“Where am I?” was the second question Mark would silently ask himself. Understandably he was still stuck on “where are my legs?” A thought that currently took priority. He was almost certain he had precisely two this afternoon, a number that had now rapidly declined by at least 50%.
Had he not been so distracted and taken a moment to look around the room he’d woken up in, Mark might have noticed one was resting upon the smooth blue cloth of a pool table in the corner.
While he felt certainly inconvenienced by the loss, he was curious as to why it wasn’t actually causing him any pain. Not wanting to get bogged down with this unexpected third question though, he moved quickly to his second and made a quick scan of the small, poorly ventilated basement to see where he was. Not having a basement himself, it was and safe estimate he was no longer home. And judging by the lack of light dripping through the tiny, mesh window, it was roughly near nighttime.
He was supposed to have a date tonight. He was almost certainly going to miss it. Aside from the mobility issues, he was inconveniently handcuffed to a hook in the wall, which didn’t bode well for his 9 o’clock reservation with Mary. Taking this in, he pondered his options. But not for long.
Footsteps broke Mark’s concentration mid-ponder. Maybe this is Mary, he thought. Some kind of avant-garde dating ritual that she’d failed to initially mention to him. This brief glimmer of hope was extinguished once he began to question the validity of any relationship that initiated with dismemberment.
As the footsteps slowly trudged down the stairs, making their final descent, Mark received further proof that this indeed was not Mary.
Within moments he was staring into the masked eyes of this maverick abductor. Or rather, they were staring into him.
Bearing down on Mark wearing a one-size-too-small onesie and a paper bag roughly fashioned into a mask, was his captor. Blocking out what moonlight there was, he formed an unwelcome silhouette. He wasn’t tall, but the unconcealed disapproval in his eyes made up for his stature. It sank deep into Mark, penetrating his every muscle, except the ones in his legs, which were now on the other side of the room.
Silence reigned, until the man conquered it.
“I’m Keith. Don’t stand up”. Mark didn’t appreciate his dry, flat tone. He knelt down to tie his laces, eyes on Mark throughout. He let off an air of suspicion, as if Mark was the kid next door he’d just caught stealing gnomes from the garden.
What had Mark done? As far as he knew he was an innocent. He’d partaken in a fierce bidding war the previous week on eBay, but it was unlikely someone would exact this level of vengeance over a Bucky O’Hare figure. It wasn’t even packaged. In light of his current circumstances, the urgency he felt in owning such a thing now seemed quite trivial.
As his potential tormentor continued to look at him in awkward silence, Mark racked his brain for and reason he may have to be in his predicament. As a virgin, he was quietly confident he hadn’t slept with this man’s wife. And his perpetual shyness had prevent him from exchanging a harsh word with even a keyboard.
“Do you know what day it is?” The onesie-clad captor beamed at Mark for an answer.
Surprised by the question, Mark blurted his hasty response, “your birthday?” Mark immediately regretted his answer. Begging his body for breath to second guess, Mark spluttered a few incoherent mumbles.
“Tuesday,” corrected Keith, sidestepping the indiscretion. He spat the word as if it was a rotten mussel. “Do you know what happens every other Tuesday?”
Mark did not, but he wasn’t keen on letting the man know. “The recycling’s collected?” Apparently Mark was all out of common sense.
“No. No it isn’t. Fool. That’s Wednesdays, “ spat Keith, openly displeased with Mark’s apparent lack of knowledge. “It’s this. This is what happens every other Tuesday.”
Mark felt the glaring eyes commanding a response. “Oh”, he offered, “that’s not the nicest tradition, is it?”
“No it is not!” replied his assailant “it’s not meant to be nice. If I was aiming to be nice, I’d bring you a lasagne or wash your hair. But it has to be done and I have to do it. Apparently. They left me no choice and neither did you.”
“Me? I don’t remember doing anything to you. Are you sure-” Mark was abruptly cut off.
“It’s not what you did. It’s what you are”.
“A bartender? I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m just a nice, normal guy.” Mark was on the verge of considering getting irate.
“I’m sure you’d like me to think that. You’d all like me to. But I know your true face, deceiver! And on this day, every two weeks, I can see it.”
As far as he knew, Mark only had one face and right now his was wearing a look of general bewilderment. No level of logic was going to succeed here. His tormentor continued.
“Every fortnight I have to see what you truly are. Face of the abyss, eyes that tear at my soul. And those teeth. Those teeth haunt my fucking night and day.”
Offense taken, Mark jumped in, “hideous? My dentist is an artist.” Mark felt very protective of his dentist. After all, he was meant to be on a date with her right now.
“Not those teeth, though they are unnaturally white. Your real ones – the demon teeth. It’s like you have half of Homebase in your mouth, nails, saws and all.” Keith said.
“Demon? Can I stop you there,” Mark felt the conversation had taken a diagonal turn. “I’m not even a speed demon – 30mph thank you very much. What are you ta-”.
“Why lie?” Interrupted Keith. “I didn’t ask to see you things, but I do. The least you can do is be a bit honest about it, yeah? It’s not like-” An inappropriately chirpy ringtone cut him short.
While he wouldn’t usually dream of being so impolite, Mark felt now was as good a time as any to start being a bit more selfish, as he reached into his limp pocket to retrieve the phone. “Mary! Hi, look something-”
A blunt crunch kept the call short. The phone fell to the floor, still connected, closely followed by Mark’s right hand and a good quantity of his blood. Gasping, the rest of Mark pressed against the wall, clutching for air as a red downpour flooded from a large gash in his neck.
Keith hated how nothing was like it was in the movies. They always get the head off first time. Once more, with added feeling, he swung the previously concealed machete at his captive’s neck, finishing the job.
Not delighted at the prospect of cleaning up, Keith wiped the blade on the trouser of his Primark onesie and plodded back up the stairs to have a break. He’d tidy up in the morning.
As he shut the basement door, the excessively perky ringtone made itself heard again.