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Carnal Bodies [excerpt]

“Carnal Bodies” was originally written for Two Dead Queers Present GUILLOZINE. It was later reprinted in Red Room Press’ Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol. 4. It combines a few of my favorite things: dandies, horror, and intrigue.

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The sun had long since set behind the advent of a storm and now lightning crackled beyond the window’s glass. For a moment Heath found himself holding his breath. There was nothing to fear here, of course. Here, together, they were safe.

The bathroom was lit generously with candles and Heath had undressed and placed his brother in the clawfoot tub by the windows. He sat behind him on the edge of a chair, sleeves rolled to his elbows, hands lathered in soap and buried in Hawthorne’s hair.

“Do you remember,” Heath asked, carding his fingers through his brother’s wet hair slowly, leaning close to the shell of his ear, “When we found that thing in the cellars as children?”

“We’d gone down,” he recounted slowly, almost lazily as he began to rinse the soap from Hawthorne’s hair. “Much further than we should have. Past the second set of doors, and the third…

“We had father’s key, so we didn’t care how many doors there were so long as they would open. We lost count and the passages kept narrowing and going down and down. Father had told us how old this place was, but not how deeply they’d dug the foundations. I don’t even know if he knew.

“And then we found it behind the old stained press and it was hungry. You were scared; it wanted you the most and you knew it. It seemed blind yet it followed us, pulling itself along, writhing on its belly, not so much screaming as sighing.”

He stopped, his fingers trailing limply in the water behind his brother’s back. Drawing a breath, he laughed and it seemed to shake the chill off of him as he began to scoop palms of water up over Hawthorne’s shoulders, watching it run down his back in rivulets. “Do you remember? They would have organized a search party if father hadn’t already known where we’d gone. It felt like hours, running for our lives, tripping, picking one another back up. We dropped the lantern at one point and just kept going.

“I don’t know how we made it back but father was waiting at the top of the cellar stairs with a shovel. Like he’d been waiting for this to happen.

“You didn’t watch, but he savaged it. I saw the whole thing— Most of it.

“He beheaded it and hit it over and over and over with that shovel until you could no longer tell what parts had been arms and what bits had been even remotely human. Whatever it was, he scooped it up the remaining slop and took it away.

“Did you ever ask him what he did with it? I did. Once. And do you know what he said to me? That he’d burnt it and scattered the ashes far, far away.”

Leaning ever closer, lips brushing the back of Hawthorne’s ear, he smiled. “But we both know he didn’t. I think he dumped its mangled leavings in that old press. Did you look while you were down there day and night? I hope you did. I hope it watched you. I knew it was down there somewhere… The air at the top of the cellar steps was never empty after we found it.

“You should have chosen me!” He snarled, pulling back on Hawthorne’s hair as if reining in a horse. Hawthorne’s mindless eyes gazed heavenward at the ceiling.

Panting Heath looked down at him, shaking his head, recalling the absolute fear that had lined Hawthorne’s face when there should have been understanding and desire. How drunk they’d been after their father’s funeral, holding hands as they went down to the cellar to face what they hadn’t been able to as children, laughing… How soft and willing Hawthorne had looked when Heath turned to him by the lantern light in that final room. He’d even let Heath press him back against the wall, his pale eyes had locked onto Heath’s lips, smiling.

But when Heath had suggested they could have whatever they wanted—that father was gone, and they could run the family estate together… When he’d brushed Hawthorne’s cheek with his thumb and kissed him in that room full of rot and shadows, Hawthorne closed himself off to Heath. Frightened, shaking his head, he’d gently pushed Heath away and that was when the estate passed from Hawthorne to Heath and their future together ended forever.

Hawthorne’s beauty hurt. To touch, but not to ever actually have him, Heath’s one truest friend and confidant—was agony.

The bathroom was silent and still save for the flicker of the candles under the mirror. In its reflection, Hawthorne didn’t even bat an eye. He stared resolutely past some point on the wall.

Still gazing at their reflection, Heath laid his chin on Hawthorne’s shoulder, leaning his head against his throat. He slid fingertips down the front of Hawthorne’s chest, watching as not even his muscles reacted to the featherlight contact. For once in his life, he had the money, the name, and the wits in hand while Hawthorne didn’t. Sighing, he allowed a smile to flicker across his face and slipped his fingers between Hawthorne’s waiting legs, enjoying his warmth, his placidity.

“We’re going to play a little game tomorrow with a friend,” he said, stroking his brother’s cock, amused that his deviant brother would never be aroused again—by anything, “Something new, and if you disappoint me in any way, I’ll give you over to it. It’ll let it finish what I started after father died. I’ll let it undo the rest of you: body and soul, like it’s been wanting to all these years.”