The humming, cramped joy of Sidney King sang in my blood the way that fillings in your teeth could pick up radio signals. Breathing in cold, stale air whilst a greasy cheap pizza sat in the pit of my stomach. The window needed fixing, and it rattled hard whenever the wind picked up. It was all so far away as I sat there, looking for any details I had missed. The photographs, the blog posts that reported sightings of her and the maps that I had pushed pins into, building up a pattern of her movements. Looking at the photographs and aching at how beautiful she was.
The doorbell rang. It took me a little while to get up the stairs. I had been training, running late at night until my vision was blurred and my knees throbbed like rotten teeth so I was sore all the time. The courier was too bored and tired to notice anything other than my signature. I snatched the package from his hand and went back downstairs.
I tore open the box, a greedy child on my birthday. My fingers shook, and I took slow, deliberate care to lift away the lid of the case.
A closed knife is a thing of terrible, beautiful potential.
This one was special, sacred to me because it had been ordered for one purpose.
I unclasped it slowly and held the blade up to the light. A tooled steel blade with a serrated edge that caught the light and made it pretty like butterfly wings. I held it and imagined the vibration that would travel through my arm as it went into her. A hot, seething burst of arousal exploded through me like an abscess and my other hand was rooting in my sweatpants, plucking and tugging until I was squirting all over my fingers. Grunting how I was going to stick her and fuck her and stick her again. Imagining her breathy pleas, her cries and how she would twitch as I did it. Being the one who got to her. Stabbing her then running the edge of it across her throat, watching the blood pour down her front.
Days away from doing it, and each day made the anticipation twist in me like a need. The mask I was going to wear when I did it was mounted on the table, watching me, goading me on when I grew doubtful. I looked into the eyeholes as I wiped myself off.
It was like looking in a mirror.
Doctor Harrison took his spectacles off and gazed at me.
“I’m so sorry, Sidney.”
Terminal. A year, if I’m lucky.
Six months, if I’m not.
I left his office, and the receptionist looked at me with watery eyes and a smile that hurt to see. The way that light hurts you after you’ve spent a long time in the dark.
I drove home. The gates were plate steel, the kind you see in those post-apocalypse movies where a group of good people gather to remain safe from the monsters or the bandits. Here, it’s just me. I lock them, check the cameras and drive the rest of the way.
It is not paranoia if someone is really after you.
My security measures were located everywhere on my property. The digging and carpentry kept me trim. I learned how to weld at the community college, working amongst thick fingered boys who kept looking at me as though I were famous.
If any of them asked, I said I was in a sex tape.
I was sixteen when we drove up to Lake Brattigan. Eight of us, all friends and one of them who was hoping that the weekend might make us more than friends. Ethan.
I was the only one who made it out alive.
That first time, I thought that I would somehow be insured against anything like that ever happening again.
The car broke down on the way home from graduation and we stopped at the farmhouse. The idiot son, stinking of animal fat and draped in treated skins, swinging the chainsaw and hooting as he ran at me. My friends hung on hooks inside his workshop. His parents were slumped over in their parlour after I had shot them both. They allowed him his interests and were awfully keen for me to stay and provide them with a grandchild to carry on the family tradition.
After the second time, I began to wonder if I was cursed.
By the third or fourth time, I knew.
I showered when I got indoors. There, safe beneath the water, I wept for myself but by the time I got out, my eyes were dry and my head was clear.
Pills would be good. I had enough of them after all. A lifetime of near-misses left injuries that meant surgeries, complications and prescriptions. The scars you can see don’t hurt as much as the ones that you cannot. I saw them every day in the mirror.
I had guns. I could take or leave the second amendment but experience had made me comfortable with the idea of having them and not needing them.
You could look me up on the internet. I’m not on there, but people talk about me. I have two subreddits and I was a hashtag once. Someone telling the world that they’re going to rape and murder me is not as bad as someone not telling the world that they’re going to rape and murder me.
The serial killers with their masks and puritan victim selection had fans. Decapitating, disembowelling and burning horny teenagers draws a certain crowd and those people tend to congregate online. They draw in others like flies and pretty soon they’re all talking to one another.
If by talking, you mean goading. Encouraging. Setting challenges.
With me as the grand prize.
The fan boys talked a good game, but they rarely did more than posture. There were those who took things seriously, and they were the ones that I had to concern myself. I spent so much time alone and it looked like I would go out much the same way.
I could decide how much pain I would allow myself to experience.
I took a Percocet for maintenance. A dress rehearsal for the last performance but it meant that I could walk around without crying.
I made a peanut butter and banana sandwich, ate half at the counter and looked out into the woods. My decision afforded me a measure of peace.
Which was when the alarm went off.
You don’t find my place by accident. It’s fenced off, signposted and I’ve got friends at the lodge who warn people off. They tell people an eccentric millionaire lives there who likes to shoot first and then shoot later. If the alarm goes off, then it’s someone who really should not be here. I checked the panel and saw that it was close to the house. I slipped on the Kevlar vest and pulled the 12-gauge from the locker. I laced up my boots and tucked my hair up under a hat before I locked the house up. The shutters dropped as I walked down the hill.
The punji sticks protruded through his right thigh and left shoulder, the points were visible through the material of his overalls where he had fallen onto them. His mask, an omelette with eyeholes hung from around his neck.
They’re always so young, fat cheeks and patchy beards. He’s screaming for me to get him out of here and I stand at the edge of the pit with the shotgun aimed right at him.
“Did you miss the sign at the gate? The one that says ‘no visitors’.”
He talks so fast that his words come out as a twitching, high pitched rush. He begged me to help him.
“I’m supposed to see that knife on your hip and that fucking awful mask, and what? Think you’re here to deliver fucking pizza?”
He tried to raise his head. There was a wet, ripping sound, and he sobbed.
“Please. Help me out, it really fucking hurts.”
I stepped towards the edge of the pit, lowered the shotgun and looked down on him.
“I don’t think you know what pain is.”
He started sobbing again. He brought his right hand across his face, and a small stab of pity went through me.
“Please, I’m sorry, just help me out and I’ll just go. I will, I promise.”
He had his phone strapped to his right arm. I saw the canister on his hip where he had been able to roll onto one side. Pepper spray. Blinding me so that he could control me. My throat grew tight with anger. I breathed in the warm, afternoon air, caught the wet penny scent of his blood on the wind. He looked like a fat, blue grub, writhing under a magnifying glass.
“What were you going to do to me?”
“What? Please, no, it wasn’t like that.”
I raised the barrel of the 12-gauge and rested my finger against the trigger.
I saw the phone strapped to his upper arm and asked him to toss it to me. He had a pathetic smile on his face, that maybe this was my goodness, my mercy coming out and that he had hope of getting out.
He told me what he was going to do to me. My finger grazed the trigger. I blinked away tears, but I kept my breathing under control. I kept tasting the air, hoping for something good to clear away his stink.
“Wow, clearly you put a lot of thought into that.”
He wept. A squeeze of the trigger would shred the parts that he wanted to stick into me. A surge of anger thundered through me.
“Toss me the knife and the phone. I’ll give helping you some thought.”
He threw them to me. It made him cry out to do it, but I enjoyed that. When this twisted little boy told me what he had planned to do, it allowed me some measure of perspective. I had dealt with monsters, and boys pretending to be monsters. I could not have said which was worse.
He started screaming when I began to film him. I paid for good coverage out here and he had saved all his account details which was considerate of him. When a man is dying, it was gauche to ask for his password.
Another six months of this shit. Growing weaker, vomiting and losing weight, losing my hair. Bedridden until some mewling fuck with skimmed milk in his veins came and fucked me with a bread knife because I had the dubious honour of surviving horrible events.
Pills and a quick exit. No one would discover me out here. If I put the shutters down, it would be a pretty neat tomb for me.
“Repeat what you just said. It’s the only way you’re getting out of here alive.”
I stared at him and it was not quite so hard to hear it again. It made for good video, and he understood his role, writhing and pleading with me, giving his name, telling me where he was and most of it was audible.
A search online would fill out the rest of the details.
I had two choices that were immediate. I played back the video, and the third came to me, an unexpected and final idea that had gravity and a measure of comfort within it.
I attached the GPS information to the video and sent it to the subreddit.
I recorded a second video. He had lapsed into unconsciousness and I stood with his sagging body in the background, made for a solid, dramatic backdrop.
‘If this sack of shit is the best of you, then you’re wasting your time. He came here to do to me what you all dream of doing and now he’s at the bottom of a pit, begging for his life. So, I’m asking if any of you can do any better. If you think you can, then I’ve attached my location to this video.
If you manage to get to me, I will scream, I will beg just as good as you imagined me doing. Don’t be a pussy, come and get me.’
I repeated my address and sent it. I slipped his phone into the long pocket on my thigh. I would add it to the collection.
He woke up.
“Will you help me now? Please, I’ve done what you asked.”
I slipped the knife into my pocket.
“The knife is lovely. Once I know it’s sent, I’ll have to dispose of the phone. It’s not like anyone is going to miss you, are they?”
He cried with so much effort that it forced the sticks deeper into his bicep and the meat of his back.
“Oh please, help me, these really fucking hurt.”
I picked up the 12-gauge and held it in my hands.
“Oh, that’s not the worst of it. I treated those sticks with something special..”
“They’re painted with dogshit. It’s a damn good way to make a wound all nice and infected. So, even if I did pull you out, your blood is turning to sludge right now, anyway. At least here, you’ll get a nice view of the sky.”
He wept until he could not breathe. I left him to it.
The walk back to the house was pleasant. A surge of strength added momentum to my steps. I had begun to calculate how much ammunition I had, more preparations to the grounds for the visitors that would come. Work to do.
I wondered if it would be cool to make a mask for the occasion.