Alright, as part of my concerted effort to improve my writing and make this into a career of sorts I rewrote the writing prompt from “On Writing” that I talked about in the previous post. I think this is much better, it feels truer. I am also going to submit it to Stephen King as he requests (Edit: Stephen King no longer accepts submissions… womp womp). I’m not sure if I’m going to significantly revisit this writing prompt again anytime soon but I do need to come up with more things to write about for my 1,000 words a day habit. Tomorrow, I plan on addressing some questions sent to me via SurveyMonkey (so get them in soon and I’ll probably respond tomorrow).
Content Warning: Violence, mental health issues, psychological thriller/horror style writing
Richard and Lucy
Richard felt relief as he opened the door to his newly sold house. Today would be the last day that he we would cross the threshold into this house that used to be a home. Instead of furniture and pictures and toys littering the rooms there was nothing but brown boxes stacked with simple labels written on them to make organizing the new home easier. Each word representing a room and a dream. Silverware and plates in a box marked “Kitchen” where Thanksgiving dinner would be made. Towels in a box marked “Bathroom” where he and his wife would bathe their newborn child. Picture frames and mementos in a box marked “Living Room” where they would curl up and watch tv, surrounded by testaments to their joyous life of adventures. Bedsheets in a box marked “Master Bedroom” where he and his wife would eventually, after much practice, give their daughter a new sibling. But those dreams were shattered and Richard knew that he had to finish packing up reality and get on the road.
His new life in a new, safe town was hundreds of miles away and there was a lot of packing to be done. His closest friends offered to help him with the final day of the move, but he decided to do it alone. Their optimistic visions of music, pizza, and beer as a final farewell felt too fake to him. This wasn’t a joyous occasion and it wasn’t a communal one. No, he knew he needed to do this alone. Even his daughter, the only person he knew loved him, was absent. At six years old, she was too young to really help and he didn’t want her to see him cry over these boxes of broken dreams. She needed to know that he could protect her, that he was strong, that things would be okay. Besides, he knew she would have more fun at her grandparents’ house and they wanted to spend just one more day with their granddaughter before Richard and her drove off into the sunset.
Without conscious thought, Richard aimed his phone at the wireless speakers that sat on shelves throughout the house and pressed play. The house erupted.
*symbols and drums*
Jealous cowards try to control
Rise above! We’re gonna rise above!
The living room, dining room, and kitchen went smoothly as his body got into a routine. Lift box. Move box to the truck. Put the box in the truck. Repeat. Each brown square sitting on top of each other, a simple game of Tetris with the same shape in varying sizes. His mind was completely turned off, lost in the task of moving and the angry voices that echoed throughout the house. The hours passed quickly.
Then, he entered the bedroom and his mind came to life. This room, a place where he and his wife cuddled, made love, stayed in bed all day, fought about finances, and acted silly was where their love began and, eventually, died. His eyes glazed over and he felt an impending panic attack. Usually these attacks were triggered by sites that reminded him of his time in the military, but there was no such trigger around. This room was a trigger. Suddenly, smells flooded back to him. Her favorite perfume, her hair, her scent. He sat down, put his head between his hands and tried to focus on the music, but the music suddenly stopped and the speakers beeped.
**Incoming call from… Mom**
A flash of light.
The world started to come into focus and all Richard could think of was rabbits. Rabbits running in circles. No, they weren’t rabbits he realized. It was a merry-go-round, the one near the beach. His daughter was on one of the rabbits and waving. He was happy.
Then, the rabbits started to disappear as reality returned. He tried to beg them to return but all that came out of his mouth was a groan and spit and blood. He blinked his eyes and tried to focus on something, anything, but it seemed too difficult. Movement appeared to his right. A being in white. An angel, she was humming. He was in heaven. He smiled and relaxed
Richard awoke again and this time things came into focus more quickly. The rust started to come off his soldier’s mind and he consciously realized for the first time that he was in danger. This wasn’t a panic attack and he wasn’t in heaven. There were no rabbits.
He began to scan his body from top to bottom.
Head: hurting from the rear, warm liquid flowing down his neck, he was conscious so no major blood loss, possible concussion.
Senses: No impairment.
Torso: Sitting position on floor facing corner, left side sore with possibly bruised ribs, arms secured behind back, felt like rope, no apparent injuries
Legs: Untied, no apparent injuries. Phone still in his pant pocket.
Conclusion: Culprit is either very sloppy or wants to talk and doesn’t fear him running
Options: Scream for help – unlikely to work due to the distance to nearest neighbor and daytime traffic. Try and move – possible but with unknown assailant(s) and their position, better to preserve energy. Wait and observe – best option, feign weakness.
Richard groaned and coughed slowly, pretending to just wake up.
“Well, well sugarplum! I’m glad to see you awake. I’ve missed you!”
Footsteps approached from his right and out of the corner of his eye he saw a flowing white wedding dress. His ex-wife, Lucy, beaming as brightly as she did on their wedding day. His first fleeting thought was how beautiful and sexy she still looked, fitting into the tight dress seven years after she first wore it. Even the veil brought about a sense of secrecy that he found erotic. His second thought was how strangely appropriate it was that instead of a bouquet of white flowers she gently held the small handgun that he had bought her and taught her how to use. The macabre image was highlighted by her perfect white dress sullied with blood splatters.
“Aren’t you excited for our second wedding?” she asked. “This time our bond really will be for eternity. But first, you need to get dressed!” Her body vibrated with excitement, her face almost childlike as it beamed joy.
He turned to see her and noticed that his tuxedo was draped across one of the boxes. This was a bad situation, but Richard started to become confident. He was larger than her, well-trained, and if he had his arms free he knew he could overpower her when given the right opportunity. She was armed, but that didn’t concern him too much. The handgun was a small caliber and one gunshot from that weapon wouldn’t be fatal unless it was in the head, an unlikely situation if he acted wisely. He knew that one-shot kills and hitting targets while tangled in a fight can make for good cinema but reality was messier and more confusing.
She began to untie him while slowly humming “Here Comes the Bride”. He knew that this could be his best chance to overpower her. If he could stand quickly while she was off balance he could grab the gun, overpower her, and get control of the situation. He started his internal countdown, his senses heightened.
“Now, I hope you don’t get cold feet,” she said.
“I would hate for something bad to happen…”
“…to that bitch that you love more than me.”
“If you try anything you may find her corpse…”
“Wait. Are you going robot on me again?!? You emotionless drone!”
“You always do this! You can’t love meeee anymore can you?! Only that stupid bitch!”
With those words, all thought of escape or fighting stopped. He had to know what she meant before trying anything. If Lucy had put their daughter in danger he knew he had to get information out of her first. He walked over to the tuxedo and slowly, nervously put it on. He had stripped in front of this women many times in his life, but this felt different. He was stripping in front of an enemy, and that vulnerability was difficult to overcome. Senses his reluctance she smiled and said, “Aww, do you want that to be a surprise for our consummation? That’s so adorable!” and she turned around. He dressed quickly, sliding his phone into his tuxedo pocket.
“Okay, I’m ready,” he said after getting dressed.
“EEEEE, you look so handsome!” she said as she walked over. She adjusted his tie a bit and then smiled. “Perfect. Time to get married again!” she said, pointing the gun at him, her face suddenly serious, “go into the study.”
He was painfully aware of how tight this hallway was as they moved to the study. It was barely big enough for two people to pass each other if they turned sideways, and even then, bodies inevitably rubbed together (a happy quirk of the house that has lead to a spontaneous quickie between two lovers on more than one occasion).
At the end of the hallway he slowly opened the door. The light flooding in the windows prevented his eyes from adjusting for a moment, but when they did he witnessed a scene of horror. At the center of the room was a makeshift altar built out of boxes and decorated with flowers and weeds from the garden. Toilet paper was hung from the ceiling and walls, the white broken up by splatters and streaks of red blood. Behind the alter was a dead postal worker in uniform, a clear gunshot wound through his left eye. His right eye was open, staring blankly at the floor and his swollen tongue pressed out between his lips. Blood snaked across the floor, filling in the imperfections of the hardwood floor. The smell of death and shit and piss filled the room.
Richard instinctively recoiled back into the gun that was pressed into the back of his neck. “Don’t worry, my love. I know he isn’t a priest, but as a government employee I am sure he can marry us.” He could hear her smiling through the words. There was true joy in her voice, once again she was that young woman excited for her wedding day. She sounded happy and healthy and joyous about the future, a future that none of them could predict.
His mind continued to race through every possible scenario. Did she really have their daughter somewhere? Or was that a lie? How did she get her? Where could she be keeping her? He wanted to fight back but couldn’t take the risk, he had to play along until he knew the truth.
“Lucy, darling, don’t you think we should have a flower girl for this special occasion?” he said.
“That would be wonderful! But unfortunately, we don’t have time. The ceremony is starting. I love you so much, Richard!”
Lucy walked over to a laptop that was sitting on a box in the corner and pressed a button. The familiar “duh duh da duh” of “Here Comes the Bride” pounded out of the small speakers. Something felt off about the recording to Richard, the music seemed muted and imperfect. It wasn’t until Richard heard a man say, “Dearly beloved…” that he realized that this wasn’t a song, this was a live recording of their actual wedding from years ago.
Lucy took Richard’s hand and looked up at him. “Soon this will be over and we will be able to consummate, don’t tell my parents but I’m looking forward to that as much as this ceremony,” she said. “And then one quick errand and then we are on to our honeymoon! Just the two of us!”
Their short ceremony went by in a blur as Richard’s mind raced trying to find a solution. He pretended to recite his vows as the recording played and Lucy pressed closer to him humming and swaying. Once recording announced that they were married and she let out a cheer, put the gun down, grabbed his face, and kissed him deeply. She quickly headed for the door, dragging Richard into the mostly empty bedroom.
“Hmm, well this isn’t very romantic. We can’t make love on the floor, that isn’t going to work.” She looked around and seemed lost in thought. “I know! We won’t make love, we will fuck instead. We can definitely fuck on top of boxes.”
She stripped quickly out of her dress and stared at Richard. “Take off your clothes my love, we can’t fuck if you aren’t naked.”
He slowly complied.
She looked down at his naked body and scoffed. “What’s wrong? Can’t get it up for me anymore? Or were you always faking? I knew you military boys were just closeted gays. All that time bunked up together fried your brain. Oh well, close your eyes and use your imagination if you have to. Because if you don’t fuck me then that bitch of yours is going to spend the last hours of her short life gasping for air and wondering why her daddy didn’t save her.”
She moved closer to him and started grinding against him, his body responding at as always had to her. Soon his body was ready and she smiled. He felt such shame in the pleasure, his mind was fractured between what he knew he should do and what his body wanted to do. It didn’t take much effort to reconcile the two. If he needed to have sex with her to keep his daughter alive he would.
So, he bent her over the boxes and fucked her.
Their bodies found the well-developed routine and rhythm that comes from a decade of practice and soon they both lay panting on the ground with their clothing as a makeshift blanket. For a moment, Richard forgot his daughter and what brought about this whole situation. For a moment, as he looked into Lucy’s eyes, he remembered falling in love with her in the first place.
“I’ll be back in a second and then we can head to Mexico for our honeymoon,” she said as she stood up and walked towards the guest bathroom. Over the next few minutes heard the toilet flush, the sink run, and the sound of Lucy rummaging through boxes. He knew time was running out. They would never make it to Mexico. Lucy was acting too neurotic to get on a plane and driving for three days was impossible. Besides, there was likely a warrant out for Lucy’s arrest. He didn’t know how she got out of the facility but it was likely violent and people would be looking for her. He had to overpower her now and force her to tell her where their daughter was. If that didn’t work all he could do was hope the police would be able to help.
When she returned she was fully dressed and holding the gun in her hand again. “Time to go! Put your clothes on, we have a long trip ahead of us.”
He got dressed and, as they started walking down the hallway. He knew that exiting the hall into the front room would be his best chance. The room opened in a way that would allow him to quickly move to the side of the entryway and get control. He began to steady his breathing and get his mind back into “robot mode”. He became a machine, violence was his job, his training took over and he pushed his humanity deep into his subconscious. She wasn’t his ex-wife or lover, she was the enemy. She was going to kill his daughter. This was self-defense. He wasn’t doing anything wrong.
As he walked ahead of her he could feel the gun pressed into the lower right part of the back. Good. Even if she got a shot off he knew it wouldn’t be immediately fatal and if he spun to the left the gun would shift right away from his body. He had walked this hallway thousands of times and knew how many steps it was to the end. He put his hand into his pocket and felt his phone.
He began counting down steps.
Visualize the attack
Be ready to improvise
Get the weapon
Richard pressed the play button on his phone and the house speakers erupted.
The position being taken
She froze in surprise at the music.
is not to be mistaken
Richard spun to the left and raised his left arm. The momentum of his body drove his elbow into her face, making an audible crunch. She had been looking slightly left and took the force of his blow straight on the nose. Blood exploded onto the walls and her vision went blurry. The gun fell to the ground as she instinctually reached up to her face, but her arms never got to her wound. Richard was too quick. He restrained her arms and pushed her to the ground. He straddled her body, pinning her arms against her torso.
As calmly as he could muster he asked, “Where is my daughter?”
“YOU FUCKER! I’M GOING TO CALL THE COPS! YOU BEAT ME JUST LIKE MY DAD BEAT MOM! YOU ASSHOLE!”
“Where is my daughter?”
She started giggling. “You mean ‘our daughter’?” The laughing grew stronger. “She’s fine. She’s in the back seat of the car waiting for us to drop her off at grandmas before our honeymoon.” Her body started to convulse in laughter and she doubled over as Richard jumped off her and sprinted towards the front door. In the back of his mind, he knew that what she said didn’t make sense, but his body was in control.
He lunged out the front door and saw Lucy’s car in the driveway. Inside a familiar strawberry-blonde ponytail pressed into the backseat window. He ran, joy flooding his mind at the sight of his daughter. He tugged on the back door. It was locked. He started banging on the window. “Honey! Honey! Open the door for me, sweetie. Please, Molly! Open the door!”
His daughter didn’t respond.
Then, slowly, his screaming mind overpowered his instincts and he fully realized that something was wrong. His daughter wasn’t moving. Her head was limp against the door. Her pajamas were stained red.
He heard laughter behind him.
He turned to see Lucy, gun in hand.
“You thought I’d let you leave me for that bitch!?”
She raised the gun and took a perfect stance. He could see her eye lined up with the front sight post, exactly as he taught her.
“She always was a good student,” he thought.
A flash of light.