Fingers Under Ribs

Peter 12 keeps a diary. It begins simple and straightforward, every detail necessary observation. There are no secrets in Peter 12's diary.

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4. Hag n' Dash

  "Hand it over and be quick about it."

I feel an itch on the bridge of my nose -still pulsing and bruised, broken in two places- as I sneer without really meaning to at the shriveling old hag. Her hands are riddled with bulging blue veins, popping against faded grey skin matching the droop of her wilting cheeks. Some saliva shines from the side of her lips, and an involuntary shiver of disgust cracks up my spine at the feature of physical degradation. This sad lump of whimpering flesh is what's waiting for all of us? I need me a fucking break.

Fuck. Is she hesitating out of anxiety or because she just can't go any faster? I could have burned a hole in her and taken the package half an hour ago but for some reason I got time to spare so why play along? The damn harpy made all this fucking effort to look like a stinking pile of old just to meet me. So we met at the crossing, and I offered to help her cross the road, and now she's taking that as a cue to cross me.

   "Come on, hag, I got other errands to run for shit's sake."

Finally, finally, sweet ass-licking the palm-sized package drops onto my palm and I curl my fingers around, stuffing it into an inner pocket of my faded bomber. The bitch is staring at me like I insulted her. As if a hell-demon even comprehends insult. Her nails are pitch black, gnarly and reeking of bad news. The harpy raises a hand and points one straight at my forehead, having suddenly grown considerably in height.

   "The Father of Lies is angry with you -keep your eyes open or you might lose them if you continue this ruse. Nobody escapes his wrath, not even you."

Her teeth are sharpened to a deadly point underneath the quivering lips, and that hunch from her wings is obscured by a ridiculous coat and shapeless tub-blue gown but she's taller now, larger, and I almost need to tilt my chin up to look her in the grey accident of a face. I put a hand on her shoulder, digging my fingernails into the rubbery substance of her flesh and sneered. She doesn't wince, but I can see it reflected in her milky pupils. Terror. For a split second, so fractional it barely registered, it flickered in her tiny excuse of a sentient mind.

She hissed, the saliva drooling out from between the gaps in her long, yellowed teeth.

   "Mark my words, o cursed one! You think doing these deliveries can save you? Redemption is not a possibility for those who fall into his clutches."
Spittle lands on my cheeks, stinging the flesh with its corrosive acidity. I'm gonna have to patch that or else it'll leave a mark. I ignore it, my hand close to tearing out her skin at this point. She's made her fucking point.

  "Yeah well, tell him I send all my goddamn love."

Then I push the fucking hag into the ground, feeling the buckle of her knees, the slow dull cracks of her bones until she's shoulders in, neck-deep in the cement littered with gritty gum and unidentifiable patches of filth. She sneers at me, her skin having pulled back into her neck to reveal the hateful beady eyes and pointed ears, grey replaced with a deeper shade of singed skin. ("No pun intended." I wish I had said.) She opens her mouth to protest, to scream, to curse me more than I already-fucking-am but she doesn't get to say a word before I jam my foot right onto those repulsive teeth and push downwards, feeling the vacuum force of the portal pull the bitch under.

Across the street, a man with a balding head rolls up in an ice-cream truck and plays the tune to summon the children. He catches my eye and smiles, waving a hand in what I suppose is friendly. I lift a hand and wave back, but I can't work up a smile so I just nod, feeling the corner of the package safely digging into my hip. The first child, a rollicking three-layer-tire of cheese fries and unwanted kisses, demands chilled chocolate by tossing coins onto the lowered counter. The man's smile widens, and I can't tell if its genuine or forced. Maybe both. I had recognized his face the moment I saw it. He's tomorrow's errand, after all, the next lost soul who gets to be judged and shit although everyone knows if you don't get the fast pass you never really get anywhere near the big up.

I watch as the fat kid bounces away, ice cream already half melting in the oppressive heat onto the rolls of his wrist. The man watches too, his face a perfect unreadable clown to all. Guess he didn't like that one enough. He notices me still standing across the road and decides to converse, (because of course I want him to) and says -

  "Quite the heat to beat huh, young man? Though you don't look so good yourself - want a cone? It's on me!"

Usually, free ice-cream is something you don't refuse. But I'm not about to exploit someone who's gonna pay his dues in 26 hours so I just respond in the cheeriest tone I can manage -

  "That's alright, buddy, I don't have a sweet tooth but I'll see you in hell!"

Then I turn away, leaving the man to his thoughts, and walk.

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