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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

You can't know about Jayne Payne until you take on certain responsibilities. Make certain promises. You have to commit. Not yet.

Serialization Sunday – The Flick: Chapter 17

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.  Our first novel, the taut thriller City of Human Remainscan be found in full here

Our second novel, Hoodoo, tells a story of visionaries, heretics and lunatics in Utah, centered on a 12-year-old girl who believes that God wants her to have an affair with her guidance counselor, can be found in full here.

Our current novel, The Flick, is the correspondence between a legendary porn star of the 90′s and the girl who got away – and kept going.  Read previous chapters here.

Letter XVII

October 18, 1990


Dear Phoenix:


You can’t know about Jayne Payne until you take on certain responsibilities.  Make certain promises.  You have to commit.  Not yet.


I don’t want scenes of a cut up corpse in the middle of my Porno film.  You’ve grossed me out, Phoenix.  I am sick of this porno creates psycho killers shit that Ted Bundy started.  I do sex in my movies because I don’t like violence.  Every story has to have conflict or else it is just words.  There are only two kinds of conflict.  Sex or violence.  You know, it has be one or the other.  Sex or violence.  I’d rather have sex.

Grace had all the makings of a porno superstar.  Years ago, when I tried to look her up again, she seemed to have vanished off the face of the Earth.  Someone told me that she married a billionaire.

And I hope it is true.

But I don’t know what really happened to her.

When I thought back on it, I seemed to remember Jay really laying a warning on Grace.  Warning she would be murdered.  Or something like that.  Maybe you put down what he really said.  Or maybe it is some memory you created by suggesting it.  I’m starting to lose track of what I remember about the old days and what we’ve made up.  And I don’t want to lose the past.  I want to catch it as close to the truth as I can.  I know how much you like to make up stuff.  I don’t want to fall into the easy out of making up stuff to fill in the blank places.

I’m trying to get the truth out of you.


A large blue and silver fish circled the yacht.  It had markings same as the big fish Phoenix and I caught earlier.  But this fish one was even bigger.  It jumped out of the water.   Hit the surface with a splash.

The fish submerged.  Not very deeply.  We could see it coming back.  It jumped again.  It lunged at the first fish hung over the side of the yacht.

“It must be his mate,” said Grace.  “Even though she’s dead, he won’t abandon her.  It is so sad.”

“She’s mine, now.  I’m going to eat her.  He can watch if he wants,” said Jay.

“Jay, his heart is breaking,” said Grace.

I said, “Why don’t you give up on this one?  She belongs somewhere else.”

Grace reached for the stiff, curved corpse of the first fish.  Jay pushed her back.

“God damn it,” Phoenix said, “It is mine.  I will do with it what I damn well please.”  She grabbed the fish, pulled it loose, ripping off its lips.  Leaving the lips dangling on the hook.  Fish lips spinning.  Phoenix and Grace watched the fish corpse hit the water.  The two women seemed to be expecting the fish to come back to life.

The dried out old stiff just floated.

The second fish swam over.

Down in the water, their reunion beat up a lather.  The activity was fast and furious.  All we could see was the corpse dipping and jerking.  Like some kind of tango was in progress.

Jay said, “Maybe it’s love.  The real, early evolutionary, fish eyed event, the electrical, neurological, the primitive, primal, stuff.  Love.  He’s so stiff he doesn’t care if she is too.  He’s been patient and now he’s going to hump the shit out of her.”

Now the gauzy foam let us get a glimpse of the fish who was supposed to be in love.  But only his mouth.  Full of sharp teeth no one had seen a moment before.  The flesh on the corpse was disappearing in big bites.  The comb-like skeleton, hung with rags of meat, sank into our wake.


Twilight.  Jay dropped anchor not far from a deserted pine scrub island.

Grace and I dove into the water.  Naked.  Phoenix and Jay were rowing ashore in a small aluminum canoe.  We swam along, beside the canoe.  Grace and I laughed and splashed like dolphins.  Phoenix and Jay rowed rapidly.  Billows of smoke trailed behind.

After he reached the shore, Jay called me over to look at a thicket of knee-high reeds.  There was nothing to see but broken beer bottles and leaches.  The leaches had a stoned, bloated look, like drunks on their bar stools waiting for the next round.    “Promise you will never hit on Phoenix.”

“You were ready to swap.  It almost happened.  We almost pulled it off.”

“Hey, you almost got Phoenix, but I didn’t get Grace.  It is over.  I never want to let go of Phoenix.  Never, under any condition.  I want you to promise you’ll never try to hit on her again, never, not even if I break up with her.”

“What the fuck would you care what happens after you two break up?”

“So you won’t have a motive to break us up.”

I paced around the leach reeds, hands behind my back, deep in thought.  “What about if you die?  Can I hit on her if you die?”

“I’m going to lose her.  And if I lose her without getting Grace, then I lose everything.  I’m keeping score, Die.  I can’t stand for you to be one up on me.  I wouldn’t rest easy.”

“What do you want me to do?  You want my promise?  I’ll give it to you.  I promise nothing will ever happen between me and Phoenix.  Not even if you die. Nothing, never.  But if you did die, and she and I happened to get together, I’d find a way to bring you back to life, and I’d find a way to give her back to you…”

“Fuck you, Die.”

“I swear by my code of honor.  There you have it.  My word.”

“Phoenix has this idea about how mythic stories can change your destiny.  You get plugged into part of a mythic pattern and you’ll be trapped in the story.  She says that’s the reason history repeats itself.  That’s the reason you find the same stories popping up all around the world, all the time.”

“Do you buy into this shit?”

“I don’t know, Die.  It makes a quirky kind of sense to me.”

“Phoenix is getting to your head.  You’re thinking like her.”

“Ever hear the myth of Candaules and Gyges?”


“It is story about how to cure obsessive love. Here’s the way Phoenix told it to me.  Candaules and Gyges were close friends.  But one day, Gyges got the hots for Candaules’ wife.”

“Candaules knows about how Gyges feels, no matter how much Gyges denies it.  So Candaules arranges for Gyges to watch.”

“Watch what?”

“You know.”

“The husband guy lets his friend watch him do ‘you know’ with his wife?”

“And afterward, Gyges lost interest in the wife.  And Candaules and Gyges stayed friends.”

“You want me to watch you and Phoenix?  Because of a myth?”

“It worked that way the time you caught Karen and me together.  That played with your head, didn’t it?”

He looked down at the leaches.  Like he was stuck in the past, where leaches were a kind of medicine.  “I want you to watch Phoenix and I make love.  You know the spot in the cave where we used to hide.  It will give you a good view.”

“That’s gross.  That’s low, even by your standards.”

“For our friendship.  For the sake of your code.  To set things right.  Swear to me.  Swear it in blood.”

Jay shoved me sideways into the reeds.

“I’m sorry.  It was an accident, Die.”

“You fucking asshole!”

He smiled at me.  A smile I’ve seen many times before.  Every time I got ready to take a swing at Jay, he gave me a godfatherly smile.  It ran in his family.

I stood up.  My right leg bore a three-inch cut that seeped blood.

Jay examined the cut on my leg.  It gaped at him like a smiling mouth full of blood.

Love, Die


Stuart Hopen’s writing has been published by various comic book companies, including D.C., Marvel, Eclipse, Amazing, and Fantagraphics. His science fiction novel, Warp Angel, originally published by Tor Books, will soon be reissued by the Misenchanted Press in a newly revised edition.  Cannibals, a series of six interrelated novellas, will be available online in 2014.   


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