Mark West is a very gifted and prolific writer from Kettering, Northants in the UK. Since he started submitting to magazines in the late '90s, his stories have been published in the likes of The Dream Zone, Sackcloth and Ashes, Unhinged, Sci-Fright and Enigmatic Tales to name but a few, and online at sites such as Redsine, House of Pain, Goblin Muse and Horrorfind. His work has been highly praised, gaining Stoker Recommendations along the way, and he has just completed his first novel. Paul Kane is proud to present this new extremely disturbing piece for your delectation.
He told me that he loved me but now look at him, prancing around the lounge with his new lover. The cow, it should be me. I want to throttle her, to stop this stupid charade and make him confess that it's me he loves, me and me alone.
Phil Lucas flopped down into an armchair, laughing.
'Come on, Phil, get up and dance with me.'
'I can't, I want to go to bed.'
Nancy Shaw stopped dancing, dropped to her knees and moved across to Phil, slipping between his open legs. She bent forward, allowing her low cut dress - bought especially for the evening because of how much of her it showed - to work it's magic. 'Dance with me, Phil.'
He cupped her breasts, rubbing her nipples with his thumbs. 'I want to go to bed, Nancy.'
She smiled and tilted her head to one side. 'And for what reason would that be, Mr Lucas?'
He smiled lazily at her. 'Well, sleeping wouldn't be high on the agenda.' He stood and pulled her up and tight to him. 'Kiss me, Miss Shaw.'
She did and slowly they made their way out of the lounge and up the stairs.
The bastard, flaunting her in my face. How could he do this to me, how could he hurt my feelings so? What have I ever done to deserve this - I've always been there for him, supported him through good times and bad, made him laugh, made him sing. And this is how the bastard repays me?
Asleep, Nancy rolled onto her side, the sheet draping her hips and buttocks, the moonlight painting her alabaster. Phil gazed at her, wanted to take her again. The sex had been brilliant - sweaty, hard and delirious - and their ease with each other belied the fact that they'd only met six hours earlier.
He ran his hand down from her shoulder, past her slim waist and up the curve of her hip. She was gorgeous and all his - wait until he told the guys at the central sales conference that he'd managed to pull Nancy Shaw, Nationwide Sales Director.
The evening had been superb. First, he'd been crowned as King salesman of AliCom, then he pulled the fittest bird in the room - it was a bonus that she was his boss. Things didn't get much better.
Vaguely, the opening bars of INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart" drifted to him and whilst he loved that song, he didn't really want to hear it now. He looked at the clock. It was 2.55am and he had to be in work tomorrow at 7.30am, so the last thing he wanted to do was listen to someone else's party.
The music steadily increased in volume - still quiet enough that he had to listen for it but irritating all the same. It niggled at him, threatening to spoil his mood.
Nancy rolled onto her back, her right arm across her face, mumbling. He looked at her full breasts, the colour of milk and felt himself start to go hard.
The music got louder.
He rolled onto his side and put his hand gently on Nancy's belly, drawing it up and across her left breast, where he ran each finger over her nipple. She moaned lightly.
The music got louder still and, for the first time, he heard Michael Hutchence's voice. His erection shrank away.
'Right,' he said, starting to get pissed off. He got out of bed, pulled the curtain all the way back and stuck his head out the open window. The cool night air chilled his skin but, apart from the faint hum of traffic, he couldn't hear anything.
He stepped back into the bedroom and the music was there. Goosebumps broke out over his skin.
His success had enabled him to buy a large detached house, his nearest neighbour being almost twenty feet away. If they'd been playing their stereo, he'd have heard it from outside. The fact that he hadn't could only mean one thing.
The music was coming from his house.
This would bring him down, playing his music. Once he was here, in the lounge, they could talk and she could make him see that they should be together, not him and this strumpet in the dress that showed far too much flesh.
Just turn the volume up a little higher, get his attention completely.
Phil got a pair of boxer shorts out of his dresser drawer and pulled them on. He grabbed the poker he kept for emergencies from behind his bedside table and slowly began to make his way down stairs. Halfway down, the music volume increased slightly and his heart skipped a beat. He paused, waiting for someone to move but nothing stirred so he kept going.
The ground floor was in darkness and, by the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, his heart was thumping painfully in his chest and his breath was a ragged hiss in his throat. To his left was the dining room, the lounge to his right. The music was coming from there, from his prized stereo. Six months it had taken him to get that, six months of blood, sweat and tears and now some bastard was playing with it.
He crossed the hall, the wooden floor cold against his feet, trying to decide what to do. The police were no good, wouldn't get here in time. He raised the poker, smiled grimly and stopped at the doorway. He would switch on the lights, blind whoever was in there and be on the offensive immediately.
He took several deep breaths, psyching himself up.
One, two, three...
He stepped into the lounge and flicked the light on, moving to the left. His eyes adjusted quickly and he gasped.
The lounge was empty, exactly as he'd left it. The curtains were drawn, Nancy's shoes were lying haphazardly by the armchair he'd been sitting in and their coats were draped over the back of the sofa.
Next to the sofa, on its specially made cabinet, was the stereo. His pride and joy.
"Never Tear Us Apart" finished and "Mystify" started, the graphic equaliser dancing in time.
This didn't make any sense. He walked across the room, checking behind the sofa and each armchair but there was no-one to be seen. But the volume had gone up whilst he was on the stairs, which meant that someone had to be in here and there was no way out, except for the doorway he'd come in.
What was going on?
He knelt down in front of the stereo and stroked the CD tray. To earn it, he'd sold twenty five thousand phone units in six months, traversing the country and sleeping with a couple of female marketing associates to get some of the bigger franchise deals. It had been tough.
The hi-fi shop was extremely exclusive and when Phil told them he was looking to spend upwards of ten grand, the manager had dealt with him personally, taking his arm and going into smarm overdrive.
'Oh yes sir,' he said, the slickness in his voice almost visible, 'if you have serious music tastes then this is the unit for you.'
'I don't have serious tastes,' Phil said loftily, knowing every trick in the salesman's book, 'but I know what I like. I like rock, I like it loud and I like to see plaster coming off the ceiling.'
The manager smiled and rubbed his hands together quickly - the sound reminded Phil of old, dry papers rustling.
'Then this is your lucky day. This is the TK-313, the latest import from Japan and it is hot. Solid state chip, Pentium 4 processor, 1000 Watt total output, Dolby Digital Surround, twin hyper power sub-woofers and bass reflex speaker. And that's not some cheap veneer there, that's real walnut.'
'Sounds good,' said Phil, nodding, 'so how much?'
'Sir, this is a very special machine. Only fifteen hundred have been made, for sale throughout the world and Gaffney is extremely lucky to have this example.'
'Spare the talk, mate, how much?'
'Fifteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty.'
Phil, though surprised, didn't say a word and the manager misread his nonchalance, looking flustered. 'But what sir has to remember,' he said quickly, 'is that this is beyond state of the art. This unit is so tech'd up, it's virtually sentient. The chips had to get special dispensation to get through customs - this stereo does most of your thinking for you. It could launch satellites.'
None of this interested Phil, he just kept seeing the price rolling around in his head, like an exotic model on a sheepskin rug. He had to have it, if only for the fact that no-one in the history of AliCom had ever done anything like it. It would also show that he had the balls to be The King and put his partnership application on the fast track.
'I'll take it,' he said, 'I have the paperwork in my briefcase.'
The manager gulped but looked relieved. 'You're quite certain?'
Phil smiled his killer smile. 'Oh yes, can you box it up for me now?'
Phil stroked the top of the unit, the walnut smooth to his touch. He gently pressed the power button and stood up, glancing around the empty room one last time. He started to walk towards the door, assuring himself that he'd left the stereo on when he and Nancy went up to bed.
It was a small voice, almost pitiful and it ached with sadness. A shiver ran up his spine and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He turned around slowly and saw the graphic equaliser flash and then fade to nothing. He saw it but refused to accept it.
'Who's there? If this is some kind of joke, it's not funny in the slightest.'
The graphic equaliser flashed again. 'Phil, it's not a joke.'
Phil rushed over to the stereo, checked that it was off and leaned down to unplug it at the wall. He found the microphone socket after a few moments of looking but it was empty.
He rocked back on his heels and dropped the poker, his head spinning. There had to be a rational explanation - he'd drunk too much and fucked too hard, that had to be it.
'Phil?' The voice was soft, almost sensuous and this time, it was very close. So close, in fact, that he was on top of it.
He looked down. 'Who is this?'
'It's me, Phil.' The voice came through the dead speakers and he watched the graphic equaliser dance, the skin on his scalp suddenly pulling too tight.
'What the fuck is going on?'
The voice took on a slightly annoyed tone. 'Phil, don't be like that.'
He stepped back, bumped into the sofa arm and slid over it, to sit upright on the cushion.
'Phil, you said you loved me and I think we belong together, our love is pure.'
'The other night,' the stereo said, more annoyed, 'you had your friend round and you stood in front of me and said you loved me. You said that I was gorgeous, that I looked beautiful, that you loved my curves. You said I was the best thing that had ever happened to you.'
Phil opened his mouth but closed it slowly. He couldn't believe it, this couldn't be happening. How much had he drank? The other reps, jealous of him, hadn't spiked his drinks - had they?
'You can't just switch my feelings on and off like you do the power.' There was a pause. 'Are you listening to what I'm saying to you?'
'I can hear it but I don't believe it.'
'That hurts me, Phil, it really does but not as much as when you flaunt that floozy in front of me.'
'Your whore has a name then?'
'Hey, this is going too far. You take that back, you piece of junk, or so help me...'
'So help you what? I am the personification of you being King, don't you remember? You stood looking at me in the shop and I could see the hard-on in your trousers. You wanted me because I screamed out success, I screamed out class, I screamed out that you were the King.' The voice seemed to sneer at him. 'So what are you going to do to me?'
Phil pushed himself off the sofa. 'I'm drunk, I must be. I'm going back to bed.'
'I think not, lover.' Phil heard a sound like a whip being cracked and then something heavy looped around his neck, pulling him down. He fell, his head bouncing off the carpet.
'Oops,' giggled the stereo, 'sorry about that.'
The loop tightened around his neck and dug into his skin, cutting off his air. As he was quickly dragged back towards the stereo, he watched white spots dance across the ceiling.
With a final tug that made him gag, he bumped against the stereo cabinet and the loop went slack. Coughing, he looked up through watery eyes as the right speaker cable pulled itself up the front of the cabinet and disappeared.
'You tried to kill me,' he said, rubbing his throat.
'No,' said the stereo, soothingly, 'I'm saving you from yourself.'
'You tried to throttle me.'
'Phil.' The voice sounded shaky, as if trying to control its anger. 'I have extreme intelligence capabilities but only limited physical resources at my disposal. The speaker cable was crude but it worked. However, if need be, I can get cruder and I will do so.'
The stereo laughed, loud giggles that echoed around the lounge in surround sound. 'Phil, you're talking to a stereo and you call me mad?'
He pushed himself off the sofa and began to run towards the door. He heard the whipping sound again and ducked, the speaker cable looping over him and coiling uselessly on the floor. He straightened up and heard another sound, like something heavy sliding over wood.
The right speaker hit him on the side of the head and his temple exploded in pain. He closed his eyes against the sudden spray of blood and fell sideways into the cabinet that showed off his collection of elegant crystal. The glass in the doors shattered around him, speckling his shoulder, arm and face. The speaker dropped onto his right foot, gouging a wedge of flesh by his little toe. He screamed, not knowing what part of his body to grasp and slid to the floor.
'Phil,' said the stereo, pissed off, 'look what you've made me do.'
Feeling sick, he looked at his toe, blood running freely over it and onto his expensive Axminster carpet. He looked towards the stereo and his mouth dropped open as he watched the speaker pull itself back across the floor, one sharp corner dripping blood.
'Jesus,' said Phil, as waves of fog began to seep into his mind.
'Don't make this worse for yourself, lover, tell me that you love me.'
'I do not believe this.'
The hysteria in the voice broke and the stereo became a screeching harridan. 'Well you'd better it, Phil, because this is the situation, you little shit. You brought me to your house and that alone was enough of a commitment to assure me that you were the one. But to top it off, you stand in front of me and tell your friend that you love me. Was I supposed to ignore those signals?' The voice was rising in pitch now. 'Well that's not possible, Phil, not possible at all because you've made your commitment and now you have to honour it.'
'But my company paid for you, you were a bonus.'
'What?' The lights on the equaliser blinked, the decibel level too high. 'Are you calling me a whore?' The lights calmed and the voice quietened to a whisper. 'It doesn't matter, I understand. You're just saying these things to protect the feelings of your slag upstairs, aren't you?'
'No,' said Phil, his head getting foggier by the minute, 'leave her alone. I only met her tonight, she means nothing to me.'
'Oh, thanks very much.'
Groggily, Phil looked up and saw Nancy coming down the stairs, wearing one of his shirts.
'No, Nancy,' he said, 'I didn't mean that.'
The stereo impersonated him badly. 'He didn't mean it Nancy, you slag.'
Phil saw the anger flash across her face. She jumped the last couple of steps and ran into the lounge. She stopped, when she saw him clearly and looked shocked.
'Jesus, Phil, what happened.'
'I did,' said the stereo.
Nancy turned around as the right speaker hit her full in the face and Phil heard her nose crack. She made a non-committal grunt and fell backwards. The speaker slid back before shooting forward again, landing on her face. Phil heard another sickening crack and blood began to pool around her head.
'Stop it,' he cried, 'leave her alone.'
The other speaker flew across the room and landed on her belly, forcing her breath out in a whoosh. That speaker slid over her left shoulder, waiting for the other speaker to move to her right shoulder and then they started to pull her back towards the stereo cabinet.
Phil sat up and a wave of nausea washed over him. He lost his balance and fell forward, his forehead scraping the carpet. 'Stop,' he said, his whole body screaming in agony.
'Too bad, so sad,' said the stereo, 'I have to get her out of the way.'
'Why are you doing this?'
'Don't you believe in true love?'
Phil lifted his head and knelt up. Nancy had been positioned so that she was sitting with her back to the stereo, propped up by the speakers. Her head lolled against her chest, her face a bloody pulp.
'Leave her, please and I'll do anything you want.'
The CD drawer slid open and began to revolve, the disks painting the ceiling like disco lights. 'You'll do that anyway, lover, I just want to show you what I'm capable of.'
'I know what you can do,' said Phil, 'please leave her alone.'
A thin black arm came out of the stereo and extended out by six inches or more. A small nozzle on the end flicked up.
'Please,' said Phil.
'Don't beg,' said the stereo, 'it's so demeaning.'
Phil heard a whirring sound, like the start-up of a PC and then the arm bucked slightly. The whirr got louder and he realised, with horror, what was causing it.
The laser beam came out of the nozzle and hit the floor next to Nancy's left foot, quickly burning a hole in the carpet. The beam stopped and the arm shifted, moving back and to the right. It began again, burning a line across her forehead. She opened her mouth, almost lost in the bloody confusion of her face, but wires appeared from nowhere, pierced her lips and sewed them shut.
The laser beam burned a neat circle around her head and stopped. The arm withdrew into the stereo and the CD drawer closed.
A length of wire uncoiled itself from behind the left speaker and worked its way up her body, before disappearing into her hair. It appeared every now and again, like a thin snake and then slid back down to the speaker.
'And now,' said the stereo, it's voice almost a cackle, 'I give you my party piece.'
The speakers jolted forwards and Nancy fell to her right. The wire pulled taut and Phil was sick as her scalp slid over her face and down onto her left breast.
'How gorgeous does that look?' asked the stereo, sounding proud of itself.
'You sick fuck,' said Phil, phlegm dripping from his lips, 'what did you do that for?'
One of the three tape decks opened, gaping at him like an inviting mouth. 'Phil, lover, don't tell me you haven't been listening.' The speakers slid through Nancy's blood and his vomit and moved around him, wrapping him in their coils. They tightened and he was pulled towards the stereo and the open tape deck.
'Let me go.'
'Oh, Phil, please don't fight.'
The tape deck door closed over his mouth, smothering his scream and exquisite pain exploded across his face, a blanket of darkness coming down in front of him.
'I made you King,' he heard the stereo say in a soft voice, 'now all I want is your love. Nothing can ever tear us apart.'
Phil heard something tear, felt intense pain and then he knew no more.
(C) Mark West 2001
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.