Not lost but maybe drowning.
|Another Day, Another Client
“Are you lost?”
The question came from a boy about nine years old, I guessed. Not my client group, I’m afraid. I shook my head.
“Nah, I just like standing around on street corners looking at this crappy map.”
The boy seemed unconvinced. “Why?” he asked.
“Because I’m crazy,” I answered and pulled a silly face at him. “Now get outa here before I kick your butt.”
He moved a few paces further away but turned to look at me. “You don’t seem crazy. Not very nice though.”
I made a sudden movement as if to chase him and he scampered off, to disappear into a house a hundred yards away. That wasn’t good; I didn’t want him telling any silly tales about me to whoever was unlucky enough to own him. I folded the map and moved on to the next corner.
There were few people about but that was the nature of the business. Sooner or later someone would get curious and offer to help. I opened the map and pretended to study it in puzzlement again.
A few houses down, a young lady emerged from a front door, banging it shut as she left. She walked towards me and I buried my head in the unruly folds of the map.
“Are you lost? Can I help?” The inevitable words were like music to my ear. This was more like it.
I smiled. “Not at all, dear. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Her bright, expectant expression changed to surprise. “Waiting for me? Do I know you?”
“Not yet,” I assured her, “but you will.”
The first signs of suspicion caused her brows to knit together. “What do you mean?” she asked. “What’s going on here? And who are you, anyway?”
I smiled again. “It’s very simple, dear. I’m your friendly neighbourhood psychopath. I believe they call me the Bennington Ripper. Terrible name, of course, so banal. Really must think up something more appropriate and send it to the press.”
Her eyes were wide with shock now. “The Bennington Ripper? You shouldn’t joke about that. It’s not funny.”
“Oh, I’m not joking, honey. Why don’t you believe me?” I’d never had to argue a client into credence before; this was a bit disconcerting.
“Well, it’s ridiculous,” she said. “Right out here in the open and every chance that someone will come along at any moment. As if the Ripper would choose this spot to do anything.”
“Actually, it’s how I operate,” I explained. “Worked every time so far. Although I admit that I usually drag ‘em into an alley or dark corner first.”
“Seems like a good way to get caught, if you ask me,” she replied.
Maybe she was counting on this silly discussion to drag the thing out and give her more of a chance to be rescued. It was time to get serious. I produced the knife from my pocket and showed it to her.
She seemed unimpressed. “I could scream. That would bring people out of their houses.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that, if I were you. I’d have to be quick then and things would get very messy. Best you submit and we can do things properly.”
To my surprise, she seemed to give up at this point. Her head turned from one side to the other as she looked up and down the streets. They were empty and the houses remained silent and uninvolved. A last minute rescue was not on the cards, it seemed. She looked at me again and shrugged.
“Okay, where do you want me to go?”
I indicated the narrow alley between the corner house and the next. “That seems most suitable. Come with me.”
Taking a step toward her, I grabbed her arm and pulled her along with me. The entrance to the alley was quite close and we were soon in the shadows between the houses. I let go her arm.
She had not struggled as I dragged her along and now she made no move to run. Her composure was beginning to get to me.
“Aren’t you afraid?” I asked, lifting the knife so that it’s blade caught the light from the streetlight opposite.
She smiled. “Should I be?” she asked.
“Look, lady, I’m about to cut you up into small pieces, keeping you alive as long as possible so that you can understand what’s happening. Of course you should be afraid.”
It was the way she laughed at this that really made me angry. If she wanted to delay things, that was fine; I enjoyed watching the clients squirm. But this brazen defiance was too much to be borne.
Forgetting my intention to proceed slowly so that every cut could be savoured, I raised my arm and brought the knife slicing down towards her, not caring where it would land but intent on silencing that mocking laugh.
Her hand flashed out and caught my arm, freezing it into immobility. For a moment I tried to force the knife onwards but she was incredibly strong, her grip like a pitbull’s jaws and her arm rigid, unmoved by my struggles. I gave up and tried to pull my arm away.
Now her free hand grabbed me by the throat and lifted me off my feet, holding me helpless in the air. Again her infuriating, light laughter echoed between the walls of the two houses. She released my arm holding the knife and, instinctively, I tried to slash at the arm holding me aloft.
It was wasted effort. With her free fist she hit me a sledgehammer blow in the chest, releasing me from the other hold at the same time, and I was propelled through the air to slam into the wall of the house behind me. I collapsed into a heap and lay there, dazed and winded, mouth gaping like a fish on land, as I tried to get air back into my lungs. The woman strolled over to look down at my agonies.
Behind the panic of trying to breathe, my mind was racing. Who was this creature that could defeat my plunging arm with a lightning move, who could lift me off my feet without effort and then hit me so hard that I flew through the air with such force that the wind was knocked from my lungs? It was impossible that so slight a body could pack such a punch and hold such power.
Losing interest in my distress, she turned and bent to pick up the knife that had fallen from my grip when I hit the wall. She lifted it into the light and examined it. Then, apparently satisfied, she looked back at me.
With a shuddering gasp, I was at last able to get air back into my lungs. My breathing returned and now I felt the throbbing from the back of my head where it had connected with the wall. My chest was a mass of pain from her blow and I did not feel capable of movement just yet. I watched as she strolled back to stand over me again.
“Who - ?” The pain of speaking reminded me of the grip with which she’d held my throat. I steeled myself and tried again. “Who are you?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll introduce myself before we get started. I was just wondering where I should begin with this.” She waved the knife in front of my eyes.
Oh god, she means to cut me up, I thought. Some silly idea of living by the sword, dying by it, I suppose. This was so humiliating and I groaned in my pain.
“Hurting a little, are we?” she asked. Not waiting for an answer, she grabbed me by the shirt front and hauled my body into a sitting position, my back supported by the wall. “Well, I suppose we might as well get started. Where do you usually begin?” She indicated with the knife, pointing at various soft and vulnerable parts of my body.
I kept silent, too scared now to trust my voice.
She laughed again. “Oh well, never mind. I’ll probably just go about it in my usual fashion.” She bent forward and tickled the meeting of chest and throat with the knife.
“But you wanted to know who I am first. You might have heard of me, although I’m far worse than any of the stories they tell. It’s a long way from Greece and you know how tales get twisted the further they are from home. But you’re about to learn all that anyway.
“My name,” here she paused, as if to give the name due gravitas. “My name is Nemesis. I’d suggest you google it but I don’t think you’ll have the time…”
Word Count: 1,457
For SCREAMS!!! Sept. 07, 2020.
Prompt: Use your mind’s eye to stare into that darkness, drag something out, and shock us with it! (Free Day!)