“Oh, you’re so mean!” she said laughing, as we strode out of the bar and into the cool night air.
She was tipsy now, not drunk, but all the giggly headiness that consecutive glasses of champagne bring on. I knew where we were going. I knew what the outcome of this night would be. Just like it had been before.
She lit a cigarette and blew smoke as we walked. “I live around here, you know,” she said. I know. “But I’m not sure I want to invite you up to my apartment…. it’s kind of messy.” She giggled again.
I laughed. “Oh my god, I knew it. You’re a slob, aren’t you?” I grinned roguishly and let her take my arm. “Now I’m definitely not coming up to your apartment.”
She was under my spell now. I could feel it. We walked through the sliding glass doors to the condo’s lobby and they parted magically for us like The Red Sea.
She pulled me onto the elevator and we kissed passionately. All I could hear was the sound of the doors closing and the blood rushing in my ears and the screams of the girl before her. She pulled me out onto the sixth floor and down the hallway.
“Gee, I’m not sure I should let you into my apartment,” she said, turning the key in the lock. The door swung open. “You’re not some kind of serial killer are you?” She laughed and fell against the closet.
I kissed her hard. The screams were louder in my head now. Not yet. I smiled. But soon.
“Please, please,” the girl wept. “Don’t do this! I don’t want to die!”
Her captor tightened the leather straps around her wrists, then laid out a plastic roll of surgical tools on the table next to the dentist’s chair.
“Then don’t worry!” he said cheerfully, picking up a scalpel. A wicked smile spread across his face. “I assure you I’m going to keep you very much alive…”
The scalpel glinted evilly in the harsh fluorescent light.
I am a prisoner.
Though no walls surround me, no iron bars form a cage keeping me captive, I am nonetheless, imprisoned.
What makes a man a prisoner? Is it a jailor watching his every move, a cell enclosing him from the outside world, a sentence handed down from above, dooming him to be captive forevermore?
No. No jailor or warden patrols the grounds of my existence. No cell shuts me off from the outside world against my will. No sentence was imposed upon me by the laws of the state.
I am a prisoner, without escape, but the walls which enclose me are of my own creation. Constantly am I afraid, and yet without this prison which keeps me captive I could not live; though it is the bane of my existence it is also the very thing that makes it up.
I am a prisoner and I want more than anything to escape, yet I know there is no hope. I know that every day when I awake the prison will be waiting: my job, my home, my family, my mind.
I think about the revolver in the shoebox in the closet, and how I know there is only one way out of this prison: destroying it.
One day, I’ll find you.
Those five words, the last he spoke to me the day they put him away, are burned into my memory forever. After what he tried to do to me, after the things I saw him do to the other girls, I knew I had to escape. The will to survive was strong, and the desire to put this man – no, this sick, twisted monster – away stronger still. He got careless and my will persevered. I escaped, and made sure he’d never do to any other girls what he did to them, and what he had planned to do to me.
Many refuse to watch an execution given the option. It’s disturbing. Morbid. I have no problem admitting I wanted to watch the bastard fry. He deserved to die and I wanted to see it.
“Any last words?” The executioner’s hand hovered over the lever.
He stared directly at me through the one-way mirror. He knew I was watching. He knew I was there.
One day I’ll find you. Those five words, the last he spoke to me before the lever fell and his body convulsed from the current running through it.
That was months ago and the words still haunt me. I put the book down on my bedside table and turn off the light. In the night I awaken in fear, a tightness clutching my heart and cold dampness coating my skin. The hairs on my skin stand on end. The bedroom is filled with the odor of burnt flesh. I hear the loud thump of his footsteps down hall.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are….”
It was with surprising abruptness that a beautiful blue fairy materialized into air of Room 1317B.
“What the hell are you?” The well-dressed man demanded angrily, disturbed that he was no longer the sole occupant of his hotel room.
The blue fairy was shocked. “I’m yours. You summoned me here.”
“I’m here to give you what you want. Whatever you want baby, it’s yours. I have powers to grant your every desire.” The blue fairy closed her eyes and licked her lips seductively. The room phone, a vintage rotary on the desk in the corner, turned into a pineapple.
“What the fuck?” The well-dressed man picked it up.
“What a mess,” Special Constable Rivers said, observing the disarray.
“Yeah.” Officer Greaves said. He’d paled and a his eyes had acquired a far-off look since they stepped into the hotel room.
The duvet was soaked in blood. The body lay sunken in it, elbows and knees at odd angles, all the exposed flesh blacked and bruised.
“Where’s the murder weapon?” Greaves said. He had come late to the scene.
“On the floor, over there. Apparently the perp beat her to death with the phone receiver.”
“No attempt to cover what he was doing at all. He even checked out and paid. Why someone would someone kill a hooker in such an obvious way is beyond me; we’ve got his home address, his phone number, even his email from the front desk. Bizarre.”
“True,” Greaves said. “But who knows what goes on in the mind of these sickos?”
The two officers stared in silence at the bloody receiver.
When I was a child I worked in the pet shop down the street. I grew up in a small town, so the shop itself wasn’t much – a tiny little store with aquariums full of goldfish, and cages with cute little kittens and puppies for the customers to come in and ooh and aah over and but never buy.
The owner was Mr. Ophid, a kindly and rather eccentric Greek septuagenarian. His prize possession in the shop was not the exotic goldfish nor the adorable twin Chow Chow puppies but his boa constrictor, Medusa. The enormous snake was over 15 feet long and kept in a gigantic vivarium sunk dead center in the floor of the back, taking up nearly the entire room. The snake was a legend of sorts amongst the children in my hometown; stories were told in hushed tones of how Mr. Ophid had smuggled her out of Africa and how she had once eaten a hunter who was on Safari.
He only showed the snake to the adults and some of the bigger kids. I was lucky to get to see her because I worked with him at the shop. Sometimes he would even let me watch when he fed her white mice.
One night after the shop closed and I was cleaning up, I saw Mr. Ophid sitting in the back and drinking brandy from the bottle.
“You wanna see somethin’, my boy?” he said, his breath reeking of alcohol.
One of the cats had been sick for months and we’d been keeping it in the back and trying to nurse it back to health. I watched with horror as Mr. Ophid grabbed the unsuspecting sickly feline from its cage and dropped it behind the glass wall of the boa constrictor’s enclosure right in front of me.
Before it could even realize what was happening, Medusa struck and the orange furball was trapped in the snake’s coils winding tightly around it. There was little resistance; the mottled pattern of saddles on the serpent’s leathery skin rippled slightly in waves of the prey’s resistance, and then there was only her turning body, coiling ever tighter. I was horrified but couldn’t tear my eyes away. I watched, disgusted yet enthralled, as the snake’s jaws stretched wider than I had ever seen before and enveloped the cat’s head.
Medusa uncoiled, cat still in mouth, and lay in the sawdust of her pen next to the big rock. Every so often she convulsed and the body of the cat inched slightly deeper, pushing the growing bulge further down her lithe brown form.
Mr. Ophid brought his brandy bottle down and slapped his knee. “Aha ha! Ain’t that somethin’!”
I had nightmares for a week. Little did I know I’d have worse nightmares still.
A month later I was closing up the shop once more and went into the back to finish up. Mr. Ophid had been drinking again; the room reeked of brandy and there were a few empty bottles on the counter against the far wall. His handiwork was there but he was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until I looked into the boa constrictor’s enclosure that I saw what my eyes had refused to let me see when I came in, an image that still haunts me to this day. Medusa was laid out flat along the expanse of the vivarium, her form bulging grotesquely to halfway down her considerable length. Out of her mouth poked the cuffs of Mr. Ophid’s khakis and his loafer-clad feet. I ran from the pet shop, screaming. I ran home, crying all the way.
The pet shop was condemned shortly after that. None of Mr. Ophid’s family were in America, so there was no one to take over the business. Word got out eventually about what happened, and everyone wanted to talk to me about it, about how the weird old Greek had gotten too drunk and fallen into the snake pen, fallen prey to his own voracious pet. I couldn’t though, I just couldn’t. I never said a word to anyone about what I saw, except my parents, and the police.
There were things I never told anyone about, not even my parents. Like how sometimes when I was closing up the shop I could hear Mr. Ophid in the back behind the door, drinking brandy and softly crying. Or how a few times I heard him drunkenly talking to the snake and pouring his heart out to her. Or about the note I found on the counter and took, the day she ate him. Hidden under the array of empty brandy bottles, it was scratched with a black fountain pen in simple childish printing:
Can’t take it anymore. What’s the point? Only she understands. Goodbye. – Ophid
I am the only one who knows. After watching so many helpless animals disappear down the gullet of the boa constrictor, her master must have begun to wonder just how it felt. I just happened to be there the day he decided to find out.