Island, p.39
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       Island, p.39
 

           Richard Laymon

  My God what a jump!

  ‘Yes!’ someone yelled.

  Billie.

  She stood at the side of her cage, the fire behind her fluttering low, Wesley’s blazing torch in her upraised hand.

  Kimberly dangled beneath Wesley.

  She hung with both hands from his right ankle.

  Golden in the torchlight, arms stretched so high that her breasts were nearly flat - long, low slopes topped by hard and jutting nipples - her entire body taut and thin as if she were being stretched from both ends.

  Wesley tried to kick free of her.

  His leg hardly moved at all. Just enough to sway Kimberly back and forth with an easy, gentle motion.

  ‘Let go of me!’ he shouted.

  Kimberly didn’t answer. She just held on.

  Wesley pulled a knife out of its sheath on his belt. He wouldn’t be able to reach her with it. He could throw it, though.

  ‘Look out!’ I yelled, and ran between the cages.

  Billie shouted, ‘He’s got a knife! Watch out!’

  With an underhand toss, I flung my machete toward Billie’s cage. It hit bars, but fell near enough for her to reach it. I faced Kimberly’s cage just as Wesley let out a cry of pain.

  Kimberly had started to swing.

  Still hanging from his ankle, she flung her legs forward and up.

  A kid on a swing, pumping for the sky.

  ‘Stop!’ Wesley wailed. ‘Stop it! Fuck!’

  I jumped, reached high, grabbed two bars, squeezed bars between my knees, and began my struggle for the top of Kimberly’s cage. Slow going, awkward. I made progress, though.

  As I pulled and scurried my way higher, Wesley’s voice raged in my ears. ‘My leg! Let go! Shit! You’re gonna rip it off! Fuck! Let go! Ahhhhh!’

  Kimberly no longer acted like a kid on a swing. The smooth, graceful pumping action was gone. She’d turned wild, bucking beneath him, twisting, kicking her legs toward the barred ceiling.

  She had a knife protruding from her left thigh.

  I hadn’t even seen it hit her. Wesley must’ve hurled it down through the bars while I’d been looking somewhere else.

  No wonder she’d gone wild.

  She swung like a rabid Tarzan, a mad and naked Jane trying to ride her vine to the moon.

  Through Wesley’s shouts and shrieks, I heard a gristly, popping noise.

  His thigh bone bursting out of its hip joint.

  His scream gave me goosebumps.

  ‘Don’t kill him!’ someone yelled.

  A girl’s voice from far off.

  Erin.

  ‘Don’t kill Wesley!’ she shouted. ‘He’s gotta tell where the keys are!’

  And then my left hand caught hold of the crossbar at the top of the cage. I reached up with my right, grabbed hold and pulled myself up.

  Wesley kept his eyes on me as I clambered over the edge. Suddenly, I found myself perched atop Kimberly’s cage, my hands and knees on the roof bars, Wesley a distance to my right and just beyond the end of the ladder.

  Though one leg lay across the top of the bars, he squirmed and swayed like a human torso—or like one of those inflatable punching toys that swings back and forth when you hit it, and keeps coming up.

  ‘Help!’ he blurted at me. His face was streaked with sweat and tears, tremulous with torchglow and shadows, twisted ugly with pain. ‘Please!’ he cried out. ‘Make her stop! Please!’

  Though he pleaded, he held his second knife high, its blade pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

  ‘Put down the knife!’ I shouted.

  He couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether to throw it at me or Kimberly.

  Looking down, I saw her rising toward me on his leg. She seemed to be looking at me. In another moment, she was sprawled out beneath me like a lover. She lingered there, just below the bars, all shadowy and open.

  Screaming, Wesley jerked the knife back toward his ear.

  He’d made up his mind.

  Kimberly.

  His tormenter, and such an easy target inches below the bars, motionless, trapped in the moment before starting her downward course.

  Yelling, I sprang.

  Hurled myself—not so much at Wesley as between him and Kimberly.

  I heard a thunk.

  A grunt.

  I landed flat and hard on the bars. They pounded me. They rang out. I slid on them.

  Below my face was Kimberly’s face.

  Eyes squeezed nearly shut, mouth open, teeth bared.

  Her face huge and beautiful but torn with pain.

  Then shrinking.

  At first, I didn’t know why.

  But as her face became smaller, more and more of Kimberly came into view.

  Her neck, shoulders.

  Her arms reaching overhead like a surrendering prisoner. Her chest.

  The knife handle jutting up between her breasts.

  Her belly, her groin, thighs.

  The knife handle jutting up from her left thigh.

  Her long, spread legs.

  All becoming smaller.

  Then the shrinking stopped. She shook as if she’d suddenly been hit by a monstrous gust of wind. It shoved at the front of her whole body - spread her face, mashed her breasts, distorted her everywhere for a moment - then moved on.

  I was vaguely aware of yelling.

  Billie was yelling.

  I was yelling.

  Somehow, I missed the noise of Kimberly’s body smacking the concrete. It must’ve been drowned out by our cries of shock and despair.

  I don’t know how long I lay sprawled on the bars, gazing down at her.

  I couldn’t believe this had happened.

  I wanted it to be a dream.

  Or a trial run. I wanted another chance, a way to try things differently.

  A way to save her.

  ‘The bitch was gonna rip my leg off,’ Wesley said. ‘I couldn’t just let her rip my leg off, could I?’

  I raised my head.

  ‘Hey,’ he said. ‘Hey, look. Just settle down. It was an accident, okay? Accidents happen.’

  In The Land Of Pain

  When the sun came up, Kimberly still lay sprawled on the bottom of her cage. A pool of blood had spread out around her, much like the gasoline that had puddled the floor of Billie’s cage, but dark.

  Billie and Connie stood at the front comers of their cages, facing me.

  I faced Wesley.

  Alice and Erin watched from their distant cages.

  Four spectators, four witnesses.

  One executioner.

  One motherfucking son of a bitch about to die hard.

  During the night, I had lowered him to the ground. Billie and I had belted him around the neck to a bar of her cage. Neither of us spoke to him. He cried and begged and made excuses and carried on about a lot of stuff. We didn’t listen, though.

  When we asked him about the cage keys, he said, ‘I’m not telling. If I tell, you got no reason not to kill me. They’re real bastards, these cages. Nobody’s getting out, ever. Not without the keys.’

  Billie stood guard over him with the machete while I went away.

  I spoke briefly to Connie, who was conscious but confused. She’d been out cold during the action, and had no idea that Kimberly’d been killed. When I told her, she seemed to shrivel. She sank down in a comer of her cage and covered her face.

  I went on to Alice and Erin, and explained what had happened. Then I returned to the mansion.

  I searched all over the place, looking for the keys. While trying to find them, I came across a few sections of rope which appeared to be our old ropes, taken from the scene of the big battle at the chasm.

  Also, I found Kimberly’s Swiss Army knife.

  I quickly hid the knife away for later. I didn’t want to use it on Wesley, foul it with him. I wanted it as a keepsake, a reminder of Kimberly to be savored in times to come.

  Downstairs, I gathered some food and water for my women.


  I returned to the cages. After handing out the provisions, I took over with Wesley. He hadn’t given Billie any trouble. She gave the belt to me, and I dragged him by the neck. He tried to crawl, but it wasn’t easy because of his dislocated leg. He screamed and choked a lot.

  It took plenty of effort, but I finally managed to stand him up and tie him to the front door of Kimberly’s cage. He could only stand on one leg, the other being useless. I kept him upright by tossing two ropes over the crossbar at the top of the door and tying them under his armpits. Then I stretched his arms out to the sides and lashed them to upright bars. I took the belt off him, got rid of its two empty knife sheaths, and used it to strap his good leg to the bars.

  By then, Billie’s torch had burned itself out.

  I wanted light to work by.

  So I took a few steps backward from Wesley, and lay down on the ground. Billie called to me a couple of times. I didn’t answer, though. I didn’t want to go to her. She would hold me. We would weep. It would be comforting and nice. I would probably even end up with a hard-on.

  I wanted no part of that.

  I wanted no part of gentleness or sex or love.

  It would ruin me for what I needed to do.

  So I lay there on my back, in a position almost the same as Kimberly’s. I pictured how it might look from the air: Kimberly and I stretched out like wings. Airplane wings. Angel wings. Eagle wings.

  Wesley between us like the body between our wings. And what did that make us? What did that make him?

  I’m starting to ramble.

  No more of that.

  I stayed on my back, not sleeping, until dawn arrived. Then I got up and went to Wesley.

  Billie, Connie, Alice and Erin were already standing in their cages to watch. As if they’d all risen early, afraid they might oversleep and miss out.

  Wesley watched my approach.

  He was a wreck before I even got started. Aside from his dislocated, swollen leg, he had three spear wounds - the old ones in the boob and buttock, plus the one in the shoulder that I’d given him last night. He was also battered from falling down the stairs last night.

  By the look on his face, he must’ve guessed that even worse was on its way.

  Then he saw me pull the razor out of my sock.

  When I flicked open its blade, he started to sob.

  ‘Hey,’ he said. ‘Look. Don’t. Don’t hurt me.’

  Billie called from her comer, ‘Just tell us where the keys are, Wesley.’

  His eyes were latched on the razor. He licked his cracked lips. ‘I’ll tell. Okay? Put that away. Put it away and I’ll tell.’

  I stepped up very close to him. Reaching down with my left hand, I grabbed him. His eyes bulged. I said, ‘Where’s your fucking boner now, tough guy?’

  ‘Please,’ he blubbered.

  ‘Cut his cock off!’ Connie shouted. ‘Make him eat it!’

  ‘Good thing she’s locked up,’ I said.

  He nodded vigorously. His face dripped sweat and tears. ‘Don’t... do it,’ he said. ‘Please. I’m begging you. I’ll tell where the keys are. Please.’

  ‘Okay.’ I let go.

  ‘Thank you.’ He sniffled. ‘Thank you.’

  ‘You’re welcome,’ I said, and sliced off the underside of his left forearm from wrist to elbow.

  While he screamed, I stuffed it into his mouth.

  ‘Eat that,’ I said. ‘You’ll need snacks. This is gonna take a while.’

  He wouldn’t eat it, though. He gasped and choked and managed to spit it out.

  ‘The keys!’ he squealed.

  Off to my right, Connie vomited. She was hunched over, face between bars, trying to get most of her mess to land outside the cage.

  I looked at Billie. She stood with her arms up, hands gripping the bars. I saw where Wesley or Thelma or both of them had left marks on her, and I saw a fierce look in her eyes.

  ‘It’s not just for Kimberly,’ I told her.

  ‘I know that, honey.’

  I faced Wesley.

  ‘Tell me where the keys are,’ I said.

  ‘Bedroom,’ he gasped. ‘Upstairs.’

  ‘Where in the bedroom?’

  ‘Under mattress.’

  ‘Liar,’ I said, and sliced him across the left eye. My razor cut in through the closed lid, slit his eyeball and nicked the bridge of his nose.

  It took him a long time to stop screaming.

  I stood back and waited. Most of my audience had had enough. Making no complaints, they’d simply turned away and gone to far comers of their cages. Only Billie still watched.

  When our eyes met, she nodded.

  ‘I told you where the keys are!’ Wesley blurted when he was finally capable of speech again.

  ‘Not enough,’ I said.

  ‘What do you want? I’ll do anything!’

  ‘Apologize to Billie.’

  ‘I’m sorry!’ he cried out. ‘Billie, I’m sorry! Forgive me!’ I took off one of his ears.

  When he could speak again, he gasped, ‘I did what you wanted!’

  ‘Not enough,’ I said.

  ‘What?’

  ‘You didn’t apologize to Connie.’

  ‘But... but ... !’

  I shoved my razor into the rip across his left boob, made so long ago by Kimberly’s spear but reopened last night. I ran the blade through it, slow and deep.

  When Wesley could talk again, he cried out, ‘I’m sorry, Connie! I’m sorry, Alice! I’m sorry, Erin. Okay? Okay?’

  ‘You forgot a few people,’ I explained, and cut off his right nipple.

  Had to wait.

  Then, ‘Who? Who?’

  ‘Try to remember.’

  I made him scream again.

  Had to wait.

  Then he shouted, ‘I’m sorry, Andrew! I’m sorry, Keith! I’m sorry, Dorothy! I’m sorry, James!’

  ‘Finished?’

  ‘No?’ he wondered.

  ‘Who, then?’ I asked.

  ‘I don’t know! You? I’m sorry, Rupert!’

  I hurt him again.

  Had to wait.

  Then, ‘Who? Please! Who?’

  ‘Apologize to your wife. Don’t you think Thelma deserves an apology?’

  ‘Yes! I’m sorry, Thelma!’ he cried out.

  I sliced off a pretty good section down the front of his left thigh, and slapped him across the face with it a couple of times.

  Had to wait.

  Then, ‘What? What? Who?’

  ‘You forgot Kimberly.’

  ‘Kimberly? No, I ... Yes! I’m sorry, Kimberly! I’m sorry, Kimberly! I’m sorry, everybody! Everybody!’

  ‘Very good,’ I said.

  He hung there against the bars of the cage door, sobbing wildly, blood all over, and blubbered, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’

  Fool thought I was done.

  ‘One more thing,’ I said.

  He shuddered. ‘Yes! Yes! Anything! Please! Whatever you say! Anything!’

  ‘Make Kimberly be alive.’

  ‘What? No! I can’t! I would, but I can‘t! Please! I can’t do that! She’s dead! I can’t bring her back to life.’

  ‘Didn’t think so,’ I told him.

  That’s when I did what Connie had suggested in the first place. When his mouth was full, I clapped a hand across his lips and kept it there until he was dead.

  Then I went over to Billie’s cage.

  Without being asked, she handed the machete to me. I returned to Wesley.

  ‘This is for Kimberly, too,’ I said.

  With one blow, I chopped off his head. It fell and thudded against the ground, and rolled. It came to a stop, face up, the tip of Wesley’s penis peering out from between his lips like a curious passenger.

  Then I chopped off his arms and legs.

  I found a wheelbarrow in one of the storage buildings behind the mansion, brought it over, piled it with Wesley, then rolled him off into the jungle and dumped him in some bushes.

  Far en
ough away so we wouldn’t have to smell him rot.

  King Of The Island

  Almost three weeks have gone by since that morning.

  My women are still in their cages.

  Including Kimberly. After disposing of Wesley’s body, I did what was necessary. I tried for a while to break into the cage. I couldn’t get in, though. So she would have to stay.

  There were sacks of concrete in the storage building where I’d found the wheelbarrow.

  I mixed the concrete in the wheelbarrow with a shovel. I carried it in a bucket up the ladder, and dumped it through the bars. The heavy gray glop fell on Kimberly, bombed her, splatted her body and spread out, rolling like lava, some spilling down her sides to join the concrete of the floor.

  I don’t want to get into how I felt. Or which parts of Kimberly I covered first. Or last.

  After many trips up the ladder with the paint bucket, none of her showed anymore.

  Wesley’s two knives, one in her thigh and one in her chest, stuck up out of the gray mass like miniature Excaliburs. But no hero arrived with the strength or magic to draw them out.

  I gave the concrete a while to set, then mixed more batches in the wheelbarrow and hauled them up to the top and poured. I couldn’t pull out the knives, but I could bury them.

  When I finally quit, Kimberly’s resting place was a long, low hill of concrete at the bottom of her cage.

  Billie had watched all this from her cage. She’d given me useful advice, from time to time. She’d spoken softly, sadly. It was good having her there. To Connie, Alice and Erin, I’d apparently turned into a leper. It didn’t bother me, though. Mostly, I felt numb.

  We didn’t say anything over Kimberly.

  Maybe we each did, privately. At least those of us who loved her.

  Which probably included only me and Billie, when you come right down to it.

  I thought about singing ‘Danny Boy’ for her. I couldn’t do it, though. Maybe someday.

  After cleaning up the tools, I returned to the mansion and took a long, hot shower. Then I stayed in. I went to where I’d hidden the Swiss Army knife. With the knife in my hand, I searched for a good bedroom. I picked Erin‘s, on the second floor. I flopped on her bed.

  I stroked my cheek with the knife’s smooth plastic handle, and remembered Kimberly. Next thing you know, I started bawling. I cried like crazy, like I’d never cried before. And then eventually I fell asleep.

 
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