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Start at the beginning. It's not so far from the end. I'll tell it quick and then go, I promise.
So there she was - top floor, furthest corner - curled cross-legged in one of the big leather chairs, bent close to the book as if she might suck the words right into her brain. Hair loose and dirty, hanging down towards the page and touching here and there. White ankle socks, worn Nikes, and the loose folds of a light flowery skirt which fell over her legs, covering all but a calf on which a smiley-face Band-Aid hid some injury.
You know I watch. You know I do that. And you know too how often I fall in mooncalf love with the fantasy. Fell. Fell in love. Gone now. It's gone now.
This time, I couldn't move except towards her, couldn't breathe except to make her hear me. And I don't know how I knew something was different this time, but I did.
No, that's not true. I do know. All the others, I wanted to help. I wanted to be their fucking friend. Standard lame bullshit rescue fantasy. Smiley Face, I just wanted to hurt. I wanted to hurt her so much, to break her into a million pieces with pain that I'd caused and then to be the glue that held those pieces together. Tell me you understand after you've felt what that desire feels like, but not until.
'I'll say this and then I'll go', I said, just above a whisper. 'I'll be gone and you won't see me ever again.'
She looked at me through her hair and grimy, round wire-framed glasses, frowning, I think shaking slightly, her blue eyes tired and dark. She waited.
'I want to hurt you,' I said. 'I want to cause you so much pain that you cling to me for fear of losing your mind.'
'Why?' she asked. Her voice was soft, trembling.
'I don't know. But I've never wanted anything so much in my life.' I waited a few seconds. 'I'm sorry. I have to go now.'
'Don't,' she said, quickly.
Look down on . . .
A girl is being thrashed. She is lying on her back on top of bright white bedclothes. Her hands are tied together, then to the bed-head. Her ankles are fixed into a wide spreader bar, then lifted back over her head and also tied to the bed-head so that they remain horizontal. She wears a loose and worn T-shirt; otherwise is naked. A second T-shirt is tied around her head as a gag.
A man is thrashing her. The cane bends almost double in his hand as he brings it down with all his strength on her bottom and thighs, again and again and again. He doesn't care for neatness or accuracy. He's never felt so strong. Flecks of blood cover the bedclothes.
And look down on . . .
A man and a girl wrapped together against the cold of the universe, forged together by pain and tears.
And look down on . . .
The girl carefully sliding away from the man as he continues to sleep.
She was gone, of course. I don't think I wanted to wake up, because I somehow knew she was gone already. All she'd left was the scribbly note:
'If anyone could have reached me, you would have. Knowing that makes things clearer for me. You saved me, I guess. Thank you.'
They found her body five days later. The picture of her in the paper looked so full of hope. They printed her name, but I forget what it was. It said that there were no suspicious circumstances.
Even so, she'd been careful to leave no trace, besides the note and the smiley-face Band-Aid that I found in the trash.
I don't know what to do. Short sentences, long silences, and all the songs on the radio are about love.
Back to the treehouse