Not for those with a delicate stomach. Short horror tale by Colin Devonshire
‘Well, Sugar, it’s your birthday soon. What do you want as a gift?’
‘First, don’t call me Sugar. It is not my name. It’s the name you call all those bar sluts, when you can’t recall their names.’
‘Okay, okay, did you get out of bed on the wrong side this morning?’
‘I was wrong getting in it at all.’
‘Let’s start again. Pim, I’m sorry if I’ve upset you. I mean it. Please tell me what you want for your birthday?’
‘Look, Harry, what I want, you can’t give me. So forget it.’
‘How about dinner in the Landmark Hotel? You love it there.’
‘I’m not going to be in Bangkok on my birthday.’
‘What? Why not?’
‘Because I want to spend it with my father.’
‘Oh, down south?’
‘That’s where he lives.’
‘Can I come?’
‘No, you won’t enjoy it.’
Harry slammed the condo’s door and searched for The Bangkok Post at the neighbouring kiosk. Pim threw clothes in a backpack.
‘Are you going already?’ asked Harry as he returned, slapping newsprint against his leg.
‘Yep. Can I take the car? Thanks.’
Snatching the keys, Pim waved goodbye.
Harry grunted as he kicked the sofa.
There was no need to drive to the office. It was quicker to walk than battle the Bangkok traffic jams. It was another of Harry’s pet gripes. ‘She’s taken the motor anyway,’ he said as he nodded to the security man.
‘I didn’t approve of her days off,’ he mumbled.
The Managing Director’s door was open. Harry breezed in.
‘You know I have coffee as soon as I arrive. It helps me deal with you lot.’
Harry’s Thai partner arrived with the coffee.
‘No Pim today?’ he asked.
‘No, she’s gone to see her father,’ said Harry.
‘It is not my business, but I did say it was a bad idea to date the office staff.’
‘Thank you for your advice. Pim’s birthday is this weekend, and she wants to spend it with the family.’
‘Judging by your mood, you didn’t get an invitation?’ Khun Keng chuckled under his breath.
‘No, I wasn’t. What can I get her, something special? Any ideas?’
‘I’m married; what do I know? I am told what to buy. Why not ask one of her mates.’
‘Thanks, I will.’
‘Can I take your mug, sir,’ asked Apple.
‘Yes, but first, I have a question. What can I buy Pim for her birthday?’
‘We single girls love chocolate, flowers, or diamonds,’ she answered, laughing.
‘Seriously, has she mentioned anything?’
‘She has, but it’s nothing you can get.’
‘What is it?’
‘Her dad is arranging it for her.’
‘What the hell are you talking about?’
‘Do you know what a Kuman Thong is?’
‘Thong is gold. Isn’t it?’
‘Yes, but it is more than that. It means “Golden Boy”. It keeps evil spirits away.’
‘You are talking in riddles. What is it?’
‘A human fetus, roasted and covered in gold leaf. Believers keep it on a shelf and give it milk and food daily.’
‘You are pulling my leg?’
‘No, sir, Kuman Thong can see evil spirits from 20,000 miles away. They keep us safe.’
‘If I get one, will she be pleased?’
‘You mean, will she love you?’
‘Um, you know what I mean?’
‘I think so, sir, but her father is arranging it. She won’t need two.’
‘What if mine is bigger and better?’
‘Sir, it doesn’t work like that. It is all about how powerful it is.’
‘How will I know?’
‘You, as a foreigner? Haha, you won’t.’
‘I must get the best spirit hunter. Where can I find one?’
‘Leave it to me.’ Apple skipped back to her desk.
Later, Apple rushed to her grandmother’s home.
‘Yai, I need a Kuman Thong,’ she asked the old lady.
‘For you? Or someone else?’
‘Do you remember I told you about my boss? He has fallen in love with Pim. I need one for her.’
‘The pretty girl you work with?’
‘Okay, dear, I can get the perfect one. Don’t worry. We can go together.’
‘Do I have to? I hate that woman, her place and all she stands for.’
They entered the dingy surgery.
‘You don’t look pregnant?’ said the grey-haired woman as she wiped her glasses on a grubby lab coat.
‘No, neither of us is,’ answered grandmother as she cackled at her old contact.
Apple hid her flushed face.
‘A stupid girl died on me this morning. But I have her fetus. Interested?’ said the abortionist.
The older woman agreed on a price and held her hand for the plastic shopping bag. They hurried back home.
The gas oven was alight, and the baby’s body was placed inside and roasted. Apple threw up in the sink. Her grandmother grinned. ‘I should have taught you as a nipper.’
Body fat slapped onto the thin skin. Its knees bent and hands squeezed together in prayer, the body hunched with its head down. A hairdryer firmed the fat as gold leaf rubbed over it. Lastly, the grandmother wrapped the figure in a red cloth printed with a prayer.
‘Ready? We must hold a short ceremony if you wish?’ the old lady offered.
‘How do you mean, if I wish?’
‘I’m sure you know what I mean. Be off with you. Deliver it to your boss.’ She winked at her granddaughter.
‘I’m sorry it was so expensive, but I thought you wanted it urgently,’ said Apple as she handed the package to Harry.
‘The cost is no problem. I must travel south. But I have no car; how is the best way to Chumphon?’
‘Cheapest is the bus, or you can take a plane.’
‘I’ll fly. Can you get Pim’s address down there, written in Thai, for the taxi driver at the airport?’
‘What is in there?’ The airport security man pointed at the birthday wrapping paper.
‘Oh, that’s my girlfriend’s present.’
The uniformed man dropped the box as he touched it. ‘Go, go.’ He pointed to the departure gate.
People gave Harry a wide berth as they walked towards the plane. “Ha, they think I have a bomb.” As soon as the thought hit him, he cringed.
The plane was half full. Nobody sat near Harry, which usually suited him. Today though, it felt different.
He passed Pim’s address through the taxi window and settled a price. Harry jumped in. The driver moved off, then turned, glared, and grunted something. He then leant forward and increased his speed.
They left the built-up area. Rice paddies or bamboo trees were the scenery. A black bird dipped and flew into the windscreen. The driver pulled over and screamed at his passenger. Harry got out and stumbled down the road. Should he call Pim or surprise her? The answer was easy. He had no signal.
Shop shutters were coming down as he walked. He held out the address as a nervous schoolboy directed Harry straight on, then left. The lad sprinted away.
Harry walked on. Then he spotted his BMW in the distance. Hammering on the door received no answer. He walked around the property with no sign of life. Harry then crunched broken glass as he stepped over the shards. The upstairs windows were all broken. He shrugged his shoulders, slumped to a heap, and considered his next move. He called the nearby homes. Neighbours refused to answer their door. He returned to Pim’s. There was still no signal on his phone.
‘Should I find a hotel?’ he asked himself.
It was hot. Harry slumped to the ground. He leaned back against the wall and dozed a fitful nap.
A brown pickup truck screeched to a halt. Six policemen with pistols unholstered jumped out. They shouted at Harry in Thai as they ducked behind the vehicle’s doors.
Harry had watched enough cops and robbers films and raised his hands. From their signals, he knew he must get on his knees. Soon his hands were cuffed. The front door didn’t take much force to break open. Four men rushed around inside. Orders shouted, and Harry pushed from behind and shoved upstairs. The third bedroom was the “Buddha Room”, packed with statues and images of the deity. All smashed and upended. Trails of blood caught Harry’s eyes, puddles of gooey liquid. Father and daughter knelt facing each other, both holding blades. Their wrists and throats were hanging open.
Before the police dragged Harry downstairs, he vomited. He then carted to the station. The questions fired at him were in Thai. He couldn’t answer, so he sat and waited. Finally, his backpack emptied onto a desk. The birthday package captured the officer’s interest. Then locked up in Harry’s cell.
Early the following day, an Abbot arrived with a team of water-splashing monks. A ceremony tacitly performed with Pim’s opened package. It sat in front of the gathering, like a guest of honour, with more water and hours of chanting. Then Harry stumbled as he bounced out of the station with his wallet and phone.
He walked to some shops expecting the worst, sullen, uncooperative traders. But no, smiles and friendly chatter greeted him. He soon arranged a taxi back to the airport. While waiting for his flight, he saw a group of stewards and hostesses having a heated conversation.
‘Excuse me, but what are you talking about?’
‘It seems a young girl and her father killed each other. Then, all very strange, monks arrived and consecrated the house.’
‘Welcome back, Harry. No Pim? Have you sacked her? Let me guess, her father didn’t welcome you?’ asked his partner with a grin.
‘Not funny, she is dead.’
Apple dropped the coffee mugs, ‘Excuse me, boss, I’ve got to pop home for a minute. Is that okay?’
‘What did you do, grandmother?’
‘My dear, you can now have that foreign man you love. Golden Boys can work in reverse. If you know what you are doing.’ Grandmother’s laughter drowned out Bangkok’s noise.
Do you write short stories? I’d love to read them if they are dark and less than 3,000 words. Please send them here.