Nick is the shadow behind the fear. He opens doors for me before I even knew I needed them opened, but where would he be when it’s time to shut those doors?
The endless stream of liquor and cigarettes came through anonymous packages that held Nick’s scent. My clients whispered his name as they flowed through the door in a sea of faces against a grey background. Nick is their god, and I am merely his puppet.
I take a long pull from the cigarette in my hands as I examine my newest client; a middle-aged socialite with perfectly coiffed auburn hair, vibrant green eyes, and red lips that held the faintest of smiles.
“I was assured that this would be taken care of discreetly. As you know, I can’t have my connections learning about this process. Do I have your assurances that it will remain anonymous?”
I took another breath of the cigarette before replying.
“Mam, you can be assured that no one will know what happens here unless you want them to.”
She nodded, satisfied, and handed me an envelope from her handbag.
“Very well. Here is the ten thousand up front, as agreed. Will you need anything else?”
“No. The bathtub is in a room down the hall. You may enter whenever you’re ready.”
The woman smiled as she rose and made her way to the room with the tub, and I locked the door behind her before pouring myself a glass of whiskey.
Within minutes, the screaming began.
Every new client screamed at first; the outrage, terror, and disgust eventually gave way to a resigned silence when they came face-to-face with the true price of immortality.
I took a swig of my whiskey as I returned to the tub room and listened at the door. I could hear the client inside; her sad mumblings par for the course in this line of business, and I ignored them as I continued down the hallway and entered my bedroom. I finished my glass before laying down and lighting up my tenth smoke of the morning. She would be in there for a while, and I may as well sleep while I could.
But sleep didn’t come.
Once again, I was left to the mercy of the shadows as they flickered across my walls. I hadn’t slept in almost a year, and it was beginning to take its toll.
Some hours later, there was a feeble knock at the tub room door. I opened it to reveal the client, still impeccably dressed, but pale and weak. I could see the new ring of copper in her eyes as I ushered her to the dining room.
“Was everything to your satisfaction?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Her vacant tone faded as I handed her a goblet full of a thick, red concoction that smelled of decaying roses.
“Here. Drink this. You must be thirsty.”
She took it absently, but her eyes lit up when the scent reached her nose. She emptied the goblet in two massive gulps and returned to herself by the end of it. I handed her a small packet.
“You will need to return every three months for treatment, but these supplies will last you until your first appointment. Also, you are not to speak of this to anyone. Nick forbids it, as stated in your contract. Now, do you have any questions?”
“No. Thank you, Miss Jones. You’ve been very helpful.”
I nodded and showed her the door. She left in a stylish car, and I watched as she disappeared over the horizon.
I finished my cigarette and tossed the butt into the gravel before making my way to the tub room. Remains littered the floor, and gore hung from the walls and ceiling. I began tossing the remains into the garbage chute, marveling at the things humans would do to cheat death.
But Nick knew. He saw me at my weakest moment and brought me into the fold. Now, I usher his chosen few into their next life as servants for our creator. I could never escape his rule, so I resigned myself to cleaning the bathroom and getting it ready for the next client.
And there would be a next client. There always was.
This story was inspired by a dream I had. The dream was very noir-like with a horror twist, and I just had to turn it into a piece of flash fiction.
Have you ever written a dream-based story? How did it go?