Gender: Male Age: 29 Location: San Francisco.
|Introduction: Some stories want to be told...|
Joan Lanier was starting to hate her computer more and more everyday.
She couldn't shake the feeling that the screen and its little blinking cursor were mocking her. She had watched that cursor blink for weeks now. Even when she closed her eyes she could still see it.
She drank the last of her coffee, cold and bitter. She found herself wishing she had a cigarette. She had never smoked, but the characters in her books usually did when they were feeling conflicted or depressed. She thought it gave them an antique quality.
She read over her last page for the thousandth time:
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about it," Lauren said, looking out the passenger window so that she didn't have to face him.
"Thinking about what?" Stephen asked, the light from the headlamps of the other cars reflecting off his glasses, turning his eyes into flat white marks in the middle of his face.
"My mother lying in that hospital bed. By the end she wasn't even strong enough to pick her head up. I think about what that must have felt like, being trapped inside yourself."
"Do you think about this a lot?"
"A lot. A little. I don't know. I think-"
And that was all. "I think" and then nothing.
Joan had no idea what Lauren was thinking or what she meant to say next or what Stephen would say in return. Everything after that point in the conversation was blank, a thick white fog that rolled over the rest of her book.
She had spent two weeks staring at "I think" and daring it to become a sentence. So far it had just stayed two words.
Joan sighed and rubbed her eyes. She left her little blinking friend behind and went to the kitchen to make more coffee. Along the way she picked up the phone, switched it to speaker, and pushed the first number on the speed dial.
There were two short rings and then a husky female voice:
"Joanie! How are you?"
"Is it the book?"
"Of course it's the book, when is it ever not the book?"
"When you're finished."
"This one will never finish."
"That's what you said about 'The Dutch Wagon.'"
"This is different. Worse. I haven't written a word in two weeks."
"What's it about?"
"A teacher who's engaged to a mortician. She's dealing with morality issues because his work makes her think about her mother's death and she doesn't know how to cope with it. She loves him but she has too much baggage and she has to learn how to separate him from that."
"It is. It's painfully boring. I can't make it work. Everything I try just falls flat."
"Why a mortician?"
"I don't know. Have you ever read about a mortician's wife? I never have. But they must get married. I wondered what that would be like, coming home to a guy who puts his hands all over dead people. How do you get that out of your head?"
"If you can't write it then maybe this just wasn't meant to be. It might be time to just give up and write something else."
"I can't, I'm over deadline as it is. My publishers want my head on a platter." Joan sipped her coffee and resumed her staring match with the computer. It was still winning.
"Don't give me that. 'The Dutch Wagon' sold more copies than the Bible last year, they should be eating out of your hand. If you need a little extra time to finish your new project just tell them it'll be done when you're good and ready."
"Donna, what time is it?"
"Don't you have clocks in your house?"
"Is this some eccentric writer thing?"
"No, I took them all down last week. Turned off the one on the computer too. I thought that the reason I couldn't write was I was becoming too preoccupied with a schedule, so I wanted to free myself from the reminders of the impending deadline."
"Did it work?"
"Well, it's quieter around here. But I didn't write anything. What time is it?"
"It's almost one in the morning hon."
"Jesus Donna, I'm sorry. I wouldn't have called if I had known."
"Darling, be a dear and shut up will you? I prefer talking with you over whatever I was dreaming about."
"Donna what am I going to do? I'm way over deadline! I signed a contract and I owe them another damned book. I've already spent the advance and they're getting impatient. I feel like I made a deal with the devil and now I have to pay up."
"Now that's an idea, a deal with the devil."
"Trade my soul for an ending?"
"Nah, you'd probably have to offer him something valuable."
"I could blow him."
"Tsk, such language, how degrading. That's still not worth anything anyway."
"Okay, you could blow him."
"That would do the trick."
"You have his number?"
"I must somewhere, I do know everybody after all. Do you know what the real solution to your problem is dear?"
"I thought we were going to go with devil deal? Do we have a better plan than that? I was liking that plan."
"No devils, just the next best thing: wine."
"How does wine help?"
"Might loosen you up. Help get the creative juices flowing. Even if it doesn't work, well, then you're plastered, and so much for your problems. It's win-win."
Joan wasn't convinced, but she uncorked a bottle anyway. An hour later she still hadn't written anything. An hour after that she was asleep.
The first thing she was aware of the next day was the pain in her upper back. She had passed out at her desk again. Harsh white light was poking through the opening in the blinds like an uninvited guest.
Asleep at the computer, she thought, and all I have to show for it are a sore neck and a hangover. Her coffee from the previous night was still there, cold and black. She drank it anyway, wondering when the last time was that she'd had hot coffee.
She fired up the computer, prepared to spend another hour or two staring vacantly at her unfinished sentence. To her surprise, she found that several new pages had appeared on the document .
Had she been writing while drunk? That rarely turned out well, but at this point progress of any sort was welcome.
She began to read:
"A lot. A little. I don't know. I think...Stephen, pull over."
"Yes, now please. Right now."
"Somewhere out of the way. Dark. Private."
Stephen was visibly confused but said nothing more. He found a quiet spot on a sides street, under a lamp0st that had burnt out. He killed the engine, then turned to look at her.
"Alright, we're here. What's this all about?"
Lauren reached over, sliding her hand up the seat between his legs and cupping his crotch. "This. Undo the belt for me, will you? I can never get those damn things off."
Joan choked on her coffee.
"The hell? Lauren we're in the middle of-"
"Okay, fuck it, I'll do it myself."
After a few seconds of struggling she unbuckled the belt and yanked the entire thing off. Even in the darkened car interior she had an easy time undoing his fly. She reached in and grasped the rapidly stiffening shaft of his cock.
"Hon," he said, "I really don't think this is-"
"Shut the fuck up, will you?" she pulled it, out, watching it swell and harden as she stroked. She lowered her head, placing her lips lightly against the tip, kissing it. She heard Stephen's breath catch in his throat.
Joan leaned closer to the screen, eyes wide in disbelief. Had she really written this?
Lauren extended the tip of her tongue, wetting the swollen head, licking around and around the rim until hot saliva dribbled down the shaft.
Stephen shifted in his seat, leaning back, fingers digging into the upholstery. She moved her mouth over him, lips parted, rubbing them back and forth over the length of his cock, tasting him.
She extended her tongue, lapping along the sides before swirling it over the head again.
Joan scanned down several paragraphs. This went on for quite a while...
Stephen began to grunt and push with his hips, fucking her throat. She wrapped her lips tight around the shaft as it protruded into her mouth.
The sound of her wetly sucking filled the car interior, an undertone to Stephen's increasingly intense moaning. She bobbed her head up and down in rhythm with his movements, tongue swirling madly around and around until finally he pushed all the way in and there wasn't any more room, her mouth completely full.
After a while she stopped moving and just concentrated on remaining as still as she could, letting him pump inside her mouth, moving only her lips in a steady, intense suckle.
Stephen's fingers knotted in her hair, pushing her down, putting more and more pressure on the back of her head.
He was close now, she could tell, the pressure building. She moaned, her lips vibrating against him, and that was enough to push him over the edge. He gushed hot and thick in her mouth, and she swallowed in greedy gulps.
Joan's eyes flicked over the rest of the chapter:
They finish up and then Stephen starts the car, the two driving all the way home in silence.
As soon as they're in the door Lauren goes to the bathroom and locks herself in, spending over an hour in the shower, letting the water get so hot that it almost scalds her. Her skin is red and angry when she finally comes out.
She goes straight to bed, lying beside Stephen without touching him and refusing to say a word. He can't tell if she's crying or not. The chapter ends when he finally gives up talking to her and turns off the light.
Joan sat back in her chair, dazed. That was...certainly not where she had expected her story to go.
She scrolled back and forth over the words, as if expecting them to suddenly change when she wasn't looking. But no, there they were, the same each time.
She laughed a little. Well, she thought, something certainly got into me last night. No more wine, she thinks, ever.
God only knows what Donna would say if she read this. She'd probably argue that my subconscious was sending me messages and that it means I won't cure my writer's block until I get laid.
She realized she was blushing. Silly to feel embarrassed when no one would ever read it but her. She moved her mouse, highlighting all the new pages, but her finger hovered over the delete key hesitating.
Maybe this wasn't such a bad way to go with it. Obviously as-written it was too overtly pornographic, but it could be cleaned up in the next draft. And it did transition the story nicely.
She realized she hadn't given much thought yet to her character's sex life. She assumed they must have one, but in the same way that her parents or the couples on 60s sitcoms must have had one, a sort of abstract, behind the scenes thing that didn't seem entirely real.
Maybe this was one of the reasons she had so much trouble connecting with them. They didn't seem entirely human to her. The sex helped ground them, in a way.
She saved and shut the computer down. She would decide the fate of the new pages later. She had agreed to do an autograph signing this afternoon and she suspected she was already late.
She normally hated to schedule appearances when she was working on something new, but this was a favor for a friend. She didn't know what time it was now, but one of the advantages of celebrity was that people would wait for you.
On her way out the door she thought she heard movement behind her and the sound of her study door opening, but she ignored it. Her imagination had already run pretty far away with her today, so she wasn't interested in indulging it anymore.
As soon as she was home again she knew that something was wrong.
The signing had run long, since twice as many people as expected had shown up. The shop was too small to accommodate the mass of fans trying to crowd into it, and she had spent nearly five hours chatting and scribbling on book covers.
As always, the most commonly asked question was where she got her ideas from.
“The truth is I don’t know," she would answer, without looking up. "But I’m glad you enjoy them so much."
She almost lost her composure when someone asked if she was working on anything new. After a few seconds she managed an answer:
“Yes, I am, and I hope to have it done soon, but I’m afraid I can’t talk about it. Very hush-hush.” She put her finger to her lips and winked, gesturing for the line to move on.
Now she stood just inside her front door, pausing to slip out of her uncomfortable shoes, and she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. The atmosphere felt somehow foreign, as if she had walked not into her home but the home of some stranger who just happened to have all of the same possessions.
Retreating to the study she found her computer on, though she had been sure it was turned off when she left. Her book in progress was already open on the screen, and when she stopped to scan the last few lines she nearly fell out of her chair. An entire new chapter had appeared while she was out!
She frowned. What was going on here? Had she written more last night than she’d realized? Had she somehow overlooked all of these other pages this morning? She had been sure she’d read through to the end, but maybe, feeling rushed and hungover, she had made a mistake?
She went back to where she had left off, with Lauren and Stephen in bed, not speaking, not touching one another:
Stephen lays awake, staring at the ceiling and waiting until he’s sure that Lauren is asleep. He sneaks out of the room as quietly as possible, taking some spare clothes from the hall closet and dressing in haste, then spends half an hour driving to the other side of town.
Stephen slowed the car, cruising down the narrow streets, eyeing the few straggling figures on the sidewalk. It was late and the night was cold, so most pedestrians were desperate to escape indoors.
After twenty minutes he saw what he was looking for. A girl no older than 19 loitered on the corner, dressed in jean shorts and tank top in spite of the cold. Her bright purple hair was a beacon to any passersby, and as he got closer he saw that her features suggested one of her parents was Korean.
Stephen rolled by her corner and slowed to a stop. The girl sashayed over to him, leaning her head into the window and gracing him with a big smile. Her lipstick and nail polish matched her hair. “Hi honey. I need a ride somewhere, can you help me?”
“Sure thing. Where you headed?”
“Wherever you are.”
“I’ve got a place right around the corner.”
“Well that’s just perfect.” She got in, rubbing her hands over her bare arms to warm up.
Joan frowned. This was ridiculous.
She might not know her characters as well as she would like, but she knew that there was no way Stephen would go sneaking around in the middle of the night picking up hookers. This was all wrong.
She read on:
Stephen takes the girl to a nearby house, one he owned in another name and that Lauren didn’t know about. No one connected to him in any way knew about this place or how often he visited it.
He makes small talk with the girl, Ronnie, until they arrive.
The house is sparsely furnished, only a few stray bits of furniture and very heavy curtains which have been duct taped over the windows.
“I like my privacy,” he explained, locking the door behind them.
Ronnie dropped her purse on the sofa, taking a few steps around the living room. Stephen admired her shapely legs and pert, round little ass.
“I don’t care about the decorations baby, as long as you’re ready to do business," she said. "You are ready to do business, aren’t you?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want to call it.” Stephen went to the nearby closet, seemingly to hang his coat but at the same time reaching back inside and finding a bulky black duffel bag waiting for him.
“Well it’s business to me baby, but it can be pleasure too once we get all the details worked out. It’s going to be a hundred, two hundred, or three hundred, depending on what you want, and you’ve gotta tell me what you want before. And we’re only gonna play safe, you got me honey?”
“Sure. I got you.” he was bent over the bag, making sure she couldn't see what he was doing.
“So what’s it going to be then?”
“I have something special in mind.”
He faced her now, but with his body angled so that she couldn’t see what was in his hand. She was busy looking at her nails in the light from the table lamp, painted the same bright purple as her hair, so she wasn’t paying attention as he inched closer.
She wasn’t quite sure why, but Joan had begun to feel sick to her stomach.
“Special is fine, I can do special, but you still have to be safe and you still have to tell me what you want. If it’s really special it might run you a little extra, but I promise it’s worth it. I’ll rock your world baby.”
“Yes. I think you will,” he said.
She saw the needle at the last second, her mouth forming into the O of a sudden scream before it jabbed into her neck. Her eyes rolled back in their sockets, and she slid off the couch onto the floor, flopping, limbs akimbo, for a few seconds, and then she was still.
Joan realized she was holding her breath and let it out in a whoosh.
Stephen dropped to his knees and rolled her over. He reached into the black bag and pulling out a three foot length of rope. He wrapped the length around Ronnie’s wrists, tying them together, then secured the loose end to a brass bar that ran along the base of the wall. He’d had it installed just for occasions like this.
Once that was finished he spread a tarp out on the floor and rolled her onto it, then took a black velvet case from the bag. Inside it was the scalpel. Working slowly and carefully, he cut down the hem of her top, then her shorts, ripping them both away. Underneath she wore plain white cotton bra and panties, which he also made short work of, careful not to knick her smooth skin with the edge of the blade.
In less than two minutes she was sprawled naked, unconscious, and tied up on his floor, and he took the time to admire the curves of her body, especially her shapely hips and legs.
He noted with distaste that her breasts were a bit too large and firm to be anything but obvious implants. Those would have to come out later, he decided, running his finger along the scalpel's edge.
He went to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of scotch, then returned to the living room to wait for Ronnie to regain consciousness. After half an hour her eyelids fluttered and she began to stir and groan. When she found her wrists secured she began to tug and thrash.
"What the fuck?!" she screamed.
“Hello darling. Comfortable? You shouldn't bother screaming, it won’t matter. I’ve more or less soundproofed everything in here. You could scream your pretty little head off for hours but nobody would hear you.”
Ronnie’s eyes widened and he saw sweat break out over her body. He was loosening his belt and cuff buttons as he talked.
“I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if I’m going to hurt you. The answer is yes, Ronnie, I am. I’m going to hurt you a lot. It’ll probably take me all night. I’m afraid you’ve turned your last trick little girl. Please don't take my comments about screaming to mean that I don't want you to do it anyway. I do. I kind of like how it sounds.”
If anyone had asked Joan why she ran out of the room at that point, she wouldn't have been able to answer. It was too much for her, sitting there and reading words that were supposed to be hers but that she'd never written. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing your reflection wink when you hadn't.
She stood in the open doorway for a while, feeling childish but at the same time not wanting to go back in.
What in the fuck was going on here? She was sure of one thing, she couldn’t possibly have written that. She could believe that, in the middle of the night, fueled by cheap wine and self-pity, she had written in a raunchy blowjob scene, but there was no way in hell that she would have written anything like what she just read in her manuscript.
And these pages hadn’t been there when she left for the book signing earlier in the day, she was sure of that now too. So what was the explanation then? Was this a joke? Had someone been tampering with her files? Who would have had the access, much less the time and the warped sense of humor to do something like that?
She edged her way back to the desk. The computer was still there, though she had half expected that it would have become a coiled viper. The screen glowed sublimely with a forest of tiny black letters, waiting to unfold new horrors for her.
Her knees were unsteady as she sat, tapping the keyboard and scrolling down to the next page:
Over the rest of the chapter Stephen sexually assaults the captive girl, taking special pleasure in taunting her ineffectual attempts to fight back.
She thrashed and squirmed, kicking with her skinny little legs as he cupped the undersides of her breasts and squeezed them each one at a time They were warm and firm, but unnaturally hard and unyielding.
He clucked his tongue. “Just look what you’ve done to yourself. I would have hoped such a beautiful young woman would have more respect for her own body than this.”
“Fuck you!” she said. He responded by smacking the side of her face with his open palm, hitting her so hard her entire body jerked.
“Manners,” he said, rolling on top of her.
Stephen felt her body crushed under the weight of his. He forced her legs apart, overpowering her as easily as if she were a child.
The mingled look of fear, panic, and hatred on her face set off something inside of him. He felt his cock swollen and hard as he pushed against her, but she was thrashing too much for him to fully enter.
He pressed the blade of the scalpel against her throat. "I know what you're thinking. You think that since I'm going to kill you no matter what that you have nothing to lose, but that's not true. There are a lot worse ways to die than what I'm going to do to you. If you don't cooperate, you'll find out what they are."
In response, she tilted her head further back, offering her throat to the blade. He clucked his tongue.
"Cute. Real fucking cute."
He jabbed the scalpel once into the meat of her shoulder, soft flesh yielding to hard steel. It was shallow, but Ronnie's blood blossomed bright red, and he took a moment to smear it across her naked breasts, admiring the way it crowned her exquisite little nipples.
The girl's scream of pain slid into a long whimper.
"Now do you want more, are you going to start cooperating?"
Sobbing, she parted her legs for him. Her eyes took on a glassy, faraway look as he slid inside of her.
His invading shaft pulsed as he began to rape her, grunting like an animal, holding the scalpel against her chest, thrilling at the contrast of the bright silver blade on her soft pale flesh. The wound in her shoulder continued to bleed and soon they were both smeared with red.
He relished her pathetic cries for mercy and the way that the blood flow increased the harder he fucked her limp, struggling body. He felt like he was fucking the life out of her. In his dreams that's exactly what happens, his wild animal thrusting crushing a series of nameless, faceless partners into pathetic broken dolls while his magnificent cock swells up bigger and harder with each one, like its sucking their life-energy into itself.
He wished it were possible, but this was close enough.
"Fuck you," she sobbed, head turned aside. "You bastard. You fucking bastard, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!"
He laughed. "No honey. Tonight, I fuck you. See?"
This went on for pages. Joan felt her stomach rise but couldn't stop reading.
Stephen felt his cock surging with pent-up pressure. Poor little Ronnie lay broken and defeated, her face a mask of grim resignation. She had stopped screaming half an hour ago. Now she lay unmoving, tears tracking down her face. Stephen knew it was time.
"Okay Ronnie, here's where we part ways. If it's any consolation, you weren't a half-bad lay."
"No, wait!" she said.
"Sorry babe. I've waited enough."
"Please!" she said, fresh tears in her eyes. "I don't want to die like this!"
"Nobody wants to Ronnie. But it happens all the time, to thousands of people every year, so get ready to become a statistic bitch." He wrapped his big strong hands around her petite little throat and started to squeeze.
The sudden, shocked look on her face was hilarious. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes bulged wide. She tried to scream but he was already squeezing too hard, so all that came out of her mouth was a silent gasp.
She was tugging at her wrist restraints again, but they were still too strong and the hours of fatigue and blood loss made her efforts even less effectual.
He squeezed tighter and tighter, still fucking her as he did. Her face was swollen and blotchy now, features contorted with hopeless efforts to draw in air. Her eyes bulged in their sockets, tongue lolling. He relished her pain.
This was it. Her life was in his hands. He was a god now, the absolute ruler of her entire universe, with the power to save or damn her however he saw fit. It was an easy choice.
There was no noise coming out of her now, no begging or crying, not enough air left in her body even for those futile gestures.
A little more...
Just a little more...
He twisted her neck in his hands, almost but not quite breaking it. She was a portrait of agony in her last seconds, and then she was gone.
He watched as she went limp. Her eyes were suddenly cold, empty, dead. He was buried inside her still-warm cunt and he waited until after she had expired to release the gushing wave of cum that had built up inside of him all this time.
Joan put her hand to her mouth.
He loved this moment the most, the moment when he knew that seconds ago this had been a real human being with an entire life and now she was just a lifeless little doll, that he had crushed the hopes and dreams and memories right out of her, and that he had done it all for no reason.
He loved to think about how she must have felt as she died, about her desperation, about how all she had wanted was to walk out of that house and keep living, but that that didn't happen. She wanted to live, but instead she died. It was a simple idea, but an awe-inspiring one.
He was a monster, he knew. And he loved it.
He cupped the breasts on the fresh corpse, fondling them for a bit as he looked at her face, still frozen in its last few seconds of agony. Then he stood, wrapped the body up in the bloody tarp, and carried the whole thing to the back room, where the next phase could begin.
He stopped to shower and checked to see if any of her blood had dribble on the floor. It was later than he had thought, past dawn, so he phoned sick to work. There were no messages or missed calls from Lauren, so he didn't bother calling her. He had things to do.
In the next chapter Joan read about Stephen in his "workshop", the room at the back of the house where he kept all of his special embalming equipment.
Over the course of the next few hours he prepped the girl's body, preserving it through the special method he had developed over the years. His first step was to remove her breast implants, which he dropped with disdain into the nearby garbage can.
Rather than cover up the signs of violent trauma, as he did in his professional work, here he labored as hard as he could to preserve them, to make the body a memento of the time he had spent with his victim. It took several hours altogether.
When she was finally ready he carried her, with some difficulty, to the adjoining bedroom. It was once two bedrooms but he had had to remove the wall between them a few years ago when he found he was running out of space. Some day an addition would be needed and he worried sometimes about how that could be worked out.
In this room was his collection, each of them saved so that he could relive their every moment together. The older ones weren't in very good shape of course (even a master artisan like him couldn't stave off the ravages of time forever), but still, he was proud of his work.
There was Valerie, his first. A clumsy job by his later standards. He disliked the dent left in her skull, but he consoled himself that had been just a beginner back then.
Here was Melissa, the girl he had almost married. He really thought she was the one, but she hadn't reacted the way he'd hoped when she found out about his "hobby".
These days he had given up on finding a woman who shared his special interests. But he still liked to sit with Melissa sometimes and trace his fingers across the ligature marks on her throat, remembering the good times.
Many were just faceless one-night stands, women he had met in bars or hired off the streets. Here too were a handful of men from his experimental phase in college. So many memories.
He found a spot for Ronnie, propping her against one wall in a line of other girls. He didn't spend much time fussing over her arrangement. She hadn't been all that much, after all. Just another whore.
Rather then dwell on the insignificant tryst, he turned to the space in the center of the room. There he had placed a canopied four-poster bed with lace curtains, a perfect, white, immaculate canvas where one day, soon, he would lay out his masterpiece.
He closed his eyes and imagined wrapping his hands around Lauren's throat. He knew just how she would look; shocked, frightened, desperate, but also secretly thrilled. He knew that, when he explained to her how she was the perfect piece of art he had been looking for all his life, and how he was going to save her in his collection for ever and ever, that she would understand, and be happy for him.
It would be a wonderful thing for them to do as a couple, he felt.
He wasn't sure when it would happen. But it would be soon.
The chapter ended there. There wasn't anything more.
Joan barely made it to the bathroom in time.
She leaned over the toilet bowel and expelled all of the vile, day-old coffee she had consumed, along with the Japanese salad she’d had for dinner. When there wasn't anything left her insides continued to heave and she choked and gagged on nothing.
She didn't come out for a long time. When she finally did, she went to the study and turned off the computer without looking at the screen. She cleared the used dishes off of her desk and left as quickly as she could.
That night she locked her bedroom door. When she lay in bed she was crying, although she wasn't sure why.
Joan's first thought when she woke up was that it must have been a dream.
Her second thought was knowing that no, it wasn't. It was real.
She sat up in bed, then lay back down, then sat up again.
As much as she'd like to believe that if she went to her office and turned on the computer that the book wouldn't be there, she knew it would. It was real. She had written it.
No, she hadn't. She couldn't have! She didn't remember a thing. And she had been out of the house all day yesterday. There was no way she could have written all that.
But who else? What kind of person breaks into your home and writes for four hours? Besides, she recognized her own style, even in that jumble of sick, twisted images and ideas. It was her book, even if she would never have written it.
She had lost her mind, then. It was the only explanation.
The stress was too much for her, the drinking was out of hand. She had cracked. She must be having blackouts. The book was obviously her way of dealing with all of these issues. It made perfect sense.
She thought about it as she got dressed. She would have to take a vacation and get treatment. That would mean backing out of her contract with her publishers, but if that's what it took then that's what she would do. She obviously wasn't well.
By the time she made it to the kitchen, she was already planning to write a new book about what had happened. About how her life had gone off the rails, about how she had tried to do too much at once, about the strange way that her troubled psyche had tried to warn her, and about the long road back to normality. She wasn't sure yet if it should be a memoir or a fictionalized account.
When she saw the kitchen table, she screamed.
It was waiting for her. Two hundred pages of freshly-printed manuscript, in a neat pile, right in front of her favorite chair.
"The Mortician's Wife, by Joan Lanier" read the title page.
Her hand shook as she set her coffee cup down. She touched the stack of paper cautiously, as if it might fly apart at the slightest pressure. The pages felt rough under her fingertips.
Had she written it all, in the middle of the night, without realizing it, leaving it here for herself like a gift on a strange Christmas morning? It didn't seem possible. She was sure she had slept like the dead. She felt relaxed, rested, not like someone who had been up at all hours sleepwalking. But here it was.
Her first urge was to take the whole thing to the backyard and burn it, then format her hard drive to make sure she was rid of every last speck of the damned thing. But instead she started to read.
Lauren, Joan read, had no idea what kind of person Stephen really was. She thought the tension in their relationship was her fault, the result of her aloofness and morbid obsessions.
Lauren, too, had a secret. She was having an affair with one of her students, a pretty undergrad named Maria.
Their BDSM-laced fling seemed to Joan a sad thing, a transparent effort by two people to cope with their emotional baggage through play-acting that was obviously forced and derivative, the sort of thing people who had only read about such lifestyles in bad books might do.
Lauren raised her arms over her head, arching her back, feeling the tight leather corset strain as it restricted her heaving breasts. She ran the palms of her hands across the plane of her naked thighs.
Maria trembled and flinched, crying out once or twice as the riding crop came down on her bare ass cheeks.
"What was that?" Lauren said, her voice thick and husky.
"Nothing...Mistress." Maria whimpered.
"I almost thought I heard a complaint."
Lauren circled around the younger woman's trembling body. Maria was bent naked over the massage table, bright red stripes glowing on her perfectly round little ass.
She placed the tip of the crop against Maria's chin, lifting her face, admiring her big brown eyes and the way her curly black hair framed her face. She looked desperate and eager, and it made Lauren hot all over.
"Alright," she said. "That's enough for now. Come show me you've learned your lesson."
Lauren lay back on Maria's bed nearby, indicating with a few gestures that her slave should come and pleasure her. With some difficulty she removed the corset, letting the night air brush against her full breasts.
Maria crawled on her hands and knees to the bedside, only climbing up when permission was given. Her lips found her Lauren's hard, engorged nipples, planting gentle sucking kisses on each of them, moaning gratefully as she did.
Lauren closed her eyes and relaxed.
Their tryst was often carried out during the same hours that Stephen was off pursuing his own secret pleasures. With Maria Lauren felt like she could finally escape from herself and the nameless doubts that had plagued her all her life, and Maria looked at Lauren as the focal point of her life, the anchor she had always wanted, the stable foundation she always lacked.
Lauren wanted to tell Stephen about her double life, convinced that it was her secrets that were driving a wedge between them. But she was sure he would reject her.
Many long chapters were devoted to Stephen's dementia, his psychotic worldview, his sickening sexual practices. A laundry list of rapes and murders was compiled; strangulations, hangings, stabbings, drownings. One he buried alive.
He was priming himself for what he considered the culmination of his career, the day he would finally add Lauren, his soul mate, his masterpiece, to the collection.
Joan drank cup after cup of coffee, reading, face blank, eyes scanning down the lines as the hours passed. Here and there she felt a faint stir of recognition, but for the most part it was all foreign to her.
Eventually, Stephen discovers Lauren's affair. He feels outraged, hurt, betrayed, convinced that it was all a waste, that she isn't the woman he thought she was, that he could never give up the most treasured and honored place in his collection, and his heart, to a whore like her.
Instead he would teach her a lesson. He follows them to one of their secret rendezvous’, then kidnaps them both. Lauren awakes to find herself naked and restrained in a strange house.
Stephen shows Lauren his collection, explains what he had planned for her, and how she’s ruined it all. He spits in her face and tells her that he’s not even going to save her now. He’ll bury her in a landfill, like the garbage she is. But first she gets to watch what he does to her little slut.
Maria struggled and thrashed, tugging at her bonds and screaming as Stephen stripped her clothes off.
Lauren was on the couch where he had left her, hands and feet tied together, too weak to move. She blanched as the open palm of Stephen's hand smacked the side of Maria's face.
"Stephen, Stephen stop, stop!" she screamed.
"What's the matter? I thought she liked it rough." He kicked Maria's clothes across the floor. "I'm not good enough for her, is that it? Maybe I should let you step in for a few rounds, show me how it's done?"
Lauren was still weak and dizzy from the drugs Stephen had used to knock them both out, and she could tell that Maria wasn't in much better shape. Even if they somehow managed to get free they wouldn't have much chance of fighting him off. She had to buy time.
"Maybe I'm too much man for her?" Stephen said. "The little dyke can't take it, is that it?"
His face was bright red and the veins on his neck stood out. He was naked to the waist and drenched in sweat. His eyes rolled in their sockets, showing whites.
"Stephen, stop it, please just stop it! You're right, you're right about everything. You can punish me, I don't care, I deserve it, just please don't hurt her. She had nothing to do with it. It's not her fault. She was just there, okay?"
He stood, panting, saying nothing, watching her.
"It's not her you're mad at, it's me, so hurt me," Lauren said, leaning forward. "Come on. This is what you want. This is what you always wanted. I'm right here. Forget her. Come take me like you always wanted. It can still be that way."
She bit her lip and tried to stop from shaking. She was sure that Stephen would take more time with her than with Maria. Maybe if she stalled him the girl could regain her strength and find some way to escape. It wasn't much of a chance, but Lauren felt like she had to try something.
But Stephen shook his head slowly, one side to another, smiling with all his teeth.
"No. Sorry. You don't get the easy way babe. You're going to watch this, the whole time."
He unbuckled his belt and dropped his pants. Maria's sobbing went up an octave.
"I always did want you to see me work anyway. Maybe you'll enjoy it."
Joan felt the bile riding up in the back of her throat again as she read, and she took a few minutes to fight it back down. She skimmed over several pages.
Stephen now had Maria up on her knees facing the wall. Her head hung low.
Stephen gripped her perfectly sculpted asscheeks between his hands, squeezing. "That's a tight little package, isn't it babe? I bet you had fun with that. You want to tell me about it?"
Lauren said nothing. She slumped on the couch, gaze half-averted, not wanting to watch what was happening anymore but unable to look away.
Stephen's voice took on an edge. "Tell me. Tell me what you did and I'll put her out of her misery."
Lauren tried to talk, but her voice had gone away. She swallowed hard and tried again.
"What do you want to hear?"
"Tell me if you had fun with this little cooz's ass. I mean, it is such a sweet ass. I'd have trouble believing you didn't notice."
When Lauren said nothing he responded by placing the tip of the scalpel against Maria's back.
"Come on. Tell me and I'll do her quick, without hurting her anymore. Hold out and I'll do it the bad way, the worst way I know. I can skin a person so that it comes off all in one piece you know. You want to see me do it? The first thing you do is-"
"Wait! Wait, okay, yes, yes. I did it."
"I-I-I spanked her little ass."
"You mean this little ass right here?" He smacked his hand against the side of one of Maria's flanks, and she yelped.
"Yes. Yes I did." Lauren was biting her lip so hard it bled.
"Did she like that? Huh?" He grabbed a handful of Maria's hair and jerked her head back, pushing his face up against hers. "Did you like it when she smacked your little ass you dumb cooz?"
"Yes! She did, she did." Tears welled up in Lauren's eyes. "She loved it. She used to call me up when you were at work and beg me to come do it some more. "
Stephen pushed Maria's head back down, gripping her hips with his hands. His huge erect cock was squeezed in between the cheeks of the girl's ass, the bulging head just visible where it peaked out at one end.
Lauren's voice faltered and fumbled, but she kept talking, twisting her wrists against her bounds over and over.
"I used to lay awake at night sweating and thinking about it. I even used to think about her when you fucked me. After, when you were asleep, I'd think about it while I touch myself again and again."
Maria was screaming now again as Stephen's cock violated her, pushing into her tight, puckered asshole, the entire length of him at once in a single swift, violent motion.
Lauren panted as she watched. "Sometimes I even thought about watching you fuck her. Just like that. Her tight little cheeks spread around your big thick cock."
Maria's screams became a vacant buzz in Lauren's ear. She was watching the motion of Stephen's hips as he jackhammered the poor girl. He looked like he was crushing her. His pace was fantastic, like a machine.
"But she was nothing compared to you Stephen. You were everything. She was just some little toy, something I was going to use and throw away. It was different with you. You were what I really wanted."
Lauren writhed on the couch, legs spread as far open as they could with her ankles tied together. Stephen watched her as he continued raping Maria, who was now too far gone to be know what was happening.
"Fuck her Stephen. Fuck her and then do her. I want to see it," Lauren said in a throaty pant. "Please Stephen, please."
Stephen grunted like an animal and then reached for Maria's throat, his hands wrapping around easily and starting to squeeze.
"No, wait!" Lauren said, sitting up.
Her voice trembled a little.
"Wait, Stephen, wait."
Stephen looked at her, silent, his body trembling with caged lust and murder.
Lauren took a deep breath. "Let me do it. I want to do it. Please Stephen. Please."
And that was all. There wasn't anything more after that. But that couldn't be the end of the story, Joan knew. There had to be more.
She sat a long time at the table with her book. With the book. By now the sun was going down.
She looked into the bottom of her coffee cup, then at the last page, and then at the bright red horizon outside the window, pondering what to do.
Finally she stood, gathered up all the pages, and dropped them into the trash. She would burn it all later.
Next she went to the den and started the computer. She found the document and dragged it to the trash can.
She tried again. Still nothing happened.
The computer beeped at her. Annoyed, she tried yet again, The screen went blue, and then rebooted. When it was finished, the document was still there.
Joan opened the file. It was there in its entirety, all the way up to Lauren's final line of dialogue. She put her finger to the backspace key and jabbed with all the force she could muster, but the cursor only blinked. The words wouldn't leave.
"Come on!" she screamed. .
The pages gave no reply.
"Okay, fine. We'll do this another way."
She put her fingers to the keyboard and typed:
"And then Lauren woke up and realized it had all been a horrible dream."
Or at least, that was what she tried to type. But what appeared on the screen instead was:
Lauren sat forward, her naked body trembling. "Let me do it Stephen," she repeated. "Let me kill her."
Joan's heart pounded a mile a minute. She tried again, typing:
"At that very moment the police SWAT team broke down the door."
What she saw on the screen, though, was:
Stephen dropped Maria, looking at Lauren with surprise and distrust.
"Let me out Stephen. I won't try to run. You can still do me after. I don't care. I just want this one thing first. Please baby. If you ever loved me, give me this now."
Joan shrieked. She took her hands away from the keyboard as if they'd been burned. She started to cry.
"Please," she said out loud. "Please, whatever this is, whatever's going on, just stop it! This isn't what I wanted. Take it back, just take it all back!"
The room was silent. The cursor blinked at her. She tried the keyboard once more:
"And then the novelist stopped writing and put the horrible book away forever, unfinished, so that it could never torment her again."
But that wasn't what it said on the screen. As she watched, words began to fill up the empty pages in front of her very eyes. She wasn't sure if her hands were even on the keys anymore, but she knew now that it didn't matter.
Stephen wasn't sure what she was up to, but he judged she was still weak from the drugs. If she tried to attack him or run away, it would be easy enough to stop her.
He cut the ropes from her wrists and ankles, then stepped back to watch.
Lauren was unsteady on her feet, still lightheaded from the drugs and sore from being restrained for so long. Stumbling, she made her way to where Maria was laying in agony on the floor.
She knelt by the girl, brushing the hair away from her face.
"Lauren?" Maria said, her eyes fluttering. "Is that you? Please, Lauren, help me."
"I will baby. I'll help you. Before I do though, I just wanted you to know how much you meant to me. Really."
Lauren lay down next to Maria, cradling her body from behind, twining their limbs together.
"Really. What we had was special. I'll always remember it." In her hand she held the knotted black lump of Maria's discarded panties. She stretched them between her hands to make a garrote, then wrapped it around Maria's throat.
The girl's mouth gaped in surprise. She thrashed a bit, but was too weak to put up a real fight.
"Lauren! Lauren, stop, stop!" she cried. "What are you doing?!"
"Shhh. It'll all be over soon." Lauren tightened her grip.
"Lauren, please don't hurt me, please! I love you, I love-" and the rest was just a choked gurgle.
Lauren pulled tighter and tighter, cradling Maria's body next to hers as she did. Her eyes were closed and her lips were parted.
With some effort she twined her legs around Maria's, then spread them apart. "Fuck her Stephen," she growled. "Fuck her while I do her."
Stephen responded immediately, positioning himself between the captive girl's splayed thighs, sliding his cock back into her abused pussy, raping her over and over again as Lauren choked the life out of her.
Lauren felt Maria's body convulsing, felt as each ounce of pressure she applied pushed the poor girl closer and closer to death. Finally she understood what she had been looking for all her life, her escape from the nameless doubts and fears that hung on her always.
This was it. This was what she had always wanted, without ever knowing it. As she killed Maria she also killed that weak, doubting part of herself, and she knew that when it was over she would emerge as the woman she had always wanted to be.
She could just see the side of the girl's face, her features red and bloated with the effort of trying to breathe, eyes bulging, lips parted, tongue squirming. Her little choking noises were cute and pathetic.
She could feel the force of Stephen's wild, animal thrusting, taking dark pleasure in knowing that the last thing this girl would ever know was the combination of her hands on her throat and Stephen's cock in her little pussy.
The fight was going out of her now. Lauren could hear the death rattle. This was finally the end.
Maria was dying.
Maria was dying.
She felt the body go limp her arms. She looked into Maria's eyes and saw nothing there, nothing but cold and emptiness where there had been a person.
Lauren held onto the fresh corpse, kissing the lips and breasts until the skin began to grow cold. She watched as Stephen finished up, fucking the lifeless body until he was satisfied. She felt different now. Calm. Peaceful.
Stephen rolled off. Lauren let go as well, pushing the remains away. Now that it was finished, she didn't feel anything for what was left over of her lover. It was just a shell, like an empty candy wrapper that needed to be thrown away.
Instead she looked at Stephen. Beautiful, wild, dangerous Stephen.
She walked up to him, inhaling the animal scent of his body She took his wrists, raising his arms, placing his strong hands on her throat.
"Go ahead," she said. "I'm ready now."
For a while, he did nothing.
And then he kissed her.
The rest of the book was done within an hour.
Stephen and Lauren decide to leave town and start a new life together somewhere.
They burn the house down, along with the bodies of all of Stephen's victims except for Maria. Her they take with them, to be the centerpiece of their new collection, the one they would make together.
They stop in Vegas to elope. Three days later a maid is cleaning up their honeymoon suite and she finds the abused body of an exotic dancer drowned in the bathtub, as well as a fifty dollar tip and a note that says "Sorry about the mess."
And then it's off, to wherever it was they would end up, not even certain where they were going but secure in knowing that after all their searching they had finally found each other.
Joan read her final sentence back to herself:
There was no yesterday.
"It's done then," she said. And it was.
"The Mortician's Wife" turned out to be Joan Lanier's best-selling book to date, and in later years she would often cite it as her favorite.
Her publishers hit the roof when she submitted the manuscript, of course. "You can't honestly expect us to distribute this?" said her editor over the phone, his voice a fine line between pleading and reprimand.
"You asked me for a book and that's the book I wrote," was her reply.
"But what will your fans think? You have a following Joan, they don't expect this kind of thing from you. The critics will rake us across the coals, book clubs won't want it, library groups won't want it, and you can't honestly expect to get on Oprah again after this? If you want to write a horror story that's fine, but not this way!"
"I had a contract and I fulfilled my end of it. No one ever made any rules about the content."
"Joan, listen to reason. We have an investment in you, you can't do this to us."
"That's my book," she said. "Take it or leave it."
They threatened to hold her in breach of contract, to withhold all future royalties, to sue her for the cost of distribution. She wouldn't budge. Finally they offered to go to print if she would only change the ending, to kill Stephen off and have the other characters escape. But she refused.
They gave in, doing the smallest print run possible, refusing to promote it, and pretending they didn't know what anyone was talking about when the subject of Joan Lanier's new book came up. They wrote it, and he,r off as a complete loss and prepared to eat the cost, shaking their heads at the entire thing.
To their amazements, "The Mortician's Wife" flew off the shelves, and they were deluged with requests for a second printing, then a third, and then more.
Critics blasted her of course, about both the violence and the extremes of the sexual content. "Shocking, misogynistic trash," the New York Times called it. "Never before have we seen a promising young author stumble so badly. It reads as though Lanier were somehow working in tandem with Son of Sam."
But others were more receptive. Reader's Voice called it "brazen and challenging" and praised the way she "blurred the line between erotica and contemporary fiction."
Chronicles magazine dubbed her "The Marquess de Sade" and predicted that she would "usher in a daring new era of psychosexual fiction."
Joan, whenever asked, said that she never read the reviews but was happy if any critics liked it.
She received more fan mail on "The Mortician's Wife" than on her first two books combined. Much of it was angry, people swearing that they would never buy one of her books again, telling her she would rot in hell, etcetera.
But others lauded her, praised her style, and asked for a sequel. And of course a few letters had to be forwarded to the local police. She was fairly certain the offers those fans were making weren't serious, but you could never be sure.
Her favorite was a letter from the Association of American Mortician's and Professional Embalmers pointing out some flaws in the embalming techniques described in the book. She wrote back thanking them for their input and telling them she would correct the errors in the sequel.
At an author's forum in Phoenix the next year she took questions about the book and talked about the planned follow-up, in which a beautiful young female private investigator would begin a search for one of Lauren and Stephen's victims and "gradually be drawn into their world." She hoped to have it finished by New Year's.
A mousy woman in the front row leaned into the microphone and asked Joan where she got the idea for the book. She took a longer than usual pause before answering.
"I don't know," she finally said. "Some ideas you can point to a time and a place that they came from, but some are just a mystery. In a lot of ways I have as many questions about my books as you all do.
"I guess in the end what it comes down to is that some stories just want to be told. There's no getting in the way of a story that's made up its mind to come into the world. The story wins every time."
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