THE TASTE OF POISON • by Rollin T. Gentry

Molly likes the taste of poison.

Rattlesnakes, black widows, ricin, the deadly glands of big-eyed greys the government says don’t exist. It’s amazing what you can buy on the dark web.

We even came across a guy selling water from the fountain of youth. It was very expensive, but worth every penny. Molly sold a diamond ring she had left over from a guy she almost married. I sold my Les Paul on eBay and hocked my Vespa at the local pawn shop. Why we believed some eastern European stranger, I’ll never know. Maybe because we wanted it to be true so badly. The miracle water arrived one autumn day on the back of a semi in six industrial sized barrels.

We meet at Molly’s house every Saturday night, blackout curtains drawn, black tallow candles stinking up the place. A match made in hell, playing games that nobody in their right mind should be playing. She’s all about the poison, and I’m hooked on the punishment that only a girl like Molly can deliver. Maybe that role is why she thinks she can do whatever she wants with no consequences. She thinks I’m weak. She thinks she can see straight through me. She acts like she owns me, like one of our props. She probably even thinks she can read my mind by now.

When it’s my turn, she wields our cat o’ nine tails like a real prison guard in a real labor camp. And why not? That’s exactly what the listing said: straight from a modern-day dungeon — not a toy. At 0.03 bitcoin, it was a steal. The last time she worked me over, I’m pretty sure I almost died before I made it into the tub.

But it’s her turn now.

After preparing the bath, I’m to sit on my stool in the corner, watching, waiting silently.

I write yellow Post-It notes inside my brain for Molly to read.

Dear Molly, I have a secret.

Dear Molly, you have a secret.

Dear Molly, what were you doing last Friday night?

In her black, silk gown, Molly approaches the medicine cabinet. Every shelf is filled with deadly concoctions. I wonder what she’ll choose tonight. The vial between her fingers reads “Cyanide.” She tips it up with abandon, holding the poison in her mouth, swishing it around, and only swallowing after white foam begins to form on her lips.

The countdown in my head begins: One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi …

She lets her gown fall to the floor, her body a magic carpet of piercings and tattoos. She staggers across the room, steadying herself against the wall, until she finally arrives at the porcelain, clawfoot tub. She stares down at the clear, still water and touches the surface with her toes.

As her head slips under the water, dark hair floats over her face. Bubbles rise from her mouth and nose. This is usually my favorite part. The magic part. The making one whole, inside and out, part.

But Molly convulses. She grips the sides of the tub and pulls herself halfway up, coughing, foaming at the mouth.

“Felix!” she howls. “What have you done?” The veins in her neck look like they could pop. Her eyes are wide like saucers.

“I’m sorry, Molly.” I’m not sorry. “But you use too much. And without me. Last Friday night you brought Childers, that jackass salesman from work, over here, and wasted our water on him. You didn’t think I’d notice, but I have a tiny camera setup in the garage, sitting on top of the hot water heater. How could you?”

Molly gasps. She tries to yell, but sinks back into the tub, sliding under the water. Tap water.

She doesn’t come up again. I pause at the gravity of what I’ve done. I wipe away a few stray tears.

Am I a monster? Perhaps. But how could I not protect it?

Water from the fountain of youth. Who would believe such a thing even existed?

Rollin T. Gentry lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where he works as a software engineer for a Fortune 500 company. He can be found reading and writing lots of speculative fiction during his spare time. He’s had stories appear in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, 365 Tomorrows, and others.

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