Dear reader, tell me: What scares you?
What makes your heart race and your adrenaline surge so that your skin feels like it’s crawling?
What makes cold sweat chill your skin, leave you feeling clammy even if it’s a warm day?
What makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise, charged by an energy you can’t explain?
What makes your breathing falter, short and choppy as if you’re already running away?
What monsters live in your closet? The boogeyman? Zombies? Vampires (not the sissy sparkling kind, the ones that go boom in the sun!)? Old demons and ghosts that have been with you all your life?
How do you know they’re monsters? Well, should you miss the stench of rotting flesh or the pointy fangs, the attempt to nom your brains or blood might be a good—er, bad—sign. But what about the ones who don’t give that sign? What about the monsters who have just enough of that something other to get your heart pounding and your breath coming fast and short, but look just like you and me? What about the monsters who convincingly pretend to be human?
Those are the kinds of monsters that scare me. I’m not talking about serial killers or the like, though they’re certainly not the type of person you’d care to meet… I’m talking about monsters. The kind that used to be hunted down and killed for the damage they did to society. The kind who can help themselves to your mind and leave you certifiably insane until you’re driven to take your own life.
My monsters are the Fae.
Not what you expected, huh? The good folk of Ireland’s mythology, monsters? Surely not! But oh yes… at least in my world. In my world, the monsters—the Fae are all the more dangerous because no matter what they really are, they find a way to blend right in. Some of them, the half-breeds, look human for all intents and purposes, and those that don’t can make themselves appear so. Even their creatures, if encountered, will look like no more than a raccoon or stray cat to you and I, because the Fae have glamour to stay hidden from human sight. Oh, we can catch a glimpse, if we happen to look from the corners of our eyes—but what sane person will admit to seeing a creature that no one has ever named, gnawing on a human limb while the flesh rots?
My characters don’t get the option of a glimpse. My characters get the full gory impact, either because they’re not human themselves or because they’re the humans who have to make a deal with those creatures to keep them from harming us. What’s scariest of this to me is the unknown. My characters, at least, know what they face. But the rest of us poor human schmucks out there? We’re clueless. We might get that little shiver over our skin, that sensation that something isn’t quite right… but we won’t know, viscerally and completely, that these types are bad news until it’s too late and we’re bleeding out in an alley or locked up in the psych ward of a hospital.
My monsters are the Fae because these are the creatures who don’t even need to slip into another’s skin to walk among us. They have been there, so the legends say, far longer than we have. Most of them have decided to live as if they were one of us, and they do it so well that when they kill or maim, we blame it on each other. They could be standing right in front of us and we wouldn’t know, not for sure, until we saw the too-fast movements, until we felt something—our life, our sanity—slipping away in their wake. And then it’s too late, and you might as well already be dead.
So tell me, reader: When the dullahan rides up to your home and the gate unlatches for him, when he halts his ghastly mount in front of your door and booms out your name, will you be afraid? Will you have the piece of gold in your pocket to protect yourself, or will you join his march to your funeral? When you encounter the kelpie on the shores of a lake, will you know better than to trust him? Will you fall for whatever the human-looking man tells you, even though the smell of the water and bog is clinging to him and his teeth are just a bit too sharp? Will you get away in time, or will he turn into the big black horse? Will you get on his back and let him drown you?
Will you see fear when it comes for you?
—Now please enjoy this short story from L.M. Murphy, and as a warning it has adult content…it will wake you up better than a cup of coffee!
The club is crowded, dark and noisy. And perfect. Flint eyes gleam in a cold face, one that speaks of arrogance with its high cheekbones and aquiline nose of an aristocrat, of power with its full lips and square jaw. He smiles, and women’s heads turn, eyes caught by a smile like nothing they’ve ever seen. They can’t pinpoint why the smile both excites and disturbs them, but he can.
A smile conveys satisfaction, joy. On him, a smile holds no humour. Smiles make a person seem more approachable; when he smiles, people shy away. Disgruntled young men flick him irritated glances and steer their companions into the crowd.
Standing at the rail, gripping it with strong hands while he looks down at the people crammed onto the dance floor, grinding against each other shamelessly and tossing back drinks in between enthusiastic whoops, suits him. The position is one of confidence and superiority.
After another moment, he slips down the carpeted stairs at his back and descends into the bar, where the heat and smell of the crowd rolls over him like a cloud. He sees a group of women on the fringe of the gyrating crowd, focuses on the one woman in their number whom he’d picked out from the railing above. Young, nubile, dancing with skill rather than mindless fuck-me moves. He slips his arm around the woman’s waist, watches her eyes lift to his. Smiling, letting his eyes soften with it, he holds her eyes with his until she glances away, blushing.
She is both uncomfortable and pleased, and does not know why. He does. Humans prolong eye contact for one of two reasons—to pick a fight or instigate sex.
A fight certainly wasn’t what he was after.
When her hand relaxes, he takes it as the gesture of acquiescence it is. Tightening his grip on her waist, he separates her from her friends and pulls her further into the crowd.
The group of girls strolling into the bar now are young, barely legal, and out to celebrate it. At the forefront of the group is a girl used to getting everything she wants: new clothes, a new car, a new boyfriend—all at the snap of the finger.
Life was easy, and good. Why not celebrate it?
They move to the bar, down a few shots in quick succession, enough to heat their blood and lower what few inhibitions they had to begin with. Smiling, self-assured and pleased by the male gazes trailing over the short dresses, they make their way to the dance floor and throw themselves into the music.
The leader of their little group is smiling, tossing her chin up at just the right angle, so that the look she aims at the men on the dance floor is just the right mix of Come and get me and You can’t handle me.
Then she turns, spins, laughing, and sees him.
For a moment, she thinks her heart stops. Then it starts again, as frenetic as a hummingbird’s wings, fluttering in her chest. She stares at him deliberately, silently willing him to look up, to see her, to want her the way she wants him, with this sudden fierce need she can’t understand but won’t question.
He smiles at her, his hands slipping down to the waist of a pretty blonde and pulling her tight against him. Something about the smile is cruel, and it makes her stomach turn as her mind pictures just how ruthless he might be in bed. The blonde isn’t important; she’s a distraction, a bit of amusement to pass the time.
She has more to offer, and she knows it. Sinuous, still moving to the beat, she winds through the crowd until she’s beside him, watching him from beneath her lashes.
He doesn’t bat a lash, only lowers his head to press his mouth to the blonde’s. She is incensed. He should be kissing her, not this little blonde who appears so doe-eyed and pathetic.
She puts a hand on his waist, reaches for the hem of the black T-shirt. Now his eyes meet hers, cool, dark and flat.
She moves in closer, neatly shoving the blonde out, and brings her mouth to his ear, maybe a little closer than necessary, to talk. “Want to have some fun?”
He laughs, and something inside her is chilled even as her blood sprints. “I’m no kind of man for you,” he says in a voice that’s just as dark and rich as his laughter. Then he reaches past her, as if she’s inconsequential, and takes the blonde’s hand, smiling at her. “Shall we?”
She smiles serenely. “All right.”
Grinding her teeth, she watches them walk out, seethes over how unlikely a pair they are. She shoves through the crowd and follows them, forgetting completely about the friends she leaves behind as she stalks out of the bar and narrows her eyes, scanning the street in both directions to determine which way they went.
She hears it then, over the thud of the music from the club: a soft moan, a whimpered catch of breath. She bares her teeth and stalks towards the alley the sound came from.
There he is, with the blonde pressed to the wall of the club, her head thrown back, his mouth against her throat. His knee is between her legs, shoving the skirt of her dress up high; his hand is beneath the dress, caressing the blonde until she lets out another soft moan and rocks her hips against him.
She shouldn’t be watching this. She knows it somehow, deep in her bones, and yet she can’t tear herself away.
He presses back against the blonde, pinning her hips to the wall. And as she watches, he lets his mouth cruise lazily over her, suckling and nibbling, tasting every inch of skin she bared to him.
Then he shifts, blocks the blonde from her view, and she can’t see what he does next, only hears a sickening crack that makes her stomach roll uneasily—and then the blonde is crumpling, on the ground, still as death, her fair hair and pale skin gleaming in the moonlight.
Shaken, disturbed, she strides forwards, heels ringing. “What did you do?” she demands, her voice high and more than a little unsteady.
He turns slowly, and gives her a smile that isn’t at all friendly. He doesn’t answer, only holds out a hand—and though she knows she shouldn’t, she walks towards him, falls into the same trap as the blonde did, and sinks into his arms, into the kisses that make her feel as if she could do anything with him at her side. She moans, digs her fingers into his shoulders, itching to pull off the T-shirt covering him so that she can rake her nails over his flesh.
Something inside her is changing, making way for something else, something more fundamental. Thought recedes; sensation rules. He touches her in ways she never knew of, ways the men—no, only boys; this is what a man should be—she’s been with before never dreamed of. Slowly, as if she is the most delicate of instruments and he is the musician, drawing unheard melodies from her.
Somewhere in her brain, an alarm sounds. It is panic, and it tells her to run, run now and stay gone. But the haze in her brain is thick, and she murmurs against his mouth as she works to dispel the thought.
Run, insists the voice. Get away from him.
His mouth is at her throat again, and her whole body burns. She knows she came, can feel the receding shudders clear to her toes—so why does she ache again, for what she just had?
“What are you?” she asks, and there is no mistaking the fearful note in her voice.
His mouth still on her throat, he smiles. Before she can repeat her question, he slips his hand beneath her dress, tears away the scrap of silk covering her and drives his fingers into her, listening to the cry that echoes into the night and bounces off brick walls while a shudder racks them both.
Her eyes open, but now they’re dim, glazed, and she seems unable to find words. He puts his mouth to her ear as she did to him, and his lips curve in a cruel smile when she shivers.
“I told you I wasn’t a man,” he whispers. He watches her eyes widen in fear, closes his hands over her throat and watches her hands lift, cover his and rest there. Then his grip tightens, he twists with brutal force, and she knows no more, only sinks to the ground, one more dead girl who wouldn’t be found until morning.
He licks his lips and gazes at the two young women for a moment, remembering the inexperienced hesitance of the blonde’s kiss and the aggressiveness of the brunette’s. The sweetly innocent warmth of the energy he’d taken from the blonde contrasts sharply with the heady, arrogant thrill of the energy from the brunette, makes his system feel fascinatingly at odds with itself. He needs to move, to fuck—anything but standing here. For a moment he almost wishes the brunette had lasted longer before getting nosy.
“Pity,” he murmurs with no trace of remorse in his voice before he turns and walks out of the alley without a backward glance.
Please visit her blog to learn more about her work: murphyatwork.blogspot.com
L.M. Murphy is the pen name of someone who isn’t sharing her real name, because that would ruin the point and she needs some mystery about her. The person behind the pen name is a twenty-something with a generally mischievous look about her who finally started to write actual novels through discovering NaNoWriMo in 2009. Besides being a writer, she is also the owner of an incredibly cute and remarkably dumb hound dog, sister to five younger siblings who may or may not be part of the reason she’s crazy, and partner to a guy who amazingly hasn’t run screaming for the hills yet.