Wednesday, October 8, 2014

HEX (By James Darko)

Genre: Horror

By James Darko

          The entire room carried the putrid fragrance of decay. Death’s perfume was overpowering, forcing Einhorn to cup his hand over his mouth and nose to stifle the stench.
          On the first day, Cooper had developed a nasty cough and terrible flulike symptoms.
          On the second day, he was bedridden and running a high fever.
          By day four, Cooper’s skin broke out in rashes, sores, and blisters that ran up and down his body. And he was coughing up blood by the handful.
          Come day six, Cooper didn’t even have enough strength to stand on his own two feet or lift his arm up in the air. Anytime he’d try to stand, his knees would buckle and his body would crumple to the floor.
Cooper had found himself sequestered to the west wing of his cavernous mansion. The quarantine was Einhorn’s suggestion, as the doctors were still unsure of Cooper’s affliction. All tests results had been inconclusive and the doctors were unaware if this mysterious illness was contagious.
When Einhorn came to visit him on the seventh day, Cooper appeared to be oozing the contents of his guts from every pore. His skin had the pigment and texture of rancid meat.
          His wretched features frightened the children so much that his son and daughter refused to visit him or even bring him trays of food. Even his wife had grown distant. More and more, it was Einhorn that Cooper would see bringing him his food or the daily newspaper. And Einhorn was always wearing gloves and a surgical mask as a safety precaution.
          In his perishing state, Cooper had requested the company of his lawyer so he could draw up his last will and testament. His stocks had been traded, his assets sold at auction to provide for the family in the event of his demise. Again, this business had been conducted by the family lawyer, one of the few men Cooper still trusted with his money or possessions.
          Now with everything in place, Cooper requested the company of someone else. Einhorn had phoned an old business associate of Cooper’s, who put him in touch with a man who simply called himself Kash.
          “That’s Kash with a K,” the man had told Einhorn over the phone. “But if you’re planning on paying me with a check, make sure you spell it with a C.”
          Cooper was a businessman, first and foremost. He was also a liar, a cheat, and a scoundrel. Three months before he fell ill, Cooper had successfully cheated a woman named Candice Rowan out of her land. Land that was worth millions in the right hands.
          Cooper bought the property out from under Rowan when she fell behind on her mortgage payments. Even witches have financial difficulties apparently.
          His men started drilling immediately for oil once Cooper acquired the land. Land that came at a heftier price than Cooper expected. The price of his health.
          Candice made no promises he would survive this affliction. She only vowed that his wife and children would not suffer for his indiscretions.
          “You’re the first person to stand in the same room with me without a mask or gloves on. You’re not afraid?”
          “I don’t fear death,” Kash said. “I’m a purveyor of death. Fearing your trade would make for a difficult situation in my case.”
          “I suppose you’re right,” Cooper said. “Well, allow me to cut right to the chase. I need you to persuade someone to do me a favor.”
          “I read you loud and clear,” Kash said, nodding.
          “No you don’t. I don’t want this person killed. You can hurt them, smack them around, bully and intimidate them, but no killing. I need this person to live long enough to reverse the spell.”
          “Spell?” Kash scoffed.
          “Never mind, just make sure she gets this message. Tell her that Perry Cooper says to take it off.”
          “Take it off,” Kash repeated. “Got it. I assume you’re not talking about this broad’s clothes?”
          “Your assumptions are accurate,” Cooper said, coughing up a few specks of blood into his open palm. “She’ll know what it means.”
          “Your butler never mentioned it was a woman,” Kash said. “I’ll have to double my fee for that. Women aren’t really my style. I don’t have a thing for roughing up pretty dames.”
          “Name your price and I’ll see that you get your money,” Cooper said.
          “That’s good enough for me,” Kash said. “What’s this broad’s name?”
          “Candice Rowan.”
          “And what’d this broad do to get you all riled up?”
          “She put me in this bed,” Cooper said. He lifted his hand as far as he could to show Kash the fresh blood. “She did this to me. She made me sick, turned my own family against me. Made them fear me.”
          “What’d she do, poison you?”
          “Something like that. Look, I don’t have much time. I need you to make this a top priority.”
          “You can rely on me,” Kash said with a perverse grin.
          Kash’s fee was thirty grand and it was non-negotiable. Cooper was more than happy to arrange the transfer of fifteen thousand dollars to one of Kash’s offshore accounts. The other fifteen would be paid upon completion.
          Kash was a reliable hitman, as good as they come. But he was also known to be a bit sloppy, overzealous. Kash had an affinity for his job, and he also had a taste for blood. Sometimes he’d spill more blood than necessary.
          So when Kash returned to claim the rest of his fee with fresh blood under his fingernails, Cooper felt reassured. He assumed that Kash hadn’t let him down; that Candice Rowan received the message loud and clear. But the look on Kash’s face said otherwise.
          “There was a bit of a problem,” Kash uttered. “The old lady didn’t take the message too well. She threatened me with some crazy voodoo mumbo-jumbo. Then she tried to stab me with a sewing needle. I had to shut her down. I didn’t mean to. It all happened so fast.”
          “You fool!” Cooper screamed, which brought on another coughing fit. “Now the spell can never be reversed. I’m as good as dead.”
          Kash left Cooper’s mansion without the extra fifteen grand. But he did leave with a splitting headache. As he walked to his car, he massaged his throbbing temples and noticed for the first time how hot he was. He pressed one hand to his forehead and discovered he was burning up.
          But most alarming were the bleeding sores and oozing blisters that had started to form on his arms and legs…

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