Hearts in Retrograde
Sheryl pulled on the elbow-length black
rubber gloves and smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Perfection! Combined
with the knee-length white doctor’s smock, buttoned at the left collar bone,
and the indigo-tinted oval glasses, she was a dead-ringer for a mad scientist
from a 1930’s horror movie. Sheryl pulled her mousy brown hair back into a
smooth, tight ponytail to complement the look. The object of her desire, Jerry,
would be impressed! He was a big fan of the old school shockers, anything
starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, or Boris Karloff.
On her way out, she stopped short. The
heart! She skipped back to her dressing table and opened her grandmother’s
jewelry box. It was a beautiful thing, this little heart-shaped coffin,
hand-crafted polished mahogany trimmed with silver filigree. The lock on the lid
was broken long ago, as the old woman lay dying and Sheryl just had to
get to her hands on Grandma’s onyx ring before the rest of the family appeared.
The ring she currently wore beneath the rubber gloves, causing an unsightly
lump on her left index finger.
She pawed through the jewelry, growing
more and more inpatient, and—there it was! A ruby-red, cloisonne heart-shaped
pin, about the size of a silver dollar. Sheryl pinned the brooch to her smock,
over her own beating heart. Now her look was complete. She dumped the contents of
the jewelry box on the dresser, and shoved the box into her black doctor’s bag,
where it nested among many mysterious and sharp, stainless steel things.
* * *
“Get a load of crazy over there,” Albert
nudged his friend with his elbow. Jerry had his back turned, scooping punch
into a red plastic cup. He looked over his shoulder. Albert snickered, “Do you
think she forgot this is a community college Valentine’s dance? She looks more
like a Halloween goth nightmare that—”
“Stop it,” Jerry interrupted. “She’s not
so bad, just, ah, unique. And kinda cute, in her way.” He took a sip from his
red plastic cup, and frowned. “This potion needs a kick.” He reached inside his
blazer for his flask, but Albert grabbed his wrist.
“Nah, bro,” Albert giggled. “I dosed it
myself.” He crossed his arms and shook his head with smug satisfaction. “This
party’s about to get wild. Get these losers out of their comfort zone.”
Jerry’s shoulders sagged. “You just had
to make sure they don’t have this party again—ever—didn’t you? Why do you
always have to sabotage everything?” Albert turned to Jerry and grinned, but
before he could say anything, an arm in a long black rubber glove reached
between them and snagged Jerry’s cup of punch.
“Hey, I don’t think you want that,
it’s—” Jerry started, but it was too late. Sheryl had chugged the whole thing.
Albert slapped his hand over his own mouth to muffle his laughter. Tears leaked
from the corners of his eyes.
Great, Jerry mourned
internally. Now she’ll freak out. Because
I’m a nice guy, I’ll babysit her the whole evening, until it wears off. So much
for romance. Damn you, Albert.
“Hold my bag, Albert,” Sheryl commanded
as she handed it over. “Jerry and I must dance! This is my favorite
song, and he’s my favorite guy.” Jerry actually blushed, though under the
colored disco lights, it was hard to tell.
“I don’t want to guard your purse, you—”
but Sheryl was out of earshot, dragging Jerry onto the dance floor. “Fine,”
Albert hissed. Sheryl's black bag was heavy, and lumpy. He couldn’t pry it
open; there was a small lock keeping its contents secret and secure.
Two very attractive young ladies—twins,
maybe—both dressed in red velvet, sidled over to the punch bowl. With luscious,
glossy cherry lips, they both smiled broadly at Albert. One twirled a strand of
her long blonde hair, while the other leaned forward and whispered, “You should
never sample your own product.” They looked at each other and laughed manically
before melting into a fine red mist.
Albert looked down into his empty cup. When
did I drink this punch? Don’t remember doing that.
“Hey!” Sheryl shouted over the dance
music, to a distracted Albert. “Your turn.” She snatched her doctor’s bag and
roughly grabbed Albert by the arm. She’s really strong for such a little thing,
Albert thought. Must be the drugs. Sheryl led him not to the dance
floor, but away from the party, and out through a side door.
They were in a narrow linoleum tiled
hallway, lit by a single sad light fixture. “In here,” Sheryl directed. She
opened the door to a small classroom.
“First, kiss my ring,” Sheryl ordered,
holding her left fist in Albert’s face. He obediently kissed the lump under her
glove. Is she a dominatrix? Well, this is kinky, Albert mused.
“Now, lie down on the floor,” Sheryl
commanded as she pointed to an area in the center of the room. An area lined
with black plastic garbage bags.
No wonder Jerry likes her, Albert decided, she’s into all kinds
of crazy grown-up fun. “Hey, when did you put those—” Albert began, but
with surprising force, Sheryl pushed him down. Albert saw stars when his head
hit the hard floor. Before he could sit up, she jabbed a loaded hypo into his
neck. The stars returned, exploded into fireworks. Albert heard metal clinking,
clanking against metal. The edge of the knife was cold, the actions of the
wielder, confident and quick. For Albert, the stars winked out, one by one, and
were soon no more.
* * *
Jerry still lingered by the punch bowl
table, looking lost. He perked up when he saw Sheryl walking his way. She
does look pretty cool, Jerry thought to himself. Like a super villain in
an old movie. She raised her tinted glasses. When their eyes met, they both
“Where’d you two go?” Jerry asked with a
tinge of jealousy in his voice.
“Don’t you worry about that!” Sheryl
chirped. “I have something for you . . .” Jerry noticed she carried a wooden
heart-shaped box in her black-gloved hands; a box that dripped something dark
and syrupy. He also noticed she’d added wine-red splotches and streaks to her
smock—what a perfect outfit! So creative! I wonder how she dresses for
Halloween? I’d love to see that! She held up the box to Jerry, like a
supplicant with her dearest offering. What’s this? Chocolates? For me? Jerry
He took the box, a little embarrassed.
“Hey, Sheryl, I didn’t get you anything, I didn’t know if you’d—”
She touched a slick, gloved finger to
his lips, leaving a coppery-tasting wet smear. “Sshh. Just open it, lover boy.”
Sheryl leaned close enough to Jerry to breathe in his ear, sending a delicious
shiver down his spine. “We’ll share.”
With an MA in
English Literature from SMU, Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years
acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher,
Subsynchronous Press. Her speculative, horror, and sci-fi stories have
appeared in numerous print and online publications such as Night to
Dawn, Tales from the Moonlit Path, Sirens Call, and Theme of
Absence, as well as in multiple anthologies. She is also an illustrator for
horror/sci-fi, and pulp fiction sites.
Knowles has spent over 40 years working mainly
in comics, along with contributions to TV, Radio, animation, gonzo-style journalism for
a “top-of-the-shelf” magazine and odd spells as a digital artist. Not to mention
three gruesome years writing gags for comedians (even though they begged him not to. But
what did THEY know about humor?
I wrote for the comic papers.