"There the wicked cease from troubling; and the weary be at rest." Job iii, 17
They met over dinner, in a most unexpected way. It was on a night when the fog hung heavy and thick over fallow fields, illuminated from without by a misspent Harvest moon. A perfect night for supping and not much more, he had believed. After all, he had arrived late for the feast, hunger gnawing at his belly like a ravenous beast and making him think of nothing else. It is often that way with love.
The banquet still lay spread invitingly, despite his tardiness, and he immediately felt a surge of relief. To the right of the gate, two mangy dogs tussled over a meaty bone and, for a brief moment, he considered entering the fray himself. He was that hungry. But dimly remembered decorum, and the tantalizing aromas assailing his nostrils from the still plentiful buffet, kept those urges in check. Bounteous variety lay before him. He had only to pick and choose his drooling heart's desire.
No sooner had he closed in on a particularly mouthwatering morsel, his teeth sweating in anticipation and his mind racing with fevered desire, when he saw her. Like an angel of death she appeared to glow in the half light, hunkered down over her expertly picked meal, similarly engaged in single-minded and ecstatic repast. Alone, as was the way with their cursed kind, she squatted before her dinner, delicately scooping jellied horror from an exposed eye socket. Her thinning hair lay in disarray and a decaying wedding dress hung in tatters from her thin shoulders. It was at that moment that he knew he had found his one true love.
Stepping lightly over the carnage of the recent battlefield and the brittle cornstalks trampled into mud, blood and excrement, he moved closer, hunger momentarily and uncharacteristically forgotten. Sensing the movement, she looked up and in so doing, locked eyes with her destiny. Her jaw dropped in mid-chew, clear liquid oozing over lips to hang in trembling dollops from a charmingly skeletal chin. As if in a dream state, he unconsciously brought his hands up to straighten what was left of the dusty and stained bowtie to his shredded tuxedo. Perfect. She was perfect, in so many ways.
Stepping forward, he lowered himself into a squat before her, his gummy yellow eyes never leaving hers. In response, she lifted, with a gore-slick right hand, a mass of muscle and congealing plasma, and laid it gently into his waiting hands. He broke the mesmerizing gaze he held with her to look down at the gift. A heart. Still whole and unsullied. A token of her affection and, perhaps, more. Smiling, he lifted the favor to his mouth and wasted no time in devouring it greedily.
Satisfied, she lowered her head to bite the lips off the corpse before her, then sat back to watch him as she chewed. And so it went, throughout most of the night, the two of them sharing their finds, wordless and united in a preordained ritual of despair and desecration. The wedding feast of eyes, teeth and rapidly swelling bellies gave rise to a bond promising more, much more to come. In the distance, a dog howled, joined by another, then another. Overcome by emotion, even as his nature drove him to perform the ultimate sacrilege, he bowed his head in thanks for the hopeful redemption he had found.
And finally, when the meal was done, and their unsavory hungers abated, she cocked her head to the side. Wisps of frazzled blonde hair waved fetchingly from a head gone almost completely bald, as she reached up with trembling fingers to push the wedding dress from her emaciated shoulders. As it slipped unhindered to the ground with a rustle of finality, she stood exposed before him in the glow of the fog enshrouded moon, and lowered her head demurely.
She was, to his caked and putrid eyes, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Her withered breasts hung flat and empty upon her ribcage. Her distended stomach bulged obscenely beneath them, filled to capacity and beyond. Her legs, free of sinew or girlish curve, tacked as they were below hollow, hatchet-like hips, appeared incapable of supporting such weight. And yet, to him, she was a long-awaited goddess.
Fumbling with the rope which held his pants in place, he soon stood in a puddle of rotted cloth, his withered member jutting out before him expectantly. She raised her head and nodded at the offering. Stepping forward, she helped him rid himself of the tuxedo coat and shirt. The bowtie she left in place, drooping in dejected formality across pronounced collar bone. Soon he was as naked as she and, after a chaste kiss was attempted between thin, dry, formless lips, she began to pull him down to the charred and blood-soaked ground. He followed willingly, and in so doing, sealed his fate.
Running her hands over her willing supplicant with a sound like leaves skittering across gravestones, she lowered her face to his nether regions. Inhaling deeply of the musty decay and filth which arose to assault her senses, she began first kissing and licking at the wasted genitals with a surprisingly agile tongue. Then as the passion of the moment overtook her, she began nipping and biting, making him squirm with anticipation. Her ministrations became frenzied and soon she was rooting feverishly into his groin, a vibration like the rattling of bones rising up to merge with his unearthly moans, until finally the shriveled penis came loose.
He screamed through the ecstasy, never looking away from the bright glowing orb swimming in the milky and oppressively close sky. Gripping her scaly head tightly, he pressed her face deeper between his legs, yellowed eyes gleaming with long-forgotten tears. Emboldened by his gratification, she made short work of his deteriorated testicles and fervently attacked the swollen bladder which was his stomach. Working her way upward toward the birthplace of his sin, she reveled in the ecstasy of their union by devouring every organ offered her one by one.
As the music of their lovemaking filled the night, frightening children and committing mothers to their rosaries, he howled an orgasmic thank you to the gods of darkness for granting him this unexpected reprieve from deathless wandering. And, as has always been the case where true love is concerned, his curse became his saving grace.
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This story originally appeared in the Australian quarterly Redsine 10 (Oct 2002), edited by Garry J. Nurrish. Republished in my anthology Dimensions of Desire, Renaissance Books, 2010.
© David Salcido, 2003. Registered with the Library of Congress and the Writers Guild of America. All rights reserved.