Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled The Leggy Mistress of the Waterfall. Please enjoy.
He didn’t go there looking for love. Rather, he was only there for a stiff drink after a hard day’s work at the Northwest Logging Company. The Waterfall Bar wasn’t even his usual haunt. Never before had he been somewhere that emanated refinement and class. Firefly lights practically danced from above brightening the otherwise dark, smoky atmosphere reminiscent of a cigar lounge. Fittingly, classical music wafted in the air setting an almost melancholy yet comfortable mood. It was certainly a far cry from what demarcated his typical drinking establishment with its flickering fluorescent lights and heavy metal and rap blaring oppressively. At least, that was the kind of music that typically played until he and his friends arrived.
Sure, when they first discovered Monty Python’s Lumberjack song on the antiquated jukebox, it was a humorous surprise. It was even funnier when one of his buddies paid to play it. The young man still found the humor in it when they played it over and over again the rest of the night. His nerves started grating, though, when they did it again the next time they visited. Then they did it again and again until it had become basically his friends’ ritual, at least when he decided to come along and to his chagrin. At some point, he had heard the song so many times he would have rather chewed glass than ever hear Michael Palin’s caterwauling ever again.
After taking a minute or two to recover from feeling overwhelmed as if in a foreign land, the lumberjack made his way to the bartender and ordered a rusty nail without ice, the manliest of drinks. Though initially, he wanted to keep to himself, the gregarious man behind the counter was not the kind to miss an opportunity to regale a stranger with idle chitchat. Though hesitant at first, the lumberjack loosened his tongue. He told his new acquaintance that an apartment complex near The Waterfall was a recent victim of arson. Though everyone managed to escape with minor injuries, he still felt a bit guilty as he ultimately benefited from the tenants’ misfortunes. They were contracted to help build the replacement by providing the lumber. This meant for them an increase in work, sales, and profit for everyone involved.
The bartender offered a mild absolution of his guilt before turning the conversation toward local events. Specifically, he told the lumberjack about how local livestock had recently been found dead having been drained of their blood. He then warned him to not stay out too late or alone as there was a rash of missing persons. Peculiarly, it was like young men like him who had suddenly disappeared.
Not particularly concerned, the man smiled and thanked him for the warning. Another customer then ordered a drink. As the bartender mixed the beverage, the lumberjack took that opportunity to end the conversation. He turned and scanned the rest of the tavern with the mild hope someone there might catch his eye. Someone did.
She was a Japanese woman in approximately her mid-thirties with alluring eyes and crimson lips. Her obsidian-colored earrings shaped like arachnids sparkled in the light. Her long slender legs poke through a slit in her red and black dress. She was seemingly transfixed on a news report playing on a television above not far from the booth where she was seated. As such, she did not notice his stare.
The bartender did, though, and now done with the other customer’s drink he revealed not only was she a regular, but she was almost as iconic to the bar as the mock waterfall sitting in the far corner of the bar that gave the establishment its signature name. He further elaborated by saying that a few months before the lumberjack’s visit, a patron, undoubtedly plastered, dubbed her the “Leggy Mistress of the Waterfall”. Everyone around him laughed. All but the drunkard who said it agreed that it was a pretty idiotic nickname. Yet, somehow, it stuck.
Almost as a non sequitur, the bartender mentioned that she reminded him of a girl he used to date when he was on the track team in high school. A man sitting next to the lumberjack groaned upon hearing this. He knew what was coming. Specifically, another lengthy recount of halcyon days when he was amongst the state’s top runners having placed third at the national track meet. He concluded his account, as he always did, by claiming that he was still as fast as he ever despite the over fifteen years that had passed since those days. Though this was dubious, he at least looked the part.
It was then the mistress turned her head. Though the expression on her face was listless at first, when her eyes moved onto the awestruck gaze of the lumberjack, she snapped to attention as a delighted smile crept upon her lips. She did so love younger men and the lumberjack was barely in his twenties. With the eagerness evocative of a lioness pouncing upon an antelope, she slunk toward her prey.
Seductive might have been the expectation but that certainly wasn’t a good descriptor of her gait. Rather, her legs moved as if the woman wasn’t used to having them. Some, especially amongst the older crowd of men, found her walk unsettling. To the ensnared young man, it was captivating. After settling next to him, she set her glass down next to his. A film of sticky residue and odd white stains encircled where she had held it.
Undeterred, the lumberjack asked nervously whether she was hungry and wanted something to eat. She replied what she wanted wasn’t on the menu. When she took his hand and led him out of the bar, he figured out what she had meant. She never went home with anyone before at least as far as the bartender could recall. This was the lumberjack’s lucky day.
Many nights of fun ensued between the two of them. Every evening after work the lumberjack would visit the bar to meet her. After a bit of dancing and more than a couple of drinks were consumed, the two would run off to presumably engage in whatever activities two consenting adults of opposite sexes often chose to partake in. The constant nights of fun eventually took their toll, however, but not on the mistress. If anything, they had an invigorating effect on the woman. Conversely, the lumberjack began to deteriorate both physically and mentally.
It was a gradual transformation. When the first signs were revealed, the bartender dismissed the notion that anything was amiss and even joked that the mistress was draining the young man of his vitality. As his condition worsened, though, a genuine concern emerged. A once stout, muscular young man had become thin and emaciated. His eyes and face exuded nothing but exhaustion. It was as if the young man was dead on his feet.
His mind was also a cause for concern. Though it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say the man was ever astute, he at least had a variety of topics on his mind even if they were a bit basic. That all changed when he started seeing the leggy mistress regularly. His thoughts became a singularity focused exclusively on her. Outside of eating, sleeping, and working, she was the only thing on his mind. He was obsessed.
Then one day the duo suddenly stopped appearing. Normally this wouldn’t have been anything of note. It is never particularly surprising when a pair of patrons decide to move on to a different locale or perhaps spend their time outside of a watering hole. However, the two had become such regulars that the bartender became legitimately worried that something might have happened to them.
He didn’t have any way to contact the two. The man wasn’t particularly close with either of the pair. Outside of a few sporadic conversations with the lumberjack and even less with the mistress, there was no communication between them. Despite this, he still found himself missing them when they stopped their nightly sojourn.
Then, one night, the bartender was walking home as he was wont to do. The Waterfall was a mere fifteen minutes away from his home on foot. As he made his journey home, he noticed a figure out of the corner of his eye standing in an empty alley. She was a slender leggy beauty wearing a black and red dress staring off into the distance. The leggy mistress of The Waterfall.
She was looking away from him when he called out to her. Her mind was initially preoccupied with whatever or whomever she was looking towards. It took several attempts but eventually, he caught her attention. After being startled by the familiar voice, she turned towards the source. Then, for a moment, she just stared.
The bartender didn’t initially notice, though. With a large and relieved smile, he asked where she and the lumberjack had been and whether they were in good health and spirits. In response, she wordlessly sprinted away.
Sensing something was wrong, he raced after her. The bartender was fast. His boasting at the bar only slightly exaggerated his speed. He had definitely kept himself in exemplary shape over the years. Yet, chasing her still proved to be a near herculean task. The mistress moved through the streets like a gazelle. She leaped over garbage cans and cars, scurried up ladders, and dove through open windows with an almost inhuman quickness and agility. He only barely managed to keep up with her pace while opting to run around obstacles that the mistress was able to deftly move her way. Doing so did slow his pursuit quite a bit throughout.
Eventually, she led him to the abandoned apartment building, the same one that had been set aflame a few months before, the one the lumberjack told him about. The bartender had fallen far enough behind at this point that, while he was able to see her enter the complex, he was unable to gauge where she had gone within. He skidded to a stop and then hesitated. Unsure was he whether it was wise to enter the locale especially. The mistress’s behavior was more than a little suspicious, not to mention her dexterity and that every motion of hers seemed purposeful. It was almost as if she leading him to an obvious trap. A short debate commenced internally. Then, against his better judgment, the man entered the burned down and abandoned apartment complex. Curiosity had won the day.
Most rooms were unsurprisingly empty. The blaze had left most of them empty. The upper floors bore the brunt of the flames much more than the lower ones. True, the condition of the upper floors was such that they could fall at any time making the entire place a death trap, but at least the lower floors weren’t about to crumble anytime soon. His eyes moved to the flights of stairs. Enough steps remained intact that he could use them to ascend. He couldn’t resist temptation so he climbed.
His heart practically beat out of his chest in anticipation and his breathing became labored as he walked those steps. Upon reaching the first floor, he set out and searched. Nothing and no one was found, though, at least in the rooms he could reach before gaping holes prevented him from going further. He didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved. Figuring since he was in for a dime, he was in for a dollar, he ascended to the second floor. Only to find the same story as before with even more holes impeding his path and as a result, fewer places available for him to search. With the same mixed feelings as before and his heart palpitations and belabored breathing at their peak.
Then he entered the third floor. Just as he did, his ears twitched. It was low and barely audible. He was barely cognizant of it at first, thinking initially it was either his imagination or a noise from outside. Soon the bartender realized, however, that it was coming from one of the rooms.
It was a tortured yet quiet groan from someone who was struggling to remain conscious.
The groan was distinctly male.
Accompanying the groan were noises not unlike the sudden striking and ripping of flesh.
He sprinted toward the sounds with sudden haste. A cold sweat formed and ran down his shoulders and back. He could not decipher what was happening but knew it was something bad. Someone was in trouble and needed help.
A foul smell assaulted his olfactory nerves the moment he came to a sliding halt outside the open doorway in the room furthest from the stairs. It smelled of rotted flesh which compelled him to cover his nose almost involuntarily. Yet the stench was minor compared to the horrific sight he was forced to witness. Something his mind only gradually allowed him to comprehend.
Several decaying corpses rotted on the floor. Each of the men was bound by duct tape from the armpits down. All had huge gashes across their chest and throughout the rest of their bodies. They were performed with precision to inflict maximum pain while systemically draining these men of their blood. The floor stained with a copper brown was a testament to the success of that plan.
Standing amongst these bodies was a young, flaxen-haired woman wearing a white smock and surgical mask. Both were stained with such a deep crimson it was almost as if it was the original color of those garments. Her right hand was firmly gripped upon the handle of a knife whose blade was soaked in blood. Sensing a new presence, she turned her head slowly until her eyes settled on the bartender’s terror-stricken face. Though difficult to see since her lips were obscured, her lips seemed to curl into a sadistic grin, one so horrific the man practically froze in place.
Another groan woke the bartender from his trance. Someone was still alive. There was a man propped next to the blonde woman against a nearby wall. He was bound similarly to the deceased lying on the ground. Across his chest was a huge gash. There was no question what had caused the wound.
His head was down. He muttered muffled, incoherent words and displayed the mannerisms of a man who had been drugged. His breath was slow and belabored. He seemed familiar to the bartender. His features were difficult to discern in the darkness as the only illumination was the thin moonlight. Then, almost suddenly, the bartender let out an audible gasp when he realized who was tied up in the darkness.
It was the lumberjack.
Just as his mind comprehended this revelation, the woman leaped at him suddenly and swung her knife vertically in an attempt to take advantage of his stunned state. With excellent reflexes and a bit of luck, the bartender managed to avoid the blow. It was hardly a dexterous dodge, though, as the surprise and horror of everything resulted in a bit of clumsiness.
Indeed, while avoiding the woman, the bartender tripped and fell forward sideways. He landed with a thud against the ground. Completely unnerved, he frantically moved to his back and hysterically crawled backward in a sort of crude crab walk. He dared not to turn away from the blonde even for a moment. His eyes remained deadlocked on her as he scrambled in a panic. Conversely, the woman followed him slowly and deliberately. She wanted to relish every moment she made the man squirm.
The bartender eventually ran out of space. He found himself next to the wall to the left of the lumberjack. Her mask hid her face so the bartender could not see her vicious smile as she raised her knife eagerly in the air. Closing his eyes, the man braced for impact.
The knife never came down.
From the ceiling came the man’s savior. She was a hideous creature with eight eyes, a hairy elongated face, and a pair of hairy fangs protruding from the mouth. Each of the three segments of her body, her rear end quite a bit larger than her torso and head, were colored with yellow and dark blue stripes. Each of her long, protruding legs jutting out from her abdomen was colored the same as the rest of her.
A gigantic spider had come to the rescue.
In an instant, the blonde was covered in a spider’s web. She did not even have time to struggle. Without a moment’s hesitation, upon completion of the aforementioned web, the spider descended upon the woman. Her gigantic fangs fastened onto her skull. The blonde’s anguished screams faded quickly. She hardly had time to feel excruciating pain before she was devoured.
Not that the bartender managed to witness any of this. He was already far gone by the time his attacker was covered in the white gooey substance. He would not regain consciousness until long after the deed was done.
When his eyes eventually blinked him back into consciousness, he awoke to a familiar figure looking over him. It took a moment but soon he realized that the faint smile staring back at him came from the leggy mistress.
His head snapped from her lap immediately after in a mad fright. He shouted about the spider. In response, the mistress assured him that the creature had disappeared and the threats were gone. Both of them, she added. The blonde assailant was no more.
The bartender’s attention turned toward the lumberjack. He breathed a sigh of relief when he discovered that the man remained nearby but was now freed from his bonds and conscious and sitting upright. His breathing was still belabored, though, and while his gaping wound had been attended to with a makeshift tourniquet made from his shirt along with a mysterious sticky white residue, he certainly still needed proper medical care.
After a quick scan of the room, the bartender inquired about where the dead bodies had gone. The mistress explained that they hadn’t gone anywhere. Instead, she had moved him and the lumberjack to an adjacent room to get away from the grizzly scene. How a petite woman was able to drag two grown men into another room or free the lumberjack from his duct-taped bonds for that matter, was never adequately explained. The bartender let those questions go, though. Instead, he asked the mistress what had happened. With a heavy sigh, she explained to the best of her ability.
Her relationship with the lumberjack soured a week before that day. She did not go into detail regardless of how much the bartender pressed. Instead, she merely stated she was bad for him and would be bad for any man. This was something she had just recently learned as dating the lumberjack was her first romantic relationship.
Hearing this surprised the bartender. He let it slip that he did not expect somebody her age to have never been in a relationship with someone before. The bartender then immediately regretted saying that and apologized immediately. Though the mistress was still visibly upset by his statement, she ultimately chose to let it go. She continued by saying that though the lumberjack appeared to be heartbroken at first, he rebounded relatively quickly and began dating this young blonde.
The mistress had seen this woman before she had even met the lumberjack, on her trips to and from The Waterfall and many times over several weeks at odd hours of the night. Each time she was accompanied by various young men. The mistress initially believed her to be nothing more than a gold digger or perhaps a lady of the evening, though admitted that this assessment may have been borne of jealousy.
Then she suddenly remembered the news report at The Waterfall. Those men on the screen had looked familiar to her but at the time, she didn’t know why. It had suddenly dawned on her when she saw her ex with the blonde, though. She chastised herself for not realizing it sooner. The men who disappeared were the woman’s “dates”.
That evening, she tried to warn the lumberjack who dismissed her pleas as the fabrication of an envious, regretful woman. The two of them had just driven off when the bartender bumped into the mistress and everything else unfolded.
Apparently, she did not hear the lumberjack’s groans and was still looking for him when the bartender was attacked. She arrived on the scene just as the giant spider began her feast. The mistress spared the bartender the details of the scene. This did not prevent the man from vacating his last meal when she told him of the blonde woman’s fate.
After the bartender had recovered, the mistress continued and told him that she did not know where the spider had gone. She apparently had simply disappeared after devouring the blonde woman. When asked why, the mistress did not answer which led the bartender to believe she did not know. He meant it as a rhetorical question, anyway. He assumed that the only motive a spider could possibly have in such situations was satiating her hunger. Once it was full, it was time to leave.
The mistress winced after hearing his listless supposition. Whispering to herself, she asserted that she believed the spider wanted to protect the one she cared for along with an innocent man. The bartender didn’t hear her.
Soon, the cops and the paramedics were called. While the paramedics attended to the lumberjack, the police questioned the mistress and the bartender. At first, they were suspicious of them, but after surveying the evidence and speaking to the young man, they became convinced that the older pair were completely innocent of any crime.
From the description of the woman, the police asserted that the blonde woman matched the description of someone who had disappeared recently. She had been abducted by a madman at fifteen and forced to succumb to his debauched and degenerate desires, to put it mildly, for over five years. It was said that her only companions during that time were the spiders that found their way into that basement.
Though she was eventually rescued and her kidnapper was brought to justice or at least a close facsimile, for what punishment is enough for a man willing to commit such atrocities, the woman never quite recovered from the traumatic experience. The scores of dead men in her wake were a confirmation of that fact.
Unfortunately, the mystery was never completely solved. The blonde woman’s body was never found. Both the bartender and the mistress understood that it was futile to provide the true explanation but it left them scrambling for an alternative. The duo came to a consensus that she fled upon seeing the mistress but could provide no further details much to the frustration of the officers of the law. Without any leads, the case soon went cold.
Afterward, the mistress and the bartender parted ways. When asked whether she’d ever return to The Waterfall, she answered she wasn’t sure. Perhaps one day she would but her experiences with the lumberjack told her that she wasn’t quite ready.
The bartender asked for clarification. She just smiled and walked away.
It took time but the bartender was eventually able to move past the ordeal. His boss and coworkers gave the man a hero’s welcome when he returned, finally able to work once again. The lumberjack also recovered. The bartender even checked on him daily and promised him he’d have free drinks for life if he ever made it back to The Waterfall. He made good on that promise when the young eventually did.
The bartender never figured out the mystery of the giant spider. He invested a lot of time and research into the matter and made several inquiries. For all his efforts, the most information he’d ever received was a folk tale of Japanese origin. There were no recorded incidents of giant spiders and certainly none credible that involved consuming human beings whole. Eventually, he stopped searching altogether. Some things were perhaps just never meant to be solved, he figured.
As for the former icon of his tavern, the bartender always remained optimistic that she’d return. Every night, in fact, after the incident, he’d constantly look toward the entrance always thinking that the next guest would be The Leggy Mistress of The Waterfall.
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