Prompt Short Story: Penance (Lawkeepers 10)

Content Warning: mild sexual assault, crude sexual language, drunkenness

Jeremy yawned and forced his eyes open, groggy with sleep. His head, full of cotton wool, hung heavily on his neck as he pushed the blanket back and planted his feet on the soft, warm carpet of the bedroom floor.

The bathroom was a few short, staggering, steps away and he hung for a moment on the doorframe, staring at the face in the mirror.

It was pale, aside from the redness around his eyes and the dried blood from where he had bitten his lip sometime last night. He hadn’t even noticed doing that. He had been far too busy drunkenly throwing things at his boyfriend.

Former boyfriend, he supposed, now.

His own fault. Everything that came next, he earned. Friends would turn away from him. Family, too. Even his job would be in danger, if Sammy decided to press charges.

He sat on the toilet lid and rested his head against the cool porcelain of the sink, helpless to stop the memories surfacing.

Sammy had found out about the cheating. It was stupid. Fucking stupid. Tike – fucking stupid name – had played the exact right notes on him. Showing up at the bar, all tight shirts and dick-hugging jeans. Complimenting his hair. His eyes. His skin, as he trailed one finger along his muscular arm. And Jeremy had fallen for it all.

He’d fucked him in the back room, the first time. And not just that time, either. They’d fucked in cars, parked in deserted patches just off the road, the excitement intensifying every time a car drove past. They’d fucked in cheap motel rooms, letting the cries from the other sides of paper-thin walls drive them on. They’d fucked on the balcony of the 10th floor of an expensive hotel, the thought that others might look out from their own high windows and see them, hear their echoing cries, making them both harder than ever.

And then Tike had disappeared. Jeremy found himself blocked everywhere, and for two days had moped sullenly about his flat, snapping at Sammy when he came over, then trying desperately to find the same levels of excitement in him as he had in his affair. Always failing.

Then last night, Sammy had stormed through the door and thrown his phone at Jeremy, telling him to read.

Tike had sent him…everything. Sexts. Dick pics. Secret video Jeremy had no idea existed. Even his complaints about how boring it was with Sammy, now he knew the thrill of exhibitionism, and how it felt to hold back nothing, and feel the other person give everything right back.

He had thrown the phone back, disgusted with himself, and shot back a large glass of vodka. Then another. Listening to Sammy rage at him. Knowing every word was true.

Eventually, drunk with the chained shots, barely able to see straight or stand up, he’d thrown first the empty glass, then the empty bottle at Sammy. He’d missed, but the glass had exploded and cut the side of his face.

When Sammy had tried to leave, Jeremy had slammed the door shut, using his strength and bulk to pin him against the wall, trying to force his tongue down Sammy’s throat, force Sammy’s hands to touch him, hurt him, fuck him.

Sammy had escaped with a carefully aimed headbutt – that might actually have been what split his lip, Jeremy realised – and as he left, he told Jeremy to never contact him again, and to expect a visit from the police.

Jeremy’s lip throbbed, bringing him back to the present.

He stood and ran warm water, carefully wiping the blood away and applying disinfectant. The lip opened again, blood sliding down his chin, and he wiped it up before it could fall into the sink.

He was a shit. A fucking shit. He hoped the police did come. He’d tell them everything, and hope they locked him up. His life deserved to go to pieces, after what he’d done.

Taking a moment to text his boss, telling her he was sick, he went downstairs. Thinking about the police again, he took photos of the mess before cleaning it up, his hangover pulsing, threading every breath with nausea, each time he bent down.

Once the apartment was back to normal, wandered around aimlessly, waiting for a knock at his door.

He wondered if he’d have to sell this flat, to pay for a lawyer, or the fine. He had some money – his job paid well – but probably not enough to cover it all.

He wondered what his parents would think. Their only kid, having to sell the flat they’d left him in their will – the flat that had belonged to his grandparents, then his parents, and now him – to pay for the results of an assault on his boyfriend after his affair had been revealed.

He felt a twisting ache, deep inside his chest and stomach. Guilt? That felt like too small a word. He’d known guilt before – who hadn’t? And he’d felt it plenty, when fucking Tike then coming home to Sammy. This was deeper, bigger, more painful, and it made his whole body shake.

As he walked through the hallway between the living room and bedrooms for possibly the twentieth time, he frowned and stopped dead.

He took two steps backwards, and looked again at the wall.

He hadn’t been seeing things. It was right there. A door, looking like it belonged, like it had always been there, but it never had before.

Jeremy reached out a hand and tentatively touched the handle, gripping it when nothing bad happened and turning it, pulling the door open and stepping through.

He had lived his entire life in this flat – growing up, studying at the University nearby, caring for his parents when they got sick. His entire life. But he had never seen that door, or this hallway, before.

The walls were a pale grey. So was the carpet. And the ceiling. There was one door, at the far end, and Jeremy walked the few metres to reach it. On the door, a sign read “Kyra Seirenes: Human-Extranatural Liaison & Lawkeeper.

Jeremy hesitated, then raised his hand to knock.

Before he could, a sweet, melodious voice spoke. “Come in, Jeremy.”

He opened the door and entered an office, decorated in sea blues and greens, full of the smell of thriving plant life – and actual plants, he saw, turning his head.

Behind a desk sat a beautiful woman. Her hair flowed long and blonde, and her face was sweet and gentle. Her eyes were as sea-coloured as the office, but deep, a place into which he could drown.

He shook his head slightly to clear the fog, being attracted to a woman was weird, and this shit was already weird enough.

“Take a seat,” she motioned to a comfortable-looking armchair.

Jeremy sat, the armchair even more comfortable than it looked. He was nonplussed, to say the least. This was the strangest thing that had ever happened to him, and he had no idea what was actually happening.

“Let me answer your first questions, get them out of the way. No, your flat hasn’t grown a door, a corridor, or an office. It’s a temporary portal, which will disappear without a trace the moment you leave. I am . I am – or was – a Siren, but now I manage what we call the Lawkeepers, a team of folk who protect extranaturals from each other and humans, and protect humans from extranaturals that might do them harm. An extranatural, is any being with skills beyond what might be considered normal to your average member of the human race. Myself, for example – I don’t use it any more, but I can sing people into hypnosis and have them do anything I ask. I have invited you here for a conversation, as you have harmed one of the extranaturals under my care – that is to say, they are all under my care, and you have harmed one of them. I presume you know to whom I refer?”

Jeremy took a few moments, slowly repeating in his head everything Kya was saying. When he reached the end, he looked up at her and nodded, “I can’t say I actually understand but I guess you answered the main stuff. And yeah, I…” his head drooped again, “I know who you mean. Sammy.”

“Correct. Normally in this sort of case, we would leave you to the human police, but it seems that the issue last night was caused by another extranatural – the one you know as Tike.”

Jeremy frowned, “They’re both – whatsit – extranatural? What are they then?”

“I’m afraid that isn’t information that I can disclose without their permission. If they wanted you to know, or telling you would somehow prevent them from being harmed, then it would be my duty to them to tell you. As that is not the case, it is my duty to them to keep their secret. Do you understand?”

“Yeah. Privacy laws. I get those. Look, Ms Seirenes-”

“Kyra, please,” she interrupted briefly.

“OK, a. I know what I did. I didn’t know it was a game at the time, but I guess I do now. I hurt Sammy, and that was what Tike wanted, I’m assuming? I don’t know. But I know you know what I did to Sammy last night. I injured him. I hurt him. I assaulted him. I deserve whatever punishment you wanna give, OK? I won’t argue or fight it.”

“Well,” ’s mouth curved in a smile, “Punishing a human is out of my remit, but Sammy will agree not to go to the police if you perform an act of contrition for us. Not the catholic sort, something more akin to…doing us a favour. If you will perform this act, we will wipe clean your slate on your promise never to contact or try to find out about Sammy or Tike ever again. If you do not, then you will face the human police, and we will ensure that you receive the harshest sentencing.”

Jeremy paled, wondering what ‘favour’ he could do to offset his horrendous actions of the previous night. Also, in a side section of his brain that he was desperately attempting to keep quiet, he was close to screaming “What the fuck are they?! What the fuck did I have sex with? What the fuck did I fall in love with? What the fuck!!”

Instead, he forced himself to swallow through the lump in his throat, and nodded, not trusting himself to actually open his mouth to speak.

“Good. Then I, or one of my officers, will be in touch in due course, to let you know your mission. Please be assured that you will be fully protected, during your time with us. Even though you might feel vulnerable, you will not be, at any moment, in actual danger. We want you to help us, and pay for your mistakes, we don’t want to have you hurt. It simply happens that sometimes we can make use of humans for our needs, and those like yourself are ideal. A penance for your actions, during which you assist us in making things safer for everyone. It seems like a good trade to me, and I hope it does to you.”

Jeremy nodded again, forcing a grunt of agreement out through his lips.

“Good. You can go now. Please remember that I, and my Lawkeepers, work in secret to protect people – natural and extranatural. Therefore it is of paramount importance that you speak of our existence to nobody. If you do so, our deal is off and the police will appear. Keep to our agreement, and you will be able to continue your life as is – hopefully a better person, for learning from your mistakes.”

Jeremy stood, clearing his throat and trying to work up some saliva so he could speak. His words came out in little more than a croak, “I understand. Thank you for allowing this chance for me.”

Kyra’s eyes narrowed slightly, “Sammy asked me personally to do this. Remember that. I was all for leaving you to rot in jail.”

Jeremy’s eyes widened at the sudden anger in that beautiful voice, and turned to leave as fast as he could. Out the door, down the corridor, and back into his flat.

Turning around, he saw the door was gone, the wall looking like it had never existed. Just as had told him.

He wondered what his penance would be. Something that felt dangerous, but wouldn’t be. Playing bait to lure someone in, was his first thought, and it wasn’t a pleasant idea. It was, however, more than he deserved.

In the kitchen, he took every bit of alcohol from the fridge and cupboards, and poured it all down the sink, the stench of alcohol bringing the previous night back strongly.

Once done, he opened his laptop on the sofa, and began searching for therapists. He might not be able to tell them about Kyra or the extranaturals, but it seemed there was an awful lot more he needed to work through. He wanted to get as far away from the person he’d become last night as he possibly could. Nothing would change what he had done, or how terrible it was, but he could change his future, and he would.

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Writing prompt used:

He had lived his entire life in this house, but he was standing in a hallway he’d never seen before.


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