Entertainingly Evil
11
Jun

Sweet Nothings by Wendy Hammer

Love shines. I can see it the moment it kindles. It’s the most beautiful thing, that light. But it never touches me.

When the front door clicks shut I roll over to the empty side of the bed to capture the last of his warmth. I push my face into his pillow and inhale: Michael with Notes of Sandalwood and Cinnamon. I try to keep his scent deep inside my lungs, inside my memory. The moment I lose concentration he blends into other lost echoes. Oceans. Musk. Strawberry shampoo.

I want to get his taste out of my mouth. I leave the cold sheets and pad into the living room. There’s leftover wine in one of the glasses and I down it. I fire up a cigarette and watch curls of smoke drift in the sole patch of moonlight. The coal glows orange.

Michael’s light was autumn red with specks of gold. It shimmered like sunshine peeking out through a canopy of leaves. It hadn’t lasted long.

The shadow had grown more impatient over the years and gobbled the light up in one greedy gulp.

It used to let love mature a bit before it feasted.

#

Though it’s too dark to see the one picture I’ve kept of myself, I remember every detail. It’s in a heavy silver frame and sits on the shelf over the fake fireplace. You can see a small peach moon in the corner of the photo. My dad never could keep his thumbs out of pictures. I’m there—nestled under my mother’s heart, tucked inside the mound of her belly. Her plaid nightgown clashes with the windmill pattern of the couch. Her feet are pinned by a plump chocolate pup: Bravo.

We were best friends from the start. My first memory is of a snuffling cold wet nose and the relentless attack of his pink tongue. I remember rushing home to see him after my first full day of school. We’d never been apart for so long.

The second I cracked the door he was on me. A blue light like a clear sky at noon ignited around his body. I’d never seen anything like it. I laughed as it reached out to touch me.

I yelped when I spied the shadow on the ceiling. It oozed down the wall before pouncing on the blue aura.

Bravo’s light dimmed.

I tried to pull the darkness away. He shuddered, shook, and nipped at his attacker. Nothing worked. The shadow bloated like a blood-gorged leech as it absorbed every last bit of my dog’s light. Then it disappeared.

When I tried to hug him he stiffened and looked away. When Mom walked by, he got up and ran after her—like nothing had happened.

Bravo never came near me again.

I lost Mom when I was nine. Her light had always been a steady glow—dandelion yellow, just like the flowers she used to rub under my chin to see if I liked butter. I’d made her a cake all by myself. It was crooked and I’d misspelled birthday, but her light had flared up at the sight. I guess it was too much for the shadow to resist because it took it all.

Dad lasted until I graduated from high school.

I think they live in Florida now. Or maybe it’s Arizona.

#

I sit alone in the dark and think.

I’ve been able to survive on the love I feel for others, but once their light shines in return and is consumed, it hurts too much. I’m tired of subsistence. I’ve tried to fight, but everything ends in tepid indifference. I’d rather have hate.

I give up.

The room grows darker than before and I see the shadow has returned. It slides over and around me. For the first time I can feel its touch—it’s surprisingly soft, like a cool stream of air blown onto dampened skin. There’s a question in it. An invitation.

I’m left with one last answer. Yes.

The shadow slips in and I’m transformed.

#

I spare one last glance at my old body, slumped and still on the couch. I don’t regret leaving it. This is better. I feel strong and I can move fast. The world stretches out under my darkness and it’s gorgeous. There are so many lights: a cornucopia of colors. All around me I see pulses, strobes, streams, and motes.

Sparks dance into the evening air from a girl’s first kiss. It’s so lovely—I can’t resist.

I swoop down and fasten on. The light is delicious. It’s apple green and fills me like nothing else ever has. It’s sweet and just a bit tart, perhaps not quite ripe yet. I can taste its potential and I want more.

Soon I’ve taken it all. I know I shouldn’t have. I can tell it hasn’t really hurt her, though. There was just the barest hint of awareness at first—easy enough to smooth over.

The boy looks confused as the girl walks away as if nothing had happened between them. I know what he’s going through and I sympathize. I’m no monster.

He calls after her. When she doesn’t turn, he hangs his head. I know what he’s probably thinking, how he’s replaying every move and word to detect the first hint of failure.

I feel a pang of regret and float over to the boy. I ruffle his hair and pat his cheek.

He squints. I don’t think he can see me. Most likely he believes it’s just the wind. The boy sits down on the curb and puts his face in his hands. I reach for a platitude—something soothing.

I nuzzle up to his ear and whisper, “Don’t worry. It’s not you. It’s me.” It’s the wrong line, yet there’s truth in it.

I hold the boy, close as a lover. There’s light in him and I ache.

One more taste should be enough. I promise.


Wendy Hammer teaches English at a community college. Her stories can be found in the Suspended in Dusk anthology and elsewhere online. Her trilogy of dark urban fantasy novellas will be published by Apocalypse Ink Productions. She lives in Indiana with her husband. She’s also on twitter @Wendyhammer13.





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