Killer On The Roam (pt. ii)

Cont…

“So Rufus,” asked Jim, glancing in the rearview mirror “Where you from? What do you do?”

 Rufus smiled, meeting Jim’s gaze in the mirror.  

“I kill people”

 Pam’s head swung around violently to look at Rufus.

“What?!”

 “Haha, just kidding,” Rufus chuckled. “I’m not one of those crazy guys on the side of a road you always read about… Though I wouldn’t be offended if that’s what you thought at first. I actually always wondered about guys on the side of the road… and now I’m one of them.”

 Pam glared at him for a moment, then turned back to face the road.

“Not funny Rufus.”

 “No, actually, I’m in University studying Medieval Literature,” said Rufus. “I’m in my second year at Western.”

 “Oh yeah? Pam went to Western!” Jim exclaimed.

 Pam rolled her eyes in Jim’s direction as Rufus leaned forward toward her.

 “Cool,” responded Rufus. “What was your major?”

 “Well,” began Pam, “I majored in History, and then studied Behavioural Psychology and…”

 In one quick motion before Pam could finish her sentence, Rufus whipped a small hunting knife from his pocket and swiftly sliced Jim’s seatbelt above the shoulder. The fabric of the belt tore in two, one half snapping backward while the other fell limply onto Jim’s lap.

 Pam shrieked.

“What the fuck dude?!” yelled Jim.

 Rufus smiled, and in an instant wrapped his left arm around Jim’s neck and headrest, while brandishing the knife toward Jim’s throat. The car veered car erratically across the highway as Jim struggled to free himself of Rufus’ grasp. The Jetta slammed into the concrete median to its right before turning violently to its left and nearly sideswiping a minivan.

 “What are you doing!?” yelled Pam. “STOP!”

 She dug her nails into Rufus’ arm, and he whipped his elbow back in her direction, knocking her in the head. With Pam momentarily dazed, Rufus jumped at the opportunity. As Jim struggled, Rufus plunged the knife deep into the side of Jim’s neck. Blood sprayed like a fountain into the car and onto Pam, who began screaming hysterically.

 As the Jetta continued to zigzag in and out of traffic, he furiously stabbed Jim several more times. Pam clawed at Rufus in a vain attempt to stop him, but from her seat in the front, and with her seatbelt still on, Pam was helpless. She watched in horror as Jim died before her eyes. She turned back to look at Rufus, who smiled at her. Jim’s blood stained his face like a mask.

 The Jetta slammed into the concrete barrier dividing oncoming traffic and flew into the air. It landed on its roof in the oncoming traffic lane, flipping over several times. Coming to a rest on its driver’s side in the middle of the road, shocked drivers sat in their vehicles staring, unsure of what to do next.

 In the Jetta, Rufus and Pam remained buckled into their seats, both of them bruised and bloodied. Jim was crumpled in his seat, covered in blood. Sobbing, Pam wailed: “Why?! Oh God Why?! Oh fuck…”

 Rufus still held the knife in his hand. He peered out the window and saw people cautiously approaching the Jetta.

 “Hey Pam,” he smiled at her.

 She could barely bring herself to move, much less look at Rufus. Falling to her left, she peered up into the rearview mirror, where she could make out half of Rufus’ still-smiling face.

 “This is all your fault, Pam… I bet you told him not to pick me up… I sensed it as soon as I got in the car. It’s all your fault this happened Pam, it’s your fault Jim’s dead…”

 Grinning broadly, Rufus raised his right arm and brought the knife toward his neck.

 “LOOK AT ME!” he yelled at her.

 Sobbing, and her vision blurred from the tears, she met his gaze in the mirror.

“This is your fault Pam…”

Rufus drove the knife deep into his own neck. As blood sprayed out into the Jetta again, Rufus began to gurgle, and his breathing became short. Within a few seconds, he was dead.

In shock, Pam was bawling uncontrollably as strangers pulled her from the wreck to safety. She lay in the road, covered by a blanket someone had thrown onto her, as wailing sirens approached. She heard Rufus’ voice, over and over, telling her “It’s your fault Pam…”

Faintly, she could still make out the sounds of The Doors emanating from the car stereo.

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Killer On The Roam (pt. i)

At the wheel of his charcoal-coloured 2006 Volkswagen Jetta, Jim was comfortably driving just above the speed limit, while Pam lay back in the passenger’s seat and stared wistfully out the window.

Passing by farms, fields and forests, there wasn’t much to see as the couple drove north, towards Pam’s cottage on Lake Simcoe. Her window down, Pam’s arm hung outside the speeding car, bouncing up and down with every bump in the road.

“HEY!” Pam shrieked, quickly withdrawing her arm into the car as the power window started to rise and close.

“Hehe, sorry,” chuckled Jim. “Closing your window for a sec…”

“Asshole,” Pam replied.

Jim smiled slyly, reaching into his cupholder and producing a joint. Fumbling with his lighter, Jim lit up and rolled down Pam’s window again.

“Good call,” said Pam. “Now all we need is some good music!”

Opening the glove compartment, Pam began flipping though CDs until she found one she liked. Inserting it into the CD player, she cranked the volume as Jim passed her the joint.

Riders on the storm…
Riders on the storm…

“Nice!” exclaimed Jim, exhaling a puff of smoke and passing the joint to Pam.

“Yeah…” she agreed, taking a long drag and holding the smoke in her lungs for several seconds. As she exhaled, they both sang along:

Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

“I fucking love The Doors, you know?”

“I know,” cooed Pam. “They’re so good, and Jim Morrison was an amazing writer, like a poet…”

As they drove on, Jim noticed a young man on the side of the road ahead. He was dressed much nicer than the usual hitchhikers he was accustomed to seeing on Northern Ontario highways. Maybe it’s the weed talking, Jim thought to himself, but that guy looks alright.

“What’s going on? Why are we stopping?”
“I thought I’d see if that guy is OK… maybe he needs a ride…”
“Jim, we are not picking up a hitchhiker. That’s asking for trouble.”
“He’s not a hitchhiker, I don’t think. And look, he’s clean and dressed alright. He probably just got a flat somewhere or something.”
“I didn’t see any cars on the road anywhere.”
“Pam, come on… if it were you on the side of the road, you’d be pretty upset at the fact everyone would just assume you were hitchhiking, so let’s at least see what the guy says…”

Jim slowed down and pulled the car over to the side of the road, just past the young man, opened the door and climbed out the car, leaning against its side.

“Hey man! You OK?”

“Yeah man, thanks for stopping. My friends thought it’d be funny to drive off while I took a piss, and they never came back. Fucking pricks…”

He stood over 6 feet tall, roughly the same height as Jim. He had short, curly black hair with stubble on his face, and tired, brown eyes. He reminded Jim of Jeff Goldblum, if Jeff Goldblum were twenty years old and good-looking.

“Some friends,” smirked Jim. ”How long have you been out here?”
“I don’t know… maybe half an hour?”
“Shitty. Where you heading?”
“Just up the road, about ten or fifteen minutes. I guess my friends thought I’d walk it, but fuck… I don’t like the idea of walking on the side of a highway any more than I do standing there.”

Jim sized up the man, and decided that should anything happen, he could easily take down the stranger. Besides, Jim thought, it’s the middle of the day, we’re on a busy highway, and I’m dropping him off in ten minutes…

“I’m Jim… what’s your name?”

“Hi Jim, I’m Rufus.”

“Rufus? There’s a name you don’t hear too often these days…”
“Ha… yeah, my parents were old school British expats.”

Jim ducked back into the car as Rufus climbed into the passenger side. As Jim sat down, he caught Pam deliver an icy stare in his direction.

“Don’t worry,” he mouthed to her. “Pam, this is Rufus. Rufus, Pam.”

Pam turned around in her seat to meet eyes with the stranger sitting behind her.

“Hi Pam, thanks so much for this.”

“Hi Rufus.”

“Alright!” yelled Jim. “Let’s go!

He turned on the radio and as the Doors blasted out the car’s speakers, the three drove north toward the lake.

“So Rufus,” asked Jim, glancing in the rearview mirror “Where you from? What do you do?”

Rufus smiled, meeting Jim’s gaze in the mirror.

“I kill people”

To Be Continued…

Both Sides Now

Leaning up against the wall, Randy reached into the pocket of his jeans and fumbled for a lighter. With a flick of his thumb, the Zippo came to life, glowing orange in the black night. A split second later it was gone, replaced by burning embers and cigarette smoke. He inhaled slowly, glancing at the clock sitting 100 feet above him across the street, at City Hall. 11:38 PM.

Standing silently in the shadows, Randy waited. He knew the only people working late in City Hall were lawyers, councillors, and judges. He knew they had money, and he wanted it. Between his kid, his pregnant girlfriend, his other girlfriend, his landlord, and his drug dealer, Randy needed cash. Exhaling slowly, he watched the smoke dissipate in the air. As it cleared, Randy caught a glimpse of a bright flash in the distance. A second later, it was gone, but that was all Randy needed to see. He reached inside his jacket, gripped his gun, and waited.

As the footsteps drew closer, Randy made out the figure of a man walking toward him carrying a briefcase, his undone trenchcoat flapping quietly in the wind. From where Randy stood he could see the man, but knew the man wouldn’t see him until it was too late. Randy spat the half-smoked cigarette onto the ground and snuffed it out.

As the man approached, Randy took a step forward. Startled, the man paused for a moment, just long enough for Randy to bring the gun up to the man’s face.

“Money, watch, wallet, jewellery. Now.” Randy instructed.

The man stared at the gun for a moment in shock and disbelief, before raising his head to meet Randy’s gaze. The fear in the man’s eyes was obvious.

“Now,” Randy repeated calmly. “Or I will shoot you.”

“Please, don’t…” begged the man. “I’ll give you what you want, here…”

He emptied his pockets and handed Randy his wallet and watch.
“Just take it and leave me alone,” the man pleaded.

Randy nodded his head toward the man’s left arm.

“The briefcase old man… and the ring. Don’t fuck around with me.” Randy’s calm voice belied the threatening nature he imposed.

“I.. I can’t…” stammered the man. “I need this for work, please… it’s just papers, there’s nothing valuable. And that’s my wedding ring… please, I gave you everything else…”

Randy cocked the hammer, never breaking eye contact with the man.

“Oh god! Please! No! Please… please…” the man cried softly.

BANG

The man lay crumpled on the ground, blood pooling around him. Randy looked around, wrestled the ring off the man’s finger, grabbed the briefcase, and walked away.

* * * * *

Shutting off his computer, Ray stood up from his desk and stretched. It had been a long and rewarding day. He was only in his second year as a city prosecutor, but the the 54-year old had made a name for himself quickly, enjoying a string of successful cases to start his career. There was already talk of a big promotion, and perhaps a seat no city council.

Ray was a rare breed: a genuinely nice guy. Driven to succeed all his life, Ray was also raised with proper moral values, instilled in him by his mother. Having spent the majority of his life in the music scene, he had been the highest-profile concert promoter in the city for over a dozen years. He maintained close and personal friendships with the likes of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, B.B. King, Bono, and Neil Young, all before the age of 40.

Each year, he organized a free concert featuring local bands alongside more established acts, in an effort to promote independent music. Ray also contributed regularly to several newspapers and magazines as a music critic, and established several charitable foundations bringing together disadvantaged youth and musical instruments.

The more time Ray spent in rough, urban areas providing music to schoolchildren, the more disillusioned he became with what he perceived to be a lax justice system. On his 47th birthday, Ray enrolled in law school.

Tonight, after a particularly gruelling day, Ray was looking forward to kissing his children goodnight gently as they slept, and crawling into bed with his wife of 22 years. Exiting City Hall into the dark night, the momentary flash of light from inside illuminated the outdoors, and Ray rubbed his eyes as he stepped into the fresh air.

Crossing the street, Ray walked toward the subway, the sound of his shoes clacking on the ground echoing around him. Debating whether to have a sip of scotch or brandy at home, Ray was startled as a man stepped out from the shadows and blocked his way. The man raised a gun, pointed directly at Ray’s face.

“Money, watch, wallet, jewellery. Now.”

Ray stared at the gun for a moment in shock and disbelief, before raising his head to meet the man’s gaze. Dark-skinned with bright white eyes, Ray thought he recognized the man from somewhere.

“Now,” the man repeated calmly. “Or I will shoot you.”

“Please, don’t…” begged Ray. “I’ll give you what you want, here…”

He emptied his pockets and handed the man his wallet and watch.
“Just take it and leave me alone,” Ray pleaded.

The man nodded his head toward Ray’s left arm.

“The briefcase old man… and the ring. Don’t fuck around with me.” The man’s calm voice belied the gun in Ray’s face. Then, almost as if it were a stranger’s voice, Ray heard himself stammer:

“I.. I can’t…I need this for work, please… it’s just papers, there’s nothing valuable. And that’s my wedding ring… please, I gave you everything else…”

Ray realized that he had seen the man at the youth centres where he volunteered, playing with his young son. The man cocked the hammer, never breaking eye contact with Ray.

“Oh god! Please! No! Please… please…” Ray cried softly.

BANG

Ray lay crumpled on the ground, blood pooling around him. The man looked around, wrestled the ring off Ray’s finger, grabbed the briefcase, and walked away.

Something In The Way

My stomach churns, feeling as though it’s twisting into a knot. It hurts, hurts so much. Waves of nausea crash through my body, emanating from my stomach and spreading like a virus. If I had any medical knowledge at all, I’d take a scalpel, cut open my gut and remove my stomach. It would be the ultimate relief. I see it in my mind: Standing in a room, with the skin on my belly flapping open like a screen door in the wind, blood dripping out and onto the floor. In one hand, I hold the red-tinged scalpel, and in the other hand, my stomach – a bloody mess, slippery to hold and slimy to the touch, covered with a thin layer of viscous mucus. In my mind, the pain of cutting into myself is immensely more bearable than that of my stomach gurgling and bubbling inside of me. In my mind, once I reach inside and remove the offending organ, I instantly feel like a million bucks. In my mind, I stitch myself up with a needle and thread, trash the stomach, and get on with my life pain-free. In my mind. In reality, my stomach swirls about inside of me, like a hypnotist’s pinwheel.

“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
“Maybe it’s something you ate?”
“Don’t worry about it, it’ll pass…”

These people don’t understand. They don’t wake up every morning with excruciating pain, so much so that it pains me to think I’ve gotten used to it already. There is nothing about my demeanour or behaviour to suggest I’m hurting. I take the subway, walk to work, sit at my desk, go out with friends, and no one is the wiser. But inside, I feel like my stomach died and the rest of my body is kicking it while it’s down. Inside, I am doubled over in pain. Inside, I am screaming, sweating, and crying. Outside, I am smiling politely, quietly chuckling at people’s jokes, and giving off an air of health and comfort. But inside…

“Are you taking anything for it?”
“Maybe you’re just hungry.”
“I can give you the name of a really good doctor…”

I haven’t always masked my pain. In the beginning I would tell anyone who listened that my stomach hurt. Such a common complaint was taken lightly, and always met with questions regarding my eating and bathroom habits. I would clutch my stomach, groaning quietly. I would curl up in my bed or on the floor in a fetal position, and moan to myself, asking questions to no one in particular: Why is this happening? When will it end? What did I do, eat, or drink to bring this on? How long can this last? Please… Make it stop…

“It’s because you don’t eat healthy enough.”
“Did you have a lot to drink last night?”
“Try some tea and toast.”

My stomach feels like it’s collapsing into itself. I wonder if the pain will ever go away, or will I suffer every day for the rest of my life? The misery doesn’t last all day. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes in the morning, other times it’s a few hours throughout the day. Some days I don’t eat or drink, because the thought of ingesting anything torments my already-anguished stomach. I read a lot about Kurt Cobain. He too had a debilitating and chronic stomach condition, partially blamed for driving him to suicide. His intense pain drove him to the depths of depression, despite the dozens of doctors he visited around the world in hope of finding a cure. Ultimately, Kurt turned to heroin for relief of his pain. When that didn’t work, he shot himself.

“It can’t be that bad, you look fine to me.”
“Have you seen a doctor about it?”
“It’s just a stomach-ache, it’s nothing serious.”

Head Like A Hole (part II)

The cafeteria bustled with activity, a roar of teenage noise rising above the clanging of cutlery and cellphone chatter. Josh and Ben sat oblivious. Having coasted through their morning classes in a daze, neither had spoken about the previous night’s events since arriving at school.

“So… yeah” Ben offered.
“Yeah.” replied Josh.
“We should probably figure out what’s next?”
“What the hell are you talking about? Nothing’s next. Forget about it.”
“What do you mean? What about what we saw last night?”
“Shut up Ben! We were high, we probably just imagined it. Forget it.”
“What’s wrong with you? You know what we saw! That shit was fucked up, and we gotta tell someone.”

Josh glared at him. He knew Ben was right, but he didn’t want to get involved. The horrifying sight of the severed head, the fear overtaking him as they fled, the sleepless night of vivid flashbacks, the grotesque daydreams during class… Josh couldn’t handle getting any deeper.

“It’s better to just forget about that kind of stuff,” he grumbled.
“Yeah, well… you can forget about it. I’m going to the cops after school.”
“Good for you Ben, you do that.”

* * * * *

Later that night, Josh lay in his bed listening to talk radio, trying to sleep but to no avail. He lay atop his bed in the darkness, fully clothed, eyes closed. He couldn’t get past the imagery of the other night, and he wondered whose head those guys were burying. What happened to him, and where was the rest of his body? And who were those guys? Mafia? Gangsters? Fuck, he thought to himself, too many movies. Josh didn’t know what to make of any of it.

His door swung open, light flooding the entire room. He opened his eyes suddenly and felt them burn, as they adjusted to the brightness.

“Josh… ?”

It was his father, speaking in an unusually low and sombre tone. Josh immediately felt a rash of goosebumps on his skin.

“… I think you should come downstairs.”

* * * * *

Two days had passed since Josh was admitted to the hospital, but to him, it felt like two years. An IV dripped silently to his right, as his father dozed in a chair by the window. Josh didn’t want to remember how or why he got here. He wasn’t even sure he could.

“Unngh…”

Josh’s father opened his eyes, blinking as he adjusted to the bright light shining into the dull, sterile room. He looked at Josh and asked whether he could hear him. Josh replied he could. His father smiled faintly, took a deep breath, and said nothing.

They both sat in silence for a moment, when Josh suddenly remembered something.

“Dad,” he said, his voice cracking from his dry throat. “Where’s Ben? What happened?”

His father’s expression immediately changed. Josh recognized that expression; it was the last thing he could remember before waking up minutes ago.

“What’s wrong Dad?”

Josh’s father sighed heavily, and asked: “You don’t remember?”

“Why? What happened? …Is that a cop standing by the door?”

“Josh. I need you to tell me everything, before the police come in.”

How did his father know what they had seen, Josh thought. Ben must have gone to the cops after all. But what did he tell them?

Looking at his father, Josh noticed for the first time just how old he looked. The wrinkles on his forehead seemed to flow like ocean waves across his skull, and crows-feet extended from his eyes to his cheekbones. Sadness washed over him, and he felt as if he had never loved his father more than at that moment, nor had he ever pitied him as much as well. The severity of the situation dawned on him.

“OK dad… I’ll tell you. Ben and I were out at the park the other night, and we saw these three guys digging a hole, maybe 20 feet away. One guy had a sports bag, and we saw him pull out a human head… a severed human head, you know? Like chopped off, or cut off, you know? Then Ben yelled something out, those guys heard us and started chasing us. We ran onto the track by the school and then jumped a fence to get away. That’s pretty much it.”

Josh’s dad stared at him silently.

“What’s wrong dad?”

“Tell me the truth son, please. Tell me what really happened, what you really saw.”

“I did, dad.”

“Josh – the police are outside and they’re going to want to talk to you. Just tell me the truth, please.”

“Dad,” Josh began, tears beginning to well up in his eyes. “I did, I swear.”

His father took a deep breath, exhaled, and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Josh. The police came to the house the other night. They said they had received an anonymous tip that someone had been murdered in the park. They investigated and… it was true. They didn’t find a body, but there was a severed head buried near the playground.”

Josh was confused.

“That’s what I told you dad! Ben is the one who called, he told me would!”

“Josh…” His father had tears streaming down his face now, and even though Josh didn’t understand why, he felt warm,wet, little  drops making their way down his face as well.

“Josh… it was Ben’s head.”

For the first time, I’m posting a two-part story. Part I is below, and part II follows next week. As well, I’ll point out this is the first story that does not feature the usual “it’s a party!” ending, though that could easily be incorporated.

I’m always interested in hearing what you think, so don’t be shy to leave a comment or critique. Enjoy!

Head Like A Hole (part I)

It was well past midnight as flickers of light illuminated the playground and surrounding park. Streetlamps shone down on the winding road adjacent to the park’s entrance to the north, while to the south, the lights on the high school baseball diamond remained dimly visible. Thirty feet to the west, a row of sleepy, middle-class homes sat in the dark, save for the glow of the occasional TV or computer from a second-storey window. It was the quintessential suburban playground, and a great place to smoke a joint.

Josh and Ben sat in the little playhouse, atop the climbing wall and next to the slide. Through the open-air entrance on one side, the boys watched cars drive by too quickly on the small street. Confident that no one could see them, they sat in the dark, the only light burning off the embers at the end of the joint Josh rolled earlier that day. Before long, their conversation became disjointed, and the less sense they made, the funnier it seemed to both of them.

“Holy fuck, this is some good shit.”
“I know, right? … Got it from Matty. You know, the Russian kid in grade 11.”
“That kid’s fucked up… I heard he beat up his dad with a phone and was in jail for like, a week.”
“Whatever, he’s got good shit.”
“Did you see Jenn Corbun’s tits today?”
“Ha! How could I not? God bless that girl and her idiotic fashion sense.”
“Seriously… what a nice rack.”
“Too bad there aren’t more girls like her in our grade.”
“Probably because she’s supposed to be two grades ahead of us by now.”
“Haha! Yeah… dumb bitch.”
“Hey… do you see someone over there?”

Josh nodded toward the far end of the playground by the swings, roughly 25 feet away, motioning to Ben to keep quiet. Peering out through the children’s cabin, they saw three men: one using a shovel to dig a small hole, another standing beside him holding a duffel bag, and a third standing opposite the other two, watching.

“What the fuck are these guys doing,” whispered Ben.
“Shh!”

After another minute of digging, the man with the shovel stepped aside, and all three men peered into the hole. The second man unzipped the duffel bag and removed a large, round object, holding it by its top. As a car zipped by on the street, its headlights brightened the playground for a second, and the two boys managed to make out the object.

“Jesus fuck! That’s a human head!”

The three men straightened up and glared toward the tiny, log cabin. Even in the dark, Josh could make out their eyes, staring straight at him and his friend.

“Shit!” exclaimed Josh. “Run!”

The three men had already broken out toward the cabin when Josh and Ben jumped out, landing in the sand.

“RUN! RUN!”

The boys ran toward the school parking lot, all three men close behind. Having grown up in that area, Josh and Ben spent years running and hiding throughout the neighbourhood, and had an unspoken understanding of where to go. They veered away from the parking lot and up a small hill, onto the school’s racetrack. Huffing behind them, two men remained at their heels while the third had given up. The two boys broke toward a fence on the far right side of the track, scrambled up and over into a backyard, and disappeared. The two men ended their chase at the fence, staring helplessly into the darkness, before trudging back toward the playground.

“Idiots. Two grown men and you don’t catch two goddamn kids? I should be shooting you both, teaching you how it’s like.”

“Fuck, sorry boss,” said Valeri, the tallest of the three men. He looked at the tall, slender, older man standing before him, shaking his head in disapproval. His name was Gregori, and his soft, white hair and horn-rimmed glasses belied the vicious, unforgiving nature he was renowned for throughout the city’s underground.

“Where’s your friend?” growled Gregori in a thick Russian accent.

As if on cue, the third man appeared on the edge of the playground, a lit cigarette glowing in the darkness.

“We come to bury head… Two kids see… You don’t catch them… and now you have smoke break? Maybe I should be burying you two!”

“Grisha, they’re as good as dead,” the third man assured. “I saw faces. If they smoke in park here, I bet they go to school there,” he continued, pointing toward the high school. He took a few steps forward, putting his hand on Gregori’s shoulder. “We teach them lesson, to mind their business.”

“You never let me down Sergei,” responded Gregori. “Don’t let this be first time.”

“What we do with head?” asked Valeri.

“Leave it. Don’t worry.” Gregori glared at his henchmen. “Sergei take care of everything.”

All three men nodded silently. Valeri kicked dirt into the hole containing the severed head, and they walked away.


To Be Continued…

A Means To An End

Harold straightened his tie, cleared his throat, and looked straight ahead. Standing in the boardroom at the head of a table with 12 sets of eyes fixated on him, he continued his speech about maximizing productivity in the organization.

“The recession has hit us hard but we will hit back even harder! Now is the time to boost our productivity by investing more in our operations. We will take advantage of the current economy, open our doors to more export opportunities, and diversify our investment portfolios…”

Harold paused. Twelve sets of eyes remained fixated on him – unblinking, unmoving. He was used to this. He continued.

“The first thing we’ll have to do is ramp up our capital expenditures. Who’s got some good ideas?”

No reaction. He cleared his throat again. No reaction.

“Come on people! Give me something – anything! Let’s get some ideas going around the table…”

Silence.

SMACK! Harold slammed his palm on the table, spilling coffee from mugs and dropping pens to the floor. Twelve sets of eyes never blinked, never turned away. No one said a word, no one moved. It was as though the entire room were zombies.

Harold took a few steps to his right toward Sadie Lauderdale, seated closest to him. Harold’s executive assistant for nearly two years, Sadie lived and breathed Harold’s life since she started at the company. Her organizational skills were impeccable, as was her ass, and Harold hired her for both those reasons. Putting his hand on Sadie’s shoulder, he felt her ice-cold skin through the purple silk blouse she had on. She didn’t flinch. He realized Sadie was pale, very pale. Something wasn’t right.

“Sadie!” Harold raised his voice, shaking her shoulder lightly. Sadie’s limp body collapsed onto the table, as her head made a loud thud as it connected with the dark, stained wood.

“Holy shit,” Harold whispered to himself. He looked up at the rest of his team. None had so much as blinked.

One by one, he walked by each employee, shouting into their ears and slapping their backs.

“Alexis!”
“Martha!”
“Peter!”
“Amanda!”

One by one, each employee collapsed before Harold’s eyes. “What the fuck… what the hell is going on?!”

Harold raced to the boardroom door, finding it impossible to open. There was no lock on the door.

“Hey! …HEY!” Harold screamed, pounding on the door. He jiggled the knob violently, pulling and pushing. Pounding on the door with his right fist, he reached into his pocket with his left hand, pulling out his BlackBerry. A quick glance revealed there was no service.

“Jesus Christ!” exclaimed Harold, “What’s happening?! Get me out of here! HELP! HELP!”

Harold turned back to face his staff. Yelling their names, he raced from seat to seat slapping their backs. He received no response. His heart racing, Harold reached out and put his fingers on Sadie’s limp wrist, checking her pulse. There was none. Harold felt faint.

Dizzily, he reached for the glass of water sitting at the head of the table near his notepad. Hands shaking, water spilled onto the paper and smudged his notes as he brought the glass to his lips. Taking a sip, Harold felt claustrophobic, as if the walls were closing in on him.

What the fuck is going on here, he thought.

And then Harold began to cry uncontrollably. He hadn’t cried in years. Maybe decades. Not even when his mother died. But Harold, a grown man leaning against the boardroom table and looking out at his deceased staff, completely lost it and began bawling like a baby.

Scared and alone, Harold’s throat tightened up as his eyes continued to water. Gasping for air between sobs, he thought to himself: “Is this what crying feels like? It’s been so long….”

Harold’s heart stopped. Tears still streaking down his face, he dropped to the ground in a heap. Harold was dead.

Silence.

A chair moved. Then another. Slowly, each employee who had shown no signs of life arose from their chairs. No words were exchanged, only furtive glances, as twelve sets of eyes gathered around Harold’s lifeless body.

“See? I told you it would work,” whispered Sadie Lauderdale. “Lucky for all of you, I know how to stop my heartbeat for a few minutes.”

“Do you think it was wrong to poison the guy?” asked Alexis.

“Who cares,” answered Amanda. “Daniel’s party is tonight, and there was no way I was working late.”