CASSIE MYER'S RING
by KATIE JONES
In 1989 two lovers were said to have been buried together, after they both suffered from a drug overdose. It was either a tragic accident or a synchronized suicide. It happened on a hot summer night, when the teenage lovers decided to shoot a potent mixture of heroin into the veins of their arms. No one really understood why they would have used drugs to begin with, she was a Catholic girl, and her mother and father would always ensure she was going to be brought up in the way of the Lord. He was the son of a lawyer, intelligent and though he had no religious upbringing, he was said to be straight edge. He never drank or smoked and it was said they were both still virgins when they died.
But when they were found, lying intertwined on the girl’s bed; they had single injection sites on their skin, and one syringe that was the culprit in this case. For years people fantasised about how they would have ended it, would he inject her, or would she have injected him? Did he use his lips to clean away the bead of blood growing at the site where the needle perforated skin? No one would ever know. Some thought it romantic, like those famous lovers Romeo and Juliet; others saw it as simply a stupid mistake, and a total waste of life. Whatever they thought, the parents of the deceased combined the funerals, so that the two could rest together, and they were placed in the same plot. Rumour had it that they were placed in the same coffin, but no one really knew because the funeral service was private, only friends and close family friends were allowed to attend and say goodbye.
It was for this reason alone that a young man found himself pulling up to the old, abandoned cemetery, the headlights of his beaten up Commodore blasted rays of artificial light onto the mass of trees surrounding the path that led to where the rows of tombstones sat in silence. He opened the door and closed it with a slight thud, moving through the warm night slowly and quietly. The soles of his boots hit the gravel road and sent crunching noises into the still night. He wore jeans and a black t-shirt. There was no need to rug up. This warm night greeted him and he enjoyed the breeze that trickled through the fabric of his shirt. In his hand he clutched a single, compact spade that folded neatly away into the crook of his arm.
The path led him deeper into the rolling hills peppered with stones, some tombs held up ancient looking angels and their lifeless eyes glistened in the moonlight, sad expressions slowly eroding away after years of rain and summer heat. The silence of the night was unnerving and the man found himself glancing around his shoulder every once in a while, scanning the night. He moved off the gravel and onto the soil, he found himself sinking into soft, dry earth with every step he took, as though the ground beneath was attempting to suck him into its very core. He found himself bumping into old vases, sending the brittle glass shattering to the ground and slicing the silence with its sound.
Finally he came to a specific grave, a simple headstone marked the spot and the words engraved into the stone were faded and hard to decipher, he reached out and rubbed the dirt and dry mud off the smooth surface, revealing the names underneath. James Tonkin and Cassie Meyers lay here, resting beneath the six feet of dirt and soil. Wearily he unfolded the spade, and began to set to work, thrusting it into the loose, dry soil before placing his weight onto the blade, driving down and scooping up chunks of dirt before throwing them into a pile onto the side. Perspiration gathered on his forehead and the biceps of his arms bulged as he worked, determined to get this done before the light came over the horizon. He soon found himself knee deep in earth, sinking deeper into the core of the ground below him. Jumping out, he landed onto the top soil, before pulling his sweat soaked shirt over his head and throwing it to the ground. It stuck to his skin, wet and slick, but once he was free, he glanced back at the hole and prepared himself for another crack at this digging, fixing his hair back into a tight bun before doing so.
A scuttling noise caught his attention and he whipped around, eyes wide and searching the stones around him, squinting into shadows, catching a glimpse of an oversized, wet looking cockroach as it squeezed it’s glistening body between the cracks of a tomb. The man shuddered, taking a deep breath and then leaping into the hole he’d dug, working continuously now, unable to stop himself. It felt like forever, and the sun began to creep over the horizon, the bright orb slowly rising up and shattering the darkness with vivid rays of orange, pink and red. The warbling of magpies resonated through the air, and the screeching of birds filled the trees. He had to work faster.
It wasn’t long before he heard the thump of the shovel hitting wood, and he threw the spade over the edge of the hole, it hit the mound of dirt with a dull plunk. On his hands and knees, he worked furiously to remove soil with his fingers, dirt spilled out of his cupped hands and slid through the cracks of his digits. Eventually the lid of a coffin was exposed, and the man frowned, this confirmed they were buried together. Gradually he pried the wood off the top, the brittle timber cracking and splintering in his hands, shards of needle fine embers slicing into his skin and burying deep into the flesh of his palms. The sun was higher now, exposing the contents within the coffin.
There they were, two skeletons with transparent, tissue paper skin clinging to the faces and limbs in some places, ivory coloured bones poked out beneath the decayed flesh. Embalming had preserved these two lovers relatively well. Their spines were curled slightly, as though they had been buried embracing each other, and the bones of their limbs were intertwined, you could not move one without causing the other skeleton to fall into a mass of bones. Their grinning skulls faced each other, the hollows of their orbital holes locked onto each other’s gaze. The smaller skeleton had a single gold band around its index finger, and a thin chain sat snugly inside of the ribcage of the larger skeleton, intertwined around the vertebras of its neck.
The man sat there, simply admiring the scene before him for a moment. Before reaching into the depths of his back pocket and sliding out his smart phone. He knelt over the bodies, before snapping multiple photos, close ups of their skulls, and full length photographs of their bodies lying side by side. Then he slid his hands into the coffin and delicately removed the single band around the finger of one body, with shaky hands he managed to slide it off without interfering too much. Next he reached for the chain. His hands slid under the rib cage and he slowly gripped the ring before threading it through the spaces of the ribs, catching it in his free hand and undoing the latch around the skeletons neck. Flakes of dried skin began to fall off the chin of the skull as his hands brushed past.
The man pocketed these items, and then leaped and clawed his way out of the deep hole, the fabric of his jeans were filthy, and dirt poured out from the leg holes of his pants. He stood up, photographing the open grave and the headstone before working quickly to fill in the loose soil he’d dug up.
The man reached his car by the time the sun had settled higher into the sky, and the canary yellow sedan, with peeling paint and rust stains, slowly rolled out onto the road.
Once he was home, he entered the house and plonked himself down in front of his laptop, waiting impatiently as it came on. Sipping coke, he quickly uploaded the pictures he’d taken to various websites. One was a popular site that glamorised death and frequently showed pictures of dead humans in various stages of decay. The other was his personal blog. He sat there for a few moments, in the glowing light of the monitor, as the comments began to roll in. And with a smirk on his face, he turned and set the rings on his desk, before crawling into bed exhausted.
He slept until the sun went down, then he finally rolled out of bed, long black hair matted with sweat. He moved his naked body towards the shower, turning on the water and washing the dirt and filth away, stained water drained into the plughole beneath him. Once he was finished he moved out and dried himself off, lightly towel drying his shoulder length hair, before pushing it into a messy bun and tying it back with elastic. He looked into the fogged up mirror, reaching out with his hands and applying messy, black eyeliner to his vivid, blue eyes. Glancing at his slim face, he checked his reflection, studying the high cheekbones. He wasn’t overly handsome, but he wasn’t too bad either. The five o’clock shadow on his chin and cheeks made him look older than his 21 years today.
Walking out, he dressed in loose black jeans and a tank top before sliding his wallet into the back of his pants, pulling on Dr Marten boots, grabbing the rings and leaving the house. He walked down the busy sidewalk, until he found himself at one of the local pubs he frequented, entering and setting down at the bar, ordering a beer.
The bartender smiled, handing over a cold Victoria Bitter, and collected his money before speaking, “How’s it going Terry?” he asked the man, as he sipped the froth off the top of his beer.
Terry looked up, studying the lanky, tall man with a buzz cut, “Good thanks, Drew.”
“The band doesn’t start for another hour or so”, Drew said, leaning over the polished bar.
“It’s okay,” muttered Terry, “I was hoping to score a good meal before I really got tonight underway.”
“Alright, I’ll get you the usual.” said the bartender, heading off.
Terry ate a crispy chicken burger at one of the nearby tables, sipping multiple beers as he went. The band came in, carrying instruments and setting up in a small corner of the bar. The stage wasn’t much, and this place wasn’t glamorous. In fact, it was an old pub with stained wooden floor and graffiti in the toilets. But the crowd was coming through the doors, girls and boys adorned in black clothing, their eyes ringed with black eyeliner, some faces covered in glistening metal, all seeking to be unique yet looking the same.
A girl in a full length black dress took a seat opposite Terry as he pushed the plate aside, her long, black tresses fell messily around her face, and the canvas of her face rippled into a smile, brown eyes twinkling.
“I’m glad you came,” Alice said, taking hold of the bottle in front of her and sipping at her Canadian Club, before setting the cold beverage back into the little wet ring on the table.
“I am too, should be a good night.” Terry remarked, watching the small room become filled with spectators. People were already lining up to see the band as they practiced a set.
The night went on. Terry was surrounded by people, but Alice was always beside him. Eventually they left the pub, walking out into the night air and standing on the sidewalk sucking on cigarettes. Curls of smoke left their mouths and drifted into the sky.
Terry reached into his pocket, producing a single, gold ring in his palm, “I’ve got something for you he said, smiling as he did so. Alice reached out, allowing him to slide the band onto her index finger, a knowing smile on her face.
“Is this...” her voice trailed off.
“Cassie Meyer’s ring, yes it is.” Terry whispered smugly, watching Alice’s face, her eyes wide and studying the gold jewellery.
“I can’t believe you actually did it.” She spoke softly, slightly awed by this.
“Well,” he paused before speaking again, “I knew you wanted it, you’ve always spoke of those two lovers. And look,” his hand went underneath the fabric of his shirt, revealing a ring dangling on a chain from his neck.
Alice’s eyes bulged, reaching forward she fingered the gold ring ever so gently with the tips of her fingers. “Forever lovers,” she whispered voice barely audible.
Terry leaned forward, and his lips met hers, gently caressing the soft, plump flesh of her mouth. She kissed him back, before finally pulling away, wide eyes locking onto his face. “Thank you.”
The two parted, and Terry headed back home, walking in the light provided by the street lamps above and smiling to himself. He went slowly, enjoying the darkness and the stars, his lips still curled into a grin as the kiss lingered there. When he slid the key into the lock of his door, he felt something caress the back of his neck. Crying out, he spun around, stray hairs freeing from the tie in his hair and settling around his shocked face.
There was nothing there. He reached back to touch the flesh of his neck and the skin was ice cold and slightly wet. He brought his fingers back and close to his face, studying the thin film of moisture there. Frowning, eyebrows drawn close together he turned around and opened the door, locking it behind him and switching on the lights. The screen of his laptop was still on, and he walked over, settling down into the chair and focussing on the pictures of the two in the grave, the comments were endless. People were both impressed and enraged. Terry grinned and began to type furiously, hitting the keyboard hard as he went. He looked down, and noticed that there were flakes wedged between the keys, between his fingers he picked one out staring at it; it was dry and crumpled from his touch. Ignoring it, he typed on, before settling into bed, mind fuzzy and still drunk.
He awoke a couple of hours later, and rolled over and onto his stomach, but his face was pressing into something beneath him, it felt like crumbs on his pillow. He reached out lethargically, and switched on the lamp, only to discover the little flakes were not crumbs, but something else, transparent and light, they covered his pillow case like dandruff. He threw the pillow off the bed, stood up and made his way to the linen closet, grabbing another pillow case and peeling the used one off it before forcing the bulky pillow into its cover. Sleep came almost suddenly, and his slumber was peaceful.
Hours later the alarm buzzed in his room, and he moved to turn it off. Stepping out of bed and into the shower, he stood there as the water fell over him, wiping away at his body blindly before stepping out and drying himself off. As usual, he checked his reflection in the mirror. Terry’s eyes went wide and fear licked at his insides as he glimpsed himself. The person staring back at him looked like him, but something was different, the skin on his face was cracking in places, and the dry layers were literally peeling away from the flesh underneath like old paint. He desperately searched through his bathroom cupboard, grabbing moisturiser and slathering it onto his skin furiously. It was less noticeable this way, but the skin was still discoloured. He checked his body and the dandruff like flakes were everywhere.
He pulled on clothes, and though it was hot he wore pants and a long sleeve top, hiding his skin, before placing a hat and sunglasses on his head, moving out into the day he headed off to work.
At the coffee shop, he served people, but he was forced to remove his hat and glasses. People gasped at the sight of his skin, and two hours after entering the workplace he had to check his reflection again; the bulging eyes and worried looks were too much for him to handle. Frantically he moved to the bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror, his hands clenched the basin until his knuckles were white. The skin was peeling off, bubbling and enlarging in places, while some of the flesh on his cheek bones was filled with holes. The meat looked necrotic, black and dead around the small caverns on his face. He backed away suddenly, as a large, dead chunk of flesh began to give way, revealing white slime and dark flesh underneath. He used his finger to prod at the hole, gathering mush onto his finger and inhaling the scent.
The stench was incredible, and his body heaved as gags ripped through his throat. The smell was nothing he had ever come across, something close to meat that had gone off in the heat of the summer, but a thousand times worse. He lifted his shirt and his pale skin seemed to be enlarged in places, his belly swollen and filled with something that could only be gas, discolouration speckled his flesh, blue, purple and white; he looked like the surface of a fine china plate.
And then his eyes locked onto the reflection of a band of gold hanging from his neck, he reached up with his fingers and tried to rip it off furiously. Agonising pain sped down his spine. He gripped it with both hands, ripping at the flimsy chain furiously, but it wouldn’t come off. His fingers searched blindly behind his head, moving through messy curls as he went, and searching for the latch, but the tips of his fingers prodded something odd and when he moved forward to inspect it. Twisting and pulling his collar down, the horror caused his eyes to bulge.
The skin at the back of his neck was swollen and raised; the thin chain disappeared into the flesh, as though it was growing out of his body. The entry point oozed cheese coloured puss, and the skin itself felt hard as stone.
Terry felt nothing but blind panic now, and he rushed out of the bathroom, bursting into the cafe’ and speeding out of the door. Customers yelled at him as he ran past, pushing and shoving his way through the oncoming crowd. His feet hit the pavement and he took off, stumbling every once in a while, steadying himself and regaining balance as he zigzagged in and out of traffic, car horns blasting as the crazed man ran on. At one point, he tripped, chin hitting the concrete, pain radiated through his jaw, and as he pushed his face back from the pavement, his eyes locked onto a chunk of meat, the size of his fist that was stuck to the filthy concrete. Springing back up, he sprinted down an alley way, and rounded a corner, fists beating frantically on the front door of an old, weatherboard house.
The door opened, and Alice answered, a veil covering her face. She screamed at the sight of Terry, the flesh of half his bottom jaw was missing, and ivory coloured bone glistened before her, the row of his bottom teeth revealed to her eyes. She grabbed at his wrists, with her own hands and hung on tight, pulling him inside when she realised who he was. Terry looked down to find that the tips of her fingers were nothing but protruding bones, the flesh had split and peeled away.
He followed her inside and she slowly reached up and took off the veil, breathing slowly before turning to face him, her neck was almost bare, vertebra exposed here and there, and black, necrotic tissue was all that remained of most of her once beautiful face. Her bulging, brown eyes had sunk back into the sockets in her skull and her hair was coming out; bald patches speckled her skull on the right side of her head.
Tears welled in Alice’s eyes and rolled down her rotten flesh as she spoke, her voice raspy and crackling, barely audible, “What have you done?”
Terry looked away, staring at his palms, dry flesh clinging to nothing but tendons and bones, “I’m sorry, Alice.”
He sank to his knees, and his body shook, sobs echoed off the walls, the fabric of his clothes hung off him like sacks as he wasted away before her eyes. She knelt down beside him, lifting his head and studying the grotesque face before her, “I love you,” she said.
Alice leaned forward, gently kissing Terry, the flesh of her lips meshing with what was left of his, and the skin flaked and peeled as their mouths moved. When she pulled back, black gunk was smeared over the teeth that permanently smiled through Terry’s jaw. They held each other and silently waited. Their organs failed, as enzymes and bacteria caused membranes and walls to rapidly decay and their bodies were filled with a mixture of soup. Skin swelled and peeled, gas burst free of cracked flesh and the flies were drawn to the scent of decay. They held each other as their bodies became revolting mush and dry bones, blooming into flowers of grotesque remains.
When they were found, they were nothing but skeletons hidden under a pile of clothing, holding each other close, the smaller one wearing a ring on her finger, the larger one adorned with a simple chain, an identical ring sitting inside its rib cage. Dental records confirmed their identity and the family of the deceased were notified. Two separate funerals took place over the next ten days and the lovers were buried apart.
Katie Jones lives in Australia and spends her working days caring for people with a disability. During her free time she enjoys writing and reading whenever possible. She is currently working on a novel and a piece of writing called ‘Food for Thought’ has been selected for inclusion in Slaughter House: The Serial Killer Edition Anthology by Sirens Call Publications. You can contact Katie on twitter: @misskatejones89 or facebook.com/MissKate. Katie’s story, “Cassie Meyers’ Ring”, appears in the June, 2013 issue of HelloHorror.
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