True Lust Never Dies
by Darren McCormick
Cynthia clasped her hands
together and leaned across the dinner table.
“Oh, Daddy, this is just like old times. It’s wonderful that
Mummy can dine with us all again.”
“Yes, dear,” said Wilbur. “The embalmer did an expert job,
wouldn’t you agree? He captured the essence of her beauty one-hundred percent. So sudden a loss, and at such an exquisite
time of life; just as provocative late-youth gives in to the mature elegance of middle-age.”
The preserved corpse
of Matilda Bainbridge sat at her usual place with knife and fork in hand and a perplexed look on her face.
think my sister looks as beautiful now as she ever did in life,” said Agnes. Wilbur smiled at her.
up and raised his glass. “May I propose a toast? To Mummy!”
The other guests all raised their glasses,
smiling, “To Mummy!” “To my dear wife!” “To Matilda!”
“You know, daddy, you
are an awful spoilsport though,” said Cynthia closing one eye and toying with her food. “It’s terribly unfair
that you get to keep Mummy all the time. We all loved her dearly. Couldn’t we arrange something where each of
us gets to take her home for, say, one week at a time?” She turned to her husband. “Henry darling, you wouldn’t
object to having her round now and then would you?”
“Not at all,” said Henry through a fork-full
“Not a chance!” Wilbur laughed then coughed into his handkerchief. The Major, a dear friend
of his, sniggered behind his hand then composed himself. “But, you have all been in my thoughts, and I have a surprise
for each and every one of you. I did intend waiting until after dinner, but now seems as good a time as any.”
is it daddy?”
“Well, Cynthia, you’re quite right. Your mother was loved by so many people. And I
have something of hers for you all. A keepsake, if you like. Now, I’ve thought long and hard to make sure everyone gets
something they can cherish.”
The guests started mumbling to each other, nodding and smiling across the table.
as my son and heir, you shall be first. Now, tell me. What was it about your mother that touched your heart the most?”
young man put his head to one side, his eyes darted across to his mother and he smiled, scratching his chin.
you know, I’d have to say it was her voice.”
“Bravo!” chipped in the Major.
Mummy sang like a starling. I shall always remember her haunting lullabies.”
“She did indeed have the voice
of an angel, and here, this is yours.”
Wilbur handed a gift-wrapped box to his son. He tugged on the ribbon,
removed the wrapping paper and opened it. He pulled out a jar—like the ones pickled onions come in—and inside
was what looked like some undiscovered sea creature immersed in a yellowy liquid. He frowned at his father, shaking his head.
Michael, your mother’s larynx!”
There was a round of applause. “Thank you, Daddy. I will always treasure
this.” He reached over and glanced his fingers across his mother’s throat. “And you would never know the
“Well, you can thank the Major for that.”
The Major guffawed then sliced his
steak knife back and forth through the air in front of him. “Army Medical-School training, young man. You can’t
beat it.” He cut off a piece of beef and flung it into his mouth.
“Now. My daughter Cynthia. I think we
all know there’s something about your mother that you were, shall we say, envious of?”
The dinner party
chuckled and nudged one another. “Oh, really Wilbur,” said one guest.
“Daddy, you are a rotter! Her
hair, of course! I do wish I had inherited hers. I got yours, didn’t I? A frizzy ginger mop!” Cynthia pushed back
her chair, got up and walked over to where her mother sat. She ran her delicate fingers through the long black tresses. “Like
silk, so beautiful.”
Wilbur cleared his throat. “No, dear. That’s not her real hair. This
is. I had her head shaved and a wig made. What you have in your hand is synthetic. Here, try this on.”
me!” Cynthia snatched the wig from his hand and ran to the mirror, she placed it upon her head, carefully adjusting
it. “I look just like her!” She turned to the guests. “Don’t I?”
“You look wonderful,
darling. Now come and sit down. Major, what was it you always used to say about Matilda?”
he said crunching into a roast potato.
“No, no, no. I don’t mean that.” There where oohs, aahs, and
hmms all around the table. “What was it you often said? About her eyes.”
“Let me think now,
it was something along the lines of, ‘She has a gaze that would melt icicles from a window-ledge on a January morning.’”
that’s ever so sweet of you,” said Cynthia.
“Have this old boy.” Wilbur handed his friend a
small box, inside was a glass ornament, the type filled with liquid and fake snow depicting a winter scene. The Major tipped
it upside down and back again, chuckling to himself, as Matilda’s eyes danced in a miniature blizzard. “Of course,”
said Wilbur, “the embalmer told us that her real eyes had to be specially preserved. What better way?”
you really have put a lot of thought into this,” said Michael.
“Thank you, son. Now, the rest of you shall
receive your gifts in due course. But, I feel that now would be an appropriate time for a special announcement. It’s
well known that I adored Matilda for her passion; her insatiable appetite for the good life.” The Major banged twice
on the table with his fist. “And I thought to myself, how could I possibly rekindle that fire? So, please, all of you,
I give you my fiancée Agnes - Matilda’s younger sister!”
The whole party rose to their feet and hailed
the bride and groom to be with rapturous applause.”
Agnes lay back on the bed with her arms above her
head and sighed. “Well, the dinner party was a resounding success. Darling, you’re the consummate host.”
grinned and ran his hand across her face. “And you, my Agnes, are the perfect lover.”
charmer. Never better than Matilda.”
“Oh, yes.” He kissed her on the forehead then whispered into
her ear, “Far better than Matilda.”
She giggled as he nibbled on her earlobe. “You don’t know
what that does to me, hearing those words. Tell me again.” She sat up and leaned across him, looking deep into his eyes.
“Only tell me properly!”
He held his hands on either side of her face and spoke so loud that his voice
rattled the windows, “Agnes, my love, you are much more satisfying in bed than Matilda ever was or ever could have been!”
looked up to the ceiling and opened her mouth to laugh, but was interrupted by a long, loud scraping noise, like iron against
polished wood, that came from downstairs. “What was that?” she said. “That was right below us, in the dining
“Oh, that’s just cook clearing up. Putting the chairs in place. Come here.”
it seemed there was a disturbance in the room below: the muffled thump of someone stumbling to the floor, a door slamming,
followed by what sounded like a heavy load - maybe a sack of grain - being dragged along the hallway. Then it stopped.
looked hard at Wilbur. “That couldn’t be cook, surely. Go see, it may be an intruder.” He rubbed his chin
and raised an eyebrow, looking towards the door. “Go on then!” She struck him on the shoulder.
had a chance to move, the strangest sound carried up the stairs; like that made when one blows into the neck of an empty bottle,
only much louder. It wavered, varying slightly in pitch. Agnes grabbed Wilbur’s hand, squeezed it then pulled the sheets
over them both.
The eerie noise was now accompanied by successive thumps and scrapes coming from the staircase. Wilbur
cried out, “Who’s there? Someone on the stairs? Cook? Anything wrong?” The only answer was the bottleneck
whine, and thump, drag, thump, and now the sound of a sweaty hand sliding up the banister. Then suddenly there was silence.
Cold, dead silence.
“Please go out there, Wilbur. See what’s going on,” Agnes whimpered. They heard
material being ripped and torn apart outside their bedroom door and the low whistling started up again. The door swung open.
leapt from the bed and Wilbur pushed himself hard against the headboard as Matilda staggered through the doorway; naked, twisted
and deformed, bearing the scars of autopsy and cosmetic surgery. Her arms hovered as if suspended by a puppeteer’s strings,
her eyes empty, mortician’s wires protruded from her open mouth.
With a maniacal scream Agnes ran past her sister,
down the stairs and out into the street. (She was later found quivering and muttering incoherently to herself under an almond
tree, and was subsequently committed to an appropriate institution.)
Matilda jerked her head from side to side until
her wig fell to the floor. She approached her husband, that haunting moan wailing from inside of her.
he cried. “This isn’t real! This is all some horrible dream, a nightmare! Lord help me!”
down on top of him with enormous, unnatural weight, pinned his wrists above his head and her wrinkled, dead tongue crept into
Darren McCormick 2006
is a currently unpublished new writer and lives in the UK.