Laudanum by Johnny Grace

The pain in my head was electric.
Like a thunderbolt with more than a half-life. A thunderbolt manifesting itself as solid form, twice as intense and searing. The memory of your face still etched onto my vision. I couldn’t move my legs or turn my head. I lay on my right side, looking through your face at the blank wall covered in shadow. The huge black figure standing at the end of the bed, hovering at
the end of the bed, gargled, its breathing distorted, untamed. Out of my eye - its corner - I watched it in fear, gargling like a bronchitic sex pest, drooling over a bed of perversion. It was as if something was sitting on my head, gripping me between its black rock legs. I struggled, struggled to break free of the grasp the beasts had on me. Struggling, struggling, I
broke free. I turned onto my back, breathing in time to a tachycardiac disrhythmia, shaking. You lay beside me, your legs where your arms should be and your face ripped to shreds. It must’ve been Jack , returning for what I owed him. It’s been so long I can’t remember.
I needed not open the door. I distinctly recall thinking that I wanted the door open. And that it did. The wasteland stretched over what used to be the docks for miles. The tarmac and pavement and concrete had been removed a long time ago and replaced by television screens facing upwards, projecting acts of sodomy and cartoon shows into the atmosphere. The noise was incredible. The high pitched scream of rape and the guttural growling of the men who crawled over the TV screens. Their tongues had been ripped out and replaced with fingers, hands, remote controls, cocks or anything that was handy to their destructor. Most had no lower torso. They crawled on their chests, growling as the televisions burned them. Perpetual night burned red in the wasteland, clouds melted with acid rain, dripping their content through the TV screens causing constant, cacophonous explosions. Not a woman was in sight, not one. Although, the familiar stink of cunt stung my eyes and caused blood to run from their ducts, running crimson streaks through the dust lacquering my face.
I had to rest. The journey had be long.
The saloon doors swung open, creaking like old films, attached to the architrave by mouths with nails for teeth. This was where the population gathered, sitting on tables on a raised platform. Underneath, the crawling torsos from outside swarmed, a quagmire of flesh. Every now and then, a patron would take a shot at one. Weapons hung on fingers all around. I
stepped onto the platform amid drunken jeers and scowling mouths. Some of the men on the platform had their tongues removed too, although not all had been replaced. Some had just sewn their mouths shut.
I approached the bar, my worn down shoes clunking across the wooden platform.
“Excuse me, Do you have any rooms for rent?” I said. She moved along the floor towards me, her big red hair shaking like a hedge in the wind.
“We got room.”
I had no idea what that meant.
“How much?”
“Nothing,” she said. The red-haired woman reached under the counter and came out with a key and a bottle.
“Drink?” She said.
She handed the bottle to me. I waited for a glass until I realised there wasn’t any, and then took a good swig from the bottle. Tasted like water and laudanum. But what else?
“Enjoy your stay,” the barmaid said, as a gunshot boomed through the bar.

It felt like I’d climbed one hundred stairs but every time I looked over my shoulder, the faces of the people were right up there in front of me. I was just looking, transfixed, into a one-eyed man’s socket when I tripped and fell over the threshold.
I was on the landing.
I looked round again and all I could see was the one hundred steps I’d just climbed.
The hallway was short with two doors either side and another at the end. My room was number six, on the right. Outside the door at the end lay a crusted, rusty bicycle, its wheels still spinning and that clack-clack-clack sound. I couldn’t find my key but the door was already open. I crawled in through it.
The room was wooden and empty. Water ran down the dampened walls and even though no light hung from its fixing, the room was illuminated by a red phosphorescence. The bed was a mattress on the floorboards and not one other door in the room led to a bathroom. The only window in my new residence was boarded up by the same mouths that held the doors on at the entrance. I tried to rip one off but the nail-mouthed parasite just gripped tighter. I took a step back and then raised my leg to stamp the little fucker off of the wall. It worked. It yelped and dropped to the broken floor, landing on its back. The board had dropped to reveal a view of the docks. Bodies littered the beach, replacing stone with bone. The light from the television pavement painted the sky like nothing I had ever seen before. The half-men crawled and crawled, taking bites out of each other, victims of some crude affliction.
The bite came suddenly, my eyes whitened. The little fucker had bitten through the sole of my shoe into my heel, the pain of the nails counteracting the laudanum, sending shock spiralling through my system.


I fell backwards onto the mattress, clutching my foot. I was unable to take my shoe off as the nails were embedded. Must’ve been the little fucker’s death throe defence.


The door opened. A hugely deformed boy stood in the red light holding a piece of paper in his claw-like hand.
“I brought this for ya, mister,” he said.
“What is it?”
“Your invoice… for the room.”
“You’ll have to bring it here.”
The boy moved towards me slowly. I noticed by the way he walked, he could not bend his legs. I took the invoice from him.
“Why you here, mister?” He said.
“I’m looking for someone.”
“A woman?”
“More of a myth.”
“Dangerous here, mister,” he said, “I’d go now if I could.”
“Too late.”
He looked down at the nails penetrating my shoe and started walking backwards, a cautious look in his eyes. Something about the boy typified the entire experience. If I didn’t get the fuck out soon, I might end up here forever with all those freaks downstairs. Or worse.
I crawled along the floor and pushed the door, now accepting that it would not shut and any hope of privacy was just that. For a while, I sat on the mattress trying to remove the nails from my foot but every time I touched one it would excrete a lubrication and go soft.
These things were never supposed to come out.
I wouldn’t call it sleep, but I laid back and closed my eyes.

“I’m so glad you came,” you said. You were sitting up on a bed of the half-men, naked, beckoning me forward. The half-men writhed together, never leaving a crack. Biting each other, ripping fibre and tissue. That familiar smell of cunt that ruled the atmosphere outside the saloon surrounded you. The room begun to spin, slowly at first, gaining ground, spinning faster, then faster.
“I’m so glad you came.”
As the room revolved, you grew larger, your cunt like a doorway. It was then as I got nearer, you sucking me in, that I noticed the teeth. Two layers of glass teeth, gnashing together causing huge splinters to fly all over the spinning room. They would hit the half-men, bisecting faces, lacerating backs, removing spines. One smashed over my shoulder as I drew nearer, entering you.

When I awoke, the pain was gone. As were the nails in my foot. I took off my shoe to examine the damage, finding that from the holes left in my foot, small vines had grown. As I touched one, it tightened its grip around my ankle. I was losing the feeling in my leg.


It was the boy again.
“ Mister, I took out the nails for ---”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” I said, holding my leg out.
“Oh no, mister, you got it bad.”
“What. What have I got bad?”
The boy left the room and within one minute, returned with an archaic syringe and a crusted, rusty axe.
“Only one way to deal with the vines, mister,” he said.
“No fucking way.”
I slapped him hard about the face as he approached me. He stumbled backwards.
“If I don’t do this, the vines will grow and grow. Mister, they will overtake you and crush you.”
“You don’t know that. How do you know that?”
The boy put down the needle and lifted his right trouser-leg. In place of his lower leg stood an upturned glass bottle, smashed and jammed into the stump.
“There’s no other way,” he said. His words soothed me, his voice seduced me into taking the shot.
I thought the needle was going into my arm. Instead, he gently opened my mouth and squirted its molasses-like content into my mouth.
“The substance thinks for itself. It knows where the pains is,” he said. His voice had taken on a sinister tone, accentuated by the red light suffocating the room.
Immediately, the feeling in my leg disappeared, leaving the rest of my body surprisingly comfortable. The boy stood up clutching the axe.
“You shouldn’t watch,” he said, raising the blade above his head.
Before I could react, he had struck the first blow, the blade smashing into my leg, crunching into the bone. No blood. The vines were sucking me dry. The second smash finished the boy’s work. No need to even cauterise the wound.
“All done, mister,” he said, the malevolence disappearing from his voice.
“Thank you.”
He picked up the axe and syringe and headed out, closing the door behind him.
I sat on the mattress, examining my severed foot and the vines that destroyed it, thinking, ‘this is it, this is the beginning of my mutilation, my descent into becoming one of them’. How did all this come about? Is this what happens when men are left to their own devices? I knew it all stemmed from the room at the end of the hall. Your room.

The hall was longer than I remembered. The floorboards, mostly, were missing. I traversed the joists, catching my good leg on shards of timber, until I stood outside the door. I pushed it open and instead of opening left to right or right to left, it opened downwards, landing on a lake of the half-men that loiter the docks and crawl underneath the floorboards in the saloon.
And there you were.
“I’m so glad you came,” you said. You were sitting on the backs of the crawling men, your legs wide open revealing your gnashing glass cunt. I hopped onto the door, floating on the surf of flesh, rubbing against lacerated spines, breaking skulls. Hands reaching over the top guiding me towards you. I hopped off onto the backs that made up your bed, and fell to my knees. You unfastened my fly, revealing a long vine swirling and swaying, hypnotic. It reached into you. At first, you contracted, pulsating yourself around the vine. I was in love with you, for that moment, the groans from below. The blood running down the walls.
Then came the first bite.
The vine burst, spraying nails everywhere. Into your face, killing you. Into the sea of flesh writhing underneath us, provoking moans and screams from those still with tongues.
It was there that our love died, with us, me inside you.

Johnny Grace currently lives and writes in Gravesend, Kent (England). His short fiction and poetry have previously been featured on Scarecrow.


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