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Vague Visages Short Stories: Mr. Mucata’s Final Requests by Mike Thorn

Mr. Mucata’s anguished howls filled Lucinda’s stomach with the kind of butterflies typically incited by intense attraction.

Mr. Mucata, forever a self-righteous man, insisted against reaching out to medical professionals, preferring to let the cancer eat away his body in private. He claimed he didn’t want to unduly upset his legions of fans. Fine by Lucinda. Less fine by her was the fact that, even in his noisy final weeks, she was still required to do his bidding. 

She paused in the foyer, her eyes drifting to the ornate umbrella stand in the corner. It was one year ago that Mucata had clutched her upper arms and slammed her against that hideous and unnecessary piece of furniture. He had wanted to make a quick exit outside to smoke his cigar, and she was nothing more than an obstacle in his way; less than human. 

A decade ago or maybe longer, he’d first hollered at her at three in the morning with the urgency of mortal danger. When she’d bolted up to his room, his smile seemed literally to glow in the darkness.

“I’d like a glass of filtered water,” he’d said. “Quickly, if you don’t mind.”

Mucata repeated this particular stunt periodically throughout the duration of Lucinda’s employ. Sometimes he’d go weeks, even months, without screaming nightly demands for water or tea or crackers. But no matter how long the reprieves lasted, he’d always come back eventually with a full-throated cry for attention at the ungodliest of hours. Lucinda once made the rebellious choice to ignore his false alarm. The next morning, Mucata threatened that if she ever failed to acknowledge him again, he would fire her and contact every local domestic servant agency accusing her of some heinous crime.

Power. That’s what Mucata celebrated, and that’s what Lucinda heard waning with every life-rattling cry. 

Fine, she thought sourly as she buttoned up her coat. I’ll do the last of your spiteful bidding. But when you croak, it better be for good, because I’m never looking back.

Hydraulic cement was easy enough to find at the nearest home improvement store. Tracking down chains to match his bizarrely precise specifications was another matter altogether. Lucinda could’ve bought any old chains at the store and tried to pass them off as the specially requested item, but she knew Mucata better than that. No detail, regardless how finite, escaped his microscopic scrutiny. 

Lucinda hadn’t spoken with the man directly in three weeks, and his arrogant sons were anything but helpful in these matters. What on earth did he need these stupid things for, anyhow? Why did she have to go to some strange residence on the fringes of the city’s industrial district? Why not Home Depot or Rona or any other remotely accessible vendor?

Whenever Lucinda asked for clarification regarding the old bastard’s requests, Mucata’s older son Ralph curled his mustached lip into a sneer. His favorite saying these days was, “Just do it.” 

“You’re the servant and we’re the sons,” he liked to remind her. “We give the instructions and you follow them. Got it?”

His timid young brother Ned was equally useless.

“I just, uh… gosh, I really don’t know,” he repeatedly confessed.

Simpering, woefully scrawny Ned met his miserable father’s label: good for nothing.  

Lucinda’s quest for Mucata’s special chains finally found her pacing back and forth in some occultist cretin’s dungeon. The walls were painted a fiery crimson, the black carpet cluttered with various instruments that appeared to be medieval torture devices. The creep who owned this place called himself Fredric, and he spared no expense on intrusive questions. He told Lucinda that he had to order these chains directly from some mysterious vendor in Romania. He wanted to know who they were for. Someone famous? Someone who wanted her or his identity kept secret? Why wouldn’t Lucinda answer? 

“Look, I’m not at liberty to say anything,” she snapped. “Name your price, I’ll pay up, and then I really have to leave. I’m in a hurry.” 

The nosy sucker straightened his cloak and smirked. He looked like some discount Halloween store Anton LaVey. Lucinda was opening her mouth to tell him so when he finally named an astronomical quote for the chains.

“Thirty-five thousand.”

“For God’s sake,” she said. “Can I at least see these damn things before I commit to that kind of price?” 

“That’s more than just a simple set of chains,” Fredric said. “Rumor has it that they can only be manufactured by this one man… Baron something or other… I did my internet searches, but you know how these things are. It’s hard to get an answer when—”

Lucinda noisily cleared her throat. “The price is insane, but my client will pay what must be paid.”

The demanding, picky old prick.

“I should note,” Fredric said, “that there is more than just a set of chains built into this price, madame. If you should ever need something else -anything at all, natural or… supernatural — it can be arranged.”

He nodded to someone behind her. Before she could turn, two pleather-wrapped men sidled up on either side and clutched her forearms. The one on the right twisted her hand at an uncomfortable angle, resting her palm on his muscled abdomen. 

“Good evening,” the man said.

The other man smirked suggestively.

Lucinda yanked her arms free. “When I say I’m in a hurry, I mean it! Where’s that fucking chain?”

“Tsk-tsk,” Fredric said. “If you’d just waited a second, you would’ve noticed that Fido is here to provide you with that very thing.”

The man on the left circled around to face Lucinda. He winked as he offered her the length of chain. She snatched it and rummaged in her purse for bills. Once she’d gathered the money, she stepped forward and slapped it into Fredric’s extended palm.

His gaze lingered on the cash for a moment, as if he was surveying the contents of a snow globe. 

“Well?” Lucinda asked.

As she spoke, her gaze drifted toward the man who’d seized her hand. And she saw something in his face, something that — no, it couldn’t be…

Get a hold of yourself. 

She snapped her purse shut and wheeled around, charging for the door.

Don’t look back, don’t look back, do not look back.

But on her way out, she couldn’t resist stealing a second glance. The man’s beauty startled her, nearly causing her to lose her balance. His distinctly angular features seemed impossibly similar to those of her long-deceased first lover’s. Those eyes… those fierce cobalt eyes… 

A woman of Lucinda’s age and constitution was not fit to handle this. She burst out into the rainy night and jogged to her car, the chain swinging from her fist.

He’s just a lousy whore, she reminded herself. A cheap gigolo.

She plopped the purchase into her trunk, got into the driver’s seat and gunned the engine. She didn’t want to take the time to calm herself; no, if she did that, she might end up removing the key from the ignition and running right back to Fredric’s creepy little kingdom.

And for a woman who prided herself on the strength of her will, that was simply not an option.

Throughout the entire drive back, though, those eyes occupied her mind with the insistence of a filthily infectious pop song. 

*

That night, Lucinda was either asleep or nearly asleep when a man in wool came to visit. One moment, the ottoman across from her bed was empty; the next, a man sat on it cross-legged, his handsome face crinkled into a smile.

“Who –” Lucinda started to speak, but the man silenced her by raising a long index finger.

Normally, she might’ve finished the sentence, might’ve raised her voice and told him to get out of here immediately, but this was not normally. This man did not occupy the same space as the other cast-members of her day-to-day life. His smile flooded her with an overwhelming calmness.

Her eyelids went pleasantly heavy; woozy airlessness filled her skull. Like an adolescent smoking marijuana for the very first time, she released a giddy laugh. 

The man rose from the ottoman and stood at the foot of her bed. “Yeah,” he said. “Laughter is great, isn’t it?”

“What are you doing here?” Lucinda asked, forcing the words between chuckles. 

“Good question. Yeah, that’s a really great question.” The man patted her foot and leaned forward a little, so she could see his face more clearly in the darkness. “I must be here to tell you about one hell of a deal, mustn’t I?”

Lucinda’s noggin felt like a balloon. 

“A deal?” she repeated.

“That’s right.” The man ran a hand through his silvered hair. “I’m just going to give it to you straight: I’m here on your employer’s behalf.”

“Mr. Mucata?”

“Yeah.” The man smiled again, only this time the expression seemed a little colder. All mouth and no eyes. “We go back a long way. Has Mr. Mucata ever told you about his past, before he won the National Book Award and was voted People’s ‘sexiest man alive’ that same year?”  

Lucinda searched her memory, but her recall was fuzzy around the edges…. Mucata had always seemed to her like a man who’d simply been born erudite, attractive, accomplished, revered. A man whose home was constantly full of doting and immaculate specimens, men and women who could’ve subsisted off appearance alone. A Mucata without these attributes was unthinkable. 

“No,” she said. “I never met him before he made it big. He wouldn’t have hired a personal assistant before he found such great success.”

“He found?” The man plopped back down into the ottoman, resting his elbows on his knees. “He bought sounds more like it, doesn’t it? And you could buy too, if you’re interested.”

Lucinda looked up at the ceiling. Her vision was pleasantly gauzy. “I don’t think I have what you’re looking for. I may be working for a rich man, but he pinches his pennies rather tightly if do say so myself.”

“I know for a fact that you’ve got the kind of currency I’m looking for,” said the man. 

Lucinda propped herself up on the pillow, her head still afloat with that dopey sensation. “Oh, do I?”

“You’ve got a soul, right?”

She had one moment of clarity, and to this day she wonders if she might’ve right then acquiesced to the man’s proposition had it not been for that slip. His hypnotic presence fell away, and she saw something in the ottoman that looked vaguely humanoid but wrong. She only caught a glimpse, but her visitor was certainly nude, with reddish plates glimmering all over his body. His head extended outward into a snout, and curled horns sprouted from his forehead.

Then, just as quickly as she’d seen his true form, it blinked out and disappeared. Again she was facing a young man whose aura filled her with ludicrous tranquility. But the calm couldn’t take complete hold again; no, not after what she’d just seen.

“Mr. Mucata had a soul once, too, only he traded it for the good life.” The man chuckled, as if recounting a drunken night on the town. “And here’s the thing… he can pass the deal along. You promise your soul too, and Mr. Mucata shuffles off in peace. You’ve heard the poor old guy screaming away up there — he doesn’t have much time left. You? You look like you’re sixty going on thirty. You promise your soul to me, I go kapoof, and then you’ve got another few decades of bliss before you find someone else to pass along to. What do you say?” 

Lucinda blinked, and the man had changed form yet again. This time she was staring into the cobalt eyes of a certain gorgeous someone. He might’ve been the man from the chain merchant’s house, or he might’ve been the resurrected lover of her youth. Lucinda didn’t stop to question the logic.

The man asked, “How would you like to have me? How would you like to have anyone? Anything?” 

“Why not simply take the most easily accessible soul?” Lucinda replied. “As you say, Mucata has very little time before he dies off; so why even offer to pass the deal along to someone else?” 

The man’s full lips pulled up into a smile. “The devil likes to spread his gospel in just the same way as his opposite number. I’d be happy to keep passing this deal as long as there are souls left to claim. It keeps me relevant.”

The devil. Of course. It made sense, in an insane fairy-tale kind of way. Even despite this terrible visitor’s waning hypnosis, Lucinda gathered the willpower to scream her response. 

“Go to hell!”  

The man’s exquisite face mutated back into the hideous creature’s, snout and all. He bounded from the chair, muscles pumping in his scaly limbs, and pointed a claw at her scared-witless face. 

“That’s where I’m from, and don’t forget it. When it comes down to it, a soul’s a soul. So Mucata it is, then?” His lips peeled back across a fanged smile. “Very good.”

For a quick and crazed second, Lucinda thought this grinning demon might’ve been her own face reflected back at her. 

*

Lucinda was pulling espresso shots from Mucata’s high-tech coffee machine when Ned and Ralph marched into the kitchen, donning matched red bathrobes. Still peeling her mind away from last night’s encounter (A nightmare, she insisted to herself, Only a hyper-real nightmare), she forced an obligatory smile. 

The brothers looked at each other, then back at her. Rain tap-tap-tapped on the massive window facing Mucata’s Edenic garden. The coffee machine hummed and gurgled.

“Good morning,” Lucinda said. “May I help you with something?”

“Our father has one final request,” Ralph said. “He doesn’t have much longer.”

He said this in a tone that suggested he was relaying the daily weather report.     

Still, Lucinda felt compelled to say what one should say in such moments. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Ned flattened his sleep-messy hair. “Well, I don’t know… I guess he won’t be suffering anymore. He’ll be in heaven soon, right?”

Expressionless Ralph said, “Right.”

Lucinda echoed him, knowing all too well that Mr. Mucata’s deathly destination would be nothing of the sort. Her pre-coffee mind continued insisting nevertheless: Only a nightmare, only a nightmare, only a nightmare…

“So what’s his final request, then?” she asked.

“This one comes with explicit orders,” Ralph said, rummaging in his bathrobe pocket. He produced a folded sheet of paper and slapped it down on the marble counter. “Don’t ask questions. Just make it happen. This is the most important item by a long shot.”

Fuck yourself, you insolent cock, she thought.

“Very well,” she said.

From upstairs, Mr. Mucata screamed the ghastliest of screams. 

Ned and Ralph exchanged an unreadable look. Lucinda took a gulp of fresh espresso and tried to suppress a smile.

*

As per the brothers’ instructions, Lucinda rented a moving truck and drove it to the specified location. Parking the vehicle, she gazed out the window at an almost comically Gothic mansion surrounded by wrought-iron gates. 

She dialled the number on Ralph’s sheet and a man picked up after two rings.

“Yes?” 

“This is Mr. Mucata’s assistant,” Lucinda said. “I’m here to pick up his order.”

“Good. We’ve been expecting you.” 

Click.

Thunder clapped as Lucinda returned the phone to her pocket. She leaned back in her seat, watching rain stream down the windshield. Five minutes passed, then ten, and nothing happened. 

She cursed softly and stepped out into the drizzle, pulling her jacket over her head. She shook the gate with her hand. When she determined that it was in fact locked, she pulled out her phone to re-dial the number.

Suddenly, the gates creaked open. Rainwater spilled from the crevices between spiked tips, like drool from the mouth of a yawning beast. 

“About time,” Lucinda said, jogging back to the truck.

She pulled in and parked outside the double-door entrance. A squat, tuxedoed man stood under the awning. Behind him, a suited woman raised a hand to acknowledge Lucinda’s arrival.

Lucinda scampered out to meet them. “It’s pouring out here.”

The woman ignored her, turning instead to face the stout man. “Show the lady to her purchase.”

The servant nodded, straightened his bow-tie and entered the mansion. “Follow me, please.”

Lucinda trailed behind him into a vast foyer, footsteps echoing. A crystal chandelier glowed overhead. As the woman closed the doors behind them, lightning strobed the dark sky. The man strode to a glass door and swung it open, beckoning Lucinda’s entrance with a white-gloved hand. 

She walked inside before he’d had the chance to flip the light switch. For a moment, she thought she saw Mr. Mucata standing there in the darkness, peering down at her with his intensely judgmental eyes. 

But then the servant turned on the lights, revealing a mahogany-carved Mucata replica; Lucinda determined it to be a meticulously designed casket.

“Oh my,” she said. 

The servant offered an abstract nod, crossing his hands over his paunch.

The woman moved into the room, pushing between them. “You really need to hurry, miss. This incantation was the best I can do, but it has a time limit. Even my powers cannot solve everything.”

“Incantation?” Lucinda repeated.

“That’s right. Ned and Ralph said he’s not going to make it another day.” The woman bowed subtly at the waist. “I’m sorry… I don’t mean to be insensitive, but as you know, this all needs to be timed perfectly.”

Of course, Lucinda didn’t know, but she didn’t see the need to tell the woman that.   

“Yes, timed perfectly,” Lucinda said. “That’s right. Only… what happens if we slip up?”

This question prompted the woman to cock a skeptical eyebrow in the direction of her servant. The expression said, Is this lady for real?

The servant cleared his throat and stepped forward, as if an invisible microphone was stationed before him. “Mademoiselle, this is the most powerful white magic we could possibly manufacture. In events such as this, we must ensure that the soul is encased as promptly and as tightly as is humanly possible. This way, when…” His voice trailed off, and a ragged cough slipped out between his lips. “When he comes…”

“When Satan comes to collect what’s owed, it’ll be too late,” the woman finished. “Now please, hurry along. Make no stops along the way. As soon as Mr. Mucata passes, his body must be transported into this casket.”

Satan. It wasn’t a nightmare, and you knew it all along.

It was all coming together now. Mucata’s ferocious insistence on privacy — no ambulances, no doctors, no phone calls, no emails… he’d managed to successfully maintain almost J.D. Salinger-esque secrecy throughout his life. Not only did it help enrich his enigmatic brand, but now, on the verge of death, Lucinda supposed he thought it would come in handy in a more immediate way.

Only he’d made a grave mistake by entrusting such tasks to her, a woman he’d swindled and abused and patronized for so many years. 

Because now, even as Lucinda told the woman there would be no extra stops en route to Mucata’s mansion, she had a certain somebody in mind. The circular irony was almost too much to handle; when the LaVey wannabe and his beautiful dungeon-mates surfaced in her memory, she fought every impulse to smile.

She didn’t entirely succeed. As she helped the servant wheel the casket toward the door, he gave her a suspicious frown and asked if everything was alright.  

“It’s just a lot to take in,” she said.

He nodded as if satisfied, but Lucinda knew he wasn’t. As she drove away from the mansion, she watched the receding shape of the woman on the doorstep; and even from this distance, Lucinda felt that she was onto her. 

No matter how she looked at it, time was of the essence. 

*

“Fredric,” Lucinda said. “I would like to take you up on your offer. You said I get a certain bonus something with the cost of that chain. And it just dawned on me today, what I’d like to have with it.”

He welcomed her inside and she stood beside what appeared to be a guillotine. He raised a thin eyebrow at someone behind her, and she heard the soft clop-clop of shoe heels on the carpeted floor. She turned, caught a glimpse of those cobalt eyes, and immediately tore her glance away.

“No,” she said. “I mean, not that… not now.”

Fredric offered a wry smile. “No? Are you into someone a little less… masculine, perhaps?”

“No,” she said. “And I know that sex isn’t the only thing that you’ve got to offer in here. I’m looking for someone who can cast a spell. You said the word supernatural last time we spoke, remember?”

“Ooh, a love spell, hmm? You looking to seduce a certain someone?” Fredric asked. “Someone specific?”

“Nothing like that,” Lucinda said. “Nothing like white magic at all. I’m looking for something that’ll lure the devil like catnip lures kittens. Something that’ll break down the whitest of white and bring all the demons of hell barging in on… a certain someone.” 

“All the demons of hell, huh? Sounds hardcore. You looking for an orgy? Maybe something kinky?” Fredric’s face crumpled into an infuriating grin. “What? What’s your poison, my dear?”

Lucinda’s stomach gurgled in on itself. What an old fool she was, assuming that this lousy doppelgänger of the world’s most famous Satanist was capable of using black magic. How appearances could deceive. Her face warmed at an embarrassing rate — she could feel its redness.

“You don’t need to be ashamed about anything,” Fredric said. “Everybody needs a good release every now and then.”

Lucinda whipped around and plunged back out into the night. As the door swung to a close behind her, she heard Fredric calling other crass, prurient alternatives: “You want to try the sex toys of the future? Bisexual threesome? Trisexual twosome? What?”

A group of suited men and women rushed past at that very moment, exchanging looks of disgust and amusement in equal parts. 

Lucinda ducked into the truck and fired it up as quickly as she could manage with her shaking hands, aching to put this humiliating experience behind her. As the engine huffed back to life, her phone buzzed in her pocket.

She drew it out, and the text message on the screen gave her cause for reluctant celebration. Ralph: He’s dead. Where the fuck are you?

Maybe, just maybe, the delay would be enough to send Mucata where he deserved. Lucinda merged onto the road with all the urgency of a monk in deep meditation.

*

Ralph and Ned were standing out in the rain when she arrived, their faces masks of profound fury. 

“We’re running out of time, you fucking idiot!” Ralph screamed, rain spraying from his lips.

Lucinda circled around to the truck’s back door. “Well, you’d better help me carry in the casket then, wouldn’t you say?”

Meek Ned chimed in, “Oh, I guess maybe that would be the best thing to do right now. Or… I don’t know. What do you think, Ralph? Is there time? I guess I’m just not too sure –”

Grab that FUCKING casket!” Ralph exploded.

Lucinda took the back handle, while Ralph and Ned grabbed the ones on the sides. They marched into Mucata’s beautiful mansion, and Lucinda chanted a cruel mental chant: I hope it’s too late, hope it’s too late, hope it’s too late. At the same time, she knew the man’s sons were quietly rapping out the opposite wish. 

No matter whose wish came true, this promised to be an interesting scenario to behold.

*

Entering the bedroom, Lucinda saw that Ned and Ralph had already bound their father’s pale-fleshed corpse in chains. Even in death, the bastard’s sunken gray face wore an expression of insolence. As they lowered him into the open casket, Lucinda looked into those milky blue eyes and thought an all-too-familiar thought: Go to hell.

There was something disturbing about watching the two young men hastily slopping cement and water over their recently deceased father. What kind of twisted plan was this? And would it work?

Could it?

Lucinda believed she had her answer when Ned and Ralph sealed the casket shut, clicking its dozens of complex locks into place. Once the custom-made coffin was closed, it emitted a faint but unmistakably warm blue glow. She felt something like affection flooding her abdomen: all feathery and irrational heat. 

“The chains are working,” Ralph said, quietly.

“There,” Ned added. “We did it… right? Do you think we did it?”

“Shut up,” Ralph said. His bangs had fallen into his face in all the rushed kerfuffle; he wiped them back aggressively. “I’m going to sleep. We’ll bury him at the requested site tomorrow.” Then, turning to Lucinda, “You’re not invited for that part. You’ll receive your share of Father’s money by the month’s end. We’ll sort out your new accommodations at that time.”

Tropical vacation sites flitted through her mind in an exquisite montage. 

“Very well,” she said. “Good night.”

Ralph turned to exit when his father’s carved-oak bedside table audibly quivered. He turned, perturbed. The table jumped like a spooked animal, flinging the lamp on top across the room.  

Ned clutched Lucinda’s arm and stared up at her with pleading eyes. “Oh, gosh… oh, man… what’s happening, do you think?”

She had no time to answer. A muscular red body burst through the carpet beneath the overturned table, somehow passing through the solid floor as if it was water. Propped on top of a veiny neck, its horned face leered with glee.  

Satan himself, right on schedule.

“He warned us,” Ralph said, bunching his hair up in his fists. “The old fucker warned us.”

“Should we tell it to leave?” Ned asked, his voice choked with tears. “Should we hit it?”

Ralph ignored him, his face a mask of utter defeat. The scarlet visitor sprung on top of the casket with claws stretched.  

Hideous, muffled cries filled the casket, mostly inarticulate yowls of despair, but Lucinda distinctly heard the phrase, “Deal’s off!”

“Not a chance!” cried the devil.

He stripped away the chains like a greedy child unwrapping a Christmas gift. Before they hit the floor, they flickered a dull ice-blue glow. 

Too late to ask for a refund, Lucinda thought distantly. 

Next the clasps popped off, spewing more of that azure light, which looked like geysers of black-lit liquid. The rest happened so quickly that Lucinda could only catch bits and pieces, as if she was scanning through time-lapse footage. Satan seized the wrist of a silvery and translucent Mucata, peeling it away from the dead body encased within the casket. With wild certainty, Lucinda determined this translucent figure to be Mucata’s soul. The spirit’s mouth hung open in a sustained, pitiful scream of terror; its arms hung limp and noodle-like at its sides. Ralph remained silent. Ned wailed like an infant in a shit-filled diaper. 

The devil finally tore the whole spirit free, spraying globs of cement in its wake, then pounced onto the windowsill. Holding his prize like a garbage bag, he looked over his shoulder at Lucinda. His eyes, cobalt, glinted.

“Miss,” he said. “This is your final offer. You’ve learned the tricks of the trade by now, haven’t you?”

Lucinda cast looks at both Ralph and Ned, and she caught a glimpse of something hidden within both of their expressions. 

“Sure, go ahead and judge me. I’d already sold mine long before old Lucifer offered a deal to save Dad’s. But I won’t be as stupid as the old man,” Ralph said. “I’ll make sure everything’s in order.”

Mucata’s spirit cried despairingly.

Ned’s face dripped snot and tears. “I couldn’t do it, Poppa. Sell my soul to the devil? That’s bad, isn’t it? I was so scared… you understand, don’t you?”

His deceased father wailed wordless disagreement. 

Lucinda kept her mind locked in on the joyful future that awaited Mucata’s absence. She pictured palm trees and some young, gracious future employer; she looked first at ghostly Mucata’s mournful visage, then up at the devil’s.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m sixty now — a soul-selling transaction gives me another what? Thirty, forty years?”  

“Plenty of time to enjoy whatever your heart desires,” said the devil. “Success, beauty, the pleasures of the flesh –”

“—Sold,” Lucinda said. “On one condition.”

“Go on.”

“This isn’t a trade. Take Mucata where he belongs.”

The devil’s red face spread around an awful grin. “I’ll see you again when the time comes… unless you can find someone else. Think you can?”

Before Lucinda could respond, Satan spun around on the windowsill, crouched on his haunches like a neon-colored gargoyle, and rocketed off into the stormy sky, tail fluttering like a blasphemous flag. Dangling from his clawed fist, Mucata protested uselessly to a God who could not save him.

Silence descended on the bedchambers, broken only by Ned’s messy snuffling. 

Lucinda brushed her hands together and nodded before saying, “Enjoy the funeral.”

With that, she exited the room and headed downstairs to her room. She was ready to see a certain sexy someone. Maybe it was simply those deep cobalt eyes that had sealed the deal. Or maybe it had been the memory of Mucata’s grinning face in the nighttime, his cruel mock innocence as he requested a glass of water at such unreasonable hours.

Either way, Lucinda exited the house with a clear conscience and a mind filled with dreams. It was finally time to see them fulfilled. 

Mike Thorn (@MikeThornWrites) is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in a number of magazines, podcasts and anthologies, including Dark Moon Digest and The NoSleep Podcast, and his film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage and The Seventh Row. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

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