Synopsis. It is Monday, January 11, 2016, the day after David Bowie died, and Derek Winterson wanders alone, penniless, hungover, and in dire need of alcohol. Drifting into a cemetery, Derek encounters a strange old man who delivers a menacing prophecy: this is the last day of Derek’s life. He is a given a key to a crypt, and within Derek finds exactly what his heart fervently desires: an abundant supply of alcohol and cigarettes, as well as a fetching young woman bound hand and foot, the fire of Derek’s libido. She is the “gift” for Derek on his last day, crafted by a mysterious, para-human secret admirer from Derek’s long lost past. Derek will give her a name— Jean Genie. Derek is perplexed and disgusted when he learns Jean will cease to exist after his demise; she’s sentient, she has emotions—he must find a way to save her. He must summon the Old Man, the Messenger.
5: God Bless The Girl
“There was a sequence in Tomb of Dracula #41 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon,” Derek explained as they made the short walk back to his favorite spot, back to the ashes of The Messenger. “Dracula had been destroyed and burnt to dust! But he was resurrected by the tears of a ‘virgin pure.’”
“And you think…”
“Well, you are, aren’t you?”
“But I have to cry?” she said.
“Well,” he faltered. They crested the slope, looked down. There lay the overturned lawn chair and black ring of the dead fire, the white crystal ashes of The Messenger.
“Was the messenger a vampire?” Jean asked as she carefully navigated the slant of the slope in her bare feet, her hands tied behind her. “Have you done this before? What makes you think a spell from an old comic book will actually work?”
“I don’t,” Derek said. “But it’s no less crazy than all the other shit this morning’s thrown at me. Here,” and he helped her kneel close to the pile of ashes.
“Now what?” Jean wondered.
Now I make you cry, Derek thought. But how?
“Maybe if you hit me,” she said softly.
“I’m not going to hit you, for Christ’s sake!”
“Do you want this to work? Don’t you want to save me?”
“What, ‘cruel to be kind?’”
CRUNCH. “‘Means that I love you, baby.’”
“Nick Lowe,” Derek winced. “Now I’m really going to be sick.”
“Hit me!” she cried.
He tapped her across the cheek.
“Oh, come on! That was pathetic. Hit me!”
Still wincing, Derek drew back his open palm to strike her again, harder this time, but a crude voice intruded,
“So what the fuck is this kinky shit?”
Derek looked up. Jean swiveled at her waist.
It was the working dudes, swaggering down the slope toward them. They wore smirks and wielded shovels, pick-axes, rusted cutting shears. One of them grinned toothlessly and spat tobacco. “Hit me, hit me, ayuh, sound to me like some real kinky freak shit ayup.”
“No respect for the fuchen’ dead.”
In a flash Jean rose to one knee and faced them, her calves tense, the sole of her right bare foot aimed behind her at Derek.
“Leave us alone,” she said, her fingers furious at the impossible knots binding her wrists.
Derek said, “We were just—”
“Fucking around?” said the tall gravedigger in front, obviously the leader. He had a moustache and longish red hair and hadn’t shaved in what appeared to be days. They were all white, dressed in flannel, filthy jeans, tan workboots. Their smiles promised one thing: cruelty.
Jean’s fingers became a blur as she twisted her wrists, the rope uncurling, falling like cables snapped from a suspension bridge.
“One last time,” she growled. “Leave us alone.”
Derek stepped around and in front of Jean. He faced the leader, faced them all. “We were just—” he started again, but the leader feinted with a half-turn and mock smile to his posse, then swung fast and clocked Derek square on the jaw, boom. Derek staggered, caught a glimpse of Jean fiercely writhing her shoulders, ropes flailing, and then she was free and rushed past Derek in a blur.
She plowed into the four men, her arms scythes; they toppled like brittle stalks of corn, slammed onto their backs with thrashing limbs and sputtered curses. One of them reached to grab Jean’s ankle but she pivoted and kicked him in the head with the flat of her heel so hard a bloody tooth flew, landed on the pile of white ash.
“Leave us,” Jean growled, “alone.”
The working dudes swore and clambered to their feet. “Now you’re gonna fuchen’ DIE you fuchen’ whore—!”
With an angry sigh Jean bent to the nearest tombstone and wrenched it from the earth, clods of black dirt flying in an arc and dropping in clumps as she held the stone over her head.
“I mean it,” she said.
The working dudes bolted.
“Ha,” Derek grinned, though his jaw and face already throbbed. “Look at that!”
“Yes? Well, watch this,” Jean breathed, and with a grunt she heaved the marble tombstone, sent it sailing over the heads of the fleeing workers where it crashed into their CAT machine with a metallic crunch and spectacular shattering of glass.
Derek watched the workers scatter in opposite directions.
“We had better leave,” Jean said. “The authorities…”
“Not a chance,” Derek said. “What would they tell the cops, that a tied-up girl freed herself faster than Houdini and beat the living piss out of them? Don’t think so.”
Jean thought about it for the barest of seconds, then nodded in agreement. Her gaze blinked past his shoulder. “Derek.”
Vapor rose where the bloody tooth had fallen on the white ash. The vapor swirled, coalescing, a soft pulsing glow at the center.
“Crazy,” Derek whispered, and he glanced at Jean. Her upper body was intricately bound once again, as if in the blink of an eye the ropes had snapped from the ground and encircled themselves like jealous lovers about her wrists and arms and chest.
“Default setting, for lack of a better term,” Jean explained. “Unless you change it.” She nodded. “Look!”
The vapor shifted, fused, came together to form the likeness of a brittle white figure, an old man, naked and standing before them. The Messenger.
His voice was the snap of dried bones. “You again!”
† † †
Model: Honey from Restrained Elegance
Edited to add: Apologies for the strange highlight effect on the text. Don’t know how that happened, and I can’t get rid of it.