Certain doors should never be opened.
What you find on the other side may be your undoing.
Movies often provide an escape from the realities of a troubled life. But they can also be a gateway to some the most terrifying passions ever conceived.
In J. Daniel Stone’s nightmarish vision of life and lust, two young lovers become entangled in the darkness of the underground scene of snuff films. Seduced by an elderly German filmmaker, they soon realize there may be no escape from their starring roles as the mysterious man draws them into his deadly celluloid visions…
Walk the red carpet of damnation into a lake of erotic fire as tormented souls find their five minutes of fame in the brutal and disturbing novella of love and pain “I Can Taste the Blood” by J. Daniel Stone, Vision II in the Grey Matter Press collection I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD.
“I Can Taste the Blood” (Vision II) by J. Daniel Stone
The theater is too dark but smells of promise. Almost three decades since it had been in business, and just about a decade since the city condemned the leather-lace and porn shop that opened in its place. If you walk its perimeter now, you see that the private booths have been torn down and the mirrors are covered with heavy curtains. Girls no longer command center stage, their long legs fanning and breasts drooping like fruit into the faces of men flashing money.
It is the story of corrupt government administrations and gentrification. But at one time this dark void had filled eyes with Technicolor nightmares that had no bearing on the world surrounding it. And even though the memory of movies and comic strips and popcorn had gone stale, this palace of sadness and madness still retained its haunted charm.
At the front entrance, the ticket booth window was cracked into an intricate pattern and the wallpaper inside was black damask. Etched onto the entrance doors was a hideous insignia: a syringe filled with globules of blood. It made Bok take a step back as there was only one thing, he knew, that lived inside the needle. That was the greed of addiction and the acquired hunger that follows until it springs death upon its human host.
“I hope I didn’t wake you,” the old man said.
“I don’t turn down money.” Bok bit his black fingernails.
“Take those out of your mouth. You are no child.”
The German navigated the aisle with his pale and polished walking stick. He was dressed as best a gentleman could be at this time of night, his breath heavy with liquor and his amethyst eyes surrounded by red cobwebs. Bok couldn’t remember the last time he saw the old man, but an image came into his head: a dark space and dust upon a windowsill. But as soon as the old man came into the light Bok saw that he had remained unchanged in his sinister smile, the smell of cheap cologne and thinning silver hair.
“It’s been a few months,” the German said. “But our time apart has been essential to my movie.”
Bok was not ready to recall what had happened that night. It was during a time when he was rarely sober, but also when Jared was at his lowest. The obsession grew into a possession, and Jared would do just about anything to be in front of a camera. Back then the job was an arduous undertaking, not really an acting gig, but more so one that required gentle concentration and a strong stomach. It had paid handsomely.
A stiletto pierced Bok’s abdomen, and the claw side of a hammer had dug itself into his knee to test his reflexes. Then came the disconnect, like a wire had snapped in his head, which made Bok succumb to rage. He squeezed his counterpart’s head until an eye popped clear out of the skull, crushing it in his hand like the pulp of rotten fruit.
“I hope this place doesn’t disturb you. I enjoy an authentic feel.”
“I remember what you enjoy.”
The old mad tsked. “I never required you to act. I simply asked that you react because when the camera is pointed at you, Bok, you become something…more.”
Bok lit a fancy black cigarette and followed the old man toward the silver screen, unsure of what he was getting himself into this time, but fueled by the need to fill his empty bank account.
Something about this theater irked him. It seemed aghast at Bok’s presence. Everything was blighted, as if the sun had rained fire down on this place, followed by a monsoon to put out the embers. It smelled of ozone and dark matter, the air so thin it settled in his lungs like ash.
“You bought this place to make more movies?”
“What else should I have done? The city was going to sell it privately to make way for another Broadway success.”
When the German reached the middle section, he tapped his walking stick and a film began. With no other sound in the theater, Bok could easily hear the faint clicking of a movie projector. The immediate scenes were effulgent and so close that they threatened to spill out in a massive 3D effect. It was an old camera trick laced with expert editing.
“Do you remember this at all?”
Bok couldn’t recall. “No.”
The boy on the screen was youthful. Long hair sprinkled across his face the color of rust and his eyes were green as Chartreuse. Bok’s heart rate elevated and his hands became sweaty. The rings on his fingers caught the great white light from the screen, a whiteness as great as the ginger boy’s smile, a whiteness as great as his skin and the burning need to be in front of the camera.
“Turn this filth off,” Bok said
But the long-haired beauty implored him. Bok could not look away now if he tried. Jared was tied down tightly to a mattress by big black straps. Bok’s crotch immediately swelled and his throat dried. A phantom memory found him. He didn’t need to watch to know what would happen next.
* * *
More About I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD
I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD offers up five novellas from five unique authors whose work consistently expands the boundaries of conventional fiction. From Bram Stoker Award-nominated authors Josh Malerman, the newly minted master of modern horror, and John F.D. Taff, the “King of Pain;” to the mind-bending surrealism of Erik T. Johnson; the darkly poetic prose of J. Daniel Stone and the transgressive mania of Joe Schwartz, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD is a stunning volume of terror sharing five visions, one common theme and one terrifying nightmare that can only be contained within the pages of a single book.