Two Hearts for Cupid

Hi, A.Leegion. How’s it going? Here’s some new short fiction. Hope you enjoy it.

Before we get to it though I’ve set up a Buymecoffee page.  If you’ve enjoyed these stories or weird blog posts and feel like throwing me a few bucks, I’d much appreciate it.

Life in Rockwood

The only time Binnie had been in love was in fourth grade with Jerry Potato. She couldn’t remember his real last name, but it either rhymed with potato or sounded close enough. He also hated being called Jerry, preferring Gerome or Gerald or whatever. Another thing she couldn’t remember. Kids being kids, the name Jerry Potato stuck.

Binnie and Jerry Potato had shared a passionate affair on the playground. The kind only nine year olds could. It culminated with a kiss behind the slides. They’d drifted apart the next day when she’d decided she liked Steve who had the cool confidence to come to school with a Care Bears lunch box. Then Jerry Potato had caught her sharing a bologna sandwich with Steve.

Jerry Potato had cried, but she hadn’t given a shit then. He’d had deserved better, but that was love. Messy.

Binnie’s luck in love hadn’t improved after she’d ended up in Rockwood, where the supernatural didn’t so much lurk as hang out on the street corners, though the town didn’t really have proper streets. It was a town where the restless dead were an inconvenience and every yard had a chupacabra trap or two, where black magic was everywhere and the dating pool was shallow.

Nikos was nice enough, but nice was all he was. She might have broken up with him if there were more options. Three months into their relationship she was still considering it.
On their three month “date-aviversary”—Jesus, he’d actually called it that—he’d invited her over to his place for a romantic meal and a box of wine. The meal was homemade in the technical sense. He had opened the pasta and boiled it, added some chicken and spinach. It was okay.

“More wine?” he said, already pouring it in her half-full glass.

She might have thought he was trying to get her drunk, but she didn’t see the point since she’d already slept with him several times. Sex with Nikos was okay.

Everything with Nikos was okay

He beamed at her with eager eyes and a bit of spinach in his teeth.

“You know, Binnie, you’re a very special lady,” he said.

She lowered her head and took a bite. “Thanks,” she mumbled.

Her heart sank. He was going to say it.

“I’ve been looking for someone like you for a long time.”

She chuckled. “You’re twenty-three.”

She tried not to do that. He was seven years younger than her, but it wasn’t right to dismiss him. Seven years wasn’t that big a difference, and when it came to romance, he was probably more experienced.

He reached across the table and held out his hand. She stared at it like a dead rat curled legs up between them. Sighing, she lifted her hand from her lap and put it in his.

“I love you,” he said.

He squeezed gently as he smiled expectantly at her.

“You’ve got spinach in your teeth,” she replied.

His smile fell as he turned and worked at his teeth with his tongue.

“Still there,” she said.

“Damn it.” He jumped up and ran to his bathroom.

Binnie considered making an escape, but everyone knew everyone in Rockwood. Everyone saw everyone sooner or later. She’d have to deal with it. She prepared herself by gulping down the rest of her wine.

He returned, sitting across from her. “I said I love you, Binnie.”

“It’s nice to hear. It really is.” It really wasn’t. “Look. You’re nice.”

Nikos grabbed their plates even though hers was only half-finished and bolted into the kitchen, shouting “I made dessert.”

She dropped her napkin on the table and followed. Just rip it off. Like a band-aid. She found him pulling a plate of brownie-mix brownies from the oven.

“You’re going to love these,” he said.

“Nikos—”

He whipped off his oven mitts with more passion than she’d ever seen him do anything else. “You know, when someone says they love you on your three month date-iversary it’s customary to say it back.”

Binnie laughed again, not even bothering to hide it. “Customary? Also, please tell me you’re not serious about that date-iversary thing.”

He said, “You need to open your heart.”

“Jesus, are you a Hallmark card?”

“I just think . . . no, never mind. We can talk about it after dinner.”

“We can talk about it now. I know it sucks to say what you said and not get it back, but I’m not going to lie.”

“You could lie, just to spare my feelings.”

“Little late for that, isn’t it?”

She resolved to not say anything simply to break the awkward silence, but immediately broke that resolution.

“I should probably get going.”

“No, you can’t leave. Not yet. I know you’ll change your mind.”

“I won’t change my mind,” she said. “You’re a good guy, Nikos, but I just don’t feel that way about you.”

“I’ll convince you.”

Binnie groaned. “I know movies and books make it look like all you have to do is show your sincerity, and eventually, you’ll win the girl over. But that’s not going to happen.”

“You’re wrong. I’ll show you.”

He grabbed a butcher knife off the counter and started violently slicing the brownies into messy squares. She might have been reading too much into the act. Rockwood didn’t usually have anything mundane as murder, but a red flag was a red flag.

She said, “I should get going. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

She worried he might try to go for a hug or a kiss, but he didn’t follow her as she walked briskly to the front door. The handle turned, but the door didn’t open.

“You can’t leave,” he said quietly from behind her.

She wheeled around. In that moment, she saw her fate. It wasn’t like he’d get away with the murder, but people did crimes all the time that they wouldn’t get away with. People were stupid.

“Everyone knows I’m here tonight.” She didn’t know if it would deter him but worth a try.
He held up his hands, still holding the knife. Seeing it, he dropped it. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Yeah, I bet you don’t.” She marched forward and kicked him in the balls. Better safe than sorry. He crumpled. “Open the goddamn door.”

He groaned, rolling around. “I can’t. It’s locked with magic.”

She grabbed a chair and threw it into the glass doors leading to his backyard deck. The chair bounced harmlessly off.

“Listen, it’s not what you think.” He pushed himself to his knees. “It’s a gift I’m offering—“

“Oh shit. You’re going to sacrifice me to some ancient god, aren’t you?”

“What? No. I’m not a monster.”

“They warned me,” she said. “They said watch out. Some guys in Rockwood are a little handsy. Some guys want to strap you to a fucking altar.

She went to his bedroom. There was a window she could try. There was also little plastic basin by the bed with a kewpie doll. Paper wings were glued to the doll’s back. A bloody heart lay in the basin.

“Okay, so there’s an altar,” he said. “But that’s a lamb’s heart. I bought it. I’m not going to strap you onto it. How would I even do that?”

There was an accusatory tone. Like she was the one who had done something wrong.

“Let me out, or I’ll gouge your eyes out,” she said. “I know Krav Maga.”

“I can’t. It’s the magic. We can’t leave until the plenipotentiary arrives.”

“The what?”

“The representative. Of Cupid.”

She almost laughed again. “Wait. You’re trying to make me fall in love with you? With magic?”

He shrugged. “No. It’s not like that. Not exactly.”

“You can’t make someone love you,” she said. “And even if you could, it’s pretty fucked up that you’d want that.”

“You don’t understand. The ritual won’t kill you.” He took a step forward but stopped when she raised her fists. “It’ll make us one, transform us into a numen with two souls, one body.”

“That sounds disgusting.”

“It’s not like that. It’s a gift. But it takes at least two to do it.”

“And I’m your number two?”

“I thought I was doing you a favor. You seemed pretty lonely. After tonight, you’ll never be lonely again. You can learn to love me. Once we’re bound together, you’ll see.”

She moved toward him, and he backed away. He seemed so pathetic now.

“That’s not how love works, Nikos.”

The lights flickered. A strange music, like slightly out-of-tune harps, rattled the windows and floorboards as an absolute darkness surrounded them. The only other thing she could see was Nikos. Then something else moved, catching her eye.

The malformed thing floated forward on gossamer wings. It was a lump of flesh with four arms, four legs, and two faces. It gazed down at them with its four eyes, and its twin mouths spoke with two different voices, but as one.

“Who calls forth the plenipotentiary?”

Binnie pointed to Nikos. “He did.”

The horror turned its attention toward him. “Are these two souls prepared for the gift of eternal oneness?”

“She needs a little more time,” said Nikos.

“No,” said Binnie. “I am not going to say it. Not with him. And definitely not now.”

The creature frowned and shed a tear from its eyes. “Is love rejected then?”

“With this guy? Hell, yes, it’s rejected.”

“Wait,” said Nikos. “Tell her what it’s like. What it’s like to be you.”

The emissary twisted toward her. “We are bound together, swimming through worlds exceeding your pale imaginings. We have touched the faces of the divine and heard the celestial chorus. We know beautiful secrets that would drive you mad in your lonely separate minds. Your singular souls will decay and wither against the length of eternity, but we are forever.”

“Sounds cool, right?” said Nikos.

It sort of did. There was something about the creature. It radiated warmth and horror and comfort and insanity. The promises swirled in its fathomless eyes and stirred some desire within her on a primeval level. To know. To not be alone. Ever again.

Nikos said, “Say it, Binnie. Just say it.”

She shook it off. “But you did it on purpose,” she said to the creature. “You wanted to be what you are before you became what you are.”

“We did.” The emissary hugged itself. “We do not regret it.”

“Tell her that she’ll learn to love me,” said Nikos. “Once we become one.”

The emissary’s twin faces stretched so that one could look at Binnie, the other at Nikos
“The joining cannot be forced. Without unity we must instead take a sacrifice.”

The creature floated toward them. Its rainbow wings left sparkles in the darkness.

“Goddamn it,” said Binnie. “I fucking knew it.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought you’d say yes.”

It reached out and took Nikos by the shirt collar.

“What?” He struggled as it lifted him up. “But I called you.”

“We can only take what has been offered freely.”

The emissary wrapped him in its many arms. It placed a gentle hand on his cheek and covered his mouth as he protested.

“That is how love works.”

The floor fell away. Binnie tumbled through the darkness. Nikos’s cries were caught halfway in a nether realm between horror and ecstasy.

The world came back beneath her. She steadied herself against a wall. Nikos lay on the floor, a terrified smile locked onto his face. There was a gaping hole in his chest where his heart should’ve been. The emissary hovered over him with its back to her, munching on something.

One face stretched to gaze at her. It spoke, blood dripping from its mouth. “What is it you wish?”

“What?”

“The sacrifice was offered.”

“I didn’t want him sacrificed.”

The creature swallowed. “A sacrifice was accepted. You are the only one here. It is customary that a request is granted.”

“I’m good. Really.”

The emissary gazed at her with something approaching amusement. Or maybe she imagined that.

“Until the wish is granted, neither you nor we can leave this place. We don’t want that any more than you.”

“Okay, okay. Wish, huh? It’s not one of those monkey’s paw deals?”

The creature turned its heads sideways, as if struggling to recall the reference. If it had any humanity left in it.

“You do love, right? That’s your thing?”

“Love is our most precious gift.”

“Can you point me in the right direction? I mean, don’t make anyone fall in love with me or anything like that. But maybe help me find a good guy. One who isn’t trying to make me a horrid abomination, at least.”

The emissary held out a hand. “Your phone, please.”

She gave it to the creature. “Do you need me to unlock it?”

“Unnecessary. No obstacle stands in the way of true love.” It typed something into her phone, handed it back. “He remembers you.”

“Who?”

The emissary laughed. It was awful. It was beautiful. Two souls, one body, wrapped in inhuman delight. Discordant harps burrowed into Binnie’s brain. She shut her eyes tight and covered her ears.

Silence.

The plenipotentiary was gone, leaving only Binnie and Nikos’s corpse.

“Sorry,” she said. “Better you than me.”

She wiped the bloody fingerprints off her phone to see a new contact added: Gerald Poteet.

Binnie went out on the deck, called the cops. They handled stuff like this all the time in Rockwood. They’d know what to do.

While she waited, she called Gerald. She rehearsed her first words, pondering how to break the ice without mentioning the murder and horrific love god.

“Binnie?” said the voice on the other end. “How long has it been?”

“Too long,” she replied.

He didn’t ask how she’d gotten his number or why she was in his contacts? Maybe he was too excited. Maybe it was some final bit of magic from the plenipotentiary. She didn’t think too much about it.

That was how love worked.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.