about the author

Helen McClory’s fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in 3:AM Press, Necessary Fiction, SmokeLong, The Toast, and theNewerYork, among other places. She also writes reviews for [PANK] and The Female Gaze. She blogs here: schietree.wordpress.com.

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No One’s Gonna Take My Soul Away

Helen McClory

Smatter on the street corner. A godless sun direct overhead. Police are here already for the remnants. Claw marks chalked in the sidewalk. A body consumed and wiped away from the mouth with a delicate back of the hand. Is it too obvious? Out of all the celebrities, that the most monstrous should be her?

In fact, the intel is wrong. Lana isn’t the monster. She was just first on the scene. She wiped sweat from her face, mussing her lipstick in shock. As the police bag what’s left, she hangs back against the wall. Her broken nail peeling against stucco. Eyes unblinking into your dodging gaze, those false lashes as needles against her cheek. She murmurs I followed him here too late. I know where he has his nest.

The two of you go to the nearest bar. You buy her a watermelon crush, so cold the glass mists. She takes a long sip through the pink straw. I lost my record producer at a party one night. One spot of blood on the balcony, another on the stairs—and she’d followed a muffled squealing down to an unused part of the house. I pushed open the door. He was ripping her throat out with his teeth. Too busy to see me. She looks up, picks a fragment of ice from the straw. Don’t think I won’t follow him to the end of the world.

That’s how you and Del Rey come to be stalking the bad man together.

Bodies after bodies. The nest moves around. You hire a car, she won’t be shooed away. So you rent a couple of motel rooms outside of Fresno and LDR sits humming above the ice machine, makeupless and sharp to any movements. Cars below her sliding through the vacancy sign.

Next day, twelve hours in the saddle, the GPS beeps, and the car cuts into the sidefat of Salt Lake City. He’s gonna eat a Mormon, Lana says, first words she’s uttered in hours. Mostly she sat barefoot, crossed-legged, playing with the stereo and listening to radio plays. Weird pieces from the forties you could hardly follow through the static.

Ms Rey, you ask, wanna catch something to eat? She shakes her head. She points towards a Holiday Inn on its spick and span empty forecourt. He’s in there, she says, raising her head, third floor.

The door caves quick under your size thirteen boot. Inside, a room lit like no Holiday Inn room you’ve ever seen. Neon-green fixtures with wavering light like under a bridge some dirty place. Is that a pool in the corner? Petals float on the surface. Some other junk bobs. Wallets, watches. In a warp of shower curtain lies a half-naked man, knocked out or what. He doesn’t look like much. You turn to Lana, see her eyes all brimming with neon and pool trash.

That’s him, she says, stepping forward. Somewhere between the car and the Inn, she put on a pineapple print white dress and five-inch heels made of glass. You open your mouth, pause, say, you sure, Ms Rey? He’s out cold. Uh huh, she says, licking her lips.

Lana grabs the monster by the scruff, slaps at him once, neat and hard. Then she pulls a thing from her bag. It’s dingy leather and long, birdbeaked. When she puts it on, you figure it out. It’s the mask of a medieval doctor working through a plague.

Still wrapped in the shower curtain the monster wakes. Lana looming over him, one finger pressed to the end of her lipless mask. Oh God, he says, trying to get his clammy hands free. Even you’re backing away. He’s not here, she says, airless. I hear you don’t get along these days anyhow. She misquotes herself, and you just look on in piss-fear admiration.

Lana kneels, turns her head so the beak doesn’t scratch up against anything. Puts one soft hand against his chest. The man stops shuffling. From out her bag Lana pulls a chunk of white rock, and points the sharp end down above the monster’s chest. Pushes aside the plastic.

Anything you want to say? she asks.

I’m sorry, the man says. He breathes in, ragged: But I know what I saw.

He’s silent after that. Lana raises up the rock, straining under the weight, and brings it down, and raises it, thumps it, again harder, and again, again. Until the monster’s ribs crack, are broken in, until the cavity created there fills with atomised red.

There’s an intense smell of pine resin in the air, like the ghost of a tree. Lana drops the rock into the hole in the body. It dashes to powder, clouds with the red. There’s a slow dissipation into the room’s AC. Lana unbuckles, removes, and tucks the doctor’s mask away. She lifts open the man’s head, slides something out.

After, you follow her down the plush, bright hall. Ms Rey slips that something into her bag. A pink oblong of crystal, but it’s too smooth. Yes you have questions, sure. Ms Rey takes off her shoes, humming some melody under her breath. Some eerie poise in the way she, lighthearted, shimmies ahead. Little toe prints on the carpet. And that smell of resin that follows you, invisible and fierce, out into the treeless heat.

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