Elena leaned against the car door, her head half out the open window. The bass pounded. Paul drove hell-bent around the back roads of Cross, Massachusetts. An empty bottle of Heffenreffer rolled against her feet, her stomach rolling with it.
“Oh Christ, Paul, I’m gonna puke.”
“Not in the car! Out the window. I just cleaned the damn thing.”
“Can you turn the stereo down?” she asked. “It’s making my head ache.”
“Paul,” she started.
“No,” he said. “We’re almost there anyway.”
“Almost where?” Elena closed her eyes and sucked in the fresh air and tried to ignore her head.
“The Old Cross Cemetery.”
Elena sat up. “No.”
“I don’t like going there in the daytime,” she growled. “The place scares the hell out of me. Why the hell would I want to go there at night?”
“’Cause it’s the only place we can get it on tonight.”
“Listen,” she snapped, “you’re out of your mind. I am not having sex in a cemetery. Ever.”
“Yes, you are.” He glared at her. “You owe me.”
“Christ,” Elena said. She put her hands over her eyes. “You’re such an ass.”
“And I’m not having sex.”
“Yes, you are.” He pulled the car over to the side of the road. “’Cause we’re here.”
Elena looked out into the dark woods and saw a small stonewall. The trees fell back, revealing Old Cross Cemetery. The headstones and a single mausoleum stood in the moonlight. The car stereo’s bass ricocheted off of the trees and monuments.
Paul turned off the radio and the engine, pulling the key out of the ignition and stuffing it into his front pocket. For a moment, the music seemed to echo among the stones.
“Paul,” Elena said. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t like this place.”
“Come on.” He climbed out of the car.
He slammed the door.
Dick, she thought as she followed him, stumbling.
Paul walked into the center of the cemetery, slapping and kicking at the headstones.
“Paul, don’t do that,” she said.
He sneered as he mimicked her. “Paul, don’t do that.”
“You are such a dick.”
“Thanks.” He stopped behind a tall marble obelisk. “Hey, check this out.”
“What?” Elena walked around the monument. At their feet lay a large round drum made of deep stained wood with a dark, worn skin.
“Somebody left their toy.” With a laugh, Paul raised a foot and slammed it down, putting a hole through the drum’s skin.
“What?” He shook his foot free. “Come on. I’m horny.”
“I’m not. Bring me home.”
“Not until we do it,” he said, winking at her and licking his lips.
“Bring me home,” she demanded.
Elena turned away, Paul laughing.
“Have fun, you little tramp. Two miles in the dark before you even hit the high school!”
Elena gave him the finger and kept walking.
I hate him! she thought. Now I’ve got to walk home.
A scream sounded behind her.
Elena turned and froze.
In the center of the cemetery, a tall, thin creature clad in orange armor stood, it’s shoulders hunched. Silver eyes glowed from a noseless gray face, jagged black teeth showing through a snarl. Large, pointed ears, decorated with silver earrings, protruded far above its bald head. In a long thin hand, it squeezed Paul by the throat, holding him several feet off of the ground. Paul’s legs and arms flailed. Fast at first, then slower.
The thing looked to Elena. “Was it this one, young Lady?”
The voice came out rough, harsh, and male.
“Was it?” He asked. “Did this one damage my drum?”
Elena could only nod as Paul’s limbs stopped moving.
“My drum?!” He shook Paul, who dangled in his grasp. “Mine! A gift to me from those gibbering Gauls. A peace offering made from the skin of a Centurion. Ruined!” His voice echoed off of the trees. Birds, frightened from their sleep, screamed as they fled their nests into the night.
“And now I must replace the flesh of a worthy man with your worthless hide!” With an angry shout he tore Paul’s clothes off. Using his free hand, he gutted the boy with a smooth snap of the wrist. Muttering under his breath, the creature skinned Paul with disturbing ease.
Elena collapsed to her knees and vomited, her head spinning.
The sound of skin tearing away from muscle filled the cemetery.
Elena fell forward, catching herself by thrusting her hands into the steaming pool of bile and liquor. Vomit dripped from her nose and mouth.
A thud and the sound of glass shattering jerked her head up. The thing stood by the mustang, and slammed Paul’s skinless body into the car repeatedly. The hood curled up; the roof bent down, and with a last curse the thing stuffed Paul into the shrunken window frame.
The thing came and knelt beside Elena.
“Now,” he said. “What to do with you?”
He rubbed his hairless chin.
“My name is Illoc,” he said after a moment. “Hero among the Nej, the dark Faeries, and I have yet to make a habit of slaying young maidens,” he sniffed, “though you are no longer a maiden. So, the question is, what to do with you?”
Illoc scratched his forearm with blood covered nails, then snapped his fingers, laughing. “Faery extract! I haven’t used it all. Stay there, young lady, I shall return.”
In a daze Elena watched Illoc stride off to the mausoleum, pausing to pick up Paul’s skin, which flapped with a wet sound as he went.
Illoc disappeared into the mausoleum, then reappeared with a small bottle.
Elena pushed herself into a sitting position, wiping her mouth with a shaking hand.
Not real. Not real. Not real, she thought.
Illoc reached her side and lifted her chin with a cool hand. “Drink.” He lifted the blue bottle to her lips.
Elena drank, the liquid cold and sweet.
Illoc took the bottle away.
“Good. Now home for you, young lady.” Setting the bottle down, he picked her up. He cradled her, rocking her while walking toward the mausoleum. Her vision grew hazy, her eyelids tired. His rough voice became soothing. “We’ll find your room through the shadows shortly, dear.
“And I must apologize for that vulgar display of my temper, but I disagree with people breaking my belongings. I brought only my most prized possessions when I left Ireland for this new world, and I cannot tell you the number of Goblins I’ve slain or the Faeries I’ve hunted listening to that drum being beaten upon a hill. And I doubt that I’ll see the likes of that centurion ever again. A real soldier he was.
“But the past is the past, and your friend’s skin shall have to suffice. And, if it is not too forward of me,” Illoc said, “I might advise you to seek friends of, shall we say, a higher caliber?”
Elena closed her eyes as they climbed the steps of the mausoleum.
Softness wrapped around her, and she felt her clothes being removed.
Illoc spoke in a whisper as she felt her own bed beneath her and the sheet drawn up around her shoulders. “You will sleep now, young lady, from the extract. Perhaps we shall see each other again, for Cross is a small place and its shadows are deep.”
Elena managed to open her eyes and caught sight of the tall Faery stepping into the darkness behind her bedroom door.
Closing her eyes, Elena drifted into sleep.
She awoke with a start, her head pounding. Looking at the shadow behind her door she shivered, her mouth dry. Then she pulled the blanket closer and through her open window the sound of a distant drum welcomed the sun.
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