I could never rely on anyone to look out for me. Not now. Not when I was a kid. Couldn’t rely on anyone to stand up, to protect. It was a shame, just a damn shame. Crying alone. Feeling ugly, measured in slights and trifles, until I met him.
YOU MUST BE 18 OR OLDER TO JOIN.
I contemplate. I Annex. Then I plunge. Headfirst? Maybe.
So what, so what, so what . . .
Hey there, Puppet!
Hey there to you too, not your real name either.
You’re funny, kid. How old are you?
Old enough, huh? Wanna play a game then?
What kind of game? Subterfuge Twister? Where’s Mr. Mephistopheles in gingham and rubber pants?
Yeah, whatever, kid. You bet.
I’m bored, obviously, so it had better be good.
You won’t be bored, kid.
Yes. I like you, kid, and nobody I know dies of boredom.
It is, kid. It is. Trust me.
Don’t know you. Can’t really trust you.
I know. Exciting, isn’t it?
So what do you say, kid? Are you in?
Yes. I’m in.
He asked if I liked to eat, said he liked to cook for people who liked to eat. Liked to prepare things to be eaten. He sent me pictures. Lean cuts. Nicely marbled. Slabs pink, seasoned, and tenderized. Fresh. Fed on sunshine and green grass. He said he worked in an abattoir. Cages. Tables. Scalpels. Freezers. Steel on Steel on Steel. Didn’t contaminate the meat, he said. I thought that was good – at first. At first is a funny thing. Never means what it is in the end. We ignore things at first.
We don’t mind.
Want a friend.
No, we don’t mind a lot – at first. Charity. Oversight. Whatever. Then we see things we don’t want to see.
Things we can’t unsee.
Then at first becomes something else. Something needful, dark, and horrible. Something so satisfying. So right.
He wasn’t trying to kill me, at first, but when he wasn’t, I was trying to kill him.
By Cheryl Anne Gardner