Taking Turns

June 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

The sun sat atop the world, heating the atmosphere, as if there were nothing in all the universe more important than the sweat of the people below it. Barely sunrise and even stones were sweating. Eric shivered despite the heat as he lay curled up behind the boxes in his closet. In the outer room, he could hear someone call out softly. Another shiver.

“Come on, buddy, come on out. I got your wife all tied up and she’s still breathing. If you don’t come out, I’ll take that hiccupping last breath all for myself and I will savor every second of her strangled gasp.”

Eric curled tighter and hissed. “Go away. Please, go away.”

“Where are you, dear? Come out, come out, come out. Your lovely woman will struggle, kicking to catch air. She will scream until her throat is raw. Every muscle in her body will eventually relax and she will shit on the floor. Her piss will trickle down the linoleum and under the fridge. Her last thought will concentrate not on her death alone, but couple itself with you hiding away while she’s savagely murdered in her own home.”

“Leave her alone!” Eric stumbled, not burst, from the closet. His scream was a strangled cry. He cowered at the door. None of that mattered, though. He was out and he wouldn’t let his wife die because he was afraid. He was more afraid when he saw the man leaning against the wall staring at the closet.

“I knew you’d come out of there eventually, poule mouillée.”

“Don’t hurt her.”

“Poule mouillée, don’t you remember? Your beautiful bride isn’t home. She’s not even in town. Tsk. Garçon crédule.”

“I… go… go aw…” Eric cleared his throat, straightening his back. He was exposed, but he’d try his best not piss all over himself. “Go home. Get out and go home or to the bar or whorehouse. Wherever people like you go.”

“Suddenly brave is the death of cowards, Eric.”

Eric’s head twitched, he tried to keep it still, but when nervous it had a mind of its own. He stepped sideways, closer to the bed, and steadied himself on his feet. The man looked familiar, maybe someone he’d worked with — or cuckolded — in the past.

Somewhere. He had seen that face somewhere. The news? Had it been the news? Eric thought maybe it might have been a news report. Was he a loan thug? If so, that would have been excellent. He could just pull the money from the safe — every dime in there if he had to — and give it away. Money for health. It was a good deal.

“Blaise. You’re standing there trying to figure out if you know me and I can see that on your weasel little face, poule mouillée. My name is Blaise Parizeau.”

“I… don’t. I mean, if you want money. I mean, if you’ve come to collect what I owe, I can give it to you right now. All of it and then-some.”

Walking slowly, glaring, Blaise moved across the room. Stalking Eric openly was gratifying. Much like watching the worst of the world slowly melt into fear. He stopped toe-to-toe with Eric who was taken by the unexpected backhand.

“If I wanted your money, I’d have it already.”

Crumpled against the wall, Eric glared back. “What do you want?”

“Don’t worry. This won’t take long. We’re waiting on a phone call.”

Blaise left the room. After ten minutes, when he didn’t return Eric grabbed his cell and dialed. The first call was to the police. They promised to send officers. He hung up. The second call was to his wife.

He saw it light up on the nightstand before he heard it ring. His heart sunk as he hit end. Blaise laughed from the doorway.

“Where is she?”

“How would I know? I’m not a travel agent. You’re her husband; you should know where she is.”

“Just tell me… where is she?”

“Like I said.” Blaise darkened, settling on the edge of the bed. “Besides, my interest is in your misery, not hers.”

“The police are on their way.”

“Eric, poule mouillée, if someone is in your house threatening you misery, you should not tell them you have backup on the way. What kind of ignorant connasse are you?”

“I’m giving you the chance to run while you can.”

“Now I’m going to have to slaughter you where you stand.” Eric’s face fell and he slumped back against the wall. Blaise erupted in laughter. “You have no idea what I’m going to do. Will I rob you? Am I some kind of lunatic out for death? You’re so screwed right now.”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m not surprised you don’t remember me. We’ve not formally met, but you did slaughter my sister.”

“What? No. No, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’ve never killed anyone ever. Not even accidently.”

“Do you remember the Austin experiment?”

“Austin?”

“Yeah, that’s right. This isn’t about your loans. This isn’t about you stealing your wife away from Rick. This isn’t about anything but your experiments — the things you think will change the world.”

“My experiments will change the world.”

“They will. They have. They changed my world, didn’t they.”

“I don’t understand.”

Blaise shot off the bed, slamming himself against Eric and the wall. “She came to you. She told you the effects were causing her pain and discomfort. You told her it was perfectly natural.”

“Mich… Michelle?” Eric remembered Michelle well. She had made numerous reports. She kept a family photo in her room — he remembered staring at that picture while Michelle explained her symptoms. That’s where he had seen Blaise. “Your sister was Michelle.”

“Yes. Yes, Michelle. How many times did she come to you? Ten, twenty?”

“The effects were natural. Her body was adjusting the hormones, to the shift in form.”

“Her body was adjusting… she internally exploded, abruti!”

“No, she left the program four months in. She just walked out in the middle of a test and never came back. She never picked up her paycheck, either.”

“She couldn’t pick it up. She was laying on her bedroom floor bleeding to death.”

“I… I didn’t know…”

Eric squirmed away from Blaise, dodging into the bathroom. He locked the door and sat in the tub. He could hear Blaise swearing through the door.

“Of course you didn’t know, Eric. You wouldn’t listen. She called me the day she walked out. I told her to get the hell out of there and go to the hospital. She couldn’t make it to the hospital, the apartment was closer. She laid down and called for an ambulance. Then she called me. You didn’t know because you didn’t care. You couldn’t possibly be wrong — people could be more than people and now she’s dead.”

Eric curled up in the tub, waiting for the sirens.

“Go away, Blaise. I didn’t kill your sister!”

“Eric, the police aren’t coming.” He opened the bathroom door. “Helps if you lock it, poule mouillée. I intercepted your call. Where do you think I went? The fastest way to get someone to stop struggling is to make them believe they have help. You don’t have anyone to save you.”

“You’re going to kill me.”

“I’m not. I’m leaving as soon as you get your call.”

“What call?”

“Remember? I said it won’t take long. We’re just waiting on a call. I’ll be downstairs until the call comes.”

Eric sat in the tub waiting. Staring at the wall, wishing he could call his wife — needing her comfort and security. She was stronger, more resilient to life. He was good with science and nothing else.

He could feel the urine soak into his pajamas and run down his legs. He knew he was going to die. Whoever found him would just think it was the end of life, not fear, when they saw his condition.

He waited and the minutes ticked away. Finally, his cell rang and he rushed to answer it. “Rissa?”

“May I speak with Mr. Eric Torvalds?”

“Speaking.” He tried desperately to keep away the quiver, but as the officer went on, he could feel every part of his body shake. When the officer finally said the final words, confirmed she was dead, Eric dropped the phone and charged through the house. As he rounded the hallway corner into the living room he felt a sudden burning in his gut and Blaise staring him in the eye.

“I lied, but you understand lying to get your way. Don’t you, Eric?” Blaise twisted the knife and pushed harder. “Marissa was pregnant, too.”

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