Setting the Stage


Fenton climbed the zigzag, rusted stairs to a gated door that leaned ajar.  A red light gleamed in the window—open for business.  A knot of caution tightened in his gut.

The woman who co-owned the place was a lesbian named Lizzy.  Fenton didn’t care for the language of her lip, but her girlfriend, Veronica, wow.  A little brown-eyed country girl in short denim shorts.  She passed him a stern glance—Lizzy was always watching.

Fenton slid his gaze to a man in the back that went by the name, Killer.  How he had acquired his nickname was probably better left unlearned, because:

  1. He was the mastermind behind The Stage, the digital interface program that transferred thoughts into visual reality, so, owning technology like that, he had to be one hell of a fucker-upper.
  2. He kept a Ruger at his hip.
  3. He had demon eyes, which drilled into Fenton, most likely due to his content on The Stage.

Fenton dropped a wad of bills on the counter.  Lizzy lead him through the folds of a black velvet curtain and into a dark hallway that smelled of pepper.

They entered a concaved, circular room with walls made from digital panels, like Tron.  Fenton sat down in a chair, while Veronica placed a net-like electrode helmet over the top of his head.

“You want the same girl?”

Fenton’s heart pounded like a piston.  “Yes.”

“Tara Faye it is,” she said.  “Enjoy.”


She passed him an uncertain look that border on confusion and fear, and then shut the door.

Fenton leaned back, adjusting the growth in his pants.  A whirring noise started low, circling around the room until the entire sphere lit up in cobalt light.  In front of him, the faint image of a woman deepened into the real thing—Tara.  She wore a sheer red camisole, revealing nipples like two shots of Brandy and short shorts like Veronica’s (an irresistible creeping thought).  But the rest of her was all Tara, long brown hair, blue eyes, and silk-cream skin.

The fantasy began like this: warm breath on his neck and tongue sliding around him, predatory like.  She pressed the damp heat of herself against his thighs and arched her back, letting her hair cascade down his chest.

But the fantasy ended like this: Fenton skimmed her curves with one hand while the other reached for the black handle of a bowing knife taped beneath his chair (all still a part of Killer’s killer program).  Tara never suspected anything, her eyes closed in rapture.  He needed it to be that way, wanted her to feel the pain of shock.

At this moment, Fenton’s eye always caught the audience of Lizzy, Veronica, and Killer—their lucent faces scrutinized him from behind fogged glass.  But Fenton’s desire superseded intimidation, and he drove the knife deep into Tara’s chest, plunging it into her heart like a harpooned shark.  Her body quivered, and warm blood, red as betrayal, seeped over his hands.  Fenton freed her limp body to the floor.  She zapped into digital oblivion with a sharp, blue flash.  Lights on … party over.


Night was still a black wall when she woke screaming.  Stabbing pain burned in her chest.

A naked man with accentuated pepper-gray hair sat up next to her.  “What is it, Tara?”

She stood from the bed, robed her nakedness, and lit a cigarette.  “I had the nightmare again.”


She nodded, sucking in a hard drag.

“Shhh,” he replied, rubbing her back.  “You’re just feeling guilty about what happened, what we did.”

“Maybe.”  Her eyes searched the darkness beyond the window.

“You stole his heart, Tara.”

“And two million.”

“It was dirty money.  You think Fenton’s an honest, good man?”

She knew that wasn’t true.  But maybe he was more honest and good than she.

“Time heals.  He’ll move on.”

Tara turned a grave eye to him.  “You don’t know Fenton.”


The red light, a beacon for salvation, flicked on.  Veronica was wearing a skirt tonight, but Fenton didn’t let it distract him this time.

“Tara again, Mr. Faye,” she said, hooking the helmet over his head.

“No.  His name is Josh Fuller.”

~ fin ~

Erin Cole is a dark fiction writer from Portland OR, often lured by the curling fingers of crime, though she manages to ‘blend in.’  She has work published and forthcoming in Aoife’s Kiss, Bards & Sages Quarterly, and MicroHorror.  View more of her work at