This is a new format we are testing. Short form fiction. They did it in magazines a lot, up until the mid-1960’s or so. Then, the short story kinda went underground. But short stories, not novels, introduced us to the best literary minds of the 20th century. Folks, here at The Nuclear Unit, believe there’s still room in the 21st century for short stories. Even if all the best minds are dead and fiction only counts if it ends up on Netflix. Let us know if you’d like to see more short stories. And share it if you dig it!
-Adam Hammer, Editor in Chief
The Monster On the Bed
by Adam Hammer
“Nope,” I answered, again, for the 31,829 time. “I’m not a demon either.”
I filled the small disposable plastic basin up with a solution of acetone, salt and warm water. Why do I even bother trying to get to know my victims? People do it with sex. We should do it with murder. It’s the same level of intimacy, being inside someone. I’m just inside their chest cavity, not their birth canal.
“So where do your powers come from?” he asked, tied to my bed posts. The oversized blindfold frames his button nose parked just above his boyish smile.
“Yeah, don’t you Monsters have powers or whatever?”
“Ooh! Are those real too?”
I stick my hands in the solution and the nail polish falls off my long nails in sheets, exposing my true nails: razor sharp, long, black, not to be trifled with.
“Woah. I was not expecting that.”
“Nobody ever does. It’s weird. You’d think one person would recognize what they’re about to get into. With all the monster stories out there and what not.”
“I guess you kill everyone who can warn the rest of us, huh?”
I can’t help but laugh. He’s right! He laughs too. We’re both laughing. This is strange. Nice. But strange.
“So what’s the plan?”
“I’m gonna pull your beating heart out and eat it.”
“You still have room after that dinner? Ooof. I am stuffed.”
“Why’d you order dessert then?” I hear myself flirting.
He bites his lip. He hears her flirting too.
I laugh away the awkward moment. Then, I realize I’m still full too. Dinner was pleasant. Unusually pleasant. He was excited to share food with me. “Try this,” he’d say. Usually they get irritated with me when I either ask for, or sneak, a taste. It’s just a taste. Why is it always an issue? I dry my hands off. My long, black nails shimmer under the hotel lamp like well-oiled steel.
I look at him on the bed. Humming like an idiot. It’s sweet. Tonight, victim 31,829 is my first sweet one.
“Monsters gotta monster,” I say, mostly to myself.
“Victims gotta victim,” he says, interrupting his humming.
Smiling, I walk across the room. I let my nail travel lightly over his splayed feet as I cross the bed towards the closet. I recognize the tune, but can’t place it. Never mind.
I pull on the complimentary tarry cloth robe. Some time around the fourth or fifth time I used a hotel room (maybe 19,000 victims ago?), I learned that the concierge doesn’t just let you walk through the lobby dripping blood down the front of your dress. The ones that aren’t petrified with fear try to stop you somehow. It just makes things difficult because then I have to kill them. And if they’re gonna make things difficult, I won’t feel bad for ruining the robe. Is he singing?
“I can show you the world–“
“That’s what you were humming!”
I cinch my robe and turn to marvel at number 31,829. He continues, louder, “Shining, shimmering, splendid. Princess tell me now when did–“
“–you last let your heart decide!” I join in.
“I can open your eyes.”
“Take you wonder by wonder.”
“Sideways and under”
“On a magic carpet ride!” we both sing. And that’s where we end the song. We are laughing too hard.
“That’s a first.”
“Yeah? Never sang with a victim before?”
“Usually they’re over here telling me suck it in their own words. Or how they hope I like it rough, too. And every other thought that goes through the mind of a blindfolded man as he’s tied to a hotel bed.”
“Yeah. That’s Tinder for you.”
“It’s made my job 10 times easier, and 100 times more irritating. Where do these guys come from?”
“I don’t know! I can’t imagine any of my friends or family are rapey like that, but then, like, every woman who goes on Tinder meets these guys so they gotta exist, right?”
“Oh yeah. They’re out there.”
“Like, me,” I sigh.
“You do realize you’re not really a monster, right?”
He’s trying to make me feel better before I kill him? I think before saying, “Alright. I’ll play along.”
“You’re not a monster. You’re a metaphor. Well, more of a cliche. Something like, a beautiful woman can only let you down. You can never impress her enough. You will never be her only option. She isn’t a trophy that can be won. She’s the finish line of a race you’re in and the race won’t end until her beauty does. You can’t expect to tame her. You can just exist in her presence until she rips your heart out.”
“You think I’m beautiful?” I say, looking down at my claws.
“Any other monsters out there singing Aladdin with their victims? Probably not. My guess is you stand out.”
Am I blushing?
“Doesn’t matter what I think though,” he interrupts. “I’m the one tied to the bed. And I’m quite embarrassed I’m wearing my Spiderman underwear.”
“Oh my god, you’ve been thinking about those underwear the whole time we’ve been here, haven’t you!”
He sighs before continuing, his prepared remarks, “They were a joke gift. I forgot to switch my underwear to the dryer this morning and — ugh — What I’m saying is, after you feast on my beating heart, can you take these underwear out of the room and get rid of them and make like I showed up commando?”
I smile. I take this all in. The duet. The saddest, cutest last words I’ve ever heard. The fact that he didn’t just throw the underwear away when he got them. Will it be another 31,000 victims before I get another like this?
“I really wish I didn’t have to do this,” I say for the first time, ever. “But I need to eat your soul, or I die.”
“Yeah. Monsters feed on souls.”
“I didn’t think monsters existed either! Shit. You’re out of luck if you need a soul. I sold mine.”
“You sold your soul?? How could you do that?”
“How could you eat the heart of someone you just harmonized with?”
We laugh hard.
“When you put it like that–” I laugh. I’m not sure what to do; not sure my face muscles were ready for this much laughter. I’m cramping.
“I sold it on eBay for $100 like 7 years ago.”
“Tonight is full of first,” I’m able to say while my lower jaw is resting on the floor.
“I wasn’t using it,” he explained. “Didn’t feel the need for it. I was in a bind. The sperm bank limits you to 3 donations a week and I needed to get creative to pay rent, and look at me now! Tied to a hotel bed with a hungry monster and nothing to offer! I’m sorry I don’t have a soul for you.”
“A heart’s nothing without a soul. It’s empty. Its like eating shipping peanuts.”
“Or anything made by Hostess?” he says, while I untie him. Woah. Am I untying someone? I think as I double over laughing.
He sits up and rubs his wrists. He pulls off the blindfold to look at me, the monster on the bed. He doesn’t run. I look up at him. I look down at my claws. I try to hide them. He smiles. I smile. He puts his hands on mine. My hands melt into the comfort.
“Well this was weird,” he says.
“Can I call you again?”
“You’ve been my least crazy Tinder connection.”
“Yeah, it’s a bitch out there,” I say. “You’re the first victim I’ve granted mercy to.”
“What?? Nice! I never win anything.”
He sits back on the bed and turns the hotel TV on. We watch and laugh at infomercials cuddled together until the sun rises. Our next date is tomorrow. I’ve scheduled a manicure for this morning.