The Forgotten Maxim
By Patrick M. Tracy
Eduardo held the remnant of his left hand close to his body. There was a strange sound in the restroom, and he had the feeling he was making it. A high, wailing sound. The blood pooled under him on the dirty tile. It made a glooping noise as it went down the floor drain. He felt the shivering start, and the full impact of the pain settled in. Holy man, but there was a lot of pain.
The thing—he didn’t want to give the goddamn thing a name, not after soaking up fifteen 9mm shells with equanimity and biting his hand nearly off—came at the door again. If the old Sunoco station hadn’t been built on a slab, its assault would have shaken the floor. As is, the glued-on mirror came off the wall and shattered. The bad luck deal was probably superfluous at this point. The lock wouldn’t hold out much longer. One or two more lunges, that was it.
“Too bad I didn’t remember.” he told himself. His voice sounded calm now. The fluorescents above looked dim. Little orbs of light pulsed through the long tubes like dancing cotton balls on fire. He hadn’t remembered what they said in the old movies. He hadn’t saved the last bullet for himself.
The door burst open, springing its hinges and hopping on the tiles twice before slamming down against the bathroom’s hard floor. On the door’s top edge, someone had scrawled, “Angie’s a good lay.” The ink looked ancient. Angie was probably someone’s grandma by now.
Eduardo looked down at his hand again. Just the thumb protruded from the messy wreckage of gristle and broken flesh. In ninth grade, he’d slid that hand up under Julie Compton’s sweater behind the auto shop building. He remembered how she’d breathed a shuddering breath against his neck, how her fingernails had tangled in his hair. She’d always smelled like a candy cane.
The thing’s claws clacked against the tiles as it entered the restroom. He could hear it breathing, a big, wet sound. “I should have remembered,” Eduardo whispered to himself. “Jesus Christos, Julie, but I should have remembered.”
The thing pulled the metal partition around the bathroom stall down with ease. It went clattering across the floor, though the sound seemed deeper, fainter than it should have. Eduardo couldn’t take it all in, but his eyes locked with the creature’s, and they were nearly human. He guessed that was the worst of it, the idea that this thing was nearly human. Sagging against the cold porcelain of the toilet, he closed his eyes.
He smelled its breath, like diluted vinegar. It stopped, just for a moment, so close he could feel its heat. After that, a momentary pain. The cracking force of its teeth penetrated his skull. His right hand pulled the pistol’s trigger again and again, but it produced no more than a series of clicks. After a moment, even this nervous twitch faded.