It was a closed casket viewing.
She imagined what her father might look like beneath the dark mahogany. Eyes shut. Arms folded gently over his heart. A puckered wound through his neck so gruesome that not even the mortician’s airbrush could gussy it up.
It wasn’t a big affair. There were only six other people in the room. They were all giving her sideways looks, but she didn’t care.
This is my father’s funeral, she assured herself. I have every right to be here.
Her eyes moved to the sky-blue wallpaper. It was printed with delicate flowers, which she assumed were meant to signify everlasting life, but the way the wallpaper seams were misaligned only drew attention to the artifice of it all. The white wall-to-wall carpet was worn and permanently sullied in areas of heavy foot traffic.
At last, a white-haired man in khakis and a blue blazer approached, but before he could say anything, she sprung to her feet and rushed out the door.
She walked out of the funeral home in her little black dress and hailed a cab. She was picked up by the very first male cabbie that saw her.
She was eighteen with dark hair and milky skin. Her slim figure only made her young breasts look larger by comparison.
Like a barely-legal, living, breathing fuck doll, the cabbie thought.
But it was more than that. It was the timid way she rose her arm to hail the cab. Her small, uncertain steps as the cabbie pulled up to her. She had wide, innocent eyes and a pouty little mouth like a child. She carried herself as if it was her first time out in the world. A vulnerable mouse in a nest of adders.
She got into the back of the cab. The driver—a white man in his forties with yellow teeth and hairy knuckles— smiled politely at her in his rearview while thinking a thousand sick thoughts of all the things he would like to do to her.
She lived on the third floor of a quiet Brooklyn walk-up. Whenever someone moved out, the landlord just slathered a fresh coat of white paint over the mold on the walls and cabinets. She sometimes imagined peeling the skin off of the walls and exposing the rot and filth underneath.
By the time she got home, it was nearly six o’clock. She tried to make the place look as nice as possible. She stacked the bills and her father’s papers into neat piles on the kitchen counter, put away the dog collar and leash, and cleaned out the large, wire dog cage. There were chicken bones in the food bowl from last night’s dinner. She emptied the bones into the trash and rinsed the bowl in the sink. She loaded the dishwasher and brought the trash and recyclables out to the chute. Then she wiped everything down with Lysol wipes until the entire place smelled like a lemon. By the time she was done, the apartment looked pretty nice, but she knew it was only a veneer— the difference between looking like something and being something. The mold was still there underneath it all, hiding in the rotting walls.
At just after seven o’clock, her apartment intercom rang.
She approached like a deer wary of a trap. She reached out her hand and held it over the intercom button like a child’s over a hot iron. Then she pressed the button.
“Uhm. Hi, this is Chad,” said a young man’s voice. “I’m looking for Sadie?”
She paused for a moment. “Come up,” she said, and then buzzed him in.
Chad was a tall, blonde, dumb-looking white boy. The type of kid who wore a seashell necklace to high school lacrosse camp and shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch back when they only used skinny white models, but then went to college and realized diversity was the new cool thing.
He knocked on her door and when she opened it, he was stunned. She looked even better than her Tinder picture. That never happened. As a rule, you always subtracted one, sometimes even two points. So, an eight on the app was really a six or seven in person. But Sadie, in the flesh, hell, she was off-the-charts.
Chad smiled. She lowered her eyes.
“Come in,” she said.
He walked into the apartment. “I texted you a few times. I was worried you were ghosting me.”
“I lost my phone.”
“Yeah, sorry.” She nervously brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “This is kind of my first time doing anything like this.”
She paused. “Yeah.”
That explains it. Chad thought it was strange that she invited him to her apartment right away. No chatting, no getting to know ya’. Just straight to “come over.” It wasn’t exactly Tinder protocol. Girls tended to be very cautious when online dating and the first meetup was always someplace public. But Sadie didn’t seem to know any better. He looked at her wide, trusting eyes and snuck a peek at her perfect, round breasts. He could feel the blood pulsing to his nether regions. She seemed innocent and trusting and inexperienced. He felt like he could do anything he wanted to her and she would be powerless to stop him. Chad hated that that turned him on.
His eyes darted around the apartment, looking for anything to distract himself from these thoughts.
“Oh, I love dogs,” he said when he spotted the dog cage.
“I don’t have a dog.”
“What’s the cage for then?”
She paused. “I used to have one.”
“Oh.” His eyes returned to her and before he could help it, he was imagining bending her over the kitchen table, ripping off that little black dress, and fucking her like an animal. “You look beautiful.”
She blushed. “Thank you.”
“I dig your vibe. Very femme fatale.”
She looked at him blankly.
“The black dress, I mean.”
“Oh, I was at a funeral before this.”
Chad chuckled. She furrowed her brow and he realized that she wasn’t joking.
“I’m sorry,” he said, scraping an awkward hand through his hair. “I hope it wasn’t anyone too close.”
Before Chad could react, the apartment intercom rang. “That must be the pizza.” She moved to the intercom and buzzed the pizzaman in.
“I hope you like pepperoni.” She smacked a slice onto a plate and handed it to him. He stood stiffly, then awkwardly followed her to the kitchen table. He sat, silent, and watched her gnaw on her piece of pizza like a Rottweiler.
She looked up at him, doe-eyed. “You don’t?”
“Like pepperoni? I’m sorry. I would have asked, but, you know, I lost my phone. I had to go to the pizza place and order in person and ask them to deliver at seven—”
“No. It’s great. I love pepperoni.” Chad took a big bite of his pizza slice. “New York pizza. Best in the world.”
“Sure. Don’t you agree?”
“I’ve never been outside of New York.”
“I’m from Connecticut, but I have an aunt that lives out in the Bay Area. You can’t get good pizza on the West Coast. They say it’s something with the water. You’ve really never been out of New York?
“Dad worked for the city and he didn’t like to travel.”
“Is that him?” he said, gesturing to a photograph over the sink. It showed a kind-looking, red-haired man with a ballooned face and belly. He had his arm around a younger Sadie and they were both smiling.
“How did he pass?”
“Suicide.” She peeled a pepperoni off her slice and popped it in her mouth. “I found him in the bathroom with a kitchen knife in the back of his neck.”
“In the back of his neck?”
“That’s how I found him.”
She reached for her Mexican Coke, took a sip through the straw, and placed it back down on the table. She became still, looking at the straw in the glass bottle. “I wonder what it’s like for someone who only drinks through a straw?”
“Like, I don’t usually use straws. I drink straight from the bottle. So, when I drink, my experience is subtly different from someone that only uses straws. I wonder how that affects us?”
“Sort of a walk-a-mile-in-another-person’s-shoes type of thing?”
“Sure. Shoes. Or, like, people who are left-handed, or black, or who don’t floss.”
She looked at him with those big eyes again. Like a little girl longing to be taught. Longing for him to show her and he couldn’t help it. His blood was running again.
“Even though our experiences may differ, at the end of the day, we are all the same,” he said.
“I don’t think we are.”
“No. Not ‘the same,’” he stuttered. “I mean, like, we all want the same things. At the end of the day, we’re all members of the human race.”
“Take this bottle, for instance,” she said. “It may say ‘Coca Cola’ on it, but it’s made in Mexico with cane sugar, not in America with high fructose corn syrup. But both bottles say ‘Coca Cola.’ We all may have labels that say ‘human,’ but that doesn’t mean we’re all made of the same stuff. The ingredients are different. Some are purer others. Some are just plain bad.”
He rubbed the back of his neck. Turned off. “Maybe.”
He finished his slice and she offered another one, but he declined. If this was going where he hoped it was, he didn’t want to have a belly full of greasy cheese and processed pork.
“Really? All done?”
“I think so. Yeah.”
She rose from the table and took their dishes to the sink.
“So, what do you want to do now?” he asked, smirking.
She looked at him and smiled. “Dessert.”
He liked the sound of that.
Then she went to the fridge, removed a Food Emporium chocolate cake, and placed it on the table. He was less than enthusiastic. She peeled off the plastic cover. She went to the cupboard and grabbed two plates. That was when Chad noticed the knife holder. Five black handles protruding like levers. Sadie wrapped her hand around the longest handle and slid out a six-inch chef’s knife and then approached, smiling.
“If I’d have known you were such a light eater, I wouldn’t have gotten so much food!” she said.
She dug the knife into the cake.
He rose from his chair. “Yeah. I couldn’t eat another bite.”
She looked at him, her eyes blinking. “Really?”
He squirmed. “I think I’m just going to go.”
“You don’t have to. We can do something else.”
“No. This was really great… to meet you… I’ll text you… when you find your phone…” He pulled on his jacket and moved to the door.
“What did I do wrong?” He looked back at her. Her eyes were cast downward. Her lip began to quiver.
He took a step toward her. Reached out, but didn’t toucher her. “You didn’t do anything.”
“Please. Don’t go.” She began to weep. “We can do anything you want.”
“Hey. It’s okay.”
“I just don’t want to be alone tonight,” she said. Tears began to stream down her cheeks.
He held her gently, like an infant, shushing and reassuring her that everything would be alright. He truly wanted to comfort her. To ease her grief.
But her body was so warm. And he could feel her firm breasts pressing against his chest. The smooth and soft skin on her back and the flowery perfume in his nostrils. Her hot breath on his neck.
He knew it was wrong to feel this way when the girl was going through such pain.
But he couldn’t keep it caged.
He kissed her and she kissed him back and he grabbed her breasts and they fell back on the sofa and kissed some more. She pressed her waist against his thigh and he could feel the wetness and heat radiating from between her legs. He reached his hand down to touch her there, but she grabbed his wrist, pulled her face away, and stared into his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Without a word, she rose to her feet, still gripping his wrist, and led him like a leashed dog toward the bathroom.
She sat on the sink and hiked up her black dress. She pulled him toward her by the waist and undid his belt and fly as he took off his shirt. She tore down his jeans and briefs and guided him into her and any concerns he had about the six-inch chef’s knife were instantly forgotten, as he fucked her against the sink. She wrapped her legs around his waist and arched her back. He stared at her tits. He could not see her hands, as she raised them behind his head.
He seemed to have forgotten all about her father, who she told him had been found in this very bathroom, with a knife in the back of his neck.
Because she kept him distracted. Busy.
“Faster. Harder. Faster,” she yelped.
She leaned forward. Her arms raised behind his head for maximum leverage.
And he fucked harder, and he fucked faster, and—
She squeezed her eyes shut and began to whisper under her breath, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…”
Then suddenly, she stabbed her arms down behind his head and dug her fingernails into the back of his neck and screamed, “Oh, daddy!” as she came.
Chad scowled and touched the back of his neck where she’d scratched him. When he looked at his fingertips, there was blood. He looked at her, alarmed.
“Get out,” she said.
“Get out!” she screeched, shoving him away from her. “Get out! Get the fuck out! I’ll kill you!”
He yanked up his briefs, grabbed his jeans and shoes, and stumbled toward the door.
“Get out!” she kept screaming.
He scrambled down the apartment stairs, disoriented, and pulling his clothes on.
By the time he reached the lobby, he was nearly dressed.
Then he froze.
Standing before him in the lobby was the ghost of Sadie’s father. He was standing erect in a policeman’s uniform, holding a greasy paper bag.
Chad’s eyes widened and he sprinted out of the building, wearing only one shoe.
Sadie was furious. She caught her breath. Moved to the kitchen and pulled the knife out of the cake. She stuffed the cake, the Mexican Cokes, and the rest of the pizza in a trash bag and brought it out to the chute. Then she thoroughly rinsed the knife of cake and frosting, dried it, and slid it back into the knife holder.
Just then, the apartment door was unlocked and her father entered wearing his NYPD traffic cop’s uniform, holding the greasy paper bag.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said, raising the greasy bag. “I got Chinese.”
He took off his hat and coat. “You okay?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Just ran into some junkie in the lobby.”
“Jeez. I don’t know anything about that.”
“Also, I found this.” He handed her a cell phone.
“Oh, thank God. Where’d you find it?”
“You left it at a funeral home. What were you doing at a funeral home?”
“I went to a viewing.”
“I don’t know.”
“Why would you go to a viewing for someone you don’t know?”
“I wanted to see what it was like.”
He smirked and shook his head. “Weirdo.” Then he tousled her hair. “Wanna eat?”
She nodded. Then she got down on all fours and crawled into the cage as dad filled her dog bowl with some chicken lo mein and an egg roll.
He slid the bowl into her cage and closed the door. She ate from the bowl like a dog. Dad sat nearby. “You’ve been a bad girl, Sadie.” He picked through an oyster pail of lo mein with chopsticks. “Losing your cell phone.” He pinched some noodles with his chopsticks and tossed them at her. “You’ll need to be punished, you little bitch.” She barked and scarfed up the noodles.
After dinner, he stripped naked. His fleshy, cottage cheese body was pale and stretch-marked. He opened the cage door and put a leash around her neck. She crawled out of the dog cage and stood up. She was allowed to walk upright for this part. He led her to the bathroom and closed the door behind them.
And he uncaged it.
As he had so many nights before.
But he did not notice that in the kitchen, the six-inch chef’s knife was missing from the holder.
Dad always told her that if he ever caught her smoking, he’d kill her. She was still covered in his blood, but by now, it was dry. She sat back on the sofa and lit a cigarette. She coughed on the inhale and watched the sunrise.
She would sleep most of the day. In a bed, not a cage. It would be a heavy and peaceful sleep. The best she had ever had. Because a very important question had been answered. For her, the only question, really.
Why had God had put her on this earth, to suffer only abuse, degradation, and humiliation? She’d never known the point of her existence. Not until now.
She took another drag and thought of the cab driver that kept eyeing her on the way back from the funeral home. Chad, who tried to use her presumed grief to sleep with her. She gave him every warning, but still, he followed her dumbly into that bathroom.
All of them.
Every man she had ever met.
She hoped they wouldn’t give her father a closed casket. Granted, she kind of lost it when she brought the knife down, nearly sawed his head off. But the look in his eyes. The fear, after all of the horrors he had subjected her to. The surprise that she was capable of doing this to him.
There was something so beautiful about it.
She took another drag.
Damn, that tastes good.
She thought of who she would kill next.
Because she wasn’t done.
No. She was only getting started.
There would be many more beautiful cadavers.
Alex Davidson is a a professional screenwriter and unpublished, new author. As a screenwriter, he has written for producers and directors like George Tillman Jr. (THE HATE U GIVE), Bob Teitel (BARBERSHOP franchise), and John Glenn (EAGLE EYE, CBS’s “SEAL TEAM”). He holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.