Jack & Laurel Forever - A Short Story by Jeremiah Strickland
Jack was walking about when he pulled his left hand out of its pocket and found that in place of his hand was a female demon's head. There were batwings growing out from behind her ears, under her horns, and she flapped them, floating to eye level. The first thing she said was, "Don't get any ideas. I'll bite it off." She sounded normal enough.
Jack ducked into an alley. Little red arms protruded from either side of his forearm. His elbow was her ass. She had a spearpoint tail. Her head was as large as his, but red, dragon scaled, and bald. "I'mhungry," she told him.
"What are you hungry for?" he asked. She was cute enough.
"Souls, of course. I'm Laurel."
She hovered for a moment, staring at him. He never was any good at meeting new people. She said, "If anyone sees me, you'll have to let me eat them." She had a sweet smile. "Unless you want them to know about me." He didn't, so he took off his t-shirt and wrapped it around her head, ignoring her protests, and ran home.
Two weeks passed, and she was starving to death. This was a sad point for Jack, as he had come to appreciate the company. He had been living alone in the tiny apartment for so long, ignoring his friends, forgetting his family, focusing his single-minded attention to work, where he was a stilted and mediocre graphic designer. Now there was Laurel, sweet Laurel, who knew the TV schedule without referring to the TV Guide. He didn't miss his cubicle, staring at the monitors all day so much anyway.
They were lying in bed one morning, watching an episode of some innocuous daytime talk show, laughing, and enjoying themselves, when Laurel suddenly became serious and said, "Jack, if you don't let me eat, I'll die."
Jack said, "I don't want you to die, Laurel, but I can't let you eat people."
“It’s not like I want to eat anyone, you know.” She sighed and said, "People you don't know die every day, and you never seem to mind much. You still carry on the next day just the same." Her eyes had sunken a little and her cheekbones were visible. She hovered over his crotch, flapping her wings with every last ounce of energy, and tugged his boxer shorts off with her pearly whites. She had perfect teeth because he brushed them for her twice a day. She pleaded, "Will you feed me tonight?"
Of course he would.
Months later, his entire left arm was a red female torso, arms, breasts, brown nipples of leather. She was beautiful. Her weight, however, put a constant strain on his back and left hip, knee, and ankle, which was in a brace after an unlikely incident while moving a couch (she didn't like the glare on the television that was inevitable every afternoon during her favorite syndicated reruns on cable). She diagnosed his twists and tears as if she had been educated to do so, even helped him to treat the injuries. She promised to beat her wings harder, to bear more of the load.
She was never less than affable and was not a bad cook either. They would spend hours every day, shopping the internet, using his Platinum Credit Card, consuming, coveting, collecting. "Money is an earthly concept. An evil thing," she warned him. "We'll spend it sensibly."
“I quit my job.” He asked, "What happens when we run out of money? When I can't pay the bills anymore?"
"We'll sell your movies and old comic book collections. Some of them are bagged and boarded and in mint condition, right? I bet we could live for a year off of those. You have your vintage action figures too, right?” He loved those things, but he loved her more. His laptop was always open in front of them so that they could keep an eye on the auctions.
When his bowels moved, she would comfort him by stroking his hair and singing softly in an ancient language he didn't recognize. He needed the comforting because it had become such a terrible ordeal to shit. She only needed souls for nutrition, so the rest of the bodies were waste. Small, undigested body parts passed through them, and it was not uncommon to find bits of muscle, slivers of bone, or the occasional glass eye in the bowl. Most of the blood was his.
Sitting on the throne one particularly difficult evening, he realized his right foot was becoming pink and scaly. He had to ask, "What's happening to me, Laurel?"
She kissed his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. "Darling, I'm becoming you! Isn't it exciting?"
He was constipated.
Laurel was his left half, and they had two heads between their shoulders. Their left leg was an animal's, complete with coarse, matted hair and a cloven hoof. "We look ridiculous like this. Stop passing out on me. Hold still." She was trying to put on mascara. He always felt drunk.
He said, "I'b sobby," and took a little nap.
You should know that when it went dark, it went dark for a long time.
His head hurt. He tried to move but he couldn't. The TV was blaring some insipid small claims court show presided over by an arrogant judge. Finally, he opened his eyes. He was upside down. Laurel lifted him to her face, eye level, and smiled, "Hi there!" His head was her right hand. Little man arms protruded from either side of her forearm. Her elbow was his ass. "How you feeling, sugar bottom?” she asked him in her sweet, otherworldly echo.
"Don't even think about it. I'll bite it off," he said. They both laughed. "I'm hungry. Will you make me some nachos? What day is it? Who's on our show tonight? Did you record my shows for me?" She had put on weight. His place was a gory fucking wreck.
She let him drop to her side. Without the benefit of a winged head, he couldn't do much besides sit up, and as the weeks passed, even this became impossible. Once or twice, he made an effort to drag himself up her hip, pleading for sustenance, but she would brush him away. He said, "If you don't feed me, I'll die."
Laurel shrugged, "Not now, Jack. I'm watching this," and hung him off the side of the bed.