147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

New horror fiction. 147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

It was so hot. The blankets from their bed around her felt like a heavy shroud.  Asphyxiating like the vest they drape over torsos during an x-ray. The wool was oppressive and binding. She could feel the sweat pooling between her breasts. Her shirt was soaked. Her hair was wet from the nape of her neck to the crown of her head. The room was bright and sharp and stinging light shot in through the curtains. She squinted, and she could feel a bead of sweat trail down her curled nose and forehead.

“Baby,” Shawn whispered. Carolyn opened her eyes, but they were leaden. Her eyelids drooped, leaving her eyes open just a sliver against the burning light. “Can you try to drink something?” She felt the bed shift when he sat down beside her. She pushed the blankets down to her stomach. It felt like she was trying to dig her hands through wet sand. Shawn’s hands brushed against her as he helped wrangle the covers.

“Here,” he said. She felt his hand behind her and he helped her get into a sitting position. More of a leaning, tired position. He handed her a glass. It was cold. It felt wonderful. Instead of drinking it, she held it next to her face. “Try to drink,” he said. “You haven’t had anything all day.”

“My legs hurt,” she said. Let her try to hold the glass on her own. She managed, although it did clink against her teeth each time she raised it to her mouth. He wrapped his hands around her calves and rubbed, them. She grimaced, the glass wobbling in her hand.

“Steady on,” he said, taking the glass from her.

She curled her knees to her chest. “My stomach hurts. Like something is squeezing me. Twisting my insides. Ugh,” she groaned.

“Baby,” Shawn said. “We need to take care of you.”

“No, I just need to sleep. And my deductible is too high.”

“It’s almost bedtime. You’ve slept all day.”

“What? Shit, I have to…work,” she said, trying to roll over in the bed. She flopped to her original positon on her back, out of strength.

“No,” he said, putting the glass of water on the bedside table and softy keeping her in bed. “No work. Dae texted this morning. You texted back.”

“Wha…” Carolyn said, trailing off into her pillow. “I don’t remember.” She pulled the blankets up to her chin, despite the rising temperature around her. “Just…want…”

Shawn kissed her forehead. “Sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, love.”

 

 

Two hours later, Shawn was sitting on the edge of the chair in the hospital room. Carolyn was on the bed, curled into a fetal position. Neither of them spoke. Shawn, usually so eager to touch her, to heal and relieve with his good hands, kept still, his fingers curled around each other in his lap. A man in tight-fitting scrubs, with tattoos down past both elbows, walked into the room. Shawn stood. Carolyn didn’t stir.

“I’m Dr. Curtis,” the man said. Shawn extended his hand and the doctor quickly shook it, but his eyes focused on Carolyn in the bed. “How you doing?”

“Been better,” Carolyn said quietly.

“Here’s where we are,” Dr. Curtis said. “You’re running a fever, but the blood work shows no real signs of infection. I’ll be honest, I don’t like it. So, I’d like to get you in for a CT scan of that belly. See what’s going on. Okay?”

“Do you have any idea what’s-“ Carolyn started. The doctor stopped her.

“I really wouldn’t want to guess until we know more. Can I get you anything?”

Shawn looked at Carolyn. She waved them both off with her hand.

“All right. I’ll be back,” the doctor said and he left the room.

Shawn paced back and forth across the small room. He turned quickly, sending a bin of tongue depressors and long cotton swabs onto the floor. The echo of the metal crashed reverberated in the small room.

“Please sit down,” she said.

He knelt down to gather up the scattered debris. He looked to the trash, and looked at the bin on the wheeled-cart, but her wasn’t sure where to put his handful. Frustrated, he dropped them all on the counter next to the sink. From the bed, Carolyn shifted her hips and released a muffled groan. Shawn left his pile and sat next to her on the bed. She grabbed his hand.

“We’ll figure it out. Figure it all out,” he said. He loosened his hand from hers and then took her hand in both of his. He cradled it like an egg. Supporting her hand in his, he massaged her wrist; circles of light pressure then a firm downward force with his thumb. He slowly moved his hands up her arm, then to her shoulder. Her breathing slowed. The tightness and the tension in her face relaxed by a degree. He moved his hand to the side of her ribs. Not reaching for her breasts; this was a healing touch, not a sexual one. He curved his hand into the space between her ribs and her waist, and then back to her rib. He gave firm pressure to a tip of a middle rib.

“This should help,” he whispered to her.

“Why does it hurt so much?” she said. “There’s something wrong. Something really wrong. I’m scared.”

“Shh. Don’t talk like that. We’ll find out what this is. Have you right as rain. You’ll see.”

The end of a gurney pushed into the room with a clank or metal and the squeak of old wheels.

“Carolyn Janus? Birthday 07/22/1988?” the woman in bleached-white scrubs pushing the gurney asked.

Shawn nodded.

“Ok. We’re going upstairs to CT.”

“Should I…?” Shawn asked.

“No. You stay here. I’ll keep her safe. I promise.” The woman helped Carolyn shift from the bed to the gurney. Carolyn bit her lip and stifled a moan. The woman slammed the side rail of the gurney up into place.

“Get her right back to you,” the woman said, backing the gurney out of the room.

Out in the hall, the woman smiled as she pushed the patient on her stretcher. Carolyn could barely see the woman who was moving her down the hall. She looked above her at the woman in white. There was a tag hung around her neck. There were bright red letters, but the name that was stamped in the middle under a picture kept blurring out of focus.

“Remember me?” she asked.

Carolyn couldn’t think. It was the woman. From the bar. Pam. That was it. Nun’s name. With the drink. And the phone.

“Don’t worry, honey,” Pam said. “Like I told him. I’ll keep you safe. Both of you.”

 

 

Her head pounded. It hurt so much. Carolyn stood against the window of the hospital room and leaned her head against the pane. She wished for winter, but the glass was warm.

“Why can’t we just leave? she asked. It wasn’t the first time she had said that in the last hour. This time no one was there to hear. Shawn had gone to get her an herbal tea. She hated herbal tea–in this moment, more than usual. She wanted a glass of white wine so cold that glass had frost. No. Not a glass of white wine. She wanted a bottle. And she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she had ever wanted white wine.

A nurse came in the room, pushing a computer on a wheeled-stand. At least Carolyn guessed she was a nurse. The woman in the navy scrubs never said.

“Marilyn?” the woman asked.

“Carolyn.”

“Oh,” the woman said, starring into the computer screen. “Were you in a different room?”

Carolyn shook her head. Jesus. She would seriously kick this computer and its pusher down a flight of stairs for that wine.

“This place,” the maybe-nurse said, sighing and taking a huge slug out of travel mug that sat on the small ledge wrapped around the front of the monitor. The mug was orange and as big as the computer screen. The woman slurped down the coffee as she clicked, somehow all while staring out the room’s window. “Oh, no, here it is. Ok. Doctor signed off on your discharge. Go ahead and change and I’ll print out your papers.”

“Is anybody going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“He didn’t come talk to you?”

“No,” Carolyn said.

The woman sighed louder and swallowed another mouthful from her mug. “There is it. Follow up visit in two weeks. Number will be on the papers.”

“But-” Carolyn growled.

“If there was anything, it would be in here. But it’s not. So, I’m sure you’re fine.”

“Sure. Cause I feel fucking fine.”

“Your papers will be at the desk,” the woman said, pushing her computer out of the room.

Carolyn flung up her middle finger at the empty doorway. She yanked off the hospital gown, and walked over to the tiny plastic closet in the corner, wearing only her underwear. The elastic band adhered to the sweat on her back.

Shawn stepped into the doorway, holding her tea and wearing an eager, sympathetic smile.

“What did they say?” he asked.

The steam rose through the hole on the plastic cover of the drink. She imagined the liquid melting the cup, distorting it around Shawn’s hand. Hotter, and hotter and hotter, until the tea dissolved every molecule it touched, until there was redness, and pain and…

“Bloody hell,” Shawn yelled. He dropped the cup on the floor and the tea pooled by his feet, hot vapor rising like a mist. He stepped back and reflexively brought his hand to his mouth to cool it. “Don’t know why they serve it like that.”

He grabbed a handful of paper towel and bent to clean the mess.

“Leave it,” Carolyn said.

“No, I can’t. I’ve made a wreck of the place. Someone could fall or-“

“Take me home,” Carolyn said. “Now.”

(Alyssa Herron is the author of the new suspense novel Drowning Above Water. It is available at Amazon.)

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

My book Drowning  Above Water is out and lives at Amazon. It’s been a thrilling, terrifying, depression-inducing, anxiety-inflaming, relationship-testing, love-finding journey. I barely made it to the other side.

So of course, I’m considering with still-shaking hands what words are coming next.

There are two options: a collection of my poetry and spoken words pieces or the noir novel that won’t stop slinking around the shadows of my brain

But, it’s October, and that is Halloween and horror and magick and I have a scary story that needs told.

This is 147 E. 9th Street, a short story. I’ll be releasing it over the next few weeks right here. Come along.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

The woman moved in slow motion, steps and half-frames. She watched, in fractions of centimeters, the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger. She didn’t feel the blood surfacing above the skin. It seeped first in tiny, segmented pixel dots until they multiplied and then assembled into a line of red that crept to her wrist. Every time she turned her cheap key copy in the lock of her boyfriend’s apartment, she banged her knuckles. Every time. But she had never been in this much of a hurry. And yet somehow, she moved like she was stepping through a river full of silt. The key fell from the lock and crashed onto the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on the jumble of silver and gold metal. Curling her hands around the pile of dropped jagged edges, she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. He looked immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. He looked trapped in his own locked body. Finally, the door gave way and she pushed her way inside to him.

Her mind went blank. They had only been dating a few months, but it seemed a lifetime. It had come on hard and fast between them. She thought she had played it cool, making him wait until the third date to sleep with him–only to come flying into his bed seven hours and twenty minutes later. By the end of the second month, she’d met his mother and had a key to his place. She knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. But right now, she realized knew nothing about this man.

“Shawn. Shawn!” she yelled. He didn’t flinch. She dropped to her knees in front of him. His neck was extended back, his eyes not just looking to the ceiling but past it. His arms were fully extended, fingers gripped on the chair. She shook him. His body moved in one steel piece, not in any fleshy segments. His phone was on the floor by her knees. The screen was black. Dead. She ran to her bag, searching. She gave up and turned it upside down, crawling into the pile of purse debris.

“SHIT!” she screamed, skidding change and mints and a tampon across the floor as she flailed her arm. Somehow her wrist crashed down to her hip and she felt her own phone, jutting out of her back pocket.  It took her four tries with as many deletes, but she finally dialed 911, and someone on the other end of the phone started talking.

She didn’t remember saying anything in response to the words she heard. The phone was somewhere near her and she tried to listen. It was the strange, calm voice of a woman. It was telling to put her ear to his chest and listen for breathing. She couldn’t hear anything. The sound of her blood pounding in her ears was louder than the world. A tiny pair of wheezing lungs had no chance at being heard. She stopped listening and tried feeling. She put her hands on his chest. Breathing? Shuddering? Anything? The woman’s calm voice said more words. Where was she? His apartment. Where was his apartment? She wasn’t sure. She left him to run back to the front door. She couldn’t remember his apartment number. No, she didn’t know if he was epileptic. No, she didn’t know if he was diabetic. Or allergic to cilantro. No. she didn’t think he took drugs. Did she know? No. She just knew it looked like he was dying in front of her.

A voice called out. She leaned in to Shawn. He was immobile. His mouth was rigid, lips separated, back teeth clenched. The voice wasn’t his.

“Ma’am? You have to stay on the phone with me, okay?” It was her phone. In her hand.

“Yes, yes, It’s Shawn.”

“Okay, ma’am. What is wrong with him?”

“I don’t know. He’s breathing. I think. But he’s just lying there. He’s not moving.”

“Okay. We’ll get him help. But first, what’s your name ma’am?”

“What?”

“Who am I talking to? What’s your name, ma’am?”

She stared at Shawn. He hadn’t moved. Maybe he wasn’t breathing. “I don’t think he’s breathing. I looked closer and I don’t think he’s breathing. Oh my God.”

“Where are you?”

She had just looked and she still couldn’t remember. She had walked, taken a cab and usually the R train more times than she could count in the last weeks of her life. But she couldn’t remember his address. Where was she? She was just at the door. She scanned the room. There was mail on counter, spilling onto the stove. Half of it spilled to the floor when she reached. She hit her knees and pulled out a bill. Shawn Crown. 147 E. 9th Street.

“Shawn Crown. 147 East Ninth Street,” she almost screamed into the phone.

The voice interrupted her own cracking voice. “Okay, ma’am, I need you to check and see if he’s breathing. Can you get close to him? Is it safe?”

She stared at him. Safe. “Yes, he’s breathing.”

“Is he conscious? Can he hear you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

The voice wouldn’t stop. “Is he taking any medication? Does he have a cardiac history? Does he have seizures? Illegal drugs? Has he been drinking?”

“Didn’t we just do this?” Maybe they hadn’t. Maybe she just thought they had. “I don’t know,” she said, her voice had finished cracking and started breaking.

“That’s fine. Just stay there with him. I’ll be on the phone until the ambulance arrives.”

Then the chair twitched and creaked. She put down the phone. Or dropped it. She grabbed onto the leather, needing to get closer to him but afraid to touch him.

Bent into jarring angles in the cushions, Shawn’s joints flexed and with a few subtle motions, he turned human again. His shoulder lowered and his head maintained its own support. His eyes had never been closed, but they had never seen. He blinked and looked at her.

Ayn zawjati? Mayar. Ayn zawjati?” He saw her. The girlfriend with the light brown hair standing in front of her. He may as well have been looking through a microscope at a petri dish of scabies. He studied, curious and searching, but found nothing of what he thought he would find.

“Shawn?” she asked. Because now, she really didn’t know. She heard knocking and the open door catch on the hall runner as the door was pushed to the limits of its hinges. She watched a man and a woman in baby-blue shirts and navy cargo pants kneel beside Shawn. She stepped back, out of the room. Their black boots left sprinkles of dirt on the floor. She’d have to sweep that later. Shawn hated when people wore shoes in the house.

The ambulance crew loaded him onto the tiny collapsing wheelchair, belting him in like a toddler in a booster seat. New York City meant transport chairs instead of stretchers. He didn’t say anything else, but kept his eyes open, staring around the room as if he had never been there before. The two in blue were fully upright, rattled words and observations back and forth, talking to each other as if no one else was in the room. They were jolting him out the door before one of them mentioned over their shoulder, that she could follow them if she wanted.

And then it was silent. Her purse laid on the floor, empty, with its inside bits strewn for yards. A plastic mint container had been crushed under a boot or a wheel and white powder dotted the floor like rained-out sidewalk chalk.  Something on the chair where Shawn had been trapped when she found him was wet. Her first and only thought was that she had to clean it.

 

(147 E. 9th Street will continue here soon. My novel Drowning Above Water is available now in paperback and kindle at Amazon.)

 

Her Smell

 

I put my Grandmother’s coats into my own closet today. They smelled like her. She’s been gone almost two months and they still smell like her. A high, elegant, womanly smell, proper perfume purchased at a proper fragrance counter. Not the hippie oil that I wear, haggled from some guy’s sidewalk table in the East Village. How can she be gone and her smell is still here? I expected to see her sounding the corner any second, likely telling me that I wasn’t hanging her coats correctly. I so wish she would have.

So much of emotion is tied to smells. Our sheets, our clothes, us. But our own smell is not that one that triggers the lust, the anger or the loneliness. It’s the scent that lingers when one that was there is now gone.

In Drowning Above Water, the main character Malina is surrounded by two major olfactory sensations.  Water, which follows her through her life. And smoke, which also trails her. I know that it’s like to have a smell haunt long after they are gone. So does she.

Drowning Above Water – an excerpt – Malina and Grizella

Malina didn’t remember the cigarette being held out to her. But her eyes were stinging from the strong smoke, as Grizella held it to Malina’s mouth, the moist tip soft and wet against her lips. Malina knew this woman and she wanted to forget her. She didn’t think or feel, but inhaled, held the smoke in her lungs, and let it seep out her nose. She just wanted to taste the smoke.

“But maybe, almost time for you to leave here anyway. Not so good to be the oldest apple left in the store, Teckla. You rot. Then, you’re only good for the rats in the alley.”

Teckla. She hadn’t heard that name spoken in a long time. Her old name. From her old life. Her dead life. Like the one she was walking through today.

Grizella took back the cigarette and walked up the hall, toward the elevator, toward the younger, better girls and their younger, better rooms. She stopped, knocked on a door, smiled and hugged the pretty one who opened it, and disappeared inside.

Malina stood alone in the hall. When she nuzzled her head against the collar of her robe, the smell of the smoke hit her eyes again and they watered. She did not cry. Instead, she turned to her own door, turned the knob and went inside.

 

Drowning Above Water is available and lingering at Amazon.

Drowning Above Water – Petyr

 

Petyr sat in his room. It was black except for the glow of the convenience store sign, blazing its light through his grimy window. It seemed like years since he had been here in this hotel. The room was empty. Naked mattress. The only other furniture was a single wooden folding chair with the words Paul G. Fink Funeral Home stenciled on the back. The “landlord” had rented his room the day after he got on the plane, but hadn’t changed the lock. Petyr didn’t have anything here. But it was soothing to him, just to sit there in the dark, waiting.

He heard a rhythmic rubbing sound, soft and close. He looked down and saw that his hands were shaking in his lap, rubbing against the fabric of his pants. At a glance, they were clean. When he looked closer, even in the grey room, he could see blood at the base of his nails and in the wrinkles of his knuckles. There was a large kidney-shaped drop dried in the knuckle of his right middle finger. He rubbed it with his thumb but it didn’t budge. Without thinking, he bent his bloodied finger, stuck it in his mouth and started to suck. He couldn’t taste the blood, so he pulled harder. All he tasted was sweat and dirt. Pulling his lips back from his teeth, he dug them into his skin, pressing down until he finally got the taste of blood on the end of his tongue. Satisfied, he stopped and wiped the wet, spitty, macerated, bloody finger on the chair.

There was no noise outside. Not yet. But he would wait. Abraham knew he was back. He would come looking for Petyr. And then he would go back to kill Grizella. Not right away. Maybe not at all. Or maybe eventually. So, Petyr had to kill him first.

 

Drowning Above Water is available now at Amazon. It lives here:

 https://www.amazon.com/Drowning-Above-Water-Alyssa-Herron/dp/0999364707/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505090527&sr=8-1&keywords=alyssa%20herron

Drowning Above Water – An excerpt


     “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, holding up her hand and waving: open, close, open. A toddler bye-bye. She closed the door, knowing he would stand on the other side for another minute, waiting and hoping for a change of heart. There wasn’t a heart in her chest that could change.

     Her eyes looked away from the door and turned to the window. Her feet followed. The hotel stood on the bank of a river. As she stood, toes on the carpet, feet moist, she imagined the river water. She watched the dirty waves, the rocks and fish and mud, and she felt. She knew her feet, black-bottomed and clutching the particles of shoe dirt picked up from the carpet, were on flat, dry land. But her body rocked as she mimicked the water. It remembered. The way a mother of years ago will sometimes stand and sway when she sees another woman cradling and rocking a baby, even if her own arms are empty. Malina rocked now. She knew that. Less alone than she was then. Or maybe not. There was a knock at the door.

     “Just a moment, Love.” 

     She responded to the knock in her professional voice without needing to remind herself to do it. She squeezed the sight of the water from her eyes and walked away from the door and window, swaying, toward the tiny closet by the door. Inside, hung squarely on a hanger forever attached to the rod, was her navy dress. Her work uniform. A size too small now. Soon it would be two sizes. She freed it from the hanger and stepped inside it. With an arch of her back to start the zipper and a lean forward to finish it, she managed to zip it. The seams argued at the hips and protested at the sides of her breasts. But for tonight, it worked. The knock sounded again at the door.

💜Thanks for checking out my world of Drowning Above Water. You can bring it home from Amazon. 

https://www.amazon.com/Drowning-Above-Water-Alyssa-Herron/dp/0999364707/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505090527&sr=8-1&keywords=alyssa%20herron

Her Feet Stopped

 

Drowning Above Water  is a story about our journeys-the courage it takes to start them, and what we might lose along the way.  This is a excerpt from the novel, a picture of Malina’s journey.

 

 

Finally, she saw the door and she let her feet stop.

The doctor’s front door stood as it had years ago, but it was grey now. She couldn’t remember if it was grey when she had lived here as a girl, playing house.  Or maybe it was white and the darkness and street lights were making their own color palette, mixing and creating colors to get the visual they wanted. But the grass was green.  That was certain.  Not blue.  Not brown.  Green. That’s where she knelt down.  She had passed tired. She had passed sore and blistered.  Every toe and the soles of her feet were sloughed and bleeding. There was nothing in her stomach.  It had been hours since she’d eaten or drunk anything.  Her stomach squeezed and kneaded in its own acids.  She didn’t have the energy to throw up another time.  She shook and spasmed on the ground.  While she didn’t fall down,  she didn’t remember lying down either. The only thing she knew was that the ground was cool and the blades of grass were both soft and bristling against her cheek as she buried her face in the ground. Then came the feeling of drenching wet in her nose as the rain poured down from the sky.

Drowning Above Water

This is my introduction to two of the characters that took up space in my heart and mind for the last few years.

Malina and Petyr.

I’m sharing some short excerpts from my book along with a bit of these people’s lives. And with that, very likely, also shining a light on some of my own secrets.

Petyr and Malina quietly traveled across the yellow bridge to the east end of the city. The buildings turned from polished metal to rusted metal and from beautiful, established bricks and stone to crumbling buildings that were held together by their paste and inertia alone. Then they drove past streets and structures that had given up all together. Passing several lots that were empty except for garbage and broken shopping carts, they arrived at a multiple story building that seemed to have been erroneously lifted in from another side of town. Their car passed three gigantic luxury vehicles, tanks to protect their money-filled owners. They turned a corner and slowed into the side street behind the building. Dumpsters and dying cars rotted along the sides of the building. Petyr smoothly pulled his car into a tiny space between garbage bins. He got out and stepped around to the passenger’s side where he opened the door for Malina.
She stepped out, her matronly pumps and nude hose immediately drenched in the standing water in the alley. The tall brick building stretched above them. The rain dripped through the drainpipe down to them, splashing water one drop at a time into a puddle at their feet. He hovered over her, reached his arms around her waist, and lifted her out of the wetness. She looked at him with pity—though not only for him—and incredulity.
“Thank you,” Malina said.
Side by side and in quiet, they walked along the rough, stony edges of the building until they got to the dark metal door. She paused and tilted her eyes toward the reflective panel that was small and square and eye-level. It was a door no one would willingly want to enter. The kind of door that would no doubt creak and scream when opening and thud with claustrophobic finality on closing.
Petyr, of course, reached out in front of her to grab the handle.