Content warning:

I wasn’t sure if I should post this one. It would probably tick a lot of "do not submit" boxes on most magazines. So be warned.

***

I wanted to take his hands whenever I saw him playing the piano and hold them in mine. I don’t know why. The music he played was always very nice, not bad at all, the kind I would have played had it been me.

His fingers moving across the piano keys reminded me of an old clock at the daycare I went to when I was very young. A bearded dwarf struck his pick into the rock, again and again and again. Tick, tick, tick.

He had hair that he wore long and it fell into his face when he leaned his head forward to turn a page when he read . I always wanted to slither my hand through it and feel how silky it was. I always wondered if, when shielded for that brief moment before his hand flipped the hair back behind his shoulder, did his expression change? Did the smile slip? Did his great dark eyes, those eyes that looked good enough to eat, did they ever harden?

I admired the way he was warm and kind to everyone, so approachable that I was sometimes envious of the most ridiculous people. Once, he hugged a great ugly sheep dog that he met on a walk. He cooed and called it a good boy, and it drooled disgustingly over him. I flamed with such bitterness for that creature I could have stomped on it. Instead, I used the opportunity to touch him, dab away the drool from his chest with a tissue. Electricity tingled my hand when I touched him and blood moved in me.

His smell was like apples heated up by the sun, mixed with camomile tea, mixed with a sour, yummy smell that might be his unwashed body. He came in to my office all the time and we talked and laughed and I thought I would give good money to get my mouth on him. It made me impatient to be so near and yet so far away from what I desired.

But slowly, his charm began to fade. At first I thought it was me. I’d let my fantasy of him distort reality. But no, he was growing surly, less friendly. I swear he kicked a dog when he thought no one was looking.

Yet still he drew at me. His appearance was captivating, like a painting that changed depending on the light, always striking, and sometimes disconcerting in its likeness to my own.

When I drank my coffee, swirling its warmth in my mouth, I thought of him. When I bit into a flaky croissant, I imagined his silky skin brushing my lips.

There was a craving deep inside my belly, a hunger ache that woke me up at night so that I was constantly blinking when we talked and he asked me about it and I had to say that, "no, I am not sleeping so well these days."

He seemed tired too. Talking with him had become almost impossible. He was starting to avoid me. I could not imagine why he had become so distant. What had I done?

We spoke on the phone and he asked me some strange questions. He wanted to know what one did when one realized that ones past was beyond one’s control.

"You," he said, "you don’t understand how maddening it is when you wake up at night and think about all the events that led to this moment of you, lying there, awake. Every cause…Every effect. If my father had not crashed his car and lost his job and been unable to afford the house where we lived , then we would not have moved to this town. I would not have gone to the school I did and I would not have gotten this job, nor moved into this apartment nor bought this bed."

I wanted to ease his mind. I wanted him to relax, be calm. I would have liked to be there with him, to see this bed of his, see him in it.

I thought, what are the chances that my father too had lost his job after an accident in a car?

The next time he phoned me all I heard was breathing on the other end of the line. I held the phone to my ear as if I might feel his breath on my cheek. I knew it was him. "Hello?" I said, pretending not to know.

"Hello," he said. His voice was gruff, scratchy. Had he been smoking? I had been smoking. The corpses of the cigarettes overflowed the ashtray. I had taken it up because of him. It had given us an excuse to commune together beyond the doors of our workplace.

"I don’t know what is happening to me," he said. "I have dreams."

"So do I," I said. "So does everyone. It’s part of the human condition."

"If I am human. Sometimes I wonder…"

I laughed. It sounded more like a cough. "Of course you are. Don’t be an idiot. Are you okay? Do you want some company?"

He didn’t hear me. He was coughing too.

He said, "You know I think about you all the time."

My heart did a pitter-pat. My mouth watered. "Really?" I asked.

"Would you mind," he said. "Would you mind if I came over there? We haven’t talked in such a while. I’ve been feeling rather strange. Perhaps you’ve noticed. I think they’re going to fire me."

"I can’t imagine they’d do that. But…by all means, come over. We’ll have a drink."

When he arrived, I could not believe my eyes. He looked rough, unshaven, wild-eyed, his long hair dirty.

"Thank you," he said. Then he said, "Dear God but don’t you look like the cat’s breakfast."

It was true. I had been so concerned about him I had neglected my own appearance. I needed a trim, a wash, perhaps cleaner clothes.

We sipped scotch. He sat upon the piano bench, I on the sofa. The ashtray in here was also overflowing. We each had a cigarette, not saying much.

"Have you," he began, then cut off.

"Yes?" I could taste him, almost, like fresh game on the wind. I was quite disturbed in the most pleasurable way.

"Have you ever thought you and I could be twins?" he asked.

"Twins? I…never. No. But do you think?"

"I do, yes. You look remarkably like I do."

I shook my head and laughed and coughed. He was shaking his head, laughing too, at himself I guess, at his ridiculous idea. Twins? Indeed.

"I think that we have a connection," he said. "I feel it."

"I can agree on that. You are very tempting."

"Tempting? Yes. Yes that’s a good word. I’ve never felt such an appetite for anyone."

"Nor I."

I filled his glass and my own and sat down next to him at the piano. I played a gentle scale up the keys.

"You know," he said. "Your hands remind me of this odd clock belonging to an old lady I used to stay with. I think she looked after me when my parents were at work. I cannot remember exactly."

He played a scale too, note for note the same. I took his hand and held it as I had always wanted. I felt his heartbeat in his fingertips. It mingled with my own.

"You know what is murderously funny," he said. "Our names. The fact we have the same names."

We both laughed, but I believed we were both a little uncomfortable.

"Hilarious," I said. The knife fell down my sleeve and the tip clinked against the glass of scotch in my hand. Almost at the same time I heard a second clink and his fingers flexed in mine.

He released my hand. My body thrummed urgently. Now! Do it now!

I set down the glass of scotch on the piano and twisting back, let the handle of the knife fill my palm. I plunged the blade into his side and felt him spasm against me. At the same time, a tremendous pain pierced my own side.

I slid the knife free and welcomed the spurt of blood. Then I slammed the knife into him again, and cried out as I felt another jolting pain wrench at me. Colours sparkled behind my eyes.

We wrestled onto the floor and I began to carve him. But my muscles were strangely feeble.

The first bite of his sticky flesh slithered down my throat and a burst of warmth lit me. My hunger was being sated. At last.

I was growing very sleepy. I should not be. I should be wide awake with the thrill of it all, my desires finally being fulfilled, but there was an iciness inside me, a growing cold.

Then, I was outside my body entirely, hovering above the room, looking down at the single body that lay there, the one knife, the one glass of scotch set upon the piano.

I did not understand. I could not understand. I would not understand.

The hunger roared. I cut again, slicing hot, juicy chunks of meat from his body, devouring them like the tender morsels they were.

I was in a frenzy. I was indulging myself on his beauty, his body, his skin under my teeth, his blood on my tongue.

At last, I relaxed, grew slack. I was satiated like the lion who had gorged itself on a gazelle and then must sleep. I basked in the feeling of fullness.

Do lions feel such an icy sleep? Or is that the sleep of the gazelle?

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Edmonton-based writer of scifi, fantasy, horror, and other weird fictions. No publication credits. Read at your own risk.

One Comment on “Story 5: The Lion and The Lion

  1. Pingback: The Five Stories That Almost Work | Garret Johnston

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