by Marc-Anthony Taylor
They danced as the world fell around them. Her head on his shoulder, his hand placed delicately on her waist. Steven could hear people scream in the distance, causing him to start.
“Shhh,” her soft voice tickled his ear. “It will be done soon.” He swept her round in a spin as lightning flashed above them, followed immediately by the cymbal crash of thunder.
Not long before, the sun had been shining and children had played on the streets. They called out to one another in their games of hide and seek or tag. A girl screamed at the sight of a slug in her brother’s hand, teasing a squeal of joy from the brother. Water balloons were thrown and footballs kicked.
In the shadows of his living room Steven sat, tapping his nervous fingers on the threadbare armchair that had once belonged to his mother. Usually when he sat there memories of his mother brought him calm. The smell of her perfume, soft and sweet, would fill his nose bringing comfort and security.
Not today though. Today he was going to go too far.
Eyes squeezed shut, Steven, somehow, managed to lead his partner. He had never danced before, never had the opportunity, and yet he felt graceful. It was a strange feeling.
“What will happen to them?”
He couldn’t bring himself to look. His ears were filled with a music now, at once violent and gentle. His own voice part of the melody.
When she spoke it was a gentle soothing kiss in his head: “What do you want to happen to them?”
“Shit-head Steven! What’s the matter, mummy’s boy? You shit your pants?”
Brian Denning, Steven’s tormentor since primary school, towered over him drawing back his foot for another kick. Fanned out behind him were his usual squad of vapid goons. Not an original thought in one of them, his mother had always said.
The size twelve landed with a dull thump on Steven’s backside, eliciting a yelp of pain.
Denning beamed down at him, “I heard you get it worse from your dad.” One of the goons plucked up the courage and aimed a kick at the prone boy’s head.
Steven felt it connect, warm blood trickling down his face.
The whole group laughed and a wad of spit hit his hair.
The beat was faster now, punctuated by explosions and screams.
All around them things were launched into the air, flung about as if in a tornado. Somewhere, in the background of the song, Steven could here other things, discordant notes, calls that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be real.
Eyes still screwed shut, his hand tightened on his partner’s waist.
“I-I don’t know.”
Faces of the people he knew filled his mind. They weren’t all bad, just most of them.
“Will it happen to everyone?”
She let out a deep laugh; Steven was embarrassed to find himself aroused by it.
“No, little one. You do not have so much power.”
Despite the laugh he didn’t feel like she was mocking him.
“Only those in your little world.”
“You are always off on your own little world, ya wee shite!”
His dad was drunk again.
Steven had made the mistake of doing his homework with his headphones on. His father had come in drunk, wanting someone to shout at, and didn’t appreciate not being heard.
“Just like your useless mother.”
A hand lashed out, leaving a red mark on the boy’s face.
“You should have died when she did.”
Steven thought his dad might have went to bed. Then he heard the belt buckle being undone and began to shake.
“I’ll show you, boy.”
If he had thought it would have helped Steven would have screamed.
The discordant notes started to incorporate themselves into the tune, no longer sounding quite so dangerous. He knew those sounds were made by nothing human, but he didn’t care. He shouldn’t have to suffer anymore.
“I want them to pay,” he whispered, afraid of the words he was uttering.
“To do that you have to open your eyes, honey. Look at me.” There was a smile in her tone.
Gently she pushed him back, so that they were standing face to face. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
At first they darted from side to side, unable to take it all in, then his mind began to separate things.
There was fire everywhere, not red and orange but blue and green. Bits of the sky were crashing onto streets already cracked and torn; cars were crushed or ripped apart. The roofs of houses had collapsed leaving ragged scars on the facades.
People ran in all directions, some cut and bloodied, others with a look of madness that was infinitely worse. Behind the people came creatures cloaked in shadow, threatening shapes with hints of violence. Their voices now sounded sweet rather than terrible.
Then his eyes landed on her.
Her smile was sharp as a diamond blade, but stunning. She was the most beautiful creature he could ever have imagined. Like something out of a film, with alabaster skin, blood-red lips and almond-shaped eyes. The eyes caught him: black orbs that looked so deep, he could easily lose himself in them.
“See what I do for you, my boy?”
She pulled him closer once again, making him take the lead in their dance.
“Now we come to the question of price.”
Steven pulled his head back slightly, saying, “Price?”
Her smile was still sharp, still stunning, but was now more terrible than the monsters had been.
“Nothing is free, my darling. Nothing.”
She kissed him, and he fell into darkness.
MARC-ANTHONY TAYLOR recently had his first story published in the eZine Estronomicon. You can find more flash fiction from him at gileadslostson.blogspot.com.