THE TABLE IN THE BASEMENT

THE TABLE IN THE BASEMENT

Status: In Progress

Genre: Literary Fiction

Houses:

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Literary Fiction

Houses:

Summary

Running into the father who abandoned him sixteen years ago isn't what David expects when he stops at the liquor store to buy some booze. Now he finally has a chance to exact his revenge, but if he kills the man, will his choice really free him, or ruin him? With his father safely tucked away in his basement and the outspoken, bipolar Melanie as a new love interest, David finally feels he can realize his dream of normalcy. Yet remnants of his father's abuse continue to fuel acts of self-destruction. Barely eighteen, Melanie finds herself caught between parenting her much older boyfriend and fighting to maintain her own integrity. When it's discovered that the man in the basement isn't David's father but only an innocent stranger, the realization forces David to once and for all confront the truth about his past. And Melanie must at last decide if remaining loyal to the man she loves is worth being swallowed up by his darkness.
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Summary

Running into the father who abandoned him sixteen years ago isn't what David expects when he stops at the liquor store to buy some booze. Now he finally has a chance to exact his revenge, but if he kills the man, will his choice really free him, or ruin him? With his father safely tucked away in his basement and the outspoken, bipolar Melanie as a new love interest, David finally feels he can realize his dream of normalcy. Yet remnants of his father's abuse continue to fuel acts of self-destruction. Barely eighteen, Melanie finds herself caught between parenting her much older boyfriend and fighting to maintain her own integrity. When it's discovered that the man in the basement isn't David's father but only an innocent stranger, the realization forces David to once and for all confront the truth about his past. And Melanie must at last decide if remaining loyal to the man she loves is worth being swallowed up by his darkness.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Untitled-Divided in Unconventional Sections

Author Chapter Note

A kidnapping, introduction of main characters, a torture.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 23, 2017

Reads: 85

Comments: 1

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 23, 2017

A A A

A A A

SECTION ONE

 

When I get home, I hang my car keys up on the little hook by the door, grab my laptop and a case of beer, and stretch out on the couch. Finally, the weekend! Two whole days of not having to deal with those annoying, never-ending phone calls at work. Already I'm feeling better.

I don't do cable; got everything I need online. It's a stereo system, theater, TV and social networking site all in one. I check out the new movies on Putlocker, finish off my first beer.

Nothing looks appealing to me. Sucks. I was kind of hoping to find a good movie I could disappear into, help ease the tension that builds up in me during the workweek. There are days I feel like just walking out, but that would take too much effort on my part. Maybe if I had a good night's sleep....

I pull up one of my porn sites and watch that for a while. Got my hand in my pants while I'm watching, my fourth beer in the other hand. Set the beer down while I give my full attention to jacking off. When I'm done, I pick up the beer can again. Fuck me, but I lead an interesting life. I have to go out more.

By the ninth beer I am good and buzzed and feeling fine. I'm checking out TV shows on Solar movies, thinking that nowadays TV shows are all carbon copies of each other, when out of the corner of my eye I see it, running past my living room window.

What the fuck?

I get up and go over to the window and look outside. It's still dark out, pretty early in the morning, but we got a few street lamps here and I can see some of my yard and across the street where the liquor store is at. Nothing. Looks deserted out there.

Probably just a combo of too much booze and not enough sleep. My mind playing tricks on me. I go back to my laptop and click on a show called "Humans." It’s sci-fi, and I like sci-fi.

"Stop, please stop--!"

I shake my head and the voice rolls out of my ear. I watch it fall onto the rug and skitter under the coffee table.

That was weird.

I'm watching the show, and it's not bad, but I start thinking I should try to get some sleep--I've been up all night. Still, I'm not drunk enough to keep the dreams away, so I reach for another beer. Fuck. Where'd they all go?

I hunt around in my fridge but come up empty. I grab my jacket and head out to the liquor store across the street. Very convenient for me. I love having them so nearby.

In the store, I pick up a pint of vodka and the little bell rings and he walks in and I drop the bottle and it shatters at my feet. The store owner hustles over and is saying something to me but I'm not paying attention because he is looking at me--right at me--and I see his eyes, and I know.

Son of a bitch. How?

No, no, no it can't be him it's not him the old man is long gone he left when I was a kid fucking vanished and yet there he is and that fucking disguise doesn't fool me one bit because I saw his eyes and the eyes never lie. My mind is racing and now the store owner is dancing around me talking nonsense but I can't hear him over the roaring in my ears. I try to pound it out of my head I hit the side of my head but it doesn't help it only makes my head hurt.

I walk past the shop owner and out the door and past him, and as I go by I duck my head like I didn't see him. But I think he knows anyways, cause when I walk by I hear him speak to me clear as fucking day--

"David? David Tanner you get over here right now!"

And I freeze, but I don't look back. I make myself keep walking even though my heart's pounding and I'm sick to my stomach and I really got to pee so fucking bad! I go around the store near the back, unzip my pants and take a long piss. Seconds after I'm done I'm ready to go home, to go hide, but then he walks out of the store and I don't think at all I just fall into step behind him, quiet, like a shadow.

He's looking really fit for his age. His face isn't how I remember it but those eyes--windows to the soul--and when he stops under a street lamp and glances back I hide near some bushes so he doesn’t see me.

He keeps walking and I'm right behind him. There's a couple walking towards us and I cut through someone's backyard, spot him again at the bridge. He's stopped again in the middle of the bridge, lighting up a cigarette and hunched over, blocking the wind. He drops his matches and stoops to get them. I grab him from behind and it only takes me seconds to knock him out cold.

 

SECTION 2

 

"I'll be back in a couple of hours," Echo says as she opens the beveled glass door. One foot steps over the threshold and--"Oh!"--and she pauses mid-stride.

A man stands on their porch, one hand poised as if ready to knock on the door. He looks as startled as she feels. His eyes lock on hers and he cocks an eyebrow.

"Hello?" he says quizzically.

"Hello," Echo replies, smiling politely. "May I help you?"

Chris comes up the hall behind her daughter. "Hello, David. Right on time. Honey," she tells her daughter, "this is my four o'clock appointment."

"Oh," Echo says, her smile broader. "Sorry. I almost ran into you."

"It's okay, no harm done," he murmurs, looking down at her. His gaze is intense and a bit unsettling, but Echo keeps the smile fixed firmly on her face.

"Come in, David," Chris invites. "Just head on into my office. I'll be right there."

 "Yes. Of course." He brushes past them, still looking at Echo, giving her a quick once-over as he steps behind Chris. His eyes pause at her chest for just a heartbeat and then he disappears down the hall.

What the heck? "Mom?" Echo stammers.

"Yes?"

"N-nothing. Not important." She waves and bounds off the porch and into her fiancé’s idling car. It wasn't the first time she had been ogled, it wouldn't be the last. Men. That's just the way they were.

 

SECTION 3

 

“So," Chris is saying when she comes into the room, "How are you doing today? Any more dreams?"

I shrug. Grab one of the flowers from the vase on one end table, start pulling out the petals. They drop on the coffee table at my knees. Chris takes a seat on the throw-covered armchair across from me, picks up a yellow legal pad and pen from the oak desk beside her. Settles back.

"Who was that?" I ask. "That your daughter?"

"Yes. She's just moved back home. She'll be starting college soon. She took some time off after high school to travel in Europe." Chris smiles.

"She's very pretty." Another petal falls onto the coffee table. "What's her name?"

"Echo."

I nod. "Different. Nice name."

"Yes. Thank you. Now why don't we get started, okay?"

"How old is she?" I persist.

"Why don't we discuss you instead, David," Chris counters. "Tell me what's been going on this past week. Anything new? How are you sleeping lately?"

“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend," I'm looking at the flower in my hands. It's only a stick now, plucked bare. I put it on the coffee table amidst it the small pile of crumpled petals and leaves and fish another flower from the ceramic vase.

 "You didn't offend," Chris states. "I just think we should get started now. She's nineteen, David. Okay? Now let's talk about you."

 "Okay." I look back up at her as my hands continue to dismantle the yellow blossom. "Well, I guess it's been pretty uneventful. Just work and sleep. Haven't done anything special this week."

“Any nightmares?"

Looking away, staring at nothing. "Yeah. Still having issues with that."

Chris' bracelets jangle as she straightens her long jean skirt, adjusts a strap on her sandal. The silence stretches between us. "Do you want to talk about it?" she prompts, and scribbles something on her notepad.

I wonder what she's writing. Patient number four, flower killer, I think. "It's always the same thing. Different places, same outcome. I was in my house this time, in my last dream. The house was dark. I tried to turn on the lights, but they weren't working. I go to check the breakers, and I walk through the living room and I see it there, lying on my couch. Something's wrong with it, something doesn't look right. Like it's eviscerated or something. I walk over to it, to see if it's alive, or if it needs help, and it comes up off the couch--"

"'Did it look like you again this time? Or someone else?"

“I don't know. Not me. Just some...thing... and it's got me and just tears me apart. God, so realistic, I feel it, you know? I can feel it tearing me open, ripping off my arms and legs.... I feel everything. Even after I wake up, I feel where it bit me, tore chunks out of me. This last time," I unbutton my cuff, roll up a sleeve. I show her the marks, open gashes, looking puckered and red and swollen. "I guess I did this to myself, when I was asleep. Trying to get it off me."

"David!" Chris gasps, studying the wounds carefully. "Those look like they might be infected. You should have a doctor look at that."

I roll down my sleeve, button the cuff. "No. It's not that bad. I put alcohol on it. It's just sore, that's all."

"We've talked about what this creature might represent. And I find it curious that in the majority of your dreams the creature appears as a doppelganger of you. A bigger, stronger you, as you've told me."

I'm feeling irritated and tense and don't even know why. "I haven't gotten any sleep for weeks now. And I'm sick and tired of tossing around theories and guesses, Chris. I just want it to stop! I want it out of my damned head!"

"Okay. Understandable. What do you think will make it stop, David?" Chris asks me.

I check a sigh, looking around me, but all the flowers are gone now. I drop my hands in my lap. Look at the pile of flower corpses scattered on the coffee table.

Chris tears a sheet from her legal pad and hands it to me. "Here, you can put them on this," she tells me.

I take the paper and sweep the petals and leaves and stems on top of it. Fold the paper in a perfect square. Set it on the coffee table. Move it to one side. Finally place it along the seam of the table's wooden rim.

"Feel better?" Chris teases lightly.

"Yeah. Better." Another long pause. "Time's up."

Chris looks at the wall clock. "It is. But I don't have another appointment for an hour. If you'd like to stay awhile longer."

"No." I stand. "I'm good. They're just dreams, right? They shouldn't bother me so much. Lack of sleep, I guess, making me a little crazy. That's all."

Chris tries to hide her disappointment, but I see it anyways. "Okay," she says. "I'll see you next week then. And I'll get some more flowers in here for you to tear up."

That makes me smile. "Yeah. Alright," I agree.

 

 

SECTION 4

 

"Well I don't like it," Rick says. "All those crazy people in your house. You don't know. Some of them could be dangerous. Serial killers."

"Serial killers don't normally go to therapy," Melanie interjects, shaking her head. "They don't think there's anything wrong with them to begin with." She sucks the last of her soda through the straw noisily, deliberately, because she knows how much her friend's fiancé hates it.

"I was talking to Echo, Melanie," Rick snaps. "Why'd your mom give up her office? And I can't believe your dad agreed to it, Echo, to have her practicing out of her home like that, your own house, with those kinds of people coming to the place where you live."

"What kinda people we talkin' about, Rick? People who see shrinks? Cause I've seen a shrink before. So, what're you implying, dude?" Melanie shoots back.

"Mel, Rick--" Echo protests.

"Exactly my point," Rick says, grinning like he just scored a touchdown.

"Better watch your tone with me, douche bag, I could be a serial killer."

"Stop it, both of you!" Echo slams her hand on the table top.

"Besides, Echo's dad is Chris' husband, you wanker, not her keeper! He doesn't own her and he doesn't have the right to dictate where she wants to do her therapy thing. It's her house too!" Melanie finishes, grabbing a fry from Rick's plate and stuffing it into her mouth.

"Hey, stop that--"

“My gosh, you two, I feel like I'm babysitting toddlers," Echo looks to the ceiling. "Can you two at least pretend to get along, for my sake?" She grasps her fiancé’s arm. "Rick. Calm down. My mom moved out of her office because the commute was too much for her, when we got the new house. And she and my dad had a long discussion about it, and she agreed to only see certain patients at our house, patients who have no history of violence. That was the deal they made. The rest of her patients she referred to other psychologists. Alright? It's safe. I'm safe."

Melanie stands. "Well, my lunch's over so I have to get back to work. Cool running into you guys. Echo, I mean."

Rick opens his mouth. Closes it. Glares at Melanie. Melanie smirks.

"Okay, Mel. Nice having lunch with you. See you later," Echo replies, waving at her.

When she leaves, Rick says, "If you two see each other, and I'm here, don't invite her to have lunch with us. Ever again. You need to quit hanging around that girl, Echo. She's nothing but trouble."

Echo laughs. "Mel and I have been friends since we were in kindergarten, for God's sake. She's going to be my maid of honor at our wedding! I just think if you two could spend more time together, try and repair this rift between you--"

"I'm just glad you'll be starting college soon," Rick interrupts, enveloping his fiancé in his thick arms. "And she'll be working, and you two won't have as much time to see each other then. Any spare time you have is going to be spent cheering me on when I play varsity. I'm going to be signed on by a scout, go pro. I know it. You'll see."

“I know it too," Echo agrees, snuggling against him.

 

 

SECTION 5

 

I'm at work but my mind is on him.

The tone in my ear startles me. It's signaling me that a call is coming through, and now I have to focus on that and can't keep thinking about him. Reluctantly I adjust the headset's mouthpiece and I say in my best customer-service friendly tone "Med-Ex Distribution, what can I do you for?"

It's not exactly script, but close enough. I got the company name in there anyways. The client is talking and I'm typing and I'm hearing but not listening. Because most of this job you can do on auto-pilot, which is one of the reasons I like it. Really. I could get a frontal lobotomy and still do my eight hours without a hitch. I could open up my skull, pop my brain out, leave it on the passenger seat of my car, clock in, pull a full shift, clock out, and no one would be wise to the fact that I did a whole night's work sans brain. You wouldn't be able to see any difference. My foster parents, the third set? Dunno. Whichever set they were, they'd say I was "performing below my potential." Guess so. But I don't want to cure cancer or win a Nobel Prize. I just want to coast along and collect my pay end of the week. Life's easier that way.

Before I can go back to thinking about him yet another call comes through.

"Med-Ex Distribution, may I have your account number?" Gotta switch it up or I'll fall asleep right here on the keyboard.

"My account number?" the woman says. "I don't know my account number. No one's ever asked me that before."

As if. Now I've got to waste time hunting for her account and it's going to mess up my daily times on the end of day report. Son of a bitch. There is no shortage of stupid here.

While the client yammers on, giving me obscure clues about who the fuck she is, I get on Facebook and do a quick search. Echo's easy to find, what with that weird first name. Not a lot is public on her page, so I can't get into everything, but she's got a few things about her trip to Europe and some pics I can look at. Damn, don't she look sweet in that little bikini over in....Italy. Well shit. I wonder what high-class pussy tastes like.

"Yeah, no, sorry," I interrupt the woman on the phone. "Can't find you. Call back with an account number" and I disconnect the call. I put my phone on aux so I can take a little break. My arm's still sore, but it's starting to heal up. Itches a lot. I study Echo's Facebook page carefully, irritated that I can't get into her albums and stuff. She is one fine-looking girl. I'm wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to get to know her better. I wonder if Chris would care if I ask her daughter out. Well, why the fuck should she care? Besides, the girl is nineteen. An adult. Echo can make up her own mind on who she wants to date; she doesn't need her parents' permission. I shoot her off a friend request, take my phone off aux. I get two more minutes of peaceful silence before--

Next call. "Med-Ex Distribution, how can I do you?"

Bite me, motherfucker.

 

SECTION 6

 

“Who is that?" Melanie exclaims, peering over Echo's shoulder. "That's some eye candy. Wouldn't I like to wrap my legs around that waist and--"

“Melanie! You--oh, never mind. Anything I say just bounces right off your thick skull." Echo shakes her head. "It's weird," almost to herself. "Why would he be sending me a friend request? That's kind of odd."

“Why? Who? What the heck are you talking about?" Melanie pulls a chair over to the desk and slides the mouse out from under her friend's arm.

"Melanie!"

"Hush, girl. I want to check this guy out. Damn he's fine. I like the long hair. Gives me that whole 80's rocker feel." She grins. "Or Fabio. No, not Fabio. Fabio's kind of gay."

"I know who he is," Echo says.

"Well of course you do. He's in all those 'I can't believe it's not butter' commercials. Isn't he? I don't know. Oh, wait. You mean Blondie here? You mean you know this Blondie, on Facebook?" Melanie puts up her hand up in a high-five. "Well damn, girl! Where're you hiding this cute hunk of man? Does Rick know?"

"What? No! Not like that. I mean I've seen him before. That day you had lunch with me and Rick? He came to my house for an appointment with my mom. David's one of her patients."

“No shit. Huh. Really? And you met him?"

"Sort of. He was coming to our house when I was leaving to go out with Rick. We almost ran into each other in the doorway. I only saw him for a few seconds. It wasn't like we had a long conversation or anything. It's just kind of weird that he'd try to friend me on Facebook."

“Figures. He's hot for you. Sees you for five seconds and you sweep him off his feet. I have to find uglier friends." Melanie throws up her arms and slumps in her chair.

"You are such a drama queen, Mel. And you don't have any trouble picking up boyfriends-"

“Only cause I put out."

"Will you be serious for once? Frankly, the guy gave me the creeps. He's got these weird eyes, really intense. Stared right through me the whole time. Then he had the nerve to check out my chest, with my mom standing right there between us! Odd duck."

"Odd duck? Was the wheel invented back when they used that expression, Echo? I can't remember." She scrolls through the pictures on the man's web page. "So the guy thinks you’re hot and he checks you out. Sounds like normal behavior to me. His eyes are kind of strange. I think it's the color that makes them look that way. They're so pale. They look grey. No, blue. Or green? Can't really tell what color they are. They're pretty though. So, are you going to friend him or what?"

“No, of course not! Mel, I'm engaged to Rick. I have no interest in dating anyone else. I sure don't have any interest in dating some guy who's probably ten years older than me."

"Eleven. He's thirty," Melanie interjects. "I've always liked older men. It's nice to date an adult, not some twenty-year-old dude who acts fifteen."

"Whatever," Echo says, pulling back the mouse. "'Ignore'. There." She stands and stretches her arms above her head. "Speaking of Rick, we're going out tonight. It's our three-year anniversary today." She walks over to the bedroom closet and slides open the doors. "What do you think I should wear?"

"Anything he can take off you easily," Mel suggests, moving over to Echo's desk chair.

"Hilarious. Hey, how about this? This skirt and…this top. What do you think?"

Melanie swivels in the chair. "Not bad. It's cute." She swivels back. "Hey, I'm gonna send this guy a friend request. And he'll be all like, 'who the hell is this girl?' Then he'll check out my Facebook and see I'm friends with you and then he'll be all like 'Oh, this ugly girl knows my shrink's daughter, the hot chick! I better accept this request' figuring he'll use me to get to you."

"Melanie, stop. Don't you dare. And really? You are so far from ugly."

"But when he meets me I'll win him over with my wit and charm, and he'll forget all about you," Melanie continues. "And if that doesn't work, we'll just have wild, crazy sex, and I will so rock his world he won't have eyes for anyone but me. It's a good plan, right?"

"My Mom would be more than willing to see you anytime, Mel. On the house. Just saying." Echo pulls out a long sweater and some checked leggings. "Or maybe this. They say it might be chilly out tonight."

"So where are you two going?"

Echo shrugs. "Rick says it's a surprise. He's so romantic."

"Eh, well we can agree to disagree," Melanie says dismissively. "There. Sent. Let's see if he accepts or not."

"Mel, no! Are you serious? My pictures are all over your Facebook! We don't know anything about this guy!"

"We friend a lot of people we don't know anything about."

"He comes to my house, Mel. He lives around here. He knows who I am."

"What's your point?"

"It just…it's not safe. We don't know him, and he knows where I live--"

“Exactly. If the guy is a sociopath, he already knows where you live. He'll just come over to your house and kill you there."

"That's not funny, Melanie! I'm not comfortable with some stranger seeing all my personal information online. It's creepy."

"Hey, let's get one thing straight. It's my page, not yours. It's my personal information he's going to see, not yours.  And he looks like an interesting guy. Maybe I sent him that friend request because I'd like to get to know him better. It's not always about you, you know."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Echo asks, bewildered.

Melanie turns to face her friend. "Nothing. You're a nice person, Echo. A good person, even though God knows I've tried my best to corrupt you."

"Mel, don't you ever stop joking around?"

"It's my nature. I can't help myself. Look, it's nothing, okay? I didn't mean it the way it sounded. Just talking shit, like always. Ignore it." She leans back and stretches her legs out in front of her." I think you should wear something fancier. It's an anniversary, right? You should get really dressed up. That green dress-that looks good on you. Wear that."

"You think so?" Echo asks, holding the dress to her shoulders.

"Abso-fucking-lutely. Rick will be able to get that thing off you in seconds flat."

 

 

SECTION 7

 

I got my laptop open and I'm checking my Facebook page.

Echo hasn't responded to my friend request, but I did get a request from some other chick I don't know. I pull up her profile and well, isn't this something. She's got pictures of Echo all over her page. Echo is girl-next-door, this chick is one of those exotic types, all curves and thick dark hair and not at all hard on the eyes. And I put it together fast. She's Echo's gal pal, obviously, which means they must've been together when Echo got my request. Because that timing's no coincidence. Which means Echo's ignoring me on purpose. What a bitch. But why would her friend send me a request unless...well, unless she liked what she saw. And since a pussy by any other name is still pussy, I go ahead and accept her request. What the fuck. Gal pal with her café-au-lait skin and those dark, almond-shaped eyes is into me. I got no complaints.

I close the laptop and I spend some time straightening up my house, making sure everything's neat and tidy, then I make myself a sandwich and sit at the kitchen table, munching in silence. When I'm done I wash up and put the plate away, then head down to the basement.

Michael's staring at me. His eyes boring straight through me. I am not appreciating his disrespect, and he clearly is not appreciating his situation just yet.

"You think that's funny?" I tell him, striding over and smacking him hard across the face. I leave a mark. "You think you're funny, looking through me like I don't exist? Like I'm nothing?"

Smack. I draw blood.

“You look at me, motherfucker! Not through me, you look at me, cunt!"

Thwack! Thwack! More blood. I got his attention now.

He's stripped just like when you're born and I can see goose bumps all over his body and I say, "Yeah, kind of chilly down here," then I get real close to him, close enough so that his hot breath is damp against my cheek and my lips are by his ear and I ask him, whispering, "Hey, you hungry? Thirsty? You can suck my dick, drink my cum. Would you like that? Wanna suck my dick, Mike?"

His eyes get big and he's shaking his head and mumbling something, or at least he's trying to. I pull the gag down and cover his mouth with my hand, warning him first 'If you bite me I'll rip your teeth right out of your head' so he doesn't even try it.

"Shhh. Shush. I'm going to let you speak now. You yell or scream or do something stupid, I will cut your tongue out. Okay? We understand each other?"

He's nodding vigorously.

"Good, good. Right answer, Mike." I remove my hand slow. "What do you want to tell me, Mike? Want to apologize? Say you're sorry? Wait, let me guess. You want to make it up to me."

"I... I'm not Mike, bro. You got the wrong--"

Thwack! "Don't lie to me, motherfucker!" I'm staring down at him, trying to make sense of it all. Maybe, I think, maybe this is another dream. I got drunk, fell asleep, and now I'm dreaming it all. This is not Michael in my basement, on my table, trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. I shut my eyes tight but when I open them he's still there, so I know it's real.

"Talk to me, Michael," I say finally, touching him. He feels solid. "What harm is it going to do?  Was that you, running past my window? Were you trying to spy on me, or were you just surprised to find me here, in your house?" He doesn't answer me, so I keep going. "You know, it's impressive, you coming back here after all this time. Gutsy. And what the hell did you do to yourself? Clever. How. Did. You. Do. It." Poking his forehead with each word.

"Mister...please...."

“It's David, motherfucker," I snarl at him. "You forget my name already?"

"Please...please don't hurt me. My name...is Jason....Crissman. I'm…I'm thirty-one years old...I have a wife....two children...."

"It's not a good thing to try to play games with me, Michael," I warn him. "It's not going to go well for you if you try to fuck with my head like that." My fingers trace light patterns on his thigh as I'm talking. Feeling the flesh quiver and flinch at my touch. Making me excited.

"I…I do volunteer work…."

"Just a fucking pillar of the community, are you?" With venom. My excitement wanes.

He starts to cry. "I swear.... please...I'm not who you think...I'm not...oh God....please help me...."

"Stop fucking lying to me!" I scream, punching the table angrily. "Do you think I'm that stupid? Your eyes, you douche bag! You forgot to disguise your eyes! Big mistake, Mike. Deadly mistake. You fucked up."

“I don't know what you're talking about!" he yells at me, his voice scratchy and hoarse. "My name's not Mike! You have the wrong guy, you crazy son of a bitch!"

I jerk the gag up and stuff it in his mouth pulling it tight.

"I am not crazy," I tell him. "Don't ever call me crazy, you piece of shit. Now you got me aggravated, and guess what? I'm going to take all my aggravation out on you." I walk to the workbench, where I already got his box laid out. "I've been waiting my whole life for this, Mike. You know that?" Talking to him with my back turned. I rummage around it, careful not to touch the small plastic case of razor blades, until I find what I'm looking for. "I'd fall asleep dreaming of ways to hurt you, to pay you back for all the shit you did to me." My thumb and forefinger massaging the yellow packet as I talk.

"Nu…mo…un…oh…hucker…"

I turn to face him. "If I keep hearing shit from you, I'm going to take the gag out and sew your mouth shut," I threaten him. "The rules are simple, Mike. I say something, you do it. Clear?"

He gets quiet.

His eyes are following me around when I walk back to him, looking wild, straining to see what I have behind my back. I hold up a hand. "Remember these? Sure you do. Good times."

I draw one of the sewing needles out of the packet and hold my lighter to it until it starts to glow. I grab his foot and, very careful, get it right between the nail and his flesh, then push it in until the top of it disappears under the nail bed. His body arches off the table and he groans loud then starts to sob. "I know, hurts like hell, doesn't it? I know exactly how you're feeling. But you got to stay still for me, Michael. You still got nineteen left to go."

He's choking, gurgling, shrieking. So incredible, I could listen to him all night, lull myself to sleep with that noise.

He passes out before I'm done.


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