Strawberry Killer: Short Fiction by C.L. Hesser


C.L. Hesser will be featuring four short stories on Popcorn Horror. Check out Dead Girl Talking and and Grocery Ghost

Bio by C.L. Hesser

I’m not one to speak about myself unheeded, but here goes. I guess I’ve always been a storyteller, from before I can remember… and I’ve always written horror, in a way. Creatures getting eaten alive by dinosaur ape-men? Is that horror? I guess my relations didn’t mind until I kept coming up with tale about eyeball slaughters. And insane, beautiful teenagers trapped in a madhouse, living out their nightmares. 

Er, I was an odd kid. 

But I finally stumbled upon some inspiring work – horror novels, to be exact. And stories, so many stories. Short stories always have called to me – they’re just enough to tantalize but not enough to overwhelm the horror. So I consumed these novels and anthologies by the dozen, gulping them down like so much super-sweetened ice tea. 

All under my parent’s self-righteous noses. 

Anne Rice, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Bradbury, Thomas Harris. Even a touch of Dean Koontz. And then I found the movies… 

From there, it’s all history. Found my love for horror and cultivated it, and pushed through despite the chiding tones of some quite smart English teachers. I’m sure I appreciate every nugget of literary gold I’ve stumbled into over the years. 

I live in the suburbia wilderness to the south of Atlanta, Georgia, and spend my spare time hunting for killer mermaids in nearby lakes.  So far, I’ve not had much luck. 


Strawberry Killer

He liked the taste of strawberries. Always had a fresh basket of them in his refrigerator, and a number set out in one of those huge glass bowls. He’d leave them on the kitchen counter, and strewn throughout the flat.

That was the first thing Emily noticed about him – he always smelled of strawberries. Of course, she couldn’t resist taking one more whiff, just one more sweet smell.

He wasn’t bad looking, either. In fact, she rather loved looking at him. Couldn’t have been older than twenty-five or twenty-six, and she loved being with someone who might have been a professor.

Her elder by four years, Stephen made her feel young and naive but also quite alluring; the way his eyes caught hers could send a flush of color right through her, and his hands lingering on the supple curves of her body shot tendrils of pleasure all under her skin.

Emily finally had come into his real home, his sanctuary from the cares of life. Before now, they’d always met at her place or in one of those sleazy hotels. But now she finally could see the place he’d built up for himself.

Out by the river, overlooking the dingy grey water, his flat perched atop a number of other levels. He kept to himself, generally, and was consequently left alone by his neighbors.

Books, old and new, lined the walls. Candles in little sconces, and a brilliant stainless steel kitchen. But the strawberries… they blew her away. She couldn’t breathe but to taste them in her nose, on her tongue, all through her throat. The overwhelming scent became almost sickening in such heavy doses. No wonder the smell never left him, even after a hot shower.

She wandered through the front rooms while he arranged her coat and boots in one of the hall closets, and she peered into a sitting room like a fairy palace drenched in nighttime. Glimmering candle flame flickered in an endless loop of mirrors, and the furniture glistened in drapes of white. Books, so many books upon books, loomed up to either side of her in massive mahogany cases.

She was taken aback by the sheer number of them, and the strawberry essence made her quite dizzy so she fell back…

He caught her easily by the armpits, and she leaned into his strong, comforting weight. Stephen kissed the whorl at the top of her scalp and helped her to her feet; the night was clearer and more comprehensible when they were finally out on the balcony, although the smell of sickly-sweet berries still wafted out the open doors.

“I thought,” he said, “you might enjoy a relaxing night in.” He smiled that wonderful, slanting smile, and she blushed heartily. “I’m sure we’ll enjoy ourselves thoroughly.”

And his lips were on hers, parting the rose-bud petals to meet her tongue with his; she gave in, sighing. Something grew hot deep in her gut, and the place between her legs felt warm. She parted her knees slightly and leaned into him, and he drew her down.

The next thing she felt was cold steal on her throat, and the weird glint in his eyes; sorrow. The bullet tore through her, spraying blood, and he pressed his lips to the torn wound. She lay limp and dead in his arms, still burbling red. Shit.

He liked them this way, soft and vulnerable and young. So sweet, and innocent. Probably she’d been a virgin before they’d met, and he’d seduced her so easily. Told her he’d been a writer, a published novelist with another book in the works. And she’d just fallen immediately, won over by his swarthy looks and the way his lips could part into that half-smile.

She’d looked at him like one of those pythons looks at a rat. But he didn’t mind – after all, these little things were only putty in his hands after that initial attraction, only things to be morphed into his own works.

He took up the girl and held her easily in the crux of one arm, and he made his way through the flat to the back bedroom. There, he lay her down on the bare, plastic-covered mattress. Spread out her arms and legs, sliced away the cloth from her torso.

Nipples like little strawberry-points; she’d been quite aroused already. He suddenly wondered what he’d find in her stomach bag. Strawberries? She’d eaten a few, hadn’t she? Stems. Little red bits.

Of course, it would all be red.

He took the surgical blade and sliced through the layers of fat, skin, tissues. Looked much prettier from the inside out. He pried her rib cage open with those handy pliers, and tried to reach carefully in to pry free her organs. They were like rubber, still very hot and wet. Slobbed with gore.

He put the liver to his mouth. Sloshed in his hand. He let it down onto the slick mattress and reached back into her inner cavities.  Imagine, she’d been so sweet to him; and that brain, the whorls of that little brain. He’d destroyed it, probably. He didn’t care. Didn’t need the face, just the body.

He finally finished harvesting the organs, and he stuffed her with cotton before sewing up the black slit. These would be perfect, just perfect. He kissed her bare shoulder gently, and his lips came away bloody.

Stephen took up the organs in both hands, and some dangled from his arms. He strutted out of the bedroom and went further down the hall, where one of the bathroom doors was propped open. Went up to the bathtub and looked down.

So many organs, many hearts included. At least two brains, carefully removed after he’d severed the head with the death blow. He crouched down and deposited Emily’s liver and heart with the others.

Then he lit one of those matches from the book and held it to the first of twenty strawberry-scented candles that filled the bathroom. There would be more candles, and of course the fresh berries.

They masked the scent, you see…