Doctor Harrison took his spectacles off and gazed at me.
‘I’m so sorry, Sidney.’
Six months, otherwise.
The receptionist was kind. Sat in the front seat, tears streaming and fists beating against the dashboard until it was time to drive home made sense for me.
Home. The gates were plate steel, the kind you see in those post-apocalypse movies where a group of kind people gather to remain safe from the monsters or the bandits. Here, it’s just me. Everything gets locked up, then a check on the cameras and drive the rest of the way.
It is not paranoia if someone is really after you.
The humming, cramped joy of Sidney King sang in Dominic’s blood how fillings in your teeth could pick up radio signals. Breathing in cold, stale air whilst a greasy cheap pizza sat in the pit of his stomach. The basement window needed fixing, and it rattled hard whenever the wind picked up. It was all so far away as he sat there, looking for any missed details. The photographs, the blog posts that reported sightings of her and the maps that he had pushed pins into, building up a pattern of her movements. Looking at photographs.
Aching at how beautiful she was.
The doorbell rang. Getting up the stairs was difficult. He had been training, running late at night until his vision blurred and his knees throbbed like rotten teeth so he was sore all the time. Dominic snatched the package from the courier and went back downstairs.
He tore open the box. A greedy child on their birthday. His fingers shook, as he 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 we have ordered it for one purpose.
He 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 like butterfly wings. He imagined the vibration that would travel through his arm as it went into her. A hot, seething burst of arousal exploded through him like an abscess and his other hand was rooting in my sweatpants, plucking and tugging until he was squirting all over my fingers. Grunting how he would stick her and fuck her and stick her again. Imagining her breathy pleas, her cries and how she would twitch as he did it. Being the one who got to her. Stabbing her then, running the edge across her throat, watching the blood pour down her front, soaking and glueing her clothes to her chest.
Each day made the anticipation twist in him like a need. The mask was on the table, watching, goading him when he grew doubtful. He looked into the eyeholes as he wiped himself off.
It was like looking in a mirror and seeing his soul looking back at him.
My security measures were everywhere. 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.
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 hoped that the weekend might make us more than friends. Ethan.
I was the only one who made it out alive.
That first time.
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. I slumped his parents 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 wondered if they cursed me.
By the third or fourth time, it got old.
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. 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 had guns. I could take or leave the second amendment but experience had made me comfortable to have them and not needing them.
People talk about me. There are two subreddits and hashtags. Someone telling the world that they will rape and murder me is not as bad as someone not telling the world that they will 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 congregated online.
They draw in others like flies and soon they’re all talking to one another.
Goading. Encouraging. Setting challenges.
With me as the grand prize.
The fan boys rarely did more than posture. Living and dying alone was not so bad, but it should be my decision.
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 screamed.
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. 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, with 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 slight 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 rolled onto one side. Pepper spray. Blinding me so 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.
‘Hello,’ I said.
“What? Please, no, it wasn’t like that.” he said.
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 would 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, lot of effort there,” I said.
He wept. A squeeze of the trigger would shred the parts 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.
He started screaming when I filmed him. I paid for good coverage out here and he had saved all his account details, 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 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 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. I’ve attached my location to this video.
If you 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 must dispose of the phone. It’s not like anyone will miss you,”
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 makes a wound all nice and infected. So, even if I pulled you out, your blood is turning to sludge, anyway. At least here, you’ll get an enjoyable view of the sky.”
He wept until he could not breathe. I left him to it.
A surge of strength added momentum to my steps back to the house. There was work to do.
I wondered if it would be cool to make a mask for the occasion.