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Art by Michael D. Davis 2021

SULFUR

 

by

 

Cindy Rosmus

 

 

          You sit quietly, sipping your beer, while around you, all hell breaks loose. 

The Yanks are winning; you could care less. Metallica blasts on the jukebox.  Over at the pool table, he’s just won . . . again. The cheers and claps are more for him than the Yankees, though except for you, they’re all diehard fans.

          Plenty of coke-bucks on this game.  He sees to that.  There is nothing seedy, or self-destructive that he’s not in charge of.  The pool games, too.

          Over those cheers and claps comes that laugh: hearty, near-maniacal, and so loud, you swear he’s right next to you, standing over you, looking down at you, instead of over there, dancing by his winning table.

          He’s always dancing, always laughing . . .

          Always winning.

          Why me? you ask yourself.  Why only me?  Why can’t they see it, too?

          The Devil.  You’d think he’d be handsome.  Brad Pitt, or Johnny Depp-looking, instead of scrawny, with that too-curly black hair.  A wig, it looks like, though who’d choose a wig like that? And those black pop-eyes.  “Hellzapoppin’ ” eyes, like twin doors to hell.  Like behind them, demons hurl themselves, trying to break out.  No wonder he wears glasses.

          And those teeth. Needle-sharp, though only you can see that.  To the guys, they’re just too many long, white teeth. 

          But you’re a chick.  Maybe that’s it.

          No.  There’s Kate.  The beautiful, blonde barmaid.

You need a drink. Wearily, you wave her over, but she doesn’t seem to see you.  It’s like you’re dead. The way she’s clapping for him, you’d think he was this stud-ly, Brad Pitt-looking thing. You’d never know she’s head-over-heels for her own boyfriend, Butch. 

          Where is Butch? you think.

          “I ate him,” this purry voice says, right in your ear.  You turn, but no one is there.  “I bit clean through his bones, swished his flesh around in my mouth, then swallowed him.” 

 

          Wildly, you look around.  Over by the pool table, stick in hand, he’s grinning right at you.  “Mmmmmmm,” you hear him thinking. He licks his lips.  No one but you sees his tongue is forked.

          “Santos!” Kate calls to him.  “It’s on Richie!”  Another free drink.

          Richie holds up his own beer for a toast.  “Good luck!” he tells Santos.

          What nerve, you think, to name himself that.

          “Can you think of a better one?”

          You jump.  He really is beside you, now, pool stick in hand.  “You play,” he tells Richie, but he’s watching you.

          “But it’s your table, man!” Richie’s a beefy biker.  His face looks like a rat’s been gnawing on it.

          “S’okay,” Santos says.  You cringe, as he lights a cigarette.  Sulfur, you smell. Smoking in bars was outlawed in Jersey, but he does as he pleases.  “I’m talking to Magdalena.” 

          An exorcist, you think.  That’s what you need. Somewhere you could find one.  Write to the Pope, or something.  Or, if all else fails, do the job yourself.  Wearing a giant wooden cross and a garlic necklace . . .

          “Not a chance.” Santos looks almost sympathetic.  “I could live on camerones ajillo.  Somebody’s been feeding you a line of bull.”

          “Kate,” he says. 

Chin in hand, Kate is watching him, closely.  Red, swirly contacts, she wears now, for him.  Her real eyes are brown.

“Two shots,” he tells her. 

The look she gives you makes you instantly cross yourself.

“It won’t help.” Santos can’t help smiling.

But you’re not beat yet.  You, with your cheap gypsy earrings and chipped nail polish.  You, who’ve been “connected” to The Other Side since birth.  Wasn’t it dead Grandma Tucci who’d stopped you from falling out of your crib? Mama had screamed as those sheer batwings arms caught you in mid-air.

You, drunken slut or not, are the Chosen One.

“Yes, you are,” he says, right into your brain. “ ‘The Chosen One.’ ” His glasses are ice-cold against your cheek, his purry voice tickles your ear.  You almost like this!  “I’ve chosen you . . .  for my queen.”

You bolt your shot.  Shut your eyes tight against him.

Around you, guys are cheering the Yanks, ignoring both of you. It’s like neither of you exist.  You feel you’re floating, in your stools, a few feet above the floor.  “Aw, shit!” Richie yells, as if from a great distance.  He smacks the stick down on the table.  Laughter is muffled.

 

You open your eyes.

Santos . . . he’s changed. You’ve never seen anything like him.  Deep-set dark eyes, high cheekbones, a kissable mouth.  Those Harpo curls are gone: his dark hair is wavy, tousled.  Like he’s been in a windy place.

You are, you realize.  Both of you stand at the edge of a cliff.  Like a glowing red Grand Canyon, all around you.  You’re scared to look below, but the smell finds you. . . .

Like rotten eggs, and too-sweet cologne.  You realize you always smell him before you see him.

Holding his shot, he backs toward the edge, smiling.  The fangs are gone.  He has such a beautiful mouth: perfect, even white teeth, and lips you are dying to kiss. . . .

Blood, you smell now, as it gets closer.  The shot-glass brims with it.  Coppery, and meaty, you feel hungrier than you ever have in your life!

His shot he holds to your lips.  Still backing up.  Any moment you’ll both be over the edge.

“It’s worth it,” he purrs.

With all your strength, you smack that shot into him.  A maniacal howl rends the air.  Louder than the biggest bomb.  You’re torn in half.  Cracked ribs split, bleeding heart tumbles over and over!  You’re falling. . . .   

Screaming. . . . 

“Maggie!” It’s Kate.  Her brown eyes are warm, concerned.  Around you, the guys, all Yankees fans, are watching you instead of the TV screen.  “Are you okay?”

You open your mouth, but nothing comes out of it.  That’s when the door opens.

As he creeps in, you wonder where he got that hair.  Is it naturally curly, or did he sit for hours in curlers, in some old lady beauty parlor?  And for what? His glasses are so thick, you wonder how he can see where he’s going.

Somebody snickers.  You relax, a little.

When he reaches the bar, he throws down a bill.  Smiles nervously, all around.  “Buy the bar!” he tells Kate, in this reedy voice.  

And that’s how it begins. 



“Sulfur” originally appeared in Black Petals Issue #44, Summer 2008.

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Art by Michael D. Davis 2021

Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash; and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow Mama and the art director of Black Petals. Her seventh collection of short stories, Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s (Hekate Publishing), will be out, soon! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate. 


If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Willy Wonka sired a bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped by dear friends and a freak by passing strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when he was ten, and his skill has improved with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He is for the most part self-taught, only ever crediting the help of one great high school art teacher. His art has been shown at his local library for multiple years only during October due to its macabre nature. If you want to see more of Michael’s strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him on Instagram at mad_hatters_mania.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021