I take the bus every morning to work. I mow lawns. It’s not a bad gig. I don’t have to talk much to people when landscaping, which I like, cuz I don’t like to talk much. I keep a low profile. I go home. I microwave cheese on top of Doritos and I watch my favorite medieval fantasy shows on Netflix. Sometimes I check my phone, just to see if anyone has called. Nobody ever calls. My ma calls once every few months, but we don’t have much to say to each other. We haven’t had much to say to each other in ages. We used to talk all the time, when I was her little man and she’d lay in bed with me and sing me church songs and stroke my hair with her thin, feminine fingers. Dad was always out getting wasted, so I kept Ma company. We took care of each other. But those days were long gone. The only other person to call would be my lawyer, Jack, who at this point was my only friend. He was the only one left that gave a damn. I used to think he was in it for the money and the notoriety, and maybe that was true at first, but he once told me that my case was the most shocking and horrific he had ever worked on. He said that because of that he could never forget me. I was a part of him now and therefore he planned to do whatever it took to keep me safe. I owed Jack everything. Without him, I’d be a dead man. I know this. Every day I wonder if it’s the day I’m gonna die. On the bus. In line at the bank. I wonder if I’ve been discovered, and if some stranger is gonna take me out. And if they did, could I blame them? I’m the most hated man in the country. A demon. A monster. A cold-blooded killer. If someone were to enact vengeance they would probably have every right to do so. And they would be revered as a hero. My death would probably cause a mass celebration of triumphant joy. Ding dong the evil motherfucker’s dead. Good riddance.
My psychiatrist gets concerned when I talk this way, but I’m not an idiot. I know the truth about myself, about who I am and what I am. I know that my own ma can’t even look at me because I’m a disgrace to not only her, but the entirety of mankind. I know I don’t deserve to live, but I’m too much of a fucking coward to do the job myself. I thought about it a lot in juvie. I once tied all my boxer shorts together to make a noose. I managed to connect it around the ceiling pipes, but my dirtbag cellmate ratted me out before I had a chance to get it done. Truth is, I was planning on chickening out anyway. I’m afraid of Hell. I’m afraid of what awaits me.
“Do you believe you’re destined for Hell?” Dr. Cumtits asked me. Her real name, of course, is not Cumtits. It’s Cunitz, but when she crosses and recrosses her legs when asking me a straightforward question, all I really wanna do is cum on her tits.
“Where else would I belong?” I answered, still imagining pulling up her skirt and fucking her from behind over the armchair, but I quickly distracted myself from the image in my mind for fear that she could see it. Dr. Cunitz was not a woman I could have if I tried. She was married and all business, not easy like the guards I had in juvie. Cunitz found me sad, pitiful. She wanted to help me. She wanted to do her job, but I was damaged goods in her eyes, which I guess is better than being seen as the devil.
“I’m a psychiatrist, Sam, not a priest, so that’s really not something I can answer. I can tell you that I’ve seen you make a lot of progress since your release from the corrections facility. You have shown remorse. You have worked to get your life together. I don’t see a man that’s destined for Hell sitting in front of me. I see a man who is trying to be a good person.” A good person seemed far reaching and I wondered if even she knew that. Yeah, I had remorse. Not a day went by that I didn’t regret what I had done. Maybe if I hadn’t have been such a dumb, fucked up kid I could’ve been something. I liked mechanics. Maybe I could’ve been an engineer or a programmer. Maybe I wouldn’t be so damn lonely and miserable in my rats infested apartment where my only visitor is my parole officer. Maybe I could have a girlfriend. A wife. Kids.
I had a girlfriend briefly when I first got out. Her name was Billie and she had curly hair and brown eyes and brushed up against me as she displayed her tantalizing pool skills. She wasn’t bad, but I was much better, having learned from the best in juvie. Of course, I didn’t tell Billie that. She knew me as Mike Bryant, the name given to me by the state to protect my identity. Jack fought hard for this, for Mike. I was getting death threats in juvie before my release. I was told that if I ever showed my face in public again, I would be slaughtered. Ma had to move twice because they kept vandalizing her home. They called her “Rosemary” in the papers. The mother of Satan’s child. So the courts issued me a new name, complete with a license and a passport. Sam Piles was no more. Mike Bryant was now in his place. But I had to keep it a secret. From everyone. From my boss, Billie, anyone who wanted to befriend me. Only Jack and Dr. Cumtits still referred to me by my real name, and even then it felt like they were talking to the ghost of me. A faded copy of my former self.
So Billie and I got on okay. We fucked a lot. Snorted coke. Fucked some more, cooked for each other, watched Netflix, and fucked during the end credits. But it wasn’t just the fucking that I liked, although it was certainly a highlight. Billie made me feel like a person again. She made Mike feel a little more real and she gave me hope that there was a better life out there for me. That is until she started to get nosy. She’d ask about my parents, where I was from, where I went to school, what my childhood was like. All the questions the courts hadn’t planned for when they created Mike. I’d catch her snooping through my drawers and on my computer when curiosity got the best of her. I freaked out and pushed her and called her names for poking her nose where it didn’t belong. She cried and told me that she loved me and she didn’t want secrets between us. She wanted to marry me. She wanted children. Children. I wasn’t even allowed to be around children without someone from the courts monitoring. Who would show up at our wedding anyway? Jack? My parole officer? I doubt even Ma would make the effort to appear. But Billie kept pushing for the truth. She wanted to know who I was. She wanted us to be closer and she knew I was hiding something. So finally I felt like I had no choice but to tell her who I really was. I thought maybe if I did there’d be some release, like the confession of guilt. I thought the weight would be lifted and she’d love and accept me for being honest. I woke her up in the middle of the night, at a time when I had found the courage and if I didn’t do it then I’d never do it. “I’m not who you think I am,” I began and Billie smiled, perplexed, and caressed my arm.
“What are you talking about, Baby?”
“Mike Bryant isn’t my real name. I was given a new identity as protection. A lot of people would kill me if they knew where I was.”
“Kill you? What for?”
“Do you remember the papers ten years ago? The little girl that was abducted from her home and tortured?”
“Ten years ago I was busy being in and out of foster care,”
“You’d know the girl’s name. Chelsea Withers.”
“Oh yeah, I remember that story. Who can forget? Her face was everywhere when that happened. Terrible what they did to her!”
“I’m the kid that killed her.”
“What are you talking about, Baby?”
“I’m Sam Piles. When I was eleven, me and a guy named Travis Thatcher raped and murdered a little girl.” Billie stared at me in silence and then laughed, hoping I would laugh with her but I didn’t. I then saw fear wash over her face as she realized who she was in bed with. I went to hold her, but she pulled away and jumped out from under the covers to retrieve her clothes.
“I gotta go,” She abruptly said.
“Billie, are we gonna talk about this?”
“No, I don’t think so. I gotta go.” I tried to touch her once again, but she was cold and defensive. She got dressed and was out of my place at lightening speed. I tried to call her cell several times after that, but I got only her voicemail. Soon after, I found notes slipped under my door calling me a “baby killer” and a “psycho”. I knew I had to let Jack know. And so, Mike Bryant was erased from history and I was now Collin Bearse.
“Sam?” Dr. Cunitz had noticed I was shutting down, while talking about Billie. I didn’t like to talk about her. The bitch betrayed me. She had told me I could trust her with anything, and I believed her. But what did I expect? Love? Forgiveness? I barely received that from my own ma. Why would Billie be any different? Cunitz suggested I was seeking validation from Billie to fulfill my inner need to be forgiven by Chelsea’s mother. I told her that was ridiculous and I really didn’t care if that dumb bitch ever forgave me. She had gone on all these TV programs to protest me getting parole. She told the news that she hoped someone would do to me what I did to her daughter. Fuck her. I was quite aware that I would never have her forgiveness. But I admit, I became obsessed with the Withers family. I wasn’t allowed to go near them, but I researched them a lot on the internet. Lisa and Daniel Withers. They were once young, hippy, idealists. Very Christian, but the kind that actually helped people and followed the true teachings of Christ. Very much in love and full of light and goodness. Dan was an architect and Lisa was a pianist and a painter. Chelsea was their only child at the sweet, innocent age of five and they adored her and spoiled her like a princess. When Chelsea went missing Lisa could not accept that her child might be dead. She spoke of all the things she wanted for her daughter and that she knew one day her little girl would be back in her arms.
In court they had to hold her back from me as she cried and wailed and called me a fucking lunatic. Lisa started to drink and Daniel started to have affairs and they ended their marriage soon after Travis and I were sentenced. These days, Daniel is chairman of the Chelsea Foundation, which helps families who have been victims of sex-crimes. He is remarried and has two kids and he seems to be functioning rather well. Lisa, on the other hand, is still determined to ruin me. She remarried her lawyer, but they divorced fairly quickly. She does not have any more children and she still appears on TV sometimes just to condemn me. She was once an attractive woman with long blond hair, much like her daughter’s. Now she’s fat and gray and you can tell she’s not someone who sleeps a whole lot. I know this because I’m one of those people. I have been having consistent nightmares for eleven years and to even get an hour or two of sleep per night is a luxury.
“Sam?” Cunitz was still trying to get my attention. “Have you still been fantasizing about meeting up with Travis?”
“Sometimes, yeah.” I admitted with a shrug.
“What would you say to him if you could see him?”
“I don’t know. I’d probably ask him if he was able to sleep.”
“Do you think knowing that he had any guilt would help with your own anxieties?”
“Maybe,” I said, but what I wasn’t telling her is that I had already tried communicating with Travis against authority demands. I talked Jack into finding me Travis’ new alias. He was reluctant, of course, but Jack understood me. He understood that talking to Travis after all these years was something I had to do, so that I could rest just a little easier. Travis was the only other person out there that could relate to me. The only other person who knew what it was like to have this secret.
Travis was now Richard Klump and he lived only three towns away in a dump apartment much like mine. As I drove there, a million questions were on my mind. Are you sorry for what you did? How’d you know I had it in me? Do you ever think about doing it again? Do you still see her face in your dreams? I knocked on the door and he answered it only ajar. I instantly recognized him. He had a beard and a gut now, but his eyes were unmistakable, because they were so dark and daunting. “Travis,” I exhaled and he stared at me with astonishment. He knew who I was. I was sure of it. “I’m sorry. I needed to find you. I thought we should talk now that we’re grown.”
“Who are you?” Travis spoke with agitation in his voice.
“Sam. It’s Sam. Well, Collin now. I received an alias, same as you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Travis insisted and he went to shut the door.
“No, wait! Travis! Please! It’s been so long! I just need to talk to you! Please!”
“Get the fuck out of here or I’m calling the police!” Travis growled and he stared into me with his vacant, yet penetrative eyes and I knew he wasn’t messing around. I removed my foot from blocking the door and he slammed it in my face, and that was it. That was all it would ever be. Travis had a new life and he did not want me to be a part of it. Maybe he didn’t remember me. Maybe he repressed it all to survive, or maybe he was just scared of going back to prison. Whatever the reason, I knew that I’d never get another chance to ask him all the things I wanted to know.
Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II