Michael woke to the sound of the phone. He remained still in bed until the ringing stopped before reaching for a cigarette. He lit it and inhaled, which caused a pleasurable burning sensation in his throat. He knew the pain was intensified by staying awake with four nameless others until all hours of the morning discussing with vehemence the administration’s latest stand on Persia. The conversation went along the same predictable, sing-song mantra, academia lines that hundreds, if not thousands of discussions Michael had involved himself in over the years.
Snippets and sentences of tired platform statements rolled in his mind as he studied the room, eyes settling on the bookcase beside the bed.
“We the educators, students, and artists of the nation need to have our voices heard,” a nameless professor of art history said. Others urged a petition drive to protest the administration.
We, 1984, Brave New World.
“This can’t be our reaction,” Michael said to the professor and to the others. “All we’re going to do is sign a petition in response to an act of international aggression?”
“Yes, that is exactly what we are going to do,” The professor responded with vigor. “Fill the mailbox of your local elected representatives until we are heard. That is democracy in action.”
Michael sighed as the others agreed, the very memory of their weakness causing him to close his eyes. He opened them again, seeing a picture of Malcolm X on the bookshelf. Below the photo were more books: The Possessed, Fathers and Sons, and One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.
We don't need a petition, he said to himself, crushing the cigarette against the ashtray. He rolled out of bed and threw a bathrobe over his shoulders. Turning on the television, he sat in the easy chair next to the bed, running ragged fingernails over the worn brown cloth of the chair’s arm.
The news drawled on, the hate of the new day much like the one before it and the day the previous week he first heart of possible operations against Persia. He glanced up at the world map hanging above the television. “Between which two countries does one find Persia?” He asked, his voice cracking with cigarette strain and hollow mirth.
“Tic, tac, toe.”
He turned off the television and left the bedroom, ready to begin his morning routine. He started the coffee, measured the previous evening before turning in for bed. Opening the front door, he picked up the morning paper from the top step and brought the mail inside to the kitchen table.
“Death, taxes and war. The usual.”
He poured coffee and began flipping through the mail, tossing aside official looking envelopes.
“Bill, bill, bill, junk, junk, and more junk.”
Two pieces of mail demanded attention; a letter from a writer Michael knew and a plain envelope, lacking stamp or address marked only with the word attention. He pushed that aside for the moment and opened the first.
Michael, I have not heart from you in some time. How goes the battle? Has there been any progress on your novel? I speak of your novel of revolution and not the romance rubbish you had planned. I fear you may lose heart if you isolate yourself, so please write or come to the city for a weekend. Edgardo
Michael lit another cigarette, leaving the letter open on the table before him. Had he made progress on his novel? He hadn’t made progress in months, the last entry in the manuscript reading like a helpless plea.
“What can I do to stop the train of current events? I am merely one ant in a sea of billions.”
He shook his head, as if to dispel the thought and took up the envelope marked, Attention. He opened it and removed a single sheet of paper, which contained four typed lines.
Inaction ends today. The revolution begins today at ______ building. Meet in the back room.
Nothing was printed on the reverse side, no name or contact numbers. He knew the building referred to in the note, an abandoned warehouse outside the jewelry district, approximately a mile from downtown and less than two miles from his apartment. Checking the time, knew he could make the appointed time if he left immediately. He ran his fingers over the letter and took one final sip of coffee.
“What can this be about?” He entered the bedroom, changing into jeans and a navy blue sweatshirt. “I might as well see who sent me this memo.”
With haste, he grabbed a jacket and cigarettes and stepped into a rainy early spring afternoon. He walked quickly, not giving notice to his surroundings or even to the traffic passing him. In less than twenty minutes, he reached his destination, standing across the street from the warehouse.
He observed no movement of any kind, save for a bit of trash which blew about in the light spring wind. The paper stopped at his feet and he picked it up off the ground. It was identical in every respect to the note he received in the mail that morning. He crumpled the paper, dropped it to the ground, and crossed the street to reach the warehouse.
Faded brick greeted him, cracked in places, holes large enough to see through in others. The building stared back at him in silence, a shouting stillness that unnerved him, bringing sweat on his temples. He reached for the door, a giant of peeling fire engine red and turned the knob. With a show of intended boldness, he pulled the door open and stepped quickly into the darkness.
He guided himself along the wall, the dirt and grit of years falling from the wallpaper. He followed a dim light through a doorway into a wide open space.
“Hello.” He heard a voice.
He froze, his knees threatening to fail below him, the sinking sensation in his stomach nearly causing him to vomit. He spun round to find a man in the archway to a side room, chewing on a cigar.
“The others thought you wouldn’t come,” the man said, his voice a cold steel monotone, which Michael felt deep inside his chest.
Michael tried to swallow, but his throat failed him. The man walked towards him, bringing into focus his features. He was a tall, bald man of sturdy build wearing a long brown overcoat. Michael didn’t recognize his face or his voice.
“I told them Michael. I knew.”
He lit the cigar and stood for some moments in silence, puffing, keeping his eyes on Michael. Michael became aware, slowly, with dawning knowledge, of the presence of others, lurking in the quiet and shadows, watching him.
“What is your name?” Michael managed to ask, his throat dry and cracked from cigarettes, which made speaking painful.
“You’ll never know.” Michael could see the weapon in his hand, glinting glow red with each puff of the cigar.
“What of the note?” He asked to fulfill a final curiosity.
“It is not a deception. It tells you all you need to know. You are, after all, the writer my friend.”
Michael felt the anger rising useless and red from his stomach, bringing bile to his throat.
“I’m not your friend, Nazi.” He said spitting his words with all the contempt and hate he could muster.
The man laughed and the other faceless, hidden men joined the cold, steely mirth, laughing with empty identical guttural sounds, a vocal applause.
“A Nazi?” Hardly, my friend. I am an American. I am here to protect my country, which I love with all my heart,” he said, no emotion to be heard in his voice.
“Liar.” Michael said.
“I am an American!” The man roared, the sudden violence in his voice making Michael jump back in shock.
The man came closer, within arm’s reach, and pressed the weapon into Michael’s ribs. Michael saw the empty cold hate inside pale gray eyes, which bore into his own with an energy that made him lose all hope.
He pushed Michael in the direction of the stairs at the end of the room, following closely behind and pressing the gun into his back. The man grabbed his shoulder and stopped him at the top of the stairs, reaching past him and turning on the light with the pull of a hidden cord. Michael saw the bodies piled upon each other at the bottom, arms crossed with legs, all bathed in blood red and the stench of death.
He exhaled a moment before a flash of pain exploded in the back of his head. Michael fell and fell, his scream extinguished as he landed in the mass of bodies at the bottom of the stairs.
I couldn’t even say why, not now, not even all this time later. There are small parts of memory, segments if you will, which attempt in some small part to explain the events of July tenth. Oh, but i shall not harp on the point, it happened. There are no powers north or south to reverse these days. I can’t but feel the small time hour gods laughing.
I am intent on telling you, trying to give you a reason for my action. Can I tell you it was all for shits and giggles? I know, small excuse, little reason. What else can I say; I am a single entity, wronged in spirit, ready to avenge my birth.
I know I’ve lost you. Let me start again, from the beginning. Please, allow for my digressions, I can’t see all of this in one piece.
She stood at the bus terminal downtown, wearing next to nothing. I know her name, Celia or something of that nature. Her skirt showed it all, legs, bright and bare opened before me, shifting from one foot to the other. When indeed would the bus arrive?
The heat burned, fire; the road hot through my shoes, all the while I watched her, eyes dark and rimmed with mascara. She gazed at me, casual, an empty look, full of nothing, still shifting her feet aimlessly in the sand.
I approached her, not so much sure of what to say as aware of a need to be near her. A few steps further found me next to her, close enough to see the small pear shaped bruise on her ankle, close enough to smell her scent, at once strong and quiet sweet, a solid wave of apricot and spring soap. Details pressed into my consciousness: the peeling bench, green in places, the faded word ‘downtown’ missing the last ‘n’, and the constant cracks in the cement, worn smooth by shoes and boots and sandals, like the pair she wore, showing painted toes, smooth white skin painted red.
Looking at her, up from the red of her toenails, to those legs, still and forever smooth shiny and sun tanned golden, which led neat and placid into a white tennis skirt. She demanded attention, without a word, which I gave to her, to the constant stillness of her navel, tight and tanned, which seemed to spin the hazy hot air around me, dulling and spinning star shapes into my vision.
“Hello.” I said, slowly, drugged on blonde curls and tanned skin, upon which the sun danced and danced as she moved, from one foot to the other, a dance of sparkle and glitter delight. She turned, her hazel empty eyes uncomprehending, looking upon me coldly, with no interest, not even of contempt.
“Hi.” She shrugged, her blonde ringlets shaking out her greeting as she spoke.
Paralysis spread quickly over me, taking my tongue hostage, my very thoughts. I saw but blonde and gold and light refracted. All else faded: the peeled paint, the sign announcing the downtown bus, the potted palm plant next to the bench, gone, all save gold locks and tight navel.
No words or motion, just paralysis and waiting; for the bus, for her to speak, for her to move her painted foot, dragged haphazard over sand and gravel and cracked cement. Utter silence ripped through the air, passing over me in shrill waves, the sound of bus approaching failing to register until mine eyes spied the blue and white shell of metal, floating formless towards me.
Bus eased to a halt with squeal, her feet moving towards the curb. My sense of balance failing as I follow her with my eyes, I almost fell in an attempt to move. I reached for change, an automatic reflex from years of riding bus, and mounted the steps after her, my eyes against her legs, touching, caressing, and tasting the golden flesh.
Boarding, change places, one dollar thirty five, continue on following tanned haze; light shadow light shadow, a seat across from her- a perfect view. She played motion with my mind, adjusting her hair, changing her lip color, brushing thin fingers over her legs, the motion causing me disorientation. What is the day? What time zone am I in? The time, the year, confused.
“Are you okay?” She asked. The very gods ask me ‘Are you?’
Sweating and stiff with fear, I nod accent, with flutter in my stomach, the knots of mannequin desire pull strong.
“I am okay.” I manage with a smile and wipe sweat from my upper lip, trying to show control. Do I control my basic functions, my breathing?
“You look pale.” She says. Her red tongue moved slowly over pink lips, torture of heaven.
“I feel feverish.” I say, sun plays tricks, light destroys thoughts. I remember being young and riding my bike in the summer heat, with sweat in my eyes.
“I have aspirin.” She says. She looks concerned, a line upon her brow, heaven frowns!
“I’ll be okay.” I say. I doubt it, knowing my mind is feverish, hot and agape, trying to keep pace with my desire.
“How far are you going?” She asked concern still visible, one furrowed line upon her forehead.
“I do not know.” I answer, slow, careful with each word. Am I correct? Am I making sense?
She looks upon me still, her eyes narrowed and filled with concern.
“You are making me wonder. You seem ill.”
I doubt my sense of hearing. She did not say those words. I am imagining, making believe. She is not talking to me. Am I indeed on bus? How would I know the difference between reality and dream? I feel bus under me; lumps, bumps, crevice of road beneath, the blink blur of words on street signs and billboards, advertising places I’ve yet to visit, products of which I know nothing.
To the dentist, to fix bad teeth, perhaps? To the bank, to see about checks bounced and negative balances. Or simply, following a nameless she, a constant sure beauty in a white tennis skirt? I can’t say, I shall not guess. If pressed I say ‘to the coffee shop’.
“What is your name?” She asks. She smiles and for a moment I forget my nerves, my fever, name and smile back at her as though I didn’t hear her speak, as if she hadn’t asked me a question. Her face is close, close enough to see the lines in her makeup, the texture of the powder on her cheeks, close enough to...
“Jacque Cousteau.” I answer. I give her a smile, secret memories in my eyes.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Cousteau.” She says, laughing, her teeth showing white and shiny behind pink lips. “I’m Kate.”
Her laugh contains a rainbow and I hear hidden mirth, devilment, the great man trap, as her eyes search mine, inviting me, leading the way down, down, down. The world slows and her lips move slowly, silvery in half time. The words flow unheard over me, but I feel rather than hear. She takes me down.
I see her walking in front of me on a sidewalk, which leads to a set of stairs; darkness surrounds, the way downward hidden in the blackness. I see the light gold of her skin shining against the opaque steps, from which I feel heat, throbs and waves of heat. I follow one step, two steps, the heat growing, becoming oppressive. Three steps, four steps, I see an archway hover over black void, an empty space, which she leads me towards, the heat searing my skin, my eyes, my thoughts.
“Come to me.” She says, standing on the edge of the void, sheer black behind her, hand outstretched, welcoming, inviting, and her cream colored fingers cool to my burning touch.
I focus my eyes, with effort, and the blink blur of bus motion is once again visible through blonde curls. I move closer, apricots filling my senses, my arms moving of their own volition. My hands grip the soft velvet of her cheeks. I pull her close, close. My lips touch hers, without struggle, warm wet and full against mine. I kiss and kiss and kiss her, pulling her closer, closer, feeling her tongue inside my mouth, hot breath exhaled. I feel her lip and I bite, hard and vicious, savage blood trickles down her chin as she pushes me away with both hands.
I laugh, tripping my way forward. The bus screeches halt and I exit, tripping and laughing, the warm taste of blood fresh on my lips.
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PHOTO BLOOD CHILL AND SECOND CIVIL WAR COURTESY OF STACY KOSTER
I love when readers share pictures of the books received in the mail. And what a beautiful picture this is - thank you to Stacy Koster for sharing it.
DESCRIPTION FOR BLOOD CHILL
In the blood chilling winter of 2046, the world has survived the Aging Virus epidemic although the threat of disease remains. Top researchers at the Janus City Virology Institute are seeking a cure, but Dr. Karin Bhaima, a scientist given a second chance, wants to know—why is talentless hack Graham Mogden one of them?
A corpse has been found frozen under a bridge, another missing and murdered woman, and the people of Janus City are demanding answers. Detective Sonny Merrick wants in on the case and relief from his own guilty secret.
When teen orphan Marble Glass becomes the latest missing victim, can a detective with a painful past and a disgraced scientist find her alive and solve the mystery of the murdered women of Janus City?
DESCRIPTION FOR SECOND CIVIL WAR
In Second Civil War, Austin Davis issues a call to action for this generation.
Composed of poems on gun violence, racism, immigration, and the nature of modern capitalism, Second Civil War implores the youth to take a stand against the bigotry of Donald Trump through non-violent protest and above all – to vote.
This collection of protest poetry from Austin Davis slams a stake in the ground that the next generation won’t accept a return to the worst parts of American history tainted by white supremacy.
WANTED: REVIEWS FOR MORAN PRESS TITLES GET A FREE EBOOK OF CHOICE
Reviews are important to authors - especially independent authors and micro press publishers. To that end - I'm giving out ebook copies of Moran Press titles in exchange for an honest review posted at Amazon (and Goodreads if possible). Comment on this post if you're interested.
Here are the Moran Press titles I am in most need of reviews:
BLOOD CHILL - A Medical Thriller by L. M. Bryski SECOND CIVIL WAR - A Chapbook of protest poetry by Austin Davis LOVE AND QUARTERS - A full-length poetry collection by Gabriel Ricard SERVER - An interconnected collection of horror short stories by Stephen Moran
Comment with your book of choice (or name one not on the list) and also the way you wish to be contacted.
DAY ADVENTURE WITH MONKEY FROM SERVER BY STEPHEN MORAN
Scott awoke to a headache that morning and to a feeling, which grew by the moment that the day promised disaster. This feeling crawled down his spine as he dressed and shone dull and limp through his parted blinds. Glancing out the window at the sky, part of which lay hidden inside dense fog, Scott wondered whether he should pass on his weekly trip about town. He shook his head in displeasure and closed the blinds. Entering the bathroom, he scrubbed his face with a washcloth and decided against taking a bath.
He grabbed his backpack, which was prepared the previous night as usual. The contents were fresh in his mind: one notebook, three pens, a copy of The Metamorphosis that was dutifully well worn and marked by dirt and sweat, and a half pack of cigarettes, one of which he lit as he closed the door behind him. Walking down the stairs took effort. His legs were stiff from sleep and long hours at the restaurant the previous day. A thought popped into his mind as he emerged from the entryway into the cool mist. I should have stayed in bed.
He shook his head, again and not for the last time that day, as he walked the down of the driveway and disappeared into the fog.
“Crossing guard. Check. Construction workers. check. Will they ever finish remodeling that bar?” he said out loud as he walked toward the bus stop.
Staring into the fog, he wondered if there were time to purchase cigarettes before the bus arrived. Will the bus be early?
He stepped from the curb, making his way toward the store. He watched for the 56 bus, but he knew his decision to be final. Entering the store, he took a place in line.
“What will I work on today?” He fingered the change in his pocket impatiently, struggling to grasp hold of a thought, which amounted to pulling a thread, the correct thread from a piece of cloth. The thought ran from him, laughing, laughing, and laughing.
“Can I help you, sir?”
The clerk, a short fat woman with thinning hair, was forcing a smile at him through chubby red cheeks.
“Sorry.” He paid for the cigarettes and left the store.
He walked into the fog, which seemed to grow thicker by the moment. A smile rose upon his face when he noticed a lady waiting, huddled out of the mist under the bus stop. At that very moment, he heard the bus, which was not yet visible, coming loudly and quickly toward him. His legs moved as his lips formed into a circle.
“Damn.” He leaped from the curb into the street. The bus emerged from the fog, and for a moment, he ran parallel, losing ground each second, with his lungs protesting the sudden demand for oxygen. He looked up with confusion on his face and came to a halt right there in the middle of the street.
“Did I really see that?” Scott ignored the car horn blaring as its driver waited for him to move. “Did I just see a monkey on the 56 bus?”
He arrived in downtown some fifteen minutes later, being out of breath with the beginnings of a foul mood creeping over him. Pushing through the crowd of the plaza, he sat in front of Post 25 in need of rest. He scanned the faces of those waiting and emerging from buses and exhaled deeply. He felt the anxiety as the light mist fell steadily over his eyes.
“Today feels wrong.”
He closed his eyes and once again tried to catch runaway thoughts, ones which always seemed to escape his grasp. An image fluttered in his mind of a woman he once knew, talking, but he could not hear the words or see to whom she spoke. The image slipped away into the pool, into the deep, and gone to join all the other lost scraps, scenes, and bits of ideas. His mind centered upon the routine of the day: lunch with the hot dog man, an hour or two writing at the arcade, a visit to the bookstore, and ending at the bar where he would reward himself with a pint. He smiled. The routine provided comfort.
He walked through the plaza again without a glance at the financial buildings and stopped at the traffic light. The arcade laid to his left, and the spot the hot dog vender set up his cart laid to the right. Traffic crawled through the intersection, and Scott grunted impatiently for an opening. The light turned red, and he ran to the other side, rounding the corner to a familiar sight. The silver gray metal of Bob’s cart was shielded from the elements by a large dotted umbrella. His spirits rose as he approached. The routine took shape, not disturbed by missing the 56 and that damned business with the monkey.
“Hey, Scott, you’re a little late today,” Bob said as he neared the stand.
“I missed the fifty-six.”
“The bus was late. Again.”
“Tell me about it.” He reached into his pocket with a reassurance to feel the crisp dryness of folded money against his hand, for he never lost his paranoia of forgetting lunch money at school all those years earlier.
“What will it be today, Scott?”
“I’ll take two with mustard and a soda.”
“Coming right up.”
Bob busied himself with the order. Scott watched him work, admiring Bob’s routine. First, he placed the bun on a piece of foil, opened it with tongs, used another set of tongs to place the hot dog inside, and followed by a swipe of mustard. Bob wrapped the two with another piece of foil gently as to not rub off the mustard and place both inside a paper bag. The entire process took less than ten seconds.
“Oh, the usual I guess. Except for the monkey,” Bob said. He betrayed not a bit of surprise or shock in his voice, not the slightest sign that what he said might be unusual.
“A monkey?” Scott asked, suddenly not feeling well.
“Sure. About ten minutes ago. Bought two dogs with mustard. Left me a nice tip too if I may say so.”
“Really.” He felt the blood drain his face.
Scott turned and walked toward the arcade. His mind raced, but he could not begin to say what he felt.
“That damned monkey again.”
He walked without looking across the intersection, not a care for oncoming traffic, lost in his thoughts.
He stood. The stairs were dark, beckoning to his right, and let the noises of the street wash over him before he climbed the stairs. He placed a foot on the first stair and hesitated. He was filled with a feeling of dread he could not explain, and as he stood there holding his warm paper bag, he knew. He knew but did not want to admit the truth, not even as he rounded the corner that brought into the view the balcony he knew so well. He stepped out onto the balcony to see the monkey looking up at him with traces of mustard on its mouth.
Scott stood silently, realizing at once that the monkey sat in his usual seat, and wondered to himself, “Can this be a coincidence?” He shook his head, knowing. Had he not known after the business with the bus and with Bob? Had he not known the very moment he woke up that morning with an inexplicable feeling of dread? He walked to the other side of the balcony away from the monkey. He sat down, not in his usual seat he reminded himself, all the while watching the small animal sitting in the spot he called his own for a year.
He unwrapped his lunch, still watching, seeing black fur surrounding tan face with eyes that were large, furtive, and black. The mouth was still chewing upon lunch, and small, human-like hands scratched a spot behind its large ears. The eyes bothered him. Every few moments, those blank and empty eyes locked with his own.
“What?” Scott asked.
Silence. The monkey kept scratching.
“You’re sitting in my seat, ruining my day. You should at least have something to say for yourself.” Further silence with the only response being the honking of horns from the street below and the squeal of brakes.
“Say something.” Anger flashed over Scott’s face. He finished his lunch and threw the remains, brown bag and foil wrappers, into his backpack. He rose, not knowing or thinking what to do, but once on his feet, he ran with loud slapping steps toward the monkey. The monkey jumped over the balcony and onto the street below before he covered half the distance between them. He stood in silence, not seeing the young woman who watched him from the stairway.
“Who are you talking to?” she asked.
Confused, he looked at her. She looked young with hair bleached blonde and cascading over her shoulders and her blue eyes gazing up at him in awe.
“Why, I was speaking with that damn monkey,” he said, looking at the place the monkey jumped, nimble and sure, from the balcony.
His mind spun, and he pushed by her, running down the stairs and out into the street. He fought to settle himself, mumbling obscenities under his breath without realizing as he walked on toward the bookstore.
“This can’t be happening,” he said to himself over and over again. He fell silent as he reached the corner. The bookstore was to his left, and the bar was straight in front of him.
“Decisions.” To visit the bookstore first or to buy himself a pint, he wondered. “What will the monkey do?”
He looked up at the bookstore but saw nothing. He went into the bar. Once inside, he saw no sign of the monkey. He smiled as he sat, knowing he’d bested the beast.
“Just change your routine a small amount. Do not worry.”
He ordered a pint and settled into thoughts that did not include the monkey.
He left the bar in good spirits, feeling happy with himself. No monkey can ruin my day. He opened the door, which led to a flight of stairs. He bounded up the stairs two at a time. He entered the bookstore, placed his backpack with the cashier as required, and spotted a volume he found to his liking. He approached and took the book, a complete volume of Kafka’s short stories, from the shelf. The volume, a well-worn hardcover, felt good in his hands.
“Look at what we have here.” He set the book back on the shelf. “I’ll get that before I leave.”
He walked down the aisle, rounding the corner, and went into the bathroom.
“I’ll buy that book, and I’ll take a trolley over to east side. Maybe, I’ll get a coffee or cappuccino.”
He left the bathroom relieved, always preferring to have a plan set. He rounded the corner to see the monkey holding the volume of Kafka. The monkey stared at him with teeth showing and laughed. The monkey, with the volume in his grasp, jumped, scratched and laughed in high pitched shrieking laughter.
“No!” Scott yelled. No longer able to brook the monkey’s taunts, he lunged at him.
The two rolled on the floor, wrestling for the volume. The books and shelves fell in their wake.
“Give me the book!” he screamed, feeling the fur between his fingers.
“What do you want with it? Haven’t you done enough today?” Scott yelled as his grip on the book slipped.
“Sir!” “Why?” “Sir!” “Sir!”
Scott stopped. The clerk with her brown and beady eyes looked down upon him. He turned his head, seeing the store in shambles, bookcases overturned, and pages ripped from volumes strewn about the aisle. In his hands, he felt the same sure firm solidity of Kafka, and around him, he saw nothing of the monkey in the ruins.
I nod to George and retreat to the master bedroom, shutting the door behind me. The room is empty and I wonder if Ray thought to install cameras. Are you watching, Ray? The thought makes me smile, and I unbutton my blouse. My eyes seek and find my purse on the table beside the bed. Rushing to grab it, I retrieve my knife as the man enters the side door. I put my hand behind my back to hide it from his view.
“Oh, I thought I had a few more minutes to myself. You surprised me.”
“Um…do you want me to leave and come back again?” he asks, sounding unsure of himself.
I don’t like. “First, you missed some of the lines, and now, you fail to execute your timing cue. Did you read the source material for this role play?”
“Yes, I knew the lines, but…”
“Take off your clothes.”
He undresses and begins folding his expensive suit, but I touch his arm, stopping him. I look him over and find nothing remarkable. Grabbing his tie from the floor, I blind him with it and walk him to a stop in the center of the room.
“I found an irregularity in your file. It says you were found guilty of sexual assault. Please explain.”
His eyes show fear, and he takes a step back closer to the door. He’s thinking he is moving away from me. However, I am behind him now, and he steps within inches of my blade.
“I…” he starts to stammer but can’t finish.
“Are you guilty?”
“Yes,” he says. “I came here to confess.”
My arm begins the arc, and my knife almost reaches the target. But I stop.
“You wish to confess?” How odd. The men never admit guilt. Well, almost never. He’s not the first, but this isn’t what I expected.
His shoulders heave with effort while he tries to suck oxygen into his lungs. I hold the blade inches from his neck. Why do I hesitate? I scan the room though I don’t know what I expect to help me. My eyes lock on the bathroom with its floor to ceiling glass shower/Jacuzzi/bath combo, and I smile.
I drag him into the shower and turn on the water.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to cleanse you so you can confess. Men are filthy beasts,” I say, making him kneel against the wall and placing his torso over the drain.
“Will I be part of the story?” he asks.
“That depends on how you answer the question. Do you believe in God?” I ask him.
“What?” he asks in confusion.
I kneel behind him, pressing my dress against his back. “I want to know. Do you believe in God?”
Moments pass with no answer. His body shakes against mine, and I wonder what type of sexual game he thinks I’m playing with him. Does he have any idea at all what I am?
“No. I do not believe in God.”
With a smile, I press the blade against his skin.
“Then nobody cares about your confession. Goodbye, rapist.” I slide the knife across his neck.
Blood sprays against the wall, splattering on my dress. I hold him against me and feel his veins pumping. His heartbeat gets weaker with each second that passes. “Call it sleep,” I whisper in his ear.