‘I am “freedom”.’
The woman stood on the penultimate step on the descent to the cellar. She had halted there, standing in silence, waiting for my bloodied eyes to register her presence, for my concussed brain to make sense of her.
Even with clots adhering to my lashes, my eyelids swollen from the repeated beatings, she was a vision of beauty.
An emerald green dress fit as closely as her musky scent to a body as perfect as any masterpiece designed by Michelangelo. Blazing red hair hung about her shoulders, curls bunching on the swellings of her breasts. Her dress was cut low and I watched the slow rise and fall of the pale orbs that it strained to contain. On her feet were satin slippers, as green as the dress, as green as her eyes as they surveyed me.
‘Have you come to let me go?’
‘I have come to set you free,’ she corrected in a voice as mellifluous as distant birdsong.
‘Then undo these chains and I’ll be gone from here.’ I was trussed to an upright beam, stripped naked as a baby.
‘You misunderstand me, Carter Bailey,’ she said, and this time her voice was every bit as sweet as before, but it was the sweetness of decay and rot.
‘Worth a try,’ I said.
She took the final step down and halted again. Her features appeared set in porcelain, her lips were the painted smile of a creepy pot doll, eyes as solid as their emerald twins. A dim bulb flickered in the stairwell above her, causing the shadows to jitter and shift. The woman’s shadow did not move, because she had none.
‘Who are you?’
‘I am the one you came looking for.’
‘You are Saoirse?’ I gave her name the modern Irish pronunciation: Sur-shuh.
‘Seer-sha,’ she corrected, in the singsong original Celtic tongue. ‘As I said, my name means “freedom”.’
I rattled my chains, thinking of my brother, Cassius, who regularly wore chains when I visited him in the deepest dungeon of my psyche. I could almost feel pity for the depraved lunatic now that I experienced a little of the discomfort he was eternally subjected to. Almost, but not quite. Cash deserved his torment; he could never atone for the suffering he put my wife and unborn child through, or the dozens of other women he raped and slaughtered before I killed the bastard.
Sticks and stones, Carter. Cash’s taunting voice scratched its way through the recesses of my mind. Just thinking of him was enough to wake him from slumber. He’d been conspicuous by his absence during my beating, when I needed his assistance most.
I ignored Cash and concentrated instead on Saoirse.
She moved without seeming to move. She didn’t walk, that was for sure, because I was eyeballing her long, long legs, imagining them wrapped around my back and they never once put as much as a ruffle in that form-hugging dress. The lustful thought clung on, even after I realised that it was more akin to something that Cash would voice, and I had to tear my attention back to her face. No, she hadn’t walked over, yet when I tilted my head up to meet her gaze, she was directly in front of me, so close I felt the exhalation of her breath on my skin.
‘Why did you seek me, Carter Bailey?’
‘Why do you think?’
‘You thought to kill me.’
‘Killing you was never an issue, I hoped only to stop any further killing.’
‘Yet you brought with you a gun.’ Saoirse lifted her right hand and something cold and hard-edged settled under my jaw. ‘And this.’
I couldn’t see what it was that she held to my throat, but I didn’t have to. I knew it was the knife handed to me by my friend and mentor, Paul Broom, Britain’s sixteenth bestselling horror author, when he heard of my latest fool mission.
‘It just might come in handy, Bailey,’ he had said as he handed over the intricately carved silver blade. The handle was bone and looked too much like the knobby end of a human fibular to be coincidence.
‘There might be nothing in the stories,’ I’d told him. ‘You know how urban legends grow out of folk tales and take on a life of their own: do you really think a succubus is alive and kicking and harvesting souls in bleakest Lancashire?’
‘I’ve heard crazier stories,’ he said with a pointed squint at me.
Broom was one of the few people who truly believed in my claim that the soul of my serial-killing sibling was trapped within me, and that the shared near death experience we’d experienced had made him my captive when the paramedics jump-started my heart again. Having discovered what he’d done to my wife and unborn child, my brother had almost murdered me too, but I’d turned the tables and took the fight back to him. Locked in brutal combat we’d both taken a fall from the dilapidated windmill on my property, and sank, still beating and tearing at each other into the stagnant waters of the canal below. Our bodies drowned, but our spirits had still been coiled together in battle when the intervention of well-meaning paramedics had snatched us both back to my mortal coil. It was a difficult claim to palate, but Broom took it even without the proverbial pinch of salt. Broom also believed in my proclaimed ability to read people’s auras, and to also feel the pull of dark energy, and he’d almost convinced me that I wasn’t totally bat shit crazy after all. Limping about on a walking stick, throwing back his mane of blond curls, he reminds me of an aging rock star or over the hill pro-wrestler. On his knuckles he’d had the letters WWDAD tattooed as a reminder of his constant fight against the supernatural denizens of his fevered author’s mind. What would Derek Acorah do? I wondered. I was pretty sure that the famed psychic medium wouldn’t have sought a soul-sucking succubus armed only with a tarnished silver knife and a handgun: at the very least he’d have had a camera crew and the backing of a major cable TV company behind him. Foolishly I’d come to this backstreet of Blackpool alone. And now I’d paid the price of my stupidity. I should have weighed in that knife at one of the many skanky stores that lined the neighbourhood promising ‘We Buy Your Scrap Gold and Silver’.
But I hadn’t been able to deny the tugging in my chest, the feeling within me that drew me like metal filings to a lodestone, whenever I sensed the presence of dark energy. Cash had to atone for his crimes; I had to atone for my failings. In failing to protect my wife and baby I had accepted my self-imposed punishment to root out and destroy evil wherever it reared its ugly head. I tried to think of it as an extreme form of community service, while Broom preferred that I was serving a higher court than human law.
Saoirse removed the knife from my throat. My relief was only momentary. She laid it between my legs.
Whoa! Hold on there, Red! Go ahead and cut Carter’s friggin’ throat but I’m going to need the old family jewels when I take claim of his body!
It was nice of Cash to express his concern for my well being. Yeah, right. In my head, I told him, “Cash, she’s not interested in taking my bollocks. She’s after souls and guess what? Here she gets the special BOGOF deal.”
Shit, Cash said, I never thought about it that way.
“Now would be a good time to loan me a few of those special skills you have in your arsenal, dear brother.”
When imprisoning Cash in the dungeon of my mind I’d to devise the most intricate methods of containment, because in life the son of a bitch had been as tricky as Harry Houdini, and simply locking him down with handcuffs and gaffer tape had never been enough.
‘What are you mumbling about?’ asked Saoirse.
‘Nothing important,’ I lied. ‘Just wondering if you really look like that or if you’re a fan of old Maureen O’Hara movies.’
‘You like the way I look?’
‘Of course. Who wouldn’t?’
Saoirse proved as vain as most other supernatural beings I’d met who used the weapon of sexual desire to deceive and enrapture before sucking your life force out of every orifice imaginable. To be fair I hadn’t met many. Actually, she was my first, but she was vain all right.
She was at once before me then at the bottom of the stairs again. She ran one hand through her fiery hair, the other on her propped hip. Then she turned away, turning her head to give me a smoky pout over one bared shoulder. The dress shimmered off her body as liquid as mercury, puddling around her finely turned ankles, and I was given a view of her in all her glory.
‘What about now?’ she teased.
“Yeah, now would be a good time,” I told Cash.
Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, bro.
“How about a nice Perspex cell with a view?”
How’s about you set me up on a barstool at Hooters?
“Take it or leave it, Cash. Agree, or your next prison will be inside the lovely Seer-sha’s gut.”
‘Do you find me comely?’ Saoirse turned with a dancer’s grace, and again was before me without any sign of apparent volition. I’d have got an eyeful of her main assets if she hadn’t looped her knife hand over her breasts. Her other hand, and my Glock, was artistically placed over the juncture of her thighs.
‘”Comely” isn’t a word used very often these days,’ I said. ‘Just how old are you?’
‘As old as Lilith’s children,’ she said with a smile.
‘It’s surprising what the odd nip and tuck can do for you these days, isn’t it?’ Despite myself I could feel the ardor rising in me. Ardor’s another word you don’t hear much and has kind of fallen out of usage except in poorly written bonk buster novels or the latest Paul Broom chiller. I’d learned a lot of old words since Broom had taken it upon himself to be my Professor X. I’d learned quite a few archaic names too, and understood that Lilith in some religious texts was recognised as the first female, even before Eve. If Saoirse wasn’t exaggerating it meant she’d been around a loooong time.
‘That can’t possibly be your own hair colour?’ I sneaked a peek down and the hand clutching the gun couldn’t cover everything. ‘You dye down there too?’
For the first time Saoirse frowned.
Unlike highly emotional humans this woman did not radiate the auric colours that I was used to. All that outlined her form was a hazy grey smoke. But I didn’t need the firework displays that emanated from my usual quarries to tell me she was growing angry.
‘You do not appreciate this form?’ she said. ‘Perhaps you would prefer I was an incubus instead?’
‘Strictly heterosexual,’ I reassured her. ‘It’s just that I don’t fancy every strumpet that drops her knickers in front of me.’
Another old word, but it was one she’d understand. Before leaving Broom’s place for Blackpool, my knowledgeable buddy had told me that the etymology of the name succubus came from the Late Latin succubare, or “to lie under”, later shortened to succuba and literally “strumpet”.
‘Old whore, if you’d prefer?’ I said.
Saoirse made a sound that should never have come from her enchantress form. She bubbled out a growl like a drunken hobo clearing his throat after a night on methylated spirits.
She raised Broom’s silver knife.
Go on, Red, cut his throat.
“Shut it, Cash. Concentrate on what you’re good at.”
Maybe you should let me take over, bro. I’ll show the hot little bitch a good time, all right.
“Just get us the fuck out of these chains!”
Saoirse said, ‘I can take your essence whether you wish to mate with me or not.’
‘Honestly, I’d rather you slit my throat. I hear that sexually penetrating a succubus is akin to entering a cavern of ice. Where’s the pleasure in that? And anyway, what’s this about you taking a man’s semen then passing it onto one of your incubus brothers so he can impregnate women with his demonic little offspring? What do you call them: Cambions aren’t they?’
‘You’ve researched well,’ Saoirse said, and my taunting had worked because she’d forgotten about sticking the blade in my neck and again moved away from me.
‘Everything I know you can find on Wikipedia,’ I told her. ‘Is that what you’re up to here? Breeding your own little crop of Cambions. Don’t bother, from the number of ugly inbred trolls I’ve seen out on the Golden Mile someone already beat you to it.’
‘You know little of my kind after all. And this know-it-all Wikipedia is as ill informed as the fools that write it. Too much faith has been placed in the Malleus Maleficarum as a source document, and your modern “Witches’ Hammer” – your Wikipedia – holds as many misinterpretations of the truth. My kind has no interest in your dishwater semen: it is your life essence that we desire. I’m coming now to set it free!’
Suddenly Saoirse wasn’t the enchanting vision of beauty of before.
Her looks fell from her in the shimmering river of mercury that had earlier shed her dress.
Her fiery mane shrivelled into a keeled skull, her almost translucent skin metamorphosing into warty grey hide. Her breasts shrivelled like dried out teabags left on the side of a saucer at one of those backstreet cafes. Her pubis went bare, and her labia hung like soiled rags. Horrible enough before I looked up again at her face and saw that her green eyes had sunk back into the skull and were now snot-coloured currants deep beneath a thick brow, and her mouth…Oh, Jesus. Think anus, puckered, hemorrhoid-ridden, with needle teeth.
I take back what I said before, Cash said. I wouldn’t even touch her with yours, bro.
Saoirse let out a keening hiss. Expelled urine and other foul liquids dripped down her upper thighs, but the sound had come from her awful mouth. Kind of a mating call, I guessed. Then she came for me.
‘Now would be a good time to do your thing, Cash!’
In my urgency I’d shouted out loud.
My odd words were enough to halt Saoirse in her tracks.
Her arms hung by her sides, my weapons still clutched in mitts that were boney and ended in ragged claws. Maybe she still thought she could get me up by threat of a bullet or knife slash: such foreplay never did it for me. But now she paused to contemplate just whom the hell I was shouting at.
From above filtered the clumping of footsteps. Saoirse had her lackeys on stand by; they were the same sons of bitches who’d grabbed me, kicked the shit out of me and then hung me here in the bitch’s cellar like a side of tenderized beef. They were an ugly bunch, and pitiless, so maybe there was something in the Cambion myth that Saoirse wasn’t letting on. Any second now and those brutes would come downstairs and hold me down while Saoirse had her wicked way with me.
Allez, hop! cried my demented brother, like he was some old time circus performer. Let’s go, bro.
For the last minute or so I’d been working my fingers and wrists, manipulating them without any conscious sense, really Cash working his wizardry through my hands without any assistance from me.
The chains fell from my wrists just as Saoirse puckered up for a kiss. I struggled to free my arms from the clinging links, and Saoirse just put my energetic thrashings down to one playing hard to get. Her needle teeth nipped into my lips and she clamped on tight. A slick, wriggling tongue invaded my mouth and I coughed in revulsion. It was colder than three days old polar bear shit, and tasted just as bad.
Earlier I’d imagined Saoirse’s long legs wrapped around my middle. Well, the dream became reality, and it was a nightmare. I felt the icy clamminess of her vagina as she tried to clamp on, her second puckered opening chewing its path up my left thigh towards my genitals. The only saving grace was that at least this one didn’t come with teeth. Let alone her trying to latch onto my penis, the invasion of my mouth was bad enough, and then the extraction of souls began.
Fuckin’ hell, Carter, she’s starting with me!
It wasn’t often my brother panicked. He was generally too sociopathic to care about anything, except when it was his own immortal soul. In all honesty I contemplated waiting for a while, allowing the soul-sucking demoness to gulp down Cash’s spirit – shit, I’d been looking for a way to expel his soul from mine for good, and now an unconventional opportunity had presented itself – but as much as I hated the murderous piece of shit, I hated Saoirse’s violation of my body more.
I wrenched loose from the chains and gripped hold of her right hand. A trick I’d learned during a self-defence class stripped the knife from her grip. More likely it was desperation that made the technique work than any skill but the knife was now in my hand and I reversed it just as Saoirse realised she’d been fooled. She snapped her tongue from my mouth and reared back, and the curve of her fangs almost tore my lips off before she’d fully disengaged.
I stood before her.
She looked down at my empty hands.
Then dawning realisation struck and she peered down at the only boner she’d get from me: the erect handle of the silver knife jutted from between her shrivelled breasts.
She was dead; she just didn’t know it yet.
I reached out, braced my palm against the knife handle and gave her a shove.
She fell flat on her back and didn’t move.
Broom would be happy to hear that the supposed magical knife had worked better than even he’d imagined. He swore that the blade had been forged by some vizier of the Zoharistic Kabbalah persuasion and was based upon a much earlier design. The first knife was made for none other than the Archangel Samael after he had a bit of a fling with Lilith and realised that he’d made a major faux pas when she wouldn’t return to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Samael’s way of getting rid of the bunny boiling temptress was to have a knife forged by Tubal Cain, the first metal worker, that could do Lilith and her kind in for good. I didn’t have the heart to tell my friend that you couldn’t rely on EBay as a source for genuine angelic weapons, but now I wouldn’t have to.
I left the knife jammed in the succubus’s breastbone. Maybe by extracting it she would rise up again like a vampire in a Hammer movie. I reached instead for the gun. It would be more effective than a blade against the group of Cambions now thumping down the stairs.
Naked, my mushy lips a match for my mushed up face, I greeted the fuckers as they stomped down and stood in a semi-circle behind their late mistress. Blazing auric colours sparked all around them. They were pissed. But then so was I.
‘Cash,’ I said. ‘Time for your special skills again.’
With pleasure, bro.
My gun hand came up. Truthfully, Cash, my murderous brother wasn’t the only one in control of my fingers this time.
BIO: Matt Hilton is the bestselling author of the Joe Hunter thriller series, but also enjoys writing in other genres, one of which is horror. Matt has had ten Joe Hunter thrillers published to date, plus ebooks of Hunter short tales, with more to come. He has self-published four horror novels (Dominion, Darkest Hour, Preternatural and The Shadows Call) as eBooks and paperbacks and also edited and collected the terrific Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vols 1 and 2 anthologies, and a number of his short stories have appeared in various collections and anthologies. He has a new thriller series featuring the characters Tess and Po debuting late in 2015.
Find out more about Matt at http://www.matthiltonbooks.com
Matt was also the founder of Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers and the thriller editor.
Carter and Cash Bailey appear in the novel PRETERNATURAL by Matt Hilton and is available in ebook http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IR9XS4G/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_2-rsvb1141PF4 and paperback formats http://www.amazon.co.uk/Preternatural-Matt-Hilton/dp/1499599919/ref=tmm_pap_title_0