(Start By Digging Two Graves)
I told my story to every police officer that would listen. Then to every police officer who was ordered to listen. Then to the wind. By this time, the police no longer listened. Or child protective services. Or lawyers. Or any of the people who derive their income from the tax rolls, who should be listening.
I encountered the most apathetic people on planet Earth.
So I stopped talking.
Then I grew up.
Then I plotted my revenge.
Today I will exact a measure of retribution equivalent to that I lost when I was ten.
I waited eighteen years for today.
I will have my birthday cake next week.
They will not.
On the day I turned ten years old, I became a crime statistic. Two brothers, Jacob and Jeremy snatched me at gunpoint on my way home from school. They hit me hard enough to knock me out. I awoke in the back of their van with a blindfold on. Both my hands and feet were tied. The brothers went as far as gagging me to prevent me from screaming. For the two hours they drove, they played the radio loud enough to drown out the whimpering of a small child.
When the van stopped, my life stopped, and my terror began. In full panic mode, I resisted as best I could. One of the brothers assured me that if I behaved, it would all be over soon.
What I endured for the next three days amounted to a series of gang raping in four hour intervals. Sometimes I had to satisfy one of the brothers; most of the time, I had to submit to the desires of both. For the next three days, I became their toilet, their cleaning tool, their punching bag, and their bitch. They broke my right ulna and radius, my jaw, and seven of my fingers. Their fists managed to dislodge four incisors and three molars. They burned my back with their cigarettes and my hair with their cigarette lighters. I was their switchblade pin cushion and lost a kidney in the process. After 72 hours, they left me for dead in that abandoned trailer. I heard Jacob asking Jeremy to set it on fire to erase all the evidence. Jeremy said he heard people coming, so they both left. Those people coming chased the brothers but found no reason to investigate further. I untied myself on day four and escaped. I collapsed on a rural road were a kindly truck driver found me and took me to a nearby hospital. The report stated he did not stay to make a statement to the police.
I have been alone ever since.
Except for today.
Today, I have in my possession, two hermetically sealed rooms adjoined by a single door. In the first room is Mr. Jacob, now a father of two very beautiful twin girls, soon to enter their junior year of high school. At this age, most children believe their father “just doesn’t get it.” Not so for Mr. Jacob.
Apparently, in the ensuing years since he made my acquaintance, he has become a pillar of society and a model parent. The proprietor of a small coffee shop, Jacob has much to lose and very little to gain. I feel no pity while reciting Jacob’s accolades. I lost the ability to feel in that trailer.
In the adjacent room sits Mr. Jeremy. Time has not provided him with an abundance of people skills and not much in the way of formal education. He is currently nursing a rather nasty head wound and sports a cast over his left forearm. The cast and wound are fresh. I expected as much from him and allotted two additional days for him to “try” to treat his wounds. I might have provided medical care, but, alas, I lost some dexterity in my fingers around my 10th birthday. His 2nd wife and three step children will not have missed him during his absence. That was a foregone conclusion.
To recap, Jacob is on his first day of captivity, Jeremy is on his third.
Let the games begin.
I have an intercom system built into the fourteen-foot-high concrete ceilings. I also have two hidden cameras in each room. I have welded all exits and provided neither food nor water. The rooms are well lit, but have no amenities at all. With the common door closed and locked, I clear my throat (I still feel their choke holds every time I do this) and address (using a voice scrambler) each brother together.
00:00/1 (time index/day) – “Greetings! Welcome to your new home. Feel free to look around and welcome your new roommate. I will return with further instructions later.” The cameras record Jeremy’s cursing and Jacob’s astonishment. I will continue recording their every action. If it was good enough for me then, it will be good enough for them today.
04:00/1 – “Please stay clear of the door as it opens. I would not wish either of you to become harmed in any way.” I turn off the microphone and watch each brother greet and question the other. Jacob remains skeptical of Jeremy’s involvement. Jeremy keeps asking for food.
08:00/1 – “Now that you have had sufficient time to become reacquainted, please allow me a few moments to discuss your predicament. The two of you have been very bad. I know your secrets. I also know what each of you is capable of. Today, you will learn what I am capable of. Both of you are locked in a set of sealed rooms with one way out. One of you will have to please me. The other one will have to die. No other alternative is possible. Should either of you chose not to please me in the manner by which I have become accustomed, both of you will starve to death in these rooms. I will leave you for a few hours so you may plan a futile escape and wonder who controls your sorry state of affairs.”
12:00/1 – I watch the brothers sleep on the floor in an effort to conserve energy. Jeremy is in pain and is no longer speaking. Jacob rests with one eye open. He may be the smarter of the two, only time will tell. “Greetings again! It is time to wake up and listen to your final set of instructions. I will not repeat myself.” I mute the microphone and watch their reaction. Jeremy is as predictable as a sunrise. He pounds the walls and curses a myriad of names to no avail. Jacob, as stoic as ever, listens. He is also calculating. This is a behavior I did not witness years before. It takes years to refine such patience. I gave him those years. It will be the only present Jacob will ever receive from me. Ever.
Composing myself, I begin broadcasting. “Previously, I mentioned only one of you will exit the rooms. The other one will die. What I did not mention was the manner by which you will kill your brother. While I have an enormous variety of manners to choose from, each one a particular favorite of one or both of you, I have settled on a simple castration. To exit these rooms, the winner must accomplish this simple task. You must be feeling both thirsty and hungry by now. It is conceivable that neither of you have the fortitude to survive. But, I am both optimistic and extremely patient. As the minutes elapse, your hunger will grow and your defenses will weaken. Smart money says when one of you decides to live, the other will decide also. Fight if you must. Use whatever you have at your disposal to force submission. Then, finish what you started. Display all the grotesque behaviors both of you are sick enough to reveal. I will watch and rate your performance. By the way, I no longer have any interest in what you may have to say or what questions you want answered. To hear your voices, only spoils my dinner. In case you are wondering, I am dining on a petite steak and asparagus. Until then gentlemen, and I use the term lightly, remember to please me.”
That monologue took minutes to write, but years to draw the courage to read. After I disconnected the microphone, I sat back and watched. The horror show would not begin immediately, but begin it would. You could take the men from the blood-lust, but you couldn’t take the blood-lust from the men. Not these men. I am betting on it.
21:45/1 – The fighting begins.
21:51/1 – Brotherhood takes over. Jeremy’s broken cast matches Jacob’s concussion. It is only a matter of time.
00:02/2 – Sneak attack by Jeremy. His mouth is bloody. Jacob’s shoulder is equally bloody.
02:04/2 – Jacob defends another attack from Jeremy by kicking the previously broken arm. Jeremy passes out from the pain and exhaustion. Jacob flips the finger to me. He doesn’t see any cameras, but he must know they exist. Calmly, Jacob removes his shirt to cover Jeremy to prevent shock. Nice touch, but I still believe he is playing to the camera. I can wait.
08:00/2 – Jeremy has not moved and may not be able to. Jacob holds his brother and is crying. If Jeremy dies, I will not lose any sleep.
12:00/2 – Jacob has placed his shirt over Jeremy’s head. Four days without food or water was too much for Jeremy. Jacob is still defiant to the end. I am still patient.
12:00/6 – Both of the brothers have died from thirst or starvation or whatever it took to kill these two. Got to give Jacob credit though; he could have played the game, but he declined. Maybe he changed over the years. I still have my doubts. Not cares, just doubts.
12:00/7 – I break out my respirator and gloves and enter the “tomb” to personally see these two dead bodies. They look awful and most likely smell worse. But, I have to know why Jacob never turned on Jeremy. I steel myself for flashbacks.
I unzip Jacob’s pants and remove his underwear. Jeremy had every reason to attack Jacob.
I move to Jeremy and remove his pants and boxers.
Jacob could never have won.
The massive amount of scar tissue was the only amount of anything present.
Someone beat me in my own game.
Someone got to Jeremy before I did.
Jacob must have known that he could have never won.
Unlike the brothers, I did set fire to the rooms to erase all evidence.
I can now celebrate birthdays again.
But, I am still not pleased.
With degrees in Physics and Chemistry, Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 30 years. His novel, The Lady in Red Quilt; his short stories, “The Copy,” “November,” and “My Bucket List;” and his poems, “Lonely” and “Long Enough for Chocolate,” are works still defining his style. He lives in 1974, is married for 25 years, collects occupations (the current tally is 95) and currently teaches high school physics.