The Craving

Cheryl Powell


It is exquisite to crave. And we are no strangers to craving. We have stalked so many other superstars; craving doesn’t faze us. It’s the nature of obsession, after all.

High on the ledge, we know exactly how to flatten our bodies, shift our feet, focus on the slew of stars above us. And there is nothing we will not do to see this superstar, to look into her legendary eyes, witness their sorcery.

We check our phones, monitoring for updates. We scroll through her night’s tweets, the glitter and gush of her latest premiére: Helvetica wide-mouthed on the red carpet, paparazzi eyes flirting with the cameras, clinging to Viktor. Darlink Viktor.

Out on the ledge, the night breeze loops around our hot bodies, disturbing our hair, slipping over our lycra-slick bodies. It is nearly time. And oh, how we crave. Below, the streets are growing dark and treacly, a city folding in on itself; hunkering down its fashionable cargo.  We yearn.

Helvetica has checked into the Boiler-Room suite alone, unaware that we crowd and cling at the window. And wait.

She has done well. Born in the gutter, once a porn star, she has clawed her way to fame and ludicrous wealth. We love her for that. She isn’t even beautiful. If it were not for those enigmatic eyes, she’d be quite mundane. But they are the eyes of a goddess.

From the far end of the ledge, we can see through the unshuttered window:  a wide-angled space;  bare, whitewashed and high-ceilinged; the bed off centre, its white pillows and silken sheets stacked and pristine, the small hours as yet unwritten.

She is working the phone with her thumbs, tweeting syrupy goodnights to her followers, and we instantly pick up the message, our stomachs swilling with vicious longing.

Now she is undressing, vipering out of her black silk dress: the china-plate smoothness of her stomach, the bevel of her pubic bone, breasts still new from their wrapper. She wears no jewellery, accenting her one defining feature: her eyes.  So green, so poisonous. How they haunt us.

She turns down the lights and her pupils bloomed like dark suns. She stands naked, and we lean in. She is before a smooth black box on the dressing table, lifting the lid reverently, sleek fingers, cadaver nail polish.  The box is empty.

We wait, drinking her in, and she takes deep breaths,  removes her contact lenses, squeezing them out one at a time.  But we see at once, they are too large for lenses; they are vitreous and slippery and she places them carefully inside the box and closes the lid.

Out on the ledge, our hearts break loose and hammer in our chests.   She turns to the window, a crease in her forehead, but we hold still, as one, a dark knotted thing, transfixed by the shock of her eyeless sockets. And then she turns and walks, arms out, feeling her way to the bed. We watch how she gropes, her body sagging slightly, buttocks lop-sided as she stumbles a little. Never have we loved her more.

Helvetica takes Rohypnol’s to sleep. We know this and we wait. Within minutes she is unmoving. We ease onto the windowsill, flat-palmed, cheeks pressing to glass. We lift the sash and climb in.

She is curled up on top of the bed, like a question mark in a wordless void, and we stare down and ponder: eyeless woman in white room.

We move to the black box, one of us opens it, the rest of us crowd. There they are:  the eyes, cradled upon red velvet. Her eyes.  Although detached from their cranial nerves, they are still alert and gazing, their corneas sucking in what little light there is, the pupils  pools of dark water. They know we are there: they look straight into our faces. Then, one winks, just a flicker, as a camera shutter captures an image at a fraction of a second.  And we imagine a small inverted picture of ourselves, suspended at the back of the retina, ready for her brain to process us. It sends silvery thrills through our bodies.

Then, one of us raises a hand, and the eyes roll upwards, following the movement. We falter. The eyes unnerve us, those great liquid orbs, almost black and we can feel the heat, red-hot, the optic nerves snapping and sparking. Such pain: how those eyes must burn her. We are all forever burning, aren’t we?

We close the lid, knowing the eyes will smolder into the darkness, waiting for her to claim them again, for her to master the agony for another day.

We climb onto the bed beside her, close enough to see the smoke roiling in her burnt sockets, close enough to see the tiny scars threaded around her breasts, eyes and lips, and close enough to see somebody else’s voluptuous hair glued in strings next to her own.

One of us slides the phone loose from her grip and holds it above us and we move closer. She will be anaesthetized for hours yet, and we put our cheeks next to hers. She does not move, does not even flinch when the flash goes off and our image flips onto the screen. She’s is totally unaware that we lean over her, over the two smoking voids, and kiss her on the lips, all of us. One of us uploads the image and presses ‘post’.

The minders outside her door pick up the tweet and are lumbering in, talking into their sleeves, and that makes us smile. We know we must leave quickly, though not without her eyes. Flinging open the box, one of us snatches them up, recoiling under their intense heat, all of us feeling our skin blister.

Then, we are back on the ledge, the breeze stronger now, tearing up the sky, streets sprawling a mile below like fabulous detritus. A light is on in another penthouse, another maimed celebrity within our reach. And this how it always goes, this insatiable need. This craving.




Cheryl Powell’s stories are found in Disturbing the Beast, published by Boudicca Press, The Mechanics Institute Review 2018, Reflex Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Flood, Litro, Everyday Fiction and Spelk–Twitter @chezzapowell.