ANGEL STOOD NAKED before her. Hard pink scar tissue covered his groin from his navel to his inner thighs. In the middle of this a small nub of flesh protruded, about the size of a thumb knuckle, with a slit down the middle so he could urinate.
Shyla refused to look, covering her eyes with her hands.
‘Look at me, Shyla,’ he said. ‘I’m paying you to look at me.’
‘Look at me, goddammit!’
Hesitantly her hands fell from her eyes and she turned to him. She wouldn’t look down, like someone trying desperately not to peek at a woman’s cleavage.
‘Look at what she did to me,’ Angel said.
She looked. Her eyes widened for a brief moment before she covered them again, breathing, ‘Oh, God,’ through her teeth.
‘Have you ever thought,’ Angel said, pulling up his boxers, concealing his ultimate shame, ‘have you ever thought your life would be better off if you could start over again? Like a weset button?’
Shyla nodded behind her hands.
‘You can uncover your eyes now,’ he told her, zipping up his fly.
She lowered her hands. The relief in her tear-streaked eyes amused him, but he didn’t show it.
‘See, I’ve tried weligion. I’ve tried meditation. I’ve tried therapy and webirthing. I’ve even tried love. But none of these took away my pain. It’s always been there, since I was born. My mother was w-raped. My father,’ he sneered, ‘a rapist. I’ll never be able to undo what Beth did to me, but I can start over. I know I can. I’ve started to pwactice holding my bweath again.’
‘Why did you call me here?’ Shyla said, her lower lip quivering. ‘To tell me your stories? To make me feel sorry for you? I do feel sorry for you, Angel, I do—’
‘I don’t want your pity!‘ Angel yelled. Shyla flinched as drops of spit struck her face. ‘I want your cunt,’ he said calmly. ‘Your magnificent, wonderfully large cunt. See, I learned a lot from Bethany. I learned that if you want something badly enough, you have to do what it takes to get it. No matter the cost.’
Her tearful eyes met his. ‘What is it you want? You want to rape me? You want to—what? Put things inside me again?’
‘Not things, Shyla. Me.’
He could tell from her eyes she didn’t understand, that he would have to make himself absolutely clear. ‘I want you to accept me,’ he said.
‘I do accept you, Angel. Johnny. I do, I just—’
‘You said you need to feel full. I can give you that, Shyla. I can. But I need something from you. That’s what you called a ‘mutually beneficial transaction,’ wouldn’t you say? I’d like for it to be consensual,’ he added, in a tone implying he would take what he wanted if she wouldn’t give it to him willingly. ‘I want you to accept this miwacle I have to give you.’
‘Miracle? What are you talking about?‘ she cried, her breasts heaving.
‘I’m going to give you the opportunity to give birth,’ he said.
‘Birth? What the fuck are you—?’
‘To me, Shyla. I’m going to squeeze my head into your vagina, and you’re going to birth me.’
She looked at his smooth bald scalp. ‘No…’ she whispered, shaking her head so violently her chin waggled.
‘I’m very sorry to hear that,’ Angel said, and bent to reach into his backpack. In one quick, practiced movement, he unsnapped the cap off the bottle and squirted chloroform into the hand towel. When he rose again, Shyla was pushing herself out of bed, taking quick, panicky breaths. He strode toward her and caught her as she got to her feet, jumping onto her back and reaching over her smooth shoulders to smother her with the chloroformed rag.
She swung herself back and forth, trying to shake him from her back like an animal shaking off fleas. He kept the pressure steady over her mouth and nose, wrapping his long legs tightly around her thighs. Eventually her arms stopped swinging. She stumbled forward, her head struck the door, and she fell sideways. Angel leapt to his feet as she landed on the floor with a solid thump, unconscious.
He knelt down beside her. Checked her throat and then her wrist for a pulse. It was slow but steady. She’d live.
Angel grabbed her by the wrists and dragged her back to the bed. She was too heavy to lift onto the mattress. He supposed he should have known it might come to this, and have been deadlifting to strengthen his core muscles.
It didn’t matter. The floor would do.
He rolled her onto her back, spread her legs, and raised her dress. Her eyes fluttered behind the lids. Angel crossed to the dresser and took off his clothes, folding them in front of the mirror. He pumped out a handful of Slippin’ Slide, and slathered it onto his scalp and over his face until his whole head gleamed under the overhead lights. He pumped out a second handful, squishing it between his fingers where it dripped onto the vermillion carpet, leaving wet stains that looked like blood.
Returning to where Shyla lay, he found her snoring lightly, as if she’d just laid down for a nap. He knelt between her legs. Fear has sharpened her sweat, giving it a sour tang. He raised her left leg, pushing it aside to make room for his shoulder. The handful of lubricant moistened her vagina and inner thighs. He laid back between her legs, facing upward as if her were trying to look up her skirt, and rubbed the top of his smooth, wet head against her labia majora, the way Juicy had rubbed his cock up and down on Candy Rain’s asshole.
Then he began to push.
He thought of Victor and Raylene and Irv, coaxing him on like a reluctant mother as they smothered him to death under their dirty old rug—and he pushed.
He thought of Jenny, who had loved him despite his handicap, who had started shooting heroin because he could only give her orgasms when she rode him, but he could never please her the way she’d wanted to be pleased with his tiny, mangled penis. He thought of her cold, dead vagina as he reached into her over and over again, removing bag after bag of the drug she had cast him aside for, the drug that had eventually killed her.
He thought of the Smother Man, and the dedication it must have taken to handcraft his smother box, and how he’d been born again under the weight of Shyla’s cunt.
He pushed, and thought of Mary, his mother, her leg up on the rim of the bathtub, and the determination it must have taken to push a bent wire hanger into her womb to tear him out of her.
He pushed, and Shyla’s lips parted, and he felt her warmth swallow the top of his head, like how he’d felt the cool air on his scalp when he’d finally pushed free of the rug, their makeshift womb in the back of their van, and he pushed again, hearing her flesh tear.
He was in up to his eyebrows now, and even more determined to continue. This was the farthest he’d ever come. The other women hadn’t even been able to take the narrow half of the dildo, and the ones who could had bored of his stories and left without his money.
Shyla and her perfectly flawed vagina were a godsend. She was damaged, like him. They were pieces of a larger cosmic puzzle. He was certain he would fit.
The top of his ears folded over. With another push, her vaginal opening forced his eyes closed, and he was enveloped in warm, wet darkness.
His nose would be the true test. He wormed his shoulders closer to her, edging toward her on the carpet, glad that he’d thought to make room by pushing up her legs. He performed a few preparatory breaths, and sucked in a huge lungful of air, hoping this next push would be the last.
He thrust his whole weight toward her.
The bridge of his nose cracked, shooting splintering pain directly into his eyeballs. The pain didn’t trouble him. He’d been through much more agony in one breath than most people would feel in their entire lifetimes. Tasting blood, his own or hers, he had no idea, Angel pushed one last time, and her pussy devoured his mouth, and his chin slipped inside of her throbbing organ.
Flesh covered every inch of his head, pulled taut over his face like a hot, wet balaclava. Her heartbeat thrummed in his ears. Her stomach juices gurgled like thunder in the darkness. Her insides shut out the chatter, the anger, the fear, the self-doubt. Her womb smothered his pain.
He’d done it.
Peace. At long last.
With an inward cheer, he prepared to make his escape. Goodbye Johnny. Goodbye Andy. Goodbye Mannequin Man. It was time to be reborn.
He would emerge from her an Angel.
A vivid image struck with sudden intensity, the tranquility of his new mother’s womb penetrated by a sharp wire hanger tearing through his cheek. She was aborting him. She wanted him removed. Angel struggled, kicking out at the empty air in the musty room outside of her, whatever this vessel, this luggage, wanted to call herself. He knew he wasn’t a fetus. He knew what he’d felt and seen wasn’t happening now—it was a false memory of a moment too early in his previous life to have been remembered. It was a recurring nightmare… but he couldn’t shake the feeling something was terribly wrong.
He had to get out. Now.
Muscular flesh held his chin firmly in place. He couldn’t move. He was stuck. Stuck inside an unconscious prostitute’s vagina. Stuck, without even the room to exhale.
Angel’s thoughts turned to Jonah, trapped for three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, and wondered if he prayed would God command Shyla to push him out of her. He couldn’t hope for that, not with his lungs already tightening from lack of breath.
No. He was a survivor.
Struggling madly, he reached out for something to hold on to, until finally his fingers grasped Shyla’s fleshy inner thighs. He pushed with his hands, simultaneously trying to pull his head free.
No movement. His chin held him firmly in place.
He tried turning his head, hoping it would dislodge him, hoping he could pry himself from his sticky, smothering tomb by twisting his head back and forth, like loosening a bolt, like pulling out a fist, like removing a coat hanger—
What if I was always meant to die here? In this room? What if that’s why I kept coming back—kept being pulled back, as if by some giant cosmic coat hanger—only surviving by the skin of my teeth—or the skin of my nuts?
He saw the headline: Mannequin Man Dies in Bizarre Sex Act.
He pondered fate. Choices. How sometimes things seemed to shift into place like a planetary alignment or a slot machine jackpot, and how the house almost always won.
Let me out, you fat bitch!
As the last breath escaped him, his wordless scream was lost to her flesh.
SHYLA AWOKE WITH an uncomfortable pressure against her internal organs. In the fuzziness of swimming up from oblivion, she imagined she was pregnant. A baby! When? How?
Immense joy washed over her, like waking from a dream in which the people she loved were no longer dead, and she could talk to her mother again the way they used to before the accident, and her father would look at her with love again instead of pity.
Then the memory resurfaced of Donny Holbrook, his two friends, and the baseball bat, and she knew it was all in her imagination.
Something was inside her, though. A dildo? The one Angel had used on her, the one that looked like a witch’s hat?
Johnny, she corrected herself, Johnny’s dildo, and the thought of his birth name reminded her of the ruptured bags of heroin, of the belt sander and his mangled member, of the rug and the coat hanger, and suddenly everything he’d told her that afternoon came flooding back like a gush of amniotic fluid, and she moaned.
Shyla raised herself up onto her elbows, grunting against the pain in her insides.
‘Oh no,’ she said, looking over the folds of her stomach at the purple arms, legs, and torso sticking out of her like a real-life human centipede. Blood had spilled onto his chest—whether it was hers or his she didn’t know, but it was obvious from the burning pain down there that he’d torn her open. If she did make it out of here alive, she’d have to go through surgery again.
Is he dead? She couldn’t tell. His arms hung limply over her legs, and he wasn’t moving. She stared at his chest for a long moment, waiting for a breath—but nothing came.
On her own then. No forceps or belts to help her deliver this corpse back into the world. This stillborn.
She heaved, pressing down on her belly with both hands, pushing harder than she’d ever done in her life, difficult bowel movements notwithstanding.
He’s not gonna come out…
Chin against chest. Concentrate. Her well-developed PC muscle strained against his lube-slicked head. She felt him begin to ooze out of her. Push. Eyes staring unfocused at the wood-paneled wall, at the painting of Jonah escaping the whale.
She reached for his shoulders, but her stomach got in the way. Groaning, she stretched her arms, wriggling her fingers, and the tips of her acrylic nails brushed uselessly against his skin.
Have to get to the phone. If I can make it…
A deep breath in through the nose, out through the teeth, and another hard push. Face red, pulse throbbing in her temples, her whole body pressed against the thing inside of her. Suddenly feeling enormous sympathy for that Scottish giantess, the one Angel had mentioned, whose vagina had won the Guinness Record.
Sweat beading her brow. Focus.
Quick, small breaths. You can do it.
Steeling against the pain.
The tear in her vagina widened with fresh agony as Angel’s head spilled out of her, thudding dully on the carpet. Shyla fell back in a pool of her own sweat and blood, exhausted and in pain, allowing herself to recover, waiting for the agony to subside before turning her attention to the dead man on the floor.
She watched him until his chest began to move on its own, a slow breath dragged through his gaping mouth. He was alive, at least. She allowed herself a sigh of relief, then rolled over onto her stomach and got to her knees.
Angel—Johnny—stared up at the ceiling, his face crusted by a mucousy film, the eyes glazed over, his mouth hung open, glistening with a runner of drool that spilled down his cheek and pattered onto the carpet. She slapped him. He flinched, but otherwise didn’t react. Was he comatose? Braindead? In a vegetative state? She didn’t know.
She was glad he’d survived. It meant she wouldn’t have to explain anything to the police. She wouldn’t have his death on her conscience either, even though he’d drugged her and—somehow—forced his entire head inside of her. It was impossible to believe, even after what she’d just experienced, but it was true. He’d raped her. Raped her with his head.
Still, a small part of her felt sorry for him, despite everything he’d done to merit her fury—the part of her that still wanted to believe everyone was capable of good, even monsters. The little girl who listened intently as her mother said, ‘Hug your enemies, sugar,’ when she came home crying after being picked on at school.
After all the pain he’d lived through, she still believed he deserved her pity.
I’m too nice, she thought. Anyone else would just smother him with a fucking pillow.
‘I don’t hate you,’ she said, as much to convince herself than to inform him. ‘Johnny? I don’t hate you. I don’t. I pity you.’
Angel shifted where he lay, drawing his knees up to his chest.
‘I don’t know if you can hear me. I hope you can.’
Curled into the fetal position, Angel blinked.
‘Johnny? I’m going to nurse you back to health. Okay?’
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.
‘I’ll… I’ll feed you. I’ll change you. I’ll bathe you.’
Shyla scooped him up under his arms, and cradled him to her bosom. He looked so peaceful. She wondered where he was, in his mind. She wondered if he was at peace.
‘You’re going to stay right here until you get better,’ she promised him, hugging him to her. ‘Right here in this room.’
A small sound escaped his lips, and she shushed him, patting his back as she rocked him gently in her arms.