Excellent! All stories in this collection are great. "The Madame Penitent" is something truly special. The plot alone would make it worthwhile but it is so much more than that. Evocatively written, the prose in this story feels more like poetry (and I mean that in a good way ;)). The good doctor delivers! -Smashwords review"The Madame Penitent", the 3rd story in Pandora's Children The Complete Nightmares: Book1, is the story of a high school senior dying of a brain tumor who is looking for one last thrill before death claims him. What he finds, though, during his trip in the Utah desert, is not what he expects. The following is an excerpt from the story:
An hour later, Mark turned onto the final leg of his journey, a four mile stretch of poorly lit desert road dotted with the silhouettes of cacti and scrub. The sky overhead was cloudless, a deep purple canvas studded with hundreds of shimmering stars. The moon hovered low and large on the horizon directly in front of him, its pocked surface drawing him forward with the same gravity it pulled at the ocean tides with. The night was mostly silent, though the call or cry of some nocturnal animal pierced the perfect hush every once in a while.
The sense of excitement had swollen to near bursting within him.
But halfway down that lonely, shadowed road, something funny happened to Mark. His goal so close, the significance of what he was doing suddenly slugged him.
He was going to a whorehouse.
To get laid for the first time.
And quite possibly the last time.
Because he was dying.
He was dying.
Mark eased up on the gas, not stopping but slowing significantly.
He was dying, and his initial response to this knowledge was to go out and pay a prostitute to fuck him when it should have been to spend what precious time he had left with his friends and family. With the people who loved him and cherished him and valued his company. Not with a whore who cared not one whit for him save what cash he would leave on the dresser before he left.
He was dying, and instead of giving what time he had left to those who would miss him most when he was gone, he was tending his own selfish needs, his own desires, in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Guilt hit him. Doubt stabbed him, and he was suddenly unsure if this was what he wanted. The excitement was suddenly gone, replaced by a certain self-loathing. Is this what he really wanted to accomplish before meeting his Maker?
“So,” God would ask, “how did you spend your final days knowing you were going to die?”
“Well, truth be told, I was whoring it up.”
“Hmmm, was it worth it?”
Part of Mark knew that he was being overly-critical, that he deserved to indulge in a certain amount of selfishness. His life was soon to be over, and he had every right to experience all of the joys a mortal possibly could during their time on this earthly realm. But another part, the more pious part, couldn’t help but to think he would be judged harshly for these actions.
Mark was wrestling with these conflicts, struggling to decide whether or not he should turn around, when the migraine hit.
Like a wild beast suddenly uncaged, the tumor piggy-backing on his brainstem surged, sending bolts of fresh agony though his skull. The pain coursed through his head, wave after wave slamming home, sending violent crashes of color across his vision, effectively blinding him.
Surprised, Mark was stunned for the first several seconds. He had never felt pain this intense before, and nothing close to this while driving, but he knew pain and had learned how to, if not master it, then push it aside enough so he could still function. So instead of panicking and sending the car off the road, he fought the pain, forced himself to see through the aura that clouded his sight, forced himself to ignore the sudden cacophony of raucous sounds rattling inside his head, and slowly eased his car onto the narrow shoulder. Stopped, he turned off the ignition and laid his head on the steering wheel, struggling against the potent assault to his senses. He clenched his teeth together with such force he feared he may crack something and squeezed his eyes closed so tightly that it hurt. He tried to steady his breathing as nausea threatened to empty the contents of his stomach onto his lap as he gripped the wheel with both hands to keep himself from tumbling over. He sat in that position for several minutes, his breathing heavy but rhythmic, until the symptoms finally abated.
A sign from God, he thought as he opened his eyes. Turn around, find a hotel for the night, and go home tomorrow. And accept the fate that has been written for you.
Mark lifted his head, had every intention of making a u-turn and making his way back towards the highway. But then he saw it, off to his right, as he surveyed the desert road for oncoming traffic.
It was a building, set about two hundred feet back from road, a small, two-story affair with the words “Last Chance Brothel” sparkling in gaudy blue and white neon on a sign sprouting from the roof.
Mark rubbed his eyes, sure that they were deceiving him. The building hadn’t been there a minute ago. It just hadn’t. Sure he had slammed his eyes closed a couple hundred feet back when the migraine hit, but he would have seen the building from that distance, especially with the sign crackling like a beacon in the night. But he
hadn’t seen it. Yet here it was.
Another sign? A conflicting sign? The Devil’s Temptation?
Mark rubbed his eyes again, but the brothel didn’t disappear like the mirage he half-expected it to be. It remained in all of its garish glory. A series of halogen lamps dotted the driveway from the street to the building, like the lights defining a landing strip at an airport, inviting him, tempting him, to come a-knocking.
As Mark looked at the unexpected building, he ran over what he knew of the brothels in the area. There were five. None resided on this desolate road, though one did stand another two miles down. And he couldn’t remember seeing this name, either. As far as he knew, there was no brothel called the “Last Chance” in Nevada, though the name seemed fitting for someone like him. But though there was no legal brothel by that name, that didn’t preclude the existence of an illegal establishment. But here? Along this road? It all seemed too… too…
“What the hell,” Mark muttered under his breath, “I’ve come this far just to get a piece of ass before I die. And what better place than the ‘Last Chance’. Someone’s sick idea of a joke.” Without giving the situation another thought, he covered the remaining distance in the shoulder of the road, then turned onto the driveway which eventually dumped him at the entrance of the building. There were three parking spots but no other cars. He took the one closest to the entrance and turned off the ignition.
Mark stepped out of the car, gave the building a quick appraisal. It was small, simple, not what he expected from a brothel of any quality. It reminded him more of a farmhouse, with its wooden, worn exterior and peeling paint, and if it hadn’t been for the name of the place, Mark wouldn’t have given it a second glance. The brilliant sign he had seen from the road seemed wasted on such an establishment.
Cautiously, Mark made his way over a short pebble path to the front door, where the exterior screen door was propped open with a brick. The door itself was closed, and he considered knocking but instead gave the knob a quick twist, allowing the wooden door to swing inward.
The earlier Disney World excitement long gone, the more recent doubt gone as well, Mark entered the Last Chance Brothel without prejudice.
To read more this story, pick up The Complete Nightmares: Book 1. And if you enjoy that, remember, there's always book 2, chock-ful of more monsters and mayhem.