They’d have to break my legs before the storm hit.
An hour had passed since they announced my impending fate, tied me up, and sat at the computer with their backs turned toward me. They bickered quietly. There were two of them: a young man and a young woman, both wearing light blue scrubs and white shoes. I should say girl. She was close to my age. Maybe twenty, twenty-one. She gave me a sympathetic look out of the corner of her eye. I struggled against the restraints they’d bound around my ankles, my upper thighs, my wrists. What was that? Rope? Duct tape? It ripped the hair from my skin every time I moved.
“Alicia,” said the girl to me. Patiently. Like I was a little kid. I had tried to kick her earlier, and that’s why my legs were bound too. At first it was just my arms. “We’re just going to make two breaks, one below the knee and another right on the metatarsal. That’s your toe bone.”
I knew that.
Adrenaline shook my hands as she took off my shoes, and then my socks. Was she going to show me my toe bones? I jerked my foot away at the first touch of her clammy fingers. She felt around my big toe and angled it back and forth. I gasped. It did not bend back that far. I knew it didn’t matter, since I was faced with broken legs and whatever else they planned to do to me, but it was pissing me off that they kept calling me the wrong name. “My name is—”
“Amanda,” the man swiveled in his desk chair and addressed me face-to-face, “we’ve changed the plan a little. We thought we had a few hours before the storm, but it turns out we only have twenty-two minutes.”
His black hair was greasy and he had an unpleasant, cloying smile plastered to his face every time he talked to me. He flicked a few strands out of his eyes as he whirled back around to finish his work. When the palm tree outside hit the glass pane of the door with a loud smack, he gave it a worried glance and groaned under his breath. Then back to typing. The sky had darkened considerably in the past few minutes. He and the girl kept reminding each other the storm is coming in hushed murmurs like the phrase was a secret code, and maybe it was.
“No.” The girl dropped my foot and shook her head at the man. “That’s not right. We’ve got forty-two minutes before the storm. It’s supposed to happen an hour and forty-two minutes after the crash.”
“Forty-two,” she protested. She pointed at something I couldn’t see on the spreadsheet they’d been tinkering with for the last hour. “Your timeline is wrong.”
The man inspected it and then slammed his hand on the keyboard, making the computer windows flash and light up in a frenzy. I flinched as much as the restraints would allow. The girl popped up and threw away empty water bottles left on the desk, one after another, in a huff.
Ok, so she didn’t like him. Good to know.
Not that I could use that information in any way. I gave my makeshift shackles, which were some kind of abrasive gray tape, another desperate yank. They didn’t budge. My fingers slipped around and their slick, cold sweat left a wet trail on the metal armrest. I begged my body to stop trembling.
The girl tossed a plastic salad container in the trash and bent down to whisper in the man’s ear.
“We don’t have that kind of time!” He threw up his hands. “She isn’t even supposed to be in here. She’s supposed to be out there.” He jabbed a finger at the parking lot.
The palm tree whipped in the wind. Lighting illuminated the thunderheads. A drizzle began to flick at the glass door, but it wasn’t rain yet, or at least not enough to make them panic. My bright red purse lay on the ground under the desk, right next to the man’s feet. I gritted my teeth.
I had come back inside after getting a flu shot to find the damned thing. That had been the mistake.
I was supposed to be in a car crash an hour ago. That’s what the girl had explained to me as she slapped about ten pieces of that gray tape on my wrists. The crash would have broken both of my legs, among other horrible things, the man had told me when he bound my ankles. It would have knocked me unconscious and flung me halfway across the empty street into the abandoned clinic parking lot. They were vague about the rest, but I had messed up the flow of time. By coming back inside. I was supposed to be in my car at five thirty-one, and I hadn’t been. I had been wandering around the lobby, searching for my lost purse, so the crash hadn’t happened. If they broke my legs and shoved me out the door and into the parking lot, that would be enough to fix things, the timeline would be restored, and their crazy boss Martin would never know the difference.
They were nuts.
The girl’s phone let out a muffled screech from underneath the pile of rain jackets on the counter. Her head snapped up. So did the man’s. Martin would arrive to check on my captors when the storm came, and that wasn’t good news. Both of them flinched a little every time he texted. We all knew it was Martin, at that point, because his text sound was a tinny scream and then a door slam, like a sound byte ripped from an old horror film.
At that moment, I had almost talked the girl into freeing my hands so I could drink my Coke by myself. The drink was flat. It had probably been in the trunk of one of their cars for ages. After I took the first awkward sip from the can in the girl’s outstretched hand, we heard that stupid scream and slam again. The girl jumped and dropped the Coke. She chased after the clattering can while tossing paper towels onto the liquid that fizzed all over the floor. The greasy-haired man rolled his eyes. The girl’s cheeks flushed and she clenched her fist like she wanted to punch him, but she plunked the can onto the counter and sat with tightly crossed arms instead.
He shoved a brown bottle and a white piece of gauze into her hands. They both looked at me in the periphery. I held my breath.
“Do I just…put this over her nose?” The girl twiddled the cloth between her fingers. I could tell, from the way she bent her head nearly backwards and clenched her lips shut, that she was trying not to breathe it in.
“She’ll breathe through her mouth. Cover it with your hand. Actually, you know what? Maybe you should tape her mouth first.” He sounded a little too excited. They both turned to study my face.
Too many eyes on me. I tried to roll the chair back, but I couldn’t move my feet. Had they already broken something? I wiggled my toes, then flexed my ankle. No. Everything was still intact.
“How long will it last?” The girl must have thought she whispered to him, but I could hear every word. “We’re set to do the legs at—what—seven o’clock?”
“What? No. Your math is shit.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
“It has to be exact, Preston.”
“It’s enough to hold her ‘til then. She’s skinny.”
The girl squeezed the cloth in a tight fist. She moved closer to me. I felt like a caged rat.
“Alicia?” tried the girl again, “I’m really, really sorry about all of this.”
She tucked her hair behind her ear with her free hand, hesitating with every step, like I was going to bite her. I would have if I could.
“My name is Amelia,” I spat before she lunged forward, clamped my jaw shut and smashed the cloth against my nose in one swift movement. I coughed and jerked around and sputtered a few pleas into the cotton and that’s the last thing I remember.
I woke up in an exam room. The girl was nowhere in sight. I wasn’t strapped down anymore.
I sat up.
The room tilted with me. Vertigo. I rubbed my eyes until the walls righted themselves. Brochures on the counter, a standard-issue tissue box with a tan puff of paper sticking out, a little roll of smiley-face stickers in of a box of pens and paper clips. Sterile paper crinkled under me as I moved.
I tiptoed to the door and jiggled the handle. Locked. They’d come back to get me sooner or later. Then I could run for the back door. There must have been a back door, because the clinic had a parking lot in the back, too. They wouldn’t make people walk around to the front. There would be a door where the staff could go outside to smoke, or throw trash away. No, they probably wouldn’t smoke. They were doctors.
Who were they?
There was a soft knock at the door.
I hopped onto the exam table and kept my mouth shut. What was I supposed to say? Come in, please?
It opened with a little creak, and the girl stuck her head inside. The rest of her body followed. She had put on a gray hoodie. The air had a chill – they must have turned the heat off – but my brain hadn’t caught up to the goosebumps on my arms. When she saw that I was awake, she started and blinked rapidly.
In her hand was a hammer.
My heart lurched into a full-fledged gallop. I gripped the table and sized her up. About five feet tall, so a few inches shorter than me, but she was stocky where I was lanky. I had no upper body strength. There’s no way I could tackle her. Not in this condition. I tapped my heels against the table, and I swallowed the panic that had risen, like bad heartburn, into the back of my throat.
“I know what you’re going to say.” The girl didn’t take her eyes off my own, but she dropped the hammer onto the cloth-covered chair in the corner. Her hands were spread, apologetic. I didn’t see remorse. I saw no cloth. No leg-breaking tools.
She did have a surgical knife sticking out of her pocket, though. Fuck.
“Really. What’s that?” My whole body shook, but I couldn’t help but slice her words down with my own. I might have been weak from whatever they had me breathe and with no strength in my muscles to save me, but I could argue. That’s what I was good at.
“I can’t let you go.” She drummed on the door with gnawed-on fingernails. “Martin’s going to be here in ten minutes, and we really need you in the parking lot by then. Preston’s finding some more tools, and then we can start.”
Preston was a dumb name. I didn’t respond. Instead, I looked past her shoulder. The back entrance was there, as I had imagined, with the name of the clinic printed on the glass. If I ran to the left, I could knock her down with the door. She held it with her right hand. Was she right-handed? Which one would she grab me with?
“There’s no way I’m letting you break my legs.” I hoped I sounded confident. Strong. I grabbed the edge of the counter.
“Oh, we’re not going to start with the legs.” She sized me up, pursed her lips, and then turned to shut the door and lock it.
“We’ve got to sprain the wrist first.”
The legs. The wrist.
If I could distract her for a minute or two, I could run. But there’s no way I could knock her down, unlock the door, and reach the back entrance in the span of five seconds. Could I? My stomach did flip-flops and threatened to squeeze its contents into my mouth. I stood up straighter and looked her in the eye.
“What’s your name?”
The girl blinked. “Lora.”
“Hi, Lora. Like I said, my name is Amelia.”
“I got that. Right before you bit me.” She held up her hand. On the meat of her palm was a bloody, razor-like gash where I assume my teeth had sunken in right before I’d passed out.
“Is this—” I hesitated, because I didn’t know what to call the situation I’d landed myself in, “Is this your normal job?”
Lora raised an eyebrow. She looked at the clock. “No.”
“Well.” My hands poured sweat and I slid down the counter as I adjusted my grip. I folded them across my chest. I crossed my legs too. It was awkward, but I shook and the room wobbled. “How do you know Preston?”
She shrugged. “I owed the asshole a favor.”
“Yeah, he does seem like an asshole,” I agreed.
Her mouth twitched. “Yeah.”
“I mean, it’s rude that he doesn’t listen to you. I dated a guy like that. In high school. I’m a sophomore in college now. How old are you?” My mouth ran away with the words before I could stop it. I pinched my own arm to shut myself up.
“This is his fault,” Lora spat. “The whole thing. All of it is his fault.”
Lora fiddled with the keys. “I’m not supposed to talk to you about details.”
“Well, then, don’t give me details. Just the big picture. I mean, does it really matter if anything happens to me or not? Who’s going to care? I mean—”
“It matters.” Lora said. Her eyes softened when she looked at my quivering chin, my wide eyes. “We’re not bad people.”
I almost laughed.
“So now—” I could feel myself babbling, losing it. My eyes darted around the room. Stop it. Focus. “So now we’re just waiting on Preston to—”
“To sprain the wrist.”
“Because if you don’t, your boss will be pissed and—”
“No.” Lora clenched her hair with a frustrated fist and closed her eyes. “Because if we don’t do it this way, the entire timeline will be erased. You weren’t supposed to—ah, I can’t even tell you that!”
I had run out of dumb things to say. My lip still shook. Don’t cry. Don’t move. I’d lost any rapport I’d had with her.
“Look.” She got quiet for a second and hovered by the door. Listening. She pulled a small syringe out of her back pocket. It was filled with clear fluid and topped with a silver cap. “I can give you this and you won’t feel the wrist. It’s…sort of like morphine. It might numb the pain of the legs during the breaking, but you’ll feel them later.”
Needles. The vertigo made a mad dash for my eyes again, and the room spun. The little spike couldn’t have been half an inch long, but my skin crawled anyway.
“Preston didn’t want me to bring this,” she said as she concentrated on the small vial, “but I hate seeing people in pain.”
“Then I guess you should find a different job.”
She opened her mouth, and then closed it. “My point is that you can’t tell him I gave you this.”
It could have been a trick. But what was left to trick me about?
“Why are you helping me?”
She uncapped the needle. A chill crept up the inside of my sleeves. I rubbed my arms. She paused and looked at me.
“Because,” she tapped on the side of the glass, “it’s right. It’s the right thing to do.”
She had a pretty twisted version of morality.
“Also, I need you to do something for me.”
I didn’t say anything. The needle squirted fluid onto the floor.
“When Martin gets here, tell him you turned right at the green light. Not the red.”
I blinked. The needle was temporarily forgotten. “When? I didn’t turn at any light.”
“Yes you did.”
“At four fifty-two you turned onto Palomar Circle. You turned right at the red light even though it says don’t turn on red.” She regarded me with all the patience of an elementary school teacher at the end of a bad day.
That didn’t seem right. I could have sworn I took the back road, the one without the light. But what did I know? Like I said, they were nuts.I took a deep breath.
“Ok. So if I do this you’re not going to break my legs?”
She snorted again. God, that was an obnoxious sound.
“No. If you do this, I’ll give you this shot so you don’t feel the pain. We have to. I’m really sorry.”
“I doubt that.”
Lora held up the needle with more force than before. She wasn’t asking anymore. “Do we have a deal or not?”
It could be poison. But they wouldn’t poison me. They needed me alive with broken legs. And it wasn’t a big deal, just like the flu shot hadn’t been. It was just a tiny, tiny needle. Tiny needle or pain of broken legs. Tiny needle or pain of broken legs.
I swallowed. “Deal.”
Lora yanked on the neck of my shirt. I grimaced. She could have at least done it in the opposite arm. The one she hadn’t already given me a shot in a few hours earlier. She wiped me down with an alcohol swab and pinched a handful of my arm fat in preparation.
The handle jiggled and the door blew open. Lora capped the needle and stuffed it into her pocket.
“Shit, she’s awake?” Preston’s voice was loud, too loud, and I cringed. He smiled at me. He glared at Lora.
“I had to talk her down.”
“Sounds like she’s the one doing the talking,” Preston looked me up and down again. I didn’t like the way he did that. I crossed my arms and tried to make myself look foreboding. He moved his eyes away. He grabbed the hammer.
“Get me the chloroform.” Lora snapped her fingers at Preston, who drummed the hammer against the palm of his hand, making it smack louder and louder.
“There’s like a drop left. It won’t last.”
“We’re not doing this awake,” she hissed.
“Well, it’s six-forty-six,” he said to Lora. “I need you out front. Now. Fucking spreadsheet’s frozen again.”
Lora fiddled with the seam of her shirt, and I pleaded her with my eyes. She lifted the little syringe out of her pocket. Was she going to hand it to me? Drop it in my lap? Lora turned back to Preston. “What about—“
“Oh, yeah,” Preston shook his head like he’d just remembered where he’d put his keys. He jumped at me with his hand outstretched, grabbed my arm from its folded position, and before I could yelp, he twisted my wrist backwards with enough force to throw me onto the floor.
My head whacked the linoleum. I think I grabbed my arm with my good hand. I felt everything. I felt nothing. Lora said something to Preston, a murmuring and gurgling I couldn’t make out like it came from underwater.
“Ok,” Preston said from somewhere ten feet above me. I saw black spots crawl up the walls. I tasted copper. I think I bit my tongue.
There was a small clinking noise, and Lora kicked something with her foot. Preston grabbed her arm and nearly dragged her out of the room.
Under the counter spun the tiny syringe. The door slammed shut and the deadbolt lock clicked into place. Her words echoed.
We’re not bad people.
They argued as their shoes squeaked down the hallway. The thunder raged. The clear fluid inside the vial twinkled as it rolled from side to side.
I held my breath for so long I nearly passed out, and then I dove for it.
They were still in the lobby. The room I was in wasn’t too far from it – maybe two doors down – so I could hear bits and pieces of their conversation. You said you’d do…something. He knows now. He has to clean up our mess again. Because you fucked it up again. Well, you fucked it up last time. Preston then mumbled something I couldn’t make out. She didn’t even know about the light. Maybe she’s not the right girl? Of course she is. There’s no one else here. Even if she isn’t, we’ve got to use her. He’ll be here in a few minutes.
I lifted myself off the floor and into a sitting position. A ripping, burning sensation shot up my forearm. I swallowed a cry.
The syringe rolled in my good hand with the needle exposed. I held the vial closer to my eye. The liquid sparkled, like it was made of microscopic bits of glitter. The glass felt warm. Electric. Nearly alive.
I did not want to poke that thing into my skin.
I crawled to the door, grasped the handle, and stood. I shook it, then squeezed the handle and then lifted it. I looked around for a small object to stick in the lock. Maybe I could pick it. There wasn’t anything.
The skin around my wrist was bright red and a purple bruise had begun to form in the shape of Preston’s fingers. No bones were broken, I didn’t think, but the pain grew hot, demanding, and it threatened to drown out my thoughts. I wrapped it in my jacket to prevent further injury. I blinked the tears away fast.
I would not quit.
I inspected the needle. It was about half an inch long, and thin, like a butterfly’s tongue. A small drop of liquid appeared at the tip. Saliva pooled in my mouth and my tongue felt funny. Not now. Not now. I wouldn’t puke again. I swallowed and concentrated.
How did they do it on TV? They tapped it. Why did they tap it? Should I have known that? I felt like I should have known that. I tapped it. I didn’t know what that would do. They had given me the flu shot in my arm, but I couldn’t reach my arm. I’d have to do it in my leg.
I rolled up my sweatshirt sleeve with my good hand and pulled down my leggings to reveal a nice, fleshy patch of thigh.
I held the needle over my skin. There was a tiny bee-sting prick where it touched me.
Just do it.
Nausea prevailed. I gagged as I rolled up my sleeve again and steadied my hand on the plunger. I pinched the fat on my leg. That’s what she did to my arm when she gave me the flu shot. Then what?
Then she stuck the needle in.
I took a deep breath, jammed the needle into my thigh – oh God oh God it felt like raw chicken – and stopped.
It was in.
That wasn’t so bad.
I slowly pressed the plunger down. My heart rammed itself against my lungs. The twinkling liquid disappeared in to my body. I pulled the needle out, slowly, slowly. The vertigo had remained in the background, tilting my vision like a slow carousel, but I was conscious. It was over. A sparkling warmth washed over my whole body, like a wave of glitter, drenching the pain in my arm. I sighed in relief.
Then I heard Lora’s phone – the shriek and slam three times in a row, some scrambling and chairs rolling and hushed murmurings of he’s here, he’s here, shut the laptop – and I remembered they were going to break my legs.
I hadn’t felt any pain since I’d given myself the shot. Lora came back to tie me up, or, more likely, to dispose of the syringe she wasn’t supposed to have given me. She jabbed her index finger into my leg.
I scowled at her, but not from the pain.
“Feel that?” She scratched the underside of my forearm with her nail. I opened my mouth to answer. My jaw felt weird. Stuck in place. I tried to open it slowly to stretch out the muscle. I shook my head.
“Good.” She grabbed the syringe from where I’d hidden it under my thigh.
“How did you—”
“Don’t ask questions.” She whipped a fresh set of restraints – real ones, not tape – out of her pocket.
I saw the open door and the empty hallway. I saw the front door and the palm leaves whirling in the wind. I wanted nothing more, at that moment, than to stand in the center of the storm.
I could still get out.
My mouth was dry. I was sure my body was shaking again, but I could not feel it. I could still move my legs, but they were filled with jelly.
I jumped at her.
At least I thought I did. I grabbed for her throat, but my hands slid down the front of her shirt. My legs buckled under me. My cheek smacked, hard, onto the floor.
Lora hadn’t moved the whole time. She towered over me. I pressed what I could feel of my palms into the cold linoleum and craned my neck to see her.
“The fluid moving through your veins isn’t a paralytic.” Her face had no expression. “It’s more like a muscle relaxant. You’re basically so relaxed now that you can’t tense your muscles.”
Which meant I couldn’t walk. She sighed, dragged my floppy limbs into the chair, and snapped the restraints around them one by one. She wheeled me back to the lobby. Preston stood at the counter. He didn’t look at Lora. Or at me. His eyes were fixed on the parking lot.
He still held the hammer in his hand.
A little blue car raced into the lot and squealed to a lopsided stop between two spaces. A man in black sunglasses got out first. He appeared to stand guard while a shorter man – wearing a dark button-down shirt and khakis – opened the driver’s side door and stuck out a large black umbrella. The guard held the umbrella for the shorter man while he struggled to put on a raincoat, and then he tried to give it back. The shorter man batted away the umbrella, shoved a hat onto his head, and ran towards the front door of the clinic.
Martin, I presumed.
I could plead with him. Reason with him. Ask him to let me go. A flush of anger crept up my neck and into my face. Make him let me go.
The inside of my mouth felt tacky, like I’d swallowed a jar of peanut butter.
Martin swung open the lobby door, dropped his coat and jacket onto the floor, and threw his hat on top of the pile. His companion remained outside, next to the car, standing with folded arms in the swirling wind. Martin strode to the counter and grabbed the laptop from Preston’s hands. He punched a few buttons.
Preston twirled the hammer between his fingers. He was probably one of those guys who had learned how to juggle, at some point in his life, to impress girls. He tried a complicated flip and dropped it. It clattered onto the counter. Preston grabbed it and mumbled an apology to Martin, who typed away, brow furrowed and oblivious. Preston picked up the tool and tried again.
Martin swaggered when he walked around the counter like he was slightly drunk. He cocked his head and studied me like Preston had. “I hate the rain,” he finally announced.
He might have been talking to me. Or any of us.
“This is the girl?” His voice was soft enough that he might have been reading me a bedtime story. He bent down to peer into my eyes. I leaned back in the chair as far as I could go. “Huh. Are you sure?”
Preston nodded. His head couldn’t seem to stop moving. “Yes, yes, completely sure. Came to get her flu shot at four fifty-nine right before we closed.”
Damn that flu shot. I shifted in the ropes that bound my feet.
Say something. But my mouth was a desert and my tongue sandpaper. Air brushed back and forth over my lips, but I couldn’t form it into a sentence. Martin didn’t look so scary. Maybe he wouldn’t do anything. He pursed his lips.
“Amelia. Hello. You came through the front entrance? Turned right at the green light?”
It didn’t piece together. I hadn’t. Had I? It was getting fuzzy. I tried again to move my mouth into words, even one, but it didn’t work. I’d keep my promise to Lora. I tried to nod to Martin. Maybe she could still save me. I sniffed, rocked in the chair, anything to get her attention. Nothing worked. I wasn’t even sure I was moving.
Martin swooped down and put his hand on my armrest. His breath smelled like vodka and peppermint candy and his eyes were a grayish blue, like the storm clouds. I recoiled. Mentally. Nothing much I could do about getting myself away from him.
He laughed. He looked up at Preston, then Lora. “You gave her the shot.”
“No,” Preston’s head started fervently shaking the other way. “We didn’t. I told you I’d never—”
“Shut up,” Martin said to him. He didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t have to. “Amelia. Would you like some water? Did they give you anything to eat or drink when you got here? Other than the Coke?”
My eyes must have widened. I had lost feeling in my chin and the numbness was spreading up my cheeks. He smiled again and pointed at my face. “You’re wearing pink lip gloss. It’s all over the rim of the can.”
“No,” I managed to form the word but no sound came out.
Martin patted my arm. Or at least I think he did. I couldn’t take my eyes off his. They were changing color, swirling like dark clouds over an even darker sky.
“We just tied her up in the back. Just brought her back out.” Lora was slow on the defense. Did she want to get Preston in trouble? I still couldn’t make it out, that weird vibe between those two, but I didn’t care anymore. Martin nodded.
“If that’s the case,” he spoke slowly, maintaining eye contact with me but making sure Lora hung on his words, “then she has a remarkable pain tolerance.”
He stood up. Then I saw what he had done to me. They saw too.
A small knife stuck out of my forearm.
I was bleeding. A trickle of red snaked its way down my arm, pooled into my hand and dripped onto the floor. I hadn’t felt any of it. Lora’s face had turned as white as the walls. Preston looked green. His eyes jumped around, afraid.
Martin stood. He threw the knife into the corner – then jumped back – and kicked over the small trashcan. Bottles and cans and papers went flying. He pushed Preston into the desk and yelled into his face, “Why the fuck is she still alive?”
“Alive?” I wanted to scream. It came out as a whimper.
Preston stammered something I couldn’t make out. He kept turning to Lora for reassurance.
“What do you mean?” Lora’s eyebrows shot up.
Martin pulled out a small spiral-bound notebook from his pocket. “Amelia Campbell. Flu shot at four fifty-nine pm. Thrown from her car following an accident, yada yada, two broken legs, sprained wrist, fracture to her skull, blah blah blah and pronounced dead at seven twenty-two pm. What’s the problem, kids?” He slammed the notebook onto the counter and opened his hands wide.
“You didn’t tell me she had to die,” Lora spat at Preston.
“I didn’t tell you so you wouldn’t go soft on me and give her the shot,” Preston sneered too close to Lora’s face. “But I guess you can’t even handle a couple broken bones anymore, can you?”
Martin groaned and hopped up to sit on the counter. He wobbled a little bit. Preston started forward like he was worried that Martin might fall, but Martin shooed him away. “I don’t have time for this shit. We’ll start with her wrist.” He pointed a lazy finger at Preston.
“No. This isn’t right. You said we were just going to break her legs,” Lora protested.
“Actually, maybe we should start with the legs. It’s getting late,” Martin frowned, looking over the notebook.
Lora sputtered as she bent down to throw the rollaway trash back into the can. “We can’t kill her. You promised we’d never have to do this again!”
No one looked at her.
“I did the wrist at six forty-six. I did that already,” Preston nodded again. I glared at him. Stupid bobblehead.
“It was six fifty, idiot,” Lora mumbled.
I couldn’t feel anything anymore. No tears, no hands, no legs. I was nothing but oxygen being sucked from the room. Nothing but a pair of eyes.
“Did you,” Martin pursed his lips. He looked vaguely pleased, and then he winced. He rubbed his temples. “Damned storms like this give me a headache. Ok.” He opened his eyes and smiled at me. “Then we’ll start with her legs.”
I couldn’t tell if Preston’s fervent nods were in agreement with Martin anymore or if he was just losing it. I wanted it to be over. It would be over, soon, Martin’s smile told me.
The thunder shook the walls and the lightning danced between clouds. The first drops of rain, real rain, pattered against the glass door.
The storm had arrived.
Martin took a sip of my Coke, which was rimmed with the pink lip gloss. He gestured for Preston to begin. Preston bit his lip and choked up on the hammer.
I closed my eyes.
Taylor Wendt is a graduate student in Emerson College’s Popular Fiction and Publishing MFA program. She likes coffee, chocolate, and turning her nightmares into short stories.