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Today's Story by Marcy Mahoney

Staring back at him, open-eyed, was the face of a very dead girl.

Good Morning, Sunshine

Somewhere in the hazy, loud space that was the inside of his head, Jake came to the realization that he was waking up. Confusion washed over him like a bucket of water to the face, and he tried desperately to remember what he was, in fact, waking up from. His eyes opened, but snapped closed again as early morning light from the window stabbed his retinas with what he could only assume were rusty sharp things. Seconds later, the telltale throb of skull-splitting head rage echoed behind his eyes, and he groaned.

So, he thought as the rings of pain flashed in neon green circles across the inside of his eyelids, it was tequila then. He knew that particular pain; different from the dull throb of wine, the salty cotton-head of beer, or the soul-draining liquefied brain feeling of whisky. He tried to open his eyes again and achieved the same result. Yep, this flashing pain-fiesta brought to you by Senor Tequila. It felt like a convention of axe-wielding mariachis bouncing around in his brainpan. He let the sound of their terrible music lull him back to a state of hazy oblivion, though he wondered as he drifted off, whose leg is across mine right now?

Jake had no idea how long it had been since he last tried opening his eyes, but the light streaming in from the window was far brighter, and the room was about fifteen degrees hotter. The mariachis had stopped their musical skull brawl, and the light was a less stabbing, more punching sort of pain to his eyes. His mouth and throat felt as though he had been drinking sandy lemon juice, and coupled with the sticky, roasting mid-morning heat from the sun beating into the windows, he could only think of finding a glass and chugging as much water as he could from the tap. He turned his head slightly to test out the headache and found that it rattled slowly inside of his head, but wasn’t so much pain as a thick feeling of heaviness. Well, that’s an improvement, anyway, he thought, as his eyes focused on the pillow next to him.

Staring back at him, open-eyed, was the face of a very dead girl.

Jake uttered something guttural from his parched throat and lurched backwards, arms flailing, legs scrambling, torso entwined in sheets. The room lurched as he fell to the floor, landing on his back with a huff of air escaping his lungs. The sheets gripped and ripped at him as he tried to unwind himself from their grasp. With a panicked gurgle, he freed himself and thrust up onto unstable feet. He realized then, as he bashed his knee on the side table, that he was not anyplace he recognized. He must have been in her room, and she was not anyone he recognized either. His breath raked his raw throat in frantic gasps as he looked around in a panic for his clothes He finally located them on a nearby armchair. He pulled them on as fast as he could, unable to stop looking at the girl’s horrible deadness.

What the hell did he do last night?

He couldn’t remember much; the mariachis had seen to that. There was some party, up in the hills, and something about glow bracelets … he saw that there was a dimming pink bracelet around her grey-skinned wrist. Jake’s mind raced back through what he could remember about the night. A bonfire? He had gone with someone … not her, he thought as he searched her still, waxen face for any flicker of recognition. No, definitely not her. It had been a dude – his buddy Max maybe? YES, he thought. Max. Max had invited him to a party that someone he knew from work was throwing at their cabin in the hills. He went with Max and his latest lay, Cami or Carly or something like that. They had ditched him early on to go take some ecstasy and frolic nude through the forest like holey-brained wood nymphs. Jake had never had any interest in drugs, and stuck to booze as his only mind-altered state. He had brought beer, but had obviously found tequila at some point in the evening.

So what happened to him? How was he here and not at home, or at Max’s, passed out on the floor? Where was here? Who was she? And why the goddamn hell was she dead?  Jake’s hands shook as he tried to button his shirt back up and failed miserably.

He noticed a bathroom off the door to her bedroom and stumbled in to the sink, nearly tripping over a small, fluffy dog. The dog growled, and then launched at his ankles, scoring a small chunk of flesh.

Jake yelled and shook off the dog, slamming the bathroom door in its face. He splashed cold water onto his face and sucked a few handfuls down to quench his horrid thirst. The water tricked down his arms and suddenly his wrist was on fire. He pulled his sleeve up in alarm to find something had gnawed on his wrist. Another growl and series of yippy barks sounded from the other side of the door, and Jake looked back at his ankle with a groan. Trapped in the bathroom of a dead girl by her annoying and possessive little dog. He fumbled in his pocket for his cell phone, only to find that the battery on it was dead. A wave of nausea washed over him.

Jake stared at himself in the mirror for a moment, wondering what the hell to do. Should he call the cops? What if he had killed her? He didn’t remember. He should check and see if she was mortally wounded somehow, he thought, but he had to get past the snarling set of chomping jaws on the other side of the door.  He grabbed a towel off of the bar and stepped back behind the door, opening it a crack. Claws skittered on the tile as the horrid little creature came at him, his fluffy white muzzle pink with blood stains. Jake threw the towel at the dog like a bullfighter and flew out the door while it tried to find its way out from under the fabric. He closed the door and trapped the little fluffy fucker in the bathroom. Growls and scratches on the door echoed in the tiled room behind him as he made his way back to the bedroom.

Slowly, Jake approached the bed and glanced over the girl for signs of murder. He saw nothing to indicate she was strangled, beaten, stabbed, or shot. She looked fine, aside from the being grey-and-not-breathing part. Maybe she got alcohol poisoning? Or had a heart attack? He didn’t even remember having sex with her. He remembered nothing past the point where some dude in a Hawaiian shirt gave him a bottle of tequila. He thought maybe that was Max’s friend who was having the party.

Jake sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. If he called the cops, he was involved, even if he didn’t do anything wrong. If he didn’t, they could still find some sort of CSI, DNA-type evidence that he had been here. It was better for him to come clean, at least, right? But he had no idea what to come clean about. He had never had any experience with the cops, aside from a poorly executed shoplifting incident when he was twelve, and a couple of speeding tickets. He’d been in an occasional scuffle here and there but never a real fight; he couldn’t possibly have it in him to kill someone, even with the mariachis in his head. He saw what must have been her phone sitting on the dresser and reached for it, deciding that however messy, honesty was the best policy in this instance.

“I wouldn’t do that.”

Jake jumped off the bed and spun around to see who had spoken. The dead girl was languidly stretching her legs, and rolling her head around on her shoulders. As an aside, she added “Oh, man. I’m so stiff!”

Jake screamed, a mighty, meaty deep scream from the core of his chest. He dropped her phone and backed up into the dresser, knocking over a picture frame and a lamp. He couldn’t find words, just sounds. The hateful little dog barked in response, and raked its claws desperately against the bathroom door.

“Is that Muffy?” asked the dead girl, as she swung her grey legs over the edge of the bed and stood up. “How did she get in there?”

Jake gasped for air, and slid along the dresser until he found his way to the door. He shook his head, grunted, and hit the doorjam with his back. He stumbled out backwards into the hallway.

She followed him, tossing on her bathrobe in a fluid movement. The soft, pink flannel of it brought out the lack of pink in her skin. She smiled. “I had fun last night, Jake. Want me to make some breakfast? I already made you dinner!” She said this last part with a giggle, as if they had some sort of in-joke that he couldn’t remember in his tequila-addled brain.

Jake shook his head again, fumbling around his tongue for some words, any words. He found “No, no no no no.”

She laughed, and reached for the bathroom doorknob. “Come on Muffy, let’s get some breakfast.

Jake lunged down the hallway and found his way into the living room, and subsequently the front door. He glanced back over his shoulder as he wrenched the door open, to see her approach with her little ball of hellish fluff in her arms.

“Where are you going?” she asked, her full bluish-purple lips pouting. “I thought we had a real connection last night.”

Jake flung himself from the door, down the front steps and into the yard. The mid-morning sunlight made shimmering rainbows in the water that sprayed from the sprinklers around him.

She lingered back inside the door, but waved to him with a tart smile. “I guess not. Bye Jake.”

Jake shielded his aching eyes from the sun. His gnawed wrist stared back at him.

Jake burst into flames.

She hugged Muffy closer as he exploded into a pile of ash on the lawn, the sprinklers rinsing his remains from the fresh blades of grass.

Kissing Muffy on the head, she shrugged. “Guess he’s not a morning person,” she said, closing the door, and then the drapes. She crawled back into bed with Muffy and stretched. “But man, was he a good margarita.”


Marcy Mahoney writes the spooky and the fantastical and sometimes the hilarious.  She lives in Los Angeles, CA.  Follow her on Twitter at @PlaytymAtHazmat.

Read more stories by Marcy Mahoney


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