Pie.

Pie.

They met by accident.

He was taken, she wasn’t.

He had a tattoo of his pregnant girlfriend’s name. He was at the bar one Saturday night after a long day at work and the bartender was cute.

Numbers were exchanged.

The bartender was a rich heiress who liked to go incognito and pick up guys on Friday nights. The longer the commitment, the better. She had a fetish for men that had been claimed by other women. She loved to chew them up and spit them out. She loved to build them up, and then tear them down. She had a theory: you needed to know their story before you got into their pants.

Sexual freedom was something she was obsessed with.

She’d set sights on him the minute he walked up to the bar and downed his first tequila.

He loosened up after a couple drinks and said he needed to get away from his girlfriend of seven months. She said she wanted him. All seven inches of him. He was taken aback. He’d never met anyone who had such accurate assessment of the human anatomical calculations, before. She said she was a pro at it and they left the club, together, his drunken arm around her waist.

She took him home.

He was aroused and wanted to do it. She said she was hungry and needed to get some dinner. He suddenly remembered he was famished too, and asked her what was for dinner.

The last thing he remembered was a butcher’s knife and her saying, “You”, before he passed out.

Two hours later, she added some garnish to the human meat pie and drove down to the suburban home he shared with his girlfriend. She left a box on the porch with a note that read:

“I did you a favor: your loyal ass deserves better. He was a cheater.”

Beard.

Beard.

Silvio hated life. It was the same old routine, every single day.

Eat, sleep, hustle, die, repeat.

He’d been on his own since he was sixteen, when his parents divorced. His mum died while he was still in college and his dad was beyond just absent.

His very first job at the pizza joint around the corner taught him that being an immigrant wasn’t ever going to work in his favor. His boss was rude and Silvio managed to graduate school and joined a law firm. It wasn’t fun, being a criminal lawyer. None of his relationships lasted and he kept going into a dark place.

One night, on his way home after a quick briefing with a client, Silvio got stuck in a God-awful thunderstorm.

The traffic was insane and he checked his watch: twelve forty five AM. He’d been stuck for almost two hours. He scratched his beard and turned on the music. It was going to be a long night. Most days he would get first grade a-holes, but his newest client, Tom, seemed harmless. If only he knew if Tom was actually innocent! The guy had such an open face, and to be accused of murder at twenty was too much.

Silvio was sharply awakened by a loud tapping on his window. The clock showed three AM and he must have dozed off. It was Tom. Pleasantly surprised, Silvio rolled down the window – only to be horrified as Tom, with livid eyes and a suddenly evil face, pointed a gun at Silvio’s head.

“You better keep me out of jail, you stupid old man. I killed my ex because she deserved it, and I will kill anyone that tries to have me arrested.”

Silvio put his hands up, trying to stay calm.

“Tom, put the gun away. We can talk about this.”

Silvio looked around out of the corner of his eye: the streets were deserted and the storm had cleared and there was no way anyone would come help. Heck, his phone was out of arm’s reach too. Calling 911 wasn’t an option, either. And his beard was really scratchy. He was both annoyed and scared. Tom was still pointing the damn gun at his head.

“Are we clear? I don’t wanna go to jail!”

The kid’s hand was steady and Silvio wondered how he’d ever been convinced that he’d finally gotten an innocent client. He was doomed to deal with criminals. For the rest of his life.

“I can’t promise that. I still have to look through your files, Tom. Manslaughter is a pretty serious offence. It’s a crime!”

“Then I have to kill you too. What kinda lawyer doesn’t defend his own clients?”

Tom pressed the cold muzzle of his gun right between Silvio’s bushy eyebrows. The metal felt cold and menacing, and Silvio closed his eyes, preparing to die, wondering how badly his blood would stain the customized interiors of the brand new BMW. And he didn’t want to die at forty-three.

Just as that thought crossed his mind, he felt a sharp tug on his beard and something whipped the gun out of Tom’s hand, knocking it to the ground. Something salt-and-pepper looking, something keratinous, wrapped itself around Tom’s neck and Silvio watched, horrified, as something choked Tom to death. Silvio felt his face and his beard purred. He looked at his reflection in the rear-view mirror: his tough, scratchy beard was no longer close-shaven and tame-looking. It now resembled a ravenous snake.

That was the first time the Beard saved Silvio’s life.

(Inspired by Rohan’s Beard .)