What the heck. Here is my short story “Second Thoughts”. I changed a couple of things. I think it’s a little better than the version I submitted. The changes are minor, but I think they make a big difference. There are probably a couple more spots of improvement, but eh. It’s a free story. I think at least some people will like it.
A couple places haven’t actually responded yet, believe it or not. But what the heck. It’s been way too long; it’s not getting published. If, by some miracle, it is accepted, I’ll take it down immediately.
A word of warning: The story contains extremely strong language. It contains a lot of thematically necessary blasphemy (there is a payoff to all of it). It is very dark, but with hope – a story in the style of Flannery O’Connor. You might be disturbed, maybe even offended. But I feel compelled to add a small spoiler: Despite appearances, the story contains NO rape and NO graphic violence. I wouldn’t show it to kids, but teens and up can probably handle it.
Feel free to offer feedback. I can take it; I’m aware it has some issues anyway. But if you like it, say so as well!
Without further ado, here is “Second Thoughts”:
“Guess this is it.”
Her name was Sarah, but nobody cared.
She was fifteen, but nobody cared.
She probably would have been pretty without the birthmark covering the lower left side of her face and extending onto her neck, but it was there. So Sarah wasn’t pretty.
And right now, finally, she didn’t care.
There was no moon out that night, which Sarah found fitting. Everything was dark.
She took two steps forward. It was a long drop from the top of the half-constructed apartment building, which of course was the point. She didn’t want to survive the fall.
That would be a shame.
So it was a real disappointment when she felt a hand grab her shirt and heard a deep voice whisper, “Don’t scream. I have a knife.”
Sarah didn’t scream. But she did start laughing hysterically, a high-pitched sound echoing into the night. The man who had grabbed her clamped his hand around her mouth. “Christ, girl, what the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t want you making noise, is that clear?”
Sarah nodded, and the man took his hand off her mouth. He grabbed her and started pulling her back into the building and down the stairs. “We’re going to go to my car. When we get there I’m going to zip tie your hands around your back and tape your mouth shut. Then you’re getting into the trunk. Is that clear?”
Sarah nodded again.
As they walked the man started whispering. “Weird place for me to find you, girl. Why were you there, anyway? To look at stars?”
Sarah didn’t respond, and the man slapped her so hard she would have fallen to the ground if he wasn’t gripping her shirt. “Answer me when I speak to you. Quietly. Why were you on that goddamn building?”
Sarah was vaguely surprised to find that she wasn’t even slightly afraid. She decided to answer the question. The slap stung, and anyway she had little else to do but talk. “I wasn’t outside to look at the stars.”
They were now in the street. It was dead quiet. “Why’d you go outside, then?”
“I was going to kill myself.”
This made the man pause and look at her. He was a handsome looking Hispanic man in his thirties, with dark hair and tanned skin. “Jesus, girl. Why’d you even listen to me?”
The girl shrugged. The truth is, she wasn’t sure. She didn’t really care about anything anymore, and that included getting kidnapped. She settled for the most honest answer she could come up with.
“You grabbed my shirt. I couldn’t jump.”
The man stared, and then shook his head. “Whatever. You’re here now. To the trunk.”
They were outside the man’s car, a small nondescript looking black Ford. Sarah waited while the man, with one hand still on her shirt, opened the hatch of the car. While she stood there he methodically zip-tied her hands behind her back, then shoved her into the trunk. The door slammed, and all she could see was pitch blackness.
Sarah only had to wait a few minutes for the engine to start. She wondered where they were going, and why there was no music.
“Hey, I have a question,” said Sarah loudly. The man swore, and she felt the car swerve. “God dammit, I forgot to tape your mouth shut!”
Sarah ignored him. “Why isn’t there any music?”
There was a moment of silence while Sarah waited for a response. Then:
“Seriously, girl? That’s your question?”
“I was just wondering.”
More silence. Then:
“The radio is broken. Happy now?”
No, thought Sarah. Aloud, she said, “So where are we going?”
“Not your goddamn concern.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
There was another moment before the man answered.
Sarah registered that for a moment. She found that it still didn’t matter to her. What difference did it make how she died? “So what’s your name?”
“That’s it?” The man sounded surprised. “That’s your response to me saying I’m going to kill you?”
“I wasn’t kidding about wanting to kill myself.”
Sarah didn’t think it was possible for a conversation to get more awkward when one of the participants was sitting in a trunk with her hands zip-tied around her back, but that comment did it. A good 60 seconds passed before the man spoke again.
“My name is Hey-Zeus.”
Sarah had never heard a name like that before, and found it odd. “I’m Sarah.”
The car was slowing down. Sarah estimated the drive to have taken about thirty minutes. She wondered where they are.
The car stopped. A couple of minutes later the trunk popped open and Sarah felt Hey-Zeus’s hand grab her shirt again. “Get up, girl.”
It wasn’t very bright outside, but after the darkness of the trunk Sarah was still disoriented. This reminded Sarah of something she had intended to ask earlier but forgotten.
“Can I ask you a question?” While they talked Hey-Zeus half dragged, half guided her to a cabin on top of a hill several yards away. It wasn’t large, but as far as Sarah could see there were no houses nearby. They were alone.
“How did you see me on top of the building?”
“How do you think? Moonlight.”
Sarah was puzzled. “But there’s no moon.”
“Yes, there is. It’s a crescent. Nice and tiny. But I was able to spot you.”
They had arrived at the cabin. Sarah didn’t show any emotion as Hey-Zeus dragged her into a bedroom and tied her to the bed. He sounded cheerful when he said, “I’m going to a bathroom to clean up. Then the fun starts.”
In the back of her mind Sarah knew she should be terrified right now. But then, she reasoned, why? She was going to die right after this, and then she would never exist. It would be as if nothing happened. Oblivion awaited, and in light of that Sarah couldn’t bring herself to really care about anything that was about to happen to her.
Hey-Zeus walked out of the bathroom in boxers and an undershirt, and Sarah resolved to only look at him from the torso up. He sat on the bed next to her.
Hey-Zeus was positively genial. “Before we start, any questions?”
“Yes. How many other girls were there?”
He laughed. “Don’t feel special, huh? Well, there were ten, in fact. But don’t worry. All of them were special to me.”
Sarah nodded. “Okay…just one more thing.”
“Go for it.”
“Why did you pick me? I’m ugly.”
Hey-Zeus looked confused. “You think so? I don’t.”
Sarah turned her head so her birthmark was facing him. “I’m not pretty. I’m hideous, and fat. What do you see in me?”
He reached out and gently stroked her cheek. “Every girl is beautiful. See, that’s what I like about girls. Something in all of them to like.”
Hey-Zeus frowned. “Girl, I don’t think you get it. I’m about to rape you, slowly, and I will enjoy it. Everybody else here, they begged me to stop. Begged me! And you’re just lying there. No expression. What’s going through your head right now, huh? What the Hell is your problem?”
Sarah took the question seriously. It was a fair one.
“I guess if I’m going to die, at least I won’t have to die a virgin.”
Sarah had never seen a man look as shocked as Hey-Zeus did at that moment. He scrambled off of the bed so fast he fell onto the floor. “Jesus fucking Christ, girl! What the Hell is wrong with you!”
Sarah was confused. Why did he care what she thought? Suddenly she wished he would just get it over with and rape her already.
Hey-Zeus looked shell-shocked. He got up off the floor and started pacing the room, muttering to himself. He was shaking, and he kept rubbing his hands as he walked. Sarah couldn’t hear what he said, but she could see how he looked: Scared.
He was scared.
His pacing and muttering went on for some time. For the first time that day – in fact, for the first time in months – Sarah felt something. At first she wasn’t sure what it was. Then she clenched her fists, and felt sweat on her palms, and realized that she was afraid.
She wondered why. She wasn’t afraid before she tried to kill herself. She wasn’t afraid before Hey-Zeus promised to rape and kill her. Why now?
It was the pacing. Before, Hey-Zeus Jesus was rational. Though his threats were monstrous, his thoughts were logical and clear. Sarah could understand him. But she couldn’t understand him anymore. His actions were senseless.
So Sarah was afraid.
Sarah wasn’t sure how long Hey-Zeus paced, but he stopped as suddenly as he started.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” he swore. “Get over here!” He picked up a knife lying on his dresser but instead of slicing Sarah’s throat he cut the bonds holding her to the bed, and then forced her to her feet by her hair. Still muttering to himself, he half-dragged Sarah to his car, then unceremoniously tossed her into the trunk. Sarah banged her fist on the hatch and asked him where they were going, but this time she was ignored. She heard the tires squeal before they started off.
Sarah didn’t know how long they were driving, but she could tell they were moving quickly. The car stopped so abruptly that Sarah rolled and slammed into the back of the hatch. The trunk opened, and she was lifted and thrown roughly onto the ground. It was only a few seconds after that she heard the car start up and speed into the distance. She hadn’t even had time to look up.
Sarah just laid there for a few minutes, breathing heavily. I’m alive, she thought. I’m alive. I’m alive.
Then she remembered that she wanted to kill herself.
It was a bit of a bummer.
Sarah stood up and looked at the sky. It was still night time. The whole thing must have taken place in less than four hours.
Sarah looked around. She was standing on a dirt road with trees on either side. There seemed to be nothing else nearby. She was alone.
She thought about her predicament for a moment. She couldn’t be too far from town. Hey-Zeus drove quickly, but not for that long. And a car would have to come by eventually.
Besides, she thought. Hey-Zeus left me alive. I know what he looks like. I know his first name. Maybe I can help the police catch him before he kidnaps some other girl.
She realized suddenly that she didn’t want to kill herself quite yet. It was an odd feeling, but not a bad one.
She looked up again. Hey-Zeus was right; there really was a small sliver of moon outside. It wasn’t much, but Sarah figured that there was just enough light to help her find her way home.
(A thank you to Ben Zwycky for taking a look at it for me. I owe him about twenty dollars. Sorry for the wait, Ben!)