The Jungle by Mark Valentine
Erotic Horror contest entry
Linda McConnell kissed her husband.
“There’s some spaghetti sauce in the fridge, and a couple of frozen pizzas in the freezer.”
“I know how to cook. I’ll be fine.” Casey braced himself for the infantilizing lecture that always came when his wife left him alone in the house.
“There’s a bag of old clothes in the hall closet that needs to go to Goodwill. Can you drop those off?”
“Oh, and I meant to get a new shower curtain. The one we have is getting moldy. Could you pick one up?”
“No problem. You should be on your way. You’ve got a long drive.” Casey put his hand on the doorknob to open it for her.
“You’re not even going to miss me, are you?”
“I can’t miss you until you go.”
“I’ll be back Tuesday at the latest.”
“If your mom needs you to stay longer, I’ll be OK here. You never know how long it takes to recover from a surgery like that.”
“She’ll be fine. My dad is there. I just want to be there for the first few days. You sure you’ll be OK without me?”
“I think I’ll survive.”
“No wild parties while I’m gone.” Linda smiled slighty as she said this to underscore the fact that she knew with absolute certainty that her husband was incapable of doing anything "wild".
“Rats. I was thinking of having a bunch of strippers over tonight.”
“You should do something fun. Think about it – you’ll have the whole house to yourself for four days. Have an adventure.”
“The strippers would be an adventure.”
“Seriously, Casey. You always complain about being tied to a routine, but on those rare occasions when you have a chance to go out and do something, you just sit on the couch and watch sports.”
“As soon as you go, I’ll begin my adventure. Have fun and say hi to your folks for me. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
They kissed one final time and Linda picked up her suitcase and headed out.
Casey watched the car pull away and then took a seat in front of the TV. Let the adventure begin, he thought to himself as he flipped through the channels.
After a few minutes of channel surfing, he came to rest on an Animal Planet documentary on sea otters. He watched for a while, then thought to himself. Linda’s right, what am I doing? I should get out. Take a bike ride, go to a movie – do something.
Problem was, there weren’t a lot of exciting options in Menominee, Wisconsin, the town in which Casey McConnell had spent his entire life – all 45 unexciting years of it.
Casey got up from the couch and walked about the house aimlessly for a while before sitting down in front of the computer. Maybe I’ll write something. He logged into his Fanstory account and checked messages. Twenty-seven “New Writing Online” messages awaited announcing new posts from other amateur writers. Casey glanced down the list of author’s names and perked up a bit when he saw that Marija had a new post online.
Marija did not post often. Nevertheless, Casey stopped by her web page periodically just to look at her profile picture. If Webster’s had an entry for “bedroom eyes”, that picture would be next to it. She had the most beguiling, inviting smile. A guy couldn’t look at that smile and not have his imagination take flight. The picture revealed a hint of bare shoulder at the base of an elegant neck. Unbeknownst to Linda, Casey had imagined that neck and that shoulder countless times when the two of them made love.
And that name – Marija – as exotic and intriguing as the face. He had heard it before, but he couldn’t recall where.
As if the picture and name weren’t enough, there were her poems. Hardly works of art by any stretch, their appeal stemmed from their ability to awaken the more primal forces inside of her male readers. They were simple, short poems whose titles cut right to the point. Nothing abstract or obscure about her writing. Her poems bore titles such as ”Do Me”, “I Surrender My Body to You”, and, in the case of her magnum opus, “I Want You In Me”.
Today’s feature was entitled “Kiss My Loins”:
Start behind my ear with a soft kiss
Let my allure pull you ever southward
A soft bite on the neck, and angel kiss on my shoulder
Surrender to the inevitable as I pull you down further
Kiss my loins
Pays one point and two member cents
He stared at the poem for thirty seconds before remembering that he needed to breathe. Oxygen – must take in oxygen. He thought about what he would say in his review. He would remark on how he liked the metaphor of the journey, how the soft word choices mirrored the suppleness of her skin so apparent in her profile photo - no wait, he couldn’t go there. Gotta stay cool, he reminded himself. He gave it a six star rating, included the stuff about the journey metaphor, and awaited her reply.
He often read her replies to other reviewers. Invariably they just said “Thank you for your review,” but her replies to him almost always said, “Thank you so much for your review” So much. Why did she single him out? What was she trying to communicate with those two extra words that were his alone? Did she gaze upon his profile picture the way he looked at hers? Maybe she had a thing for middle-aged men with thinning hair? Stranger things had happened. Maybe she would reply “Thank you so much. I so want to meet you in person. By any chance is your wife out of town for a few days? I could so come right over. I happen to live in Menominee also.”
No reply came. He went to Target to buy a shower curtain.
Upon his return he logged into Fanstory to see “1 Reply” at the top of the page. Oh, please, let it be from her. It was, and it read, “Thanks for the review Casey. Much appreciated.”
She called me by name! And I got a “much appreciated”. His excitement amped up even more when he noticed that there was another New Writing Online message with her name next to it, Two in one day! Unheard of for Marija.
He opened the new post. It was called “The Jungle”
I am a tigress on the prowl.
Lean. Muscular. Cunning. Savage.
And you are my prey. I leap upon you.
You are helpless in my grasp.
My mouth covers every inch of your skin,
Ravishing your body. I sink my teeth into your flesh.
And we both feel the warm pools of liquid wash over us.
Casey went upstairs to hang the new shower curtain in the bathroom, first making a quick stop in the bedroom to attend to an issue that had suddenly come up.
Having successfully discharged these duties, he returned to his computer to write his review.
“Marija, you are a terrific writer. Your words have a way of evoking a very deep response in their readers –that’s the true mark of great poetry. By the way I love your profile picture”
No, take that last part out, he reprimanded himself. You can’t comment on the picture.
Sure you can.
No you can’t.
He hit ‘send’ thereby ending the internal argument.
He needed to walk away from the computer to slow his heart rate down, so he turned on the TV. The Wisconsin - Michigan State game had just begun. It was a welcome diversion that helped him pull his mind out of the gutter and back into some semblance of sanity. My God, Linda’s only been gone for two hours and already I’m going crazy.
At halftime Wisconsin led 17-13. He went back to check Fanstory. “0 Replies”. But what was this? In his message box, amid a string of ‘New Writing Onlines’ was a message from Marija. The subject heading said simply ‘Thanks’. Once again he had to remind himself to breathe as he opened it.
“Dear Casey. Thanks so much for this review. Do you really think that I’m a terrific writer? Wow! I wanted to respond in a PM as opposed to a more public reply because I wanted to let you know that I was thinking specifically of you when I wrote "The Jungle'. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I sometimes use your profile picture as inspiration for the poems I write. I’ve been writing about you a lot lately, but I’m a little nervous about posting all of them. Here’s another one I wrote for you just now. I’m not going to post it as it is for your eyes only. Please let me know what you think, though if you don’t want to comment on it, I’ll understand. It’s called “Come”:
Come right now
Cut whatever ropes are tethering you to home, work and family and let your body be pulled into my gravity.
Come to me
Come to my lips
Come to my neck
Come to my breasts
Come to my vagina
Explode into me
There was no need to agonize over how to word his response. As fast as his fingers could type, he fired off a four word response:
“Where do you live?”
Oh please let it be in the US, preferably in the Midwest.
In a matter of seconds he had received her response. Her address was in Kansas City, Missouri. A seven hour drive. He was sure he could make it in five.
“I’ll be there by nightfall”, he wrote her.
Casey ran to the car without packing a bag, without grabbing any CDs for the road trip, without locking the door behind him. What the hell? There’s never any crime in Menominee.
As he sped south on I-35, he pushed away any thoughts that might be emanating from his conscience.Think about that neck. Think about those eyes. The phrase ‘pools of warm liquid’ echoed in his brain.
Before he knew it, Casey was in southern Iowa – just over halfway there. The voices of reason were trying to creep in to the jungle that was Casey’s brain. In the middle of the ‘loins’, the ‘mouths’, and the ‘warm pools of liquid’ came questions. What if that’s not her real picture? What if it’s a joke my friends are playing on me? What if this is some weird “Pina Colada Song” nightmare and Marija turns out to be Linda?
Nevertheless, even the slim possibility that the bare shoulder from that picture might actually exist in Kansas City kept Casey’s 2003 Honda Accord moving forward. As he crossed the Missouri state line, the pounding in his chest raced along with the engine, as if the tachometer were hooked up to his heart.
It was dark when he exited the interstate in Kansas City. The GPS directions guided him toward the address Marija had given him. Marija? Was that even a real person? Casey wondered what in God’s name was he doing here.
Casey was accustomed to following directions, so without even fully attending to the voice from the GPS, turn by turn, Casey blindly followed where he was directed.
“In 500 feet turn left on Catalpa Boulevard”
Suddenly, he was in front of the address. It was a modest single-family bungalow, in a quiet neighborhood on the northern edge of Kansas City.
No way is this real. Casey thought. You’ve had your adventure – turn the car around and go home now.
The GPS was quiet now, but some other inner voice seemed to direct Casey to get out of the car, go up the stairs of 2514 N Catalpa, and ring the bell.
A woman answered the door. It was Marija. The shoulders, the neck, the lips, the eyes. Every bit as beautiful as her picture. She was wearing a negligee. Jesus Christ, she was wearing a negligee!
“Come in Casey. So glad you made it.”
“You’re even more beautiful than your picture.”
“Thank you – so are you.”
Casey was sure she was joking. His brain had stopped working. Nothing was coming to mind.
Say something you idiot! Think! Compliment her poetry.
“Your poetry is… umm…. I mean I really like your…”
“My poetry is words that express desires. But there is a time for writing and a time for doing. Take me into the bedroom.”
“Pick me up in your strong arms, take me into that bedroom over there,” she pointed “and take this negligee off of me.”
Somehow Casey was able again to shift into ‘follow-directions’ mode. He swept her into her arms and carried her into the bedroom. He kissed her deeply as he gently laid her on the bed. He looked around the room
“Wow,” he said, as he took in the array of accessories that lie beside the bed: whipped cream, handcuffs, lotions.
“Yeah, we’re gonna have some fun. I can’t let you drive down all the way from Menominee and not make it worth your while. Kiss my neck. You’ve wanted to kiss my neck for a long time now, haven’t you?”
“Ever since the first time I saw your profile picture.”
“Well then, kiss my neck.”
Casey kissed her neck, starting behind the ear and working down and back until he was gently caressing the nape of her neck with his mouth.
“Take off my negligee.”
Casey obliged and gently removed her negligee revealing a pair of perfect breasts that didn’t move an inch when the support of the negligee was taken away. He kissed he breasts, gently at first, then more vigorously eventually taking as muh of each breast as he could into his mouth and sucking.
“Now take your clothes off and lie on your back.”
He did as he was told.
She handcuffed him to the bedposts.
“What are these for?”
“We’re gonna live out one of my fantasies. When we’re done, I’ll write a poem about it. ‘The Jungle: Part 2’. Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
She left the room. He lay there is disbelief. This is really happening. He had never been so excited. He felt like he was going to explode. At that moment, he knew if she but said the word, he would leave his wife and move to Kansas City. He would sell his soul just to be able to experience this kind of bliss on a regular basis.
After several long minutes, Marija returned. She was wearing overalls and carrying something large in her hands.
“Have you ever seen one of these before? Industrial grade. It belonged to my father. He was a butcher. In more ways than one. By day he cut steaks for his customers, and by night he raped his daughter.”
As she plugged in the saw, the reality of what was happening hit Casey like a thunderbolt. His screams were drowned out by the whirring of the large blade. The pain was excruciating, but short-lived.
The last thing he would ever feel was the sensation of pools of warm liquid on his skin.
One year later…
MATT LAUER: We’re happy to have with us Melanie Hanson, whose debut novel, “Butchered” currently tops the New York Times best seller list. Melanie, welcome to the Today Show.
MELANIE: Thank you, Matt.
MATT LAUER: First of all, congratulations on the amazing success of your novel.
MELANIE: Thanks, so much. I’m a little overwhelmed at all the attention it’s getting. It’s a bit much for a plain girl from Kansas City.
MATT LAUER: Well, you look anything but plain in that dress. But, I digress. Let’s talk about your novel. Your main character is Allison Szymanski, a police woman who seduces and brutally butchers men, and then makes sure the homicide cases get assigned to her so that she can investigate them. That’s quite an original premise. Where did you get that idea?
MELANIE: Well, Matt, my father was a butcher, and my mother was a cop, so I guess the blending of those two activities comes naturally to me.
MATT LAUER: Well, they must be quite proud of your success.
MELANIE: Sadly Matt, they passed away a number of years ago, but they were wonderful parents. I think about them all the time. Especially my father. I can still feel his presence. Every inch of it. In many ways he was the inspiration for this book.
MATT LAUER: Quite touching.
MELANIE: Yes, he was.
MATT LAUER: Obviously, nothing like what happens in your book, happened in real life.
MATT LAUER: And yet there was some real-life knowledge that you drew upon for some of the technical aspects of the story. Is that fair to say?
MELANIE: It's all grist for the mill, Matt.
MATT LAUER: I hear there’s talk of turning this into a movie.
MELANIE: Yes, we’re talking with the folks at Paramount now.
MATT LAUER: I could see Jennifer Lawrence playing Allison Szymanski. Did anyone ever tell you that you resemble her a bit?
MELANIE: That’s very kind of you to say, Matt. I think she’d be great for the role. After all, I hear she’s quite a cut-up.
MATT LAUER: (laughing) And so, apparently are you.
MELANIE: You have no idea.
MATT LAUER: Well, Melanie Szymanski, thank you so much for taking the time to join us on Today.
(Turning to camera). Coming up after the break, Savannah reports on the latest in corporate espionage technology, Carson Daly reports from the small town of Menominee, Wisconsin on the one year anniversary of the still-unsolved disappearance of high school English teacher, Casey McConnell, and the Archer Meats trial is finally set to begin in Kansas City. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that something in Archer hot dogs last year was responsible for over 40 illnesses and three deaths. Archer Meats claims that the tainted hot dogs did not come from their plant and may have been planted in grocery stores by someone else. Natalie Morales will be live from Kansas City. This is Today.
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