Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 41

his cousin Ralphy "gave" him that

Mike Marble Mike Marble
Recommendations: 1

Spelling: "Ralphy cave...." vs. "Ralphy gave...."

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 37

He learned? back... should be leaned back.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 37

'woolen coat?' should be woollen coat.

Mike Marble Mike Marble
Recommendations: 1

"...as if the smile was broken." Nice.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 37

before- ? No dash I think?

Brianna Fronce Brianna Fronce
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That's so true. I hate it when people think they're better than everyone else, like nothing's wrong with them.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 37

If you wanted a break betweem sentences, I think that * should be 3 *** ? correct me if I am wrong.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 37

Another comment. With the flashback, you could perhaps do the flashbacks in italics? a suggestion only.

Mike Marble Mike Marble
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"Its voice sounded like the chorus of many chainsaws in motion...." Great imagery.

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Jason Dookeran Jason Dookeran
Recommendations: 12

The Smile of a Broken Man


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The Canterbury Mansion

This writing contains explicit content and is only for adults. You have been warned.

This isn't the usual kinda things I write, but I just had to write about this. I needed to for some reason inside me. I'm not sure why, but I hope you guys and girls enjoy it. It's dark and creepy. Consider yourself fairly warned.


THE SMILE OF A BROKEN MAN
The sun cast long shadows across the playground as the children there ran about in the freedom that comes with being one so young. A gust of cold wind ran along the alleys of the buildings that surrounded the play park and caused a few of the young ones to shiver. Across the road, Marco put his hands in his pocket and felt about for a cigarette. He cursed himself; he had given up the habit some time ago, but during the tense moments like these, he was apt to reach into his pocket in homage to the man he used to be before he gave up smoking. It was a dirty habit anyway, but then again, weren't all habits dirty in some way?
His eyes followed a little girl in the playground, She was relatively tall for her age; he guessed her to be around eleven. Her brown hair reflected the setting sun brilliantly, the copper hue contrasting with the pale skin of her face. Her eyes were a deep, piercing blue; the kind that would cause your breath to catch in your chest if she so much as cast a gaze in your direction. Her mouth was perfectly made for smiling and she used it to that end a lot. Marco had been watching her for weeks.
He was a nondescript worker in a nondescript parcel transport company. He had been a smoker for most of his life; ever since his cousin Ralphy gave him that first cig when he was fifteen. His addictive personality combined with the timid nature of the man meant that he would be a smoker for all his life. That had changed when he decided he wanted to get clean. He leaned back on the bench as the sun cast its elderly rays over him as he remembered the first day he met Marco.
*
"I want to quit," the man had said. "Honestly, I want to quit." 3 comments


"Some people say they want to quit," the man at the front of the room said, "and sometimes they're even serious. Quitting means making a decision and sticking with it."


The room was full of affirmative murmurs.


"This program was designed to empower smokers who want to quit by giving them the power to do it," the man continued. "We have divided you up into pairs and you are to meet your partner at least twice a week to go over stories and encourage each other. It's a commitment, lads and ladies, give it your best."


The requisite claps followed along with the swell of the crowd's voices intermingling with each other. Marco looked at the gathering; there were old men, young men, old women, young women, and even some teenagers, all of them with the haunted look of someone who was going through serious withdrawal symptoms. They shook, coughed, scratched at imaginary itches, and a hundred other symptoms; clear signs that yes, they were getting clean but under no circumstances were they enjoying the process.


"Sad, isn't it?" a deep male voice said from his shoulder.


Marco turned to look at the man beside him. He was taller than Marco by a head, with stubble growing out of his chin and face. His eyes were a dark grey and his face was the color of dirty parchment. He looked positively happy though; the complete opposite of the people who had come to see about kicking their rampant tobacco habit. 1 comment


"I'm Julian," the man said, holding out his hand.


Marco took his hand and grunted his name noncommittally.


"That's a good, strong name," Julian said as he shook Marco’s hand. "Your first time here?"


"Yeah," Marco said. He wasn't sure what to make of this man or if he even wanted to quit. Smoking seemed to make bearing life so much easier not to mention the minor high he got after doing it.


Julian looked around the room. "These people," he said, shaking his head. "They're doing it all wrong."


"What d'you mean?" Marco asked.


"How they're going about this thing," Julian replied. "It's the worst way anyone can even think about stopping a habit. Especially one as ingrained as smoking."


"You have a better way?" Marco said half-jokingly.


"I do actually," Julian said, tapping the side of his mouth with his index finger. "The best way to kick a habit is to get another to replace it that's just as appealing or more so."


"Oh, I see," Marco said. "Forget 'bout smoking; let's just do crystal meth instead!"
Julian smiled sheepishly. "I know it sounds like that, but I assure you it isn't."
"Then what do you mean?" Marco enquired.


Julian thought for a moment. "Take for example, if you have a bad habit of masturbating. It doesn't help you a lot, but it sure feels good. Now let's hypothetically say you got a girlfriend and had sex with her. Sex is a lot more healthy, and you get to share with someone else, and in comparison, masturbation just doesn't cut it. Thus you cure yourself of the so-called unhealthy habit of masturbating by replacing it with the somewhat healthier pass-time of having sex."


Marco nodded. "I think I get it," he said. "So what did you replace your smoking with?"
Julian smiled. "Well since we're partners, I'll fill you in the next time we meet, let's say eight-ish next Tuesday?"


Marco nodded and Julian handed him a scrap of paper.


"My number's on that, you can call me if you're having problems," Julian said. "Next Tuesday mate."


The Tuesday came upon him rather suddenly and he only realized he had to meet Julian as he was leaving work that day. Glancing down at his watch he called the man.


After two rings, Marco heard the click of the phone being answered. "Hello?" Julian asked in a happy tone.


"Hello Julian," Marco said.


"Marco, right?" Julian replied, "From the smoker's thing?"


"You recognized me rather quickly," Marco said, a smile coming to his lips.


"Well, I didn't make plans with anyone else for this Tuesday," Julian said jokingly. "What's up?"


"I was wondering what you had planned for today?" Marco asked.


"There's a deli at the corner of Brixton and Fifth..." Julian started.


"I know the place," Marco interjected. He had always thought the place looked seedy but the seedy establishments usually had the best to offer in terms of food.


"Good," Julian said, cutting into his reverie. "Meet me there around four this evening."


"Got it," Marco said. "See you then."
*
The sun was going down and the girl he had been watching walked out of the playground and he got up to follow her. She had the gait of a girl who was going home to parents and a family. She had a smile on her face as she skipped down the road. The dying rays of the sun glinted from behind buildings, casting shards of yellow-orange sunlight onto the road. Happily she skipped over these.


Marco walked behind her slowly, keeping her in his peripheral vision, but never getting too close. She looked back over her shoulder once or twice but didn't see anything alarming. Once she even noticed Marco, who waved at her. She waved back giving him a girlish smile.


He had been taught as a young adult that when a child smiles at you, it was good form to smile back. Children didn't know how cruel and unforgiving the world was and it was up to the adults to keep this charade up for as long as possible. He never saw the point in hiding the filth of the earth from the children who would one day inherit it. Still it came in handy; it was something he could use in his 'toolbox'. He smiled to himself as he remembered the first time he heard it used in this context.


Julian was sitting by the window, nursing what looked like a black coffee. Marco slid into the seat next to him, his black woolen coat making nary a sound as his rear end swiped along the gaudy plastic seat. 1 comment


"Glad you could make it," Julian said, blowing the top of his Styrofoam cup.


"Thought I might have been late," Marco admitted.


Julian waves dismissively. "It's not like we have a particular time we have to be there."


"Where?" Marco said, his curiosity rising.


"You'll see," Julian said, casting him a small smile.


Marco nodded solemnly. He wasn't about to argue with someone who might be instrumental in helping him kick smoking once and for all. He noticed that when Julian smiled, the smile seemed to come from his eyes, but it seemed muted somehow; as if the smile was broken. He had seen that selfsame smile once before- in a girl he used to know that had become addicted to crystal meth. Now when she smiled, she looked like a death's head. Even though Julian's face looked much more normal, there was something about the haunted look in their eyes that held constant. 2 comments


Julian sipped the cup, staring out into the street as people bustled by outside the dirty window. "Look at them," he said.


"Who?" Marco asked.


"Them," he said, raising his hand and waving unspecific ally. "All of them, the living, breathing crap of the world. They think they're above their baser instincts, but they really aren't." 1 comment


"What do you mean?" Marco asked.


"Most of them aren't even really living," Julian said, "they simply exist. Simply living out their impossibly short, inevitably uneventful lives in comfort without ever exploring the wider world or even their deeper senses. They're subjugated by the world they live in."


"I suppose you're right," Marco said carefully.


"Take your smoking habit," Julian said after a particularly long sip of coffee. "You're a slave to your own body. Nicotine is a drug that gets you physically addicted to a high that only it can give to you. As a result you keep coming back time and time again in order to get back that same feeling. Only the feeling changes because Nicotine is a liar and a cheat. You feel great the first few times but after that you waste money and time trying to recapture that first feeling but you can't; it never comes back."


"You can say that about any drug," Marco pointed out.


Julian nodded as he sipped his coffee again. "Any drug. Acid. Weed. Even alcohol. All of them exist to give you a fleeting feeling and then take it back. They work to keep you chasing a dream."


Marco nodded. This was making sense to him. he remembered how the first drag he had taken way back in high school had felt to him and how much hours and money he had spent trying to get back that feeling until he realized one day he was no longer doing it because of the draw for the high but because he just simply could not stop. "So how do you break the habit?"


"By replacing it with something that gives you the thrill and rush, but one that doesn't die out over time," Julian said, a sinister light shining in his eyes as he moves his gaze to hold Marco's. "There are things you can do that will give you a level of satisfaction you can't get anywhere else."


"Are you talking about wood crafting?" Marco said in an unsure tone. "I don't do crafts well."


Julian smiled at him. "What we are doing has more of a...human element to it than wood crafting. You can call it psychological crafting if you so wish. It's interesting really..."
"I don't understand," Marco said.


Julian nodded as he sipped the Styrofoam cup again. "You will, I'm sure you will. Now, every craftsman has tools right? There are two kinds of tools: tools of the trade, and tools that help the trade. For example, take a carpenter. He has a hammer and nails for building, but he also has a tape. The tape doesn't actually do anything to the thing he's building but it gives him an idea of how big it is and how much he has to manipulate it to get what he wants, right?"


"I guess so," Marco said, barely grasping the concept, but hanging on to it with the tips of his mental fingers.


"Just trust me on this one,' Julian said. “You already have tools that you don't even know about."


"If you say so," Marco said, thoroughly lost now.


Julian glanced at the sky. "Let's go," he said, tossing down a handful of change to tip the waitress. Meekly Marco followed him out of the diner, under the grey, unforgiving sky.


* 2 comments


Marco noticed the little girl he had been following skipping down into an abandoned subway station. He had seen her go there once or twice before; he thought it was probably a shortcut to her way home. Kids had this innate sense of finding shortcuts in places where they ought not to exist. He remembered as a kid how he would pass through a supposedly solid stand of trees that would cut his walk home in almost half. Sure it was trespassing, but the guy who owned the woodland was barely ever around.


Even when he was grown up he could find shortcuts with relative ease. He felt it was a throwback to those days of trying to find the shortest and most efficient way to do things. It usually allowed him to do a lot more with his time. He was the master of time management in high school; sometimes being able to do four or five hobby-related activities at the same time. He suspected that if he had friends he might even have had time to hang out with them.
He walked over to the steps and peered down, the dying light fading into a semi gloom at the bottom of the staircase. The old metal bars that lined the stairs were rusted and pitted with marks of violence. Marco wrinkled his nose, expecting the smell of unwashed human to come flooding to him. These kinds of places were the kinds of places one would expect to find the remnants of society huddling for protection from the elements and making their nests. There was no smell aside from the scent of moss and the wetness. He could also detect the faint whiff of something different; something strange.


He shook his head and to clear it and the dank under-smell disappeared. He could hear her footfalls echoing down the dark passageway and hurried after her, slipping his hand into his pocket to extract a bit of cloth and a clear bottle with a clear liquid. As he disappeared into the dark passage rain started to patter down outside, reminding him of that first time with Julian.


*
They had followed this girl, a bright young thing of the age of seven or so, from a playground near to the one he had frequented today. As they were walking Julian had told him about many things about blending in with his background and looking nondescript. As the evening wore on and they started stalking the girl, he had started to get a little antsy.
"I don't like this," he said to Julian.


"Relax," Julian said as he chewed on a toothpick he had snagged from the diner. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to. This is for my replacement habit, not necessarily yours. You can stay here and stand watch."


The girl they had been following ducked into the shelter of one of the abandoned buildings at the edge of the industrial district. Julian and Marco watched her go and huddle in the eaves as the rain started to patter down harder. Slipping his hand into his pocket, Julian withdrew a cloth, and smiled at Marco. "Come on mate," he said, grinning manically. "Showtime!"


In a heartbeat he had crossed the deserted street, Marco following after him. The girl was looking into the middle-distance and didn't see Julian coming. He slipped the cloth securely over her mouth and nose and she resisted and fought for a few seconds before she melted, limp in his arms. He took her along the edge of the building as the rain started pouring down heavier. Kicking the metal door along the rear of the building he dragged the girl's form inside. Marco stared at him until he disappeared and then turned around to look out.
It was about a half hour before he started hearing muted cries, a mixture of terror and pain. Her voice became stronger as whatever Julian had used to sedate the girl wore off. He could hear her voice cry out and a couple slaps. He could hear her start to cry and her voice becoming hoarse with the strained treatments to her implacable foe. 1 comment


It had become too much for Marco and he threw a glance toward the road to make sure no one was coming. Outside the thunder crashed and the wind howled, covering up the small cries of the girl. Marco brushed a bit of old plastic aside, peering into the semi-twilight of the warehouse to see Julian having his way with the little girl. He could see the tears mixed with the blood from her mouth where Julian had slapped her no doubt. He was naked form the waist down, taking her innocence one thrust at a time. Marco found himself staring at the sight like a man transfixed. He knew he should be revolted at the sight but he was...dare he say it...excited.


At the height of his pleasure, he saw Julian snatch up a metal bar lying nearby and buried it into the little girl's head with an inhuman bellow. Then there was silence. Marco felt his insides quiver at the sight of the little girl's blood pooling around the prone body and he found that he wasn't bothered by it. Julian looked up and saw him staring in at the sight.


With a smile, Julian took up a scissor and cut off a lock of hair from the now dead child. "For posterity," he said with a grin.


As Marco followed this little girl into the darkened subway he realized that he had been thinking about his first meetings with Julian. His habit had grown from being just a spectator to a participant. Julian's tastes were varied; he liked girls and boys but usually ones less than ten years old. Marco found that his taste ventured towards the older set; those between eleven and thirteen. They stirred something in him that others could not.
As he rounded the corner with his chloroform cloth gripped firmly behind his back in one of his hands he came face to face with the little darling he had been following. She smiled at him and he smiled back.


"I know why you've been following me," she said.


"Oh," Marco sa9id with an air of surprise. "I haven't been following you." 1 comment


She looked at him and in that look Marco felt his blood run cold in his veins. "Bullshit," she said.


"You shouldn't be using that sort of language little girl," Marco said as he took a step closer. Only a few steps away from covering her mouth and nose with his cloth and then dealing with her.


"My name is Nell," she said to him, "and you were thinking it. I just spoke it out loud."


"You're not old enough to be using grownup language like that," Marco said, taking another step towards her. Three more steps he estimated.


"You are a filthy, pathetic man," Nell said and she narrowed her eyes.


Marco looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "If you don't stop insulting me I'll have to do something about it," he said.


"You were going to do something to me anyway," she said. "Just like Julian."


"How do you..." Marco started.


"You were thinking about him as you followed me here," Nell said with a shrug. "You think very loudly, you know that?"


"You can read thoughts?" Marco asked, now feeling a bit uneasy.


"Not me," Nell said. "Hiro can read thoughts."


"Who is Hiro?" Marco said. He took another step towards her. She was just trying to throw him off his game, he thought. He had to keep focused.


That still didn't explain the crack about Julian, his mind reminded him. He shook his head to clear it. He had to get this done. He needed his fix.


Nell smiled at him. "You'll meet Hiro, don't worry," she said.


"I would like to very much," Marco said again, taking another step towards her.


"Somehow I doubt that," Nell said.


In a flash Marco covered the distance between him and the girl and put his hand with the chloroform over her mouth and nose, holding it firmly there, waiting for her to struggle. She didn't fight at all, just stood there as he clamped the cloth and held onto it and her. She wasn't moving but her muscles were still taut. She was still standing. What was more, her musical laughter echoed out from behind the cloth.


"Are you done, Marco?" she asked him.


He took a step back defensively. "How do you know my name?" he asked.


She shook her head. "You're a bit thick, aren't you?" she asked. Her eyes glowed a light blue color as she looked hard at him. "You think way too loudly. I could hear your name all the way from across that bench you sat looking at me for a week. I knew what you wanted to do; what you have done to those twelve girls before me."


"Wait..." Marco began to say.


"The time for waiting is done," Nell said, and he could hear a kind of insectoid undertone to it. It was no longer sweet and childlike. Indeed, it did not even sound human. "I dealt with Julian, and now I will deal with you. Someone needs to clean house."


Marco opened his mouth but nothing came, save a tendril of shadow that entered his throat. Suddenly his oxygen was constricted and he could scarcely take breath. He clawed in vain at his throat trying to clear whatever it was had him there. Suddenly, it released him. So taken up with his lack of breath that he didn't realize he had been lifted off the floor. He fell with a thud, the impact knocking the wind out of him.


Nell moved towards him, suspended from the floor in a halo of blue light, emanating from her eyes. Behind her was a pair of dark, shadowy hands, each ending in five needle-like fingers. They seemed to be made out of smoke. They flitted about idly as she floated towards Marco. He struggled to sit up then kicked back to move away from this demon-child.


"Wh-what are you?" he asked.


"I am retribution," the thing-that-was-once-a-girl said. Its voice sounded like the chorus of many chainsaws in motion, a harsh, grating noise that made Marco cringe just to hear it. There was no more of the little girl's voice in that hard, buzzing sound. 1 comment


"D-don't kill me," Marco pleaded. "I'll be good, I promise!"


The shadow-child shook its head. "Your time for being good has long gone, Marco. I have seen your thoughts and have judged you on them. This night will be your last, but it shan't end quickly. Death comes for ye, but he's walking. I'm already here."


Nell's suspended feet touched the ground and from behind her, the misty shadow started solidifying, with more smoke-like substance pouring out of her and taking shape behind her, like an extended shadow. In a matter of minutes a dark, tall, humanoid creature stood behind her. Its skin was totally black, like the shadow it had come from, with a grotesquely elongated face. Large black eyes dominated it and there was a tiny slit near the bottom that Marco assumed was probably a mouth. Its arms went down almost to the floor with its legs bent as knees that pointed the wrong way.


Nell looked up at him. "Told you that you wouldn't like to meet him," she said in her childlike voice. "Break him Hiro. Break the bad man."


In the dark of the subway, no one heard Marco’s screams, and when they went silent forever, the world was slightly enriched as a result. Nell walked out of the subway with a smile on her face, one more bad man dead, and Hiro once more fed for another week. 1 comment


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