The first time I saw the dogs we were what I estimated to be about three miles from the house. We were preparing for my departure by stockpiling as much as possible in the bunker. It wasn’t much, but hopefully enough to keep them alive until I returned.
I wasn’t sure of the shape at first. It was a distant spot on the horizon. Or it seemed distant; it looked like a dog, but small. First one, then two. They hadn’t seen us yet. But I lifted Hope onto my back anyway, her arms around my shoulders and legs around my waist. I hushed her humming. “Papa?” she whispered. I heard the fear in her voice.
“It’s okay, honey. Let’s just be quiet a while.”
Her arms hugged me and affection put a smile on my face. She needed me, my little girl.
We drew closer more quickly than I anticipated, and I realized they weren’t far at all. They were just very small. Lap-dog size. A chill chased the momentary relief. Here I was picturing Kujo, or snarling packs of powerful wolf-like animals. These were a ragged bunch of ankle-biters. I had the vague hope as I skirted them, that they were too domesticated to be organized. Bred to sit on cushions and eat out of cans, surely their pack behavior was long gone.
One lifted its tiny head and pinned us with bulging, tearing eyes. I kept my own forward and walked on. The dog went back to its sniffing and yipping, and we passed otherwise unnoticed. I counted half a dozen that time.
Once out of sight of them and certain they weren’t trailing us, I set Hope down. She walked slightly ahead of me, studying the smooth stone that was ever-present in her small hand. She’d been clutching it when I found her, and to my knowledge, she never put it down.
We’d walked almost an hour before I saw them again. Seemed to be slightly more of them, but I thought they were the same ones. Another chill ran up my backbone and lifted the hairs under my collar. Were they tracking us? Anticipating? Traveling parellel before drawing back into our sight? I called to Hope. She was too far ahead.
As I got a closer look I realized this was a different pack. The alpha was a King Charles, I guessed. Probably once silken waves of white and chestnut with large eyes and a pushed in snout to give an endearing look… now, lips drawn back to reveal broken and bloodied teeth, missing patches of fur and the rest a hopelessly tangled matt of dingy gray.
I called Hope again. She was still studying the stone, still walking ahead. I lengthened my stride, keeping one eye on the spaniel. The rest seemed uninterested, but this one trotted parallel fifty yards off our left, and I watched it’s swimming eyes move between me and Hope. I forced myself not to run. Not to shout.
A distant, high pitched howl. Another chill. The dogs all stopped and looked in its direction, as did Hope. She looked back at me, fear registering on her face. I thought she was going to run for me, and I held up my hand. The Spaniel was still stalking her, now closer to her than I. I slowly raised my hand to her, caught her eyes. Why did it not acknowledge the howl? Hope stopped as I instructed, stood very still and fixed the spaniel with a stare. Her face was set, and she suddenly looked far older than those years I’d attributed her.
Before I could register what she was doing, she drew back her arm, the one holding the stone. Her aim was true, her pitch deceptively strong. The dog was maybe twenty feet from her, and I heard the stone thunk off its skull. A small, hollow sound, like an acorn off a whiskey barrel. It was shortly followed by a yelp, but time was moving slowly. I was running now. For Hope.
But there was no need.
She’d said nothing more since mentioning the dead man. I spoke to her, asked questions, but she always smiled and if she said anything, it was just “Papa,” as though the next words from her lips might be telling me not to be silly, or to stop teasing. But she started humming.
At first it was jarring. Not because it was loud, or unpleasant, but just because it was. It was in a land of nothing. She did it in a disjointed, broken sort of way so they were notes without melody. As we walked there were fewer breaks between, and songs began to emerge, and they were those that I sometimes sang to her. I found myself humming Proud Mary with her. She would begin the tune to The Odd Couple and pause, and I would join in and show her the missing bridge, and she would follow.
So we walked and hummed. I checked the compass frequently, as it seemed for all my walking we should have come to the city – a city. Would I know when we had? Or was everything decimated to the point that one was no different from another? Perhaps all that steel and concrete had been reduced to dirt and ash; which would mean there was nothing left to salvage. No food, no clothing, no hair conditioner.
“We may have to move,” I told Linny late one night. She was preparing to go into the children’s room where she now slept every night. To keep an eye on James, she said. Hope slept in the middle of our bed. This had been the arrangement since the night of her nightmare.
Linny’s sunken eyes widened. “What do you mean?” I realized she looked old. Thirty-two and she looked fifty. I wondered if I looked as old.
“There’s nothing left out here, and I can’t walk far enough. I’ve yet to find whatever’s left of Newton, or Chesterfield, Sioux… At the pace I walk, I should have at least come up on one of them by now.”
“We can’t move, Jim.”
“I think we should stay together.” Part of me knew that if we split now, things would never be the same. We would officially become individuals, and individuals were inherently vulnerable. “And if we stay here we’ll starve. All of us. Not just James.”
“You’re talking about sacrificing your own flesh,” she accused.
“No. I’m talking about fucking saving it. You.”
Her jaw knotted. “You’re an ego-maniac. You can’t make those kinds of decisions on your own. There are others out there, and they’ll find us.”
“There’s no one out there,” I said.
“Where’d she come from then?” She flung her hand in Hope’s direction.
I felt an unreasoning anger rise towards her, towards her refusal to accept the child. I bit it back, bit my tongue until my eyes watered and I wanted to sneeze. “I don’t know. But there’s no one else out there. And we need supplies.”
She shook her head. “You go. Do what you must. Take her with you.”
“No. I’m not leaving my house.”
“You’ll die in your house. What’s left of it. And so will they. Is that what you want?”
Her eyes fixed on something that wasn‘t there. “Better than out there. Take Sarah and Evan. I’ll keep the twins here.”
I didn’t think she understood what it meant, the likelihood that I’d return, the likelihood that she could keep the three of them alive for the length of time it would take. But I couldn’t force her. I couldn’t make her see the foolishness of it, when her heart and mind wanted to hold on to the tattered scraps of her memories.
“We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” I said.
She didn’t look at me again. Only walked from the room without any acknowledgment stronger than silence.
Silence was the strongest.
It had been a long weekend. A lot of silence between them. She wasn’t sure what was going on. He’d fucked her that morning then left the house, said he was going to check out a gun show and maybe stop by the music store… she’d wanted to ask if she could come along, but for some reason today it felt best to let him go.
It was quiet when he wasn’t around. Not that he was noisy. But he moved a lot. He kept busy. And even when he slowed down, napped on the couch or in the wicker chair in the front room, he snored. She took comfort in his presence. Even the snoring made her smile. Sometimes she watched him sleep, watched the lines fall away, the years melt, imagined the curious little boy he’d been before worry and responsibility laid their loads on him.
She heard the door off the kitchen squeak on the one hinge. He kept oiling it, and it kept squeaking. He came in from the garage. She finished folding the towels and stuffed them into the linen closet, and went down the carpeted stairs on bare feet. She was in her cleaning clothes; blue jean shorts and an oversized T-shirt with no bra. She didn’t wear make up. And fingers passed for a comb in her preening vernacular. As she stepped off the landing she heard the TV. She stuck her head around the door and he looked up and smiled. “Hi baby girl.”
“Hi Daddy. Did you have fun?”
“I did. Found my strings.” He motioned at a paper sack on the coffee table.
“Would you like me to bring the guitar up for you?”
He patted the cushion beside him. “No, sweetie. Come here and sit with me.”
That made her happy. She sat next to him and settled under his arm. She smelled his warmth and deodorant and felt the prickle of his whiskers as he pressed a firm kiss into her hairline. “I missed you,” he said.
She smiled and looked at the TV. “Who’s playing today?”
He turned her face toward him with his index finger. “I’m sorry.” His eyes were dark and warm, familiar.
He kissed her nose, and his fingers trailed absently along her jaw and down her neck. Her entire body knew their path, their destination, and her heart sped and her nipples peaked in invitation. “I haven’t been very nice this weekend.”
She tried to shake her head. His hand came back up swiftly to firmly clasp her chin, his other arm tight around her.
“Don’t do that.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“Don’t excuse me. Just forgive me for being a dick.”
His hand left again, and before she could say anything his mouth was on hers and his hand covered and kneaded her breast. He growled in his throat. She knew it was because of the absence of a bra. He preferred her this way.
Her hands went to his neck and she shifted to straddle his thighs, sitting on his lap, kissing him with the fire he always lit in her. When they broke, he looked up at her. She felt him throbbing between them through his khakis, through her denim.
“I want you for supper.”
“I need to shower,” she said with a grin. “And actual supper is in the oven.”
His grip on her hips tightened, fingers digging her flesh. He kept looking at her, holding her blue eyes, holding her hips, and he’d begun a gentle but insistent rhythmic push with his pelvis. Her own answered. It was instinctual. It was the need they ignited in one another.
He took her mouth again, his tongue brushing hers, probing deep, tasting. He fucked her mouth with his. Invading and retreating, breaths mingling, and those gentle thrusts became urgent.
He pulled back as his hands went to his belt. “Get them off,” he said casting a look at her clothing. His voice had a rough edge and her excitement flared. The sounds of football faded into the background. She stood and stripped in front of him. Quickly, without fanfare. His cock was in his hand and he pulled and stroked it. She fixated on the shining dew leaking and running. He looked hungry. Everything about him looked hungry and masculine. She felt the trickle of her own juices.
A groan from him as he looked at her. Always for her that moment of discomfort, shyness, vulnerability with all her flaws on display for him. But he would growl, take his hand away just so she could see the independent twitch and wave of his cock. He knew she thrived on his arousal. He knew exactly what to give her to make her need to please him.
She didn’t ask. She dropped to her knees on the soft carpet between his. He said, “Yes, little girl,” as he reached to touch her face. She caught his hand, and sucked his thumb into her mouth, their eyes still locked. She licked over the ball and let her tongue slide over the nail before taking it all the way, rolling her tongue to cup it like a taco. She held him there, tasting his flesh, teasing.
She sucked as he took it back, and there was something intensely erotic in the exchange. The anticipation. Her other hand was wrapped around his shaft. She hesitated, knowing well what would happen when she did. His hand on her head, pulling her face into his groin. There was no teasing, no denial today. There was only Daddy needing his cock sucked. Needing his perfect whore’s hungry mouth.
She loved this feeling. Of kneeling naked before him. Of his strong thighs surrounding her body and the stiff fabric against her bare skin. Of his eyes watching her and the sight fueling his arousal. His hand in her hair, sometimes resting lightly but possessively, others guiding her movements, her speed, her depth. It was a dance they performed well together, for maximum satisfaction. Never the same twice, but always perfect.
He filled her mouth, her throat. His flesh was rubbery and pillowy over the tip, swollen and hot… it was her favorite. Those textures, like a ripe plum. She scraped her teeth over him as though to leave an indentation but no mark, careful not to rupture or bruise. She sucked, gently then harder, and the tip of her tongue swirled and danced over him until she found his slit… gingerly playing there, tracing; such intimacy… to suck and taste, hoping he would feed her, her hands always working along his shaft, around his balls, a finger straying to stroke lightly over his asshole now and then. Her eyes always finding his again.
She paused briefly to give her jaw a rest. She bumped him playfully against her chin and lower lip, darted her tongue out to flick his frenulum. Smiled up at him. “You taste good, Daddy,” she whispered. “I love sucking your cock. I want to swallow you. I want your hot cum, what you made for me,” she whispered as she gently squeezed his full balls.
His reaction was an intense darkening, a deeply growled “Fuck!” and he stood and pulled her up. He pushed her onto the couch where he’d been sitting, his pants around his ankles, and he held her head with one hand wound in her short hair while the other guided his cock to her lips. “You’re going to make Daddy feel so good, baby girl. Open.”
She did, but not all the way. Only enough that he could push through her lips. Carefully wetting and wrapping them over her teeth, she braced against him and felt him push, felt the throb, heard the groan as she provided friction on his shaft while her tongue worked over him. He paused, reveling in the onslaught of sensations before beginning to thrust with some rhythm. Pushing deeper and deeper… faster. Her hands on his ass feeling his muscles contract. She had the vague passing thought that she was probably leaving a spot on the sofa cushion. Then he was blocking her airway.
She relaxed. Closed her eyes. She thought of the intense pleasure she was giving him, the things he would tell her he’d felt later, when they lay close together and he sheltered her with the same body that was taking from her; all those things only he told her because only he knew how she needed to hear them. When he pulled back she inhaled deeply and looked at him through watery eyes. He thrust again. Both hands on her head now. His pubic hair tickled her nose. She loved the heat from his body, his scent. She heard him saying words, words like take it like the little bitch you are, take Daddy’s fat cock, Daddy’s good whore swallowing his cock… And every word excited her on a level she’d never quite understood.
She knew when he came, when she tasted the salt and bitter of him, her cunt would throb and ache and long for her own release.
He pumped a few more times, giving her time to catch her breath before the last one that shot a hot stream of seed against the back of her throat. She cupped his balls to feel the contraction. She loved that moment. His release. His body climaxing, the throb of his cock and the grunt as he spasmed. Tears ran as she struggled to swallow, and he pulled back, but not out. He knew she wanted all of it. She needed him like a drug. She felt him over her tongue, one spurt after another, each hot and thick. A little ran out the side of her mouth over her chin. As his contractions eased, she sucked him gently, again touched her tongue to his opening and felt the drops pushing out. She moaned around him. She needed him now, needed him to get hard again and fuck her.
“Suck, baby. Make me hard again so I can fuck your beautiful sloppy cunt.” He lifted her breasts, thumbing over nipples so sensitive that she moaned again. And she suckled and teased and pulled at him. She dipped her two middle fingers into her cunt, then looking at him, offered them. He took them and sucked them clean. “Again.”
Again she fed him her juices. Each taste, each firm suck had him hardening.
He finally pulled away and in a swift movement pulled her up and spun her, made her kneel on the couch, hands braced on the back. And he filled her in a single brutal thrust, all the way to her cervix, his hips pressed hard and forcefully against her ass. A firm smack with his open hand. Then his body against hers, his hands crushing her breasts, and he was fucking her like an animal. Hard, fast. And she was screaming with every thrust, begging him for more, calling his name.
He fucked her until she orgasmed over his cock, her juices flooding over him, and he came again. He kept fucking her till he softened and as his cock left her she felt his arms catch her as she sank down.
He laid down next to her on the narrow couch, his body half hanging off, and he held her close, tasted her sweat and tears and his cum on her lips. Kissed her and touched her while her shaking stopped and pulse slowed. His spent cock pressed intimately against her soft belly.
The referee’s whistle sounded over the hum of the audience, and the sun was falling in the autumn sky, and the smells of roasted chicken and baked apples mingled with the musky odors of sex and skin.
Just another perfect Sunday with Daddy.
Warning: Sexual Content
The light in his eyes the first time they touched her. A gaze could scrape, could scald, could caress. He thought he was hungry, but he had no frame of reference for what real hunger was. The eyes devoured one curve at a time, from full breasts and round hips to the gentle valleys of collar-bones and throat and contours of cheek and chin. Arch of brow, Cupid’s bow lips. And his gaze ignited.
This one was of average height, handsome in the way confident men are handsome, silver at his temples and clean-shaven. He had nice teeth. Blue eyes. The tail of a tie stuck out of the briefcase on the floor by his feet. Shined shoes and open collar.
The flush consumed her and the dance was over as quickly as it began. One kiss and he was hers, to take, to have, to finish. Body pressing her back to the cool wall in the alley behind the bar, his inhibitions gone, he pulled back from her and looked into her eyes. “Who are you?” he whispered.
He thought he knew hunger.
But no one knows hunger like a succubus.
Thank you to Linda for a great prompt. Head over to SoCS to be inspired and for the participation rules!
Just one word, one heartbeat, one misstep or right step away from disaster… never immune. Immunity is for immortals.
You trace my scars with your fingers. Paths of destruction leading down blind alleys into waiting jaws. I hear the drip drip drip, and a soft pant of breath. Is it yours? Mine?
You told me not to hope with too much abandon while you looked into my soul and saw the fallacy of your own words. Abandon is all I know. Abandonment. They entwine with one another as we do, skin wrapped in skin, wet and velvet and the slow steady thud of your heart, so reassuring. I tell you I don’t care about immortality, as long as my time is well-spent.
No one sees them but you. What you trace on my skin is an invisible mark, left by an invisible heart. If I could wrap you in parchment and put you under glass for safekeeping, I would. Holding you is like holding a whisper. Yet your teeth in my neck say different. Your fingers bruise. You claim with your sex, with your mind, with the forcible strength of your character.
I wonder who follows whom down these dark halls.
Nebraska held few landmarks before the blast. We navigated then by corn and wheat fields, by the occasional mail box, the direction of the power lines, the heavy smog to the east that indicated metropolitan life. The road I took to work each morning took me straight in, no twists, no hills. It was a hike, but I wanted my kids to grow up in the open, to understand that life wasn’t about always being entertained.
Ellen used to take the water glass Linny would fill for her, and sip it. There was a dirt wallow in the side yard, beneath a spreading old hickory that had been struck by lightning twice during our tenure, and she’d sit in the dirt and dig down through the poor top soil. She’d dig until she found something like clay. Then she’d add some water and work it tirelessly. Sometime an hour or more, until it felt just right in her little hands. Swiftly it would take the shape of something she saw in her mind. A rabbit or dog. A horse’s head. A figure. A tree.
When she was done she would look at it a moment and smile, and then she’d squish it up and start over.
She never needed to show, only to do.
I told Anna about her as we lay in Anna’s bed one afternoon, sweat drying on our skin.
“You should get her some clay,” she said in her sweet, soft voice. It had a thick undertone that I knew I’d put there.
“Clay? Like play-dough?”
She laughed. “No, silly. Real modeling clay. Like this,” she climbed out of bed, the late sun sliding down her back and over her bare ass like honey. She crossed to the drafting table against the far wall, moved aside a blank canvas, an armature, a coffee mug full of paint brushes and printed with “I woke up like this” and found a package. She came back, and I watched the sun spill over her heavy breasts and rounded belly. I couldn’t hide my lust for her, or my admiration. I couldn’t be with her, and I couldn’t be without her.
“Give her this.”
I opened the folded waxed paper to find six little flesh colored blocks. Small, but surprisingly heavy.
“It’s called polymer clay. Won’t make a mess, and she can sculpt it over and over, or she can make something and bake it in the oven to cure it.” Her green eyes sparked. “You know, make it hard.”
The clay was forgotten when I reached up and clasped the back of her neck beneath a curtain of red hair, and pulled her mouth hard against mine. Because that was what Anna did to me.
Those kinds of memories never faded. They lived like bee stings under the skin, and as unpleasant the knowledge it was gone was the sweetness of what had been.
I tapped the compass and searched for East. There was no sun, no bright spot through the ash cloud, or whatever it was that blanketed us. The hickory tree was gone. And that side of the house was gone, as well.
Finally satisfied I was headed in the right direction, I set off, Hope following behind.
The view from up here is clean, unfettered. I can watch you as you chip slowly at those walls life has erected around you. Life. Not you. I tell you this, sweetheart. It is not your fault. People hate and rage, buildings fall, society crumbles and we each deal with our own grief, in our own way. You think you are immune, wrapped tightly in that cocoon, that you put it there. But you didn’t. Life. A series of beautiful moments, interrupted by quiet, insidious ones… she won’t touch me, he doesn’t listen, I can’t, I must, I won’t, I will… cocooned. Encased.
My view is as clouded as the next person’s. By my own regrets and griefs. By my victories, too. But I watch you emerge, just for me. Just for me you break out where I can see the weeping sores and the pus and the vomit and the shit. And I am humbled. I am humbled you will let me view the atrocities with the beauties. My view of you is clean.
You are a man. And you shine through it.
I am the lucky one.
Thank you to Linda for a great prompt. Head over to SoCS to be inspired and for the participation rules!
He accumulated that wealth of memories like the lady down the street accumulated cats. There came a point where he wondered how many of them were actually his, or if they blew in from the neighbors like tumbleweeds, to sit on the lawn and bump against the door with every breeze. The time he hiked old Buffalo and got caught on the top in an autumn squall, was that his? Or was that the young man down the street who often walked by with a pack taller than himself strapped to his back? Or the car accident that left him with a limp and revoked license… had it happened on his corner before they put in the light? Or had he read it in the Gazette? He spent his days sitting at the window, in a scatter of newspaper pages and inserts, watching life spin by, wondering if the life he recalled was one he had actually lived or merely a collection of his imagination.
Thank you to Linda for a great prompt. Head over to SoCS to be inspired and for the participation rules!
It crept up, hid in the ordinary mundane of one day after another until the alarm on the phone chimed. You have an event tomorrow, it told her. An event? What event… surely she would remember… And it crept in, a memory around the fringes of her consciousness. The excitement of the unknown, seeing something new, feeling something new. Her mind tried to close the door on it. It felt like one of those silly cartoons, where whatever is hiding there squeezes out like play dough all around the edges, in spite of the effort to shut it.
She swiped it away with her thumb. Are you sure? it inquired. Yes. Very sure. Sometimes she thought the pain would never go away. Not the one they called a phantom in the limb that was no longer there – she didn’t mind that one. It reminded her there had once been something there. No, the pain of loss, of all those plans and hopes and dreams… the pain of living a life without him.
I took Hope to bed with me for that night. Linny stayed with James. I knew we should be comforting one another in this, I knew from the beginning of the nightmare we should have been.
When the sirens went off that cool summer evening we thought it was a tornado. The skies were overcast and all was still except for some distant rumbling; but that is how tornados work. They drop like bombs, spin three minutes of wanton destruction, and suck back up into the belly of the sky.
I recalled grabbing Ellen and the twins, and shouting for Linny. But she was ahead of me, dragging Sarah and Evan across the backyard toward the bunker. She had the photo album tucked beneath one arm. She always grabbed the photo album.
I grabbed my phone. I sent a text, Tornado, love you, as I ran to pick up the boys. It never sent. The towers were already blocked, or down. We were supposed to meet within the hour, and it was my explanation for the inevitability of standing her up.
Hope sighed and twisted in my embrace. Her hair, finally dry again, tickled my lips and nose. She smelled warm, like I remembered healthy soil smelling. Clean and organic. “Papa?” She whispered.
“I’m here, baby girl. Right here. It was just a bad dream.”
“Yes. Papa’s here. You’re safe.”
“Is he gone?” she said, clear as day.
My heart froze in my chest at the sound of her voice, at the clear enunciation, hardly the speech of a child muted by fear. I pushed her back to look in her face, her head resting on Linny’s pillow. “You can speak,” I whispered.
She stared at me. There were spots of color on her cheeks that showed even in the dimness.
“Who did you see?”
My blood ran cold. Was someone here? In the house?
“There’s no man here, honey.” I willed it to be true.
“The dead man, Papa.”
“I don’t understand.”
She moved back into my embrace and sighed.
After her breath told me she was sleeping, I slid carefully from the bed. I picked up the revolver from the table by the bed and walked carefully into the hall. I let my eyes adjust; dawn wasn’t far now. I moved down the hall and checked the bedroom where the rest of my family now slept.
The house was clear. Peaceful, even. My pulse gradually returned to normal, calmed by the weight of the pistol in my hand and the sounds of children sleeping… I sank to the floor in the hall, my back against the wall of the room where my Hope slept. I could feel her. I could see the stairs.
I waited for dawn with the revolver on my knee.