Through Dolls Eyes by Jesse Orr “The First Step”

ThroughDollsEyes

The First Step

Stonebriar Mental Hospital stood atop a cliff overlooking the sea. Waves crashed at the base of the rocks, sending plumes of spray grasping at the lower windows of the mental hospital. Those skittish inhabitants of the lower levels scurried away from the windows and the storm’s fury. Stonebriar had been strategically placed atop the cliff, its rear to the ocean, to deter escapees. The front of the building was ringed by a huge razor wire fence with an iron gate protected around the clock by a guard and a bank of switches controlling the locks. To the rear, the windows faced a spectacular view of the ever-changing waters, unmarred by tree nor power line as the land ended some fifty yards from the back of the building. There was no need for a fence around the back, as the cliff took care of all the security they required.

On the fourth floor, Jaci Wayne was making her rounds, always starting from the top of the building and working her way down. Being higher up in a storm like this always made her very nervous, ever since a seabird had been blown through one of the windows and turned the hurricane loose inside. The inhabitants of the top floor were, fortunately, some of the lower maintenance patients, not given to making a bad situation worse, and had shepherded themselves down to the third floor while Jaci and another nurse who quit the next day tried to chase the bird out of the hole in the window. Tonight, the wind was strong, but nowhere near as dangerous as it had been the night of the bird, and the patients were calm, accepting their afternoon dose of medication without a qualm.

Jaci stepped into the elevator after the last patient had swallowed their dose, trundling her little cart before her into a florescent lit cubicle of an elevator. Pale linoleum glinted in the harsh light. She pressed the button marked 3 and adjusted her ponytail, securing a few wisps of her dark hair which had tried to make a break for it. The elevator chugged down the track, coming to a screaming halt on the third floor as she stabbed a bobby pin into her hair. The third floor was populated by patients who suffered from various maladies but were not judged to be inherently dangerous. Jaci began her rounds with the woman who peeked out from her room just long enough to snatch her medication from Jaci before slamming the door behind her.

“Have a good day, Mrs. Smith,” Jaci called through the door. The woman within waved through the window with a cheery smile. As long as she never had to leave her room, everything was fine. Jaci passed out her pills to the depressed man who sat in the corner of the TV room and spoke to himself, to the man who had tried to shoot himself and now walked around the halls drooling from a reconstructed face, to the woman who laughed and had to be restrained physically from drawing upon the walls. Everyone on the floor was dosed without incident.

The second floor was also the ground floor, and housed the most dangerous patients. Here were the pyromaniacs, the self-harmers, the stalkers. On this floor stood two guards, or orderlies, as the staff was required to refer to them as such. These two gentlemen were armed with hefty batons. Jaci always managed to get through her rounds on this floor in under an hour though it seemed like much longer. She always took a break before going to the first floor. She needed the rest.

The first floor was poorly named. It was below the surface of the earth and housed the rapists, the murderers, the child molesters, and others who had committed an unpardonable sin and had been judged unfit to stand trial for one reason or another.

Jaci told the intercom, “Going down to the dungeon, please buzz me in.”

The cart jerked as the elevator rose a fraction then began descending at a regular rate. Jaci used the time to tie her ponytail back into a tight bun, where it could not become a handle. She tucked her smock into her scrub pants and squared her shoulders. The door crashed open.

The hallway was white, shining and reflecting the hidden fluorescent with savage intensity. The guards, or “orderlies” at the station by the door were armed. There were four cells in all, each the size of a small bedroom. For twelve hours a day at least, the patients did not leave them. There were no timekeeping pieces on this level, save what the guards wore or carried upon their person.

She walked down the hall, referring to her clipboard and dispensing medication to those cells whose inhabitants required them, even though she knew her rounds by heart. The clipboard kept her from making eye contact. Two purple pills for the rapist on the right, one green pill immediately across from the rapist for the arsonist who burned down his ex wife’s house with her inside. Next to the arsonist was a kidnapper who had been judged to have the mind of a fourteen-year-old boy despite his huge size. He received four purple pills Jaci knew were equivalent to horse tranquilizers, and she was grateful. The last thing they needed was that moose running rampant.

Four pills to the moose. The fourth cell was empty, and Jaci was buzzed through a door at the end of the hall. Through the door, there was a short hallway which led to the door to the women’s cells. She was buzzed through it into an identical hallway of four cells. The first occupant on the right had split open her landlord’s head with a hammer and eaten part of his brain before the police had broken in and stopped her. A single large white pill for that lady. The cell beside hers contained a mother who had smothered both her children and their father when she found out he had been having an affair. She had been found walking through the street sobbing and had not stopped until she had been at Stonebriar for some time. Now with the help of a tranquilizer equal to the dose given to the moose, she just stared.

The cell beside her was empty. Across from it was the last cell on the block, which held a woman who had murdered her daughter because she had turned into a doll or something. Jaci was hazy on the details, as the woman had come in after her last two-week shift. The doll lady would be receiving one bright blue pill Jaci recognized as a strong anti-psychotic. Jaci checked it off on her clipboard and stepped to the slot in the door. It snapped open before her and she jumped back with an involuntary gasp.

“Hello,” Nancy said, smiling at Jaci through the window as she held the medication slot open for Jaci to pass through the pill. “I hope I didn’t startle you.”

“Not at all,” Jaci said, composing herself in an instant. “Take those now so I can see you.”

Nancy the Doll Lady tossed the pill down like a shot of whiskey followed by the paper cup of water Jaci passed through the slot. Crumpling both cups, Nancy opened her mouth and leaned forward to the window. Jaci did likewise, checking that the pill was not hidden beneath Nancy’s tongue. Satisfied, she nodded. “Have a good night.” Turning her cart around, she trundled back to the door separating the men’s ward and disappeared through it.

Nancy hurried to her toilet and stabbed a finger at the back of her throat, bringing up a bit of gruel and one mostly intact blue pill. Another stab brought up a little more gruel, some of it blue. She burped, and flushed the toilet as her stomach gave another heave. Going to the sink, she washed her face and rinsed out her mouth. On wobbly knees, she went to her bed and lay down on the stiff sheets, pulling what passed for a pillow under her head and staring at a ceiling she was getting to know all too well.

As far as she could reckon it, she had been here more than a week but not two. Time ceased to exist but for the medications and mandatory group therapy sessions. Her turn to share her story had come around once so far in their handful of sessions on the block and had earned her the distinction of Doll Lady from everyone, though the staff would not have said it to her face. She endured smirks and jibes from other inmates with stoic silence, knowing there was no point in arguing with the insane.

She had wondered often if she was insane. If she had imagined the hate and insanity and lack of humanity in her daughter’s face and eyes as she stabbed with the knife. She relived it often enough in her dreams and awake, that she felt she could not be wrong. There could be no mistaking that in her own daughter.

Tears came to her closed eyes as she began to review it again, powerless to stop it. She turned to the wall as the tears trickled down her face.

A voice crackled over the intercom.

“Attention patients. The evening group therapy session will take place in fifteen minutes. Thank you.” A click and the voice was gone.

Nancy’s eyelids flickered but she did not move. All the announcement said was that in an unmeasurable period of time, she would be herded into a room with a bunch of lunatics and forced to either listen to their stories or tell her own. She was in no rush. They could take as long as they wanted. After an unmeasurable period of time, the cell doors crashed open and she was herded into a common room off the hallway between the two cell blocks along with all the other loonies. The common room had been set up into rows of chairs with a white board at the front. As they were jostled into their seats, Nancy noticed a man she had not yet seen at their sessions. The huge moose saw her noticing the man and guffawed.

“Hey Doll Lady, this’n guy sez a doll drove ‘im and ‘is daughter insane!” He chuckled. “Maybe youse guys can swap yore stories about th’ scary dolls and we c’n have us a campfire!”

Nancy’s heart stopped, then restarted. She watched the man settle into his seat. He was staring straight ahead as seats filled around him, ignoring even the argument taking place over the chair behind him. She grabbed the moose’s elbow as he lumbered away. “What else did he say? Quick! Tell me!”

The moose looked startled. “He didn’t say nothin’, I ‘eard it from ‘im.” He pointed over his shoulder to the rapist, who was staring at the girl who had eaten her landlord’s brain.

Nancy’s stomach turned but she as she started forward, a portly man with a beard and a woman with short brown hair came into the room and stood before the white board. They both carried clipboards and wore white lab coats. The moose melted into a seat and everyone seemed instantly to find theirs. Silence fell.

“Good afternoon,” the woman said. “My name is Dr Axton. This is my colleague Dr Winston.” The portly man nodded. “Those of us not new to group will recognize us. Those who are new, welcome.”

Nancy shot a glance at the man the moose had pointed out to her. He was looking Dr Axton in the eye as she continued “Our newest member will traditionally stand and introduce himself and explain why he or she is or are here.” Dr Axton inclined her head to the new guy, bidding he stand and do so.

As he rose, Dr Winston smiled. “Please tell the truth about why you are here, we will know if you are not being accurate and disciplinary measures may be enacted.” He tapped his clipboard for emphasis.

The new guy looked around him and said in a clipped, neutral tone, “Eric Hoffman. I’m here because a doll took over me and my daughter’s minds and made us do things we didn’t want to do.”

There was a pause and several of the patients burst out laughing. Dr Axton whirled on them and snarled “Silence!”

They subsided, snickering.

“Now, Eric,” Dr Winston said, wearing the exact same smile. It looked pasted on to Nancy. “You know dolls can’t do anything we don’t want them to do, right? They’re just toys!”

“I know that, sir,” Hoffman said, and offered no more.

Dr Winston’s fake smile twitched at one corner as he looked at Dr Axton, who stepped forward. “Mr Hoffman, how could the dolls take over your minds? Do you hear how absurd that sounds?”

“I do,” said Hoffman, and kept a respectful silence.

Dr Axton sniffed. “Perhaps later you and Nancy can discuss your doll fantasies. For now, we will focus on patients who are not having issues with children’s toys.

Hoffman’s calm facade broke and he looked truly awake for the first time. “Wait, what? Who’s Nancy?”

“You’re obsessed, the pair of you,” Dr Axton said, gesturing in Nancy’s direction. “She says her daughter was possessed by a doll. You can talk after group. Now please, sit down.”

Hoffman sat, and his eyes met Nancy’s. She stared at him. He stared back. Dr Winston began to drone something about impulses.

She mouthed ‘I’m not crazy.’

He nodded and mouthed back ‘neither am I.’

Through Doll’s Eyes: Intervention Part II by Jesse Orr

ThroughDollsEyes

Through Doll’s Eyes: Intervention Part II by Jesse Orr

Ever since Mommy had stopped moving, Sofia had been living outside with Janie. It was great fun. Sometimes she missed Junie and her mommy, but Janie said not to worry. Her daddy was with Janie’s sister while mommy was in the forever sleep.

When Janie told her about the forever sleep, Sofia had been scared. What if she, Sofia, went to sleep one night and it was the forever sleep? Janie said not to worry, that Sofia was safe from the forever sleep as long as she did exactly as Janie told her.

Sometimes Sofia wondered about Daddy, but she didn’t ask anymore. The first time she had, Janie had said Daddy was fine, with Junie. The second time she asked, Janie got mad, and said that she hoped Daddy hadn’t fallen into a forever sleep. She asked Sofia if she should go and see. The look in Janie’s eyes made Sofia shake her head, and that night, Janie had punished her for asking. She had not asked about Daddy since. Besides, she had such fun with Janie that she hardly thought of Mommy or Daddy anymore.

She and Janie were having tea in the garden as was their custom, when Janie told her that very soon, some men would come.

“What men?” Sofia asked, setting down her cup of tea. She didn’t like tea much, but Janie told her she did when they played tea party. “What do they want?”

Janie said they were going to take Sofia and her daddy away so they couldn’t play with Janie and her sister Junie anymore.

“Why?” Sofia was horrified. Lose Janie? Her closest friend in the world? They couldn’t!

The men wouldn’t understand that they were friends, Janie explained. The men would insist that Janie and Junie weren’t worth bothering with, and they would take Sofia and her daddy away.

“No!” Sofia said, beginning to cry. “They can’t do that, can they? Can’t you stop them?”

Janie told her not to worry, there was nothing to fear. Daddy would be taken somewhere else, but as long as Sofia did exactly as Janie told her, the two of them would not have to part. Sofia skipped over what would happen to her father, fixating like a dog with a bone on the most important facts. If Sofia listened to Janie, they wouldn’t take her away.

Sofia promised to listen. “When is this going to happen?” she asked, her voice still shaky.

Janie said it would be very soon.

Eduardo the paramedic was already on edge. The scene in the house had been weird to begin with, without the stench and the oppressive mugginess. Eduardo ducked outside to the marginally fresher air and stood gulping in breaths. The stench of rotting meat surrounded the house, baking in the heat. He looked around the garden, seeking diversion.

A little girl with brown hair sat in a plastic chair with her back to him, apparently engaged in a tea party with a plastic doll set. Eduardo started. “Hey, there’s a little girl back here!” he shouted to the people inside the house. “Hey! Little girl! Are you ok?”

Eduardo jumped down from the porch and walked toward her, glad to get away from the stink of the house. Mentally he ran through his opening line. Hi honey, my name is Eduardo and I’m with the paramedics, how are you today?

His little speech arranged, Eduardo reached the tea party. “Hi honey, my name is E–”

His name died in his mouth as he took in the scene. The little girl sat at the green plastic table, knees tucked under its faded surface. Her hands were on the table, palms flat, as she stared at a doll seated across from her. She was nodding as though it spoke to her. Her hair was not brown, as he had thought, but a blonde so dirty it appeared to be a brown wig. In her matted hair were branches and leaves from a bed she had dug herself under a bush. Looking at the girl’s hands, Eduardo’s stomach swooped as he saw she had only nine fingers, her left smallest finger gone above the first knuckle. The wound was gray with dirt and infection. A puffy scratch above her eyebrow had swollen her left eye half shut, giving her eyelid a droop.

Hiding a sob, Eduardo sank to a knee, his speech forgotten. “Oh my god, what happened to your finger?”

The girl looked at him without a hint of emotion. “Janie took it.”

The paramedic heard others crossing the garden and felt sweet relief flooding into him. Relief that he was no longer alone with this horror. “Who’s Janie?”

Raising her four-fingered hand, the girl pointed at the doll sitting across from her.

Eduardo looked at the doll, and his stomach swooped again. The fucking thing was creepy. “Well that wasn’t very nice of her, now was it?” He glanced over his shoulder. Swanson and another paramedic were approaching. “Honey, we’re going to take you with us, somewhere safe. How about that?”

Her eyes shot to his. “And Janie?”

Taken aback, Eduardo nodded. “Of course, you can bring your doll.” He plucked Janie from her seat and deposited her in Sofia’s lap. He missed the look of peace which came over Sofia’s face as she wrapped her arms around the doll. She smiled as he stood up and turned to the two men. “Little girl’s lost a finger, she’ll need to roll.” The medic knelt down beside her.

“She’d have to roll to a foster home anyways,” said Swanson, glancing down at Sofia’s hand. “Father’s off his rocker, can’t leave her with him.” He shook his head. “Fucking sad.”

Eduardo nodded, his face grim. “I think we got here just in time.” He gestured at the house. “What are we doing with him?”

“They’ll take him to the mental hospital up at Stonebriar,” Swanson said. “Once they patch up his missing finger, they’ll–”

“Wait a minute,” Eduardo said, turning to look at the detective. “His missing finger?”

Swanson nodded. “Left pinky, lopped clean off. Says the doll took it.”

Through Dolls Eyes Intervention

ThroughDollsEyes

 

   Through Dolls Eyes – Intervention


Sergeant Thomas Richard Swanson burst through the door after knocking and waiting three times. He had emailed, texted, called, knocked and left twice, and enough was enough. He hadn’t heard from Hoffman in over a week. That was beyond fucked up.

Whenever they were working a case, they were never out of contact for more than a few hours. Behind him, two uniformed officers followed with their guns drawn.“Hoffman? Where the hell are you?” There was no sound from his partner or his partner’s family. The hallway before him was empty and his voice echoed up the stairway to his left. But there was a reek. A foul stench permeated the house, reminding Swanson of the time he had killed eight rats with a baited trap and tossed their bodies into the dumpster on the hottest week of the year. It was the smell of decomposing bodies which Swanson smelled now, making him feel as though he should be standing outside next to his dumpster in the alley behind his house.

“Do you smell that, sarge?” asked one of the uniforms, the one with the mustache. He looked a little green.

“You’d have to be a freak not to,” Swanson growled and swallowed his gorge back down.

“Check upstairs.”

“On it, sir,” Mustache said, and began mounting the stairs. Halfway up, he groaned.

“God, it’s even worse up here.”

“Swallow your vomit, officer,” Swanson snapped, unholstering his own weapon and moving further down the hallway.

The other uniformed officer, looking even greener, followed him. Swanson issued orders without looking.

“Officer Wilde, please check these rooms.” He gestured to the three rooms opening off the hallway.

“Right, sarge,” Wilde said, and swallowed, opening the door to his right and vanishing inside.

Swanson continued down the hall and into the kitchen, where flies buzzed around a sink stacked high with dishes. Bits of food littered the table and counters, crumbs bearing the imprint of small feet, rodent, and insect. The microwave hung open, splatters of red and brown caking the inside. Cupboard doors had been pulled half off and yawned empty with their contents crusted with filth and stacked in the sink and on the counter. A pile of decaying hamburger lay forgotten by all but the maggots on the table, still half in its plastic wrapper.

Around the table places were laid using a child’s plastic tea party set. There was something red and viscous inside the little pink cups, drawing the attention of the flies. On one of the plates lay a finger. Swanson’s stomach gave a sick lurch as he once again fought to control his gorge. Grabbing the radio from his pocket, he pressed the button.

“This is Swanson, I’m at the Hoffman residence and I’m going to need medical assistance and backup immediately!” The radio gurgled at him but his attention was arrested by Officer Mustache flying down the stairs with a look of horror on his face.

“Tom!” he yelled at Swanson, ignoring protocol. “Hoffman’s wife is up there, dead and mutilated! She’s at the bottom of the ladder to the attic and her face is all fucked up and it looks like someone fucking crushed her chest, she’s fuckin’–”

“Enough!” Swanson roared, grabbing the hysterical officer by the shoulders and shaking him hard.

“Enough that she’s dead, now get the hell out of here and get on the horn to headquarters, tell them to send people here pronto!”Mustache made haste for the front door down the hallway whence they had come, before being stopped short by a bloodcurdling screech from the room Officer Wilde had entered.

Mustache leaped back, almost into Swanson’s arms, who had been close behind. “What in the fuck was that?”Swanson threw the petrified officer aside, making a subconscious note to have a word with Mustache’s superior about his future in law enforcement. Gun ready, Swanson kicked the door in and froze.

His gun wavered and the barrel dropped, though he did not notice. Officer Wilde lay on the floor, gurgling and trying to pull a large pair of scissors from his throat while breathing through his own blood. Hoffman stood over him, shoulders hunched, clad in a pair of stained boxers and a yellowed white undershirt. His eyes snapped to the new intruders, and he recoiled,scuttling around to the other side of his desk which was piled high with delivery cartons and bottles of beer and whiskey. He peered out at them from between the mountains of Chinese containers and pizza boxes, his eyes distorted by the whiskey bottle he stared through. Swanson could see madness there, and it chilled him more than anything he had seen.

“I know what you want,” Hoffman hissed, and Swanson was without warning transported back to the theater when he and his children had watched Lord of the Rings and laughed at the creature Gollum, alias Sméagol.

This living Gollum glared at him. “You want her back, don’t you. Well, you can’t have her. She likes me, and she likes it here with her sister.” Hoffman looked down at the desk, between two bottles.

“Don’t worry,” he said, and now his voice was fatherly and gentle.

“I won’t let them take you from her.”Swanson, taking some comfort from the siren he now heard approaching, pulled himself together and raised the gun again.

“Eric Hoffman, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of Officer Wilde down there. Put your hands on your head and turn around, man. Don’t make me kill you.”

Hoffman looked up at Swanson and raised his hands with deliberation. “Promise me you’ll leave her here? You won’t separate them?

Swanson could not help but note with the sickness that one of Hoffman’s fingers was missing as he laced his them behind his head and turned around.

“I can’t promise anything, who are you talking about?” He moved forward, pulling his handcuffs from his pocket. Hoffman nodded at the desk.

“June.” Snapping the cuffs around Hoffman’s wrists, Swanson relaxed a fraction and holstered his weapon as he followed Hoffman’s nod down to the desk. A doll in black and white sat there looking up at him, one cracked eyebrow giving her a sinister leer. An involuntary shudder went through Swanson and he nodded.

“No problem, Eric. She’ll stay right here.”

“That’s real good,” Hoffman said with a smile. “They’ve been together for so long, they’d hate to get separated.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Swanson said, hearing the siren stop its approach outside the house and the slamming of doors as the EMTs unloaded their gear for the now unmoving Officer Wilde.

“Let’s go, Eric.”Hoffman allowed himself to be led out as the paramedics rushed in, and put into the back of one of the police cars he used to drive, calling back to the house,

“Don’t worry, Junie! I’ll be back soon!”

“Not fucking likely, sport,” Swanson muttered as he opened the car door to get behind the wheel.

“Hey!” yelled a paramedic. “There’s a little girl back here!”

 

Through Doll’s Eyes by Jesse Orr

ThroughDollsEyes

 

Mary stepped outside, breathing in the cooling evening air. She could taste the pollen from the garden’s many flowers and hear the trickle of a small water feature she thought was a waste of money but Eric fussed over like a baby. A giggle from around the corner and the sound of her daughter’s voice. Mary couldn’t make out all of what she was saying, but she knew with whom the conversation took place. She grimaced.

Mary reached into the wooden box screwed to the side of the house and grabbed a pack of cigarettes she had stashed there. Lighting one, she took a puff and looked up at the sky. Clouds were beginning to form. She glanced at the grill. It was covered. Bring the rain, she thought, the plants can use it. A frown creased Mary’s face. Those god damned dolls.

She decided on the spur of the moment to hide them in the attic that night. Sofia was afraid of the attic and the evils it concealed, and would not venture up there if her life were at stake. Once those horrors were safely locked in some box out of her daughter’s sight, Mary would breathe a sigh of relief.

“Sofia? Honey, it’s time to brush teeth and get ready for bed! Pick up your toys, please.”

Looking over toward the corner of the garden, she could just see the edge of Sofia’s playset. She raised her voice, “Sofia Ann, right now!”

There was still no answer. With a sigh, Mary took another drag on her cigarette and stubbed it out against the wall, stowing it back inside the box for later. Wiping her hands on her jeans, she walked down the few steps from the little porch and headed for the corner of the garden, hidden from view by the corner of the house. “Sofia Ann Hoffman, when I tell you to do something, you mind me.”

Rounding the corner, she saw her daughter staring with a horrible fixation at one of the dolls sitting across the table from her. Sofia’s head cocked to the side like she did when she listened to music, nodding as though the fucking thing were telling her something she liked. Even as her stomach knotted with an uneasy fear, Mary’s jaw clenched with anger. Gratefully, she gave herself to this more familiar comforting emotion. Storming up to the table she snatched up the doll and shook it, displacing some of her anger onto the wretched thing.

“If you can’t be bothered to listen to me because of this dusty old thing, I think it’ll just have to be put away fro awhile until you learn it’s more important to heed your patents than your toys,” Mary barked, covering the fear in her voice with a layer of steel. “Now, young lady, you march yourself upstairs, put on your pj’s, brush your teeth and get into bed.” She pointed to the porch and the door leading within. “NOW.”

“I’m sorry, Mommy,” Sofia said, and Mary was dismayed to see a tear squeeze out from beneath one of Sofia’s eyelids and trickle down her cheek. She got up and went to the porch and inside without looking back at Mary, head down, shoulders slumped. In that instant, Mary hated herself almost as much as she hated these fucking dolls.

After finishing the second half of her cigarette, Mary was about to get baby Rachel ready for bed, when she remembered Eric had put her down already. She would check on Rachel after getting rid of this horrid stuffed thing which was always grinning at her whenever she caught sight of its face. Then, she would wash her hands, and check on Rachel.

Climbing the stairs to the attic door, she forgot about the step in the middle that wasn’t nailed down properly, caught it with her toe and ripped the nail halfway off. At least, that was what it felt like as she stood there swearing under her breath. Once it no longer felt as though her foot were going to fall off, she hobbled up the remainder of the steps, opened the attic door and flicked the light switch. With a dazzling pop, the light bulb shorted out and the entire attic was illuminated for a split second with a strobe light’s clarity. All Mary saw was Sofia’s face, twisted in the nightmarish grin of glee as she stepped forward and shoved.

Screaming, Mary flew backwards down the stairs and landed in an untidy heap at the bottom with an audible crunch. Bones ground in her ears as she tried to scream through a punctured lung and a broken jaw. All she produced was an anguished hiss.

Sofia descended the stairs with care, stopping at the bottom to pick up Janie, dust her off and adjust her hair and skirts. Then, she looked at Mary, who was still trying to take in a breath and looking desperate. Mary held out a hand in a silent plea.

Sofia looked at Janie. Janie smiled at Sofia. Sofia smiled back at Janie, relieved and settled herself on her mother’s chest to wait. It wouldn’t be long now, Janie assured her.

 

Through Doll’s Eyes by Jesse Orr

ThroughDollsEyes

It looked like tapioca.

It wasn’t.

Brain dripped down the wall in a Niagara of Vivian and Eric. Everything they ever had been, everything they had hoped to become, was smeared across the brick face.

Detective Hoffman had seen his share of automobile accidents, but not as many as one would think. There was precious little use for a homicide detective on the streets mopping up impaired drivers, normally. Normally, though, cars did not smash at full speed into a solid object which had been there for decades with no attempt at brake application.

It was due to this last anomaly that Hoffman stood here now, regarding dual brain prints on the wall and wondering what his daughter saw in tapioca. He had already photographed the scene several hundred times from varying angles and was waiting for the tow truck to fight its way through the traffic caused by the accident so it could remove the largest bit of detritus from the roadway. Once it was gone, Hoffman could document the spot it had lay in an attempt to divine further clues.

In an attempt to distract himself from the dessert on the wall, he lifted the digital camera around his neck to his eyes and pressed the View button. The most recent image leaped onto the LCD and he was treated to a close-up of the tapioca. Grimacing, he flicked backward through the images until the brain documentation had passed.

Here was the front seat from the driver’s side, both passenger, and a driver having exited through the windshield. Only their legs from the knees down remained in the car. The rest of them were alternatively smashed into the brick wall and laying on the hood. Here was the front seat from the passenger’s side and the accompanying closeups. Here was the backseat, which was attempting to get into the front seat. And sitting in the back seat…

Hoffman blinked. He flicked to another photo of the backseat, this from a closer angle.Then from the other side of the car. Finally, the camera had been held right inside the smoking ruin and a photo had been snapped. Two dolls, sitting side by side as neat as though they had been placed with care and seat belted in. Everything in the car had been thrown forward, but these dolls looked to be out for a day cruise. Hoffman was sure they had not been there when he took the photo. He lowered the camera and stepped around the corpse of the car to look in the back window.

There they sat, smiling with a blank vacuity, eyebrows raised at the world they regarded. Hoffman gazed back, a smile coming over his face. They were actually pretty cute, those little things. His daughter collected dolls, and she sure would love these.

Without having any idea how it had happened, Hoffman was sitting in his unmarked police car, piloting it away from the smoldering wreck in which Eric and Vivian had met their end. Beside him, strapped in with care in the passenger seat, sat the two dolls. They looked out the windshield, over the dashboard, eager for their approaching new home. Their chauffeur sat rigid in his seat, his mind a roaring blank save how much his daughter was going to love adding these two to her collection.

Hoffman arrived home earlier than usual. He probably should have stayed longer at the scene, but it didn’t seem very important. Compared to the look he knew would appear on his daughter’s face, some drunken fatcat smearing he and his wife’s brains across a brick wall didn’t seem to be so much as a blip on his radar. He turned into his driveway and his eyes fell to the dolls. He smiled. So cute.

“Daddy, they’re so cute!” Sofia squealed, cuddling the dolls to her.
“Where did you find them?”

“Never mind,” Hoffman said, beaming, the roaring in his mind as gentle as the sound of surf on a beach. “Why don’t you go show them to your mommy?”

Sofia was off like a shot, up the stairs, and into her little sister’s bedroom. Her mother, Mary, was putting her sister Rachel down for a nap when Sofia burst in.

“Mommy, mommy, look what daddy got for me!” She displayed the dolls with glee. Her mother’s expression of shock and distaste went unnoticed.
“Wasn’t that sweet of him,” Mary said, pasting a smile on her face. Her hand went unbidden to the baby Rachel, reassuring and soft, cooing in her sleep.

She was going to have to talk to Dave. These dolls were fucking creepy, the way they were leering at her. “I’m naming this one June and this one Janie!” Sofia babbled, shoving each doll in turn into Mary’s face. “Want to hold them?”

“Oh, no, honey, I’ve got to get Rachel to bed,” Mary said, regardless of the fact that Rachel was in bed and asleep. “Run along now and play with… with June and Janie while I put your sister down for her nap.”

Sofia skipped out the door and down the hall to her room. She had just the outfits in mind for the two dolls. She dropped them on her bed and went to her closet. She was rummaging through the piles when her hands slowed their feverish digging and her eyes lost their focus.

Really, there was no need to change their clothes. They liked it just the way they were.

From that day forward, more and more, Sofia could not find June, though she was sure she had not moved June from her spot. That was all right with Sofia, she liked Janie better anyway. They would go out to the garden, and eventually, June would end up back in her room so what did it matter?

Hoffman smiled at June and gestured toward the window of his study with his lit cigarette.

“You didn’t want to go out and pretend to drink stupid tea anyways did you? Never mind, you can keep me company.”

June said that would be just fine, she preferred coffee anyways.

“I hear that,” Hoffman said, nodding. “Tea is just pee from a tree, I always say.” He didn’t, but he thought it sounded clever. He didn’t want June to think he was a bumbling rube.

June complimented him on his eloquence and expressed her disappointment that his wife didn’t seem to like Janie and her.

Hoffman wrinkled his nose and puffed. “She just doesn’t appreciate good company, Juney darlin’. Don’t you go worrying about her, she’s just too wrapped up with baby Rachel.”

All the same, June said, she would feel far better if everybody in the house got along.

“Well I hear you, but what can we do?”

June considered for a time and suggested that perhaps if his wife had fewer demands on her time, she would be able to get to know June and her sister better. Hoffman nodded as he thought about it.

“That could work, you know she’s been awful stressed lately and not sleeping too well. What could we do for her to ease her mind?” June told him.

Mary hurried down the hall, wiping the soap off her hands. She had been washing dishes when she thought she had heard the baby cry out. Their baby monitor’s battery had been dead for a week or more and the house was fresh out of nine-volt batteries so she wasn’t entirely sure what she’d heard was real.

Steve Hoffman stood facing her beside Rachel’s crib, cradling her blanketed little body in his arms. Mary leaned against the doorway and smiled. As the doorway creaked, Steve looked over at her.

“She was getting a little fussy so I calmed her down,” he said and smiled back.“Thank you,” Mary said gratefully. “I don’t remember Sofia running me quite so ragged.”

She glanced at the wall clock. “Speaking of which, it’s about time for little girls of all ages to be washing up. Is she out in the garden with her dolls?”

“Just Janie,” Steve said, pulling the blanket from Rachel’s crib and tucking it around her.
“June is in my study.”

“My mistake,” mumbled Mary, moving down the hallway toward the door leading to the garden and the back door.

“Things are going to get easier, you’ll see,” Steve called down the hallway to Mary. “June said so.”

He smiled at the baby in his arms. When he had smothered her, she had only made a single noise. Nothing for Mary to worry about, now or ever again. Now, they could be a family. The five of them.

Through Doll’s Eyes by Jesse Orr

ThroughDollsEyes

Through Doll’s Eyes by Jesse Orr

ThroughDollsEyes

 

The gurgle of pouring liquid. The clunk of a half-full bottle being set back down on a solid wooden surface, then the double gulp of someone downing a good belt. A bit of a gasp from the throat of a woman as the bourbon slides down her throat, then the sound of her picking up the bottle and pouring another. This she downs as well, but with a little less urgency, and sets the glass back beside the bottle. This time, the glass remains empty for ten seconds or so, ten seconds she examines her hand in the kitchen light, forcing it to remain steady. Bourbon has killed some of the shakes, willpower does a little more. The blood streaming from the gash in her palm runs down her forearm, the red brilliant in the florescent light above. It is not deep, physically, but shows no signs of stopping. She pulls the edges apart, her stomach rolling a bit at the sight of her exposed meat. It does not appear to be debilitating. That’s good. The tremors come back as she pours for the third time. She’ll need it. She has to kill her daughter tonight.

The belt she administers herself this time makes the others seem like cheap imitations, filling the glass near to the top, and her willpower alone this time keeps her stomach from rejecting the poison she drops into it. She leans back into the corner of the kitchen counter, arms bracing her upright against the two sides surrounding her. She’s dripping onto the counter, faster as the alcohol thins her blood, pooling and dripping from the counter to the floor. The world spins when she shuts her eyes and doubles when she opens them. Closing one seems to be just the ticket though. The spins go away and there is only one of everything. Once this last dose hits bottom and gets comfortable, she can get down to business.

The business of killing her daughter.

Chuck E Cheese is a pit of madness, and a child’s birthday party is only another layer of madness atop it. On this day, there are no less than three separate bashes going on amid the general chaos. Through this maelstrom Nancy fights her way, clutching her daughter’s birthday present, narrowly avoiding a dancing mouse and a screaming two year-old. Someone bumps into her, hard, and she curses. Her ex-husband would choose to have Sandra’s birthday party here, in the middle of downtown, in the middle of rush hour, at the end of his weekend with her.

The thrift store across the road had offered the only parking within blocks of Chuck E’s, and for a mere $15 she secured a space of pavement for two hours with just enough time to dash inside and find a present for her daughter. Nancy had always struggled with procrastinating, and promised to rectify it every January 1st. Now as she rummaged through a wet-smelling selection of other people’s leftovers, she made the promise again. She hadn’t forgotten about the party, or Sandy’s birthday, but the time had just gotten away from her. Now she would have to show up with thrift gifts and Eric would smile that smug smile and point out the brand new bike or designer clothes he had bought for Sandy with his fancy salary and he could go fuck himself already…

Her hand stopped. It had been pawing through a pile of dolls. Now almost of its own volition, it moved aside a Raggedy Anne who had seen better days. Two pairs of black eyes looked at Nancy from worn china faces.

The decision was made. Yanking them from the back of the pile caused the rest to tumble to the floor but Nancy was already halfway down the aisle to the checkout. She thrust the dolls at a tattooed cashier who raised an eyebrow at Nancy’s harried expression.

“Something wrong, ma’am?”

“No, nothing’s wrong, just in a hurry,” Nancy said, and tried a smile in the cashier’s direction. It must have looked as phony as it felt, for the cashier’s raised eyebrow stayed.

“You sure? If you’re in some trouble…”

“I’m sure!” Nancy’s voice was a trifle hysterical, and several people looked over. She lowered her voice. “I’m just in a hurry to get to a goddamn birthday party with these dolls, that’s all.”

“Chuck E’s?” the cashier inquired, at last dropping her eyebrow and beginning to ring up the dolls in slow motion.

“Yes,” Nancy said, closing her eyes for a moment and praying for patience. “Do you gift wrap?”

The cashier barked a laugh, dropping the dolls into a plastic shopping bag. “There you are. $24.57, with tax, that’ll be–”

“Keep the change,” Nancy said, dropping thirty dollars on the till and snatching the bag, already halfway out the door.

“Mommy!” Sandra squealed, threading her way through Chuck E children like a nimble snake. All Nancy’s irritation at the store, the day, at Eric and the world in general evaporated as Sandra leapt into her arms and she clung her daughter to her, laughing.             “Happy birthday you little stinkpot!” Nancy cried, spinning Sandra in her arms as her daughter giggled. “You’re way too big for your old mom these days, gonna break my–”

“Nice of you to join us, Nancy,” came a voice which brought the world back in a crashing rush.

Nancy pretended not to hear. “How’s your party, honey? Are you having any fun?”

“Yeah I’m having fun,” Sandra bubbled, already squirming to get down. “We were playing tag, then the pizza came and we all ate and then I saw you!”

“You’d better get back to it,” Nancy said, depositing the girl back on her feet. “Come get your present when you’re ready for a break.”

“Okay mommy!” She was off like a shot.

“Didn’t think you were going to make it,” the voice came again, closer. Resigned, she turned around.

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Nancy said, the coldness in her voice palpable. The man standing before her had possessed her heart once. Now, he turned her stomach. “How are you, Eric?” She turned to the blonde standing beside him and a little behind. “And you, Vivian?”

A sneer from the blonde. “Nancy.”

“We are doing fabulously, thank you,” Eric said, straightening his straight tie. “Our new house is nearly built, my investments are performing above market averages, and every day is better than the last.”

“Fan-fucking-tastic,” Nancy said, turning to watch Sandra run screaming after a little boy who had possibly stolen her tickets. “I’m starting a career in porn next month, maybe you could give me some pointers in fucking yourself.”

The children ran and screamed, the adults mingled and bemoaned the fact that Chuck E’s had no bar. Nancy was gratified to see the children slowing down and some parents beginning to gather the belongings which had been scattered. She had judged the ebb and flow of the party correctly. Everything went well, and she had to suffer less than an hour under the same roof with the new Mr and Mrs Eric Mayhew. She did not envy the bitch for ascending to this title in her, Nancy’s, stead. She just wanted herself and Sandra as far as possible.

By the time Sandra, yawning, had been buttoned into her coat and shepherded into Nancy’s vehicle, the parking lot’s sodium lights overhead had begun popping on in the dusk. Between yawns, Sandra kept up a nonstop stream of chatter as Nancy drove, narrating the weekend and the party as only a little girl can. Nancy nodded in the right places and exclaimed over her daughter’s doings, keeping her opinions of ”daddy’s new friend” to herself.

“Mommy!” Sandra cried, astonishment breaking through the enormous yawn that threatened to consume her face. “I forgot about your present!”

“That’s okay honey,” Nancy said, glancing into the rearview. Sandra looked genuinely distressed.

“You’re my mommy, I shouldn’t have forgotten your present.”

“Well here you go, stinkpot,” Nancy said with a smile and and grabbed the bag of dolls from the passenger seat, handing it back to Sandra. “Sorry I didn’t have a chance to wrap them.”

“Them?” Sandra asked, diving into the plastic bag. She stopped short, inhaling sharply. “Oh, mommy!”

She reached into the bag and pulled out the larger of the two dolls. It was dressed in a plain white dress which in the rearview reminded Nancy of the garb she had seen on women in stories about polygamist sects. The collar was buttoned all the way up and the doll’s long blonde hair was in twin pigtails down to her chest, tied with pale blue ribbons. The face had a sweet smile, but there was a crack above one of the black eyes, giving it a wicked glare from one angle. Sandra’s face was a mask of wonder and delight as her eyes took in the doll.

“Mommy she’s so pretty!”

“Did you see the other one, honey?” Nancy said, watching her daughter’s avid face with greed. Eat your heart out, Eric, you and your blonde bimbo, she thought with savage glee.

Instead of answering, Sandra brought out the other doll. This one was shorter than her companion, her hair in black pigtails instead of blonde, and the dress was black with shorter sleeves. The eyes were the same, down to the evil slant.

“They’re beautiful, mommy, thank you, thank you thank–”

Nancy’s eyes were caught by the glare on the doll. Just like the other.

A horn blared and Nancy’s eyes snapped back to the road. She yanked the wheel hard to the right and the car leaped back into its lane, narrowly avoiding an oncoming minivan whose driver laid on the horn another few seconds for good measure.

“Oh Christ,” Nancy gasped, her heart pounding in her mouth. “Shit, shit, shit, Sandy, honey, are you ok? Sandy?”

She spared a glance in the rearview. Sandra was gazing at the two dolls cradled in her lap, stroking the black pigtails with one slow hand.

“Sandy?”

A glance at the road. Nothing ahead but blackness. Back to her daughter. Sitting. Staring. Stroking.

“Sandy, are you all right? What’s wrong? Answer me!”

The eyes raised and met Nancy’s in the rearview.

“She’s fine,” Sandra said.

That night, Nancy slept badly. She tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable, while in her dreams she was chased through moldering old houses with piles of dolls in every corner, begging her to come play with them, forever, while her daughter’s unintelligible screams echoed through the halls. She raced into the only room with light, and the door slammed behind her.

Nancy jumped, and her eyes opened. She was in bed, her room lit by the streetlamp outside.  Sandra stood by the closed door, her face a blank. Then, she grinned. It was monstrous, and Nancy felt her nerve quiver.

“Sandy, what’s wrong?”

“Sandra isn’t here anymore,” the little girl said, and with a swooning sickness Nancy knew it was true. The voice coming out of that body was manufactured by Sandra’s vocal cords, but there the similarity ended. There was nothing human in that voice. As though whomever had originally owned it may have once been human but that was long forgotten in a history of deceit and camouflage.

“You’re the dolls,” Nancy said. “You’re those fucking dolls, aren’t you?” Her voice shook with terror, and outrage. “You took my daughter.”

Sandra’s face twisted in a grimace of fury. This wasn’t part of the plan. They aren’t supposed to figure out until later. With a scream, she raised the butcher knife from the kitchen and charged.

Nancy’s bedsheets nearly killed her. In an attempt to vault from the side of the bed opposite the door, they had tangled around her feet and she vacated the mattress just in time. Her screaming daughter slashed at the mattress she had occupied so recently and came around the bed waving the knife. She rushed at Nancy, who stepped to the side and threw Sandra against the wall behind her with a sob of grief as her little girl’s skull connected with the wall and she fell to the ground. Nancy ran for the door, scrabbled at the doorknob with a sweat-slick fist and had the door half open before the slightest sound alerted her.

She turned just in time to raise her hand to block the knife her daughter swung at her throat. Blood streamed from Sandra’s nose and trickled from her ears. One eye was dilated, the other glared madly as she sawed the knife into Nancy’s palm  Nancy screamed a guttural cry of horror, pain and revulsion. She grabbed Sandra by the shoulders and heaved the girl bodily from her, nearly losing an eye to the flying blade. Sandra hit the ground hard but was back up almost immediately, ramming into the door just as Nancy slammed it. She locked the knob a split second before it began jiggling with mad fury from the inside

 

Now, downstairs, Nancy pours one last drink. Maybe. Maybe she’ll have another. She’s in no real hurry. Sandra can’t get out through that door. Even if she does, there’s only one way out of the house, and she has to go through the kitchen. The second story bedroom’s window overlooks a concrete walk.

No, her little bird is safely caged. Caged and dangerous. The proof drips from her hand as she drinks again. Her other hand walks over the knives in the block set, looking for the right one. The butcher knife is already upstairs, of course, and the proof drips from her hand as she pulls out the bread knife, tests its serrated edge, slides it back in. She drains her glass and pulls out the second largest knife. This one was always her favorite. The butcher knife was too unwieldy for all but the largest squash or watermelon. This one she always kept sharp and ready for cutting meat.

She goes upstairs, and the thing inside the bedroom has gone quiet. She doesn’t trust it, and is ready for any tricks as she unlocks the door as silently as possible, muscles tense and ready for the ambush that never comes. The thing is sitting on the bed, and tries to talk to her, tries to trick her, to convince her it is her daughter again. But Nancy knows better. Even as she drags the screaming, pleading thing out from under the bed and slits its throat, she knows it can never be the way it was, it can never go back to the way it was before she walked into that thrift store. Now that she’s seen the dolls behind her daughter’s eyes, it can never be the same.

Egg Hunting: by Jesse Orr

Egg Hunting
by Jesse Orr
The day of the egg hunt dawned cool, mostly clear, and breezy. The parents were relieved; they would not have to supervise in the rain, as had been forecast. The egg hunters were relieved, the fiercely competitive hunt would not be made any easier by wet underfoot.
Almost a thousand children, ages old enough to walk to twelve, milled around the stadium
parking lot, clamoring to be allowed inside. The local team had no game on Easter, and the team’s owner (who was running for mayor) had invited the public to bring their young. So they can restlessly search for the ten thousand hollow plastic eggs which had been hidden throughout the stadium’s bleachers and playing field. A prize would be given to the children with the most eggs, second most, third, and honorable mentions as Egg-Hunter Extraordinaire for all the rest.
As promised, on the stroke of noon, the doors opened and ticket takers appeared in the kiosks, marshaling people inside and down the stairs to the field. They were relieved, the event was a free one, without the headaches of fake tickets and sports-crazed fans that so often plagued their working hours. The news reporters found talking to them later to be an absolute waste of time. Since being outside they didn’t see anything that happened.
When finally the parking lot had streamed into the field as directed, a deafening voice filled the stadium.
“ALL HUNTERS TO THE CENTER OF THE FIELD!”
The children squealed and dashed forward in a tidal wave of glee, buckets, baskets and bags eager to hold the bright plastic booty. In no time a sizable knot clustered in the middle of the grass, positively quivering with anticipation. The parents spread to the edges of the field closest to their children, glowing with benevolence and raising cameras to document the precious moment. Mad rumors had been flying about the nature of the prizes, the most popular belief being that a local chocolate factory had donated several hundred pounds of their best rabbits for the purpose.
“ALL RIGHT CHILDREN!” the voice yelled, sounding beside itself with excitement. “ON
YOUR MARKS, GET SET, GO!!!”
But this was only heard in its entirety by Charles Bucket, Sr., the owner of the team, the
stadium, the voice, and one young lad by the name of Charles Bucket Jr., who coincidentally was the reason for this selective hearing. Junior (to which he was naturally referred) stood before the knot of children, both hands clasped around daddy’s gun, his five year old fingers struggling to work the stiff action of the trigger. It was the first explosion which had blocked the last of Charles Senior’s message to the crowd.
Junior had thrown a fit when Charles explained that his son could absolutely not participate in the egg hunt contest, for it would reek of favoritism and not benefit his coming election. He was neither cheered when Charles attempted to console him by saying that all the eggs surely wouldn’t be found, and after the hunt was over Junior could have a go at them. It was only when Charles suggested Junior might just rather stay at home in his room with the babysitter watching TV that the fit ceased. They had
left an hour later and Junior had been a little quieter than usual, but perfectly well behaved.
At least until now.
Bullets ripped through hunters and parents alike, some passing through the former to strike the latter who were rushing forward to save their hunters. One bullet exited one girl’s eye to slam into the kneecap of her mother, shattering it and causing her to yowl in agony and limp for the rest of her life. Junior turned, his sore fingers continuing their squeezing sending out the next shot, and the next, and the next, knocking a pair of twins to the ground with sucking chest wounds and piercing a small boy’s hand with a neatly placed bullet in the middle of the palm. By now everyone was too far away for him
to aim well, and the trigger produced nothing but a clicking sound. He tossed it aside and looked around.
It had been far louder than he expected, and the silence was comforting. Except for the screams. But it had worked. The field was deserted except for those who could not walk. Some were still moving, but that was OK, they probably wouldn’t feel like egg hunting anymore anyway. Some weren’t moving at all, and that was OK too. One of the immobile was Janie Somers, and that was great.
Janie was the one who had taken the first shot through the head for laughing at him for not being allowed to hunt. Janie was always being so mean to him. He’d show her now. He’d show his daddy too. He grabbed Janie’s basket and started toward the first egg he could see in the bleachers, taking care to step on Janie’s head. He could almost taste the chocolate already.

Free Fiction Friday: Gluttony by Jesse Orr

GLUTTONY

by Jesse Orr

It had made it through security, only by an amazing stroke of good luck. A razor blade is just the kind of thing which all TSA agents are supposed to be on the lookout. But, some stupid crackhead in the line ahead of me tried smuggling a few kilos of what looked like powdered sugar out of town. He should have tried harder. A lot of people in wherever were going to be very disappointed. Anyway, while they were busy screwing with him, I calmly walked through the metal detector, not flinching as it beeped in protest. I held my arms up and assumed the position, so to speak. The lady with the wand was distracted by the ensuing drama and probably more than a little pissed off that she was the one who had to scan people who set off the stupid alarm with their watches and necklaces. I said, “It’s the bracelet,” and pointed to my right arm where a chain link bracelet was welded on. She ran the wand over it, it beeped, and she waved me through, satisfied. Her attention was already back with the smuggler while I walked through security with a razor blade.

You may ask, why exactly did I risk bringing a razor blade on board a commercial jetliner? Mostly to see if I could. A little for the thrill. For the sheer joy of it. Who cares? Stop asking stupid questions.

I stopped at the bar for a few shots of Cognac to take the edge off the hopeless flock mentality that was beginning to set in, and made my way to the gate, sparsely populated an hour before boarding. Finding an out-of-the-way looking row of chairs, I sat down and began the new Zhane Brock novel. Better than most bestsellers out today, many of the inspirations for my work come from Mr Brock’s twisted mind.

I was jolted from a seedy bathroom in Queens by a man sitting down two seats from me, yakking on a cell phone and oblivious to all but what was right in front of him.

Surely, I reasoned, the terminal had filled up rapidly while I was reading Mr Brock’s words, and this was the best place to sit? But no. There were two people sitting in the terminal, their numbers dwarfed by the empty seats surrounding them.

My attention turned back to this man, taking in details. He fairly reeked of yuppie. His khaki shorts had been out of the packaging less than a day, the creases so sharp they could slice elephant steaks. I could smell them, the steaks, along with the new clothes smell emanating from his green polo shirt. His cell phone was the latest model, a tablet-smart phone hybrid. Probably did everything but talk for him, and as soon as they came out with a model that did, he’d be the first one in line to buy it.

Gary [it was stitched on his carryon] continued talking without a care in the world, oblivious to my scrutiny. He blathered on about golf, bars and bikini clubs, punctuating sentences with phrases reeking of irritating enthusiasm and shifting constantly in his chair, swaying the row of chairs. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. He was truly one of the most repulsive individuals I had ever laid eyes upon.

As soon as he was done talking and bouncing around, Gary brought a takeout box seemingly from nowhere. The second that box came into my eyesight, the stench of cheap curry hit me square in the nostrils, almost before my eyesight told me it was a box. My eyes beheld a green lumpy mess, which Gary proceeded to shovel into his mouth at a terrific rate, unhindered as he was by napkin or paper towel.

I knew once he finished his aromatic feast he’d be heading for the bathroom. Sure enough, once Gary the Yuppy finished licking green slime off his fingers, he crammed the box into a trash can and headed off down the terminal. I gave him a minute, stretched, and followed him. Luck stayed with me. Gary brought out a card, swiped it through a slot in the wall, and disappeared through a door saying MVP Platinum Members Only.” Hastening my footsteps, I stopped the door surreptitiously with my foot and made a show of fumbling in my jacket. Bringing out my wallet, I pulled out, swiped and replaced my imaginary card, then let myself in the door.

Again, luck was with me and nobody else was in that exclusive bathroom, save Gary and his fancy phone, which were both in a stall together. I knew luck wouldn’t keep the bathroom empty for long. Slipping off my shoe and sock, I slid the sock over my hand and grabbed the razor blade hidden inside the shoe.

Kicking Gary’s stall door in, I wasted no time. Before Gary could say a word, I lashed out with the razor blade, catching him across the throat, parting the layers of skin and tissue almost to the point of death. He would live, but would never again be able to speak above a gravelly whisper. For now, he sat partially on the toilet seat, pants around his ankles, grasping at his throat while making the first of many years worth of wheezing gasps. I put on my sock and my shoe, and dropped the razor in his lap. Maybe they would think it was a suicide attempt. I didn’t care. It was almost time to board.

 

There was a scream. Taking my boarding pass back from the attendant, I looked over my shoulder across the terminal. One of airport security was attempting to comfort a hysterical woman by the MVP Platinum Members Only door, another was coming out of it, his shoes red and his face green. I shook my head and padded down the jetway to my seat.

I was just about to open Mr Brock’s book again when I was distracted by a large someone clambering into the seat next to me. I blinked. There should be no one sitting there. I always bought two seats side by side, just so no one sat next to me. And yet, here was someone…sitting next to me. I bit my tongue. Maybe the rest of the plane was full and he was one of those lucky ones who gets an empty seat ten minutes before departure.

No…I watched and plenty of people were still getting on. There were plenty of open seats. This was getting to be routine. Meanwhile, the man to my right [I always get a window seat] was settling in, putting his laptop away, getting comfortable. He put his arms on the armrest, sat back and sighed.

My eye twitched. To avoid touching this man, I was sitting against the wall, practically on the wing of the plane, and had my elbows on the top of my hips. That’s when I noticed a lady’s pointed shoe under my window, considerably detracting from my arm space. The approximately three square feet the airline had allotted me was being invaded with extreme prejudice. The man to my left shifted, getting comfortabler, which I know is not a real word, and elbowed me in the side. The elbow stayed in my side. The shoe on my right nudged my arm.

That was enough. I opened Mr Brock’s book and began thumbing through it for inspiration, even committing my own faux pas and looking past the part  to which I had read, seeking key words. I was so absorbed in my study that we had been pushed back, taxied, took off, and were cruising at 36,000 feet, before my seatmate’s standing to go to the bathroom roused me.

The bathroom?

Well why not.

Once again, I gave him time to make his way back and inside the stall before sliding past the man in the aisle seat and heading to the lavatories. Miraculously, only one of them was occupied. This was almost too easy.

Quickly and quietly, I jimmied the bolt with the second razor blade which I had tucked into my wallet and slid in with him, locking the door and knocking him silly with a slap to the brains before he really comprehended that something out of the ordinary was happening. As he reeled back, dazed, I took his left arm and slit first his wrist, then his inner forearm, then his upper inner arm, and stuffed as much of his fist as would fit into his mouth. The blood flew from his slashed arm, spattering the walls as he fought to free both his arm and his fist. It wasn’t hard to hold his fist and arm in place until his twitching subsided and his eyes glazed over.

Once he was dead, I wadded up a bunch of toilet paper over the gashes and put the razor blade in his right hand, after taking the fist out of his mouth, and left him sitting there with his pants around his ankles holding a razor blade. The next day’s paper would record it as a man who wanted to make a statement by snuffing himself in an airplane bathroom but had second thoughts and used TP to dam the red river, unsuccessfully. But by then I was in Europe and could have cared less.

The man in the aisle seat had ordered a Bloody Mary in my absence, the smell of which was enough to make me gag, and I was entertaining the possibility that the lady with the shoe had epilepsy, but only in the foot that kept kicking me. However, the luck had shifted from me to them, because I had left my last razor blade in the bathroom.

**********

Jesse Orr was born and raised in Alaska and has no idea, nor do his parents, when or how he began reading and writing; as is the case with so many things, they just are. Moving to Seattle in 2007, he settled down to a life of recording and performing music as well as writing whatever caught his fancy. He has a dog named Mr Dog and lives in West Seattle.

https://www.facebook.com/murd3rweapon5

Grant Me Serenity: The End Part 2

gms

“Well now,” Len said pleasantly, not moving. “I see we have quite a quandary.”
“Yeah?” Harding sneered. “I don’t see a quandary. You don’t get moving, there’ll be a bullet in your head before you can think about saying goodbye.”
“How are you going to do that without having to explain a lot of things to them?” Len nodded at the door leading to the hallway which opened to the parking lot. Decent group tonight, judging by the amount of door-slamming and the volume of residual chatter as the AA members who smoked lit up around the ashtray. “I don’t see a silencer on that gun of yours. Your arm must be getting tired, by the way.”
Harding’s face was frozen in the sneer but his eyes had filled with an uncertainty Len recognized. His arm, whether genuinely tired, or inspired to be so by the power of suggestion, began to tremble.
Len began to move forward, hands held out to his sides, a placid smile on his face. Harding raised the gun anew. “Get moving out that back door motherfucker, I swear to Christ I’ll blow your fucking head off. Don’t push me.”
“Oh I’m sure you would,” Len replied, still coming forward, still with hands out. “I’m not as heavily armed as that man but my pockets are full of shadows. Who knows, one of them could be an automatic.”
“Shut up!” Harding’s gun pointed at Len’s head, then his stomach, then his chest. “Just shut the fuck up and get out the door!” His voice had risen noticeably.
The smile dropped off Len’s face. Only some had seen the look which replaced it, most of whom were dead. “Last chance, EX-detective. Put your gun away and leave. You can continue being whatever you are now instead of what you will become.”
“Fuck you!” Harding raised the gun again and aimed it between Len’s eyes. “This is your last fucking chance!”
Len sighed, and plunged his hand into his pocket. Harding, his nerves strung tighter than a guitar string, fired.

“The jury finds the defendant guilty of the charge of murder in the first degree.”
The words hung in the courtroom, leaden. Guilty. Murder. Harding could scarcely believe it. Hearing the jury recommend the death penalty was even more surreal. Death penalty? For him? What the fuck had happened? How had he gotten here?
His mind whirred through the past like a flipbook. Yesterday’s meeting with his lawyer. Good record, recovery, acquittal is a sure thing, blah blah blah. The weeks leading up to that meeting, the trial, the hell of being torn apart in front of crowd, a judge, a newspaper, with the press, always the press out for his blood, and some days those four smirking faces from the church in the crowd, right there but unattainable. The months of incarceration prior to that whole media frenzy, pacing his cell, desperate for time with his lawyer, because then, only then, did he feel like he was making progress, moving forward. The weeks immediately afterward, when he had been in the purgatory of jail, not knowing what was coming, only knowing it was taking its sweet time and that it was going to be bad, then being proved correct in his worst assumptions. That horrible night he had been taken into the police station in the humiliating perp-walk, handcuffed past his peers, some of them gawking, some shaking their heads, some smirking like the pieces of shit they were. His mug shot, the most painful moment of all, somehow, was when they had fingerprinted him. Finally the ghastly night in the basement of the church when he had somehow, like a fucking idiot…

A small round dot appeared between Len’s eyes, visible for a split second before his head jerked back and threw him to the floor, arms flying out, hands open, nothing but emptiness inside. Unarmed.
“No,” Ed groaned, dropping to his feet beside Len and dropping his gun. “No, oh God oh God NO!” he screamed, pawing desperately at Len’s hand, as though by magic he could make a weapon appear in it. He slapped Len’s legs, hoping to manifest a gun in a holster, a knife in a pocket, something, anything, oh holy fuck not again…
“Oh my God!”
This new hellishly unwelcome voice cut in. Ed jerked his head around, eyes bulging, staring at the first alcoholic to enter the room, a matronly woman in a pink pants suit, whose face was hidden behind her ringed hands, horror in her eyes.
Ed held out his hands to her, numbly glad he had dropped the gun, his mouth working on excuses, somehow blurting out, “I can explain…”

His last meal was a big decision, and Ed thought about it long and hard. Finally, he settled on Shepherd’s Pie, sauerkraut, and pistachio ice cream, washing it down with two cans of Mountain Dew. He immediately regretted it upon finishing, wishing instead he had ordered beef stew, or ravioli, but that was just who Ed Harding was. Had he ordered all three, he would have wished for something different. As he sat there, tasting the sauerkraut and fishing errant strings of it from his back teeth, a guard appeared at his door. It was time.
As he was being strapped in to the chair, trying to keep from hyperventilating, the door in the back of the death chamber opened. Dr Pudge entered. Missy followed. She looked straight at him, with not a hint of recognition. His jaw dropped.
“Hey…”
The guard, moving so swiftly he seemed not to move at all, fixed a gag across Ed’s mouth. The room returned to its normal silence as the necessary plumbing was hooked up to Ed’s body. His eyes grew huger as he saw Jerry, Jessica and Paul sitting in the gallery. No one else was there. Paul smiled and waved. Jessica glared. Jerry’s face was a mask.
The guard, seeing the prisoner was ready for execution, made his speech. “Edward Harding, you have been sentenced to die by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before sentence is carried out?” The guard removed the gag, and Ed filled his lungs.
“Listen to me. This is the truth. That crazy bitch there,” he nodded in Missy’s direction. Her face didn’t move. “and those three assholes–” nodding toward the gallery, “are psychopaths! Murderers! I killed one of their little group after they sat around telling stories about how they’d done it as kids! Ask them! Go on!”
The guard nodded as though he believed every word. This was not the first time someone in the chair had screamed accusations with their last breath. It would not be the last. He looked at Missy. She nodded in return, and began opening valves in her deadly dance. Ed was still ranting as he noticed his eyes growing heavy. He began to yell, but by then, it was over.

Until his eyes opened.

“Oh, there he is, I told you he’d wake up, didn’t I?” A woman’s voice, nearly crowing with delight. Horrible to hear. Horribly familiar.

“Well done, Missy,” a male voice said.

Ed was shivering, but could not move. Was he still in that god damn death room? Was his execution still going on? Then why did the ceiling look so much darker?

A stinging smack on the side of his face brought the ceiling in to focus. He shook his head and looked around him just in time for the rolled up towel someone was snapping to take him in the eye and nearly gouge it out by the feeling, holy shit he had never felt that much pain in an eyeball and what the FUCK was going on..?

“Did that rouse you a bit honey?” Another female voice was crooning next to his ear. “Wouldn’t want you to sleep through Len’s memorial now would we?” She had just finished the last word when a fist smashed into Ed’s nose, bending it to the left with a crack. Ed howled.

“Cool it,” the first woman said. “There’s no rush, and we want him to stay conscious at least for a little while.” Harsh laughter.

The abuse ceased and Ed shook his head, trying to clear his vision. His right eye was a stinging slit of agony misted with red, but the left was taking things in all too well. His mind began to process them.

He was in a chair, arms behind him, stripped to the shorts and soaked. Apparently he’d been doused with water to wake him up. He tried to bring his hands around front and found, to no real surprise, that they had been restricted behind him. He pulled, expecting to hear the clank of chains and heard… nothing. No movement either. They had glued his hands together behind his back, as though he were rubbing them together. He could not move so much as a finger.

They stood around him, over him, surveying him. Missy still wore her business suit but her hair had come out of its bun.

“Curious? I bet you are.” A hand dropped into her pocket and procured a little glass vial. “I just switched out the deadly stuff for some sugar water and switched you for some other corpse on the way out of the morgue, once I declared you legally dead.” She grinned, and Ed felt his blood run cold.

“Brilliant, doctor,” Jerry said, and applauded her. Paul and Jessica joined in, giving Missy a well deserved ovation.

“Thank you,” she said, giving them a curtsy and turning to give one to Ed as well. “Len has been cremated long since, but we waited to have the memorial until you could join us for the fun. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Ed could only look on in dumbstruck horror as she picked up the briefcase sitting beside her and turned to place it on a counter nearby. She opened it.

Fluorescent light ricocheted off the angles of the cutting tools filling the briefcase. Razor blades, scalpels, assorted knives and something which looked horribly like a cheese grater grinned at Ed with shining teeth.

Ed began to blubber.

Jerry reached forward and took a scalpel. Jessica grabbed a razor blade. Paul took a large butcher knife. Missy took her favorite, the cheese grater, and the small salt shaker that came with it.

Ed began to plead, to threaten, to bargain, forgetting that for all intents and purposes, to the world, Ed Harding was already dead.

The four of them lined up, Missy at their lead. They would continue taking turns, until the sport had worn off. But it would take a while. They were in no rush.

Ed began to scream.

Missy walked forward, her eyes searching for the perfect patch of skin to begin her ministrations. Behind her, she heard them praying.

Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.

THE END

**********

Jesse Orr was born and raised in Alaska and has no idea, nor do his parents, when or how he began reading and writing; as is the case with so many things, they just are. Moving to Seattle in 2007, he settled down to a life of recording and performing music as well as writing whatever caught his fancy. He has a dog named Mr Dog and lives in West Seattle.

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Grant Me Serenity-The End Part 1

gms
“I know you,” Missy said, not rising from her chair. None of them did. “You witnessed several executions before you wandered off and dedicated your life to eradicating alcohol one drink at a time.”
Paul guffawed and Len coughed in a suspiciously merry manner. They were regarding Harding not as a harbinger but a welcome diversion from an otherwise humdrum life. Jerry noted Harding’s color had darkened several shades in the few moments they had spent together.
“I’ve made my peace with that,” Harding said. “All part of the program. You’ll all get to experience something similar when they throw you behind bars and extract every fascinating bit of information about how sick all you fuckers are.” His voice rose a little. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves. How many people have suffered and died just so you could scratch an itch?”
Jessica rose to her feet, her face a mask of the furious self-righteous. “Now look here one second, mister. If you think you’re going to get away with lecturing us about the suffering our addictions cause, you are suffering sad delusions. Let’s contain ourselves just to the family of the poor man wielding the shadow you gunned down because you were drunk, and tell me that you haven’t done the same Fucking THING!” Her voice rose at the end until she screamed the last. She was only a little vindicated that Harding looked shocked, as though this perspective had never occurred to him.
Len pulled on her arm lightly. “Dear, don’t forget there’s the good people of AA arriving at any moment.”
On his other side, Jerry started. He was so involved in the events unfolding(like a soap opera!) he had forgotten he was part of the cast. He checked his watch. At any moment was an apt way to sum up when their lives could come crashing down, or anybody’s life for that matter. The world was a damn fragile place.
“Of course,” Jessica said, composing herself immediately and sitting back down, looking attentively at Harding. “So, you filthy hypocrite, what do you intend to do with us?” Her voice was casual, her eyes were not.
Harding thought, if those AA bastards come twelve-stepping in here it’ll just fuck everything up.
Jerry thought, if I could get close enough for half a second, I could break his arm in three places and take his gun.
Paul thought, I wish I’d brought my throwing knife instead of that stupid sacrificial blade I need to ditch.
Jessica thought, this can’t be happening. This awful man can’t ruin everything like this. I’ll kill him or die first. Her hand strayed toward her purse and the derringer inside it.
“Don’t do it, bitch,” Harding said, the gun snapping around to aim between her eyes, and her hand froze. “I’d rather not kill you right here so don’t make me.”
“Why not, you gutless wonder?” Missy’s voice was flat, unaffected. “Do we have to have our hands up first?”
Harding ignored her. He appeared to have made up his mind. “Up, all of you, and out the back door.” He gestured with the gun in a hurry-up motion. “Go on, move it! Out the back door, nice and easy, one by one, and line up against the wall outside. Once we’re out there I’ll call for backup and those AA slobs won’t need to know anything while they have their precious meeting.” He grinned, and it was a nasty grin, until it fell away. “Move! Now!”
Paul was at the top of the pentagram, and closest to the door. He stood slowly, keeping his hands visible, mind racing ahead to a time when he could place the knife strapped to his shin near his hand. Just as suddenly, it came to him that what if he were to just make a break for it? There wasn’t far to the door and if he made a sudden sprint, the element of surprise…
“Don’t even try it, shithead,” Harding snapped. “You may make it out but each of these motherfuckers won’t stand a chance, not at this range.”
Len stood and gestured. “Go on, Paul. It’s time we were leaving anyways. Our hour is up.”
Jessica could hear car doors slamming outside. True enough, their allotted time to use the church basement had run its course, and the next wave of desperate hopefuls had arrived.
Paul took a step toward the door.
“Slow!” barked Harding. “And keep your hands nice and visible. All of you. Then outside, against the wall. Move. If you’re not all out there, I’ll kill every one of you that is.”
Slowly, moving with a care normally reserved for explorers on the moon, Paul walked toward the door, holding his hands out at the waist, clearly visible as ordered. Jerry went next, then Jessica. Missy started to follow, then looked at Len.
“Go on,” he said, honey dripping from every syllable. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Missy didn’t look happy, but she went, keeping an eye on Harding as long as she could. As soon as she was outside, she took out the sharp silver spike holding her hair into its bun, letting it fall around her shoulders as she concealed what had started life as an ice pick up her sleeve.
The others had lined up as ordered, but their hands were all hidden. Jessica nodded once, and Paul flashed a peek of the blade behind his back. Jerry’s hand was in his pocket, the fist curled around something which for a wildly juvenile moment she thought was his penis, before remembering Jerry usually carried a blackjack. Together, they waited for Len to join them and for Harding to give one of them the slightest chance to end his troublesome existence.
Only, Len never came. The tension singing between all of them was palpable, their senses honed to a level most people never experience, straining for a hint of what was to come.
There were words. Len’s quiet voice, and Harding’s voice, rising and cracking. Then the gunshot.

To be concluded

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Grant Me Serenity – Ed

gms

Surprise, Motherfucker!

My name is Ed and I’m an alcoholic. That’s how I came to be in this room, waiting to attend an AA meeting, after being one my whole life. Learned from my dad, and he was one of the best. Tasted my first beer at five I think. Didn’t do me much good at the time but what did I know. Fortunately I learned from dad how to pretend not to be an alcoholic at the same time, and I’ve been pretty good at it since. It got pretty bad when I got about high school age, went away when I joined the military. Just too damn tired to drink. It was after I got out and police work started to get dull that I started to drink, just a few beers during lunch, then rolling around with a nice buzz, chewing mints, smoking cigarettes and listening to the radio. Eventually, the lunches got longer, the buzzes afterward became outright drunks, and since I was plainclothes, eventually a uniform saw me weaving a bit too much and flipped his lights on. I’d smoked my last in the bar and I was out of mints so when I opened the window and he smelled my breath, he didn’t care about the badge I showed him.

I happen to be acquainted well with the daughter of a local judge, and through his grace my little indiscretion never saw the light of press, nor police report. But everybody knew. I could see it when I walked through the station, when I passed someone in the hall, when my path coincided with another guy on the uncomfortable shared walk to the restroom. I could see it, and what’s more, I could feel it.

But I didn’t stop. Not even then. I just stopped not hiding it. The beers at lunch became bourbon sipped throughout the day from a flask which was often refilled, and I lived in fear of straying too far from a white or yellow line when I drove. But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. You all understand that, don’t you? I’m pretty sure that given what I’ve just listened to, you all know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re just lucky you don’t puke afterward.

Then, after months that seemed like years of ridicule, an old buddy was short a man and asked if I could get my shit together and jump on his team for serving search and hopefully arrest warrants on some goon somewhere. I didn’t care. Second-string or not, someone was looking at me as more than just a fuckup. Naturally I made sure I was properly drunk at the time so I didn’t lose my nerve or anything, and naturally,  I overdid it. Subconsciousness, maybe? Who the fuck knows. All I know is when we were walking up the path to this house, I was weaving worse than when I was pulled over on the road, the guy behind me is hissing under his breath “Get it together for fuck’s sake you fucking drunk” and the guy in front is following the leader, and hisses back “shut the fuck up, it’s too late now” because the boss was mounting the step and the show was about to kick off.

So to make a long story short, the door opens, the guy runs, we chase him through the house. He goes upstairs, like a genius, and gets cornered in the bathroom. Like in The Shining or some shit. He’s locked in there, hollering he’ll die first, fucking pigs, blah blah, and the sarge is doing his usual COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP routine. I’m still seeing double at this point and my stomach is doing a weird queasy thing that never means good news. So naturally, the sarge tells me “Harding, cover that goddamn door and if anything comes out without its hands up AND empty you fill it full of lead. Any questions?” I shook my head, afraid to open my mouth and vomit on the sarge under the best of circumstances. He turns back to the door and I pull my gun on it, trying like hell to draw a bead on something, anything, that looks like more than a doubling mirage. “The door is coming down” bawls the sarge, “so get your goddamn hands out of the way, then put them up and walk out!”

Two guys bring up a ram. Just as they’re about to start their charge, the door flies open and the guy comes out. I don’t even know his name. All I know is he’s got a gun and I start shooting. I pull the trigger over and over, aiming at first one of the blurred visions I’m seeing, then the other. Left, then right, then between them, back and forth, until I realize the gun is empty. I wonder how long it’s been empty and I shake my head. That motion and the concussions of the gunshot with the gunsmoke in my nose is what did it in the end.

That was my lowest point. Vomiting my liquid breakfast onto my feet in front of a squad of SWAT guys after emptying my gun into an unarmed man with, it turned out, nothing but a shadow in his hand.

My friend’s dad the judge had a bit harder time covering this one up, not because of the man I’d killed, but because a number of the squad were of the opinion that there should be nothing covered up. In the end, they settled for my resignation. But as I said, people talk.

“So now,” Harding said, holding his gun on each of them in turn as he spoke, his hand trembling but not drunk. Not for two years. “Now, when I bring you all in and it comes out that I arrested you in the course of attending my AA meetings after years of sobriety–” The gun came to rest on Missy. Harding exhaled, and grinned.

 

Grant Me Serenity-Flashback

gms

“Mommy, hurry up!” Missy, aged 9, fussed at her mother. Len and Dennis were already going down to the river and if she didn’t hurry she’d be left behind. Not on purpose, she knew. Her brothers were always glad, often eager to have her along. They always said she wasn’t the typical little sister. But they weren’t the typical older brothers. They had not ditched her rather, than minding the brat, they had been unable to contain their eagerness, and left before Mommy had finished braiding her hair. They couldn’t possibly be across the second field by now but she’d have to run to catch them, and if they were lost in the woods before she found them she’d have to stay home, because Daddy told her never to go in the woods without someone else until she was older.

“Young lady, if you don’t hold still I’m going to braid your hair to this porch!” her mother barked, yanking the attempts at pigtails back into place and setting her daughter’s head. “Don’t move this time and you can go!”

Missy tried not to move but she couldn’t help craning her head, trying to see that last corner of the last field, the one with the path to the creek through the woods she was never allowed to go in on her own. If she moved just a little more, she could see it and if her brothers were there and she ran and screamed they might stop…

Her mother hauled her head back into place and resumed braiding. “Honestly, Missy, you haven’t the patience God gave a sparrow. You’re going swimming, so you’re getting your hair braided.” Eventually the braids were done, containing her daughter’s long dark hair, but the braids looked like cancerous snakes. Her mother couldn’t help giggling.

Missy looked over her shoulder. “What is it? Are you done? Can I go?”

Barely containing her mirth, she nodded and gave Missy both a kiss on the lumpy braid and a little push. “Yes. Go on honey. I love you.”

The little girl was gone like a shot. Her mother contained her laughter at the sight of the two tumorous reptiles attached to her daughter’s head until they were out of sight.

Missy sprinted down the fence line of the first field and crashed through the shallow waters of the brook separating the two fields. Up the hill, she could see two shapes just beginning to merge with the colors of the forest. She stopped and took a deep breath, stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled. A piercing blast emanated from her hand, and the two shapes stopped merging with the darkness of the treeline. Gratified, Missy renewed her sprint. Dennis had shown her that trick and after weeks of practicing she had mastered it. That whistle, Dennis and Len assured her, would stop what they were doing. A second would bring them running.

“Hoy!” she hollered, and resumed her run, but at a leisurely jog rather than a full sprint. The two shapes grew arms, legs, a head, and features as she got closer.

“Nice whistle,” Dennis said, giving her a five and she slapped it.

“Not bad,” Len agreed, and immediately turned back to the trail they had just sighted when Missy had whistled. “Come on, let’s go. It’s hot, and I’m hot.”

They all were, and fell into line behind Len. Missy next, and Dennis followed, cataloging as if to himself what he planned to do upon reaching the water.

“First, I wade in up to the ankles. Then the knees, then turn around and back in slowly until it gets up to my waist. Then I can slowly lower myself in and not even have to get my head wet if I don’t want to.” Dennis smiled at the sky, and the sun, whose bounty made this trip necessary. “If I don’t die of heat stroke first.”

After a while, the path narrowed and brush grew up around it. Branches grabbed and Missy was glad of her pigtails now, time-consuming though they had been. They ducked under and hopped over and elbowed their way through brush until they came out at gray sandy beach with crystal clear turquoise water reflecting a blue sky and a few puffs of clouds. In the water were around a dozen children varying from just able to swim to unable to remember how not to. There was a great deal of splashing and yelling and was punctuated by the occasional splash as someone ran up a small ridge and jumped off the six-foot bluff into the water. Len wasted no time in racing up the ridge and creating a massive splash with a war-whoop. Dennis followed suit. Missy, not feeling the ridge and war whoops to be quite her style, waded in and dog-paddled out to where her brothers latched on to her and towed her around in circles.

A boy with long dark hair slicked back on his head paddled up beside them, grinned, and spat water at them. Dennis laughed and splashed at him. The boy splashed back. Immediately there was an all-out war of splashing, spraying and laughter as they battled it out, each seeking to soak the other in the water in which they all bathed. Missy didn’t know anything was amiss until she noticed there were only their three heads instead of the four. She looked around, thinking the boy had gone away to splash someone else. She saw only Len and Dennis, breathing rapidly as they trod water and grinned back at her.

“Where’d he go?” Missy looked around again, then looked back at her brothers.

Len looked down.

Missy looked too.

The boy with the long hair was between them, beneath the surface, his fingers no longer breaking it in their quest for freedom. Their movement had slowed, and were visible about a foot beneath the surface, where they gradually stopped moving.

Dennis winked at her, and Len let out a yell and hauled up on the hand of the long-haired boy, screaming as he did, “Help! Help! Someone get help, I think Harry’s dead!” Dennis now took up the cry. “Help! He’s not breathing! Someone get help!” Dennis nudged Missy, and she gave voice to her own scream. “Help! Somebody HELP!”

Her piercing shriek carried across the fields as her mother hung the laundry out to dry. She shook her head and went on pinning the clothes to the line, an indulgent smile on her face.

“Those kids,” she said to herself, and sighed, not quite ruefully.

 

“Those were the days,” Missy smiled, and looked around at the group. “Back when not getting caught and Mom’s apple pie were the two most important things in the –”

There was movement from the back of the room. Long curtains covered the wall for some reason and the shape now moving independently from them had blended almost perfectly with the shadows and the dark gray of the drapes. This shape rose up from the ground slipped behind the drapes, and clawed them aside with a curse. The fabric fell aside and revealed a man’s face, gray with stubble and haggard, bloodshot eyes framed by not-yet-grayed brown hair falling across his forehead in a greasy mat. He pushed himself off the wall and stood erect, squaring his shoulders and pushing the hair out of his face. Once he had collected himself, he spoke, reaching under his coat as he did for the tools of his trade, fighting to stay upright.

The group had drawn back from the drapes as the shape had moved and now they bunched together as the newcomer voiced their worst nightmare even as he palmed his gun and showed his badge with his other hand.

“Police department. Everybody get on their knees with their hands behind their head. Nobody fucking move unless they want a bullet in the eye.”

I’ll do it too, Ed Harding thought, as he sighted on the younger woman with a hand which would not stay steady. Starting with this sick bitch.

Grant Me Serenity – Missy

GMSMy name is Missy, and I’m an addict. That’s what you guys say, right?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been like this. As a little girl in pigtails and jeans, I remember I would grab the stinkiest chemical out from under the sink and pour the whole bottle down the anthills and watch them run. One day I saw my brother with the magnifying glass trying to light a fire, and it occurred to me how much more personal it would be if I just applied that bit of heat to a tiny ant, rather than drowning them with chemicals. It took most of the afternoon but I finally mastered the glass, and could bring a pinprick of hell to bear on an ant within seconds. Like the hand of God, I smote and smote, unable to control the huge grin on my face. Inevitably though, I grew, and as I did, the ants ceased to hold their interest. Like any addict, I now needed something more.
I saved up my coins and bought a mouse trap. I was so excited the night I set it under our porch. I couldn’t wait to get up the next morning and see if I’d gotten anything. I lay awake for ages, listening for the snap, before waking up to the light of day. I flew out of bed and down the porch stairs in my bare feet. There it was, snapped across the skull of what I later learned was a shrew. Its eyes bulged and there was a deep crimp in its head where the bar of the trap had snapped, but it was otherwise unmarked. I was disappointed. Sure, I had killed it. But it was cold and stiff and I had been asleep while the trap did the actual dirty work hours before, crushing its brain as efficiently and humanely as it had been designed to do. The satisfaction I received from roasting ants was better than this!
Frustrated, I saved my money again. This time, I went to the pet store, a jumpy nervous excitement bouncing my stomach. Straight to the Small Animals section, where a strange thing happened. I looked in the eyes of a white rat with a spot on its forehead, and my original plan evaporated. I did purchase her, but she became my companion rather than my victim, living in my sweater hood and riding on my shoulder as I went about my day. I named her Rat, and cried for a week when she finally passed away.
This inconvenient softening did not help my deeper issue, namely something larger than an ant and less quickly dispatched than a mousetrap. However, thanks to Rat, the easy pickings such as all the neighborhood pets, as well as regular trips to the pet store, were unthinkable. There were times I would look at a random cat curled up on my mother’s car as though it had every right to be there, and I would wonder how bad it would hurt me before I could get it immobilized and start…
Rat’s beady little black eyes regarded me solemnly from my shoulder. I could feel her looking at me, as though she knew what I was thinking, and I would look away from the cat, embarrassed. It was just being a cat. Rat was just being a rat, and the ants were just being ants. They had no say in the matter and knew nothing of malice.
People, though…
More and more I couldn’t stop thinking about a girl in my class at school. Rachel S, I’ll call her, and she was Perfect, with a capital fucking P. She knew it too, and made sure everyone else did. None of the Perfect girls had any problem with me, but if Rachel knew what I thought about as I watched her bitching her way through life, she would never have accepted my invitation to spend the night that Saturday.
The next morning, she was gone. I told my family we had argued, and she had left sometime around midnight. This was not unreasonable, she lived two blocks from our house and there were streetlights the whole way. Besides, she was twelve years old, and she could take care of herself, she said when she left, I told Mom. When she was missed, I told her parents and police the same thing, explaining our quarrel away as over a boy. She was never found, and ultimately it was assumed someone had snatched her in those two blocks and made a clean getaway. Nobody ever asked me about it in any official capacity again.
She was my first person, but I was smart enough to know I couldn’t go around preying on everybody I knew. Once I could get away with, I was sure. Twice, I was pretty sure I could get away with as well, but not sure enough. I began spending time at various summer camps in the woods, where many accidents were possible, and accidents did happen. The worst for me, personally, was when a girl and I fell off a log into a river and were washed over a decent sized waterfall. I broke my leg. The girl I was with broke her back and couldn’t move from the waist down. I pulled her to the bank and she was gone by the time we were found, some two hours later. I told counselors through an Oscar-winning show of hysterics that she had died immediately.

Finally, not being stupid, Mom confronted me, and I broke down, tearfully spilling all of my extracurricular activities and expecting her to call the police at any moment. The last thing I expected was the scolding, the “why didn’t you tell me young lady” and the tour of the basement. I quit going to the camps, relieved to have found a steady outlet. But even so, it wasn’t enough. I longed for a more visceral experience. I thought military or law enforcement might be a suitable outlet, until I went to my first execution when I was eighteen with Mom.
She took all of us when we turned eighteen, just so we knew what the stakes were. I remember equally the lesson, and the executioner. His face was like granite, but his eyes were a volcano. When I read the files on those being executed, I could see why. I knew that look; I had seen it in my own eyes when I caught sight of myself in one of the basement’s mirrors when things were really going down. The fun comes in dispatching someone who truly NEEDS to die.
“So here I am,” Missy finishes, looking around with bright eyes. “Through hard work, luck and the necessary ruthlessness, I became the lead physician, or executioner, or whatever you want to call it. A detailed summary of what these guys have done to innocent people makes injecting them a great pleasure.” A pause. “And every time I do it, I think about what it would be like to lay on the couch  instead of stand beside it.”

Grant Me Serenity – Field Trip

GMS

The wand whispered over Jerry’s genitals and he closed his eyes, arms akimbo as the metal detector worried the bulge in his trousers.
“Go on sir,” the guard said, and stepped back, allowing Jerry entrance to the Sand County Penitentiary. One by one, the members of the little group were escorted through the security point with more attention paid to their personal areas than was strictly necessary, thanks to the screening process responsible for placing that particular guard. His personal fetishes coincided nicely with this job and he took full advantage of the opportunity to fondle Jessica’s curves. For her part she ignored this lechery, apart from contenting herself by fantasizing about making the guard eat his own penis.
Len led them down a white marble hallway, making for a door at the very end of the corridor with the rest of them forming a flying V behind him. He reached it and stopped, tentatively raising a hand to the knob. The group watched as he grasped the knob, then jerked his hand back.
“What? What’s wrong?” Paul asked.
“Damn thing shocked me,” Len grumbled and seized the offending knob, pulling it open with authority.
Behind the door sat a stairway, arteries leading up and down. Len led them down two flights and about ten degrees of temperature, stopping in front of an imposing looking iron door with what looked like three dead bolts. Len pounded on the door with the heavy gold ring he wore on his left hand, the crack echoing up and down the stairway, vibrating the fillings in Jessica’s teeth.
There was a pause, and the door was opened a crack. Another guard with an enormous black mustache looked out at them.
“Access is restricted down here, sir,” the guard said in a weary voice, one which was clearly used to redirecting idiots. “Take two flights of stairs up, and -”
“Thank you, no, we’re attending the execution of Dennis Arbogast. We should be on the list of witnesses.” Len gestured at the invisible list behind the door.
“Oh.” The guard seemed nonplussed. “IDs?”
There was the expected fumbling as everybody produced their bits of government plastic for perusal by the mustachioed giant, who examined them carefully before opening the door further and ushering them in. He showed no signs of returning their IDs and shook his head when Jessica asked for hers back. “Sorry ma’am, I keep these until you return. It’s the law.”
Jessica refrained from telling him what she thought of the law and smiled sweetly. “Of course. Thank you so much.” For what? she wondered.
They were standing in an area much like a parlor. There was a desk for the guard, a laptop and water cooler, and a phone. There were two doors on opposite sides of the parlor room, with a large 1 and 2 painted on them. The guard consulted a clipboard he had taken from the desk drawer and nodded toward door number two.
“That’s the one you want.”
Len nodded and they all followed him over to the door. It had no handle with which to shock, and Len pushed it open.
Inside was a small stuffy room with three rows of ten chairs bolted to the floor. A wall-sized window covered most of the wall the chairs were facing. Behind the glass was a chair similar to a dentist’s. Except dentist chairs don’t have arms sticking straight out. The room it inhabited was bright white linoleum and the kind of blue-green trim you only see in hospitals.
The group wordlessly took their seats in the front row. They sat quietly as the door swung open again and again, admitting relatives of Dennis Arbogast’s victims and various officials here to witness the humane taking of a human life. In an hour, the room was full.
Len stared straight ahead, neutral, his face blank.
Behind the glass, the show began. Two guards escorted Dennis Arbogast through the door. Arbogast was thin and balding with what had once been a well kept goatee. He was pale, but composed. Any tears had been shed earlier, leaving no trace. He had asked for death, and was not afraid of it. Surrounding the group, a mutter at Arbogast’s appearance from the peanut gallery. Another guard entered and took his place by the door, apparently there to hold the door in place, should it attempt escape.
Two doctors, a man and a woman, were the last to enter. He was a pudgy bald man with cottony wisps sprouting conspicuously from his ears and the slump-shouldered shuffle of a man who has long since given up on life. She was tall and her eyes took in the scene from behind horn-rimmed glasses. Her black hair was twisted up in a severe little bun behind her, and she surveyed the room with an air of unmistakable authority. She spoke a word muffled by the glass and her pudgy subordinate nodded, moving toward the chair upon which Arbogast had placed himself, arms spread as if to be crucified.
The pudgy doctor made a business of inserting the two IV lines, made more difficult by his inability to find a vein on the first try. The lady doctor’s face was immobile, but her eyes betrayed her irritation at the delay. Finally the vein was broached and the needles taped in place. The three bags of chemicals contained in bright red plastic were hung like poison apples from the IV tree. They were connected to a series of tubes flowing into the two IV lines with the same dexterity by the pudgy doctor. In the gallery, not everyone was so sanguine about the delay, and there was a good deal more muttering regarding curiosity as to where the good Pudge had gone to medical school and if he had bothered to earn his degree before starting to practice.
Pudge finally hooked Arbogast up to his demise and stepped back, his face slightly redder than when he started. The woman stepped forward, blatantly checking his work. Pudge watched with no expression as she did this, then nodded, satisfied, and stepped back to the IV.
The guard by the door flipped a switch on the wall. There was a click, and the gallery could now hear everything those in the death chamber heard. The guard began. “Dennis Arbogast, you have been sentenced to die by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before the sentence is carried out?”
Throughout the rigamarole of being hooked up, Arbogast had stared at the ceiling, still as death. Now he raised his head, and looked directly at Len. Len nodded once. Arbogast nodded back, a ghost of a smile playing around his mouth.
“Nah, let’s get this over with so these fine folks can go on about their day. Be seeing you, Len.” Arbogast said cheerfully, then lay his head back down, a peaceful smile on his face. On his left middle finger, he wore a heavy gold ring.
In the gallery, there was dead silence.
The woman reached for the vines connected to the first poison apple. Sodium thiopental had been held from entering Arbogast’s body by the barest of crimping. Now as she opened the valve, it began flowing into his arm, working its magic quickly. Within ten seconds, Arbogast’s eyes had closed for the last time. The next apple was pancuronium bromide, which paralyzed Arbogast’s muscles, notably those which provide respiration; finally potassium chloride’s finishing touch stopped his heart completely. In seven minutes, it was over.
Len had not moved. His face had not changed. He could have been anywhere, but for a single tear.

The flick of a lighter. It was passed around as the group lit their cigarettes. Not all of them smoked regularly, but all of them smoked now, not all of whom with steady hands.
Len broke the silence, speaking for the first time since he had spoken to the guard who had taken their ID. “That’s what we have to look forward to if we step off this tightrope. Some pudgy fuck mangling our veins with an audience for our last death. Sound fun?”
Nobody answered.
Len took a deep drag and coughed, not being one of the regular smoker. “I’m glad I quit these. Who’s hungry?”
Nobody was, but they all nodded.
“Let’s go grab some chow before we head back. We’re just waiting for someone else -” he broke off. “Here she is.”
The group turned as one to see the lady executioner with her hair down coming toward them, all trace of her severe face gone. On it was a radiant smile. She raised a hand, waving. “Hi Len!” Len raised his hand in return, his smile radiant to match. “Guys, this is my sister Missy.

Grant Me Serenity — Letter from My Brother

GMS

 

“This week,” Len said, “there’s something that I received today I’d like to read you all, if you don’t mind.” He looked about the group for any sign of dissent, but the three remaining faces in the group looked back with polite attentiveness. He continued. “The thing is, when I told you a few weeks ago about my friend Dennis from Kansas, I wasn’t being completely honest. The fact is, he’s actually my brother.”

Silence from the group. Len went on. “Dennis’ wife and child were killed upholding a tradition our mother passed along to us. I never met my niece when she was out of diapers, but I’m glad to know she turned out well.” A tear fell from Len’s cheek. Nobody noticed.

“Dear Brother,” Len began.

 

Boy it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me! I bet you’re pretty surprised? So much has happened since we last spoke. I hardly know where to start.

                You remember my daughter Hannah, right? She’s really a chip off the old block. She was barely ten when she started asking about all the friends we had over, why they never left, and what did all the screaming mean? So we told her. Instead of being terrified, she was immediately fascinated, begging to be allowed downstairs, and to be included next time. Of course, we were happy to acquiesce and bring her into the tradition. You should have seen the sparkle in her eyes as we explained what each instrument was for, told her why some were rusty and why some weren’t very sharp, all the things little girls ask. When we told her what the wood chipper was used for, she laughed out loud and asked to be allowed to try. Neither of us can say no to our little girl, and we fired it right up just to show her. Brand name equipment really does the job, I’ve found. I guess we can thank our mum for making sure we understood that before showing us her own basement huh?

                The girl who was still living in the basement was hysterical, screaming and nearly hyperventilating in terror as we picked up several of the dead bodies and limbs still strewn around and threw them into the gnashing teeth. We’re so lazy, we hate cleaning up after an experience, but Hannah laughed delightedly as the remains spewed out of the spout, spraying the walls and sending a fine red mist over the room. It was amazing to see, and we were thinking about painting downstairs some color of red.

                But I was going to tell you about how they died. We had been barricaded in our house for a while, and it was the second day that SWAT had our house surrounded. It was pretty intense, but nothing you haven’t seen before. We were all beginning to go a little stir crazy, but it was worse for my daughter. You and I were just kids when mom died the same way, and you know how boring can be, but this was her first time. There were a few objects downstairs when SWAT surrounded us, but one had been killed by this time, and the one that was left was already too mutilated to be much fun for any of us. We told Hannah to pace herself, that the last of them didn‘t have much skin, limbs or really any entertainment potential left, but control had always been her problem. The SWAT team didn’t know that most of the hostages were dead, obviously; otherwise they‘d probably have stormed the place earlier and taken their chances, once they figured out what family we‘re from.

                I was peeking out the window when out of nowhere, the last girl started to scream at the top of her lungs that we would kill her, that we had killed all the rest and that we were only waiting to finish her off. I snapped my head around to see Hannah had gotten bored enough to start trying to scalp the girl. As you know, my wife won’t stand for that sort of honesty being spread about, and she put a bullet into the girl’s open screaming mouth, silencing it for good.

                The SWAT team must have been jumpy though, and before we knew it, the door and windows exploded with bullet holes as the outside erupted in the explosions of discharging weapons. My wife turned to look at me and opened her mouth to say something, maybe to apologize, but before she could say anything several bullets slammed into her chest. Her expression changed from shock and apprehension to slow-witted surprise as blood blossomed on her white shirt and she slid down the wall, coming to a stop still staring at me, perpetually amazed at her own death. If it hadn’t been my wife it would have been hilarious!

                At the time though I was quite upset, and I tore my eyes away from her still bleeding body and (now I can recognize) unwisely presented myself to the countless gun muzzles pointed at the window as I screamed my fury to the world, opening fire on anyone unlucky enough to have come to that part of town that day. I think I may have hit a few people, or maybe they ducked.

                When I got shot, it felt like I had been stung all over by fist-sized bees with proportionally large stingers. You’re lucky you’ve never been shot in the chest by automatic rifles! I was blown back against the wall, knocking my head against it, which was the least of my worries at that point, until I fell against the floor, receiving another bump. Really? Being shot isn’t bad enough, I have to bang my head twice? Funny though, the bee stings were going numb. I remember thinking vaguely that was a sign of anaphylactic shock or something, but consoled myself with the fact that I would soon be dead and it wouldn’t be an issue one way or the other. When you’re about to die, you’ll see, it’s pretty funny the things that pop into your head.

                From a distance, I heard more explosions and wondered absently who they were shooting at, and just before my daughter’s head hit the floor, I remembered she was not dead yet. But as her sightless eyes stared into my own, blood trickling out of her mouth, it became obvious that was no longer the case. That was pretty low, boy. I was riveted, incapable of looking anywhere else. I watched the light fade from her eyes as her pupils expanded, and their blackness consumed me.

                When I woke up, I was in the hospital, and you know the story from there. My lawyer says there are more appeals he can use, but I’m not a fool, and I’m tired. I want out. Will you be there?

 

“Love, Dennis,” Len finished, and looked up. “They’re executing him in two weeks. Who will come with me?”

**********

Grant Me Serenity — Paul

GMS

 

Five points.

That is what it takes to make a pentagram.

A basketball team.

That’s all it takes to stave off the worst of the demons, she said.

At least five people, she said.

Hey guys, I’m Paul, and I’m an addict. Normally I tell you a bunch of things that you want to hear, or that you expect to hear. Whichever it is, nothing I’ve told you has ever done more than touch the truth. Some bits are true. My girlfriend is the reason I’m here. The same could be said for many attendants of twelve step groups. Her motives are entirely selfish though. She figures, by sending me here, our extracurricular activities can be absolved, leaving us free to commit further atrocities.

The best way I can think of to describe her is as a philandering husband confessing his infidelities at every Mass. He exits into the bright Sunday afternoon, his slate wiped clean of this week’s sin, and drives his wife and children home. As he pulls into his driveway, he suddenly remembers several emails he was supposed to have sent Friday afternoon. His family clambers from the car, the kids run to the house yelling and his wife kisses him goodbye. An hour, maybe two, he says. She smiles and nods, her attention already on the holy hell the kids are wreaking inside. He reverses down the driveway and heads downtown, already horny in anticipation of the fuck he’s going to get from his secretary.

I met my girlfriend when she was nineteen, and already well on her way to full psychosis. What can I say, she appealed to the side of me I had never indulged. Before I knew it, we were doing it everywhere. It had started as furtive meetings in dark places with fumbling, sticky engagements and a hurried attempt to hide any evidence in the face of reality. Soon it mushroomed like a nuclear cloud into haphazard trysts in which our indiscretions were sometimes only hidden from public eye by fractions of a second. We would do it in broad daylight, in front of someone if she thought she could get away with it, and it was never difficult to get me to go along. If I was feeling particularly stubborn she would just scream and sometimes she would hit me. I would give in. After all, I thought I loved her. But now I can see she was using me. Small as she was, she could never have done what we did alone. I always forgave her for abusing me, because she always forgave me for making her do it. Big of her.

After a while, we had enough close calls to convince her it was in our best interests to return to the dark, and this time, to retreat to seclusion for our fun. I wholeheartedly embraced this, never having relished the exhibitionism in which she seemed to revel. I never considered the effect solitude would have upon her. She became an animal, vicious and increasingly perverted in her desires. I would occasionally watch her, wondering who she had been before some hellish circuit had been connected inside her head to make her the creature I thought I loved. Then she would look at me that certain way and I would cease to wonder, falling back under her spell, to continue being used until I awoke with a mouth which tasted red and a hangover in my head. But of course, it was my job to clean up while she slept the clock around.

Around this time, she had turned to devil worship, which is what prompts me to insist we sit in a pentagon. Five points. That’s all it takes to ward off the worst of the demons, she said, and whether or not it’s true, it can’t hurt. Who knows, they could be after me. I went along with her, no longer drinking virgin blood just for fun, but in the name of Satan(I jokingly referred to him as the Dark Lord Stan once and earned a withering glare), and chanting gibberish while crouched around a fire. I didn’t mind. I still got my fix, and still got my fix of her.

Until she brought my sister to serve us both.

That’s why I’m here tonight and why I’m a bit late and likely smell a bit gamey. I came home from work with the intention of dismembering someone, taking a shower and joining you all here tonight. I hadn’t counted on my girlfriend greeting me in her play clothes and escorting me to our playroom where my sister lay, unconscious and bound in the customary position, ready to begin our games. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bitched about my siblings as much as anyone, and there was never a lot of love lost between me and Sally. But there had been a lot more love lost between me and my girlfriend, and as I said, I was in the mood to dismember someone.

“So since I was late, and disturbed Jerry’s sharing by my untimely arrival,” I finish, beaming around at my friends, “next week, coffee and doughnuts, on me!”

Grant Me Serenity

GMS

 

by Jesse Orr

My name is Jessica and I’m an addict.

That’s not so hard to say now, but it wasn’t always so. When I first started, I couldn’t even admit it to myself and I made a perfect fool of myself in group, fussing about how I wasn’t an addict and I just came along because Len had said he’d tell everyone if I didn’t. I’ve never been able to hide anything from that man, god bless him.

The night everything changed, I had been feeling hopeful. Foolishly so. I’d found out my husband was having an affair with his legal secretary several days ago, and it hurt. Of course it did. This night, however, I had just been to a meeting and finally felt equipped to deal with it, thanks to all of you. I was going to talk about it logically, calmly, and rationally. Like adults. I was prepared to forgive him and start over. We all have secrets; heavens knew I was keeping one from him. I was not going to get Mad.

That whole plan flew out the window when he told me in a voice he normally reserved for difficult clients that I had 24 hours to get everything out. Then, he told me with authority but still in that flat tone, that She would be moving in.

I started to get Mad, but fought it down.

“Let’s talk about what’s really wrong here, Harold.” I attempted reason. “Surely you don’t really want that. And think of the children. You don’t want to do this to them. To any of us.”

He informed me that he did and employed a number of four letter words along with several scatological references to explain my shortcomings as a woman as well as in general and rounded it off by naming me as an unflattering term for female genitalia. According to him, I was too timid, distracted, distant and wrapped up in my own little world or, smothering him(and the kids, he said) with unwanted attention. Not exactly an abusive household but enough transgressions for an impatient and eager man to move on.

I spent so much time acting weird because of my addiction. That’s not so hard to understand, is it? Distant and distracted, thinking about my next fix, skittish and timid while dreading a knock by police after a binge, alternating degrees of affection and attention based upon guilt as compensation and a coping mechanism? Is that so hard to understand?

No, but of course, you do understand. He just saw a silly, flighty, self-centered woman, and couldn’t wait to offload her.

I couldn’t blame him, which made me Madder.

I said “You don’t even want to talk?”

He didn’t, and called me something I didn’t recognize, but when I asked Len what it meant, his face turned red and he wouldn’t tell me. He still won’t, but there was no mistaking the tone in which it was delivered though, and that did it. I was Mad.

I still don’t know exactly what happened, and I’m thankful for that. No woman should remember killing her husband with a meat cleaver(how cliché) and taking the lives of her two children with their own pillows. I only wanted to kill him, but after a few strokes with the cleaver I couldn’t stop and dismembered him with savage glee, judging by the look of the hacked to pieces parts of him strewn about the kitchen in which he had made his last stand.

Unfortunately(and this is my deepest regret), the lust had only intensified. I needed more, and the children were asleep just down the hall. When I emerged from the fog that being Mad puts upon me, it was too late. Their blue faces were peaceful at least. They had died in their sleep rather than awakening to their mother smothering them.

I spent hours wandering around the house with a bottle of coffee liquor, slowly getting drunk while alternately crying and staring at the scattered bodies left in my wake. Certainly I thought of killing myself. Wouldn’t you? I was scared. I was ashamed. I was disgusted. But I was selfish. I was afraid of what awaited after death. I was ashamed of becoming yet another murder-suicide, just another fucking statistic.

Most shamefully of all, I knew that now they were dead, I could indulge my addiction all I wanted.

I just had to get away.

So that’s what I did. Falling to the ground and holding my husband’s bloody parts in grief covered any incriminating blood spatter on myself, and established why my bloody fingerprints were everywhere. I couldn’t control my grief. I rocked lifeless corpses of my two sons, leaving fingerprints and tears everywhere like any mother mad with suffering. Finally I grabbed the cleaver and dropped it screaming “Oh god no!” as a disbelieving wife might upon coming home to such evidence of the cleaver’s work, then ran to the phone and dialed 911. By the time the neighbors arrived, summoned by the screams, the sirens were nearby and I was in hysterics.

Everyone believed me, or just didn’t want to closely question a hysterical widow, and I was. Every time my family was brought up, I let out a bloodcurdling wail and began bawling. Soon enough I was living across town with a new life and the police were chasing an Edward Mcdermitt, from whom my husband had recently won over ten grand in a high stakes poker game. Poor bastard.

“So here I am,” I finish, wringing out my hankie and looking warmly around at the group. “I’d like to thank you for listening, and for your support.” I smile. The group applauds dutifully.

Later, as I approach Merlino’s to meet a blind date for pizza, I embrace the butterflies in my stomach. Anything could happen. I just hope he won’t make me Mad.

 

 

Grant Me Serenity — Len

GMS

by Jesse Orr

My name is Len, and I’m an addict. If you don’t know that by now, you’ve not been paying attention lo these many weeks.

If you have been paying attention, you know I’ve been busy for much of my early life, but I’m taking a break from regular activity. A hiatus, if you will. There’s no point in sticking your nose out farther than necessary, my dad always said. It wasn’t very pithy, but there you go.

My friend Dennis from Wichita, Kansas made that mistake. He had completely dropped from everyone’s radar and could have died in peace and comfort with his secrets never being known. But Dennis was never the type to let his hard work go to waste. I told him he was deluded if he thought it was a waste just because people forgot about it over time, but he was never the listening type either. He had to start running his mouth again, and within a year he was done, over, checkmate. What a fool. Me, when I start feeling antsy I’ll go scratch that itch in some dirty back alley on someone who doesn’t matter as much as others. What’s one vagrant more or less?

That’s kind of what I want to talk about. Lately, it’s been harder and harder to control that urge or to indulge it at a reasonable interval. Used to be I could go several months before the itch got that bad. Now sometimes I have to scratch once or twice a week, and that’s just asking for trouble. Last night, in fact, I was walking home from the corner market with some eggs and milk for a lovely mushroom and leek quiche when I saw some filthy skinny creature of indeterminate gender with matted blonde-pink hair rooting around in a garbage can. Before I even knew I had moved, I was in the back of the alley behind a dumpster with its hair wadded in my hand trying to stifle its screams as it bled all over me.

You don’t have to say it; what a fucking idiot. Believe me, I know. As soon as I realized what I had done I was disgusted in myself. There I was, out in public, for god and anyone else to stroll down the alley for a drug deal, and spot. Anybody could have seen me go into that alley. Anybody could see me come out. Not to mention all the fucking blood all over me, and don’t even get me started on how disgusting that was. There could have been anything circulating amongst those blood cells and I had been out earlier in the week feeding the mosquitos so it’s not like I didn’t have openings in my skin. More pressingly, however, was my need to get home without attracting attention to my bloodstained person. Nothing causes a row quite like someone covered in what is obviously not his own blood.

These are all thoughts which ran through my head as the indeterminate creature lay in my arms expiring; its spasmodic jerkings were now more like twitches, its screaming down to a steady drone of “muhhhh” which was easily muffled by traffic and sirens. I took my spit-slimy hand away from its mouth and opened the dumpster shielding us. The creature was so scrawny I didn’t even need both arms to hoist it up and into the dumpster with its fellow trash. I pulled some of the trash over it as a token effort at burial and looked around. Nobody was watching from the mouth of the alleyway with a shocked look or a cell phone recording busily in their hand. I looked down at myself and grimaced. My white undershirt was now red while my black sport coat just looked wet, so I shucked it off and added my bloody white shirt to the burial in the dumpster. Now it just looked like a lumpy bunch of red garbage was lying in there, and no one would be the wiser when this creature never showed up for free soup and methadones.

Slamming the dumpster, I pulled my coat over my shoulders and buttoned it as much as I could, which still left a deep triangle of my red-stained chest to decry what I had been doing, but I would just have to chance it. Besides, these days everybody walking is just paying attention to their phones. My eggs and milk were pooled at the mouth of the alley where I had clearly dropped them before chasing the creature to the corner behind the dumpster. That was all right though; my appetite for quiche had evaporated.

It was a terrifying but uneventful walk back home. I kept expecting someone to yell “Whose blood? Murder!” but I crossed my threshold unmolested. The incinerator was conveniently located on the way to the shower and before the water was even hot, my incriminating clothing was turning to ashes. By the time my hair was dry, I had ordered, paid for and was eating my Chinese food. I was lucky, again. But I know it won’t last if I keep being an idiot.

Thanks for letting me share that, everyone. I feel a lot better having gotten that off my chest.

Now, about Terrance. Last week, he killed his wife and everybody knew it was coming, but the pool goes to him since his money was on the holidays. He called me last night from a blocked number and said not to spend it ourselves or he’d be after us next. We had a good chuckle and he rang off, before he did though I heard some shouting on his end of the line and I think he’d been spotted. I tell you guys, I don’t miss being a fugitive. Once he’s arrested we can put it in his commissary fund and he can buy all the pork rinds and BBQ chips he can stuff down his gob. If he’s killed before they take him in, we can split it evenly or put it towards another wager, whatever you guys want.

Looks like we’re about out of time. If no one else has anything they need to say, let’s pentagon up.

Grant Me Serenity — Terrance

by Jesse Orr

Dear Friends,

I’m Terrance, and I’m an addict.

Sounds easy to say, right? Believe me, it’s easy to write, and to say it in group, after a long time getting used to it. But saying it to the people who need to know, who deserve to know, whom I wish could know…

Impossible.

My wife thought I was just having an affair. Not that it matters at this point. I was pretty sure she’d made peace with it, by way of the old adage “nothing gets you over the last one like the next one.” I was OK with that, considering my own secret. I mean, anything to keep her out of my hair while I satisfy my own needs.

The kids just think I’m emotionally distant, and I can’t blame them. It’s true. I mean, I try to be there as much as they want. It’s a full-time job, failing as a father and husband, maintaining a job and an addiction as well as meeting with you fine people every week I can. I don’t have to tell you about all the logistical trials and time management and covering involved in this addiction. Fortunately, they’re about at the age where they stop wanting their parents around. Still, it hurts. Which feeds my addiction, which makes me more emotionally withdrawn and less available, which makes them not want me around as much, and you’re familiar with the concept of a circle, right?

I want help, that’s what the meetings are all about, and you guys know I usually make them. Lately though as the holidays have drawn closer, stress has mounted and as you’ve noticed, meetings have become harder and harder for me to make. For that I am truly sorry. I cherish the time we spend together, even though ultimately for me abstaining is simply and repeatedly not possible. But being with people who understand what I’m going through is helpful enough to be its own form of abstinence. Or something. I’m not even sure what I’m saying anymore. Whatever. By the time you read this letter, two things are pretty certain. One is that you won’t be surprised by anything you’re reading. The other is that I’ll be dead.

That’s been only a matter of time for a while now. Ever since I was born, I guess.

There were close calls, plenty of them. Nights where Jenna would come home drunk from one of her increasingly frequent “girls nights out” with her hair messed up and makeup smeared. Both of us drowning in our lies as we attempt to hide our other loves and I pray for her to not go in the bathroom and meet my latest squeeze, limp and draining on the merciful linoleum.

Then there was that memorable autumn when I sprinted across the lawn and intercepted my youngest boy, catching him in the air as he attempted to dive into a pile of dead leaves I had raked. I spun him around in circles as he shrieked his delight and in the joy of being a father, I momentarily forgot the dead body I had concealed in the leaves the night before in lieu of a grave while praying against a windstorm.

But I digress. The real reason I’m writing this letter, the only place I can leave this confession. So at least one person knows the truth.

I never wanted to kill her.

You have to believe me.

Just because you can’t imagine murdering your wife without some serious premeditation doesn’t mean everyone is so fucking together. We can’t all be perfect.

I didn’t mind her coming home at all hours, reeking of booze and cigarettes and god knows what else. I didn’t mind nothing from her but the occasional absent peck on the cheek as she saved her good kisses for another. That was OK. Because I didn’t see her dispensing those kisses. My imagination may be vivid but it operates independently from reality, and what it shows me always has a dreamlike quality.

What I minded are the last things I remember before waking up in this dumpster and beginning to write this confession on the back of an old invoice with some found lipstick. What I minded was coming home and seeing some guy balls deep in my wife bent over the thousand dollar easy chair I’d bought for myself.

I dropped my briefcase. They flew apart. He grabbed his pants. She grabbed a shirt. They were both yelling.

Yelling, “What are you doing home?”

Yelling, “It’s not what it looks like!”

Yelling, “We can talk about this!”

I was shouting too, but only on the inside, where those feelings belong. Only where I could hear. On the outside, I just stood there. At first. Staring.

At the red flush on my wife’s cheeks and creeping down her chest.

At the crystalline strand hanging from his penis as he struggled to don his pants.

At the look on their faces, showing complete lack of remorse for anything they had done besides get caught.

At the stain one of them had left on the back of the chair. My chair.

Without a second thought, I drew my gun from the holster in which it had ridden since getting my concealed carry permit some weeks ago. Pointed. Shot them both. In the knees, so they couldn’t run. Dimly I heard them pleading for mercy as I reflected upon how useful my pistol’s permit had turned out to be. Fortunately we live far enough away from our neighbors that all the noise wasn’t a problem, which was good; I wanted him to watch me take her apart slowly, piece by piece. Then I would do the same to him, while she watched, until they both shrieked for me to finish them. Which is just what happened.

So now you know. Burn this letter.

 

Love to all and happy holidays,

Terrance

**********

Jesse Orr was born and raised in Alaska and has no idea, nor do his parents, when or how he began reading and writing; as is the case with so many things, they just are. Moving to Seattle in 2007, he settled down to a life of recording and performing music as well as writing whatever caught his fancy. He has a dog named Mr Dog and lives in West Seattle.

https://www.facebook.com/murd3rweapon5

Grant Me Serenity: Jerry

GMS

 

“My name is Jerry, and I’m an addict.”

Those words begin everything I say in group. Them’s the rules. There’s only five of us, but Len is pretty strict about sticking to the script. There are five of us. Len is our unofficial leader if for no other reason than he’s a control freak. About 55, Len is the one who starts meetings, redirects us when we get off topic, finds a time and a place for us to meet every week, and makes the coffee. That’s fine with me. I hate coffee.

Jessica is the group’s mother. It is she who brings in the coffee Len makes so horribly, as well as encouraging the timid to share their darkest secrets and tearing up the most frequently. Jessica is 34 and has lost everything. Her family died recently due to her addiction and she’s been having a hard time working through it. But this is a safe place.

Terrance is the sad little puppy of the group and the one who takes the most prodding from Jessica to open up fully. He has, however, never said anything boring, which cannot be said for the rest of us. A large part of the reason I so look forward to and enjoy our meetings is the running serial of Terrance’s life. None of his friends of family know of his addiction and his life is a running battle to keep it hidden, while the rest of us are single and not over-endowed with friends so his struggle is unique and fascinating. We all have bets placed upon how long his charade will last. Terrance has his own money down on this year’s holiday season. Holidays stress everyone out.

Last but not least is Paul, who insists that our five chairs form a pentagon rather than a circle, or some irregular polygon. The reason is obvious upon listening to him share, and it’s easier to be a pentagon than argue. Paul is a 23 year old kid who isn’t yet a full-blown addict and sought out our group in an effort to slow the process. So far it’s having only limited success, but now we have a junior member to set up and break down the five folding chairs.

Now, though, it was my turn. I had relapsed over the weekend and if you’re not being honest in these groups, you may as well not waste your time going to meetings.

“So everything was fine,” I say, fidgeting with the little coffee stir-straw. “The first two nights I watched TV and had a few drinks. There wasn’t anything wrong and a relapse was the farthest thing from my mind, you know? Just a really nice mellow relaxing weekend.”

Nods all around. They knew all right. We had all relapsed. Nothing could happen as a result, or it could cost you everything.

“Anyway, I go to bed Sunday night, thinking, ‘I got this.’ Then came Monday.” I shake my head. “Three day weekends are murder. Before noon I was going crazy and before I knew it I was out looking. Took a while, but I finally found someone, and…you know.

“After it was done, I felt like shit. Freaking out. What if I’ve really fucked myself this time? I panicked, hid all the evidence and hightailed it home, and I haven’t left since, except to come to the meeting tonight.” I sigh. “I don’t even know if I enjoy doing it anymore, but I can’t help it either, you know? And once I calm down and I’m sure no one saw me, the adrenaline’s worn off and I feel better. How else am I supposed to get that kind of relief?”

Finishing with a rhetorical question seems weak but I have no more words, it seems. I mumble something that hopefully sounds like “thanks” and sit down.

Following the perfunctory yammerings of “thank you Jerry” there is silence. Then Paul speaks up.

“Does it ever get easier? Do any of you have any tricks to make it less of a problem to control yourselves?”

Some eyes turn to Len, the unofficial leader and officially senior member. He nods slowly. “Well, I had way more than my fair share of such things when I was younger, so maybe I got it more out of my system than some of the rest of you. In those days, giving in to those urges was easier, before law enforcement started to catch up. Nowadays, even though people get arrested for it every day, it can be difficult, but with the fear of God and Johnny Law, I haven’t slipped up in…” His eyes look up, ruminating. “…five years next April.”

We applaud him dutifully.

Terrance opens his mouth and gets no further than an “um” before lapsing back into silence, staring at a spot on the ground. Jessica pokes him. She doesn’t let up and eventually Terrance speaks rather than be poked to death.

“Sometimes…just…sometimes…thinking about my family…what they would say if they knew…” he trails off, staring into space. We wait a few beats. A few more. Len coughs. Terrance rejoins reality with an almost audible thump. “Sometimes that helps,” he finishes, and smiles at his coffee.

“Terrific. No problem,” Paul grumbles. “I’ll just go get married and have some kids.”

Terrance looks alarmed. “Well it doesn’t always work, Paul. Remember, sometimes -” but we are spared a soliloquy upon the obvious by the nature of Paul’s sarcasm mercifully dawning on Terrance and he grins foolishly as we all chuckle, dropping his smile back into his coffee.

Jessica speaks up. “Sometimes, your relapse destroys your family, and before you know what’s happened, you have to live with the knowledge that if you could control yourself, they’d still be here with you…” The familiar sight of tears glimmer in her eyes as she attempts to control her voice spiraling into a whine. “I didn’t care that they were my family at the time, I just needed to get my fix.” A sob escapes. “I’d give anything to have them back…”

“Thank you, Jessica,” we all murmur, giving her shoulder clumsy but comforting pats. She sniffles and smiles through her tears.

“Thanks, guys…”

A gentle “ahem” from the doorway to the church basement and we all jump. The group leader for the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter reminds us that drunks need to vent, cry, and confess as well. Len nods and stands.

“C’mon everybody, pentagon up.”

The rasp of our five chairs as we stand. It occurs to me as my hands are enclosed that Paul wouldn’t need to bother putting the chairs away with an AA group on our heels. Then we stand in the pentagon, hands clasped, repeating the words so damnably familiar to the users and abusers of alcohol and drugs.

“God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We finish with a hearty “Amen!” and high fives. I feel a bit silly with the AA guys starting to trickle in, but who cares. I give their group leader a big grin on the way out.

“You guys have a good meeting, ok?” I am all smiles.

“Always do!” His own smile broadens. “What group are you all with? Al-anon?”

“Nope.”

“Narcotics Anonymous?”

“Nope,” I say, my smile never faltering. Shut up already.

“Well whatever it is, why don’t you stick around for our meeting? It might help your own recovery. Can’t hurt it, anyway! After all, a drug is a drug is a drug, right?”

I feel my smile start to slip and yank it back into place. “Thanks, but we kind of like doing our own thing. It works for us, you know, for our recovery, and we wouldn’t want to fuck that up would we?” I stretch my smile wider, feeling like the top of my head must pop off at any moment.

“No no no, in fact I was just saying…” he begins, unwinding his tongue for a tedious sermon I had certainly heard before and one he had doubtless delivered a thousand times. So I stop him.

“I hate to interrupt but I’ve got to get home to my dog. I love pets, they really give you a reason to wake up every day, you know?” My smile now feels permanent. Eternal.

He blathers on, assuring me (and my fictional dog) that we are welcome at any meeting he holds and God bless us. I thank him profusely and exit, not before seeing him practically bound across the room to accost poor Terrance.

“So, young man, what group are you guys with?”

I hear Terrance start to splutter an answer before mercifully being cut off by the AA leader’s speech. Then, I’m outside, in the fresh air and the quiet accompanying a residential neighborhood at 8pm on a weeknight. I stride down the sidewalk to a bus station and after five minutes of hiding my impatience, a bus trundles up and gestures me aboard.

We roll around to several empty stops, then hit the freeway. After a short acceleration to freeway speed, we exit for the industrial district which harbors the bus stop nearest where I sleep. Right now I can’t afford an apartment, but I don’t need much. A 10×10′ storage space in a complex of five hundred is good enough. At this hour especially. I can count on privacy.

I punch my code into the box and the electric gate whirs open. I enter, and it closes silently behind me. My shadow orbits me as I walk under rows of fluorescent bulbs, heading around the side of the building where there are no cameras. At the northeast corner, a door stands, looking impassive, but experience has taught me a credit card will easily slip it open. One swipe of my AmEx and I’m inside. My storage space is protected by two padlocks, and I pause before unlocking, listening. Nothing breaks the silence. Good.

A turn of the key and the lock lays in my hand. Into a pocket, then a new key, and the second padlock stands aside. I roll up the door and step inside, rolling it down behind me. I snap the padlock on a hasp I had installed on the inside, and flick on the the light.

Chained to an exposed rafter, a girl dangles from her wrists, handcuffs tossed over the rafter, her toes barely dragging the floor. She wears a knee length blue skirt and a plain white blouse, now spattered with blood and dirt. Her chin hangs to her chest and dirty blond hair covers her face. That’s fine though. I don’t want to see her face. In fact, I might just take it off first. I open the drawer of a dresser to the right of the door, revealing numerous sharp objects glinting like teeth.

When I had relapsed on the third day of a three day weekend, I had been perfectly

honest. I hadn’t left my space until it was time to catch the bus to the meeting. I told the truth at the meeting. I had relapsed, panicked, dumped the bodies in the sewer, ran home, and I hadn’t come out until it was time for the meeting. Everything was fine.

Until I saw the girl.

Who is she? Just someone who caught my eye.

That’s why I was late to this meeting. It took time to convince her to come back to my place. By the time she was immobile and unconscious, I was already late. But I think the time will be worthwhile. After all, I’ll have something new to discuss in the next group. As Jessica had been unable to prevent her own addiction from rising up and murdering her family, burning the bodies as she laughed delightedly, sometimes you can’t control your urges. Paul told us that if we read about him in the papers, not to blame ourselves for the group failing him. Terrance is sure he won’t last the holidays. Just because Len had had so many more years to get it out of his system without forensic science hounding him didn’t mean he could control himself.

I wonder once again if there is any hope for us at all as I make my selection from the blades, shut the drawer, and turn back to the unconscious girl. I don’t realize it, but as I walk towards her, I am praying.

“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

**********

Jesse Orr was born and raised in Alaska and has no idea, nor do his parents, when or how he began reading and writing; as is the case with so many things, they just are. Moving to Seattle in 2007, he settled down to a life of recording and performing music as well as writing whatever caught his fancy. He has a dog named Mr Dog and lives in West Seattle.
https://www.facebook.com/murd3rweapon5