Your Deepest Desire
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By Richard Dani
As he waited for a cab, a stiff wind kicked up grains of sand and caused a magazine page to slap him in the face. Then, the same force that had drawn it to him had blown it away. Raymond had only a glimpse of the naked woman in the picture but it was a big enough tease for him to want more.
Now he was chasing the glossy page down the right side of Sycamore Street. He was running fast but the paper seemed to be moving faster and try as he might, he couldn’t prevent it from pulling away. He heard a horn blare and tires squeal as he raced through an intersection and watched the page turn, as if it were pulled on a string, down an alleyway that rested between two brick-constructed monoliths. The long dark corridor was lined with overflowing dumpsters that appeared greasy from the trash bag drippings that oozed down their sides and formed in thick puddles on the pavement. The smells of cat pee, vomit and mold assailed his nostrils as he watched the picture flutter through shadows of alternating densities.
“Crap!” he yelled more saddened by the fact that he would loose the picture than being late for his appointment.
He entered the alley in a full run and briefly he thought he would catch the picture. Then one of his feet slipped in a greasy pool and he fell hard on his rear, tearing a hole in the elbow of his suit jacket and cursing through his lips. As he climbed to a knee, he watched the picture float up into the air, as if caught in a tornado, and lunge deeper into the alley.
“Damn,” he cursed and slapped his palm against another errant puddle causing the thick, dark fluid to freckle his clothing.
He stood up and walked into the blackness that hid the backend of the alley. He blinked his eyes attempting to adjust to the lack of lighting and a strange sound reached his ears. It was a low, gravelly snicker—the kind that comes from a throat that’s been abused by cigarettes and cheap booze. It wasn’t friendly, but sinister. The sound caused him to stop and actually take a step backward.
Then a reddish-orange light appeared. It was small and circular.
“It’s a just a smoking hobo,” Raymond thought and even though this realization calmed him a little, he was still prepared to run. He felt the slick surface of the pavement beneath his shoes and smelled the fetid odors that now seemed to grow stronger. He took a few more steps backward and that was when the person spoke. He voice was soft and reassuring, which was just the opposite of what Raymond had expected.
The man whispered, “Hey Ray, whaddya say?”
The voice stopped Raymond’s motion cold. If he were younger, he would have ran—but he wasn’t. At twenty-seven, he was embarrassed, ashamed, to show fear.
He blinked several more times and stepped forward. The man was sitting on an overturned trashcan. The shadows were thick, but the man was clearly visible. It was as if he glowed internally somehow. He was wearing a suit that was much like Raymond’s. The man held the picture in one hand and his penis in the other. His cigarette dangled from his lips and when he inhaled, it would momentarily burn brighter.
“Want the picture, Ray?” the man asked. “I’m almost done with it.”
Raymond smiled uncomfortably and though his mental alarms were screaming, he answered, “Yes. Yes I do very much.” He didn’t know why he wanted the picture so badly but his desire for it had grown into a need. And for whatever reason, he simply couldn’t resist it. He had to have the picture regardless of cost.
The man chuckled. “Of course you do. What man doesn’t like looking at naked ladies especially ones a pretty as this,” he said while staring into the picture. Then he removed the hand from his crotch and reached inside his jacket. He pulled out an entire magazine and held it out as he said, “You want the whole thing? There’s some pretty good stuff in here. Each picture is slightly more perverse than the next.”
Raymond instinctively reached for it, but then he pulled his hand back. “What do you want for it? People don’t normally give stuff away for free.”
“No they don’t…not normally,” the man said while smiling broadly. His cigarette tumbled from his lip and a small sound signaled that the smoke had died in something wet. He flicked through the pages of the magazine and said, “Hmm…let’s see. We got naked women with men. We got naked women with women. We got women in chains and playing with toys.” He glanced up at Raymond and his eye’s seemed to glow red just like the cigarette. “We got everything you desire in here, Ray. So… What would you pay? Huh? What’s it worth to ya?”
Raymond leaned forward and he could smell the ink from the pages but the pictures remained hidden in shadows. “I don’t know what it’s worth. You’re selling. You name the price.”
The man laughed again. “Okay, that’s fair enough but I’m gonna tell ya that my price is pretty steep. This ain’t your run of the mill spank mag. No sir, this is something special. The pages, Ray, are never the same. No matter how many times you look at it, the pictures will always be different. They will always change and become exactly what you desire at that moment. I see that you’re smiling, Ray. You like that. Heck, I can’t blame you. I like that myself, but I’ve had my time with this magazine. It’s time to pass it on. Ya know what I mean?”
Raymond nodded in agreement and reached once more for the magazine. However, as his fingers touched the pages, the man grabbed his wrist and held him with a grip that was like steel.
“Everything you desire,” the man whispered. “That’s the price. Everything you desire. From you wife, to your job to your car to your health. That’s the cost of a magazine like this one. Are you willing to make that trade?”
Raymond swallowed hard and pulled the magazine from the man’s hand. He looked deep into the man’s glowing, red eyes and said, “Yes sir. It sounds like a fair deal to me.”
The man laughed in response and released Raymond’s wrist. “I thought you’d say something like that. They always do.” The man sat back down on the garbage can and the darkness swirled in around him. Raymond knew that the man was still there even if he could no longer see him. Some how, Raymond could sense the man’s presence.
With the magazine clutched firmly in his hands, Raymond turned on his heels and walked toward the street. Over his shoulder, Raymond said, “Nice doing business with you.”
But he received no response. Not that he cared. He had the magazine and he was nearing the street, which meant the shadows were less dense. Still, as he stared eagerly at the pages with a lifetime of fantasies playing in his head, the pictures remained dark and obscured. It wasn’t until he stepped completely out of the alley that he realized he had been duped. He went page by page and the only thing he saw were black and gray smudges—There were no pictures. There were no women. There were only black or blank pages.
Raymond turned and started back into the alley, but his progress was stopped immediately. The corridor was no longer dark and he could see its entire length to the point it opened on the other side of the block where cars and pedestrians paced by the opposite opening. He could see the over-stuffed dumpsters and the grimy pee-stained walls.
And he could see that the man, or who ever he had been talking to, was no longer there.
“What the fuck?” Raymond cursed and stuffed the magazine into a dumpster. Feeling confused and disoriented, he left the alley and tried to flag down a cab.
Meanwhile in their suburban home, Raymond’s wife was answering a doorbell. A gentleman stood on her stoop wearing a t-shirt and jeans. On the street and purring loudly was a flatbed rig that was toting a large yellow tractor of some sort. Initially, she noticed his smell, which seemed to be a combination of cigarettes and cat pee. As he handed her a card, he said, “Good afternoon. We represent the “Desire Demolition” company and we wondered if you required our services today.”
She didn’t know why, but she suddenly felt a little sleepy. She blinked several times and shook her short mane of blonde hair but the mental cobwebs stayed in place. She asked, “Umm…what do you do…your company, I mean…whaddya do?”
The man stuck his meaty hands into the front pockets of his jeans and answered, “We take down buildings and structures that people no longer want. Usually, they’re buildings that are in a state of disrepair but sometimes people just want to start over, ya know? So we tear down their homes or what not.”
She could feel herself swaying as she asked, “But if I did that, where would I live? Where would I go?”
“You could go out west. You have an ex-boyfriend who lives in New Mexico. Why don’t you look him up?” the man suggested.
“Oh,” she said drunkenly and glanced at the interior of their home. It was only three years old and it had cost them nearly three-hundred thousand to build. Though it could use a little touch up here and there, it hardly needed to be demolished. Still, for some unknown reason, his offer seemed reasonable and she said, “Okay, just give me a minute to pack.”
The man laughed and pointed to a spot behind her.. “I looks like you already did.” She turned and saw that her suitcase and purse where piled there along with a map that had the route to New Mexico highlighted in red. It should have seemed odd. But it didn’t—not to her, not today. She picked up her things and walked out of the door.
She was halfway to her car that sat idling in the driveway when she turned and asked, “Oh. I’m sorry. I forgot to ask. How much do I owe you.”
Then man smiled. “Nothing lady. Don’t worry about it. Your husband already paid.”
“How sweet,” she replied and climbed into her car. She placed the vehicle in reverse and slowly pulled onto the street and watched the man unload his massive machine. She saw him drive the metal bull across the lawn and slam it full force into the center of her home. The impact caused a deafening sound of snapping wood and breaking glass to assail her ears. Still she remained in a pseudo-sleep state and stayed that way the entire time her home was razed.
If you have no questions or fears about your abilities, then you will learn nothing from your mistakes and know nothing about your limitations.