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Playing the Game by David J. Thacker #OriginalFiction

David submitted one of his books for review, and when he heard that we were looking for original short fiction, he submitted this to us as well. We hope you enjoy Playing the Game. Find out more about David and his book, Once: A Belmouth Tale after the story.

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Playing the Game


There, just for a moment. A glance that lingered too long, an interest.

The game begins.

You’d think that I would have had enough of this by now. And sometimes, I have.

Find a likely area, somewhere public; then find a likely man. Send out the right signals, and he’s mine. Then, after the deed, back to the search again.

It’s the game that makes it worthwhile. The ever-changing dance.

He’s looking at me now.

A little braver, a little more open. After all, we are both standing in the Gay section of the bookshop. It’s not as if we are being dishonest.

I take the opportunity to look a little closer at what I’m getting (Of course, I’ve already studied him, before coming over here, but looking is part of the game too). He’s tall, at least six foot, which makes him just shorter than me. Evidently, he used to work out, but I guess he’s slipped a little in recent years. Strong thighs, though: that’s good. And a broad chest.

I hardly notice the face. It’s not important.

I notice him sizing me up, and quickly look back at the book I’m holding. Modesty is very becoming. I decide to add an endearing extra touch and act surprised to find that I am holding a sex manual. I fumble the job of putting it back on the shelf and am rewarded with a smile from him. I only see it from the corner of my eye, but I have very good peripheral vision.

The next move is mine.

Feigning indifference, I go across to a new set of shelves, not caring what the subject is, trusting to the weird system that most bookshops work under.

Folklore. It could have been worse.

Naturally, he follows me.

I glance furtively in his direction, just enough to show my interest again, and then concentrate my energies on the books.

He is standing very close to me now. I can smell his need on him, a perfume of attraction and submission. I look up and across the shop to see if anyone else notices it.

A salesgirl, small and mousey, is watching us. She is showing just a little too much interest for it to be a casual look. Perhaps she noticed us earlier, when the game began.

Perhaps she wants to play.

Her eyes briefly survey her sales area while she decides, and in that moment I see it.

A glint, a reflection, something in the eyes. She is of my race.

Hoping that the man beside me, now selecting a book, does not notice, I turn my attention to her. My nostrils flare briefly and I bare my teeth in something not-quite a smile. My glamour flickers and she recognises it.

Hurriedly, she returns her attention to the counter and I know that he is mine again.

I look at his book from the corner of my eye. It is called ‘Beast In The Streets: The Migration Of Frontier Myths To The City’. The title appeals.

I, too, migrated to this city, adapting to my new surroundings and finding much more of interest than I ever had in my old country haunts. The city makes life easy for my kind. We don’t show up so easily.

He looks interested in the book. Not only tasty, but intelligent.

He is standing so close that I can feel the heat coming from him. Wanting is part of the game, and I play it well. But the need will always overpower the game in the end and I know that now I need him.

I bend slightly to get a book from a lower shelf and my hand brushes against his thigh. Palm out, and for just a few seconds too long. He makes no obvious sign of having noticed, but he closes the book and returns it to its shelf.

He looks down at me, deliberate, obvious, and he leaves.

I stand up and, after a polite pause, follow him out of the shop.

The night air is clean and sharp. The streetlights drain the colours from the buildings.

He is just ahead of me in the street, trusting me to be there. He walks on and I try to keep the need from showing yet.

We both know that we have to get out of the light; a dark side street, an alley, a place to fumble and to feel. His scent, carried gently back to me on a breeze, speaks of sex and longing.

Mine is purely hunger.

Abruptly, he turns down the side of a building. An alley I had not known of.

I stop on the threshold and peer into the dark. Nothing, but I can hear his heavy breathing, smell him.

Stepping into the darkness, I loosen the hold on my glamour. Senses open up, freed from the confines of disguise. My true self emerges as teeth, hair and nails grow. The game is nearly over. The taste of my prey is nearby.

And yet it is wrong. Somehow synthetic, now it can be truly experienced.

My eyes open up the darkness and slitted pupils gaze back. There is a low growl in the throat of my prey, and I realise that some people play the game better than I.


David J. Thacker is the author of a play for Young People (‘S.O. T. – Save Our Theatre’), performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2001, and has penned the Libretto for a modern Oratorio in 2000 (no mean feat when you can’t read music). He also co-wrote and directed the 2014 Retro Hugo Awards Ceremony for the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, LonCon3, and directed the 2014 Hugo Awards Ceremony at the same event.
‘The Red House’ was his first long-form piece of published work. A novel – ‘Once: A Belmouth Tale’ -released in August 2019.

The out-of-season English seaside town of Belmouth seemed like the perfect venue for a Storytelling Festival.
Until the killings started.
At first, Festival Organiser and Storyteller Dan Edwards isn’t that concerned by the news reports. But then it becomes obvious that the Festival is connected in some way.
More importantly, the stories he is telling appear to be coming to life…
‘Once: A Belmouth Tale’ combines traditional folk tales with modern horror to create a journey into one man’s nightmare, one that will have him doubting everything and change his life irrevocably.
Not all stories end with Happily Ever After.

Once: A Belmouth Tale is available on Amazon.

Published inOriginal Fiction

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