(Warning: the following story has explicit and graphic material.)
I prefer eating women.
They are usually castaways or addicts of some kind. I appear to them as this benevolent knight in shining armor rescuing them from dark alleys in the wee hours of the night. Since I cannot sleep, my energy level is always at its apex. I find most of my meals in the shadows of the Bowery, begging for money or their next fix.
With each step, I wonder what Lucy would taste like. She might taste juicy or even spicy, but I wanted sweet tonight. It sends me into a frenzy thinking about it, for I cannot stop salivating.
She looks so lovely locked in my golden cage. Her sandy brown hair is disheveled and it appears as if she had been crying. “What’s the matter, dear?”
“Get me out of here!”
Somehow she is lucid. I made sure I fed her and gave her a minimal amount of drugs before I left for Penn Station.
“Would you like another hit?”
Oh my, she’s trembling.
She clenches the cage bars. “Just get me out of here!”
I’m not sure if I like her better this way or leaning into a long nod. I stand before her and study her track marks. She looks so scrumptious frantically rattling my cage.
My victims must remain alive and alert, the fresher they are the better they taste. I prefer my victims on narcotics, for after consumption I am relaxed. Therefore, I could subsist on one body per week.
“Hush there,” I say, crouching down to meet her eyes. “Want more candy?” Once I show her a syringe, her cries quiet down to whimpers – a perfect moment to inject another dose into her arm. While she slips into a nod, I turn on the radio and Martha Tilton croons “Thanks For The Memory” with Benny Goodman and his orchestra.
“Would you care to dance?” I ask, before I unlock the door.
She stares up at me with glassy eyes scratching her arm.
“Oh, there is always more,” I say, pulling the waif up to my chest.
She blinks and then nods. She takes my hand and I escort her off to my private dining room, where I am my primal self. Inside is where the ceiling, the floors and walls are covered in steel. Whatever mess I create inside will easily be hosed off. In this room is where I am the zombie who enjoys the fellowship of feasting on human flesh.
I always take off my clothes before entering my dining room. Then I slowly undress my meal and pretend that I am about to copulate. Many of the women, if I may say, desire me. After all, I am handsome, strongly built, and my smile seems to melt their little hearts. Just in case, I make sure I tie their limbs with rope to my steel table.
“We’re going to play a little game,” I say, holding the rope.
Lucy nods and smiles. She’s so high and agreeable.
One would think that I am perfect, but no, I have a few caveats: salt and the sun. Salt stiffens my joints and the sun incapacitates me.
Eschewing salt and the sun have become easy for me to contend with; however, living a life in celibacy has been the ultimate curse. I desire sex, but I cannot indulge in such pursuit, for my sexual organ fell off soon after I became a zombie. It had taken me at least two centuries to figure out how to contend without my member. Therefore, human consumption has become a sexual act for me.
Lucy looks up and smiles wryly as I pull off her shirt. Suddenly I inhale a whiff of her scent: strawberry shortcake.
“Mmm . . . I cannot wait to taste you,” I say, pulling down her skirt. My hunger pangs increase as I watch her tied to my oblong metal table. Her legs are splayed and I think she looks longingly at me to penetrate her. I oblige and sink my sharp teeth into her right thigh. She screams.
Once I taste her flesh, I ravage the tender meat before me.
Why do you judge? I should be able to indulge. Isn’t that my right? Everyone has to eat. Why not me?
Watching her writhe and squirm in pain excites me even more. She looks like a wriggling worm. What a lovely sight . . . and a guttural laugh erupts from me as I watch her try to fight for her dear life.
I decide to eat her from the bottom up. I pin her down to sink my teeth into her left thigh. The rest of her limbs frantically move and somehow the rope loosens. She tries to claw my face, but I take a large bite of her left quadricep. Ennui settles into her body, slowing her movements as I work my way up to her arms and shoulders, she takes her last breath. Then I flip her over and gnaw on her calves, hamstrings, and her delightful gluteus maximus. Once I am done with her backside I then flip her over.
How exquisite to save the breasts for the very last, for they are my favorite morsels. Somehow a woman’s breasts always taste sweet.
Licking the blood off my fingers, I realize how there is nothing like gulping down fresh meat. I think eating fresh meat is like eating vegetables straight from a garden. Then I look at the clock and remember I have to pick up Edna and her so-called sister.
As usual I hose the blood away and dissolve the bones and clothes in a bucket of potassium hydroxide. Then I take a shower to wash the blood away. I make sure Crown Royal pomade is handy to create that slick wavy look, but before I do my hair I apply the salve from Nigeria and rub it all over my body. It is so amazing how it works. It covers all of my gaping wounds and sores and prevents nasty maggots.
I have my own special apothecary in Nigeria that continually produces the Forbidden Priest’s formula. My employees just ship a box to my mailbox in Grand Central every month. If I were a legitimate businessman, I would market this stuff, but it would probably ruin a simple mortal’s skin. The only wound that it cannot conceal is my festering neck wound. I have tried everything. I have asked the apothecary to change the formula multiple times, but it still cannot properly conceal that area.
While I stand before the mirror, I see a tall, muscular Dahomean with piercing eyes. I marvel at how I never age. I remember I need to meet Edna and her so-called sister. Even I am affected by time and the insidious tick-tocking of a clock. Looking through my walk-in closet, I find the perfect suit and ascot to cover my neck scar.
I make sure I am there to open the car door for Edna and Dot. For approximately ten minutes, I gaze at the stars, wondering what kind of enigma Dot is. Perhaps she is a trick that has been summoned by the gods. In all my years dwelling on this Earth I have never met such entity.
“Hurry up,” Edna yells at Dot, switching up to me at the car. “Can’t you see Duke’s waiting?”
Then Edna looks at my cream-colored suit. “Digging the new drapes.”
“Why thank you, sugar,” I say to Edna. Then I scan both women: Edna is cloaked in a white-sequined dress and her sister in a satin red dress that exposes her cleavage. “And you and your sister are looking like two mighty fine dinners.”
“Aw, Duke you sure are a hep cat,” Edna says, smiling broadly. Meanwhile her sister Dot, standing in red shoes that gape at the heels, remains reticent.
How did she do it? How is she here in the flesh? I can clearly see her now. It is axiomatically her, the powerful priestess!
“That color becomes you,” I tell her. Dot nods demurely and smiles, hugging the chill away from her arms.
“Well, you are togged to the bricks,” Edna says, smiling. “But why do you always wear that neck scarf?”
“It’s called an ascot and it’s part of my ensemble, sweetness,” I say, opening the car door for her and her sister. “When have you ever seen me without it?”
It tickles me watching Dot pretending to be innocent. Her fascination with Harlem’s tenements, brownstones, bustling nightclubs, cars, shops, crowds of people, people, and more people continues to amaze me as the city lights dance upon her face.
Dot nudges Edna’s shoulder. “Does this city ever sleep?”
“No, this is when Harlem wakes up,” Edna says.
Parking on Strivers’ Row, a few blocks away from The Savoy Ballroom, I open my arms and say, “Welcome to the real Big Apple.”
As we walk to the Savoy, Edna points to the sparkling marquee that reads: “THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS: CHICK WEBB VS. COUNT BASIE.”
“We’re here, sis.”
Dot says nothing, but her facial expression is in complete awe. Her mouth forms into one complete “O”, as she cranes her neck to gaze at the many different kinds of people on line.
“White people dance here, too?”
“At the Savoy, honey, racism doesn’t exist,” Edna answers and then guffaws. “If you can dance, you’re in. If not, and if you’re an ofay, just sit down and have a drink with the rest of us.”
Dot laughs in glee as she studies how everyone is dressed in their very best – some are cloaked in furs, sequin dresses, and even tuxedoes.
“Hey man, I just saw Clark Gable walk into the house!” a man waiting on line behind us said.
“Girl, your eyes are as wide as saucers!” I say with a grin.
Edna sucks her teeth, “Strrrp!” and then says, “Leave my sister alone, Duke.”
Offering my arm to Edna, I ask, “So are you ready to have a ball?”
“More than ever this joint’s ‘bout to jump!” I offer my arm to her and she links her arm into mine before entering the threshold.
Behind us, Dot wobbles up the stairs in Edna’s high-heels. “Do you think Ella Fitzgerald will sing tonight?”
“Why don’t you wait and see, Dot?” Edna yells as the music grow louder and louder.
Dot nods before she stumbles up the steps.
“Get a grip,” Edna says, grabbing Dot’s arm. “Do you know where you are?”
Once we’ve reached the top of the steps, I watch Dot turn around to face the bandstand. Her awkward expression turns into utter delight, as she is ensorcelled by the ballroom. Flushed against the east wall is a double bandstand: one large for the house band and one medium-sized for the visiting band.
Dot leans over the banister and is fascinated, watching the dancing garden full of colors and rhythms known as the Track. Some of the men dressed in tuxedos or shirts and ties, twirl the women clad in floral print dresses and flared skirts. And as the arms and legs of the Lindy Hoppers twist and turn in different directions to the beat of Chick Webb’s wailing drums, Dot tries to mimic their moves.
The Lindy Hoppers, in their bobby socks and saddle shoes, stomp the mahogany and maple floor that pulse up and down to the swing of Chick Webb’s orchestra. “They’re going to break the floor!” Dot laughs. Sighing in ecstasy with her mouth agape, Dot shimmies her shoulders to the “Harlem Congo.”
“You care to ring a ding along with me?” asks a man in a bright orange zoot suit. “The Little Peach, The Shag, the Suzy Q, or The Shim-Sham-Shimmy?”
Dot squinted at the man. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re not some jeff or square, are ya?” he asks.
I watched them amused.
“I don’t-don’t under—” Suddenly the man grabs Dot’s arm and drags her to the Track. At first Dot seems to be in step with the syncopated beat of her partner, until he directs her to turn. Baffled, Dot turns the opposite direction, which causes her to collide into her partner and stumble to the floor.
“Man, you ‘bout to embarrass me up in here,” he says, picking her up from the floor. “You all right?”
Dazed and confused, she nods, watching the zoot suit disappear into the crowd.
Edna runs to rescue her sister from the Track. “You know who that is?”
Dot shrugs her shoulders.
“That was Long-Legged George!” Edna says, slapping her hip. “He’s one of the most famous Lindy Hoppers in this joint.”
“Aw, come on,” Edna says, grabbing Dot’s hand. They both follow me to a table where I place three orders of soda pop.
“So where’s the hooch?”
“Be patient, sugar,” I say to Edna, reaching inside my jacket.
As if Edna’s sucking a bitter lemon, she says, “It’s been five years since Roosevelt lifted the prohibition and the Savoy is still not following suit.”
The waiter places three filled glasses of pop on our table. I pay the bill and make sure the waiter is out of sight before I pull out my flask.
“Maybe they’re just being careful,” I say, pouring some moonshine into Edna’s glass.
“Now that’s more like it,” she says, smiling at me.
“Are you enjoying your drink,” I ask Dot.
“Don’t think ‘bout it Duke,” Edna says. “She’s too young.”
“I was just asking,” I say. “I wasn’t going to give her any juice unless she asked.” One thing I hate is for someone to anticipate my moves.
“Introducing Count Basie!” the host of the evening announces on the microphone. Then the applause ensues from the crowd who waits for the pianist clad in a white dinner jacket and black tie to make his debut. As the Count plays each note with alacrity, he mesmerizes the crowd.
“He’s mixing gut-bucket Blues with Swing!” Edna says, clapping her hands to the beat.
“Yes, he is and I—”
“Where’s my sister, Betty!” a man in an oversized brown suit suddenly appears before me, reeking of licorice. No one hears him, for Basie’s orchestra drowns out his accusations.
This man has a striking resemblance to a woman I had eaten over a month ago. Perhaps he is her twin. Why he even smells like her – licorice. I wonder how he was able to find me here.
“What are you talking ‘bout?” I ask, looking up.
“I said, where’s my sister, Mo-fo!”
“I’m not sure whom you are referring to,” I say and then I proceed to talk to Edna, but the man knocks the drink out of my hand. That is definitely a violation to my person.
Then I stand up and say over the din, “Let’s discuss this outside.”
“Yeah, let’s do that, Jack!”
I glance at Edna who already knows the protocol of staying cool and composed. Dot, however, is about to stand until Edna places her hand on top of hers, gesturing her to remain seated.
“Stay here,” I tell Edna. “I’ll be right back.”
We both walk out into the empty alleyway in the back of the Savoy. Looking at him closely, I then realize that he has the same crooked right eye as the girl I had feasted upon a month ago. Before he could say another word, I trip him and rip his neck open with my teeth.
One thing I am blessed with, if I could say such a word, is with speed and power. In the corner of my eye, I see red. It is Dot, the priestess.
As she stands there trembling in the cold, she watches me as if I am some kind of monster. She then reaches for the back door to get help. I drop the body onto the floor and with one leap I hover over her. I try to attack her, but to no avail. I freeze. Never as a walking dead man have I ever felt so impotent.
Staring deeply into her eyes, I remember this is the woman I fell in love with centuries ago.
How can she not know her true name? Did she not come out here to stop me? Then I stare at this little five-foot woman and try to laugh, but I am unable to move my mouth, for I feel like a suckling infant. I do not know how much time has passed, for staring into her eyes has made me travel to a place of our ancestors, where I am forbidden to go. I begin to sweat, because I feel as though I am standing near the sun itself.
“So, you . . . you . . . are the death of me.”
It begins to snow and her curly hair and the flakes from the sky make aureoles of yellow about her in the illusory dawning light, yet the snow does not touch her. It is as if she is protected by some kind of force beyond my reach.
A rat tumbles over the garbage cans, awakening me from my trance. “But not tonight!”
I pivot to the corpse and try to drag it away. In the midst of doing so, my ascot has unraveled, revealing my neck scar and tendons. I quickly realize my efforts to try to get rid of the evidence are futile. I take off my shirt to wipe my face clean of the blood. While I turn my jacket inside out, I hear Dot saying, “What . . . are . . . you?”
“Don’t you remember?” I say, staring at her coldly.
Dot does not answer and soon collapses ten feet away from me.
In the background, I hear Edna’s voice, as she tries to approach the alley. Luckily the door is troublesome to open.
“Dot, I told you to let that man handle his own business!”
Then I stand up, feeling chilled and weary. I gather my bloody belongings and place them into a garbage bag I find nearby. I peer into the murk of the impending blizzard and realize I must completely disappear; I walk away from the corpse and from my destiny called death in the guise of a woman named Dot.
A few blocks down, I pass my Manchester. Possessions have always weighed me down. Meanwhile the sirens remind me of the high notes of Louis Armstrong’s horn and I say aloud to the empty snow-covered streets, “Heard Satchmo changed the Jazz scene in Paris. Now that’s a likely place to go.”