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A Broken String of Love Beads: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
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How He Died: Poem by John Grey
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Hillary Lyon: A Broken String of Love Beads

104_ym_lovebeads_sophia.jpg
Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2024

A Broken String of Love-Beads

 

by Hillary Lyon

 

 

I twist off the cap of the little indigo colored bottle, dab a drop of scented oil behind each ear. I close my eyes and inhale. Though I can barely smell it now, the sweet-spicey scent will bloom as my body heat rises; I’ll carry a cloud of patchouli with me wherever I go. Like every other neo-flowerchild attending today’s music festival.

I drape a string of plastic multi-colored love-beads around my throat, making sure the necklace cascades down into the cleavage between my breasts. Sure, the beads were mass-produced and made in China, but they have such a cool retro vibe. Besides, I like the idea of love-beads. We could all use a little more peace and love, couldn’t we?

Undoing one more button on my gauzy shirt reveals even more smooth flesh. I look at myself in the dresser mirror, and can’t help but smile. Frayed Daisy Dukes show off my toned legs, my Doc Martin’s are hand-painted with pink and yellow Dayglo flowers, and my chunky turquoise and silver bracelets jangle merrily.

Should I pull back my thick, wavy blonde hair? No, long and loose is the look for today. I’ll likely stick a flower in my hair as the day goes on; at least one man always gives me a flower at these events. Sometimes a woman does. Tokens of appreciation. I think of them as trophies.

And I keep my trophies in a Roseville vase that belonged to my Granny. I do so enjoy flower arranging. The older flowers are dried now, and crumble if I’m not careful handling them. The newer ones are fresher, of course, so they're more vibrant, more sturdy. I love to look at this bouquet, as every flower tells a story. Whenever I add a new one, I brew a cup of herbal tea and reminisce. It’s very calming.

For my final accouterments, I slip my knife into the worn black suede sheath strapped to my left forearm before rolling down my sleeve. Slim and shiny, it’s my favorite accessory. It never fails me.

There! I grin at my reflection. Such a pretty hippy chick. I grab my fringed leatherette hobo bag and skip out the door of my apartment.

***

One of the worst things about this festival is the lack of portable toilets. There are never enough. Most people wait until they can’t hold it any longer, which is a bad plan as you always have to wait in a long line. I go before I really have to.

So here I am, standing in line when a man approaches me. He is wearing a basic white t-shirt and torn jeans. As he comes closer, I note that he’s older than he looks at a first glance. He’s attractive enough, if a little dirty and frazzled; like we all are at this point. He’s holding a flower. A daisy. How original.

“Hey pretty mama, this is for you.” He says with an Elvis-drawl. He fumbles with the flower, attempting to place it in my hair. The blossom hangs down, almost falls out.

I say, “Thank you, sir!” and arrange the flower in my hair myself. I am well-practiced at this; now it looks nice.

“So, hey,” he says leaning in close, “how’d you like to party with me? I got some primo stuff I’d love to share.” Despite his warm, welcoming words, his eyes are cold, his smile forced.

“Sure,” I giggle. I act like so many trusting, foolish women my age. Women who end up raped, or worse, at these gatherings. At this particular annual music festival, there have been eight reported violent rapes in the last three years. Reported. How many went unreported? Somebody needs to do something. I twist my love-beads around my finger.

With a flick of his head, he slings his long stringy dreads out of his eyes. “Awesome! Meet me at the picnic tables behind the Buffalo Sammiches booth in like half an hour. It’s more private there and we can do what we like.” Wants me to meet him at sunset, in other words. Before I can answer, he turns and walks away.

I pass the time listening to the noodling of a local jam band channeling their version of a Grateful Dead tune. I’ve heard worse, but that sort of music is not my thing. Finally, the sun slips behind the stage, my cue to visit the picnic area.

Buffalo Sammiches is very busy feeding hungry people. People who’ve spent the whole day milling about, dancing, drinking, doing drugs. The few families with their kids in tow are now leaving the festival, as night is coming. And everyone knows bad things tend to happen under cover of darkness. Personally, if I had kids, I wouldn’t have dragged them here in the first place; too much decadence for the wee ones to witness. Too much to explain to baby brains.

I walk behind the sandwich booth to the picnic table area. It’s not quite dark, but it is pretty dim. The section closest to the sandwich booth is well illuminated, but it appears somebody cut the light in the back area where, of course, my new friend is waiting. His plain white shirt glows in the descending twilight. He’s sitting on a bench at the farthest table. I sidle up to him.

He’s already set up his paraphernalia on the table before him. A couple of straws, several rough white lines on a small square of glass. He stands when I approach.

“There she is!” His grin reminds me of a wolf’s. Predatory. He grabs me and pulls me in close.

“What’s your name, little girl?”

Ugh, sing-quoting an old Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Really? Is that his idea of seduction?

“No names,” I say. “I prefer to keep things simple.”

“That works for me,” he says. His breath reeks of beer and pot. His hand slides down my back, grabs my butt and squeezes hard. Bastard’s going to leave a bruise. I don’t like bruises.

“Ladies first,” he says, watching me closely. He points to the set up on the table.

“My pleasure,” I giggle. Men like it when I giggle; makes me seem younger than I am. I reach into the front pocket of my Daisy Dukes and pull out a small metal rod, about the size of my pinkie. I wave it at him. “Got my own. Never leave home without it.”

I lean over the glass plate and pretend to inhale. But there will be no sniffing; my rod is solid. I mean, who knows that he’s mixed in with the coke? Fentanyl? Rohypnol? Rat Poison? I’m not about to take drugs from a stranger. A leering one at that.

I stand up, wipe my nose, and say, “Wow! That’s some good powder.” He’s staring intently at me; he doesn’t notice my line is still on the glass.

I blink rapidly then widen my eyes. I sway a little bit, pretend to smacked by whatever he laid out for me. He grabs my arm. Again, bruises. He’s going to leave bruises.

“Now it’s my turn to party,” he says. He lets go of my arm. He pulls his off his shirt, revealing two tattoos on his hairless chest. Though it’s getting dark, I can still make out the designs. The one on his right side is a grim reaper holding a scythe, about the size of my palm. How predictable.

The tat on the left is a target design, inked directly over his heart. If that’s not an invitation, I don’t know what is. I reach over and poke the center of the target. He slaps my hand away.

He grabs a handful of my hair, jerking my head back. “I’m gonna have some fun tonight.” In grabbing my hair, he also grabbed my love-bead necklace, breaking the string. All my pretty little multi-colored beads go flying, like a handful of plastic rice tossed at a doomed wedding. So much for peace and love.

“Oh,” I laugh, “I’m gonna have fun, too—I’m gonna do things to you that you can’t even imagine.” I slip the thin knife from its sheath hidden by my sleeve. In a flash, the blade finds its first target.

Bull's eye!

***

When I’m done with my righteous fun, I pull his t-shirt back over his perforated torso. In the shadows cast from the distant picnic area light, the blood seeping through looks like dark purple tie-dye. Groovy!

Whoever finds him will think he’s either a black-out drunk, or he’s overdosed. I leave his drugs set up on the picnic table, leave him lying on the bench. He won’t be discovered until morning, I estimate, when the clean-up crew comes in to pick up the trash all the hipsters left behind. I swear, these festival goers, they’re all about saving the Earth, but they can’t be bothered to pick up after themselves.

I always clean up my mess. It’s important to me to leave the site clean.

I wipe my knife on his raggedy jeans, take the token flora from my hair. The daisy’s stem is bent from our rough-housing, but the bloom itself is in good shape. Looking at it, I am flooded with the endorphins that come with the satisfaction of a job well done.

And now I have another flower for my vase.

Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared lately in 365tomorrows, Black Petals, Sirens Call, Night to Dawn, 50 Word Stories, Legends of Night drabble series anthology, and Revelations drabble series anthology. She’s the Art Director for Black Petals and is also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines. 

https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

Sophia Wiseman-Rose (aka Sr. Sophia Rose) is a Paramedic and an Anglican novice Franciscan nun, in the UK.  Both careers have given Sophia a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She has travelled to many countries, on medical missions and for modelling (many years ago), but has spent most of her life between the USA and the UK. She is currently residing in a rural Franciscan community and will soon be moving to London to be with a community there.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems and short stories in editions of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine

The majority of her artwork can be found on her website.

 

https://www.artstation.com/sophiaw-r6

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024