Horror and Thriller Fiction posted June 23, 2011


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A desperate girl is faced with her past

Fractured Faith

by phild

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
Blood trickled down Shelly's chin from her busted lip. It wasn't the first time she fought a John for her money and probably wouldn't be the last. But it didn't matter. She got her cash, her heroin, and rushed to her apartment.

The dark hallway smelled of urine and desperation. A combination she had become familiar with the last five years. Her high school graduation present was her stepfather raping her one last time and throwing her out of the house.

Her mother wasn't home when he tossed Shelly onto the front lawn and slammed the door. It wouldn't have mattered. Her mother had been living inside a bottle for as long as Shelley could remember. Last she heard, her stepfather had left her mother and moved to Kansas City. All that remained of her real father were cloudy memories of a granite headstone and a small monthly check from a trust fund he had set up for her.

Shelley navigated the piles of trash and the occasional unconscious body sprawled across the hallway before reaching the black door to her apartment. The lock stuck and she jiggled the key from side to side before it finally turned. Most people would wonder why she would even lock the door to the shit hole she lived in. It wasn't to keep anyone from stealing her valuables because she didn't have any. It kept out squatters and other leaches that crawled the streets and hallways of her world.

She slipped inside and engaged the lock. The small apartment had warped and worn flooring. A bathroom with a rust-stained sink and commode stood next to a small closet, neither of them having a door. There was no kitchen, just a mattress and a sweat stained pillow under which she kept a cigar box containing a few personal possessions and her drug paraphernalia. Pulling the drugs out of her jacket pocket, she tossed the jacket onto the only piece of furniture she owned; a rickety wooden chair.

She loved the ritual of preparing the drugs. Pulling out the foil wrapped packet, she unwrapped it, removed the syringe, arm band, and lighter from the cigar box. A half bottle of water laid beside the box. Sitting Indian style, she pulled back her dirty blonde hair and began the process.

The spoon would be the last thing. It was the only uncomfortable part of the ritual because it reminded her of another life. A life where her father was still alive and her mother still cared. They would go to church at St. Mary's every Sunday. She could remember her small hands moving over her mother's rosary beads and praying to a God she now knew didn't exist.

The spoon represented a happier time. She wasn't sure of where it came from. Probably a gift when she was small. Mickey Mouse's head adorned the top of the tarnished handle. She used it throughout her good childhood, before the darkness descended on her almost every night in the form of her stepfather. Maybe that's why she kept it. It reminded her of a time when sleep came without nightmares. She recaptured that time for a few hours when the heroin took hold. But, she hated using the spoon for this. She'd promise herself to get another one, but then she'd get high and forget until she shot up again.

She needed to get high. That would rid her of the memories or at least numb them to a point of tolerability. The arm-band slid over her skinny, track riddled arm and she pulled it tight, using her mouth. A meager vein pushed upward. Lately finding a good vein had become a problem.

Her eyes avoided Mickey when she sprinkled the powder onto the spoon and added water from the bottle. The lighter's blue flame jumped wrapping itself around the bottom of the blackened spoon. In a few seconds, it would be ready. She licked her lips, not wincing when her tongue ran over the busted one.

As the flame drew her closer to the relief she longed for, a loud banging rocked the door. Ignoring it, she continued to watch the flame turn the powder into liquid Heaven. The banging came again, this time more forceful. The casing around the door rattled exuding a thin cloud of dust.

No one ever came here to see her. Not her John's or her dealer. The few street friends she had didn't know where she lived. It had to be a mistake, someone at the wrong door. If she kept quiet, they'd go away. But they didn't. They beat on the door again. She remained quiet. The knob turned. The ritual ceased as she fought to remember if she locked it. She was sure she had, but the door slowly opened.

He stepped inside. She had never seen him before. He was tall and thin, to the point of gauntness. His shirt, jeans, and boots were all black. Strands of jet-black greasy hair curled out from under a black baseball cap. A thin layer of soot coated him. Everything about him fit into her world, except his eyes. She was accustomed to seeing empty hopeless eyes. His were different. They were alive; the eyes of a predator.

The flame continued its work but she stared over the top to see him.

"What do you want?" she asked.

The stranger closed the door. He looked around the dismal surroundings and smiled as if he had returned home. Before his pale lips relaxed covering his white teeth, she thought his teeth had points on them.

The relief in her spoon bubbled. Her tongue moved over her bottom lip as her mouth filled with saliva.

"I asked you a question," she said and raised up on her knees.

She hung on the edge of a razor trying to decide if she should prepare for an attack or answer her veins begging for relief.

The man in black walked to the chair and sat in it. Deep lines were etched in his forehead and crows feet spread around each eye.

"My business can wait until you are through. Actually, I would prefer it that way." The deep, mellow timber of his voice echoed through the room. He smiled again, but no pointy teeth revealed themselves.

The need for survival overtook her screaming veins and she turned the lighter off.

"No, please don't stop on my behalf. I've been watching you for a long time. Watching you meander nearer and nearer to me." His pale lips stretched into a grin. "I've been waiting so long for this. A few more moments won't hurt. Please, continue."

A sense of deja vu filled her as she stared at the stranger.

"Do I know you?" she asked.

"Are all these questions necessary? Wouldn't you rather inject yourself and then we could talk?"

The cries of her veins returned as if summoned by the stranger's request. She needed a fix but she hesitated.

"What do you think I'm stupid? I get high then when I can't defend myself you do whatever you want to me." Shelly shook her head. "Fuck no."

"I promise I'm not here to harm you. But things will go quicker if you go ahead and get your fix. Your brain is screaming for it, isn't it?"

He was right. Her whole body screamed for it.

"I ... I need to know what's ..."

Releasing a sigh, he got out of the chair and walked to her.

The man towered over her. She gripped the needle ready to plunge it into him if he attacked. Instead, he knelt in front of her and removed a gold lighter from his pocket. When he clicked it, fire roared from the gold casing as if it were alive.

"Hold the spoon out," he ordered.

With a slow, robotic motion, she raised her hand with the Mickey Mouse spoon in it, and watched the red flame settled under it. The bubbling commenced again. The acrid smell set off her salivary glands.

"Now it's ready," he said. "go ahead, draw it into the needle."

With shaky hands, Shelly followed his commanded. The needle sucked up the ambrosia. The empty spoon dropped back into the cigar box.

"Cinch up the arm band. That vein has a more life in it. Pull it tighter."

She did and the vein responded.

The stranger grinned and stood up.

"That's my girl," he said and returned to the chair. "Now, finish it."

In all the times she had done this, she never cried, but now a tear slid down her cheek.

The needle shook as it approached the blue-green vein. She felt it pulsating when the sharp tip pressed against it.

"That's it," he said.

Shelly stared up at him. His red tongue ran over his lips and he rubbed his hands together as he watched her. His eyes had turned from alive to wild and for a second, she thought they went completely black.

"Do it, now," he shouted at her. A scratchy harshness replaced the deep timber in his voice.

She flinched as a wave of hot air rushed past her. The tip of the needle punctured the vein and slid in. With her thumb on the plunger, she shut her eyes.

"Yes. That's it. Do it."

Shelly stopped. Tears cascaded down her face leaving tracks across her dirty cheeks.

"Why are you doing this?" she asked.

"Don't ask questions. Just finish."

He stood up, appearing to have grown a foot taller as his rage increased.

"No," she said and removed the needle from her arm. "No, I won't until you tell me what in the Hell is going on."

"That's exactly right," he said. The rage receded along with his size. "Hell, that's what's going on."

Several seconds ticked by as she wrestled to understand what he was saying. Then she did.

"You think you're the Devil," she said.

The stranger didn't move, didn't breath. He waited for her laughter to subside.

"Damn, you're a crazy son-of-a-bitch," she said.

She reached into her cigar box. Along with her drug paraphernalia, she kept a pair of rosary beads and a knife. The beads had coiled around the blade. Sliding it free, the edges of the serrated blade clicked over each bead.

"I've dealt with people a lot tougher than you. Now, one of two things are about to happen here mister." She stood up, the knife extended outward. "You're gonna turn and get the fuck out of here or I'm gonna spill your guts all over this floor. Which one is it going to be?" she said and stepped toward him.

"Now, Shelly." A smile stretched across his face. "You don't want to do that."

One of his hands shot out, seizing her wrist.

"Damn it," she screamed.

The bones in her skinny wrist crunched under the pressure. His grip was hot. And not just hot, but burning. Smoke rose from his fingers. The knife slid from her limp hand and the dark stranger grabbed it as it slipped away.

"Stop you're hurting me."

"Like your stepfather hurt you?" he said and released her wrist.

"What?"

He guided the sharp tip of the knife down her forehead and her nose. "Tell me, at some level you enjoyed what he did to you didn't you, the attention of an older man." The tip crossed her chin and continued down her throat. "I bet you enjoyed the sex didn't you?" He smirked.

"I ... who?"

The knife reached the top of her shirt and began cutting off buttons. Tears spilled down her cheeks. Through her tear laden vision, she saw her stepfather in the stranger. She could smell the cheap whiskey and sweat. She could hear his heavy labored breathing. Each button tapped as it hit the marred hardwood floor. With each tap, she flinched, knowing what was coming next.

"You did want him didn't you? You little whore."

His breath washed over her like smoke from a forest fire.

"No"

Deep, booming laughter echoed in the room as the last button clicked across the floor.

Her shirt hung open revealing the outline of her ribs and the scars on her torso. Along with her stepfather's penchant molestation, he also had one for extinguishing cigarettes on the tender skin of her stomach.

"Did you enjoy getting these too?" He let the tip of the knife probe each point of disfigured flesh.

"What do you want from me?" she asked.

The dark man didn't answer. He let out heavy, raspy breaths and allowed the knife to continue playing with her scars.

"If you're gonna rape me just do it and get it over with."

"I'm not going to rape you."

"Then what do you want?"

"Your soul. It's time for me to collect. Now be a good girl and take that last hit of heroin. Then you can go with me."

"You're crazy," she whispered.

"Am I?" He raised the knife and pressed it to her lips. "Do you want this?" he asked and nodded at the knife.

She looked into the dark face. The crow's feet were gone from the edges of his eyes. The deep lines across his forehead had been replaced by smooth pore-free skin. But the stench of smoke and death cause her stomach to lurch.

"Well do you?" he asked.

"And if I say yes?"

His smile revealed pointy white teeth. "That's all you have to do. Just ask. So, do you want it?"

"Who the fuck are you?"

"I am your worst nightmare." He jammed the knife into the wall beside her head filling the room with a thud. "I'm a witness or perhaps instigator is a more appropriate word. Does it matter? But I was there. I was there when you stole money from your mom's purse. I was there the first time you touched yourself down there." He pressed a hand between her legs. "And I was there every time your step-father did those things to you."

The litany of her misdeeds spewed out of his mouth. They worsened as he recounted the last several years. Some she remembered freely, others were wrapped in a drug induced haze and freeing them from her memory resembled the pains of child birth. The dark man with the black eyes towered over her and ripped the guts out of her miserable life. When he finished, he gave her a pointy-tooth smile.

"How can you know all that?" Shelly asked.

"I think you know. Now, its time to finish this."

When he bent over to retrieve the needle, Shelly ripped the knife out of the wall and held it in front of her.

He didn't flinch. He tossed the needle and spoon into the cigar box and stood erect.

"Do you think you can stab me? You still don't get it do you?" With his arms raised, he walked to her until the tip of the blade pressed against his stomach. "Go ahead. Do it."

She lunged. The point of the blade plunged into his stomach. Her hand along with the knife passed through him. She drew back and tried again and again until her efforts grew into a frenzied attack, but it was like trying to stab a shadow.

"What the fuck ..."

A vicious slap snapped her head sideways.

He snatched the knife from her and tossed it into the box. "Now finish it." He shouted, his voice making the guttural sounds of a rabid animal.

Grabbing a handful of her hair, he threw her across the room. Her slender body hit the wall and slid down onto the stained mattress. Blood ran out of her nose and sweat poured from her face. Her vision blurred and through the blur the dark stranger doubled in size.

"Shelly it's impossible to fight it. There's no salvation here." His voice returned to its normal mellow tone. "I'm here to collect something not give reprieves. Your life has been building toward this so just accept it. Because honestly, if you don't accept it, it really doesn't matter. You are still leaving here with me." He tossed the needle, and spoon to her, then sat in the chair. "I put a little something special in your box there."

Wiping the blood and sweat away with her tattered shirt, she stared into the box. His gold lighter lay next to a folded piece of aluminum foil with a lump in the middle.

"Now tighten the band on your arm, heat up my gift, and shoot it." He grinned and shifted in his seat. "You know I was there the first time you shot up. You and that skinny kid, Bobby, wasn't that his name? You know it was. After we leave here I'll take you to see him."

Picking up the spoon she stared at Mickey's burned and charred face. It came to her, her sixth birthday. That's when she got it, a gift from her mother before everything went bad. A time before the list of Hell that the dark stranger recited to her earlier had begun.

"Go ahead, do it," the dark man said. He leaned forward and licked his lips. "Come on. One last time. You know you want it."

She understood who he was and should have expected this. More importantly, she knew she deserved it.

Years ago her faith had fallen away, maybe not so much fallen, as whittled away with each rape, drained needle, and every time she laid on her back hustling up cash for the next fix. That's what life had become, finding the next fix, chasing the Devil.

A tear dropped into the cigar box.

The little catholic school girl and her innocent glow had disappeared. For years she knelt, rosary beads in hand, stained glass windows of watchful saints hovering over her, but her faith had fractured and splintered away. Belief in God left and she wandered into the darkness.

She wondered where He had gone, her God, the protector of children? She had been faithful and had believed, but when she prayed to him each night that her stepfather came into her room, God never answered. As he looked down on her from the photograph that hung above her bed, He let the innocent little girl become tarnished. The rosary beads were draped over a corner of the photo. On her back, looking over her stepfather's hairy shoulder, she prayed to that photo as the rosary beads swung back and forth with each of his thrusts.

Another tear abandoned her splattering into the box and spreading across the back of the picture she hadn't looked at in years. Reaching into the box, she flipped the picture over. In the photo, she stood with her parents at her first communion. Clutched in her small hands were her first rosary beads. The ones she still kept today. They were a gift from her parents on her special day.

One of her grimy fingers caressed the beads in the photo then the ones in the box. A drop of blood from her nose splattered across the photo. She wiped the stain away on her jeans and smiled.

"I love this part," he said. "Watching them struggle with regret before they come to me."

Shelly picked up the knife.

"We're not going to do this again are we?" he said. "I promise the results will be the same."

The mixture of blood and tears stopped. She stood and stared at him, the knife in one hand, the rosary beads in the other.

He smiled at her. His pointed teeth were crooked and uneven.

"I can't wait to get you to Hell." As he spoke, his face turned crimson. "By the way there's someone else there that can't wait to see you. I bet you know who. He's been waiting for you ever since I took him in that hotel in Kansas City. Maybe you two can rekindle your old love." Laughter shot out of him in a series of guttural growls.

Tossing the knife aside, she used her shirt to clean her face. She let out a heavy breath and walked toward him.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

She didn't answer.

He stood up and walked toward her, his face morphing into a red mess.

"Now you can't take those with you," he snarled pointing at the beads. "You understand that's not my bag."

She stood before him and looked into his black eyes but didn't shiver or cower. She stood taller than she had in years. Clutching the beads in one hand, she smiled.

"Thank you," she said.

"I've been doing this a long time and no one has ever thanked me. You're crazier than I thought."

"But I'm not going with you," she said.

His laughter poured out as an uneven howl. His mouth opened, stretching the mangled face and revealing more rows of pointed teeth.

"Oh little girl but you are. You've been destined for this for a long time. I've had my eyes on you. Now let's cut out the bullshit and finish this."

"No, I don't have to."

"Oh yes you do."


She shook her head. "God will protect me."

"God? You don't believe in God. Where was your God when you're fat stepfather came in and fucked you every night. Huh? Where was he? Where was he the first time someone shot that poison in your arm or all the times you were beaten and raped in the sewers and alleys? Where little girl, where was your God? Nowhere to be found," he said and spat in her face.

The thick, hot saliva slithered over her cheeks.

"There is no God little girl. You don't believe."

"You're right." She wiped the hot mess from her face. "I lost my faith. I lost my way."

"Your fucking right you lost your way and I claimed you."

"But," she held the rosary beads to her chest, "If you're real and I don't doubt you are, then God has to be real. I don't know why things happened to me the way it did. I don't know that it even matters any more, but I know God's real. Seeing you here convinced me of that. So, I'm not going with you."

Shelly turned her back on the grotesque figure and walked to her mattress. She knelt down, clutching the beads in both hands, and made the sign of the cross.

"I believe in God, the father almighty ..."

"Stop that," he screamed.

"creator of Heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ ..."

"I said stop it. Now."

Something flew by her head. A sharp corner caught her ear and blood trickled down her neck.

"who was conceived by the Holy Spirit ..."

"Stop it you damned bitch."

Her head snapped forward from a blow.

"born of the Virgin Mary ..."

"You worthless fucking whore stop it."

The hair on the back of her head began to singe. She closed her eyes and gripped the beads tighter.

"crucified, died, and was buried ..."

Howls filled the room. The mattress lurched off the ground. She fell sideways striking the side of her face on the hard floor.

"He sits at the right hand of God the Father ..."

Hot claws locked around her waist and launched her across the room. Something in her shoulder cracked when she met the wall and a lightning bolt of pain shot down her back.

"I believe in the Holy Spirit ..."

A slap from a clawed hand snapped her head to one side. Blood spewed form the wounds laid open on her face.

"the Holy Catholic Church ..."

Another slap and more blood spattered against the wall.

"the communion of saints ..."

Two teeth popped out of her mouth from another blow. The salty taste of blood trickled down the back of her throat.

"the forgiveness of sins ..."

The clawed hand raked across her stomach. The sound of her wet guts slapping against the floor filled her ears.

"the resurrection of the body and life everlasting ..."

Her left shin shattered, puncturing her skin. Bits of red flesh clung to the jagged pieces of exposed bone.

"Amen."

The room spun. Flames engulfed her body turning her pale skin into boiling pools of flesh. The hounds of Hell were released tearing hunks of red muscle off the white bone. Chunks of her scalp were ripped off as were the fingers of one hand. She lost feeling in her arm or perhaps it had been torn off. She wasn't sure. The ability to speak disappeared, but her lips continued to move, reciting the prayer in silence, as a whirlwind of Hell engulfed her.

And then it ended. She didn't know how or when but the fury ceased. She rolled over expecting to see her demonic friend standing in the carnage but he was gone. Aside from the toppled chair and the stench of burning flesh, the room remained as it always had been. Her arms and teeth were intact along with the rest of her body. Her rosary beads were still clutched in her hands.

Stumbling to the bathroom, she hit the floor in front of the commode. Bile poured out of her empty stomach. With each convulsion, her throat burned and her ribs contracted to the point of breaking.

After a few moments, the attack subsided. She stood and steadied herself on the stained sink. The mirror above it had broken and been trashed long ago. Probably better, she didn't want to see her face now. Tepid water ran out of the tap and she splashed it on her face. Another wave of nausea hit her but she fought it back and stumbled to the mattress. The cigar box sat there. Its lid closed. Kneeling down and opening it, all of the usual suspects were present with a single addition. A gold lighter lay in the middle of the box. Deep scratches were cut into is golden sides. Shelly picked it up. A hissing filled the room as the red-hot lighter burned her hand.

"Oh, God," she shouted and flung the lighter aside.

With her uninjured hand, she removed the needle, foil pack, and knife. They were tossed aside with the lighter which had stopped burning. Its dark magic spent.

After removing the spoon and the photo, the box was empty. Its white bottom shone back at her.

She knew her journey through the darkness had ended. Faith, hidden somewhere deep inside of her, rushed to the surface and shielded her from the evil. A sense of safety that she hadn't felt in years settled over her. She didn't stop to take a last look around. Instead she scurried across the floor and out the open door. A mist swirled around her as she walked through the hallway. Saint Catherine's Catholic Church was down the street. They had a woman's shelter and she knew her new life would begin there.

When she reached the stairs, her walk became a jog. Scraps of paper and other trash parted in her wake. She didn't hear the ancient steps creak or have to contend with the stench of urine. Even the bums who usually lined the steps were gone. As she broke out of the front door of the dilapidated building and into the sunshine, the staleness of the last five years dissipated. Her jog became a run.



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