By Mark Henry

I showed up at the 49th Street Annex prepared to take a verbal beating from Klein and the rest of the Weekday Obsessives—they go after relapses like dogs on dead pheasant. Normally, after I screwed up, it’d take the group a few sessions to figure it out, but this time I couldn’t hide what I’d done. There was no way. The thick pads of white gauze and bandages started just beneath my elbows and grew to ridiculous cartoonish mitts where my fists should be, a couple of conversation pieces if there ever was.

“You get into a fight or somethin’, Jer?” Klein’s pipe reeked of seaweed. The smoke wrapped around his face like an Eskimo’s furry hood.

“Nope.” I nodded to Fatty, who oddly enough wasn’t a member for his clear problem with food, but because he couldn’t stop counting. He’d count everything and probably knew how many floorboards were beneath the circle of chairs, definitely how many Oreos were left in their little plastic cells. He shook an extra cigarette from his pack and stuck it between my teeth, lit it.

“Thanks, man,” I said.

“So you gonna tell us what happened or what?” Fatty leaned back in his creaking metal chair, his fleshy palpate drifting out from under his shirt and over the front of the seat like an apron. “Inquiring minds wanna know.”

“Yeah, Jer.” Klein grinned. “What he said.”

I took a drag, let the cigarette dangle from my lip and started.

“Remember Beverly?”

 * * * *

Three months ago, Al Graibel, my self-proclaimed P.O. with a P.A.—which is not short for personal assistant, in this case—referred me to this lousy twelve-step group as part of his release maintenance plan. By referred, I mean he threatened me with a revocation if I didn’t show up and stare down Dr. Klein and his neuters daily. With no intention of going back to the can simply ’cause Al got a bug up his ass, I went. A week after I started, I had a little relapse that came with a warning from my pierced friend.

A month after that, she showed up.

She sat in the shadows at first, a single leg, green as the sea jutting into the cone of light framing the group in the smoky auditorium. Her high-heeled mule balanced on the pad of her foot like a worm on a hook. She was silent the first two days then, on the third, just as Klein got in gear haranguing me about making a habit of sabotaging my recovery—a habit, like it’s a new addiction, trading up, I’m sure he thought—she leaned forward, dark hair falling off her shoulders in waves.

“I’m Beverly.” Her voice was crushed velvet, falling off her tongue and up my arms, the lightest fingertips. Gooseflesh rose, something else too, but you don’t need to know that.

Everyone knew what she was the minute she left the shadows. The tint of her leg could be explained away as a trick of the light, but the neck scars where her gills used to be stood out like…well, gills.

She was a Beneather. Though they’d started going by ‘Neather and that doesn’t much matter ’cause she was beautiful, but I’ll tell you anyway.

The ‘Neathers rose from the trenches and faults under our oceans nearly ten years ago now, showed up on the shores of just about everywhere, a thousand deep and with just as many problems. They used to look more fishlike than they do as though they’re mimicking us the longer they’re above water. I suppose that’s exactly what they’re doing. Can’t blame them, who doesn’t want to fit in?

Took them a couple of years to develop an audible language but after they did, you couldn’t shut them up. Not that you could tell it from how quiet Beverly kept.

I never imagined the aliens would show up any other way than in big metal saucers or some shit. The fact that they were here all along and just too deep under the water for us to realize was creepy as hell. And not just to me.

A moment after she introduced herself was the last time we saw Chet the Paper Eater.

“I’m not sharin’ secrets with no squid,” he said, and stomped out of the room.

Klein started to protest, but then must have thought better and just waved as Chet slammed the auditorium door behind him. I can’t say I missed the guy. It was nice to have an intact napkin to set my donut on, or one that wasn’t wet with saliva.

Beverly didn’t offer up anything that night, but kept coming, each time in a sexy pair of high heels. It got to the point I didn’t notice the hue of her flesh, not with her ankle popping.

The most she ever said was, “I have a bit of an addiction problem that I’m working on to the best of my ability.”

“Is the group helping any, do you think?” asked Klein.

She nodded.

Right after that session, I was leaving and barreled into her like some clumsy ox, or Fatty or something, which is completely unfair—I have no idea whether Fatty is clumsy, but I certainly was.

“Excuse me, Beverly. I’m so sorry.” I held onto her arms till she gathered her balance.

“It’s really not a problem, Jerry.” She pulled her arms back and hugged her wool coat around her.

“It’s Jeremy, actually. Klein calls me by the wrong name on purpose. He knows it bugs me. Said he likes to keep me on edge so I’ll be quicker to learn new strategies of coping.” I laughed. “It makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever.

“And it’s rude.” She pursed her lips. “He should be taught a lesson.”

“He should,” I agreed, I think I even chuckled.

She smiled and bared teeth as shiny and iridescent as Mother of Pearl, an aurora.

“Listen,” I said. “Do you want to get some coffee? I meant seaweed tea. Of course, I mean tea.”

The ‘Neathers were masters of evolution but couldn’t stomach certain chemicals, caffeine being one of them. Kind of ironic considering my favorite coffee shop, The Pot Authority, was owned by one of the seafolk, a guy named Bill Sutcliff, serves Cuban coffee in little cups with stirrers shaped like cigars that you select from a wooden box.

I loved that place, still do.

We sat at a table by a sweaty window, a fake flower veiled in dust poked from a Pellegrino bottle and fingerprints dotted the lacquered surface like a pattern. Soft jazz filtered in from ceiling speakers, but the whirring of the blender and hissing of the milk steamer were the real music of the place.

“What did you do, Jeremy?” she asked.

“Huh?” I glanced at her foot—a mere inch from my own—not noticing her eyes had followed mine. I blushed as she arched one feathery brow.

“Klein refers to your issues…” Beverly wrapped the word in air quotes, “Like he would if he meant jail.”

I startled a bit. In all those days, listening from the shadows, she’d been paying attention. To me.

“Public indecency. Made the mistake of filling my bladder full of beer nowhere near a bathroom. Cop started yelling at me the second I started to go and didn’t let up until long after I’d left a wet line up his state trooper trousers.” I chuckled. “Boy was he mad.”

I waited.

Then it came. A smile curled on her lips first, then Beverly’s hoarse little laugh, somewhere between a whine and sigh, came in curt but pleasant barks.

Then I was calm.

She’d bought the tale, hook, line and sinker. Didn’t know a thing about who I really was. I’d practiced that speech a hundred times, complete with the flinching humility and the little nods of acceptance. It sure beat telling her, or anyone, that I was famous.

Or infamous, I guess.

People around here use the story to frighten each other, kids mostly.

“Heard the story of The Licker?” they’d ask.

Everyone has, but you never know which version, so you say, “Nope.”

Then they’d go on to tell you about the teenage girl who’s home alone with her dog, parents away for the weekend or something. She either gets a phone call, or watches a news story or hears a radio report about an escaped murderer on the loose. She locks her house like a good little girl and goes to call for the dog but he doesn’t come, so she leaves the little floppy pet door unlocked and settles into bed to read a book. She drifts off and, later, feels the dog’s familiar breath on her feet, its tongue lapping her soles happily, as it always does, alerting her to its return. She pulls away and turns off the light for the night. In the morning, the first thing she sees is the dog’s battered and bloody body hung from the door knob, or a nail in the wall or something and on the dresser mirror, or wall, or wherever, written in the dog’s blood, or lipstick, depending on who tells it, the words “Humans lick, too.”

That’s me.

I’m The Licker.

Only the story is a little exaggerated, like most. For one, I’m no murderer, never even been in a fight. The police were after me on theft, got a little sloppy with the cuffs and I bolted.

Two, I love dogs. I would never hurt one. That girl’s pooch was more than happy to gnaw on a raw t-bone while I squeezed through its dog door and locked him out (and, no, it wasn’t cold out, so don’t even worry about that).

Other than that, it’s pretty accurate.

I licked her feet. It’s my thing. Doesn’t hurt anybody and I’d have been perfectly happy to be up front about it and ask Susan Charlette, the girl, if I could simply clean off her feet with my tongue, if that were an acceptable thing to do in today’s society. It’s not my fault people have hang ups, now, is it?

Just thinking about it made my mouth fill up with saliva. I swallowed and shot a glance at Beverly’s feet.

“That is ridiculous. There’s no doubt the officer who cited you has urinated out of doors. Silly.” She smiled and sipped at her tea. A bulb of seaweed floating in it like a marshmallow bumped her upper lip, and she giggled sweetly.

“You’ve got a little sea foam.” I pointed to her lip, where it clung.

She blotted it and smiled.

“Why are you attending the Wednesday Obsessives? I mean, if you don’t mind me asking.”

Beverly set the cup down and looked at her watch. “I guess we have time.” She cringed. “I have a bit of a shopping addiction.”

“Shopping?” I whistled. “That could get expensive.”

“Especially with what I shop for.” She smiled and tilted her hips, uncrossing and crossing her legs so that her foot was clearly in view. “Shoes.”

“Shoes,” I gulped.

“Shoes. I know it’s silly, isn’t it? Ten years ago I wouldn’t have even considered applying a piece of leather to my feet, but now that we ‘Neathers are out of the trenches…” her words trailed off and she reached across the table to touch my hand, fingers brushing across mine. “Oh, it is silly, isn’t it?”

I forced myself to look at her eyes, my cup, the couple at the table across the coffee shop, anywhere but those high-heeled shoes and the tiny cleavage of toe above the leather point. “Uh, no. I don’t think so.”

“Well, it is.” She gathered her purse from the floor and stood up, extending her slender green hand. “It was nice talking. We should do it again sometime.”

I slipped my hand into hers and felt her tense as if I’d shocked her with static electricity, only I hadn’t felt a zap, figured it was a ‘Neather thing and let it go.

Her smile blossomed, and a jaundiced flush drifted across her cheeks.

 * * * *

“That was the first night I followed her.”

“You followed her?” Dixon slid to the edge of the folding chair, resting his elbows on his knees, mouth still open from the last word. The rail-thin mechanic was always on the verge of a relapse. Hanging around the front windows of department stores ogling mannequins. Most of the mall security guys knew him, called him the doll baby. I don’t feel entirely comfortable explaining why.

“You know what I’ve said about cues, Jerry.” Klein tapped a pen against his clipboard. “Your story is full of them, though for the life of me I can’t remember a call coming in from you. The steps only work if you work ‘em.”

The rest of the group nodded their agreement.

“You wanna hear this or not?” I pointed one of my cottony fists in his direction.

“I do,” Fatty said, shoving a donut in his mouth.

“Me too,” said Rosa the Internet addict from behind her lapful of knitting. I was glad to see her working at the scarf, her nervous pointing and clicking on her thigh bugged the shit out of me. “Go ahead, Jer.”

Klein crammed the pen in his maw with a grating scrape and nodded.

 * * * *

I hung back in the alcove of the coffee shop’s door, waiting until Beverly turned the corner before darting up the street after her. She was nearly to 23rd when I peeked around the building, and to 24th by the time I slipped behind the column in front of the Venture Bank.

The streets were quiet and few cars spoiled the sound of her heels clicking against the concrete, jumping the shallow puddles of rain with loud clops. Her every movement reminded me of her exquisite feet, the sharp curves of tendons and muscles straining just under the supple flesh, and nails painted and slick, or so I imagined—I couldn’t recall ever seeing her toes, just the clefts, those dark mysterious creases. I wiped a bead of drool off on my sleeve.

Beverly lived in a three-storey row house on Winston, a big brick monster with a black door and matching black awnings over the first floor windows. She looked around before she dug in her purse for her keys, jingling them in her fingers before letting herself in and closing the door behind her.

I waited a moment, watching for her to flick on the lights, for those eyes to open onto the street. I watched the first floor windows intently, but it was a window on the third that lit up.

Blood red.

And as soon as it turned on, it was gone. I stayed about twenty minutes longer, sitting on a stoop a few houses down and building a castle of cigarette butts between my feet and a sore, tarred throat.

That was the first time.

 * * * *

“Jesus, Jer. How many times you follow that squid?” Klein asked, jotting notes or doodling or whatever it was he did on that clipboard of his.

“I don’t know.” I spat the cigarette from my mouth and ground it into the floor with my heel. “Ten. Twelve, maybe.”

“That’s sick, man.” Fatty said, grinding his teeth. “Why not eleven? You couldn’t even say it, could you?”

I nodded, didn’t want to get Fatty riled, he took his numbers seriously, after all. “Maybe it was eleven times. You could be right.”

“One, two, three…” Fatty counted out the numbers to eleven, though his voice fell into mumbles with a mouthful of jelly donut, raspberry dribbling down his chin like gore.

Klein coughed a wad of spit into his fist and stood up. He sauntered across to the refreshment table and snatched a napkin, wiping the phlegm off with a scowl. “Why is it you’re telling me this, exactly?”

“Thought we were supposed to be honest here, Klein. You want me to be honest, don’t you?”

Klein slouched back into his chair glaring. “Yeah. Honest. Keep goin’.”

 * * * *

Two pieces of my puzzle were in place—the feet and the location—only one piece left on the table, I had to figure out how to get in there. I didn’t figure Beverly had a dog door. Didn’t seem like a dog person, maybe cats, something that didn’t require a lot of care. What she did have was an alley.

It took some doing, but I managed to get to the top of a cinderblock wall and scout out the back garden of the townhouse, a little yard and a set of wooden stairs that led to a backdoor with a little curtained window that looked promising.

The next week we went for coffee again.

“Do you like these?” She twisted her foot in the air, the heels on her new shoes were black but the soles were red, almost fuschia. “Christian Louboutins. Aren’t they gorgeous?”

“You don’t come to group anymore,” I said, admiring her foot, the shoe.

“I don’t, do I?” She smiled.

“No.”

“I think it’s sometimes healthier to give in to temptation.” She picked up her tea and sniffed it, looked at me through the steam. “Otherwise, Jeremy, what’s the point of living at all?”

Klein had told me in that first week of joining the Weekday Obsessives that my issue wasn’t that I was obsessed with feet, but that I depersonalized. I could focus on that one part of a woman’s anatomy so intently that the rest of her went away, the blood stopped flowing beneath the skin, it turned to art, stone, into an object. I supposed he was right.

I knew he was right.

I went over the wall that night, crossed the garden as quietly as I could and busted the little window out, the whole time hoping it wasn’t deadbolted, or if it was, had the key sticking out of the lock like people do when they think they’re safe in their own homes.

It wasn’t a deadbolt and I was over and in before the glass hit the floor, though that’s an exaggeration, obviously.

I stood in the small kitchen and waited. Listening for the sounds of a house asleep, clocks ticking, wood settling in the humidity, refrigerator humming, and air whistling through the vents. Moonlight shone through the windows and caught on row upon row of seaweed bulbs hanging from a rack instead of pans, filling the air with salt and sludge and the faint smell of fish.

Satisfied that Beverly was asleep, I crept through the first floor to the stair hall and took the steps two at a time, always at the edges, never the center where I’d be sure to hit a weak spot and split a creak through the air as loud as a cat screech.

At this point, you’re probably figuring that rap the cops had on me back in my Licker days was probably dead on and you’d be right, a thief’s a thief and the skills don’t go away, they just get used for other purposes.

I listened again at the second floor landing.

This time a slow roll of waves added to the quiet sough. A noise machine, I figured; most of the ‘Neathers couldn’t sleep without them. Beverly would be no exception. It sounded like it was coming from the back of the third floor. I figured I was right, as I rounded the banister on the third landing and heard those waves crashing louder from the furthest doorway, open as it was. On the opposite side toward the front of the house, another door, the one to the red room, I presumed, was closed and, oddly enough, padlocked.

I looked at the floor, expecting to see a carpet but was met with shiny hardwood. I’m pretty sure I flinched. Hard wood, especially old wood such as Beverly’s squeaked something fierce and you never could tell where it would be the worst.

They smelled of orange oil and rubber, but creaked less snaking across them with my whole body. The closer I crouched toward it, the more I imagined the woman’s feet padding across it, pressing her essence into the grooves, pivoting, grinding it in.

I pulled myself forward, slipping across the threshold and into Beverly’s dark bedroom. Her breathing was soft and faint, a pale whistle of life in an otherwise still space. The ocean sounds were louder there, and in the distance of the recording, seagull caws, undercurrent rolls.

It was quite soothing.

The bed had no footboard and I wondered why I’d imagined one there. It was a cheap metal bed frame, but Beverly had applied care to her decorating, covering the box springs with a coordinating sheet. It was funny what you noticed crawling around on the floor of someone else’s home.

I began to rear up, lifting myself off my belly to get a better look, and when I did, like a miracle, Beverly’s foot flounced from under the comforter and dangled into the air to the side of the mattress. I had to clamp a hand across my mouth to keep from crying out.

The foot’s every curve and hollow was like fine statuary. Important. Its toes, the most perfect semblance of ovals ever assembled. Like five green sweet peas lined up in an open shell. I realized my breath was quickening, heaving, and steeled myself, holding it for a moment to calm down before the excitement bolted through me to my groin and I ended up pole vaulting straight off that floor.

I pushed myself forward until I was inches away and sniffed. The sea. Sweat. Street grime. Something else. Something sweet. My jaw unhinged, my tongue lolled and I began to feel faint. I touched the tip of my tongue to her heel, to her Plantar Fascia to be exact, and tasted everything I’d smelled and more.

Her foot was cold and damp and twitched as I slid the whole of my tongue along its arch, fluttered around the soft pillows of her toes. I surrounded the big toe with my cheeks dragging on it, suckling it like a nipple.

Ecstacy.

 * * * *

Without even realizing I’d passed out, I regained consciousness in a room the color of blood, the carpet was red too, so I figured it was the one I’d passed on the way to Beverly’s bedroom, the blood red flicker from the street. It took a moment to realize I’d been restrained while I was passed out, before my eyelids broke free of their crusts. I was stuck to a straight-backed and rather uncomfortable chair by wide military-style belts, double notched and tight, my wrists strapped to the arms with the kind of rubber tubing heroin addicts tie-off with.

“Beverly?” I asked, and immediately heard movement behind me, the back of her hand on my cheek.

“Hello, Jeremy.” She walked around to the front of the chair and grinned. “I was hoping that you’d come, but I wasn’t sure if it was really you creeping through my house in the middle of the night.”

She was talking like she’d set this whole thing up.

“Really? Me? What are you talking about?” I grinned awkwardly, shaking my head from side to side too quickly.

“Oh, Jeremy.” Beverly tilted her head and leaned in clutching my jaw and stopping my nervous tic dead. “You’re special and you know it. We actually have a lot in common, you and I.”

I pulled against the straps. “Are these really necessary, Beverly?”

She ignored the question. “You see, I’m not really a shopping addict.” She glanced down at my hands, ran her fingers across my wrists, the straps, tickled the tops of my fingers until the tiny hairs on them stood on end. “I love hands.”

I saw her expression, then the drugged haze of her eyelids, the tip of her tongue protruding from between her evergreen lips.

She was in heaven.

My mind traveled back to our first meeting, her foot protruding into the light like a scout, her stories of shoes, her ankle popping, the blatant obviousness of the seduction.

I was the fool.

I was the prey.

“When I heard you shuffling in the hallway, I knew I’d found you and then, when you licked my foot…” Her eyes closed and her mouth spread open in an ecstatic smile. “I thought I couldn’t wait. I thought I’d touch you then and there. Put you in my mouth.”

 * * * *

“I’m not going to lie to you Klein…” I nodded to the man and looked him square in the eye. “Sitting there tied up and just barely comprehending what the hell was going on, when she said those words I was like instantly aroused. It didn’t matter to me that she’d trapped me. For a second, I thought it was the answer. This woman who really gotme, ’cause she knew what I went through everyday. She had the same struggles.”

“Sounds perfect, except…” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Except…”

“Go on.” Klein’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

Biting the end of one of the bandages, I began to unravel the mitt on my right hand, circling it off with the same motion a carnie employs to collect cotton candy, though there’d be no sweetness at the end of this tale.

None at all.

 * * * *

Beverly crouched in front of me, her eyes level with the tips of my fingers. “You’re The Licker. I thought you were an urban legend, one of those stories.” Her eyebrow arched. “And then I dug a little deeper. Got the help of some research librarians, newspaper microfiche, the Internet. I was so happy the night we went for coffee. Nearly skipped all the way home. Might have…” she glanced up at my face. “If I didn’t suspect you were following me.”

“I was,” I agreed, nodding. What was the point of lying to someone like Beverly, those green eyes like mirrors of my own.

She touched the tips of my index fingers with hers. “You have lovely fingers, Jeremy. Can you ball them into fists for me, I love the way a fist looks, too.” She giggled excitedly.

I clenched them for her into thick solid balls and her head lolled on her shoulder, she sighed.

“You can let me out of this chair, Beverly. I’ll let you do whatever you want with my hands. You can touch them, hold them…lick them, even.”

I thought I was being enticing, and I’m certain I saw a shiver roll through her at the idea but she stood instead and paced the room. It was then I remembered the feeling of light-headedness that hit me the moment I tasted the sweet sea foam of sweat on her skin.

Drugged.

Beverly was toxic or something. Like one of those Japanese puffer fish that kill an unspecified number of people in sushi restaurants every year. If she licked me wouldn’t I pass out again? Maybe die this time?

“Wait a minute, Beverly. You drugged me!” I shouted.

She shrugged sweetly, her face apologetic. “I did. I’m so sorry, Jerry.”

“It’s Jeremy!” I screamed, panicked.

She was looking at my fingers again, dreamy. She lifted her eyes to mine. “Hmm?”

“You’re not sorry.” I pulled against the straps, the rubber tubing, bucking in the chair, hoping to unsettle it, bust it apart, get out of there. But it didn’t move. Not an inch.

“I’m not?” She asked, rolling up her sleeves. “I’m not sorry?”

Blistered bubbles of milky fluid sat atop her flesh like rows of lime candy dots.

Beverly ran her fingers across the tops of them and a few began to pop, sink in and dribble tiny rivulets of foam down her arms. She moved toward me.

“No. You’re not. What are you doing, Beverly?” My heart was beating out of my chest. I was certain she was planning to kill me.

But as I opened my mouth to protest some more, she rushed forward and pressed her arm up to my lips, the fluid burst from her, spraying my face, up inside my nostrils and across my tongue. Filling me with a sour fishiness.

I gagged. Choked on the sea foam in my throat.

She backed away, picked up a towel from a nearby dresser, and rubbed her arms dry. “It’s not really a poison, Jeremy. It’s more like medicine. It’ll just make you sleepy as can be.”

Her voice was as sweet and velvety as the first time I heard it.

She crouched in front of me, eying my fingers with what I realized for the first time wasn’t lust. It was something else. Against my will, my eyelids started to droop.

Beverly reached up and dabbed a thin bead of drool from the corner of her mouth.

It was hunger.

 * * * *

“I must have passed out because the last thing I remember was her opening her mouth wide, those teeth shimmering and sharp. She hovered a moment and held my ring finger between hers and then snapped down on it, ravenously.” I’d nearly finished unrolling the bandage for the group and when it fell away, followed by the thick pads of gauze pink with blood, the gasps were audible.

“Jesus Christ Jerry,” Klein said, face screwed up with disgust.

I held out my fingerless fist to the group, swollen and bruised. Black knots of stitching protruded from each oozing knuckle like spider legs reaching out of the seafoam green infection that settled there.

“I’d show you the other one, but I think you get the idea.”

“It’s not so bad,” a man in a loud bowling shirt said, flinching. Relatively new to the group, Mellon proved himself a compulsive liar in the first minute. “Lots of chicks dig that kind of thing.” And a sex addict.

Klein lit his pipe and grimaced. “I’m gonna have to talk to Al about this.”

“I’m countin’ on it,” I said.

“Not bad at all.” Fatty agreed, putting his donut back onto his dry napkin and kicking it behind the leg of his chair. I thought I heard him counting the stitches.

“It’s definitely fine.” Rosa had dropped her knitting into her basket and clicked an imaginary mouse against her thigh.

Dixon’s eyes were wide open, fingers up against a store window that wasn’t there. He chewed at his lip. “When it heals it’ll be as smooth as plastic, you’ll see.”

“Yeah sure, Dixon.” I turned to the group leader, “And, Klein, when you talk to Al…”

The man shook his head, looked away.

“Tell him to put me away for a long time. A very long time.”

About the Legend…

The Licker wasn’t an urban legend I’d heard as a child—and I heard tons of them, my mother being a horror fan. It took 1997’s Campfire Tales, one of those cheesy horror anthology movies staring absolutely no one with the possible exception of Ben Stiller’s wife, to put the story on my radar. The Licker features a trio of my favorite themes: fear, vulnerability and obsession. Much more than a babysitter in peril yarn, the antagonist in this legend is specifically disturbed. Not just a maniac hellbent on slaughter, our guy lives for the taste.

How could I not jump from all that juicy stuff to fetishism?

And particularly foot fetishism. Paraphilias make people uncomfortable and while the story isn’t specifically horror, it features a “sea change” mid climax—if you’ll pardon the pun—it definitely taps into the idea of being violated and assumptions about what constitutes a victim, which I just think is fun to play with. If I can make people think or be shocked or uncomfortable, I know I’ve done my job.

Mark Henry traded a career in the helping profession to scar minds with his short stories and novels. He blames his crazy ideas on premature exposure to horror movies, and/or witnessing adult cocktail parties in the ’70s. But surviving earthquakes, typhoons, and two volcanic eruptions might have had something to do with his nihilist fantasies. Despite being disaster prone, he somehow continues to live and breathe, residing in the oft maligned, yet not nearly as soggy as you’d think, Pacific Northwest, with his wife and four furry monsters that think they’re children and have a complete and utter disregard for carpet.

 

When not twittering or wasting time on Facebook, Mark somehow conjures up irreverent urban fantasy comedy about zombies who swig cocktails and vampires in bullet bras who drag race. He also writes young adult fantasy about Purgatory’s angsty teen ghosts under the pseudonym Daniel Marks.

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