The Last Stories Ever Told is a short story collection. As you may have guessed from the title, it is intended to be the last collection of short stories which I write. I intend to focus on finishing off all of those novels which are incomplete, and put aside poetry and short stories. As to whether that will actually happen I don’t know. But I come up with fewer and fewer ideas for shirt stories these days.
The Last Stories Ever Told is still a work in progress. I have only completed one tale, Straight Razor Blues, which features below as a free sample of this future collection. other stories in the collection, when complete, will be There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills, Down In The Tunnels, On The Town, No Signal, Don’t Be Out After Dark, Blue Skies Falling, The Robot’s Question, The Storyteller Exiled From His Tale, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Elixir, Space Station Five, The Day After The Day After Tomorrow, Are We There Yet?, The Worms In My Mind and possibly more, if I complete the listed tales and feel that the word count is too anaemic to release these tales as a collection.
The fact is that a lot of the short stories which I write are only vignettes. They are only a slice in time. In the past some of those tales – if that is the correct word – have even been less than a page in length.
As I have said elsewhere I feel that each story, whether short story or novel, has a natural length. As a writer you should know when you have reached a position where you don’t want to edit out any words, but where you do not want to add anything, either. I don’t believe in adding verbiage just to add to the word count. That is what I mean when I say that each story has its natural length.
Some of these ideas for tales simply came out of the blue. Others have come around because I have been influenced by other media. One example of that is the story Blue Skies Falling, which I admit as inspired after listening to the track Bermuda Triangle Blues on the Blondie album Plastic Letters. I am a massive fan of Blondie, and I have been listening to a selection of my favourite tracks from that album – Denis, Youth Nabbed As Sniper, Bermuda Triangle Blues, Contact In Red Square, I’m Always Touched By Your Presence Dear, and Fan Mail – over and over again on my MP3 Walkman. Some of those songs are almost little stories; and it was while listening to Bermuda Triangle Blues that I realised that, for all of the genre tales which I had written, I had not actually written anything about the so-called mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.
Before anybody accuses me of stealing Blondie lyrics let me say that the idea of the Bermuda Triangle is really the source of my tale. I think that the Blondie lyric which helped inspire me was Blues Seas Falling, which I adapted as Blue Skies Falling, to give met the title of my tale.
Other stories were started after I sat down to try to think of a short story to write, having already decided to go ahead with this collection of short stories. Sometimes all that you need for a story is a title for the words to begin to flow. Writing a title such as The Storyteller Exiled From His Tale automatically suggested the way in which the story might develop.
Anyway, that is enough waffling for now. Here is that promised short story:
Straight Razor Blues
I hold up the straight razor so that I can look into its polished surface, as though, by doing so, I will divine the true nature of its sharpness. I tilt the blade until it reflects my clue eyes. I see my eyes, and the bridge of my nose, but no other part of my face. I do not see the reflection of my grin.
I saw a book cover like this, once. I think that it was the cover of some book by Robert Bloch. But I’m not sure. I forget a lot of things, and I have forgotten what the title of the book was.
The razor is as sharp as I can get it. It is a real cut your throat razor. I laugh. It is as polished as I am able to get it. I always polish it, after cleaning it. I like it to look like a mirror.
It’s time to shave. I must look good for when I go out into the world. I have written down a list of the things which I must do, so that I will look like everybody else, and I can hide in the herd.
I must wash. Check. I must clean my teeth. I do that now, pitting out the minty badness into the bathroom sink. Check. I must shave. I plug in the electric razor, and I shave, until there is no sign of any stubble. Check.
I don’t use my straight razor for shaving. That is not its purpose in life.
I go out into the world. During the day I disguise myself as a trader on stocks and shares. That is easy. It is all about numbers – what will go up, and what will go down. I can do it without having to think about it. But I have always been good with numbers. I have always been able to solve mathematical puzzles without having to think about them. They kind of just solve themselves inside my head.
Selling shares is very dull. But I tell myself that I need to fit in. I have to look like the other members of the herd: the wildebeest, as I think of them. But I am a lion in wildebeest clothing. They don’t know that they have a predator among them.
All day long all that I can think about is my shiny straight razor, and how beautiful it is. Thinking about it is the only thing which allows me to get through the boring bits of the day.
There is one trader who gets too close to me, when we are on the floor selling. He is about ten years older than me, and he is fat. He has eaten too many Twinkies in his life. Maybe he saw the adverts in old Spider-man comics and thought that it would be a good idea if he was to become obese.
He stinks. Maybe he doesn’t stink when he first gets up in the morning. But, all during the time that we are in that bear pit, the sweat is pouring out of his pores.
I think about getting my straight razor out of my jacket pocket and, in one full-armed sweep, opening up the front of the neck of the fat guy, so that his scarlet life essence bursts everywhere. But I don’t do anything like that, of course. There is no way that I would have gotten away with it.
I don’t kill men, anyway. I’m not some pervert. I only kill women.
People are making money all around me, the pretty green which, ultimately, is utterly meaningless. Some people are making fortunes. Perhaps somebody is losing a fortune which he does not possess.
This is organised chaos; and the flow of sticks and share prices is supposed to be subject to chaos theory, if you are into that sort of thing. I read a book on it by somebody called James Gleick. The ideas were very easy to follow.
I stand there, with people moving and shouting all around me, and I stop selling, although I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because all I can think about id what I will do later in the day, when I have thrown off this disguise and the hunter is revealed. But this disguise is necessary during the day. I cannot hunt for every second of my existence, even if hunting is what I was born to do.
I am an artist, and the razor is my tool. It sculpts out chunks of reality out of something much softer than stone…
“Are you alright?” It’s the fat guy, and he’s talking to me. For a second I see the front of his expensive suit soaked with blood, and it takes me a second to realise that it is not real. I did not use my razor to perform an amateur tracheotomy on him.
“Yes… yes, I’m fine.” I say. Stop talking to me. Stop talking to me, or I will have to kill you, no matter what the consequences might be. The straight razor wants to talk. Except that I don’t have it in my hands. This is work. It is not my happy hunting grounds.
“Sorry, I guess that I’m just a bit tired.” I say. I fake a yawn, and a grin, and the fat guy goes away, back to selling and buying. He leaves me alone, and he gets to live, until the heart attack which will ultimately claim his miserable, pathetic life.
I go back to my cover story, making more dollars with such ease that it is almost a cosmic joke.
It is later. I got through another day if making pointless money. The greedy have all their money. I have my razor, and I know which one I prefer.
It is time to go out and play. My razor needs its exercise, after all. A razor is designed to cut. That is what it is made for.
I must wait a little longer, though, until all traces of the sun have fled, and it is dark outside. I cloak myself in the night. It is my armour.
When it has turned ten o’clock I finally take the elevator down from my penthouse apartment. The straight razor is folded inside a pocket of my expensive suit.
The doorman holds the door open for me as I leave the building. I smile at him, so that I appear normal, like everybody else. He smiles back, like a slash in a side of pork. I leave him behind as I hail a taxi.
The taxi drops me in a bad part of the city, far from the place where I make my home. I tip the driver and he goes away. He won’t even remember me, come the morning. I am just one more faceless fare, and that is the way that I want it to be. I do nothing to stand out.
I walk around the streets, looking for prey. Every night I stalk the streets, like some panther in the jungle. I am the panther of the concrete jungle. It does not matter if some nights I do not find any prey. The nights are many, and, if I fail one night, I know that I might succeed the next.
I never have the taxis drop me at the same place, just in case I get a driver twice and they begin to remember me. I must have my camouflage. So I am always dropped at some different location.
There is a woman walking down the street ahead of me. But she is holding hands with what I presume is her boyfriend. She would have been perfect if she was alone: she is the right age; she is attractive, she is prey waiting to die. I would have loved to have drawn my blade across her throat, and see the blood spurt out into the air. But she gets to live.
Not in my dreams, though. In my dreams I get all of the ones who get away. They all die at the blade of my razor. They all get their throats opened up, the blood spurting out until their hearts finally stop beating.
I love to see the blood flow. I have to be careful, though, that I don’t get any of it on myself: not even a single drop. Nobody must know that I am the ultimate predator.
I have disposable plastic gloves, and a bag to wrap around them. Even with standing behind the prey I can get blood onto my hands as I draw the blade of the razor across some soft throat. Of course I must only put the gloves on at the last moment, as I close in for the kill. People do not wander around the streets with clear plastic gloves on their hands. Not even in New York.
I walk down an alleyway between two buildings. I see two black men. They eye me as though I might be prey for whatever they have in mind. But they are only jackals, while I am a lion on the veldt. They look at me, but they don’t say anything. I think that they sense that I am superior to them in every way, and that if they tried anything it would be they who ended up lying bleeding on the ground.
I walk a little further, down these night-time streets. Neon announces things which I don’t want to buy, and films which I don’t want to see. I ignore such pathetic blandishments. They are meaningless to me. Let the herd be dazzled by shiny trinkets.
Then I see her. She is perfect, and she is alone. A brunette with long hair. And she is wearing a red dress. That means that she is just asking to be killed. I don’t have to see her face to know that she is the one. She is my gazelle. She has wandered off from the rest of the herd. And the rules of predation are that any stragglers must die.
I pick up my pace, so that I get a little closer to Miss Brunette. But I make sure that I don’t get too close to her. I don’t want to spook this prey into running. Gazelles tend to be flighty things.
I need her to go into a side street or an alleyway. I can’t take her down on the main street. Too many eyes around. The rest of the herd must not know that they have a predator among them.
I focus on the back of her head, trying to drill psychic messages into her brain. Turn into an alleyway. Turn into an alleyway. But she doesn’t turn. My psychic powers are insufficient to the task.
I follow her. At least she doesn’t turn around. She doesn’t look at me.
Then, eventually, she turns into an alleyway. At last!
I follow her.
Everything goes red.
I am back in my apartment. I look around, hardly knowing how I got back here. I’m still too high from the kill.
I take the latex gloves out of my pocket. They will be destroyed, a little later, leaving no trace of what occurred. Only the straight razor will survive. But anything else with even the smallest speck of blood on it will go into a furnace. I have lost two of my suits in such a manner. But I know the power of forensics. I watch CSI.
I have a lock of her hair. That I will keep, hidden with my other trophies, where the police will never think to look. Not that they suspect me, anyway. I will be able to look at the lock of the hair and relive tonight over and over again.
The lock goes into the book, with the other forty-seven locks of hair which I have collected. Then I put the book back in its hidey hole.
The hunting was good tonight. It was a successful one, and not all hunts end in success. But a predator only needs success occasionally to keep going.
I get out my razor and open it. I stare at the reflection of my eyes in the blade. The blade is very shiny, so I must have already cleaned it, although I do not recall doing so. The razor is so beautiful that I must continue to share it with my prey.
Tomorrow I will hunt again.