A selection from my horror/fantasy novel: Mehpistopolis

Mephistopolis is a literary horror novel with strong fantasy elements, weaving the tale of the city’s leader, The Abandoner, through the stories of people from all walks of life who are mysteriously drawn to the city, unknowingly given a chance to atone for their sins.

Mephistopolis takes us on many personal journeys, poses to the reader the question “What is evil?” (And questions the ideas [and ideals] of religion.)

While many chapters focus on people who are just like you and me, this one focuses on a possibly familiar famous person (and persona), from the world of the elite nouveau riche and faux  famous…

This chapter has a slow boil to it…for something a bit more to the point, try this POST.

Mephistopolis is available on Barnes & Noble (no nook or Kindle needed).

Chapter 7.

Hjördís Larisdottir, The Influencer

The first thing Hjördís noticed on the empty train ride as the cars began to pull toward Mephistopolis was that the water of the adjacent river was green.  A deep, uninviting, perhaps toxic, green.  This came as a shock, especially since all the waters of her home were such a delicious crystal blue.

Hjördís was also surprised—and comforted—when the conductor spoke Icelandic.  She hugged her dog and sighed.

As she made her way through Mephistopolis for the first time, now almost 25 years ago, Hjördís was taken aback at the many bauble shops, book stores, and river bay eateries that all seemed to be owned, managed, and visited by the people of her homeland.

Iceland is not a large place, nor is it overly populated.  Nowhere else in the world—and she had been all over the world—would a person expect to see such a congregation of Icelanders.  It was almost as if the city knew she was coming and prepared itself for her arrival.

All in all, it was welcome comfort on this journey.  The first in her life that she didn’t plan, or over-plan.

As the only daughter of the owner of the Eastern Icelandic Bank (A misnomer, as the first bank opened in Reykjavik, which sat in the southwestern portion of the island, albeit somewhat east of two well-established banks; there are today forty-six branches throughout Europe), Hjördís had been spoiled her whole life.

H.J., as she became known in her many travels through western Europe and the U.S., once lived a life as part of the plugged-in high-society antisocial twenty-something princess elite.  A world where urban myths are started and perverse dreams come true everyday for people who have nothing better to do with their time.

H.J.’s friend and platinum blonde twin Sylvan—the ingénue who made headlines quitting her successful t.v. show halfway through the season when a movie studio bought out her contract—purchased a small, swank spa and hotel on the Riviera just on a lark.  She flew out H.J., the two cute guys from that boy band, and Brad, Dennis, J., Kay-P and the rest of the In Crowd.

By the end of that weekend, several things had happened that Hjördís would never forget.

First, there was the video that got to the Internet.  Depending on who you ask, it ruined careers or made a few.  One thing’s for certain, if Hollywood had tried to get that many celebrities together in one film, let alone naked, it would’ve cost one-hundred-million easy.  Thanks to the tape, each of those stars, individually, were able to command pretty hefty salaries—some would be flash-in-the-pans, others would be smart enough to ride the wave far longer.

Then there was the fact that DJ Zinguh, who had just signed a film contract himself, disappeared.  He had last been seen on the beach, drunk and/or high, making out with H.J.  No two stories matched, so it’s anybody’s guess what happened.  Although his body has yet to wash up on any shore, it’s likely that it went out to sea that night.  Foul play was not suspected.  Hjördís was exonerated in a matter of days.

At one point, an interesting discussion was happening on the roof of the southern-most bungalow of the spa.  The spoiled children of the world were discussing their travels and the most exciting places they had been to.  One woman had mentioned a place called Mefistofele (she had the Italian appellation incorrect).  She hadn’t been there; she simply heard of it as an astounding place of debauchery and violence.  Her father, once a prime minister in France, had purportedly visited.  She told the crowd that her father was now living in Canada. . .but this was false.  Whether she knew that or not remains to be seen.  When she finished listing the details of what she knew, another of the elite piped in, saying he too had heard of it.  No one knew where this alluring city was but all wanted to visit.  H.J., in her thirst for experiences unmatched by others, seemed to be the most determined.  (H.J. has not seen any of her old friends in Mephistopolis but, as it turns out, more than one of them have indeed made their way in.)

Another unexpected occurrence then followed, an occurrence which led to places H.J. would never have seen her life going.  It was the arrival of Toby Best.  Son of a billionaire, sonnuva somethin’ else too.  He showed up toward the end of day 2 of the party.  It was around eleven-thirty at night, local time, and he only showed because he was certain H.J. would be there.  Toby would have arrived sooner but was delayed by two last-minute business meetings which earned he and his father’s company a cool ten million in the course of 24 hours.

When Toby did arrive, he immediately found out where H.J. was: sharing “a little 420” in the steam room with several other naked, smooth, sweaty bodies.  Toby, being the bizarre and sort of prickly young man that he is, burst in wearing his suit and was soon talked down to his undershirt, boxer shorts, and silky socks (this ensemble, such as it was, cost as much as the first-class flight to the Riviera).

Toby flirted incessantly with H.J.  And she didn’t mind it.  She had no interest in Toby, but she enjoyed his promises and corny pick-up lines.  He wasn’t bad to look at, and he was funny to boot.  Nevertheless, he was over thirty and, thus, of no interest to H.J., who was a “demure” twenty-one.

H.J. and Toby did their dance for some time; their friends slowly emptied out of the steam room.  When it was just the two of them, Toby’s strong exterior began to break down.

“So, seriously. . .tell me what I would have to do to get you to go out on a date with me.”  He almost had a southern drawl, but he’d spent too much time in California.

Flat on her back and looking at the ceiling, H.J. licked her lips and closed her eyes.  Smiling she said, “There’s nothing to tell, Toby.  I’m just not into you.”

Toby loved that thick Icelandic accent of hers.  It drove him wild. . .and he was pretty sure she knew it.  “Bullshit.  You’re laying here naked in front of me.  If I weren’t such a gentleman,” he paused and slid a finger along his eyebrow and continued the motion to bring his fingers through his hair.  “Well, let’s just say, I could pretty much do what I want.”

H.J. opened her eyes and then also her legs.  She sat up, straddling the bench she was laying upon.  “Oh, really?  So I should appreciate your gentlemanly generosity and reward you, hm?”

He cocked his head as he smiled wryly.  “Oh yes.  I believe you should.”

She thought about it for a second, leant back, allowing Toby a full view of her supple body, wet and ready for him—should she choose to offer it.  “No.  Sorry.”

“So then we’re back to my first question. . .What would I have to do?”

Suddenly her eyebrows popped up and she smiled a gleeful, playful smile.  Her little nose wrinkled and those perfect cheekbones glowed.  “I know!” She was standing then, wrapping her towel around herself.  “I want you to make a sacrifice to me!  Kill ten male virgins in my name. . .and then we’ll talk!”

Hjördís walked out of the room laughing. . .but Toby was not exactly known for his sense of humor.

Three months later, Hjördís received a phone call.  It was Toby. . .and she had no idea what he was talking about when he said he’d “done what he was told.”  Proof would be provided, should she want it.  Toby couldn’t see that, on the other end of the line, H.J. had wrinkled her forehead wondering why he would even call her, let alone done anything he was told.

She responded to his “news” with a curt “Huh?”

Toby, although alone when he called, whispered “The Virgins.  The male virgins you said. . .you know.”

Her mind went back immediately; she knew what he meant.  Her heart sank and her face felt warm.  Toby was not joking.  Toby was probably psychotic.  But, no, there’s no way he had done what he was saying he’d done.  Hjördís get a hold of herself.  She realized this was some kind of joke, she was being “Punked.”  She decided to laugh and be intrigued by the idea.  He probably found a way around her request – killed ten male fish who hadn’t mated or something.
She kiddingly asked for the proof, never expecting to receive the large crate which arrived four days later.

Sent via a special delivery service, from Los Angeles to South Beach, where H.J. was sharing an expansive, decadent condo with Sylvan, the crate nearly covered the expensive Indian carpet in the foyer.  She had “some man” open the crate for her.  Once he went off, she removed the straw and bubble wrap herself and found carefully preserved remains.  Ten arms. . .ten penises.

The arms:

Under some straw and bubble wrap, H.J. came upon a pile of rubber-banded white plastic bags.  They weren’t terribly thick bundles; she went about removing the rubber bands, careful not to damage whatever contents she was about to find.  Holding the first bundle in her delicate tanned hand, she had thought that it felt like an arm.  But the idea was an incredible one—an incredulous one.  As Hjördís unrolled the bag, it felt more and more like the appendage she had immediately assumed it was. . .and she fought the urge to vomit.

Halfway unrolled, little flakey pieces of something or other began snowing out of the bag, falling onto the floor, mostly gathering in the square shape of sunshine which was cast through the tall window there in the foyer.  Sitting in the tiled entranceway behind the large crate, she awkwardly cradled the bag in one hand, feeling the weight of it press into her palm softly, and continued the unrolling, the unwrapping.  Some of the dark flakes sprinkled her knees.  Hjördís jumped.  She poked her head in close and looked at the flakes.  They were green.  She pressed her palm to the floor where the majority of the little flecks had gathered.  Bringing her hand to her nose, Hjördís sniffed.

Chopped mint leaves.  To cover the scent of death perhaps.

H.J. held the bag at its bottom corners.

Inside that stuffy plastic bag with the liberated limb: You’d think the arm didn’t want to go.  The fingers, somewhat bent and atrophied, skipped along the plastic folds as if they were offering resistance, hanging on for dear life.  The plastic itself was vacuum-tight against portions of the skin—Toby’s firm packing had caused condensation along the top of the arm where, in life, sweat probably beaded up moments if not seconds before death found the appendage’s owner.  As the skin of the arm peeled itself loose from the white-sticky plastic, sounds resembling a boot sloshing through puddles of rain accompanied the arm’s fall toward the floor—where the smell of mint waited invitingly.  The arm tumbled past the flaying edges of the bag; it landed heavily, with a dull thump.

There was no blood, not even dried.  It looked as if Toby had burned the shoulder-end of the arm and sealed it with something.  (Hjördís would learn the word “cauterize” at the trial and found he’d performed the act with an iron—the sealant was a dense spray used to protect furniture in harsh weather.)

Hjördís was getting overwrought; the corners of her mouth pulled down as if by strings.  A slight sneer crossed her face.  She was disgusted.  Sickened.  Frightened and more than a little dumbfounded.  The smell of dead flesh found its way through the mint, and she wanted to cry, to heave.  But more than being fearful and somewhat aghast, young, pristine H.J. was. . .curious.

She went to work on opening the rest.

The other arms, much like the first, were smooth and completely blemish-free—some were hairless, all clearly belonged to young men.  She reveled in the curiosity, in being so in-touch with the deaths of these strangers.  It was a cruel world Toby had escorted her into, and it was an amazing one to her.  As much as Hjördís knew what the right thing to do was—rifling through the remains of the dead certainly not being it—she couldn’t help herself.  And, by the fourth lanky appendage, she had a careful system worked out for unwrapping the arms.  It wasn’t long before she had unwrapped and examined each and every one, looking closely at the hair, the freckles and beauty marks, examining the folds on the fingers and on the palms.  It was an amazing experience.

If only there were more. . .and there was.

The penises:

Wrapped individually in plastic, tied with unused garbage bag ties; they were packaged like dime bags of cocaine.  Hjördís found it interesting how small these things were now that they were unattached from what, in some cases, she had imagined were tall, sexy young men.  She didn’t unwrap a single one—and the one small bag she had picked up she quickly dropped back into the crate after it had looked like something moved (in reality, it was simply the settling of spoiling raw flesh).

Hjördís called the police as soon as the wave of morbid curiousness passed.  A nine-one-one recording would verify that she was possibly in shock.  Repeating, robotically, certain points over and over again, she talked-out to the operator what she had found.  During her vivid description she went from shock to stone cold fear, and the operator very definitely heard her throw-up.

It didn’t take long for the full story to hit the local then the national news.

The resulting trial destroyed the Best family business, and the Best family itself.  Hjördís refused blame.  “Only a maniac like Toby would take me seriously.”

Long before the thirteen months in between her phone call to the police and the day Toby was sent to life in prison (his life spared thanks to a team of very expensive lawyers), H.J. changed the way she lived her life.

Hjördís had fully realized her life-lesson.  Yes, receiving that crate taught Hjördís something about people, life, and the world at large—namely, that with nothing more than a sly stance and a sexy smile she could control it all. . .

When, at age 28, she felt the call of Mephistopolis, H.J. did something unexpected: she went and purchased a Papillion.  Bowtie, named for the pasta noodle not the accoutrement, was a symbol of her American sensibilities.  The purchase, the very idea of the creature at this point, was self-indulgent.  This was of no real concern to H.J., who delighted in the pup’s inability to stop itself from licking the perfume off of her neck.  That in itself endeared the little rascal to its new owner immediately—in part because H.J. enjoyed hearing herself laugh her oh-so-marvelous laugh.

Bowtie was bought simply to serve as some company for the sojourn.  Originally, Hjördís had no plans to keep the dog, rationalizing she’d be too busy dating new men to take care of it (in actuality, she had just expected to prefer to be busy with men and also had little interest in having dog hair on her new furniture).  H.J. even hired someone to walk little Bowtie at every train stop along her journey (a fruitless procedure, as Bowtie much preferred to “doodle” on the seats of the train and “wee” just about anywhere else).

In a lucky stroke that saved the Hired Hand from an ugly fate in Mephistopolis—where she did not belong—Bowtie got away from the girl.  Two stops before the “River” stop, which was but a walking distance from the city limits of Mephistopolis, Bowtie had run up some steps to another train platform, and the young girl followed, trying to get a hold of the leash that had slipped her grasp.  While the hired girl was reaching the top of the steps, little Bowtie had run down another set just several meters away from the first set.  The girl heard the warning buzz of the closing train doors and, stunned from the loss of the dog, didn’t know what to do.  By the time she made the choice to run to the train, it was too late.  The doors were closed and it was pulling out.  The girl’s employer was more than miffed that Her Girl didn’t make it back to the train.  Little Bowtie, however, was laying comfortably on Hjördís’s lap—only slightly out of breath, leash still dangling from his neck

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