TUESDAY: Dressed in Grey

BY STEVE BAILEY

Copyright is held by the author.

WHERE IN hell is she? She’s been gone for over an hour. I went to some lengths to arrange this perfect romantic night. I have the wine, the roses, and I have calibrated the beacon just right. Inside their dark cockpits, bombers’ flight crews will follow its signal to the destination I set. The beacon stays well hidden inside this city. The bombs will be falling soon, and she has left me sitting here on her couch while she goes out on some mysterious errand.

Bombs make people incredibly horny. Everyone in the city is more sexually active during bombings. Virgins don’t want to die virgins and throw themselves at the heroic pilots who try to defend the homeland and who, like all men their age, don’t need bombs to stimulate their sexual appetites. Men and women meet for the first time in subway tunnels serving as bomb shelters and fornicate before the all-clear signal sounds. Depending on the intensity of the bombing, this could be more than once. When death is so close, the unintended consequences are irrelevant.

Sometimes bombs drop on quiet neighbourhoods. These neighbourhood bombings are not what the high command wants. Such attacks undermine propaganda efforts to make us appear like the good guys. The government of the bombed tells everyone these are terror bombings designed to weaken their will to resist. They are not. These are bombings I make happen. I have set the beacon to bomb this neighbourhood tonight. Bombs will explode, blocks away, and my dear nymph of the night will hear and feel the vibrations they emit while engaged in wild and desperate passion, believing the sex with me will be her last. At least that is what I have planned. But it is all for naught if she does not get back here soon.

If I had known this would be a night of no sex, I would have found a roof on which to watch the fun. Since I always know the targets, I can comfortably sit atop the city, enjoying a brandy and cigarettes, and watch the destruction caused when those dark birds of death empty their bowels of four- and five-hundred-pound bombs like condors with diarrhea.  

I have watched entire city blocks become consumed by fire, and the walls of buildings fall like the calving of glaciers. The sound they make is a soft booming sound, like the one made by a glacier’s ice when it hits the ocean. So much less violent than the sound of exploding bombs but adding their part to the symphony of obliteration.

Did she stop and go into a bomb shelter? The silly woman does not know this building is the safest place to be during this raid. The beacon’s signal has the planes bombing this neighbourhood but avoiding this edifice. I am immoral, not suicidal.

When I walk around a bombed neighbourhood the morning after an attack, everything is grey. Newsreel grey. Gravestone grey. Grey like the bark of an oak, shorn by winter of leaves now broken at mid-height by a bomb, with a lone branch shooting vertically into the sky as if hoping to entangle the bombers in its twisted grey twigs or the arm of a man submerged in grey quicksand reaching helplessly to the sky.

Now and then, a bright colour appears from the wallpaper on the interior of half a home still standing. One such wall was yellow, and in the morning sun, it looked garish amidst the dark mood of rubble. When I passed by it again later, that wall had collapsed into a grey dust-covered pile of broken bricks, yellow peering through the gaps like a life that refuses to die.

The smell is nasty. All dead bodies start to smell after a bit, but human bodies can get unpleasant in a hurry, especially in the summer. It’s not as critical in the winter months when the cold slows down the decomposition. If I have had the pleasure of more than one woman from the same neighbourhood, the bombing outcomes from multiple raids in the same location can create a disgusting stench. Mother nature’s way of repelling those so hungry they are ready for necrophage to get some nourishment.

On such a post bombing walk, I can feel death gliding over the city, not with a scythe, but with a shopping cart, filling it with the souls of those who did not survive the carnage of raining explosives. I sense he is giving me a thumbs up for making his work so easy, an appropriate signal that started with pilots.

Bombs shred the bodies of those who are close and unprotected: little children, sweet elderly ladies, virgins who wait too long. Sometimes people are vaporized by the bombs and become missing persons whose families will desperately conduct futile searches for years.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a walk around this neighbourhood and see what my friend Mr. Death collected. Right now, I think I would not be upset if the tenant of this apartment were in his shopping cart tomorrow.

The high command sends me their target list for the week, and I make the beacon do their bidding. I do this unless I encounter a beguiling woman. Unmarried, married, makes no difference to me. I will set the beam for somewhere close to my love for the night’s abode and an hour before the bombing starts, appear at her doorstep with flowers in one hand and a bottle of wine, always red, in the other. By the time the planes arrive, the wine has taken hold, and the sounds of the air raid sirens and the first bombs whistling towards earth provide the aphrodisiac effect I seek.

Recently I had my way with a lovely young lady. She had straight black hair bobbed short and dressed like a flapper, even though that style left long ago. I calibrated the beacon to guide the bombers over her neighbourhood. When the sirens went off, she drained her wine glass so fast it overflowed from her mouth and ran down her chin. She quickly refilled her glass and repeated the process, the spilled wine forming bloodlike rivers on her throat. When the bombs began to fall, she went sexually corybantic. The radio reported the next day that the bombing raid killed twenty children in an orphanage. Kids were the shopping bargain that day for death.

Am I taking unfair advantage of the ladies? Yes. Am I taking unfair advantage of the bomber’s flight crew, who unknowingly are risking their lives for my carnal satisfaction? Yes. But this is war, and one must take advantage whenever possible.

Several times the high command tried to get me to explain why targets got missed so badly. But, hey, I am behind enemy lines here, in a country that puts people like me in front of firing squads. I can’t risk a long-distance chat. My usual reply to them is, Police are on my tail. Must run.

I met the woman I am now impatiently waiting for in a park. She sat on a bench in front of a pond while swans and ducks glided on the calm water. For them, there is no war because I have never had cause to point the beacon in their direction.

She was knitting, and her needles gave soft clicking sounds with each stitch. She had long black hair and wore a dove grey dress that matched her eyes. As I helped myself to a spot on her bench, I inquired about her knitting, and after giving me a gorgeous smile, she said she was knitting the names of traitors. We talked and laughed the afternoon away, this Madame Defarge and I, and I managed to get her address and arrange this evening’s rendezvous.

Why isn’t she back here? The bombs will come, and I will lose my opportunity. I came here to her apartment at the appointed time with the tools of my lascivious hobby in hand. But no sooner had I opened my trusty bottle of red wine when she excused herself and left me sitting on this couch. As the minutes tick by, my anxiety grows, and I have consumed more than half the wine myself.

The sirens are wailing now, and I can hear bombs exploding in the distance. Her phone is ringing. Who calls during a bombing? I hesitate at first and then answer. It’s her. She tells me she is on her way and to get undressed and in her bed. These are orders I am excited to obey.

As I disrobe, the bombs get louder; they are hitting close. When I pull down the covers to the bed, I discover a note which I open and read:

“The high command is fed up with you and assigned me to make you their target for the night. I have incendiary devices glowing on the roof of my building, so our brave young men in their flying machines will know where to find you. Is this unfair? Perhaps, but fair is irrelevant in war.”

Everything goes black.

The next day I am lying among the rubble, covered in the grey dust of destroyed buildings without a stitch of clothing on me. Death comes to me, and as he lifts my evil soul into his shopping cart, he remarks how he appreciates the way I dressed for the occasion.

6 comments
  1. Brilliant!

  2. I was immediately caught up in your story. Excellent plot idea and the interior monologue of the Beacon Killer was spot on. Congratulations, Steve Bailey.

  3. Thank you Rosemary Boyd!

  4. Stomach-turning but perhaps that was the idea.

  5. I am glad you liked it, Don. As a CABG recipepient I appreciate the volunteer work you are doing. Thank you. – Steve

  6. Yes, David, a vile protagonist, can be stomach-turning. Thanks for the comment on the story. – Steve

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