Macon grimaced as he peeled the tattered shirt open. No matter how he tried, he could never get used to the pain. Or the smell of blood. In the mirror, he could barely see his purple, swollen face. The slightest touch brought another whimper from his lips that he struggled to suppress. Muted cries, breaking glass, thumps, and smacks sounded outside the bathroom door. A shiver passed through his body, and Macon squeezed his eyes shut. Or tried to. That simple action caused him to wince and feebly wipe at the snot bubbling from his nose. Tears streamed down his face.
“You fucking whore, I—” His father’s voice cut off as a blow landed.
“Stop, please, stop,” Macon’s mother whimpered.
“Shut the fuck up, bitch.” Another blow followed by a crash.
Macon covered his ears, but the beating would not stop. Neither would his mother’s wailing. Then, as if hearing the pleas within his mind, her voice cut off to a choking sound.
Heavy footsteps stamped through the house, every few followed by a dull bump. From the sounds, his father was dragging something. Macon eased the door open and peeked.
Booted feet disappeared into the entrance to the cellar down the hall before he could tell who it was. Oh God, did he kill Mommy? Oh, God, Oh God! Loud noises and bangs sounded from below, too much like gunshots. His father kept his hunting rifle down there. Oh, God! Footsteps headed back upstairs.
Macon wanted to flee, but there was nowhere to go. Not out here at his father’s lake house near a secluded corner of Norway’s Lake Jostle. He knew what he’d find if he cleared the cloudiness and frost from the bathroom’s tiny window. Darkness and a white blanket that stretched unbroken for miles. The snowstorms had been constant the past week, dropping at least six feet of snow. His father always seemed to know when they would be the worst, and chose then to come to the lake house. Macon inched the door closed, again hoping his father did not hear the click from the lock. No such luck.
“Macon,” yelled Father. “Get your ass out here, boy.”
“C-c-coming, father.” Macon gently slid his shirt back over the cuts from the thick leather belt his father beat him with earlier.
“You should’ve told that bitch not to interrupt when I’m wrapping your Christmas gifts,” his father shouted from down the hall. He broke into a cackle. “Should’ve seen her face. Get the fuck out here boy. It’s time for dinner. I got your gifts all ready. Eleven days left after tonight. We’ll open one up every night as usual.”
Macon didn’t wish to keep his father waiting any longer so he shuffled outside. A trail of red, like a viscous sauce, marred the wooden floor along the hall. Trying his best to avoid the blood, Macon limped to the dining room.
The soft tinkle of music drifted to Macon. Despite the way he felt, he couldn’t help humming the tune. Carl Orf’s, Carmina Baruna. O Fortuna, to be exact. Mother loved playing that while she cooked. She always said it soothed her. When Macon entered the dining room, his father was sitting at the head of the thick, oak table, lips curled into a rabid smile, his dark eyes twinkling. Dinner was spread before him. Baked chicken, quail, a few slices of deer, several types of fish, vegetables, salad, and Macon’s favorite fiske pudding, just like his mother used to make. The aromas of food overpowered the stench of unwashed bodies in the room. Macon retched, barely stopping himself from spilling the contents of his guts.
“Sit, boy.” His father gestured with his sausage-thick fingers to a chair at the table’s opposite end. He kept the under hand hidden away below eye level.
“Thank you, father.” Macon pulled out a chair and sat.
“You see the gifts we have for Christmas?” His father pointed over to the tree, its red lights blinking like the eyes of some demon. “Are they what you asked Santa for?”
Macon did not want to look, but if he didn’t, he knew his father would beat him some more. So he allowed his gaze to drift to the tree.
Eleven women were gagged underneath, their heads sticking out of oversized gift boxes, wild eyes staring frantically at him. Whimpers burst from a few, and tears stained every cheek.
“Well?” his father cocked his head quizzically.
“I can’t tell, Father,” Macon said in the bravest voice he could muster. All the while his gut was fluttering to match to rapid beat of his heart.
“Of course you can’t. If you gave of yourself like I do.” Father inhaled deeply, ecstasy written across his face. “You’d be able to smell which of them are virgins. Always remember, the one you give Him must be virgins, boy.” He let out the breath, his voice coming in a lazy purr now. “Life blood so sweet. Virginal. Yes. Yes.” Father’s body shuddered.
Macon ducked his head not wanting to meet the ravenous look that he knew would be on his father’s face when he looked at him. His tongue licked his suddenly chalk-dry lips.
“So,” his father began.
Macon glanced up.
A sausage finger, nails like soot, reached out to poke into the fiske pudding. Eyes still twinkling while he studied Macon’s face, his father twirled his finger in the pudding before pulling it out and sticking it into his mouth with a slurp. “Hmm, good.” He nodded toward one of the women. “She made it. She can cook the balls off a goat and make them taste good.” A slight tint of pink dribbled from the corner of his lips.
Macon trembled against the urge to scowl at his father for touching his fiske before he had a chance to sample it. Keeping his face straight, he glanced at the woman. Disheveled red hair spilled about a windburnt face. Probably a skier, and like the others, not a local. Norway’s ski resorts made for easy pickings this time of year. Macon’s brow twitched at the stubborn set of the woman’s jaw. Father hadn’t broken this one yet.
“As I was saying, boy. So, which one are we going to do tomorrow?”
His father always made it sound like Macon was a willing participant in all this. Macon took a deep breath, his bruises warning him about showing weakness again. “Let me take a look at them after dinner. Then I’ll decide.”
His father chortled. “I like when you stall, boy. It makes it so much sweeter.”
“I-I’m not stalling.”
The chuckle changed to short laugh that oozed pleasure, almost a giggle, if his father’s basso rumble of a voice could be said to giggle. While his other hand still remained out of sight, Father stuck two fingers in the pudding this time, coming away with a chunk. He leaned forward, tilted his head, and tossed the mixture of codfish, bread, cream, and his father’s favorite ingredient, blood, into his mouth, all the while staring at Macon.
Macon growled. His father smiled, showing perfect teeth, the pudding now pinkish white lipstick around his mouth.
Father flicked his tongue out. “Hmmm. So good.”
Squeezing his eyes shut tight at the thought of what his father did to Mother, and that he was now defiling the fiske pudding, Macon forced the sudden anger and the urge to leap across the table down into the pits of his stomach. When he opened his eyes, his father was smirking at him.
“You soft piece of shit. I broke my father in two for treating me like a bitch. But not you. Noooo. You whine and cry and beg me to free these women instead of reveling in the glory they bring us.” Father’s eyes glittered to steely pinpoints. “Zazel, what the fuck have you given me? You call this a son?” Utter contempt dripped from his words. “Should have given me a real bitch. I’d have raised her a virgin and sacrificed her to you like these other pretty morsels.” Father shook his head, his voice dwindling to a grumble as he snatched a slice of deer and tore it in two, all teeth.
Heat blooming on his cheeks, Macon hung his head. Glumly, he stood and stretched toward the pudding.
Father’s hand, the one that had been hidden, flitted from below the table. Something with a dull metallic glint flashed.
The sound of the gunshot rocked Macon to his core.
That was almost eighteen years ago now.
Dr. Macon Lambert’s scalpel slid down the man’s stomach.
With the entrails exposed, he moved quickly. Slicing a piece of stomach here, another piece there—Aha, there—he carved out yet another gray section of intestine. The pungent smell of sweet blood trailing over his surgical gloves was exhilarating. He shuddered as he carved flesh to the symphony playing in his head. When he was finished, the tumors were gone.
“Sew him up, we’re done here. He’ll live now. I’ve removed every trace of the cancer,” Dr. Lambert said to the nurses, and peeled of his gloves, the symphony dwindling to nothing.
Coatless, and dressed in his favorite ivory vicuña suit, Dr. Lambert strolled down 60th street. Despite it being almost eight in the morning, a mist hovered lazily along the streets in smoky curls that muted out color and obscured the buildings around him. A bulky man in an overcoat hurried by, hunkering down into the layers of the wool blend, the steam of his breath rising in the air. His footsteps became a muffled clop, scuff, clop of a worn heel. Dr.Lambert smiled at the other people rushing along to get out of the unusual autumn chill as he turned the corner onto Lexington Ave. and tucked his gloved hands into his pockets. That’s when the smell hit him.
Her innocence floated upon the chilly breeze, and not even the layers of her Chanel No.5 could drown it out. Not even the rancid stench of New York City’s streets.
He followed his nose. O Fortuna began to play in his head.
And there she was, a rare beauty, standing in front of Bloomingdales. A supermodel face, framed by ember hair sat atop a svelte six-foot frame with the longest legs he’d ever seen.
The aroma wafted stronger than ever. Fresh cut flowers on a Sunday morning. Pristine. Virginal. Never had the scent been this intoxicating.