Written for the prompts: “Frustrated” and “Welcome to our humble home.”
The Unusual Story of Randal W. Satterwaite
Indeed, how unusual could unusual be?
Could a hinky, middle-aged, pill-bug of a man such as Randal Satterwaite possibly have a story worth the breath needed to tell it?
Sitting, day in and day out, in his tiny cubicle--peering myopically through his smudged bifocals at endless columns of tiny numbers, Satterwaite is not a man of hidden indiscretions, of subterfuge, of deception. This is, perhaps, at most, a man who dresses in womens’ underthings beneath his starch and tweed.
Perhaps this is the life he hides from coworkers and friends--assuming he has any of the latter. And such a story, while interesting to those of a rather more prurient mindset than most, would not be worthwhile in and of itself.
Is it unusual that, in the eight years he’s worked for Magnuson, Howe & Stearn, Satterwaite has yet to attend a company picnic or Christmas party? Is it odd that on casual Fridays, he wears his same twitchy, uncomfortable looking suits?
In the cubicle next to his own, works one Diane Neveau--she of the impressive cleavage and penchant for dresses with a revealing decolletage. Satterwaite doesn’t even notice she’s alive. Despite her ridiculous attempts to draw him out, make him want her as much as every other man in the office does, he remains oblivious to her unsubtle, overblown charms.
Satterwaite’s coworkers allow that yes, this is unusual. Others take it further, still, concluding his lack of interest stems from homosexuality. A quiet few have gone so far as to suggest he’s asexual, like a geranium, or a paramecium
Supposition aside, however, there’s no real evidence pointing which way his proclivities lie. These people who have worked side by side with Satterwaite for eight years, know nothing about him.
But they sense—with the clairvoyance of any adult possessed of a working pair of eyes and at least two intermittently firing brain cells—that Satterwaite is a man living a life of quiet desperation. Living it anonymously and alone, with nothing but his secret to keep him company.
And if any of them had but an inkling of the life Satterwaite keeps hidden from them all. . . .
Satterwaite isn’t a frugal man, by anyone’s definition, but he carries a sack lunch.
The money most would spend on fast food, or public transportation--or refueling their own out-moded automobile--is spent on other things, in his case. Thus, Satterwaite simply doesn’t have the money for luxuries, even relatively small ones.
So, every day, he walks home; limping slightly, but more noticeably the farther down Abingdon Road he travels. It is six forty-five p.m. by the time he reaches the butcher’s, which is a tiny bit off his route. No bell tinkles to announce his presence, but the butcher has known to expect him at this time for some years now, and he is never left to wait.
By six forty-seven, their transaction is complete and Satterwaite is visibly nauseated, but also visibly relieved to be stepping out into the slightly fresher city air.
The sullen, silent, vaguely hostile stares of the butcher and the three other customers--whose faces really don’t bear closer scrutiny beyond the lowered, brutish brows and bitter, anger twisted mouths--has faded from his mind by six fifty-one. By six fifty-four he’s whistling a jaunty tune. There’s a spring in his step--which rather offsets the limp--that would put one in mind of a young man about to go courting his sweetheart, his own true love.
At seven oh-one, Satterwaite unlocks his door and steps into the dimness of his home. He closes the door and drops his jacket, as well as the day’s pathetic, uneaten sack lunch on the small mail-table in the front hall. Already inclined to be wiry, Satterwaite has recently grown gaunt, bordering on emaciated. The past several years of his small and quiet life have conspired to steal his appetite as well as his enjoyment of life’s small indulgences.
“Honey, I’m home!” he calls, with a small smile for this joke, a joke that has carried over from those halcyon days before his mother’s passing, one quarter of a century ago. Upon her death, he’d inherited the huge house he now walks through with uncharacteristic purpose (and stirring up fine layers of dust wherever foot falls) and had considered changing that useless in-joke to: ”Welcome to our humble home!” for the sheer lunacy of the idea that he, Randal W. Satterwaite, might have guests, in these latter days!
(At any rate, Randal finds it humorous, in a dark and despairing way.)
This house has witnessed Satterwaite be born, be happy, be miserable, be insane--in the days following his mother’s death, and yet again fifteen years later--be loved and love in return. This house sees his current entropic spiral to dissolution and he supposes it will eventually see him sicken and die. But this thought causes him no pain, holds for him no interest.
He strides down the hall and stops at a tall door under the front staircase. Unlike the other doors in the Satterwaite ancestral home, this door is not wood, but triple-reinforced steel. It is also controlled by a small computerized lock. Satterwaite’s computer skills aren’t terribly strong—he is a man of numbers, not machines—but he knows how to enter the code to lock and unlock this steel door.
Even in the case of a power outage, the door could not be moved by force weaker than that of a middling tank.
The snick-whoosh! of the release mechanism is very reassuring, as is the rattle of chains from below. He descends the sturdy staircase into more dimness, the plastic sack held to his chest like a talisman.
It is restless, tonight, which will make Satterwaite’s job that much harder, but some part of Satterwaite takes such lively frustration as a good sign. A sign that there is more in his basement than a rage-filled killing machine.
“How was your day today?” he asks, expecting and getting no answer. His voice echoes off the no-color walls.
The creature fettered—by a liberal length of synthetic rope and a humane restraint, clasped around one grimy ankle—to the far wall watches him intently, it’s face all huge, feral eyes and dark stubble. Satterwaite winces at the pale, dirty skin and prominent ribcage.
In a sad, garish puddle against the wall, lay the remains of brightly-colored boxer shorts and a blue t-shirt.
“You must stop destroying your clothes, or I shall be forced to leave you naked,” Satterwaite tsks, stepping away from the staircase, making no sudden movements. Though he could have danced a wild gypsy reel and the creature would not have noticed. Its eyes are already fixed on the plastic sack Satterwaite carefully carries. And though he’d often doubted its overall intelligence in the beginning, at this late date, it surely knows what a white plastic sack means.
It makes a sound somewhere between loud mewl and soft growl, and looks at Satterwaite expectantly.
“Yes, I’ve brought you dinner, but you must behave, or you shan’t have any of it. Do you understand?”
The creature doesn’t nod, but something sparks in its eyes and it strains toward Satterwaite—toward the bag, rather, Satterwaite has long since lost his delusions regarding that—its posture more submissive than on most days.
“Good boy . . . my own good boy.”
The creature makes another sound, but it knows to keep a civil face, no matter what urges hunger places upon it. Satterwaite has trained it and well, using the twin tools of pain and starvation. Combined, those methods teach lessons that linger and take hold in even the most intractable of beasts.
Of course, the real trick is letting the beast itself teach you how to train it. This is yet another secret Satterwaite wistfully supposes he will take to his grave.
As he approaches, the creature peers warily at him from under its filthy mop of dark hair. A mixture of fear, hunger, and lust make its eldritch green eyes glow. When Satterwaite is within touching distance, it throws its head back and howls piercingly.
“Ah-ah.” Satterwaite taps the tip of its nose gently and the creature immediately falls silent, its eyes huge and focused intently on Satterwaite’s finger.
“There’ll be none of that tonight,” Satterwaite murmurs softly, brushing thick, slightly greasy hair out of its face and off of its brow. The creature whines softly, closing its eyes and offering it’s throat.
“‘O, thou art fairer than the evening's air . . . clad in the beauty of a thousand stars’. I wonder if you’re intelligent enough to know how very lovely you were. Are,” he muses aloud, his fingertips resting on its cheek. “Even if you do, I don’t suppose beauty means anything to you now.”
The feral green eyes open and look up at him almost curiously, only—they’ve faded to an alert hazel, which is—different. Eight years of demon-green eyes and this mild, mildly confused hazel is different. One could look into its eyes and almost see the remnants of what had been, of who this creature once was. . . .
Satterwaite is a man who has long since given up on hope or expectation, yet even he can’t help but wonder.
“Do you know who you are?” he asks it softly, feeling a sense of urgency under its steady, questioning gaze. Without glancing away, it leans closer, nuzzles his palm insistently and opens its mouth. For a moment only soft, rasping sounds come out.
“Ssss-ann—” it croaks with some difficulty, its brow furrowed in concentration. Shocked, Satterwaite drops the butcher’s sack, but neither he, nor the creature notices.
“Sssan . . . Shhhep-er. . . .” its mouth struggles to pronounce the first sounds other than growls, yips and laughs it’s made in eight years.
“Yes, you’re Alexander Shepherd.” Considering his shaking hands, Satterwaite’s voice is admirably even.
“Ssan. Yesss.” A frustrated whimper escapes its throat, but nothing else as it tries to force words through lips that have grown unused to them.
Satterwaite runs his fingers through its hair soothingly. “Slowly, now.”
“Rrraaaan. . . .” it—he exhales softly, eyes squinching tightly shut. “Rranny.”
“Yes, I’m Randy . . . do you remember me?”
Nothing for nearly one minute, then Alexander is nodding frantically. “Rannyrannyrannyloveranny!” he cries, scrabbling away from Satterwaite until his scarred, back is pressed against the cool, clammy wall. Satterwaite starts toward him, eyes shining with unshed tears.
“Alexander—” Satterwaite begins to speak, perhaps to calm the frightened man, but he falls silent, as if he’s forgotten how to tame anything but the beast he’s spent eight years caring for.
“No! Go! Rranny go!” Alexander growls. When Satterwaite flinches, Alexander whines, covering his head with pale, shaking arms and rocking nervously. “Go now!”
“Alexander!” At the tone of command, Alexander stops rocking. Satterwaite takes a deep breath and steps closer; then closer, still. “You must fight it! Control it!”
A flash of uncanny green eyes and another growl, low and loud like a motorcycle engine, is all the warning Satterwaite gets before he’s tackled to the ground and pinned by fifteen stone of growling beast. It’s got hold of his wrists and is pressing them into the chilly cement floor. Satterwaite tries to free his wrists, but the creature’s hands—still unnaturally strong despite its recent starvation diet—are as mutable as iron bands.
“Mine,” the creature hisses, glaring down into Satterwaite’s faded blue eyes. Its hands grope at his body and tear at his clothes, it’s hot, humid breath smells of old, digested meat. It leans closer, until its nose brushes Satterwaite’s cheek. “Mine.”
Something warm and hard presses against Satterwaite’s pelvis and the restless shifting of the creature’s hips takes on rhythm and purpose. Its hands clamp down harder on Satterwaite’s wrists and its body covers him like a smelly, snarling blanket.
“No, Alexander!” Satterwaite’s voice is firm, calm; his face is torn between repulsion and response. The creature’s arousal is nothing new; Satterwaite’s own helpless reciprocation in the face of its desire is. “Stop--”
It’s panting, carrion breath is loud in Satterwaite’s ear, and he tries to push it off of him, to hide his body’s interest, but Alexander’s body is heavier, has always been heavier. (Undoubtedly, Satterwaite remembers a time when the weight holding him down was pleasant and welcome; when being held down thus meant safety and love.)
“Don’t let it do this, Alexander.” This no more than a pleading whisper, said as he turns his face away and closes his eyes. Satterwaite obviously doesn’t expect the creature to stop and it doesn’t . . . it merely accelerates its efforts.
“Mine! Mine!” It barks, rocking it’s hips against Satterwaite’s. In moments, it’s howling again, long and loud. The sound echoes off the soundproof cellar walls disconcertingly.
For a little while, Satterwaite lays there, stunned, listening to their breathing slow and feeling its heart beat against his own. It growls softly, contentedly, easing its grip on Satterwaite’s wrists; its tongue rasps playfully over Adam’s-apple and jugular.
When the warm wetness of the creature’s release soaks through Satterwaite’s tweed, to his skin, he hastily shoves it away and jumps to his feet.
It lays where it is for a few seconds before rolling to its hands and knees. One basic need taken care of, it crawls to the fallen sack from the butcher’s, nosing at it in frustration. It finally looks up at Satterwaite, who sneers.
“You know how to open that without my help, don’t pretend otherwise.”
A blink, then something that could be a shrug and the creature’s shredding the plastic bag and the butcher’s paper to get at the fresh meat and bones inside.
“’Did he smile, his work to see? Did he who made the lamb, make thee', my love?” Satterwaite’s wry tone is, of course, lost on the creature. So he sighs, taking a moment to regain the control he so recently advocated; surely an uphill task, when the creature is gnawing savagely on its dinner, which is now strewn across the floor.
“I don’t know how much longer I can bear this, Alexander,” Satterwaite finally says. “It’s been eight long, lonely years and what little strength—what little hope I once possessed has been worn down.”
The creature pauses at its incessant gnawing and looks up at Satterwaite, its head cocked at an angle, its tongue lolling endearingly. Endearingly, that is, if one is willing to ignore the blood and scraps of meat smeared around its grinning mouth.
“Please, Alex. Please. If you’re still in there. . . .” at last, Satterwaite’s voice falters and the creature begins to laugh, showing incarnadined teeth. The human throat shaping that insane laughter only outlines the inherent lack of humanity in what it is.
“No Ssan,” the creature informs Satterwaite, smugly eyeing Satterwaite’s mussed hair, flushed face and damp trousers. “No Ssan, no more. Mine.”
Its attempts at articulation spent, the laughter cracks into higher registers; into the eerie cackles Satterwaite has tried, with no success, to beat and starve out of it.
Suddenly nauseated again, Satterwaite stumbles to the stairs and takes them two at a time, the creature’s mad, merry laughter following him all the way.
In the large and largely unused kitchen, routine is re-established as Satterwaite prepares a starchy frozen dinner.
He doesn’t know what kind it is, doesn’t care, as they all seem to taste vaguely of tomatoes and basil, with a hint of paprika.
When the dinner is ready, Satterwaite drifts into the dining room. He sits at the hand-carved oak table—Made by Alex, with loving care, for Randy, as the table’s underside can attest—and says grace.
An hour passes and the now tepid dinner is barely touched. Satterwaite can taste old blood and sour bile in his mouth--will taste it, possibly, for the rest of his life.
In the cellar, the creature rattles its chains and licks its latest scratches.
“Rran,” it sometimes whimpers, twitching miserably.
But mostly, it howls. And laughs.