Flash Fic Challenge – Discount Skin Ticket
So, here’s the latest flash fic challenge, and her’es my story. A very blink and you’ll never see it tip of the hat to Clive Barker.
Discount Skin Ticket
It looked like a place made of nightmares. Everything your parents warned you about; every desolate parking garage; every unlit alley in the bad part of town; every abandoned tenement crime scene. It was all those things, and everything unspeakable, unknowable, and chilling, rolled into what looked like an empty carnival funhouse. Only empty buildings didn’t thrum with energy you could feel like heavy bass lines thudding through the floor.
Simon cut around the back, and thought he could feel something shimmer around him, like heat, only different somehow. He could taste copper in his mouth, and feel sweat under his arms and sticking his shirt to his back, even though it was cold enough to reduce his breath to clouds of vapor.
There was a single door in the rusty metal exterior, and Simon grabbed the handle, only to find it almost too hot to bear. He swallowed hard, and wondered how much he’d heard about this place was true, and how much was wishful thinking. There was only one way to find out. He took a deep breath, and opened the door.
The contrast between the outside and the inside was ludicrous. If he took a step back, Simon was in the abandoned field where someone had inexplicably dumped this ruin of a fair attraction. If he stepped forward, he was in a neon soaked version of Dante’s inferno, complete with velvet lined walls and music that thumped like a monster’s heartbeat. It didn’t make sense, but, if he was honest, none of this made sense. He couldn’t start complaining now.
He stepped inside, letting the noise and the heat and the smell of sex and blood envelop him, and the door, which he had slid open, slammed shut of its own accord. Simon thought about testing the door to see if it would open – he had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t – but he swallowed his fear and stepped forward instead.
There were stairs leading down, through dark velvet curtains, and they seemed to go on for an absurdly long time. Once again, it was physically impossible, but he decided not to worry about that. After all, things had gone off the rails for him the second he decided to take a photo of that graffiti on the bathroom wall.
He found it at Meet Market, a sleazy gay bar that was about to be shut down, over a broken urinal. The graffiti, simple and stark, simply said Discount Flesh Ticket – Come Get What You Deserve 0562971. He didn’t understand the numbers, since there wasn’t enough for a phone number, but that took him to Google, where he found all the stories about the Discount Flesh Ticket. Apparently it was a kind of urban legend. A place you went to fulfill your darkest fantasy. Supposedly money wasn’t involved, but the price was debated. Maybe it was your soul, they said, or a vital organ. No one seemed to know; all recountings of it were supposedly a friend of a friend. There were people who claimed to have been there who posted online, but they seemed like fakes.
The numbers, he eventually figured out, were code. Decoded correctly, they gave you coordinates. Which is how he found this broken down carnival attraction in the middle of nowhere, on a rainy Tuesday night. He thought he was delusional to even try to find it, but now he was either deep in hallucinations, or the urban legends were true.
Eventually the steps ended in a black painted room, where a woman stood waiting. She was average looking, with long dark hair and pale skin, dressed like a counter girl at a middle class clothing boutique. “What was the number?” she asked.
“What was the number?”
Did she mean after he decoded it? He decided she meant as it first appeared on the wall. “0562971.”
She nodded, and pulled aside a black curtain, revealing a man sitting on a chair. He too looked resolutely average, although deathly pale, and his eyes were milky with what he assumed to be cataracts. It also looked like he was dressed head to toe in black vinyl, or a similar clingy wet fabric. “State your desire.”
Simon had thought about this for a while. What he could ask, if this was indeed real. What he had decided upon was Bryan, the new, perfect boyfriend of his high school ex. He would never be as handsome or wealthy or talented; Miguel would never trade Bryan for him. “I want Bryan Anslem’s life.”
The man nodded, like this wasn’t an insane request.”There’s a question of payment.”
“Of course. What do you want?”
“There’s a reason it’s called a skin ticket.”
“You want my skin?” It seemed absurd, ridiculous, until the woman appeared with a shiny, razor sharp silver knife, which she held out to Simon hilt first.
“If you want it badly enough, you’ll pay the price,” she said.
Which was insane, and yet still sounded reasonable. A better, happier life for his acne scarred, unimpressive skin? What a deal.
Simon took the knife, held out his arm, and started cutting.