Pierre V. Comtois

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Fatal Error


Whenever Moira was in Phil’s arms, the rest of the world seized to exist so it was only gradually that she became aware of the cooler temperature of the mud room within which they shared their current embrace.

It was the conclusion of their latest tryst and outside, a snowless, early winter had settled over the North Shore neighborhood where Phil’s home was located. Just below freezing outside, the cold was barely held at bay in the mud room where no central heating was available.

But that was all right so far as Moira was concerned, warm as she was in her heavy coat and held close by Phil’s strong arms.

A good six inches taller than she was and 17 years older, Phillip Potokin was yet a handsome man, athletic with salt and pepper hair that lent him an air of gravity rather than of age. Certainly his virility was not in question as Moira had discovered a few years before when, having crossed paths at a business meeting between Phil’s software manufacturing company and her bank, they found themselves immediately attracted to each other.

And it was no dainty, slow to build relationship held back at first with guilt feelings that had to be overcome. No. It was pure animal magnetism, an all consuming desire, hunger even, for each other. Both of them recognized that their feelings were mutual and following their first encounter, he took her in the back seat of his Cadillac where it was kept in a darkened parking garage.

It had been a risky thing to do of course, but such was the burning desire they had for each other that any rational consideration was the last thing on their fevered minds.

After that, their appetite for each other became insatiable and their lives together became a bewildering series of secret rendezvous and quick, desperate couplings that all but emptied their souls into one another.

Moira recalled those early days with rising passion and it was all she could do to restrain her excitement and keep from taking reckless chances. Since then, although their passions were no less enflamed, their trysts had become more regularized. The spontaneity of their earlier encounters had evolved and become routine: Tuesday afternoons they met at her apartment when no one was around to wonder who her guest was; Thursday nights when he worked late, they liked to relive their first time in the back seat of his car; Saturday mornings, it was on a couch in an empty office in the downtown building where he was supposed to be putting in some overtime. In between, they met whenever opportunity presented itself.

But the important thing was that in all the years since they first met, the initial fire they felt for each other still raged. She hungered more than ever for the sweet oblivion his touch that never failed to deliver and, more importantly, her own body still held him in carnal fascination.

But with their continuing desires and the restrictions on their ability to be with each other came increasing frustration at the forces that conspired to keep them from being together permanently.

For Moira, there were no impediments, but for Phil there was the pesky issue of a wife who suspected something was not completely right with her husband but who refused to face reality. Sylvia Potokin, Moira firmly believed, was of the old fashioned sort who believed the words spoken at her wedding about “in sickness and in health,” “for richer, for poorer,” and “until death do you part.”

More than once Moira had raged at Sylvia’s naiveté and refusal to live by 21st century mores. Didn’t she realize that most marriages ended in divorce? That most people didn’t even bother with the archaic institution anyway? Why couldn’t Phil just give her the facts of life so that they could move on with their lives and transform their affair into something more permanent?

But Phil insisted that they needed to wait until the time was right. It wasn’t as if he cared all that much for his wife, it was his young daughter that he worried about. On the other hand, his ardor for Moira knew no bounds, transcended convention. It demanded new rules of behavior not yet written or even imagined. For that reason, Phil himself had not ruled out extreme measures if the situation refused to clear up.

And Moira believed him every time he took her in his arms, every time he made love to her, even now as their lips parted and he loosened his grip on her.

Holding her at arm’s length, Phil looked down into Moira’s blue eyes and ran his hand roughly through her short, blond hair. Unable to control his desire, he pulled her to him again for one last kiss.

At last, it ended, and he spoke.

“You have to go now, Moira,” warned Phil. “Sylvia will be back shortly.”

“Oh, Phil. Why can’t we be together forever? Hasn’t enough time passed that you can tell Sylvia about us? She likely suspects anyway…you’ve said so yourself often enough.”

“I know. I know. But…”

Just then, they were interrupted by a tiny voice coming from back in the house.

“Daddy? Where are you?”

“It’s Darlene…” Phil began.

“I thought you gave her a sleeping pill?”

“Half a pill. Apparently it wasn’t enough. I’ll be right back.”

Leaving Moira in the vestibule, Phil stepped inside the house, crossing the kitchen to the swinging door that led to the front hall. On the stairs coming down from the second story was the figure of a little girl, no more than five years old.

“Darlene,” said Phil moving to the stair railing and looking up at the pajama clad child who had stopped about half way down. “What are you doing up so late?”

“I woke up,” said the little girl. “I’m thirsty.”

“Well why don’t you go back to your room and I’ll bring you up a glass of water in a minute, okay?”

“Okay, daddy.”

Watching to make sure Darlene did as he asked, Phil returned quickly to the mud room.

“I have to go,” he told Moira. “Hurry. Sylvia will be here any minute. She can’t catch your car leaving the property.”

“Phil, if you can’t just tell her then we need to consider other options,” said Moira, throwing her arms around his neck in a last embrace.

“I’ve thought about that but it has to be planned carefully…”

“There’s been plenty of time to think about it. We’ve often discussed any number of ways it could be made to look like an accident.”

“But as a last resort!”

“Then divorce.”

“It’s not as easy as that,” insisted Phil. “There’s Darlene to consider. If there was a divorce, Sylvia would take her away.”

“Phil, just tell her. Tell her and get it over with.”

“I’ll consider it,” mumbled Phil, unable to resist Moira’s lips and then moving his attentions downward into the open collar of her coat.

Finally letting Moira go, he shepherded her quickly to the outside door.

“Tell her!” insisted Moira as she descended the steps.

“I will!” Phil shot back, but Moira doubted that he would.

As the door closed behind her, she crossed the graveled drive and slid into the cold interior of her sporty red Maserati. Starting the engine, and pumping the accelerator, she pulled out in the direction of the main driveway and the road beyond.

Her exit was more precipitous than she had intended but she was angry. How many times had she and Phil departed with the very same words they had just exchanged?

Moira had just taken the car around a bend when she encountered another coming along fast. At first the headlight glare blinded her but as the white Ford Explorer passed her by, she caught enough of a glimpse of the driver to make the association: it was Sylvia, arriving home early.

Seeing her rival for Phil’s attentions Moira’s frustrations returned in full force. Having trouble controlling her emotions, she found a clearing on the shoulder of the road and pulled over until she could get control of herself.

Meanwhile, the white SUV continued on its way up the hill until, slowing, it pulled into the driveway only recently evacuated by Moira. The big car slowly rolled forward until coming to a stop before the portico giving shelter over the front door.

Out of the car stepped Sylvia Potokin who moved with firm deliberation up the steps and into the house. She encountered her husband almost immediately as he was coming down the staircase.

“Are you early, Sylvia?” he asked.

“A little. Did I interrupt any plans?”

“Plans?”

“Don’t be coy with me, Phil,” said Sylvia. “I just passed your girlfriend’s car on the way up.”

“Girlfriend…” said Phil, unable to completely cover the alarm in his voice.

“I thought that would rattle you. Yes, your girlfriend or lover or mistress or whatever it is they call such women these days. And there’s no need to feign surprise. I’ve known about your little dalliance for months now. Did you think you could keep something like that secret for long? People in large offices notice things you know. Especially things that happen outside a person’s normal routine. Things that get talked about and eventually filter down. Well, it finally filtered down to me, darling.”

At that point, unable to contain her emotions, Sylvia’s brave front collapsed and she broke into tears.

Unmoved, Phil crossed his arms and watched his wife, contemplating his options. At least he was relieved of the obligation to tell her that he wanted out of their marriage. Suddenly, his thoughts became dominated by the realization that soon he would have unrestricted access to Moira’s charms and it was all he could do to dampen the flames that threatened to suddenly overwhelm him.

Not wishing to lose the golden opportunity just handed him, Phil pressed his case with Sylvia.

“You think tears will make it all better?” he said. “Think again.”

Lifting her head, Sylvia looked at Phil in disbelief.

“How could you be so callous?” she demanded.

“Oh, come on, Sylvia,” Phil replied. “You’re a grown woman. You must have known this moment was coming, long before these stories you talk about ‘filtered’ down to you.”

“Wha…what do you mean?”

“Just this: that the relationship I’ve been having has been going on for much longer than a few months. And do you know why that is, Sylvia? Because Moira and I love each other…no, that’s too tame a word. We crave each other. We hunger for each other the way an alcoholic needs a drink…to mix a metaphor. It’s an all consuming passion that I never felt between us.”

Punctuating his little joke, Phil laughed knowing how it would further hurt his wife.

“No…”

“Oh, yes. So you can see whatever love you and I may have shared once, doesn’t even begin to compare to what Moira and I have now.”

Wiping away tears, Sylvia pushed past Phil and rushed to the stairs.

“Running won’t help, Sylvia,” Phil called after her, quite aware he was pouring salt in her gaping wounds.

“It may not help us, Phil,” said Sylvia, pausing with a hand on the stanchion. “But it’ll do me a world of good. I’m going up to pack. You can have your Moira and whatever tawdry relationship she can offer you.”

With that, she charged up the stairs and a moment later, Phil heard the bedroom door slam shut.

At that moment, Moira was still sulking by the side of the road. But in the time she had to rethink her situation, her feelings of frustration had only grown. Her resentment at Sylvia’s commanding position in Phil’s life had not abated. Her heart hardened and she determined to do something, anything, that could shake up the status quo. To that end, she’d decided to turn around and head back to Phil’s and force a confrontation. The result might mean losing Phil but she’d finally decided that she could no longer continue to live with the uncertainty, the danger, even the self inflected humiliation of their furtive lifestyle.

Pulling the clutch, she gave the car some gas and made a U-turn, careless of the steep drop off to her left. And, as fate would have it, just as she began to straighten out, a pair of headlights shone up ahead. And under the glare of a streetlight, she not only recognized Sylvia’s SUV but her dark haired rival behind the wheel as well.

Instantly, a plan formed in her mind that if successful, would solve all her problems. Releasing the brakes, she pressed down on the accelerator and the Maserati threw gravel behind its wheels as it found firm footing on the asphalt apron along the edge of the roadway. There was a lurch and the car vaulted forward onto the highway proper and in split seconds, it had crossed the solid yellow line that divided the two lanes. Roaring up the right hand side of the road, the car gained speed as it quickly closed the distance between itself and the oncoming Explorer.

As her speed increased, Moira leaned forward in her bucket seat, conscious of the cold night air whipping past the fabric of the car’s convertible roof. A few seconds more and the SUV loomed large and big as life in the left hand lane and as the two vehicles drew close, Moira jerked the steering wheel and feinted to the leftward as if with the intention of swerving into the opposite lane. As she expected, her sudden movement spooked Slyvia who instinctively pulled her own wheel to the right to avoid an imminent collision. But there was no room for maneuver and she lost control of her vehicle. Suddenly, the SUV was gone with only a shattered guardrail to mark its passage over the side of the road.

By then, Moira had returned her own car to its proper lane and, screeching to a halt, pulled over to the side of the road. Throwing her driver’s side door open, she dashed from the car and scampered across the empty road in the direction of the broken guardrail. There she stopped and, looking over the side, was gratified to see the remains of the SUV engulfed in flames, sure that no human being could have survived such a wreck.

Disregarding any second thoughts about what she had done, Moira instead embraced a rising euphoria over her immediate future. Eager to tell Phil the good news, she returned to her car and raced as fast as she dared back to the house at the top of the hill.

When she arrived at the entrance to the driveway, the house beyond was a darkened hulk against the moonless sky. Apparently Phil had retired. Undaunted, Moira drove around to the rear entrance and retrieved a key from under a nearby planter. Letting herself into the kitchen, she closed the door quietly behind her and moved into the foyer. There, she doffed her coat and hat and made her way upstairs.

Passing Darlene’s room, she made sure that the child’s door was firmly shut and wondered if the sleeping pill had finally taken effect. At the entrance to the master bedroom, she made out Phil’s form as it lay recumbent on the bed. Heart pounding, she decided against waking him up in a single rush and instead stepped inside and began removing her clothes. Finished, she slipped beneath the sheets and snuggled up to Phil’s warm body.

Waking him gently, she kissed his ear and snaked her arm around his chest. Slowly, Phil was roused to wakefulness. He turned over to stare up into Moira’s eyes where they shone in the cold starlight from outside a nearby window.

“Moira? What are you…?”

“It’s all right, Phil,” soothed Moira. “Problem solved.”

Phil shifted, raising himself on his hip. “What do you mean?”

“Sylvia is gone, Phil,” said Moira eagerly. “I saw her driving down the hill outside, drove my car toward her, and tricked her into thinking we were going to crash. It worked. She swerved to miss me and went over Fleeson’s Drop. She’s gone, Phil! I went back and checked myself!”

“Wait a minute,” said Phil, still gathering his wits. “Sylvia’s dead? You forced her off the road?”

“Yes! Her car is still burning now at the bottom of the gorge! We’re free!”

“Free!” cried Phil, lunging at Moira in sudden fury, his big hands finding a grip around her slender throat. You silly fool! Darlene was in that car with her!”

 

 

 

Feeding Time



The few surviving synapses in the dead lump that is your brain are barely enough to keep you moving on the barest of instinctual levels. You don’t think. You don’t feel. All you have is a deep, gnawing, drive to feed. Your legs pump, your hands reach out, inarticulate sounds may even gust from your dry throat but there is no meaning to the grunts and growls that pass your shriveled lips.

Two days ago, your hunger led you with others of your kind into a deserted structure that echoed with the hollowness of a warehouse. The distinctive odor of living flesh filled your desiccated nostrils driving you into a frenzy of anticipation. But, doomed to frustration, you were unable to find the pink, vibrant flesh that you craved and instead, ended up stumbling and shuffling blindly with the others in the pitch dark interior of the building.

But then, by a lucky stroke, one of you stumbled and fell through a door bursting it open and letting in the late afternoon sunlight along with the heady scent of living flesh. Immediately, you and your fellows were galvanized and there was a rush to the doorway where bodies were crushed, bones broken, and the weak trampled underfoot.

Now, however, you manage to get through the door in a final, desperate plunge and you join the surging mob as it shambles up a narrow alley to a street beyond.

The scent of living flesh is stronger now, urging you constantly forward. Eager to feel your rotted teeth sink into rich meat, warm blood spatter the rags that are all that remain of the business suit that was once the uniform of your profession, you pick up the pace, begin to run in the half stumbling gait that is all you can manage.

The hunger that drives you however, is not hunger at all, but some deep, unfathomable need communicated to the animated corpse your once living body has become. You no more wonder about the condition you find yourself in than does some animal hunting prey. But for animals at least, hunger is a motivating factor even if they do not understand it.

And so, you continue onward even as others of your kind, converging from different directions, fill the street and make progress to your goal increasingly difficult. Combined with the abandoned vehicles that clog the street and rubble from collapsed buildings, the press of bodies becomes too much and your goal becomes ever more impossible to reach.

That, however, does not discourage you. Whatever motivates you to seek out living flesh drives you to desperate measures as you begin to claw at those around you, pulling out tufts of hair with clumps of rotted flesh attached, tearing clothing. At last, forcing those in front of you down, you scramble over their fallen bodies and drag your way closer.

Up ahead, you can see a mad frenzy of your fellows dig and claw and tear in wild, savage abandon as the accustomed screams of the victim fill the air. Suddenly, the excitement ends and the lust for flesh dissipates from the crowd like a physical thing. You feel no disappointment at not reaching your goal or sharing in the spoils. You don’t necessarily miss the long deferred taste of living flesh on your shriveled tongue or filling your useless belly. You only know that you must keep looking. You must eat. You must find more fresh meat.

For the next few days as you measure days with the coming and going of the warm yellow ball that hangs in the sky overhead, you haunt the streets of the nameless city that was once filled with the living flesh you crave. But if that realization ever rises to the level of a thought in your dead brain, it doesn’t move you, doesn’t fill you with frustration or regret or hopelessness. All you know is that you must keep looking. Must find more living flesh.

Then it happens. While staggering through a section of the city where concrete and asphalt have given way to greenery and wider spaces, you catch the scent you’ve been aimlessly searching for. Instinct takes over, you alter your course, and begin moving in a more definite direction. As you progress, the scent grows stronger and your pace quickens. Nearing the source, you are as always, joined by others of your kind but unlike past experience, you find yourself among the first to catch the scent and so, able to be among the first to reach your destination.

Ahead of you, earlier arrivals have managed to burst open the metal gates that bar access to the once stately building beyond. Ignoring the gates, the stone walls surrounding the property, and the brass plaque mounted at the entrance, you hurry through and in your eagerness, manage to pass up several of those who have found their way in ahead of you.

A steep, sloping driveway choked with weeds slows you down somewhat but at this point, nothing can stop you from reaching the succulent flesh you are now sure awaits you within the building’s peeling white painted walls.

You are among the very first to clamber the front steps onto a wide veranda studded with columns but instead of wasting time at the big double doors that the others pound weakly upon, you move to one of several windows and not hesitating for a moment, you crash through in a shower of glass.

Inside, the scent of living flesh is overpowering, drawing you on heedless of your surroundings. Somewhere, the banging of the others concludes in the sound of splintering wood as the front door finally yields against their weight. But you don’t care, you are in the lead. The scent is stronger than ever now and it leads you to a corridor that gives on to the rear of the building. There, the walls are lined by doors but you ignore them even as your fellows crowd through behind you.

Driven wild by the nearness of your prey, at the possibility of at last satiating your gnawing hunger, you throw yourself through a pair of swinging doors and find yourself confronted by a number of beings that your instincts tell you are composed of the living flesh you crave.

With the others pressing close behind you, you lunge forward with a gurgling cry in your throat, eager to sink your teeth in all of that pink, warm flesh; but too late, what you encounter is not what you expected, something you could have avoided if your feeble mind retained the ability to read.

If it had, you would have been warned about the fate that awaited you after you burst into this room by the plaque affixed to the wall outside that read “Resthaven: Specializing in Cases of Extreme Necrophagia.”

Instead, you end up reacting the same way your own past victims did: You scream.



 

Books featuring stories and articles

by Pierre V. Comtois

 Get them wherever fine books are sold on the internet!

 
 

River Muse

Tales of Lowell and the Merrimack Valley

Featuring stories and articles about the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, all proceeds will be donated to veterans' charities such as the Wounded Warriors program. Besides a full range of local authors and a sprinkling of classic material by Lowell's most infamous denizen, Jack Kerouac, the book's highlight is "I Was a Teenaged Bibliophile" by Pierre V. Comtois covering the author's efforts and adventures while growing up in Lowell during the 1960s and 1970s scouring new and used bookstores and magazine stores in the endless search for comic books and books by favorite authors.

In an era when the local bookstore is fast disappearing and the thrill of the hunt for that elusive tome and the joy of finally finding it is an experience being shared by fewer and fewer young people, this article is sure to strike many where they live!

 

       

 Cthulhu Cycle

Don’t be fooled by the hokey title! “Zombies

From R’lyeh” is an epic length story of a pair

of down on their luck gold diggers in the South

Seas who discover an uncharted island whose

wet, seaweed draped ruins hide a horror older

than time! Also includes classic tales by H. P.

                             Lovecraft, August Derleth, and Lord Dunsany!

 

 

Ithaqua Cycle

Features two - count them - two spine chilling

tales by the author! First start with “Footsteps in

the Sky,” a tale of horror on the snow swept

killing grounds of the Russian Revolution then if

you dare, move on to “The Country of the Wind”

wherein a hapless hunter stumbles across an

                             ancient evil that haunts the lonely Vermont hills.

                             Also in this volume, thrill to classic tales

                              by Algernon Blackwood, August Derleth, and

                                    Joseph Payne Brennan!

 

 

                            Tales Out of Innsmouth

 

Discover the real history about how the

residents of Innmsouth became involved with

the Deep Ones in “The Old Ones’ Signs” which

details that first, fateful voyage by Obed

Marsh to the south seas. Other classic tales in

this collection include those by H. P. Lovecraft

                             and Franklyn Searight!

   

 Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak,

Supernatural Sleuth

 

Journey into the heart of madness and fear with

Dr. Anton Zarnak as a visit to a local asylum leads

him through ancient family secrets and into “The

Deep Cellars” where blind horror awaits!

 

 

 

 

 

The Mountains of Madness

 

A collection of tales inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's classic novella of horror and fear "At the Mountains of Madness," this volume features Pierre V. Comtois' epic length sequel to that tale titled "Second Death!" 

 

 

 

Sargasso:

The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies

 

The first issue of a new magazine devoted to the life and work of master fantasist William Hope Hodgson features Pierre V. Comtois' extra length story "A Question of Meaning" in which the author attempts to merge the future Earth of Hodgson's Night   Land with H.P.Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos!

 

 

 

Check Out Available and Upcoming Books by Pierre Comtois!