In honor of the upcoming creeptastic holiday, we at TeenShiver have decided to tantalize your tastebuds for terror over the next three days.
My short story, called Shadow Waxing, is a demented and creepy flash fiction piece I wrote some five years ago (one of the first things I ever had published in a now defunct e-zine). It's not so much about the unknown, as turning what you think you've figured out on its head.
I hope you enjoy it!
By A.G. Howard
“Your head looks like a friggin’ pumpkin.”
Sarah ignored Nick’s snipe. Her boyfriend always got an attitude after a run-in with Jack Daniels. Her feet scraped the basement floor. Dirt grated between her wiggling toes. She steadied the swinging lamp over her head, capturing the yellow halo of light inside her glassy eyes. With a nudge, she shifted the blonde wig over her scalp and stood back to study the result.
Nick lingered behind her. His whiskey-soured breath tangled with the familiar fray of chemicals and melted beeswax.
“You gonna put some more clothes on?” he asked. “Not that I’m complaining. I like this look on you. Always have.” One hand cupped her bare shoulder -- sliding down, nice and slow. Fingers squeezed too hard, leaving an imprint of jello-like contusions on her bicep. “Oops.”
She shoved him back, grunting. Bewitched by liquor, he fell into a dust-backed chair and laughed, gray eyes twinkling.
Sarah assessed the damage to her arm. She would have to fill in the gaps. Her teeth pressed like a vise against her tongue until she tasted blood.
Nick was up again, hiccupping. His muscular arms captured her waist. “How about a dance then?”
A powerful spin slammed her into the wall, face first. The jolt slung her wig across the room. She stuck to the dry wall, then dragged with a thump to the stone floor.
Turning herself over, Sarah felt along her flattened nose. It hung to one side like a decapitated mushroom, and her waist slumped at an awkward angle. Her stomach lurched.
“Sorry.” Nick stood over her, his jaw firm with sincerity. “Guess I don’t know my own strength.”
“Jerk.” Her tongue snagged on the word, rolled it around and dropped it again, this time with full conviction.
“Aw, c’mon. For the past two weeks you’ve been down here in the shadows. Playing with your little friend. What about me? I need some attention, now and then.”
He retrieved the blonde wig and dropped it on his head. Riotous black curls exploded from beneath the wig’s seams, framing his exquisitely Greek features. He was almost too beautiful to be a guy.
A flash of desire lapped through her, but she kept it at bay. Nothing was more important than her work.
“Seriously. Let’s have some fun, baby…” Nick grinned, dragging a finger along her lips. “You can shape me into whatever you want.”
Mesmerized by his dimples, she kissed his fingertip. He tasted salty and faintly sweet, like a pear soaked in brine.
Remembering her nose, Sarah slapped his hand away. She popped the sagging feature back into place, pressing until it melded to her face, straight and natural. The rest of her face was still a disaster. The wall had scraped off her cheeks, leaving gaping holes.
Nick slipped the wig from his head, gaze stalled on her disappointed grimace. He held the hair in his left hand like a dead animal. “All right. No playtime. I get it.” He groaned. “Let me help you, at least.”
He caught her wrist and tugged to lift her. She yelped as her elbow snapped off, attached by just a thread to her arm.
“Crap.” He dropped the wig and stepped back, palms up in resignation. “Ruined everything, didn’t I?”
Tears rimmed Sarah’s lower lids. This would take days to fix.
Nick’s dark lashes cloaked his eyes. “Well, I’ll leave you to it.” He vanished outside of the circle of light, fumbling for the stairs.
Sarah wanted to scream. She would have to buy more wax … construct an entire arm and a new face. Not to mention straightening out the spine. She’d basically be starting from the beginning.
She only had one chance to impress the wax museum with her expertise. She hadn’t told the interviewers any details about her project, just that she was making a woman. She’d hoped by accomplishing a self-portrait, she’d gain an edge over the other applicants. But at this rate, she would never get any kind of sculpture done by tomorrow morning.
If only she didn’t have to start from scratch.
He paused on the first step. She bit her lip, tracing the jagged edge of her elbow. You can shape me into whatever you want, he’d said.
“Come here.” Sarah tossed the busted arm across her waxen doppelganger. With a paint brush, she slicked some warm wax over her fingertip. Once dry, it easily passed for a wax figure’s digit.
“What is it?” Nick asked, stumbling back into the light’s halo. His shoes scuffed the gritty floor. He was so drunk he almost tripped. Good thing he hadn’t gone all the way up the stairs. He’d surely have fallen and broken his neck.
Sarah smirked. “You forgot something.”
“Oh, yeah?” Particles of dust floated around his beautiful face. He drew her into his arms, smiling. Sarah stroked the brillo of his chin. She’d have to shave that.
On her toes, she pulled up to his height. “Yeah,” she said between kisses. “What say you go upstairs and bring down some drinks? We’ll have a real party.”
With a lopsided grin, he spun around, nearly losing balance, and tromped unevenly up the stairs.
Sarah waited next to the swinging lamp until he was three steps from the top. She tugged the chain, blanketing the room and stairway in pitch darkness.
Several banging thumps, followed by a sickening crack, poisoned the silence. Turning on the light, Sarah knelt next to Nick’s lifeless body, twisting his lopsided neck to a more natural position.
She snuggled the blonde wig on his head and tucked his dark hair underneath. It was the perfect fit.
She'd always said he was too beautiful to be a guy.