by Clod Darker
“I don’t know just what it is about word games that I find so tremendously… compelling,” Mamet said as he tilted the little amber vial in one pudgy hand, carefully spooning out a large tuft of whitish powder with the other. He trembled only slightly as he guided the stuff to his right nostril and sniffed hard. His little pig-eyes blinked once or twice in reaction and he sat still as a portrait for a long moment, mouth agape, staring fixedly at some unguessable middle distance like some life-size cardboard cut-out of Tor Johnson—and an oddly happy Tor Johnson at that.
His companion, a small ratlike man in his mid-thirties, had not seen Plan Nine From Outer Space, or any of the other vintage 40’s and 50’s horror films starring that inimitable and lovable hunk of murderous flesh; but he knew a big fat obnoxious dolt when he saw one.
At this moment, however, he was not actually seeing Mamet at all; his attention was fixed solely and irrevocably on the nearly empty vial in the big man’s hand and he fidgeted anxiously, wiping at his own nose at irregular intervals of once every three to five seconds.
The table at which they sat was in a darkened corner of a nearly empty bar, The Impacted Colon. Normally the place was teeming and crawling with the most disgusting and degenerate denizens of the city’s slums, wharfs and sewers: murderers, thieves, rapists, mimes, performance artists. It was rumored that here, for a mere shilling or two, on could buy certain services not offered in any of the finer malls and vending establishments—a leg broken, a throat cut, a nose picked. For a small additional charge, these services could be rendered upon one’s enemies rather than oneself. And it was even whispered that for the right price, one could purchase things that no human being, sane or otherwise, would ever want to buy for any reason whatsoever—though the point of such whisperings was itself a source of even more whispering, soft and furtive and perhaps too difficult to hear with any accuracy… which then often quickly degenerated into bouts of meaningless grimacing and hissing, followed soon thereafter, if good fortune prevailed, by an abrupt change of subject.
It was very late this night, though, and whatever patrons weren’t dead or drunk, or perhaps both, had apparently paired off and wandered out into the night fog to have meaningless, impersonal sex. This was apparent by the wide array of muffled barnyard noises emanating from the alley outside.
Mamet blinked again, regaining sudden awareness of his surroundings. “Oh—what was I saying?”
“Word games,” mumbled the other through his hand, from which he had already completely chewed many of the nails. This was by no means his nastiest habit.
“Oh, oh yes, word games, indeed—like this!” Grinning goofily, he held the small glass container up to illustrate: “Vile stuff, this, eh? Eh?” He jiggled the vial as if to draw the other’s attention and concretize the connection of his little pun, momentarily failing to realize that the rat-man could not have been more aware of it had Mamet reached across the table and stuck it in his eye.
All the way, until the eyeball exploded and the vial imbedded itself in the back of the socket—but who would do something like that, or even think such a thing?
Nevertheless the rat-man smiled, nodded several times, forced himself to chuckle politely. He considered making a grab for it.
Sudden comprehension registered in Mamet’s immense jowled face. “Oh, oh yes, here you are!” He handed the vial and spoon over, his movements slow and cumbersome. The rat-man, much faster, met him more than halfway. “Enjoy, oh yes, do enjoy,” he drawled, smiling dully as the other did so without hesitation.
He had just tapped the last of the vial’s contents when a shadow crossed their table. A topless barmaid with numerous tumors, chancres, sores and a particularly livid series of scars where here nipples should have been stood above them. “Drink up now gents—closing time.” The rat-man eyed her charms as she sauntered away, leering disgustingly (the rat-man, not her—well, actually, both.)
Suddenly Mamet leaned across the table and patted the rat-man on the shoulder several times. “Why not come home with me tonight?” he blurted out. “I’ve got some really good stuff back at my flat—one-eighty a gram, and worth every penny!”
The rat-man eyed Mamet suspiciously. Theirs had been a chance meeting, one of those things that just seems to happen in some short fiction, often without even a decent attempt at explanation. His beady rat-like eyes narrowed, and he wondered: “Why this sudden come-on? He doesn’t know me, and I’m not buying. I’m not connected. How come he’s plying me with coke? What does this guy want, anyway?”
And suddenly the homosexual tension in that small block of space was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
In fact, it was so thick that you could stab it repeatedly, pull out all the internal organs and just sort of bathe your face in their moist heat—though who would think such a thing, or even want to?
Now in actuality, the rat-man was no stranger to homosexual experience, not at all. In point of fact, he’d had sex with all manner of creature at one time or another in his storied past, from chickens to carnival geeks—though never at the same time, for obvious reasons—but the one thing that he could not abide was fat. The very thought of co-mingling his own flesh with someone of such fantastically porcine dimension made nothing but his gorge rise.
(The only other thing the rat-man had never tried was necrophilia, and this on moral grounds—after much consideration he’d decided to save something for marriage.)
But murder, on the other hand…
Print edition now available HERE