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Five Spikes

Nicholas Diehl was born in Detroit, attended Michigan State University, and lives in Sacramento, where he teaches philosophy at Sacramento City College. He has published essays on narrative and satire in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. An extremely photogenic corgi lives in his house.
She looked like soot and snow, kohl eyes and spiky black hair and pale, pale skin, as if she carried an umbrella, rain or shine. If she did, he wondered, would it be black or white? One or the other, given the rest of her clothes. She wore black jeans and small white tops, tight across her chest. That was how he met her, in fact: She caught him staring at her breasts across the lab table one day. He flushed and dropped his eyes, but she winked at him later and blew him a kiss when she left. The next week they were lab partners, and every week after that.
Still, he wasn't really expecting anything. He'd seen her around, holding hands with a blonde girl a couple of times, so he figured he wasn't her type.
"You have such gorgeous blue eyes," she said. "I like blue eyes. Why haven't you asked me out? Is it because I'm a witch?"
She said it without any special affect, like she was reading a number on a pipette. Nonplussed, he ignored the bit about being a witch. "Well, uh, I thought you had a girlfriend. I've seen you around campus with, um, that girl."
"Oh." And she didn't say another word about it, not while they conducted the titration, not while they figured the concentration of the acid and wrote up the lab report. Finally, just when they were getting packed up to leave he asked her:
"So are you a good witch or a bad witch?"
She looked at him, amusement dancing from her eyes to her dimples and back. "Oh, definitely a bad witch." She slung her backpack over one shoulder. "Also," she said, whispering now, her nightshade lips close enough that he could feel her breath on his ear, "I'm bi."
Her apartment was neat and clean, easily the cleanest college apartment he'd ever seen. It made it easy to notice the spikes on the end table, four of them laid out like dinner cutlery, but they would have drawn his eye in any setting. They were dazzling, first shining like silver knitting needles, then rippling with color like fluttering banderillas. "What are those?" he asked. "Are those knitting needles?"
"Yes," she said, so quickly that he didn't believe her.
But when he pressed her, she only told him another story he didn't believe.
"They're zombie spikes. Witches use them. When you drive one into a person, that person's mind is drawn to the spike, like a moth to a candle. Then their body is sort of on autopilot, and you can control them. They'll do whatever you tell them to."
Then she crossed her eyes at him and laughed, and he had to let it go. And then she kissed him and slipped her tongue into his mouth, and they turned off the lights and tumbled onto the couch, hands traveling shamelessly.
They were still on the couch when he heard the key fumbling in the door. "Fuck," he whispered. Her shirt was on the floor somewhere, and his pants were unzipped, but she just giggled and didn't stop stroking him through his boxers. "It's just my roommate," she whispered back.
The roommate finally managed the lock, came in, and locked the door again behind her. She padded into the living room and stood there in the dark, just outside of his vision. He was frozen with indecision, acutely aware of impending embarrassment but still pulsing with lust. He was trying to breathe as slowly and soundlessly as possible; beside him, clearly less perturbed, his half-naked date was trying to stifle her laughter.
Then she stopped fondling him and clicked on the lamp. The roommate was blonde and statuesque--the girl he had seen her holding hands with before.
"Well, don't just stand there, Hanna. Say 'hello' to our new playmate."
Hanna turned towards him then, but she wasn't looking at him. She had gorgeous blue eyes, as pretty as thermal pools and as empty as two dead seas.
"Hello to our new playmate," she said.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 8th, 2015


My son loves Magic: The Gathering with the sort of true love that I once had for Legos and baseball cards, the sort of true love that is simply unsustainable in adult life. (Fortunately, there are other sorts of true love available to adults.) Sometimes when we are walking together my son will suggest that we invent possible Magic cards. He'll rattle off everything about four or five possibilities that he thinks would be cool cards--and then he'll ask me for an idea. One day I suggested a card named "Zombie Spike." I don't know if it would make a good Magic card, but the idea stuck with me and eventually became this story.

- Nicholas Diehl

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