John’s face is tense, his eyes staring off at nothing.
“I . . .”
There’s a quiver to his voice as he shakes his head side to side and looks deeper into that nothing, staring downward.
“I . . . I don’t know.”
Smoke rises from the cigarette that he’s holding but not smoking anymore. The ash is growing and leaning. For some reason, I can’t take my eyes off this ash that sits there, teasing me, mocking me. Fall mother fucker. C’mon. C’mon!
“I mean, I thought this . . . was our last resort,” John keeps on.
His hand hasn’t moved but when it does, that fucking ash is coming down. I feel my anticipation growing. Blood pumps through my heart more viciously. C’mon!
“It’s like plan A and plan B went out the fucking window.”
He’s still talking on about whatever, but I all I can think is, move that hand, John. C’mon you mother. . .
“And now we’re stuck, man. I . . . I don’t know what the fuck to do.”
The ash falls and for some reason I feel a sense of relief, but really don’t understand why, and then get thrown back into reality and our situation at hand. I look up at John. His eyes are now dead-set on mine.
“Dude, are you fucking here, man?!” His hand waves in front of my face.
“Uh, yeah, man. I’m here.”
“Good. You fucking better be. You are in on this, too.”
Hearing the words, “In on this too” makes it hard to breathe for a second, before laughing.
John stands up and starts pacing frantically back and forth, saying, or more like pleading with no one, “Ah man . . . I’ve got a fucking wife and family.”
He covers his mouth and looks at me, then turns back around. I hear what sounds like tears in his voice.
“I’ve got a little girl,” he says.
He looks at me, his eyes like he’s seen a ghost, his lungs swelling, his head tilting back, chest out and in. I can now see those tears I thought I heard a second earlier beginning to run onto his face.
I’ve only seen that look once before—that look of complete and utter fear and desperation-turned-despair. Actually, I remember seeing a program on Discovery a while back about these lions in Africa or wherever and they chase down this . . . I don’t know, wildebeest. The young wildebeest gets separated from his herd, and after a valiant effort, there are simply too many lions. The lions surround him and trip him down and start biting at his legs, as he is kicking and bucking and doing everything in his power to survive . . . really fighting desperately for his life. They finally get him down all the way. There’s three or four of them, and they claw into him and keep biting his legs, and the wildebeest is just tired and had expended all of its energy—every last ounce—and there’s just too many. It knows what’s coming next, and you can see the sadness in his wide open eyes—a look of total hopelessness, not desperation because it was beyond that already, but just . . . despair, as he gives in and falls over to the side. You can see the lions reflected in the helpless wildebeest’s wide open eyes as they bite into him and start to tear away at his flesh.
That look, the same look John has now.
So I guess I‘ve seen that same look, now . . . three times?
John sternly grips my arms and turns me to face him, his eyes flooded, his mouth sagging, his hands shaking, his nails penetrating my shirt and says, more intensely than anyone has ever said anything toward me, “You . . . are . . . fucking . . . in . . . this . . . too,” wrapping his mouth around each word to further enunciate what he’s trying to imply. His nails dig deeper into my skin.
“Yeah, man, I fucking know! I know!” I laugh.
He releases his grip and stands up tall and straight to compose himself and slowly backs up from me, removing his eyes from mine after a few seconds. He looks off at nothing again and resumes pacing.
He paces slowly for a few seconds more, pauses, then kicks the bound girl on the floor in the stomach as hard as he can. She’d cry out but her mouth is duck-taped. He kicks her again.
“You fucking cunt!”
Small whimpers protrude from behind her sealed mouth.
“And you!” He points at me. “You wanted a fucking hostage. This was your fucking idea. And for what? So you could fucking rape her? Well . . . you got what you wanted.”
John paces frantically, again, stops and peers at me. I can’t keep from sniggering.
“It was a simple robbery, and now,” He pauses to compose himself. “We have a witness to our little crime . . . Fuck!” He yells.
“Calm . . . the fuck . . . down.” I tell him, leaning further back in my chair.
He shakes his head in disgust and leaves the room.
The girl’s eyes are fixated on mine, locked, and have that same look of hopelessness that John and that wildebeest had had from that show—that look of total despondency. And I think that this one certainly didn’t give up as easy as that wildebeest, or nearly as easy as John, and it was only till she had been tied up, gagged with tape, beaten relentlessly, then violated from behind over and over again, because what else are you going to do with her, now, did her eyes shift from a begging desperation . . . to despair.
With John in the other room, I get out of my chair and lie down on the ground in front of the girl, staring into her eyes.
She starts crying behind her taped up, muffled mouth. Her wide open eyes are pleading with me, trying to find any scrap of human compassion left inside. But there is none.
“Shhh . . .” I tell her.
I pet her head.
“It’s all over. I’m gonna get you outta here.”
Her eyes close and tears of relief flood out of her and down her cheek to the floor, as she cries and cries. I can only imagine how she feels, thinking that she is going to survive, that I am going to let her survive.
“It’s ok. Everything’s gonna be ok.”
I place my thumb and index finger on her nose, softly closing off her air passage. Her eyes open back and panicking, she tries to thrash about, but she is bound and exhausted. Her fight is short lived. I hold her head firmly in place with my other hand, grasped tightly onto her hair.
I think to myself, this one had fire. She just took it and took it and took it.
After what must have been thirty seconds or so, her begging eyes staring deep into me, pleading, her desperate look shifts again into a hopeless . . . despair. And then, after one last, final, unsuccessful attempt to breathe and a concluding kick, or spasm, or more like a jolt, pulsing from her abused, failing body, her look of desperation-turned-despair, transitions to . . . acceptance. Her body goes limp.
“See? Good girl. It’s all over.”
Her eyes—still locked on mine—are now emptier than they were before. All I can see is my smiling face reflected in them. I smile back.
Matt Micheli is a transgressive fiction writer out of Austin, TX, Author of MEMOIRS OF A VIOLENT SLEEPER: A BEDTIME STORY. His analytical, sometimes satirical, and often blunt views of love, loss, life, and beyond are expressed through his writing. For him, writing is an escape from the everyday confines of what the rest of us calls normal.
Recent publications in Red Fez, Linguistic Erosion, and Slit Your Wrists eZine.