Hillary Lyon
Unexpected Culinary Opportunity: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
OI (Oo-ee): Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Plant Eater Gone Carnivorous: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
They Shouldn't Be There: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Needle Spins: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Cold: Poem by Rp Verlaine
The Sleepwalker: Poem by Rp Verlaine

Travis Mushanski: Requited Love: Vengeance, Distillation and Transmogrification

Art by Darren Blanch © 2023

Requited Love: Vengeance, Distillation and Transmogrification


By Travis Mushanski


Linus opened the door to the honeymoon suite and disgust contorted his facial features. A gust of wind rustled past his legs, stirring up a decade of dust. The stench of dead air and mold assaulted his senses. He tried to bury his nose in the elbow of his suit jacket, but he was too late: his upper torso scrunched into a series of uncontrollable sneezes. He leaned against the abused doorframe to regain his composure.

The motel room was a relic from the early seventies: it featured a color palette of red, orange, yellow and brown. He walked over to a round bed on a raised platform, plush orange shag carpet crunched under his feet, and pressed a hand into its mass of blankets. He chuckled to himself when a wave rippled across its surface. Surprise! It’s a waterbed.

In the reflection of the mirrored walls, he caught sight of what he had come for: a heart shaped Jacuzzi. It sat nestled in the corner of the room, sunk into a platform covered in white tile, and like the rest of the room, it was also surrounded by mirrors. He traced its candy-red edge with his hand and smiled, nodding at his own reflection in the mirror. Despite the tiles around the Jacuzzi showing signs of wear and tear, the tub itself was in immaculate shape. Its beveled lip was glossed to a high shine, and the interior glistened a pearl white.

Linus reached over and fiddled with the tap handles, and the pipes in the wall responded with an annoyed clunk and jangle. A gurgle of brown sludge sprayed out of the spout followed by crystal clear, steamy water. He cautiously ran a hand beneath its flow, evaluating its viscosity with his fingertips. He sniffed the water to ensure it hadn’t gone stagnant from sitting in the pipes for years. He shrugged to himself in the mirror and inserted the stopper into the drain.

While the tub filled, he moved back to the waterbed and began to undress. He delicately slid off his suit jacket and laid it out on the bed; he stopped momentarily to rub off some dust and to pick off a stray fuzz. He did the same with his dress shirt, tie and trousers. Once everything was in perfect shape, he neatly hung it all in the nearby closet. Lastly, he slipped off his brown loafers, tied the laces into a bow and placed them on the shoe rack.

Linus took a moment to inspect himself in the mirror and smiled at the absurd creature staring back. He now only wore a white undershirt tucked into his briefs and black dress socks. He adjusted his glasses and chortled at his own middle-aged foolishness.

Knowing that it was three in the morning, he wasn’t too concerned about leaving the motel room wearing next to no clothing. The proprietor of the property had been dragged out of bed for him to rent the room in the first place, and he surely went back to bed at once after giving Linus the key for the honeymoon suite. It was an older property, most likely passed down through the family over a couple of generations. They had been reluctant to enter the digital age: No computers, key fobs, or security cameras. It was also situated off a deteriorated highway that is hardly used anymore: it was a virtual dead zone.

He unlocked the doors of the Chevy Avalanche and grabbed a floral carry-on suitcase from the passenger seat. He carefully carried it inside the motel room and placed it on the counter next to the jacuzzi. He returned to the truck and paused, staring at the handle of the truck’s box. He always loved the extra storage associated with this vehicle because it had a hard top, and once locked, the contents hidden within were secure.

Linus reached out to pull on the handle of the tailgate, and his eyes went wide with anticipation. It was an out of body experience filled with dread. He imagined a swarm of flies would burst out of the truck bed, or a putrescent stench would force his stomach to regurgitate his last meal. In the end, nothing happened. The tailgate dropped open, and the plastic wrapped bundle was exactly where he had left it. He scanned the motel parking lot for any sign of life, took in a deep breath and dragged the bundle towards the edge of the truck. He fought to get it onto his shoulder and staggered beneath its weight into the motel room, kicking the door shut behind himself.

He made it across the suite to the hot tub, sweat trickling down the back of his neck, and dropped the bundle into the steaming water. Linus sat on the edge of the Jacuzzi, sucking in long gasps of air. He wasn’t a proponent of rigorous physical activity, and his racing heart was proof he hadn’t been to the gym for a long time. He wiped his face with a musty hand towel and watched the plastic wrap drift open in the water, exposing the pale hand of the dead man hidden within.

He collected the carry-on suitcase and propped it up on the edge of the tub. He carefully unzipped it and inventoried its contents. Three bottles of concentrated acid: consisting of hydrochloric, hydrofluoric and sulfuric acid; one bottle of concentrated caustic; personal protective equipment: eye goggles, neoprene apron and chemical resistant gloves; an assortment of garbage bags, duct tape and zip-ties. Once each item had been accounted for, he placed them along the sink counter for easy access.

Linus turned the water off and gulped at the plastic shower curtain drifting in the water. He leaned over the tub’s bright red lip and haphazardly unraveled the plastic cocooning the dead body. It barrel-rolled through the hot water, splashing the tiled floor. For a brief moment, Linus locked onto the corpse’s cataract eyes. The reality of the situation hit him, and he cringed away from shock and disgust. He fell to his knees, tears stinging his eyes, and started to stuff the discarded plastic into a garbage bag.

He’s already dead, Linus told himself. Let’s just get this over with and we can go home.

“Lin . . . us?” The question gurgled out of the Jacuzzi’s water, causing the hair on Linus’ neck to stand. He bolted to his feet, knocking two of the jugs of acid into the water.

“God dammit, Linus,” he swore at himself in the mirror. His fight or flight response instantly dried up all his saliva and made his heart flutter. He shook his head at the corpse bobbing up and down.

Linus reached into the water and snagged one of the bottles of acid, but the other slid beneath the dead body. He grabbed the corpse by its waist and pulled it into a sitting position. He wrapped its arms around the edge of the heart-shaped tub, hoping it would keep its position. Despite his best intentions, the corpse’s head tilted backwards at an odd angle, exposing a purple and blue bruise around its neck.

The world beyond the motel ceased to exist, and Linus was frozen in place, staring at the man’s swollen and bruised neck. He looked down at his own hands, instinctively flexing open and closed: a phantom memory of atypical violence. When he closed his eyes, he could still hear the guttural begging pouring from his own lover’s lips. Wide eyes of terror haunted his dreams, both sleeping and awake. But Linus’ hands never stopped squeezing, not until his fiancé was long dead.

“Fuck you, Peter,” Linus spat. He slid his hands into the chemical-proof gloves, slung the apron around his waist and squeezed the safety goggles over his own glasses. He smiled to the mad scientist in the mirror. “Even in death, you’re a manipulative, sanctimonious . . .” He trailed off, losing his train of thought, and growled incoherently. His smile turned sinister, and his eyes went black; one by one, he dumped in the three bottles of acid.

The acids caused a chemical reaction in the honeymoon Jacuzzi, and heavy, vaporous steam curled its way out of the water. The acidic steam irritated Linus’ throat, forcing him to double over from a coughing fit. He stumbled to the bathroom sink, expecting to throw up, but managed to catch his breath. He gulped down a mouthful of water, and choaked on it when high pitched laughter echoed through the suite.

“Who’s there?” Linus called out, scanning the suite through fog filled safety goggles. He tore them off, but the motel room was empty, yet the icicle-filled laughter persisted. He turned to the corpse and lost the ability to breathe, time skidded to a sudden stop. The dead man’s head convulsed with each round of laughter.

Linus inched around the tub, making sure he kept his eyes on Peter’s corpse. After only a minute of exposure to the acid, bright red chemical burns spread across the corpse’s flesh. The thermodynamic reaction of the acid mixing in the water caused a sudden increase in temperature, which also increased the effectiveness of the acids’ ability to consume organic material. The water had already turned a mucus yellow, a sure sign of the acid dissolving the epidermis. He could also hear a subtle hiss of the acid eating through the flesh above the Jacuzzi’s water. Once on the opposite side of the tub, he grinned at the sight of long gouges running across the corpse’s chest, exposing muscle and fat destined to be liquified by the acid blend.

The laughter stopped and the corpse’s head tilted towards Linus with an abrupt crack. “Gonna join me, lover?” The voice sounded like it echoed out from a deep well. Its lips didn’t quiver when it spoke, but its laughter struck out at Linus like gunfire.

“No, no it’s impossible . . .” Linus pushed himself backwards against the wall and slid to the floor. He buried his face in the chemical resistant gloves and muttered incoherently to himself.

“No, no, no. It’s all just a hallucination,” the corpse mocked in a wheezy, high pitch voice. “Such a pussy, Linus. What? Did you learn all this on YouTube?” it cackled.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up,” Linus yelled, wrapping his hands over his ears.

“Dump a bunch of random chemicals into a hot tub and hope for the best? You even brought caustic to neutralize the acid for easy clean-up. But where’s your respirator? Did you forget it at home?” The dead man’s laugh echoed through the suite. “If the acid isn’t eating away at your lungs by now, it’s surely warping your broken mind.”

“Shut up!” Linus jumped to his feet and splashed the corpse in the face with a wave of acidic water. “You’re dead. You can’t talk!”

The flesh on Peter’s face quickly turned dark brown, and his skin suctioned itself to his skeletal frame in a case of instant mummification. Long thin cracks broke open, exposing dried stands of muscle latticed over pink flesh. The hair of the corpse’s head dissolved to the scalp, emitting a stink of burning plastic. Blood trailed out of the open wounds, dripping into the growing murk of the Jacuzzi water.

Through all of this, Linus could only stare into Peter’s cold milky eyes. Even when the acid melted them into the corpse’s sockets, aqueous humour running down the mutilated cheeks, Linus couldn’t pull his gaze away from the bubbling, blackened pits of despair. The entire time, the corpse’s laughter burned through Linus, consuming his soul like the burning acid.

“Stop laughing!” Linus yelled. His chest heaved with unchecked rage, sucking in acidic air with each breath. He snatched one of the empty bottles from the floor and filled it with Jacuzzi water. “This will make you shut up,” he giggled while he spoke, making his words incomprehensible. He leaned over the heart-shaped tub and poured the acid water over Peter’s head. The liquid hissed and spit, eating its way down Peter’s face.

His cheeks had been eaten through, exposing bleached white teeth that caged in a black tongue. The remaining cartilage from his nose melted and dribbled over his gaping mouth, leaving behind a cavernous gorge for a nasal cavity. From his body’s black depth, the stench of internal decomposition crawled its way out to mingle with the acidic steam of the honeymoon suite.

“You are such a pussy,” Peter said in a calm voice. His melting body remained motionless, stuck in a state of perpetual serenity. “I’m in a pool of acid, and you’re still too weak to finish me off. Pathetic.”

Linus growled like a feral animal and wrapped his hands around the corpse’s neck. Putrefied flesh squeezed through his fingers like playdough until he had a firm grip on Peter’s vertebrae. “I already killed you, and I’ll do it again,” he groaned.

A mutilated hand, cleaned free of human flesh, shot out of the water and gripped Linus’ apron. His lungs turned to stone, and his eyes widened in disbelief.

“You killed me,” the corpse said, dragging itself out of the water, inching its mutilated face towards Linus. “In my sleep!” Linus twisted and tugged to be free of the monstrosity, but the dead man’s grip was iron tight.

“Now give me a kiss goodbye.” The corpse snaked its black tongue into Linus’ mouth, exploring every nook and cranny. Slick with corrosive acid, the tongue spread an insatiable pain across the lining of Linus’ mouth.

He broke free of the corpse’s skeletal kiss. He tried to call for help, but the acid had worked too well: blood pooled from his mouth, causing his words to gurgle into the water with the crimson gore. His tear-filled gaze dipped downward and realized he was being held over the pool of churning acid by a deteriorating arm. The corpse’s skeleton jaw, weakened by the hydrofluoric acid, cracked into a jagged smile. Linus’ eyes bulged, but when the corpse released his grip, he screamed, falling face first into the Jacuzzi.

Peter laid back against the edge of the tub and sighed with contentment. Chucks of flesh and muscle clung to his bones, gleaming white from the acid blend, but he was already dead, all pain and suffering had been forgotten ages ago. Soon he would return to the void, but in the meantime, he sat back and enjoyed Linus flailing about in the acid-rich water: he wasn’t quite ready to accept he was already dead.

“We never married, Linus, but at least I finally got the honeymoon I always dreamed of.” Peter’s manic laughter was drowned out by Linus’ gurgling death. “Such a romantic.” He stretched back and struck a button labelled JETS with his putrefied arm. His exposed Ulna and Radius bones disintegrated on impact, crumbling to a coarse calcium powder.

A mechanical grind filled the honeymoon suite and acidic water burst from the heart-shaped Jacuzzi’s jets. The murky water turned mahogany, churning violently like boiling water. Peter placed the remains of his arms behind his head and slowly sunk into the primordial sludge.

Travis was born and raised on the Canadian Prairies where he works as a professional brewer in the craft beer industry. He graduated from the BA English program at the University of Regina where he focused on creative writing. He occasionally finds myself writing short fiction exploring the nightmares and horrors hiding just out of sight. You can find his other works in Schlock! Webzine, Lovecraftiana, and horror anthologies from Gravestone Press and Hellbound Books. Of course, all of this is possible because of the support of his wonderful wife, Janelle, and beautiful daughter, Emma.