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Lonelies | Part Six Monday | Adam Haynes | fiction | Lollipop

The Lonelies

Part Six: Monday

by Adam Haynes
illustrations by Dave Dawson

Mildred woke up, finding herself lying naked on Temptation and Cindy's dirty living room carpet. Cindy, also naked, was lying next to her and snoring. Her wristwatch said it was almost two in the afternoon.

Mildred got up carefully so as not to wake Cindy and tip-toed around the room until she'd found all her clothes. Once she was dressed and outside, she started randomly walking down Cumberland in the direction of Munjoy Hill, with the huge hood of her black Navy parka up to help ward off the damp frigid air, air that felt too much like how she already felt inside. The sky above was the stagnant, non-existent color that meant snow was going to fall soon.

Remembering she was out of smokes, she stopped at the 7-11 at the corner of Cumberland and Washington. Following Washington onto Congress she found a bench that was clear of ice and other people. Behind her was a run-down historic cemetery and way off behind that was the Navy Shipyard and the ocean, from which she heard the faint cries of gulls.

Last night had been a fucking nightmare. No, it had been much worse than that. Once she left Marcy, she headed over to Temptation's and Cindy's, hoping to get a quick fix. But when she got there, Cindy was in one of her usual moods. "You've been with Jonah, haven't you?" she'd said, almost accusingly, after they sat down on the living room couch and started watching TV.

Mildred wasn't sure how she knew this or why she cared. "Hey, it's not like he's any great guy or anything." All the while nonchalantly working her hand up Cindy's miniskirt. "I mean, he took a shit on me, can you believe that?" She tried to make it sound funny so Cindy wouldn't see the shame and embarrassment in her eyes.

"That's so cool!" This didn't exactly surprise her, after all, Cindy had always been kind of kinky.

"Uh, I don't know... I mean, I've had people pee on me before, but this was like, way different." She rubbed up against Cindy's crotch. But instead of returning the favor, Cindy got up abruptly and scampered off to the bathroom. Mildred was left alone with two empty hands and Baywatch.

A short while later, a much more somber looking and heavily made-up Cindy came back into the living room only long enough to put on her Docs and adjust the toothbrush that went through the top knot of her punk rock haircut. Not saying a word, she exited, banging the front door behind her. Once Cindy was gone, things started going quickly downhill. With all the ambience of some tacky circus gag -- BOOM! FLASH! -- knives appeared everywhere, the shiny razors from her death vision floated in front of her. They buzzed around the corners of her vision, danced and paraded around on the floor. They were all keyed into her, waiting for her to make the first move. It became immediately important to remain very, very still. If she moved, she'd get cut, she'd get slaughtered, and then the blood would start pouring out. Seeing the knives was horrible enough -- Mildred couldn't handle the idea of blood too. To make things worse, there was a part of her that suddenly understood that any movement on her part might escalate out of control, and she'd be the one grabbing the knives and doing all the slicing and gouging. Why? She couldn't understand why, but she knew she would. Her body and mind could not be trusted. If she didn't have total control over herself, she wouldn't have any, and that would be it. Goodbye. The end. She must have started blacking out on and off for the rest of the night, and was only available in a stream of bits and pieces that got increasingly more and more hazy and distorted... Suddenly, out of nowhere, Cindy, like a golden angel, kneeling between her legs, eating her out, helping her to breathe. And then the knives again, only larger and sharper and closer, hissing and vibrating in the air while Cindy crawled all over her, high on something, kissing her face and biting her breasts and pounding her little fist between her legs (all the while Mildred frozen on the couch, murmuring with her tongue inside her mouth, don't move, stay still, don't move). Then, naked in the bathtub with the fluorescent lights feeling like Clorox against her eyes and Cindy, naked, kneeling over her, holding a razor blade -- RAZOR BLADE -- and cutting -- CUTTING -- a small, shallow slit under her own nipple where her breast would be if she had one.

"Come on," she said to Mildred, letting the razor blade fall behind the tub, "I want you to feel my blood come out."

Cindy pinched the skin around the small incision and Mildred was soaked, crushing waves of blood instantly drowning screaming... Wait, she wasn't the only one screaming. Some guy was screaming in Temptation's room -- everyone screaming like banshees and running around -- devils witches and Nazi stormtroopers sucking blood and assholes and vampires bats shitting black acid. She was on fire, burning, her vagina burning blood, the body and mind couldn't be trusted, moaning clawing writhing like a cat digging into the mold beneath the carpet, her eyes jammed tightly shut trying to ignore the waves of sour vomit and cold blades shredding her skin apart. Only she knew that it wasn't real, she just had to ride it out and try not to find that little razor blade in the bathroom. No, I won't be able to see it, but if I reach under the tub, my fingers will feel it there against the cold wet tiles. Please stay on top of me, please, I'll do anything JUST KEEP ME OUT OF THE BATHROOM...

Mildred sat uncomfortably on the cold bench for a long time and continued to ponder the recent events of her life, eventually reaching the conclusion she'd done her damnedest to avoid, and yet deep down, always knew was right on.

Rape, plain and simple. That's what this shit was all about. She shouldn't deny it to herself anymore. What else could be doing this? She'd been raped, raped by that scumbag of a photography professor. That was the part she left out to Marcy. After he'd told her what zero talent she'd had, he'd driven her home and on the way, pulled into an alleyway and raped her. Just because he knew he could. That's what was causing the death visions every night. She couldn't deny it any longer. They were happening because she was keeping the whole thing inside, not even allowing herself to talk about it with Marcy, her closest friend. But how could she talk about it? If she couldn't understand being raped, how could she expect anyone else to understand? That was why it was impossible to do anything other than keep it to herself.

Why the fuck couldn't she control her feelings? It wasn't like she hadn't prepared or anything. She'd always known that, sooner or later, given her lifestyle, rape was bound to happen. And, looking at the whole thing objectively, it wasn't like the experience had been that much different from most of her other disgusting sexual encounters. So what was the problem? The problem was her. The problem was that she got hammered every night with the death visions so strong because she deserved them. Plain and simple. She was a slut of the lowest order, who wasn't even strong enough to just shake off one little rape. You always get what you deserve. No wonder she kept trying to blot the rape out in her mind: thinking about it was way too miserable and depressing.

Tonight... tonight was going to be worse than last night, and if she survived, tomorrow would be worse still. And through it all, she'd keep her mouth shut because that was her fate, and there was nothing to be done about it, and at least soon she'd feel some peace.

Mildred kept chaining GPC lights, staring at her boots and marveling that at times like this, despite everything that was going down, she was still unable to cry. Smoking helped with the dull ache in her skull.

"Hey there!"

Mildred looked up and saw a short, squat man, dressed entirely in denim hurrying across the street, smiling and waving at her. When he reached her, he held out a small hand made of rough, chapped skin. His eyes sparkled in a way that made it obvious to her what his game was all about. Ugh, she thought, instantly repulsed but knowing she was probably going to sleep with him anyway.

"Mildred, I'm Bruce." Now that was funny, how did he know her name? Where her ex-boyfriends putting up flyers now? MILDRED WILL DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, JUST SAY HER NAME AND SMILE.

"You don't remember me?" His voice was mildly concerned. Speaking in a low murmur that barely carried over the street traffic he said, "We were both at the SLAA meeting last night." This was followed by a hopeful grin. Mildred stared at his jet black pompadour and big greasy pores and dandruffy eyebrows and waxed bandito-style mustache.

"Oh yeah, I remember you," he was a newcomer, she'd only seen him at the last few meetings. "How's it going?"

First the rape, then the shitting, then last night, now this. Things were definitely spiraling down faster and faster.

Bruce was looking her over excitedly. Sweat was pouring out of his hairline, despite the fact that it was freezing and all he wore was a denim jacket. "It's probably not right for me to come talk to you like this, especially since I just started going and everything. But... uh, what you said last night... I thought... I really thought it was fantastic. I mean, I identified with it so much, and that's why I ran over here like a maniac when I saw you 'cause I really, really wanted to tell you that. Last night I tried, but you'd already gone out the door with that townie-looking..."

"Marcy."

"Yeah, Marcy. She seemed really nice too. She was silent the whole time -- at the meeting -- like me."

"She doesn't think she talks very well."

"Shit, I know how she feels." He shook his head and looked down at his beat-up cowboy boots, his hands jammed into his jeans. "Well, uh, this is a hell of a coincidence, us meeting like this. I just moved here and I don't know anyone and..."

"You're probably somewhat horny." Mildred yawned into her fist. After last night, she wasn't in the mood to play games. She probably never would be again.

"Horny? Well, yeah, heh, heh." He gritted his teeth and farted loudly. Mildred was temporarily stunned, having never seen anyone squeeze one out so nonchalantly in public before. "Shit, got this stomach condition... Horny, yeah, it's been a while since I've had any wild nights. Not like you, I guess." He raised his eyebrows and winked. Mildred realized at that moment she might have some of Cindy's blood still on her face. In her haste this morning she hadn't bothered checking things out in the bathroom. All told, she must look seriously ragged right now.

"Let's not kid ourselves," she said, feeling somewhat weary and business-like. "You've been listening to me at the meetings and you know my M.O.. That's why you came over to me, because you knew you could take advantage of me. Well, guess what? You're right. My parents are getting ready for their Sunday dinner so I guess we'll have to go to your place."

He'd taken out a pack of Kools and lit one. "You make it sound very erotic. I like that." He took a few drags, nodded his head and stared at her mischievously. "Alright, so much for pretense. My truck's over there."

"Fine," Mildred said, taking a look at the beat-up red GMC across the street. "We should get going. I gotta be at work in a few hours."

The inside of his truck smelled like old rubber and the heater was broken. Once they'd gotten going, she had to keep a hand on her door due to the precarious state of his shocks.

"You know," said Bruce as they continued along outer Washington, "I wasn't just hunting snatch today. True, I was gonna look you up, but today was just a huge, happy coincidence. The reason I was out here was I was looking in those junk shops for some cheap frames. I'm a photographer, you see."

"You're a photographer?" She hadn't expected that.

"Oh yeah, you better believe it. That's another reason why I came over. I mean, aside from -- how did you put it, ‘knowing your M.O.' -- 'cause I remember last night you were saying something about giving away a real expensive... what was it? A Nikon camera?"

"Yeah."

"And I sort of thought that you might be interested in photography too." He peeked over at her.

"You're talking about taking dirty pictures?"

He farted again, lifting up one of his cheeks to do so and filled the cab with the stench of stale tuna. "What'd ya think I meant?"

He ended up living way out in the sticks, way out, in a little rundown farmhouse he said he was renting.

"You want a sandwich? I could whip you up one no problem." Bruce walked around his tiny "rustic style" kitchen, stuffing a hastily-put-together bologna sandwich into his mouth, with another ready to go on the cutting board. Mildred sat at the tiny kitchen table next to a window with a view of a small backyard with a bleak winter forest behind it. She shook her head and chained another cigarette, already into her second pack.

"Hey, whatever." Bruce was bent down, getting a small plastic bag out of a drawer. On the way up, something in his back malfunctioned and he cringed, putting a hand on the counter for support.

Mildred stared at him impassively.

"Goddamn back," Bruce muttered, easing himself up slowly and wiping away the sweat that had accumulated on his face.

"I was a welder, you know, deep oil rig kind. One day, in the Gulf of Mexico, an ‘I' beam fell on me, right in the fucking stomach. Those oil guys pay great, you know, I don't gotta work for the rest of my life, but I have this chronic back and guts problem." He put a hand on his lower back and winced. "Shit, I'd rather be poor any day."

"I bet," Mildred said, less than impressed. "So what did you have in mind for us this afternoon?" trying to get the ball rolling.

"What? Does that turn you on, talking about it beforehand?"

"Sure."

"It's a surprise. A big one." He picked up the other sandwich
and took a huge bite, grinning the whole time. "You like kinky shit?" he asked her, his mouth still full.

"I guess. I mean, this guy shit on me last night, but I didn't really like it."

"Jesus! Who would?"

Mildred shrugged.

"I swear, the youth of today... Jesus Christ." He farted and shook his head. "You know, I've seen some strange shit in my forty-three years, and I must've travelled across the country... I don't know, twenty, twenty-five times. I've seen all the horrible things no one writes or talks about."

Mildred was getting impatient. Bruce must've read her look. He stopped pacing around and leaned against the sink. He ran a hand through his hair and licked his lips, still sweating and looking twice as oily as he had when they'd met. "You're right," he said. "Let's get this started." He put what was left of his sandwich down and stuck a Kool in his mouth. "Why don't you stand up and strip."

Mildred looked around the dingy kitchen. "What, in here?"

"Yeah, sure. I wanna get a look at you before we really get things going." Mildred nodded and began undoing her boots.

"Those are nice boots, huh?" Bruce let the ash from his cigarette drop onto the floor.

"They're Fluevogs."

"No shit. I thought all you kids wore... what are they called? Docs?"

"Not me." She had her boots and socks off and arranged neatly under the table next to the unswept crumbs and dust bunnies.

"No shit. So what's with all this black shit? Is that some sort of punk rock thing?"

Mildred stood up, feeling grit under her bare feet. She pulled off her skirt. "It's Gothic."

"Yeah? So what does that mean?"

What did it mean? She'd been Goth for so many years she'd stopped thinking about it. "I dunno, it's about not liking life very much, listening to bands like Bauhaus and Christian Death."

"Oh yeah?" Bruce chuckled and farted. "And you wear black all the time. It's kind of arty, don't you think?"

Mildred was now completely naked, standing next to the chair she'd been sitting in, hands at her sides, looking at Bruce, trying to find a hint in his expression of what might happen next.

He looked excited, but not in a turned-on sort of way. More like satisfied, like he'd just gotten paid. "So when was it exactly that you were raped?"

She wasn't sure she'd heard him correctly, crossing her arms over her breasts and frowning.

"Ah, don't do that. How can I see those amazing hooters of yours?"

She put her arms back by her sides. The drafty kitchen air was giving her goose pimples all over. "So?" she asked him.

"So?" he shot back. "I asked you a question, when were you raped? I get the feeling it was recent, real recent."

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said, feeling trapped and tricked.

"Oh come on. Don't deny it. Look at what you've done to all your body hair. That's a classic response."

Was it? She hadn't seen anything about it in the brochures at her meetings, though she was the first to admit they weren't exactly comprehensive.

"And that little girl underwear... You bought that to punish yourself, didn't you?"

"I did," Mildred mumbled, feeling awkward and ridiculous and wishing she were invisible.

"Of course you did."

"Last week, this photography professor of mine..."

He was nodding his head, lighting another cigarette. "That sounds right. Those photography types are real motherfuckers."

Being forced to admit it didn't make her feel much better, but it did make her feel different. More than anything else, Mildred felt even more cold, hard. But, she realized, she was suddenly no longer feeling sorry for herself. And that was just slightly amazing. How long had it been since she hadn't felt sorry for herself? Forever? Something like that.

"You do this on purpose, don't you?" she asked Bruce, looking into his face. "You intentionally get together with women who've been raped."

Bruce was impressed. "Most of the time, yeah. I like rape the best. Women, especially the fresh ones are very, very easy to work with. Generally they don't flip out and cause problems."

He was right, she had no inclination right now to put her clothes on or anything. In fact, it took a great deal of effort for her to focus, her mind was becoming consumed with thoughts about what was hiding behind that bulge in his pants, what it smelled like, tasted like, would feel like getting rammed inside her. Sex, the fantastic and ultimate escape! It won't clean you up, but it sure will make all that dirt feel delicious! The more dirt the better! "And you spotted it on me from a mile away."

Bruce nodded. "Yeah. After a while, you know what to look for. Rape's an easy thing to spot. Shit, after the way you talked at that meeting..." He picked the garbage bag up off the counter and shook it open.

"You're going to do something more humiliating than shitting on me, aren't you? And you're going to take pictures."

Bruce handed her the bag. "Go on," he said. "Put it on, you're not going to wear it long enough to hurt yourself. I just don't want to ruin the surprise."

Mildred stared at the black plastic in her hand, then nodded slowly.

After the bag was on, he put her arms behind her back and handcuffed them together, then, keeping hold of the cuff's connecting chain, began to lead her along. The inside of the bag quickly became very hot and covered in condensation, the part in front of her face getting blown away, and then sucked back in time with her breathing. The lack of oxygen combined with not being able to see ruined her sense of space and time, making everything feel dreamy and unreal. Behind her he continued to fart as he steered the chain.

There was only one other time she'd ever been handcuffed, by this skate punk when she was seventeen, but he'd let her hold onto the keys the whole time. She had a feeling Bruce wouldn't go for that.

"A lot of girls, ones like you, they develop fantasies after the rape happens. You know, real hurtful stuff. That happen to you?"

"How do you know so much about it?" His voice sounded mangled against the plastic, she wondered if he could even understand her.

"I used to work as a counselor in a rape crisis center. So, you've been having awful fantasies... Suicidal stuff?"

It occurred to her then that this guy was really sick, and she found it amusing it had taken so long for her to reach that conclusion. Man, she was pretty far gone, pretty far fuckin' gone to let herself go so far with a sick bastard like this. It also occurred to her that he was talking about the fantasies and nothing was happening. Here it was, getting late, and fantasies were being asked for by name. And for some reason, they weren't there. There was no slow pulse coming from the corners of her mind. She closed her eyes, willed them to appear, just to see, because she had to be sure. Was it possible? It was. Nothing. No razors. No blood. They were gone. Somehow she knew -- she could feel -- they weren't coming back.

"I used to have these things, I don't know, these death visions," Bruce had stopped her and let go for a second. She spoke with her head forward since she wasn't sure where he was. "Knives, a utility razor, cutting open my wrists, that sort of thing." It felt good talking about it. Somehow, once the words were out in the outside world, it didn't feel as overwhelming as it had. A weight that had been pushing her down into the dirt was now evaporating. "There was blood, so much blood, sometimes it was so bad I hallucinated. They'd hit me at night for some reason, and the only thing that would make them less strong was orgasms. Last night was the worst. I kept going in and out."

"Cool." She heard Bruce come back over to her from wherever he'd been, carrying some kind of bag full of clunky objects. "I met a girl from Tulsa that had a fantasy, a lot like yours, only she thought about sharpened screwdrivers. She was a drifter, ended up doing herself, just like she'd been thinking about. Real shame, I always wished I'd gotten her first."

"That almost happened to me last night."

"Yeah." He farted, and after a moment, pulled the bag off. Mildred was assaulted by air and light and had to shake her head and squeeze her eyes open and shut to keep the sudden dizziness from knocking her over.

She was standing in the middle of a homemade gallery; the farmhouse's wide, low-ceilinged living room stripped of all domestic possessions and covered with pictures, photographs, hundreds of them, covering every inch of wall space, even on the cardboard that had been taped over the windows.

All black and white, four-by-five, and very neatly framed and hung. All were studies, pictures of women who looked around Mildred's age or younger, one woman per picture. All shots were either close-ups or medium shots.

All the women were naked, shackled, and hanging from something that looked like an inverted T. All of the women were in various stages of being tortured.

Most of them looked starved and in extreme amounts of pain. All were bleeding, covered in bruises, welts, lacerations, gashes. Some were hairless, just like her.

Staring at them was like being given a sudden mega dose of electric shock. Was she going to faint? No, this was making her more alert than she'd ever been in her life. This was bad, this was very, very bad. He wasn't just trying to scare her, this wasn't some sick kinky game. This went beyond sick, this was real. She felt warm urine running down the inside of her thigh.

...a very bad situation, a very bad situation, a very bad situation...

Bruce, who had on a small nylon backpack, looked down at the puddle around her feet and said, "Scream if you want. Go ahead... We're in the middle of nowhere. My nearest neighbor is a retired school teacher fag who wears two hearing aids and lives more than five miles away."

Mildred swallowed but didn't give him the satisfaction. She remained perfectly still, trying to avoid the images by focusing on all the small details of the room. She could smell the wood on the floor, knew exactly what the edge of the cardboard over the windows would feel like if she ran her tongue over it, could hear the super-fast tinkling of the bare halogen bulbs on the ceiling.

"You know, you're lucky. I usually don't show a girl my work beforehand. But I got the idea you dug photography so..."

Bruce was standing away from her, giving her space. No, he was taking space. He'd gone out of his way to avoid touching her or getting too close when he guided her here. He wasn't interested in fucking her at all. In one harsh breath, she realized what this was about.

"This was never about sex, was it? Just torture. You're going to torture me to death."

"I think you've got it figured out."

"And there's no hope for me, is there? There's no way I'm getting out of this."

Bruce shook his head, a grin coming out the corner of his mouth. "Look at the condition you're in."

He was right. Naked with her hands cuffed behind her back. She couldn't be more helpless if she tried.

"What about people missing me? Someone..."

Bruce laughed, "What, like your parents?"

He was right again. They'd file a missing person's report and then assume she'd split, taken off. And that would be that. After a few days, the pain of rejection and wondering what went wrong would die down and they'd be back in their recliners with the tube. Marcy would wonder. Marcy would care. But she wouldn't be able to do anything either. She'd also think Mildred had taken off. Jesus, why the fuck hadn't she just taken off?

"That's why I only target girls your age, in your situation," Bruce went on. "You're basically already invisible and can fall through the cracks and no one will ever give a damn. No milk cartons, no posters, no rewards. She's gone, big deal."

Mildred kept licking her lips. Her mouth was so dry, her lips were chapped. Her chest felt hollow. She felt her bladder empty again, and then her bowels opened up, stinking up the room even worse than his farts.

"I think it's time we moved this show outside," Bruce said, grabbing the chain between her cuffs as he had before, and moved her toward the back door.

Outside, the sun was turning into horizon haze and it was snowing lightly, with a breeze picking up. But the snow made it warmer and her naked skin felt fine, it was only her feet that became sensitive and stung as they padded across the icy ground.

Bruce herded her through the small backyard and into the woods beyond, chattering the whole time like an eager school boy. "I never would've thought you were a shitter," he told her. "I was sure you'd be a puker, and you'd be surprised how accurately I can call it."

"I don't think after last night I have anything left to puke," she explained, ducking her head to avoid getting slapped in the face by a small pine branch.

"Even better. I'm not into vomit." She heard him light a cigarette and was surprised to find that she wasn't craving one herself. "Usually, I like to do the torture for a few days, but since it's so cold here, we're going to have to get it all done this afternoon. Don't worry, I brought a flash for the camera for when it gets dark."

Mildred was having trouble staying emotionally attached. He was talking about her and he was talking through her. She knew what he was talking about had to do directly with her, yet at the same time, it affected her like hearing stock market figures. Emotions didn't seem very important now, after all, what good would they do? How would they change things?

"See, now if you hadn't been raped and shit, you'd never let me treat you like this, you'd be acting way different. No hope, right? Let me tell you the other thing I like about raped women, and this is somewhat deep so you'll have to bear with me. Think you can do that? Heh, heh. See, it all started about fifteen years ago. I was in Louisiana, living with this bitch, and one night we had a fight or something and then had sex. You know what I'm saying: that good after-a-big-fight kind of sex. Anyway, the next day, she still must be pissed because she goes and charges me with rape. Yeah, tell the cops... Well, you know, typical bullshit. Bitch leaves me, takes all the furniture and shit. Course the charges never stick, she takes it all back after she's gone... and then a few nights later, I'm walking home from this bar, drunk out of my fucking mind, and I see there's this girl taking a pee in an alleyway. Just a little old girl taking a little old drunken pee. This was in a deserted part of town and I think to myself, what the hell? Everyone's calling me a rapist, I might as well see what it feels like. So yeah, I go in that alley and I rape the shit out of that bitch. I don't kill her or nothing, just get my dick real nice and wet. Give her some of my cum."

They came out of the woods into a small clearing, in the center of which, on a rise about three hundred feet away, rested an old, mangled oak. On one of the lower branches swung the inverted T thing she'd seen in the pictures. Its two manacles were open, waiting patiently as it swayed and creaked in the wind.

Bruce slowed the pace down so they could keep talking and walking. "So that rape, yeah, it was the damnedest thing... Not my style, you know? I'm not particularly all that sexual, but anyway, afterwards, damn, I was filled with this tremendous sense of... energy. I don't know... It was fuckin' something else though. Like out-of-body shit for real. Beyond real. Fuck, it was something, something I knew at the time I wasn't ready to mess with. Then, more recently, I had that accident. Thing's dripping with irony, see -- I've got more money now than I'd ever thought I would, way more than I can even spend, but I've got this pain, this chronic fuckin' pain in my back and guts."

They were on the rise now, getting closer to the tree.

"So yeah, I do all the drugs: street, prescription, you name it. But I soon learned that shit doesn't help with the pain, it just distracts you from it, makes you so fucked up that even though you still hurt, you're like, what the fuck? Stupid. And that's when I started thinking about that cunt down in Louisiana, and that's how I came up with my theory."

She looked past the tree to the sky. It was grey, just like her pictures had been, the ones she'd handed in to her photo teacher, with millions of tiny grey dots falling from it. Everything was grey and flat, the sky, the snow, the tree, her. She saw clearly now how it was all super-imposed on itself. She was stuck in the picture, just like the picture was stuck in her.

"You wanna hear it? Of course you do... It's simple, but like I said, it's deep too. Here it is: all liberation involves rape. You got that? The truth is, a person can't get anywhere, get anything, without somehow bringing about inhuman suffering on someone else. Drugs aren't going to make me feel better, but inflicting suffering, just like that first time, brings on this wild, powerful energy. It cuts through. For real. And I get away from the pain for a while."

"Wait, you mean, the reason you're doing this... is just to help with your back pain?" Mildred stopped. She couldn't believe this. "What about the photos?"

"Those just help me in between. They're technical aids."

"So why does it matter that I was raped?"

"Energy," he whispered in her ear. "That's what I've been saying -- you're already opened up for the energies. Not only are you more complacent, you're a better conduit. Now come on, we're almost there."

This wasn't about anything more than his back pain. The pictures, all of it, was just because of back pain. What a boring, lame ass fucking reason to torture someone to death.

What a goddamn dork -- the insight flashed upon her with the gargantuan brightness of a Vegas sign. He was like the boy in junior high you slept with because you felt sorry for him, and then he brags to all his friends what a sleaze you are. He was like the photography teacher, laughing and tearing off her panties and bra. Like Jonah, shitting on her face. He was like every man she'd ever fucked, sucked, or otherwise masturbated. Dorks. They were all dorks! Why had it taken so long for her to figure it out? Not just that they were dorks: she wasn't.

!!!SHEWASN'TSHEWASN'TSHEWASN'TSHEWASN'TSHEWASN'T!!!

It was like she suddenly owned herself for the first time. No, she'd always owned herself, she just hadn't known it until right then. Unbelievable. All of that 12-step stuff now made sense: there was a higher power. It was her.

And fuck if she was going to get in that fucking torture contraption and let this dork who didn't even care about photography as art torture her to death.

Mildred yanked up her hands and spun around.

Taken by surprise, Bruce lost his footing and fell backwards, flailing his arms as he came down hard on the frozen ground.

Immediately, he screamed, screaming raw murder and looking just like a newborn baby, his arms and legs waving helplessly around him.

Mildred stared at him for a moment, unsure what would happen next.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"Jesus fuckin' Christ! I dislocated my fucking back! My fuckin' back, Jesus, oh God!!!" He stared straight up into the falling snow, his mouth open wide, screaming, his face twisted in agony. "You gotta help me," he turned his head to her. "You gotta get me to a hospital or I'm fucked."

"You've got to be kidding."

"Please!" he whined. "Please! In the front pocket of the backpack are the fuckin' keys to your cuffs. In a coffee can on the stove are the keys to my truck. Please, I don't got a phone, you've got to drive to my neighbor's and use his."

Mildred circled around him and yanked the bag away from his shoulder using her foot, causing his screams to get even louder. The keys were in the front pocket, but it took her a lot longer to get the cuffs off than she thought it would -- her fingers had started to go numb. Once the cuffs were lying on the ground, she stretched her shoulders and went through the rest of the backpack.

"Jesus fuckin' Christ! What are you doing? You've got to help me! There's nothing fuckin' in there!"

Hardly, the bag was full of -- among other things -- a hacksaw, a ziplocked bag of broken glass, a strand of barbed wire, an emergency flare, and most notably, an old rusty utility razor.

"Jesus fuckin' Christ, you gotta..."

"Hey, shut the fuck up." The anger felt good, natural. Never in the past had she allowed herself to be angry in front of someone else. She held the razor up so he could see it. "You sick little fuck. I tell you my fuckin' nightmares and you bring this along, just to torture me even more." Holding it now, it connoted none of the fear and insanity of the visions. In her hand, it simply felt like a lump, a dead, cold lump. Just technology.

Bruce had stopped writhing and was staring at her, breathing hard. Mildred moved next to him. "You were going to mutilate me? Do you know what a fuckin' mistake that was?" Words were coming out of her mouth as soon as they entered her head. She could feel her heart pounding inside her chest, faster and faster. "And all I wanted was one simple thing. I just wanted one simple little lousy fuck, now that's not so hard..." She trailed off, finding herself staring at the bulge in his pants again.

...No, this was wrong, this was bad, she shouldn't even be thinking about doing it. Only monsters did stuff like this. He deserved to be punished, yes, he deserved to be severely punished, but this whole ordeal should've taught her that sex was dangerous, that she needed to control her urges. What would a college-educated feminist want

her to do? Probably cut his dick off and throw it in the woods and then have a press conference...
"No!" Bruce was screaming. "No!!"

"Fuck that," Mildred said out loud, taking the razor and slicing through the denim fly. "Fuck all of that white noise." Out popped his penis, much tanner and skinnier than she'd thought it would be. It looked lonely, so lonely.

"NO!! OH JESUS FUCK NO!!!"

"Shut the fuck up!" His arms and legs were thrashing around again, which annoyed her, so she grabbed the handcuffs and slapped them on his wrists, then pulled them down behind his head so it looked like he was making moose ears at her.

Sticking the razor against his throat, she commanded, "You say another fuckin' word and I'm going to saw your fuckin' head off." She stared into his eyes and behind his curtain of pain she saw genuine and undistilled terror of a kind she'd never witnessed... and she was the sole source. It was all her. What a new sensation... Bruce was right, it was undescribable: beyond real. Mildred stared at Bruce, only partially aware of how fiercely she was grinning.

Turning back to the penis, she saw it was twitching back and forth, and there was a good-sized trickle of blood pouring off the side. "Oh look," she said, "I must have nicked it."

She spit into her free hand and began rubbing her vagina vigorously up and down it to warm it up. Tears poured out of Bruce's eyes. Every time she saw him about to open his mouth, she intensified her look, tweaked it a tiny bit. That's all it took. He stayed quiet.

Careful to keep the razor firmly pressed against his throat, she straddled him and guided his penis inside her, letting the hot, greasy blood act as lubrication. Mildred sighed. In the past, she'd always refused to be on top, hating it. It was too much pressure, too much work, it made her self-conscious. Now, lackadaisically moving her pelvis around, feeling the delicious boiling warmth jammed inside her and the hard little snow crystals pounding away so delicately all over, making her skin tingle, she had to admit, maybe there wasn't anything wrong with being on top. After all, this felt wonderful, like the first time she'd ever had sex. No, that was wrong. This felt like what she'd hoped the first time she'd had sex would feel like. Mildred sighed again, taking her time. There was no need to rush things.

to be continued...

 


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