I Call To You
by Tyler Hardin
I call to you because you are mine.
My only pain is the passing of time.
Of you, I require only this:
The embrace of you, lover, and your sweet kiss...
I've heard her speak these words for seven weeks now. Bob swallowed his tongue the first time I heard her. I tried to pass her voice off as a dream, but in the morning they found Bob: cold and stiff. In the beginning I knew little of her. Now I know just enough to be scared. Worse, she knows who I am and she's hungry. I thought we got rid of her but instead we just fueled her anger. She got Chris, Jackie, Mack and Pinster. I'm all that's left. Oh God, where did this all start?
Bob. It all began the night she used him and then discarded his body. I didn't even know his last name.
A few days after he passed no one wanted to talk about it. It shook Preacher Jim Dearn, but didn't surprise him. I'd overheard him say he'd seen death many times in his fifty year tenure. Bob, a human smoke stack, wheezed and coughed constantly between drags of his Marlboros. Jim'd had his fill of the terminally ill like Bob and others like drug addicts, the mentally disturbed, alcoholics, and felons who populated the mission. Most of us fell into one of those categories, so God bless those brave enough to cater to us. With people like us, death is an inevitability.
Two weeks after Bob died, I heard the words again: I call to you... My mind wavered between a state of consciousness and dreams. I swear to God, it gave me the worst case of jeebies, ever.
Her seductive voice the night she took Bob felt far away and dreamlike. I'd told myself I couldn't really know what I'd heard that night. This time she seemed to be whispering right in my ear.
At night, the men slept in the mission hall, the women in the church proper. They give us a stiff cot, one lumpy pillow and a sheet. Good Christians, Preacher Jim and his staff keep the men and women separated at night. They only allowed us female visitors from sunrise to sunset in the men's hall. Did that stop a little bit of shuck and jive between the sheets at night? Hell no! Many times I'd wake up to the distinct sounds and smells of sex in the cot next to me. I'd have to stuff the pillow over my head and hope they finished soon.
Convincing she was a dream, I walked to the outside doors on a two a.m. smoke break exactly two weeks to the hour of Bob's demise -- but I didn't know then what I do now. Despite the cold air, I smoked my cigarette and butted it. Quietly, I crawled back in my cot and momentarily closed my eyes when I heard her. A chill frosted the length of my spine. I call to you... A moan escaped the man fucking her, reinforcing what I thought was happening. I turned over towards the noise, my curiosity besting my sense of decency.
Was this the same woman that took Bob?
The moon illuminated the mission through the window at the end of the hall. A muted purple enveloped those sleeping and the two fucking. As my eyes adjusted to my darkened surroundings, I saw purple silhouettes breathing deep beneath covers, and wondered how they could sleep with the sound of slapping, wet sex. The sound came from my left and up four rows -- an occasional drinking buddy, Jasper Monitor, writhed underneath the woman. Jasper, an alcoholic nicknamed "Miller Time" would only drink Miller High Life. He'd swear anything else was piss. When we passed around some wonderfully aged hooch, he'd turn up his nose. Many times I drunkenly wondered how he knew what piss tasted like.
I focused in on Miller Time and the writhing woman. Did she fuck Bob to death? The moon outside cleared some clouds and the room became significantly brighter. Her hands dug into his shoulders and she kept her long hair and face upon his. Aggressively, she grinded him with the motions that didn't appear right- less like love making and more like rape. A giggle escaped her and Miller Time tried to scream -- I heard the sharp intake of his breath and I tensed with the expectation of shattered silence. The woman bit down hard on his open mouth -- an attempt to stifle his screams? Miller Time's body quaked and his arms flailed.
She's killing him, I thought. No, Miller Time is a big boy. What danger would she pose to him? Defying my nagging curiosity, I rolled over and closed my eyes. Her words followed me into the oblivion of sleep as the purple hued scene faded from my mind.
I call to you because you are mine...
The next morning, the shelter was bustling with activity. Like a robot, I mindlessly went about my usual morning routine. I showered, took a shit, had coffee and went outside to smoke. In the cold autumn air, four of the regulars were gathered around an ash can. Taking desperate drags were Mack, Pinster, Chris, and Jackie. Usually, I'd be greeted by waves of playful insults and a sarcastic middle finger or two. Instead, I got cold silence.
"So, who the fuck pissed in your cereal bowls this morning, fellas?" I asked, expecting something crass in return.
"Fucking Miller Time," Allman said in a quiet voice. Mack talked just above a whisper and took a swig from his silver-plated Jaegermeister flask. Still, I didn't sense the obvious.
"C'mon, Mack! He didn't refuse your offer to drink some fine Sauvignon Blanc again, did he?" I said this with a fake French accent, pinky finger extended in the air.
Each man shot me a surprised glance.
"You haven't heard?" Chris said with disbelief.
A sudden fear bum-rushed me as the scenes from the night before came flooding back. "No. Will someone tell me what the hell is going on?"
"Holy shit, man!" Chris' words ran together. "Miller Time is dead. They think he may have had a stroke while he slept."
"You're shitting me, Chris! Tell me that snobby fuck didn't die last night!" I screamed.
"Watch your tongue, Zachary Slater!"
Already in his early sixties, Chris'd been in and out of the mission for two decades now, so we respected his opinion. A lack of bullshit was thrown the way of the 'Nawlins native due to persistent rumors he was involved in Voodoo. That level of "seniority" and instability caused me to back down.
"Sorry. How'd it happen?"
Chris, Mack, Pinster and Jackie filled me in on the morning's activity. When the kitchen had started breakfast, Miller Time was not present. Some of the staff worried. One of them went to Miller Time's cot to wake him. I must've been in the shower when his scream sent several of the men over to the cot, running.
Mack said they found Miller Time with his jaw clamped shut and his eyes wide open. On his broad frame, several deep scratches covered his body where blood, now sticky, had seeped. By the time they got to him, the early stages of rigor mortis had set in. Chris said they'd had trouble turning him and he had to be careful not step in the urine.
Chris took a drag and described the dead man.
"Aside from the stench and the 'mortis, we didn't notice much at first. But when Preacher Jim closely looked at him, we saw his mouth."
It seemed as though the memory hurt him to recollect it.
"Jim noticed his tongue hanging partially out of his lips," Chris gulped, nervous. "It looked shriveled and dry hanging out like that. It wasn't till we moved his head that the tip fell off --" Chris' revelation made all the members of our grieving five-piece hold our collective breaths -- "and then we saw the real extent of his injuries.
"Miller Time had seized so bad, he bit a full inch of his tongue off. His lips had the texture of chicken fried steak."
The last piece of information I could've gone without. The five of us took drags of our smokes in the cold morning air. It killed me that I couldn't tell these men, my closest friends, what I thought I'd seen. Finally, my tongue bested my squirming gut.
"Did any of you see her?"
Silence and diverted gazes met my question.
"Yes." Chris said solemnly, breaking the silence
"Well, thank God!" Jackie spoke up. "I saw her too, I didn't want to say anything or you guys might call me a meat gazer or anything like that."
"Who is she?" I asked. "What did she do to Miller Time and Bob?"
"You think she had something to do with Bob, too?" Pinster asked.
I told them what I saw, how I thought I'd imagined it, dreamed it, and heard the words of the woman who fucked Bob to death and struck again last night. My words ran into each other, and my cigarette hand shook.
Mack took a drag and sighed. Pinster shuffled his feet. Jackie farted; it was the least funny sound I heard all day. At last, Chris spoke up.
"Zack, her name is something dangerous. We would all be wise to not speak it."
"OK, enough already with the voodoo bullshit, Chris!" I implored "What kind of woman could do that to two men? They weren't Olympians but they sure weren't feeble and frail. How could they just lay there and die?"
"It's not bullshit. She isn't a woman at all. I've been here a long time and when I first got released from the mental hospital, I had a run in with her. She attacked a guy in the cot next to me back in '83. I looked in her face and that voice, that evil little whisper -- I can't forget them no matter how hard I've tried. After what she did to the guy next to me, I couldn't help but to scour the "old books" for information."
I knew he meant Voodoo handbooks. We all turned and stared.
Finally, I asked the inevitable:
"Chris, what is she?"
"A succubus," he said tonelessly.
"A what-ubus?" I asked
"She's a succubus, Zack; a mother fucking, soul-sucking, succubus!" Chris said, his face contorted with anger and frustration. "She finds a man she wants, seduces him to get his guard down, and then the bitch eats your soul!" Chris screamed, then stopped to catch his breath and continued. "They're formless demons. They're not immortal but they're strong. They require the essence of a man to live. Every so often, they rise from their resting spot and take what they need. If she doesn't get what she needs from who she desires, she will continue to hunt that person at night until the soul is hers.
"I thought I got rid of her in early '84, but that beautiful she-devil is back..."
Chris drifted off.
We sat in silence for a few more seconds before Chris got himself together enough to tell us his. Voodoo rituals and purity of heart and mind were the remedies to this sickness, he said. When he stopped, hours had passed. We finished our smokes and left the ash can for the warmth of the hall. The swirling autumn air rose to a howl, pushing us inside.
The next couple of days, Chris prepared us. He used animal bones and bizarre prayers. He made us all purify our hearts by drinking a concoction of pigeon blood and Holy Water. Three days of this exhausted me. One night after dinner, I lay down on my cot with the shuffle of homeless feet and the last rays of sunlight fading into the oblivion.
I awoke, startled with her hands on me and her voice in my ear.
I call to you because you are mine.
My pain is only the passing of time...
Rhythmically, she aroused me while purring softly in my ear. Her touch mesmerized me and paralyzed me. As if waking from a dream, I tried to struggle. If not for the coughing fit Pinster had, I might've been a dead man. Distracted by his hacking, I saw through the illusion, saw her for what she was.
The succubus appeared to me as a pale woman with white flowing hair. Her face looked young and gorgeous, at first. When she saw me looking at her, really looking at her, her glamour disappeared as Pinster's hacking continued. Wrinkled flesh, cracked with age replaced her silky skin. In the span of a nervous blink her claws dug into my crotch as she roared. Her howl woke my friends and Chris yelled.
"Sucking beast -- to the depths you belong. Untied together, we are strong. Forever you are sealed as the hands move about the clock!"
" Banished from here you will ever be by this lock," the mild-mannered Jackie screamed. "In your name, is the key!"
I was trained over the three days to say her name. But I found the paralysis still lingered on my vocal chords. Chris snapped me out of it.
"ZACK! SAAAAY IT! Say her name and seal the banishment!"
She glared at me and in those eyes I tasted the brimstone of Hell. Chris, still yelling in my ear, woke me from my dream.
Just as Chris had promised, the banishment caused her to be driven up and out of our hall. Sharply, she rose and no sooner did she ascend then I was released from my paralysis. Standing, I reached from under my pillow and displayed the amulet of animal bones. The swirling demon hovered above us. We recited the Prayer of Saint Michael, Mack leading with his booming voice. Her fury resonated with hissing and wailing, she miraculously didn't wake the rest of the group -- it was as if the Archangel himself filled the room with peace that the demon's scream couldn't shatter. Only we dealt with her as she was driven by our words back to the darkest corner of the mission.
"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us ..." We prayed. With the prayer of Christian and the elements of a Voodoo spell we drover her back. Between two large wooden beams she was forced by our words but her evil eyes remained in the shadows as her body dissolved.
As the banishment ended, sleep was an unreachable goal. I tossed and turned until dawn and remarkably found myself vibrant, awake and happy that day. For the first time in a while I slept very comfortably in that still cot.
Over time the nightmare of my encounter with the succubus disappeared from crystal clear recollection was shelved in the dusty confines of my mind with other hard to recall memories. Life appeared to return to normal and my friends and I went about our lives. I wished to God it stayed that way.
Chris died first. They found him, in the shower before breakfast, three weeks after we banished her. The poor bastard had "supposedly" died from a heart attack. I have to ask you, though: who claws the walls until their nails rip to the quick from a heart attack? I know it was her. It shook the four of us to the core.
Pinster died next and I can recall a conversation in which he acknowledged his impending doom. The day before he died, three days after Chris, he said so. "She's coming for me, Zack. Don't tell me any different... "
I didn't. I let him finish his smoke in silence; last request and all.
He was found on his cot in the morning and Jim Dearn had said lung cancer killed him. According to Jim, he was in the first stages but wanted to no one to pity him. I saw his body and I can be sure of one thing: Cancer doesn't leave your face looking like that.
About nine weeks later Mack was found, frozen to death near the smoke deck on the coldest day of the year. He lay, partially covered, in the hard packed and deep snow. The groundskeeper found him. Preacher Jim again made another astute prognosis: Mack's sinful indulgence in drink made him careless in the winter night. Jim theorized that Mack got drunk, fell asleep and simply died during the night in the sub-20 degree weather. I couldn't swallow that one. If that theory was true then why were there impressions of his fingers pressed in that silver flask?
Jackie started to drift away from me after that. I didn't blame him for he was the weakest of us. I found his body. I went to take my morning shower and as I passed the toilets there he sat. He looked to be taking a shit but when I approached I knew he was dead. Soon, the mission was flooded with cops investigating, prodding. No theory from Jim on that one.
I haven't been sleeping so good these days. The amulet thumps on my chest with every nervous heartbeat. I think getting that flask filled with Holy Water was a good bet and I must be crazy but I have even started to look in Chris' voodoo books for answers. Before closing my eyes every night I pray to Saint Michael, but I still don't sleep well. I look for her, startled in the middle of the night by the memory, but she's not there. When will she return? She killed all my friends. Some of those guys surely would put up a better fight than I could. When is it my turn? When will I hear her call?
© 2009 Tyler Hardin
Bio: Tyler Hardin is a banker by day and aspiring writer by night. He lives in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and two daughters, but as a former Marine, he has lived in many places and has been inspired by each place he has laid his head.
E-mail: Tyler Hardin
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