'Mad' is a collection of works I've been writing for about ten years now. They're generally written from dreams I have due to a sleeping disorder akin to adult night terrors. It begins with the story of Edith Modesto.
It was a compulsion she couldn't explain. The game brought her into focus, she knew that much. She could concentrate on the task at hand better if the little window with the 52 cards on it was at the least open in the top right corner of her computer screen while she typed. She picked up the nick name Spider-Girl from her co-workers. The window was always open with either a game in progress or a fresh game waiting to be played. Erin never really thought much about her obsession with the game until she lay with her head partially smashed in on top of her keyboard. Bits of skin, her skin, was hanging from her golden name plate blowing slightly in the wind of the air conditioner over head. Erin's whole left side was dead. Her one good eye stared at the game in progress on her glowing screen. A Five of Spades, a King of Spades, a King of Spades, a King of Spades, A Jack of Spades with a Ten of Spades, a Nine of Spades and an Eight of Spades hanging off it, a Five of Spades, a Ten of Spades with a Nine of Spades and an Eight of Spades tailing off it, a Jack of Spades, a Four of Spades, a Seven of Spades, and a Nine of Spades. Erin concentrated. She tightened the muscles of her right arm. No use. It was dead weight, same as her left. She had to get that Ten of Spades onto the empty Jack. She heard a moan behind her. Ben must be coming around, she thought. She tightened her right muscles again. This time she was able to wiggle her index and middle fingers. Erin blew out the air in her lungs while she pushed her muscles into a flex. With her mind she screamed for her arm to move onto the desk. Nothing happened. Erin slumped into the desk. The movement causing her head to press keys on the keyboard and bring up a search box. Ben moaned behind her. She heard the low mumble of two voices over the overhead speakers. She wondered if he was as beat up as her. Ben was a good kid. Newly married already with a baby already on the way. There was talk around the office the little bump was already showing in Casey's empire waist satin gown. Ben would never admit it if it were true. Erin thought about Casey all alone if Ben was killed. Erin felt sure no one from the office was leaving without being in a body bag.
The attack had come so sudden Erin could barely remember it happening. One minute her and seven others were slacking off laughing together in the last few minutes before they headed out for lunch the next a group of masked intruders were on top of them pounding faces with night sticks, pistol whipping a few, and punching out the screens of the security TV’s. Erin did remember the eyes of the man as he charged towards her with his night stick raised above his head ready to strike down upon her. She remembered the moment just before he hit an apologetic furrow in his brow. Then blackness.
FINCo had been hit before. It was the leader in Cybernetics and was a hot spot for hackers and would-be thieves. Erin only had a desk job as one of seven secretaries for the main guys who spent all their time in Top Secret rooms behind the vaulted door behind their desks. The vault could only be opened with a retina scan and finger print match. It was very impressive to Erin in the beginning. She would try to peep through a crack as Mr. Weiner or Mr. Garner walked through. She never saw more than steel and blue light. It grew less and less intriguing as time went by and now Erin barely noticed the giant steel doors behind her. The first attempted robbery Erin went through was basic, as far as robberies go. Mr. Knowls was held captive and forced to open the vault doors; however, the bioscanner inside the vault went off and a hot red laser burned through the robbers’ skull. Erin didn't even blink at the gun to her head in the second attempted robbery. What was behind the vaulted doors, none of the seven secretaries knew. Their job was scheduling appointments with foreign dignitaries, lunch dates with estranged wives lawyers, ordering carry out for late nights in the office. Whatever it was, it was valuable and wanted. The security was straight out of a Bond flick and Erin never worried when she was herded into the office every morning by Gattis, the head security guard, until she was herded out once again by Gattis at night. The company paid for her apartment. It was 'classified' information and she kept a small loft room for having company. An armed guard shuttled her to her real home and locked the doors behind her. She was allowed to go grocery shopping once a week with the armed guard, she didn't know his name nor did she care, and allowed private dates when she used her loft. She knew, though, that the armed guard was with her even in those moments, lurking at the bar or spying through a window. All seven secretaries grew used to this life. Ben was able to marry and impregnate Casey without even flinching at the thought his guard, he called 'Rambo', was technically with him the whole time.
These robbers were different. Erin was truly afraid. They hadn't managed to break into the vault yet but she heard them grumbling out a plan in the back of the office. Greg Garner, Dave Weiner, Cary Knowls, Justin Gerrit, Alfonso DuBois, Fred Herrin, and John Merriner were bound and gagged sitting in a row on the office floor passed out, knocked out, or dead Erin didn't know. Their heads were all slumped and unmoving. Erin once again tightened her muscles. Nothing. She squeezed her eyes tight trying to focus. She heard a woman’s’ voice above the others shouting. It sounded distant, as if from the far side of a tunnel. Behind her Erin heard Ben moving. It was quiet but enough to let Erin know he was sliding under his desk. The voices behind them stopped. Ben’s movement stopped as well. Erin’s heart pounded loud in her ears. She heard heavy footfalls approaching. Ben had been caught. Erin closed her eyes. She focused to the small square on her computer screen. Ten of Spades to Jack of Spades. The footfalls stopped. What was behind the Ten of Spades? Erin concentrated. A Queen of Spades. Yes. Then she could put the Jack of Spades on it and move the queen to a King. Perfect. There was a clicking. Erin heard Ben’s sobs.
"Please, no. Please. I have a wife and a baby on the way. Please, no."
Erin felt a hot tear in her good eye. A sharp zing and the sobbing stopped. Just a hard thud followed by the footfalls retreating. Erin’s heart screamed in agony it was beating so fast. Her chest tightened and she fought back a scream. Her heart was going too fast. It was turning into panic. Cold prickled sweat formed on her right side. The left still sagged but Erin knew it was sweating too. The panic was growing. She had to move. She wanted to call for help but her throat felt crushed. The woman’s voice rose in the back of the room.
"Garner, get him over here. Vasques quit jackin off over there. She'll still be good and warm when you're done."
Who was back there? Erin’s mind raced. She pictured the two lines of desks three to a side and one in the back middle. Who was in that desk? Mary? Yes, that would be Mary. Mary Vincent. A want to be fuckable secretary with a lazy eye and thin lips. This was the only woman in the office Erin disliked. Mary was a whore and everyone knew her dirty secrets, if you could call them that. She openly told of her sexual escapades with the big wigs in the building. How she went down on a Japanese businessman thinking he was part of a diamond dealers clan but he ended up being a delivery boy for a new restaurant. Now she was being fondled by this Vasques guy. Erin wanted to think served her right, stupid twat. But she couldn't. There was a whimper as Garner was hoisted up on Valesques's broad shoulders and thunked down in front of the woman.
"Cut his arm free."
There was a sawing noise and a wet abrupt whack.
"I didn't say cut it off, Fuckhead! It has to be on. Fuck, Vasques. I shoulda left you at the fucking circus."
Erin heard no screams or grunts from Greg Garner. He was already dead. Erin was glad. He had been a kind man. He was always remembering their birthdays. He always bought an ice cream cake and allowed family to come in and visit. He deserved better but at least he'd died before being used as a pawn in these peoples sick crime.
The woman sounded exasperated, "Get that Weiner over here. Oh, ha fucking ha, Vasques."
Weiner was still alive and pleading through his gag. Erin tightened her muscles and tried to pull her arm up. She managed to get it into her lap. It was a small success but at least it was a success. Dave Weiner pleaded with the woman.
"I'll let you onto the thirty-second floor. It's chock full of diamonds we use. Please, I'll give you anything."
"Just give me your hand, Dick."
There was a scuffle. He'd obviously resisted.
"Look, fuck, if you don't give me your hand I'll just kill you and move on. Your life means nothing to me."
"Okay, okay," Weiner was panting. Erin heard the beep of the bioscanner.
"Now, Vasques pull his head up and scan his eye."
Weiner made a last scuffle to be free but Erin heard the beep of the eye scanner as his eye was pressed up to it.
"Listen, you can't go in there. There's a bio-reader that scans for unfamiliar DNA and you'll be killed."
The woman was silent. Had she known? Erin tightened her muscles and was able to fling her arm onto the desk. There was a thud as a picture of her mother fell to the floor. It hadn't shattered but the small noise was enough to draw the attention of someone. The same heavy footfalls that had killed Ben. Erin closed her eyes and did calming breaths to still her shaking body. She counted. One. Two. Three. The footfalls stopped at her desk. She felt cold metal touch her forearm. The footfalls receded. She hadn't been caught. Not yet. She held still and focused on Dave Weiner and the woman.
"I know that, shitface. I'm aware," her breathing was boiling up to a steaming growl in her throat, "Do you fucking think I would come all the fucking way up here just to fucking get my head the fuck blown in by your fucking lasers? You fucking shitfaced fucking dick for brains shitasshat mother fucker."
Erin braced herself for what she knew would follow. Wet hard thwacks as she brought the brunt of her gun into Dave Weiner’s head. Over and over. The woman was shouting and screaming obscenities as she beat his head in. Erin opened her eye and caught the reflection of the woman with her gun raised over her head and Dave’s scalp slipping onto his chin and onto the floor. Erin could not hold in her panic and let her bladder run loose down her leg. It formed a warm pool in her chair on her thighs and the crevices of her pelvis. Erin let silent tears fall. She tried to remember a prayer from her childhood but she couldn't. It'd been too long since she even gave thought to God. Now she longed for the peace of His embrace. If she'd been a better person she wouldn't be here. There was a sliding noise as Vasques pulled Weiner by his feet into a pile of bodies Erin hadn't noticed. How many were there? She counted heads. One, Weiner. Two, Garner. Three, who could that be? Long red hair with a curl at the end. Daisy. The coffee girl. The fucking coffee girl. She did nothing but sit at a desk and answer phones and forward the call to the proper desk and make coffee. Daisy was a charming waif who never said anything ugly or did anything nasty to her co-workers. Erin thought of how many pranks she and the others pulled on Daisy. Flowers from an anonymous admirer, that'd made Daisy's spirits soar. She was homely with Coke-bottle glasses and pale skin. Erin wanted to sob but held it in. Four, scalped. Could be anyone. Five, a red buzz cut. Omry. He was a good hearted cowboy who had a bad sailor’s mouth. Five, black Emo hair. Jimmy. Jimmy Bohner. Her love. Erin’s love for Jimmy started the minute she saw him glide into the room. He had thick black frames and a pock marked face but Erin loved him just the same. He slouched over his computer and Erin would grow warm watching his face blush from the naughty messages she would send him. She wanted him bad. In the break room on the granite counter. Her panties warmed and grew wet thinking about him and her staying late together and fucking on the floor while Gattis waited for them in the elevator. It'd be on tape but she didn't care. She wanted his dick to fill her mouth and to swallow gallons and gallons of his salty cum. She would bathe in it if he'd asked her to. At night in her locked and guarded apartment she'd fuck herself into dizziness imagining the salt of his dick between her breasts. It would never happen now. She'd once text fucked with him. She'd sent him pictures of her tits and he sent her a picture of his hard dick. There flirtations were growing stronger and she'd thought just this morning how today she was going to go down on him in the elevator. She stared at his bent head. Glasses on the floor cracked and bright red with blood. His blood. Six, black but no definable hairstyle, Lois Green. Mother of six and the scrapbooking teacher at her Church. How many were left? Minus Ben that left three. Erin, Joey, and Zoey. Erin tensed and her arm slid over to the mouse. She had to click open the YAHOO Instant Messenger box. She could IM 911 and it would instantly go to the cops. She held the arrow over the YAHOO icon and waited to see if she'd been noticed. The woman and Vasques were arguing.
"I won't go in there. You really are a crazy cunt, you know it Edith?"
Edith? Erin wanted to let out a laugh of insane relief that her captors name was the same as her middle name, her mother’s name, and her grandmother’s name. Erin Edith Combs. e.e Combs, she'd called herself in high school when she thought she'd be a famous poet and play write.
"You'll go in there, fucker, or I'll kill you myself. Use that Knowls as a shield and get the fuck in there. Now."
"You fucking cunt. Fuck you. Fuck you. Kill me if you want. Fuck you."
Erin seized the moment and clicked on the YAHOO icon. She moved her arm, it was getting easier now, under her head and typed 9. She found 1 and pressed it twice. She hit enter and the room fell silent.
"Someone's up, Edith."
"I know. I heard it too. Go. Find out who. We'll use them. I'll take care of the rest."
Erin heard five quiet pings and knew her bosses were dead. She closed her eyes and went back to thinking of the Jack of Spades moving to the Queen. Then the King. There was a Five of Spades, right? She couldn't remember. Static was in the air making the hairs of her arm stand on end. Vasques was close. Joey sat behind Ben. He must have been checked first. Dead. That left her and Zoey. Where did Zoey sit? First desk on the left. Right by the door. She'd be last. Vasques was right on top of Erin now.
"This one, Edith. I found her. What should I do? Bullet to the brain?"
"No, fuck," exasperation, maybe fatigue was getting to her Erin heard. She'd been caught but maybe not killed. Not just yet.
"Bring her here."
Erin felt Vasques sausage fingers grasp her limp right wrist. Erin’s heart was beating but not as fast as she expected. Help was on the way. She'd been able to get through. She held her eyes shut and breathed calming breaths. She learned these breaths in Yoga her therapist ordered her to take. Antidepressants were out of the question for an employee of FINCo. They meant you were unstable and sent to work in the 'mail room'. Vasques was dragging her by the wrist across the floor. Erin didn't want to scream. She wanted to play dead as long as possible. Edith might think Vasques was mistaken. Vasques dropped her arm and she let it fall limp over her head.
"This," she kicked Erin between the eyes, "This fucking corpse did it? Vasques. Look at me. Fucking look at me. This, "she pulled Erin up by the hair. Erin let her jaw drop in a dead sort of way she hoped.
"It was on her screen. I swear."
Edith let Erin’s head drop to the floor.
"Go check that other one."
Edith was muttering under her breath. Erin listened closely. Just curse words and regret. She opened her eye just enough to catch a glimpse of Edith towering over her. She wore armor up to her chin. Heavy rusted military issue armor. Nothing exposed except her finger. She wore a helmet with a face shield too. Just half an inch of bare skin between her ear and the collar of her armor was exposed. Erin thought of how to get something sharp into that skin. Vasques shouted. Erin heard a scuffle and Zoey screaming.
"Get the fuck away from me! I'm a fucking soccer mom!" Erin opened her bad eye but could see nothing but black. She wanted to see Zoey triumph. She heard a desk flip over and the crash of a computer and it flew to bits against the tile. Three gun shots but Zoey was still up. Erin heard her banging on the door screaming for Gattis.
"Bring her over here!" Edith shouted. Vasques grunted and there was an echoing slap. Zoey whimpered and hit his armor with tight feminine slaps. Zoey’s feet were on Erin now. Vasques was holding her by the hair up to Edith for examination.
"Playing opossum, baby?" Edith said in feigned sympathy.
"Fuck you bitch," Zoey spit back.
"I'll take that," Vasques said.
"Oh, shut the fuck up, faggot," Edith said as she shoved knife in Zoey’s and rolled her body onto Erin.
"Haha!" Vasques cried.
"Let’s get this over with."
Edith knelt over Erin’s body and picked at her fingernails with the tip of the knife she’d just used on Zoey. Erin told herself not to shake, not to whimper, not to breathe but her bodies urges beat hers and she began trembling all over. Edith’s grip on Erin’s pinkie grew tight.
“Eh, bro, I think this one is still alive!”
Vasques wrapped his arms around Erin’s waist and pulled her to her feet. She fought him until she was too overcome with tears to continue. Her feet went limp.
Edith was slightly shorter than Erin. Erin thought to head butt her, grab her gun, and shoot both of them. She was calculating how best to go about it but Vasques, she knew, had to strong of a hold on her. He held her as a ventriloquist holds his puppet, intimate yet demanding.
"Okay, baby. I'm going to walk us through that door and you're going to get us into those back doors."
"I-I," Erin spit out a tooth that had been hiding in her cheek, "I'm n-n-not authorized."
"You're not authorized?" This was Edith behind them. She was angry.
"N-no. T-the laser will go for m-me too. Y-you'll have to u-use one of them," Erin pointed with her eyes to the pile of dead businessmen next to her feet.
"Well, fuck. Will it work if they're dead?" Edith took Erin from Vasques and sat her on the floor. She pulled a coat off of one of the bodies and covered Erin with it. Erin covered her exposed chest and did her calming breaths.
"I-I don’t know. Y-you could try the warmest one." Erin honestly didn't know. She could get out of this alive if she went along with them. She thought about that prayer from her childhood. It didn't matter. She prayed to God to forgive whatever she was about to do for them.
"Vasques, grab that Merriner guy. Yeah, him. Use him and go in there."
From the road Erin heard police sirens.
"Shit. That shifty bitch really did call 911. Fuck. Hurry Vasques. We're gonna have to 'copter outta here."
Vasques used John Merriner like a dummy and walked into the vault. Erin saw a green scanner flash from the open doors. John Merriner’s hand fell out and hit the tile.
"Well, shit. It didn't work. Fuck me." Edith slapped her thigh. Erin began shaking harder. This is it. She knew. Edith was about to kill her. She said a prayer to forgive her, that she loved God really, she'd had such a great life and knew it was thanks to Him. Edith kicked the hand sticking out of the door and shut it.
"I've got to go, Pussywillow. Want to come with?" Edith held out a hand to Erin. Erin stuck her hand out of the jacket and took Edith’s warm hand. Edith hugged Erin. Erin went stiff. Something cold was on her belly. She closed her eyes and whispered something into Edith’s ear. A silent ping and Erin went limp in Edith’s arms.
Edith sat in the second desk to the right finishing up a game of Spider Solitaire one of the secretaries started. The door opened quietly and a man in a beige trench coat came walked in. He lit a cigarette and looked around.
"Hey, there, Chief," Edith said not looking at him.
"Edie, or can I call you Marne now?"
"Hazards of the job, Marne girl," the chief sighed. He pulled out a walkie talkie and told his team to bring in the cleanup crew.
Marne walked over to him and took a drag off his cigarette.
"You really like this don't you?"
The chief smiled, "What? Execution?"
"No," Marne nudged him, "This eye for an eye shit. Making the criminals experience what they put the people they killed through? You like that. Seeing them afraid, pissing themselves, shaking not remembering they had been in the other shoe?"
"Well, I like seeing them scared,” the chief pointed to Erin’s body laid out on the tile, “Take Edith Modesto. She killed sixteen people in one afternoon. One building. One room. She and her brother raped and murdered these people to get a fucking microchip. For what? Fifteen-million dollars maybe? Maybe less? I like knowing she got exactly what she deserved,” he paused and breathed out a sigh, “I don't like wiping their memories to make them their victims."
Marne lit a cigarette of her own and started taking of the pieces of her foam armor, "Why not? Makes it fun, right?"
The chief helped her undo the Velcro around her neck.
"I'll tell you, Marne. You wipe their memory take away that identity of a killer. You make them innocent. Edith became Erin Combs. She had all those memories of working with these people, remembered her crush on the paper boy maybe...she wasn't Edith Modesto anymore. She wasn't guilty."
Marne looked into his glassy blue eyes.
"I never thought of that."
The chief put a caring hand on her shoulder.
"Just forget it, kid. Murders down all around. No one wants to have to live through what their victims did. No one wants to risk that. It's working let’s just let it work."
Marne and the chief took one last look around the office room. Marne said a prayer for the real victims who lived through this horror one month ago. She thought about Erin Combs praying and crying with her head on Marne’s shoulder. No, not Erin Combs, Edith Modesto. It was Edith Modesto, murderer, rapist, thief Marne killed. No, not killed, Marne shook her head. Executed. It was Edith Modesto she held in her arms and cried, "I'm sorry," to. Who was the real killer if Edith Modesto had become Erin Combs? Marne wasn’t sure if she really was sorry for putting a bullet through Edith Modesto. She fought back the questions racing through her mind and left as the cleanup crew mopped up the blood and gore off the floor. In an hour’s time the room would look entirely different to suit the appearance of the soon to be executed criminal who was at this moment in a deep hypnotic state becoming one of his victims.