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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #1941346
An unreliable narrator tells a tale of an old man, an evil eye, and murder.
approximately 2000 words

Sweet Tea

Max Griffin

        I'm not crazy.

        From my lips to your ears, I shall speak nothing but Truth. 

        A blizzard struck the night I first noticed the old man's eye. 

        I sat at my window, in the gloom of my quarters, while outside fat snowflakes billowed in the amber glow of the streetlamp.  Footfalls shuffled in the hall. It had to be the old man, for we were alone that winter's night.  We were always alone, always together.  My door creaked open, but I did not look.

        His breath wheezed in and out of lungs corrupted by disease and cigarettes.  When he spoke, his voice husked across ragged vocal cords.  "Come sit with me by the fire," he said. 

        My heart quickened.  I did love him, after all, and I suppose he cared for me in his own way.

        So, I turned to face him.  He stood there, tattered garments clinging to his bony form, and greasy threads of hair trailing from his bald pate to his shoulders.  He floated half in and half out of my room, half in shadow and half in light, half real and half imagined.  One eye, veiled in darkness, emitted an unwholesome, yellow glow.  That tenebrous orb, cold and unforgiving, froze my soul. 

         He shuffled forward, and the eye's radiance dimmed as he passed out of the shadows.  Wind gusted, and the windowpanes jittered.  Frigid air leaked through the casing and sent a shiver down my spine.  He inched nearer, the floor creaking under each step. 

         At last he reached me. His fingers, brittle as sticks, gripped my forearm.  I found a malignancy in his touch I'd never noticed before and winced.  He squeezed, making the bruises under my sleeve twinge.

         He leaned close, so close his breath warmed my cheek and fouled my nose with the scent of decay.  The squalid odor of his unwashed body roiled my stomach.  "Please," he wheedled.  "I'm so lonely."

         He blinked and my attention fell once again on his eyes.  One was normal, a familiar, watery blue. But the other--that one skewered me.  A milky miasma obscured the surface, and yellow-brown smog circled the pupil.  When had it changed to such a sickening organ?  How could I have not noticed it before?  As he stared at me, the diseased eye gored me and took my breath away.

         "Please," he whispered, tugging at my hand.

         My room shuddered as the furnace kicked in. Its hot breath washed across us and broke the eye's malicious spell. 

         After that, he came to my room again and again, always at night.  It was the same on each visit.  He would beg me to join him.  Sometimes, most times, the eye was quiescent.  But other times, it would glow with a malevolent perspicacity.  It would stab me and then suck the air from my lungs. 

         Months passed before the time came when I finally knew what I must do.  Spring rains during the day had woken the crickets and beetles, and their chirping and clicking filled the evening.  Moonlight streamed through the open window, and the heady scent of cherry blossoms wafted in the air. 

         As he had so many times before, the old man came to my room and stood before me, a chimera lurking in light and shadow.  The cancerous radiance from his eye lashed out.  It lanced my spirit and filled me with dread. 

         "Come sit with me," he wheezed.  "I've made us sweet tea."

         My throat tightened.  His milky orb whispered to me, but not with words. Instead it injected understanding directly into my psyche. 

         It promised me peace everlasting.  It promised death.

         His gaze flailed my soul and exposed my most intimate secrets. Paralysis clasped my chest.  His look smothered me, its power more overwhelming than ever before.  My face heated and darkness circled my own vision.  I staggered from the room and left him standing there, agape.  Once away from that awful glare, I leaned against the wall and gasped for air. 

         It was then that I knew what I must do.  I must kill the old man. 

         My motive was pure self-defense: his eye had sucked the life from me, night by night, bit by bit.  Even now, I feel no malice for the old man: he could not help what his eye had become.  Indeed, I have nothing but affection for him.  Neither did greed drive my resolve, except perhaps the greedy desire to continue breathing.

         Later that night, I huddled before my computer.  The beetles in the walls clicked their mating call, their deathwatch, while I searched.  Ivory-tinged shadows flitted across my barren room as the screen flickered from page to page. 

         It's amazing what one can find online.  I read about a diabetic mother who injected her child with insulin, just to make the infant sick and attract attention to the parent.  But I digress.  That night, I kept my researches focused on my objective.  The case of the mother and child was not useful to me since I had no insulin.  I merely mention it as evidence of my diligence and determination.  For you see, I'm as sane as you, as sane as any scientist pursuing the means to an end.

         What I found was something called monkey juice--a diabolical combination of heroin and Visine.  It was just the formulation I required.

         The next night, I sat by my window, waiting.  Spring breezes rustled in the tree tops and sent low scudding clouds racing across the face of the moon.  Lacy filigrees of shadow dappled my room.

         His footsteps came a-shuffling across the wooden planks.  His wheezing breath whistled through the stale air.  His advance, relentless and unforgiving, sent electric chills racing down my spine.  I gripped my vial of monkey juice in a fist suddenly slick with sweat.  Soon, so soon, my suffering would cease.

         I faced the door and waited.

         Silence fell when he halted outside my room.  His silhouette hovered there, an apparition with no substance.  But his eye!  That burned bright. It glowered at me.  My breath clogged my throat. The air in my lungs turned thick as molasses. 

         His feet shuffled and his form grew more tangible.  My chest tightened, and I feared I might lose the ability to speak.  I choked, and then managed to mutter, "I have something for you."  I held out my vial in both hands, like a priest with a chalice.

         His voice gurgled from the depths of his ravaged lungs.  "A gift? For me?"

         "Yes.  A gift."  I fought the quaver in my voice, the tremble in my fingers.  "For your eye." I waved him closer, to where I sat, waiting.

         "My eye?"  He shambled nearer, his ruby slippers making faint chuffing sounds.

         At last he was at my side.  I rose and caressed his cheek, even while quaking with fear.  His eye shimmered and my lungs turned to stone.  Now.  I must act now. 

         I jerked at the lanky strands of hair straggling down his neck and his head tipped backwards. A palsy struck my hand holding the monkey juice, but I couldn't be denied.  One drop, crystalline and pure, struck that unwholesome pupil.  Then two, then a dozen. 

         He relaxed in my arms and sighed.  "Ahhh. That's divine. Bless you." 

         I chewed the side of my mouth.  He swayed back and forth. His eye still gripped me.  I snatched his wrist and twisted him closer.  More drops, the whole bottle, jetted into his eye.

         He convulsed.

         Spasms wracked his frail body.  He collapsed, and his head cracked against the floor.  Crimson blood pooled under his writhing form.  Pink spittle foamed from his lips.  His eye gleamed brighter still, but then dimmed.  His body stopped lurching and fell quiet.

         A cloud passed before the moon and darkness sheathed the room. The sheet draped over my closet doorway fluttered in a sudden gust of wind.  Distant thunder grumbled.

         At last, I could once again breathe. 

         His body lay there, lifeless and serene.  His good eye stared at nothing, but the other eye, the milky eye, rolled in its socket and sought me out.  My scream froze in my throat.

         I reached out with tremulous fingers and gouged.  The offending eye popped out of his skull and dangled from a braid of crimson tissue.  I squeezed, and it burst like a grape.  Warm, greasy fluid squirted through my fingers and drizzled onto the floor.

         The old man's back arched, and his shrieks sent echoes through the neighborhood.  He wasn't yet dead!  I lowered my foot to his throat and pressed. Bones crunched. His remaining eye bulged.  His fingernails tore at the flesh of my ankle.  His tongue swelled and turned purple.  Then he accepted my gift of absolution, and his body came to rest, motionless.

         Finally, it was over.  I was free, praise the Holy Father.

         I dragged him across the wooden floor.  The wound in his skull oozed and left a crimson trail of  tears.  I pulled the sheet barring the door to my closet, my temple, and deposited him inside: my profane sacrifice.  I then returned to my lonesome vigil by the window.

         With the old man's demise, the beetles in the attic were my only companions.  The cadence of their clicks matched the steady beat of my heart.

         Sometime later, scarlet lights flashed on the street.  A police car stopped and ejected two uniformed officers.  Their walkie-talkies squawked, and one tipped his head to speak to the microphone on his shoulder.  Their booted footsteps clumped on the stoop, and their fists pounded a demand to enter.

         I heaved a sigh and rose to greet them.

         When I opened the front door, one held a flashlight head-high and shined the beam in my face.  "Is everything all right here?" he demanded.

         I let a smile trifle with my lips.  Of course everything was all right, now that the old man's eye no longer plagued me. "Everything is fine, officer."

         "Uh-huh."  The flashlight beam roamed over my body.  His voice softened from implacable to concerned.  "Are you sure?  You don't look so good."

         I glanced down, and a cold ball of shock gripped my gut.  My clothes hung in tatters on my wraith-like form.  Scabs and bruises pocked my skin. When did this happen?

         The first officer's companion spoke, her voice wary.  "Do you mind if we come in?  Take a look around?  A neighbor called us about screams earlier tonight."

         I stood aside.  "No problem.  I could fix you some sweet tea." I led the way to my room. "I had a dream and woke screaming. Perhaps that's what they reported."

         That was when I heard it.  The old man's heartbeat.  Like a metronome, it thumped, drawing my eyes to the closet.  He must still live.

         The female officer's nose wrinkled when she entered my room.  She followed my gaze.  "Is there something in the closet?"

         Louder still it beat, the sound accusing me, revealing me.  The police must have heard it, too.  They stared at me.  They stared at the closet.  Their feet blotted the smears on the floor.  I was sure they would discover him, and with him, my deed. 

         Motion at the edge of my vision made me turn.  A dingy mirror on the wall reflected our tableau: three of us, with the light from my window forming a halo about our trinity.

         Why haven't I noticed the mirror before?

         The officers stood there, gawking at me and at my closet. I imagined they would soon look inside and find the old man.  I could think of nothing to stop them. 

         They must understand why I did what I did. Words stumbled over my tongue in my haste to explain. I told them about the old man.  I told them about his eye.  It was self-defense.  The eye attacked me. It tormented me.  The old man couldn't help it.  I couldn't help it.  It just happened.  What I did was perfectly rational.  I'm as sane as these peace officers with their accusing stares.

         I'm as sane as you.  Can't you see that?

         It's as plain as the eye in my face.

The inspiration for this tale is, of course, Edgar Allen Poe's 1843 story The Tell-Tale Heart.  

If you enjoyed this, you might check out some of my other short stories in
Short Stories by Max Griffin  (18+)
Tales of horror, suspense, mystery, and science fiction.
#1727241 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

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