The Red Mattress, Part Four

 

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

Read Part Three Here

 

Jaffe cursed and whirled around, looking. The girl wasn’t with them. He turned back to face Cake. “Fuck, that fucking little—” He stopped, and his face went funny. “Something… something just punched me in the back, Cake.”

 

Even without looking, Cake knew it wasn’t a punch. “Jaffe, turn around.”

 

Jaffe did so. The scissors were there, buried halfway below his left shoulder blade. They continued to twitch in his flesh like a still-quivering crossbow bolt.

Cake didn’t bother asking permission, he just grabbed the scissors by the handles and pulled hard. Jaffe yelled and the scissors came free.

 

Then they twisted somehow in his hand. There was a flash as the blades opened and closed, snick! Cake felt the cut as a shock up his arm, then his index fingertip was tumbling away. It sounded like a dropped pickle when it hit the floor.

 

There wasn’t anything like a merciful numbness while his brain raced to catch up from the shock. The agony was immediate. In an instant he was on his knees, clutching his wounded hand and howling at the top of his lungs.

 

Dimly he heard the click, click, click of the scissors as they scurried away.

 

He held his mutilated digit in the beam of his stolen flashlight. The scissors had shortened his finger to the first knuckle. Clutching the flashlight under his chin, he rooted around in his pocket for a spare cinch-tie.

 

While Jaffe moaned and whined about his own hurt, Cake fumbled the tie around his finger and pulled it tight enough to stop the flow of blood, gritting his teeth hard against the electric jolt of pain stabbing up into his wrist and elbow. He swore against it.

 

The long end of the zip tie stuck way out, but he didn’t have any way of cutting it off right now. I need a pair of scissors, he thought. Normally, that would have made him laugh. Not this time. Ol’ Cake was definitely not feeling the laughter tonight.

 

“What the fuck, Cake,” Jaffe was saying, trying and failing to reach over his shoulder to press his hand against the leak in his back. “What the fuck.”

 

“That bitch, she played us. Got us to walk right where she wanted. Right into the fucking grinder.”

 

“What’ll we do?”

 

“She can’t have gotten far. My guess is she’s still inside the house. These woods are so thick we’d hear her crashing around in there a mile off. What we do is, we split up—”

 

“I’m not splitting up in this fucking—”

 

“She’s seen our faces, Jaffe! She knows our last names! We have to find her.” His hand was hurting really bad now.

 

“Cake, I’m hurt, I’m hurt bad, I can’t—”

 

“Yoo hoo! Oh, boys! Hello, boys!”

 

It was the girl. Cake stood, feeling wobbly. Her voice was coming from the big air vent on the far wall.

 

Cake put the finger of his non-mutilated hand to his lips and then pointed at the vent. Jaffe looked but his eyes were starting to lose focus; Cake could see that his entire back and the ass of his pants were red.

 

“How are you liking Millicent’s Scissor House, boys?” The girl’s voice sounded hollow as it echoed through the vent. “And her scissors? There’s just the one pair, don’t worry. But they get around. Remember: listen for the clicking!”

 

He listened, but not for the scissors. They could wait. Where was she? She had to be close. Maybe he could talk to her and keep her distracted long enough to send Jaffe out to grab her.

 

“I’m afraid there was one little, but important, detail I neglected to tell you about this place,” she said through the vent. “In my community we call this kind of Haunt a ‘Dark Ride.’ We bring newbies here to give them their first taste of Shriexing. See, a Dark Ride is perfectly safe, as long as you know the rules, and follow them. Like a carnival ride going along on rails, get it?”

 

Cake got it. He swore under his breath. She had played them. Probably right from the moment they took her. She’d read Cake like a book and worked on his need to be the worst thing in the dark. He should have let Jaffe have her straight off. Fuck!

 

“What do you think the rules for this Dark Ride might be? Only walk at a certain pace so you don’t attract the scissors? Stay out of certain rooms? Avoid certain color clothes? I know what the rules are. You don’t. So, I guess both of you creeps are royally fucked.”

 

You’re going to be royally fucked worse when we get our hands on you, Cake thought. And if we don’t have hands by then, we’ll use our fucking teeth. “OK, Jaffe,” he whispered. “She screwed up by sticking around to mock us; bitch should have run. I’ll keep her talking, while you—”

 

“Fuck this bitch, Cake, let’s just bolt man! Let’s get to the van and—”

 

“Keep your damned voice down!”

 

“So, what’s the right move, boys? Make a run for it? Or is that the worst thing you can do? Maybe you need to move through the house slowly. Or is it going too fast, is that the trigger that calls the scissors? Maybe you have to navigate the house like a puzzle, never using the same door twice?”

 

Jaffe raised himself up on his elbows and yelled at the vent. “Fuck you, you bitch, when I get my hands on you I’m going to rip you apart, you—”

 

“Jaffe! She’s trying to screw with our heads, man, ignore her.” She couldn’t have gone far. That’s how she disappeared so fast; she hadn’t gone far. She had to be in an adjoining room. “Come on. Get up, man, we’re going to go get her. She’s close.” What did she say was near the kitchen? The ballroom.

 

He made his way around the rows of counters and used his other hand to push open the kitchen door. His finger was a drum beaten by a wrecking ball. The hall was empty. No scissors.

 

“My hands are free, by the way,” the girl’s voice said from the vent behind him. “Nice work using plastic to bind them, you dipshits.”

 

You’re going to die screaming, he thought.

 

Jaffe wasn’t with him. Swearing, Cake stepped back into the kitchen. Jaffe was on his back, mouth opening and closing like a beached fish. A red stain was spreading slowly where he lay.

 

“Hey, Jaffe. Hey, can you hear me, man?”

 

Jaffe’s head slowly pivoted to look at him. His eyes were bloodshot. “Cake… help… heeelp…”

 

“Christ Jaffe, it’s just a goddamned poke in the back. Get up.”

 

“Heeelp… Caaaake…” His eyes bulged, and then his back arched. He seemed to spasm vertically off the floor, just as his stomach exploded in a geyser of blood. Pleading became screaming. Cake had heard enough screams in his time to drown out Hell’s concert hall, but he’d never heard anything as loud and as piercing as this. Jaffe’s arms and legs began to thrash; his palms rose up and slapped back down onto the marble. Cake heard finger bones snap.

 

Two red blades thrust up out of Jaffe’s stomach and began to snip in the direction of his crotch as if someone were opening him up from the inside.

 

The blades slipped back into his body just before reaching his pelvic bone like the fins of a shark submerging below chum-red waves.

 

A moment later and the crotch of Jaffe’s pants blossomed red. His screams were inhuman.

 

Cake couldn’t take his eyes away.

 

Jaffe screamed himself out. His breath came in ragged whoops, his head jerked and twitched in a movement not unlike the scissors themselves as he turned to look at Cake once more.

 

“Ca— Cake… it cut… my balls and dick off from the inside…”

 

“Still with me, boys?” The girl’s voice from the vent made Cake jump. “Hey, you know, maybe the key to this particular Haunt is not lingering too long in any one place. There’s a trick to it, boys, can you figure out what it is?”

 

“Fuck you, Nameless Slut! Fuck! You!” Cake shouted at the vent.

 

Jaffe bellowed as the scissor blades thrust out of his face, one from each eye. Then the blades closed shut, cutting cleanly through the bridge of his nose.

 

Cake bolted. Out of the kitchen, into the hall.

 

The girl was talking again. But this time the sound didn’t come from the air vents. It was coming from the room right across from the kitchen. Not the ballroom. Mere feet away.

 

“My hands are free, by the way,” the girl was saying. “Nice work using plastic to bind them, you dipshits.”

 

Got you, you bitch.  What did she say that room was? A sitting room. That was it. She was in there.

 

“What do you think the rules for this Dark Ride might be?” Yeah, keep talking, girl. Her voice was slightly muffled through the door, but he could hear her clear as day. “Only walk at a certain pace so you don’t attract the scissors? Stay out of certain rooms? Avoid certain color clothes? I know what the rules are. You don’t. So, I guess both of you creeps are royally fucked.”

 

Wait. She’d said that before.

 

He crept to the door and held his ear close. She was silent for a long minute. Then:

 

“So, what’s the right move, boys? Make a run for it? Or is that the worst thing you can do? Maybe you need to move through the house slowly. Or is it going too fast, is that the trigger that calls the scissors? Maybe you have to navigate the house like a puzzle, never using the same door twice?”

 

What the fuck? She’d said all of this before. She wasn’t just repeating herself, she was repeating the words, the tone, everything exactly. Like… a recording.

 

Cake opened the door fast.

 

The room was outfitted like a funeral parlor, all dark red velvets and Victorian-era chairs covered with fine layers of dust, and she stood by the rightmost wall, near an air vent. She was dressed in black, head to toe, and through her black veil he saw… what? Not the smooth young flesh of the girl, but the taut pale wrinkles of an old woman. A hideous old woman. A crone.

 

Cake stared. Then he laughed. He couldn’t help but laugh. “You lured us here on purpose, that right, Nameless Slut? This is one of those hitchhiker ghost stories, isn’t it? You pick up men on the road, bring them here? This what you really look like?”

 

Slowly, the crone smiled under her veil. Her teeth were weathered gravestones. “How are you liking Millicent’s Scissor House, boys?” she said in the voice of the girl. “And her scissors? There’s just the one pair, don’t worry. But they get around. Remember: listen for the clicking!”

 

“Yeah, fuck you too. I’m out of h—” The scissors hit him right then, taking off the thumb and index finger of his left hand. He bellowed, loud, bleating like a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse, running at the same time. Pushing his way out of the sitting room, back into the hall.

 

He didn’t get far.

 

The scissors caught him after five steps, taking the heel off his left foot, cutting rubber, leather and bone like wet tissue paper.

 

He screamed, high pitched now, fell, and crawled.

 

The scissors followed. Click, click, click. They took off a decent chunk of his left calf muscle. Then his left ear, his left cheek, the rest of his left-hand fingers.

 

Cake kept crawling, leaving a hellish slug-trail of blood along the cold marble floor.

 

By the time he reached the front door the scissors had worked through the low hanging fruit on his left side and had started on his right.

 

He managed to reach up to twist the doorknob just before the scissors took off the remaining fingers of his right hand. He pushed the door open with what remained of his face.

 

The girl was right there, on the steps. She squatted, got level with his remaining eye. “Call me ‘Nameless Slut’. Do it. Do it, fucker. Say it. Call me ‘Nameless Slut’ again.”

 

He couldn’t. The scissors were in his mouth, cutting out his tongue.

 

 

Continue to Part Five

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