Hellraiser

Welshman Christopher Teague is probably best known as the proprietor of Pendragon Books, and editor of anthologies like Nasty Snips and Tourniquet Heart. But he has also carved out a name for himself as a short story writer with tales published by the likes of Charnel House, Terror Tales and House of Pain. In addition to this, he has also turned his hand to screenwriting and has a script being developed by Assembly of Rogues director Martin Roberts.

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'Hello. We're not in at the moment, but if you'd like to leave a message at the end of the beep, then either Jim or Jenny will get back to you.'

Beep.

 

'Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. I'm afraid Jim will be late home tonight. He is rather tied up. But then, nothing is new there, right? Every night Jim starts early and finishes late, I detect you imagine him having an affair - his new secretary, maybe? What's her name now - Lucy, that's it. No, Lucy leaves an hour before Jim at five on the dot, back to her flat and six foot boyfriend. You've nothing to fear there.

Then, of course, there's the possibility he might be gay. I wonder, have you thought of that? No, far too implausible I guess. You're right, he isn't.

So, how do I explain myself?

Jim and I know each other from work - well, we used to know each other, before I parted for a new job. Seems a long-time ago now.

Jim's with me at the moment, sat on my sofa. Say hello Jim - did you hear him? Of course not, how could you. The thing is…'

 

'Hello. We're not in at the moment, but if you'd like to leave a message at the end of the beep, then either Jim or Jenny will get back to you.'

Beep.

'… Ah, where was I before being so rudely interrupted. I hate talking to these bloody machines, just as I get into the swing of things the machine switches off. Right. Jim, on my sofa: yes.

Jim and me worked together, part of the same team - we actually started on the same day, about an hour apart. I was first through the door though.

Things went well, we hung out - had a few drinks, complained about the shits upstairs, the usual bollocks really. But Jim was competitive, nothing wrong with that - I admired him for it. But, he began to distance himself - he'd finish late, not bother with the quiet pint after work, or for lunch. He turned into one of those ugly creatures, the ones we all hate: the arse-lickers of this world.

I could see him, going upstairs, giving the ugly shits blowjobs no doubt; I imagined him wiping his mouth, smeared with their come.

Not surprising, he got the promotion he so thoroughly wanted.

I daresay he deserved it really, after all that spunk.

Fair play to Jim, he never displayed any bossiness towards me, but the eyes, his eyes betrayed him - I could see him smirking at me, mocking me with his clear blue eyes. Oh, he'd still say hello, but he'd dismiss me with a quick phone call and drop everything when they beckoned him upstairs.

Then they moved him into a separate office, overlooking us. He was even given Lucy on a plate by the MD. I could see him through the window of his office, watched him pick up the phone, see Lucy wander in, all tits and short skirt, watch him lean back in his chair dictating, salivati…'

 

'Hello. We're not in at the moment, but if you'd like to leave a message at the end of the beep, then either Jim or Jenny will get back to you.'

Beep.

'… Fucking machine. I was getting into my stride there, now I've lost my train of thought. Be back now.'

 

'Hello. We're not in at the moment, but if you'd like to leave a message at the end of the beep, then either Jim or Jenny will get back to you.'

Beep.

'Jenny, you're obviously not back yet. Wait, it's night-class tonight, right? Let me think - photography, that's it. How's the course? Jim mentioned it, on one of the few occasions he actually could be bothered to speak to me, an underling when he wasn't so busy on the phone, or wanking at the girls on the internet.

He couldn't even be bothered to go for a pint for lunch, working through his lunch - he'd always said, he'd never be like that. Lying sod. Prick.

Can you hear him?

He's started to shout now.

The human body can be quite resilient sometimes, even when speckled with battery acid. Droplet here, droplet there, a little cut here, there, everyfuckingwhere. I can be quite clumsy, though - my hand's burning a little. Stupid sod, I hear you thinking. If only, eh? If only he didn't turn into one of them, I wouldn't be here talking to this machine, with blood on my hands.

But, life's a pretty strange thing.

Stretch your mind back, how long? Say fifteen years. I suppose I only remembered when I dropped Jim off when he missed his train - still can't believe he can't drive. When he invited me in, offered me a cup of coffee. I asked for tea instead, you were most obliging.

And then it hit me, you. Dear Jenny, how little you've changed. How such a lucky bastard he is, was, whatever. No, he's still alive - can't you hear him? Even with his tongue stitched to his lip - I knew that needlework lesson would come in handy. Can't believe my friends called me a poof for taking that option.

Ironic, though: It took something like that to be close to you, but it took someone manly, like Jim, to marry you. I don't know, is that irony? Not sure. Doesn't matter - I mean, was 'Ironic' ever ironic?

I'm babbling now…'

 

'Hello. We're not in at the moment, but if you'd like to leave a message at the end of the beep, then either Jim or Jenny will get back to you.'

Beep.

'Well, where do we go now? It's quite obvious I can't let Jim go, despite his protestations. And despite my feelings for you all those years ago, you won't reciprocate, so where to?

There's only one way really - Jim would be able to identify me, and I suppose after a little memory searching you would also be able to know who I am, so where's the exit?

I could leave, I suppose, fly out, start afresh. But, I'd be hunted; you both would want me found, justice served.

There is only one way really. I just hope Jim can last the night - despite his shouts, he's getting weaker. That hand, well stump really. My knife isn't that sharp.

Fingers crossed you'll find him, we're not that well hidden - not too far away. Do you want a clue? Two syllables, first - the first, sounds like…'

 

 

(C) Christopher Teague 2004

 

 

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