It was a little before three am when I crossed the border into South Dakota. But I could already hear the lights and sirens in the distance. “You have got to be kidding me.” I knew I must have been speeding, and speeding in a semi-trailer, well that would certainly draw attention, but come on- this was South Dakota. The entire state was practically a ghost town during the daylight, so I truly hadn’t anticipated any cops on the road. I pulled over. It was no big deal, I had plenty of time to get to my destination. “What seems to be the problem officer?” I asked, paperwork in hand.
He looked at my license, then at me. I already knew why: I didn’t look like a typical trucker. I was a skinny guy with long hair and a tan, like something out of South Beach. Or a rockstar who finally decided to give up on his dreams and join the real world. In truth, I’m just a man of the lord. “Leonardo Riveria?”
I’m tri-racial, but after reading my name cops always expect me to speak with an accent. “Yes, sir.”
“Says here you’re from Seattle? Kind of a long way from home?” The man’s voice is deep and weary. And of course, he had to be blasting his flashlight in my face. For all I knew, I was being pulled over by a ghost. “Where are you heading?”
“Nowhere at the moment, I just finished a job in Idaho, I heard there’s some work in southern Wisconsin.” It was a perfectly believable explanation.
“Well, for the safety of other drivers I’d appreciate if you called it a night. There’s a rest stop in the next mile and a hotel just beyond that.”
“Thank you, officer, I will be calling it a night.” I chucked to myself; he didn’t even check my trailer. Always pays to be polite. After the cop left, I pulled back on to the main road for the next mile and a half. I could actually see the hotel he was talking about, as I made my turn, towards the lake. I could imagine how touristy and quaint this place was during the day. But for now, it was the location of my next job.
I parked my semi at the closed gift shop, just like any other visitor. Walking towards the sparkling lake, I stretched my back, looking up at the full moon. Now the question was; would she come to me, or would I have to hunt? Might as well try for the easy way first.
Walking to the edge of the lake, I find a comfortable place and take a seat. My well-worn work boots barely touch the water, just enough to hopefully call upon the creature that dwells in this place. I close my eyes, as my mind drifts to images of my past, the life I left behind. Sometimes I can still picture my mother’s face.
My life was a lonely one, but the years seemed to fly by. And North America, well, it’s a big enough playground for someone to turn around and go the other way. That’s why it took me nearly a decade to make it back to South Dakota.
“Hello,” says a female voice at my feet.
I know better than to open my eyes.
“Hey, soldier, you looking for company?”
“Soldier? That’s a new one.”
“What do you usually go by; Padre, father?” Her body was cold and wet, crawling up my physique until she pressed her lips to my ear. “Or do you prefer daddy?”
My hand had been on my taser the entire time, with one swift motion I stabbed the pen into her neck and hit the button. Only then do I open my eyes.
Her unconscious body was laying face down. What I could see by the light of the moon, she was a young woman of normal height and build with long black hair that covered her face, like a typical ‘woman in white.’
I quickly loaded her body into my trailer. I needed her in my ‘studio’ before she had a chance to regain consciousness. My trailer, to the naked eye (or to the average cop), looked empty but in reality, it was an elaborate cave of mirrors. There was an intricate lighting system that could only be activated once I had the prisoner secure- this was because the lights fed off her life force, projecting her sins on to the mirrors.
I flipped a switch and watched as each mirror lit up one after another, filling with images of her victims.
The woman let out a shrill scream. That shook the walls. Luckily said walls were insulated with soundproofing, on par with a padded cell.
I watched quietly, awaiting her next move.
She was glaring at the mirrors, observing the mini-movies. She started to smile and turned to me with dark, soulless eyes. “Do you think I’m pretty?”
“I’ve seen better.” I stepped out of the shadows, running my fingers through my long, wavy hair like a true flower child.
“Do you have a name?” she asked in a sensual voice.
“I am called Truth.”
“Yeah, sure you are,” she said with a laugh. Her voice was sounding more and more human. “Well, I can handle the truth.”
“I doubt that- Clarissa.”
“Now that’s just not fair- you know my earth name but I don’t know yours?” She blinked her eyes and let what remained of her clothing fall to the floor. “Am I pretty?”
“Did any of them think you were?” I asked, motioning to the mirrors. In the one closest to me, I could see a small girl being led away from her parents. In that scene Clarissa didn’t look like a seductress, but rather an angel, offering the child a hand. The scene looked downright adorable, up until she pulled the child under. The water bubbled like a pot on the stove, if only for a moment. I suddenly felt a wetness on my back.
Clarissa was watching over my shoulder. “That one, she was delicious; the way she struggled. She acted afraid but, in the end, I gave her what she wanted.”
“To be devoured?”
“To have a home.” Clarissa was looking around at a different mirror. “Does one of these belong to you?”
“One of these?”
She smiled and left my side, gliding from one mirror to the next. “My soldiers, my babies, my family.” She seemed proud of her work. There were images of women being drowned, strangled, some just disappeared. The images of male victims looked a little more ‘deranged.’ She loved to tear them to pieces, to take trophies from their bodies. But unlike her female or child victims, she always left pieces behind. “Men over sixteen years of age, they have a certain taste. Spicy like adrenaline, sweet like sexuality, and salty with just the right amount of tart- the most delicate flavor of all.”
“So many wonderful memories,” I said as I followed. “Or should I say, trophies?” One image, in particular, stuck out- a young native American male, with shoulder-length hair. Sitting on the bank of the lake in torn jeans, he was smoking meth out of a pipe. His once beautiful tan skin was covered in lesions, his hands trembled. I knew for a fact; this boy was not even twenty years old.
There are tears in his dark eyes, as his barefoot stroked the water of the lake. The boy had no shoes, his feet were covered in blisters and open sores. So, it was within the realm of possibility that he had come to the lake to simply bathe his weary body in the cold water. “Clarissa, my love, Clarissa, my queen. I call to you as a lonely dying soul.”
A glowing white hand gripped his leg, using the boy’s body as an anchor to pull herself to shore.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” she asked. Even as a bystander, watching the scene play out, I could see her face. Her eyes were jet black holes, her mouth hung open drooling gallons of lake water. But she was, in fact, pretty. Just as pretty as she was the day she died.
“Yeah, Babe,” he said with confidence, “it’s why I’m here.”
Clarissa laughed. The sound of her voice seemed to echo into the night. She lowered her head, allowing her long hair to cover her face. It was only then She went for his zipper, then for his cock. (as far as I could tell anyway.) Her head was slowly bobbing up and down in typical blowjob fashion.
“Oh yeah, baby, I like that.” He takes another hit off his pipe, laying back to look up at the moon.
With a vicious bite, she tears off his genitals. Since his manhood had been erect the amount of blood was borderline comical. The more she tore into his body the more he seemed to be writhing in pleasure. At one point he even placed his hand on the back of her head, encouraging her to go deeper. “Yeah, Baby, go deeper, take it all!” He took one last gasp. “Take it all.”
I felt sick to my stomach. But I had to stand strong. “Real funny…”
“I always thought it was,” she whispered as she kissed my neck, “he was the only one who sought me out, until you.”
I bit my lip and forced a smile. Clarissa wasn’t the worst I’d seen, if it came to it, I could see myself going all the way with her. “I have a thing for girls like you.” The more comfortable I made her, the more human she appeared.
“Really?” Clarissa glided a single nail down my chest. First softly, then with a sharp stabbing motion, drawing blood. “You like?”
I swallowed hard, leaning my head back to expose my neck. “Yeah, I like that. It’s why I have the mirrors. I like to watch.”
“You want to be a part of me?”
“Then tell me- who was that boy?” Her voice started to echo. “Your brother…no…” She doubled over with laughter. “He was your lover! You’re a freak!” She started to transform back into her decaying ghostly form. “You’re a God-damned monster!”
“I guess I am.” She was right in more ways than one. It was just a matter of which one of us was worse. “Clarissa Jane Redfire disappeared in 1960. According to local legend, she ran off with her boyfriend Robert Davis and her brother Conner. She was never seen again, but the two boys made it to California. There was no evidence to pursue charges but decades later, when same-sex marriage was legalized, Robert and Conner were married.”
Clarissa stuck her tongue into her cheek, pressing the flesh out like a gumball. “You know, that little drugged out slut, he had the most beautiful eyes. Just like my brother.” She opened her hand and started to cough, and then wretch, vomiting up a large, watery mass. Even from where I stood, I could see what it was; two decaying human eyes.
“He gifted them to me. I mean technically he said I could take whatever I wanted, so I just went to town.” She paused to lick her lips. “but you knew that.” She smiled, bearing her teeth. The bitch had teeth like an anglerfish.
“Yeah, I did.” When the police found the remains, the boy’s eyes had been gouged out (among other missing parts). At first, this was assumed to be a murder, but upon autopsy tissue was found under his fingernails, leading authorities to declare ALL injuries to be self-inflicted. After all, he was just a meth-head. The world was better without him.“What will you offer me?” her voice now sounded like a hiss.
I offered her my fist to her face, a mistake in hindsight. She bit my hand, sinking her teeth into my hand with no intention of letting go. Her mouth clamped like a vice filled with nails, tearing into skin, flesh, and bone. Pain shot up my arm. My nerves were on fire. “Fuck me.” This was a rookie mistake on my part, I needed to escape. She was devouring more and more of my hand. With enough blood loss, I would no longer be able to fight. I needed to go all in. “I-I give you my heart.”
It was enough to convince her to release her grip. “Your heart?” she said through her massive teeth.
“That’s what you want, right?”
Charissa took a step back. “Your heart?” She stretched her arms over her head like someone about to start yoga. “Maybe I’ll take your pretty hair or your muscles. Your beauty. I mean, really what good is your heart. You’ve been a hunter for what, ten? No, twenty years? It’s always so hard to tell.”
“You’ve encountered other hunters?” I took off my shirt, revealing my last line of defense. On my abs were two tattoos; a cross on one side and a flame on the other.
“More like they encountered me,” she said in a confident tone. “That’s how I know you’re not a hunter, you’re a vessel. A creature blessed with eternal youth and beauty in exchange for use of your physical body as a living weapon. But I always wondered what happens to your soul?”
I needed to act fast, I would likely have only one chance to launch my hail Mary maneuver. As she crept closer I clenched my fist, focusing on the eyeballs and goo that were now on the floor. She tasted me, now I needed to taste her.
When I felt the cold slime of her bile caressing my skin I closed my hand around the eyeballs. I expected them to feel like rubber, but instead, the orbs felt hard, like calcified stones. I quickly drew back and punched her in the chest.
Clarissa fell backward as if tripping over her own feet. “What the fuck was that?”
“This is where the mirrors come in, but I bet you already knew that.” Each of her victims had been absorbed into a collective, but now they were free. I pressed my hand to the cross tattoo, focusing my thoughts. “Good and evil, heaven and hell, ” I said out loud. “I come to you as a humble soldier: use my body as a vessel to lay claim to the soul of Clarissa Redfire. Hands emerged from every mirror and I felt a searing pain in my opposite side: the flame tattoo.
Some hands were angelic white, others were demonic red, and a few were deep, shadowy black. That meant she managed to capture some truly evil souls in her web. Hopefully, that would count for something, when determining her final fate. I mean, I don’t get off on sending people to hell. My life’s work was simply to help people cross over to where they were meant to go.
A warm light made it’s way up my chest, towards my mouth, resulting in a single energy blast. It took me about ten years to master this technique but even then it’s not where I wanted it to be. Even with all the mirrors, I could never see which side won control of my body. All I knew was that Clarissa Redfire was now a charred skeletal husk, the discarded wrapper for what she once was.
As the life left her body so did the spirits of her victims; men, women, children. Some went to heaven, while others wandered away. Those, I knew, I would have to hunt at a later time. Then I saw him, the reason I knew to come here. “Hey, Jamie.”
He stood with pale skin and milky eyes. His long brown hair caressed his cheek as if blown by an unseen wind. “Hey, Leo.” His voice sounded the way it did in life if someone was turning down the volume of a radio. Jamie moved closer. His breath is cold because his body- is nothing. He is air. He is the personification of sadness.
I closed my eyes, as Jamie’s lips brushed against mine. It felt like going out into the cold; a soft, burning, pain. It was the way I expected it to feel but I couldn’t help but shed a tear. I had never kissed a corpse before; I never had a reason to. “You need to go.”
“Open your eyes,” Jamie’s said with a vicious growl.
I did as he asked. I owed him that much.
Jamie’s skin began to crack like ice. “You loved me once.” Tears, actual human tears flowed down his cheeks. “Do you remember the first time we made love.”
I did. “The third time we met.” Some people have sex on the third date, but me and Jamie- we did it the third time I found him turning tricks outside a known crack house. “We went to a motel just outside the reservation.”
Jamie nodded. “You told me you wanted to help me.”
I sighed, knowing he was right. “Eight years seems like a lifetime ago.”
“Yeah, it does.” Jamie pursed his lips, continuing to shed tears. “But I remember like it was yesterday.”
“You want to know what I remember?” I asked, my voice becoming defensive. “I remember you shooting up heroin into your legs.” I immediately felt bad. Suddenly I was a college student again, taking pity on this beautiful creature.
Jamie crossed his arms, looking up at the mirrored ceiling. “We took a shower together. I was shivering, crying but your touch…”
I could tell he was looking at me. I looked up to see his face, his smile. Like Clarissa, or any lost spirit for that matter, he could will himself to look more human.
“I can still remember the feeling of your big hands. The way you touched my hips, my legs, my heart.”
I knew Jamie’s biological father had died of a seizure when Jamie was just a baby. His alcoholic mother and step-daddy did everything he could to drive him away. Jamie only ever wanted to be loved. “I never stopped thinking of you.”
“You said you’d come back for me.”
“Well, you said you’d stay clean for me.”
Jamie glared at me. “I gave it my best shot, but well. You know, you were the one who kept me on track. You gave me a will to live.”
He wanted me to touch him. If I touched him of my own accord, it would unite our souls. At least that’s what I’d read in textbooks. “I’m sorry.”
“But you’re here now,” Jamie said as he motioned to the reaming spirits leaving in their various directions. “Can I come with you?”
Every fiber of my body wanted to reach for him, but I knew that was how it begins. I would be tasked with babysitting his broken, pain-stricken soul. “I’m sorry. You need to move on. You need to heal.” I opened my hand to reveal the eyes. “I’ll bury your eyes on your father’s grave. He’ll lead you to the light.”
“No!” Jamie cried. “You owe me!”
“No, If I recall you died five months after I left,” my voice was turning to anger. “You didn’t even try to change!”
“Is that really your answer?” his voice was a low whisper, giving me one last chance to fall for his beautiful, innocent eyes.
“Yeah, I guess it is.”
“Fuck…. You,” Jamie’s skin started to flake off in chunks, transforming him from white to a shadow black. “Leo.” He blinked his eyes as they started to glow red.
I stood calm. “Do you remember the first time we met?” Part of me wanted him to kill me, to end my suffering. Maybe we could reunite in the afterlife.
Jamie reached for a small, thin, necklace, tearing it off in one swift motion. “You took me to Mount Rushmore. We went to the gift shop, and you bought me a Leo pendant because that was my zodiac sign.” The small pendant was the size of a penny. It was covered in dirt, and rust but the symbol was still visible. “I guess… I was just born under a bad sign.” Jamie pressed the pendant into my hand, boring a hole in my palm.
The pain was excruciating but not as unbearable as the pain in my heart. “I’ll be seeing you around.”
“Yeah,” Jamie lend in to whisper in my ear. “I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you again, real soon.”
I watched as he turned and walked away, disappearing into the night. “Goodbye, Jamie.” I love you.