At the World Horror Con this past May one of the many awesome people I met was writer Tiffany Scandal. She moderated the Smut, Gore, and More panel that I sat on, and over the course of the weekend we had many great conversations about horror and writing.
Her debut novel THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING came out last year as part of Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series. I bought it that weekend and finished it in a matter of days. In many ways, it’s a tale after my own heart, a doomed romance set against the backdrop of a rotting world. I loved every page and I can’t recommend it enough, but you don’t have to take my word for it. None other than horror master Brian Keene listed it as one of his top ten books of 2013. Her stories capture the nuances, pain and joys of human relationships, even as her characters stand in the face of horror.
I asked her to do a guest post and she surprised me with a piece of fiction. Lucky us! Thanks for stopping by, Tiffany.
Trembling Hands by Tiffany Scandal
Let me tell you about the time a dog ate my face.
I was pissed at my boyfriend. It was movie night and we got into an argument over nothing, and it escalated until we were both so angry there was no hope of reconciliation in sight. For some time the relationship had been feeling like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Mola Ram rips that man’s heart out and it’s still beating, and the hole in his chest has closed over and the man is staring in disbelief at his heart in Mola Ram’s hand, but the high priest’s not even paying attention to him, still holding the heart out for everyone to see, this is just before the man’s lowered into the pit and killed. Anyway, our argument became circular, neither of us budged. When I recognized that I was being hardheaded and tried to reach some sort of compromise, he went into the other room and shut the door. So I grabbed my keys and my bookbag and left.
I didn’t know where to go, I just knew that I needed air. I needed space, as much of it as I could put between us. But I knew I’d have to come home some time. I had to work the next day. All of my things were there. Every fucking establishment in this town closed too early. Etc. I wished for time to stand still until the nerve returned. The air was cool outside, the ground still damp from heavy afternoon rain. I maneuvered around pavement uneven with mud and puddled water. Headed toward the woods across from home, I shut my eyes and breathed deeply, caring less about the oncoming traffic.
The walk through the woods was quiet. I walked through clouds of gnats, felt them smash against my face, and stick to it. Made graves in pockets of skin. Up ahead, there was a daisy in the middle of the path. It had been plucked and abandoned, its leaves looked soft, beginning to wilt. I wanted to take a photo of it with my phone. While I was looking at it, considering picking it up, a jogger ran through and crushed it under neon track shoes.
The phone vibrated and lit up in my hand, it was a text from my boyfriend: “where did you go?” with several sad-face emoticons. I ignored the message and walked over to a nearby bench to sit. I tried to think of uplifting words to reply with, like some kind of spell that could make this all better. I focused on calming my breathing, counting downward from ten. I started to type and barely noticed the woman shouting after I heard the rapid, heavy patter of a something coming closer. Its shadow loomed over me, and for a moment, I thought it might be my boyfriend. Coming to say he was sorry, that we should never fight like this again. It was stupid, after all. I felt myself smiling and turned around to look.
I started to mouth “baby,” but it was cut short and my happiness dropped to fear. The massive canine jaws, a mess of spit and teeth, came hurtling at me and knocked me to the ground. The growling seemed to come from somewhere far, as it sank its mouth into my check and jaw. When it didn’t give, he moved to biting at my neck and violently shook his head to tear the skin loose. I didn’t fight back. I had no will to fight. I let it happen. I wondered if I had hit send, to let him know. If he knew I wasn’t gone forever, that I’d only gone for a walk. If he would know I was sorry. That I knew he was too, even if he wouldn’t say it.
Then the dog was off of me and I was still and there was a voice, but I couldn’t understand it. I was no longer angry or disappointed or scared. I wanted to hold out my hand to the dog, wherever it’d gone, let it know that it didn’t need to fear me, that I loved it regardless. I wanted to see my boyfriend. My face and neck were wet and I coughed, eyes fixated on the sky, the break through the trees. Clouds parting to let in some blue. Summer was on its way.
That’s really all I remember.
Now I’m here in this hospital room and the side of my face is covered in gauze and tape. I will never look the same. I don’t know yet if I’ll have to wear a mask. There’re no gifts, no balloons, no get-well cards. No one has come to see me. I don’t know where my phone is. I haven’t heard from my boyfriend. I haven’t heard from anyone. I want to say to him, “We never finished our movie.” There isn’t much pain though. The medicine’s working. But I keep thinking about the daisy in the path. Already wilting before it was crushed. Just a lone flower in a forest.
THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING is currently available from Eraserhead Press. Buy it right here.