“It has been said that we live in the digital age.” a voice says. “The world is getting smaller by the day as we each become more and more reliant upon the web as a part of our daily lives. With this new horizon of possibilities has come a complete lack of privacy. I personally would prefer not to see another picture of Britney Spears’ nethers, but this new era does present some unique opportunities.”
Music begins as we are suddenly in the kitchen of a rather spotless apartment: “Ouga Chaka ouga ouga Ouga Chaka ouga ouga”. We leave the white linoleum of the kitchen as we enter the living room: brown carpet, brown couch, coffee table-spotless. We continue our motion rounding a right turn into the living room and continuing on to the next room. We first see a window to the dark city around us. Then, a computer monitor and man with his back toward us at the computer: “Ouga Chaka ouga ouga Ouga Chaka ouga ouga”. We continue our forward motion toward the screen. It displays a real estate website. We continue in only to stop completely focused on the blonde woman on the bottom left of the screen: “ahahah”. We are suddenly looking at the man at the computer: “I’m hooked on a feeling….” He has short dark hair and is wearing black framed glasses with round lenses. He is not unattractive. His slender, freshly shaved face shows every subtle facial expression as he apparently masturbates to the site of this image.
“Jennifer Anderson. Not an incredibly unique name. Then again, not all Jennifer Andersons have such effortless beauty. Not all Jennifer Andersons have such telling eyes, eyes that tell of a secret hiding under this cloak of professionalism that is her work portfolio.” Opening a new, smaller window at the top right of the screen, the man navigates to a new web-page. “Whois” it says at the top center. “Not all Jennifer Andersons own a domain name. He enters the domain in the search field and scrolls down the page. With some surprise in his voice, “Not all Jennifer Andersons live two blocks away.” We see the ends of his mouth slowly turn upward.
From the passenger seat of a darkly lit car, we watch him as he drives. The night time city lights fly by his window as he thinks. “I’ve never been the marrying type. Well, now that’s not entirely true. There was one girl a long time ago. I’ve never had a lot of luck with the ladies. I blossomed late and was not incredibly popular in high school. Most of the kids I went to school with married in their early twenties and settled down quickly. That’s what you did in the small town I grew up in. I hated the place. But it did bring one spark of light into my life. Pamela Grier. No, not THE Pam Grier. THE Pam Grier couldn’t compare with Pamela Grier. Who would shorten her name to Pam when she could have Pamela? Pamela Grier lived a few blocks from Crooked Oak, the high school I spent my sophomore year at. She was a junior and caught the eye of most anything with a penis at that school. A piece of meat for most, but they were blind to how perfect she was. They didn’t appreciate the perfect hue of her porcelain skin that must have taken God hours to get just right or her flawless smile or her laugh. That laugh could’ve made angels weep at its beauty. These boys and men were like infants at a Picasso exhibit, admiring the pretty colors and never understanding the depth of the work. For some reason, she never seemed to notice me noticing her perfection.”
Parked by the curb, we see an open window on the third floor. The light from the room shines through the curtains and voices are heard. A man yells and glass shatters. “Is she in danger!?” Our driver grabs the shiny metal handle on the inside of his car door and begins to pull when he hears another voice. He sighs a sigh of relief. “No, she’s watching a movie.” He laughs a little to himself. Then the phone rings. She passes by the open window a second later. His eyes look upward, watching with wonder. “From all apparent signs, she is alone. This, somehow makes me feel closer to her. Jennifer Anderson, would anyone miss her? Not in this city.”
Crossing the street and into her building, “OK, we have to be smooth. Are you mad? She’s not going to just invite you in. What should I say? Say nothing. Go back to your computer.” The sound of knocking and loud dance music. “What could you possibly offer a woman like that?” A voice is heard from the other side of her apartment door: “Can I help you?” Thinking: “Say something, say something. Fuck!” Speaking: “Do you know who lives there?” gesturing to the apartment down the hall, the source of the load music.
“No, I don’t.” she says with a slightly annoyed tone. “OK” he says. Through the peep hole she watches him slink away clumsily. His heart pounds in his throat as he shuffles down the stairs at the end of the hall. She hesitantly returns to her sofa to finish her movie. “Stupid! Stupid!” he scolds himself through his ear to ear grin “Like she would just invite you in for coffee. We are smarter than this. We can be smarter than this.”
“My first kill was so messy. I’d hardly thought it out at all. She was just a girl I went to high school with, Sara something or other. She was not unattractive, but she was no Pamela Grier. We shared a similar taste in music and a strong aversion for the small town we lived in. There was little to do in this town other than get high and have sex, so, on one occasion, that’s what we did. It didn’t last long for two reasons. I wasn’t interested in getting her off. I wanted mine and was going to get there as quickly as possible. The other cause for the brevity of this experience was a condom malfunction. It had come off inside her. She was pissed that she didn’t get hers and then scared when she saw that the condom had come off.”
“I told her I would do right by her and help raise the child. I refused the thought of marriage, though. My mother had married my father and his temper for my sake. I wasn’t going to trap myself or my friend the way my mother trapped herself with my abusive father. I started spending more and more time with Sara. I often found myself crossing the narrow wooden bridge that connected her back yard with the dirt road alley behind it. The Alley intersected with Main St which ran parallel to Crooked Oak Dr. I recall looking up, through her balcony door, anticipating the evening ahead as I crossed that bridge. Her father was never home and I enjoyed playing house. Then the bitch brings home a box of tampons. Afraid to ask, I look at her in disbelief. Then she spoke five words that would change my life forever; ‘I took care of it.’”
“‘It’? She took care of ‘it’? She went out back to have a cigarette. After a few seconds, I followed. I shoved her again and again, yelling, ‘You killed my child, you selfish bitch!’ One too many shoves and she broke right through the wooden rail. The fall shouldn’t have killed her. I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t have if she hadn’t managed to land head first on the one large rock below. If only she had fallen a few feet further out. Then she would’ve hit the water. A few easy rolls of her body and she was in the water, heading South and out of my life. They found her a few miles down stream. The fall was said to have been an accident. They didn’t even question me. I guess being invisible has some perks.”
Back at home, he pulls up Jennifer Anderson’s web-page again and clicks on the “About Us” link. At the bottom center of the screen are the words “Hours of Operation”. “Oh Jenny, you make this too easy. One can learn almost anything on the internet… like where to find Nitrous Oxide.”
We see black and hear that familiar voice: “Stoner kids use Nitrous Oxide to get high. The call em ‘Whip-its’. That’s all fine and dandy, but the effects only last a short time. We need something capable of keeping Jenny comfortable for much longer.” We are suddenly standing roadside, looking across the busy thoroughfare at a commercial building. It is gray stucco with two large, bright blue, metal posts gracefully framing the glass door at the entrance. “It isn’t incredibly difficult to find high performance parts for my hot-rod in such a grand metropolis.” We then turn back to see an old, brown Mercedes. Rust is present on the front fender and there are minor pits in the windshield. The visible wheel is naked, with no hubcap to protect the dirty metal.
Back at home, our narrator sits patiently on the brown couch, both feet flat on the floor. His elbows bend allowing his hands to rest on his lap. The left hands is closed in a loose fist while the right grasps a television remote. He displays great posture, his shoulders back and head facing straight forward. A metal tank sits next to his left leg. Images from the television reflect from the lenses of his glasses as he flips through the channels. “Day time television is either Evangelistic programing or Spanish; so either I don’t understand it or it’s in another language.” He smiles at his joke. “Life has been this way pretty much since the incident.” From his perspective, we watch his left arm turn over to reveal a pink scar twisting down the inside of his forearm. We then are looking at a digital clock. The red numbers read “2:57″. “Only two more hours.”
We cut from the shot of the clock to the hallway outside Jennifer Anderson’s apartment. Our perspective is from only a few feet above the cement floor that echos the sound of that same loud dance music from the room across the hall. “It’s really a shame they don’t provide numbers for the doors here.” We look down the hall to see faceless doors, one indistinguishable from the next. We turn back to see shadows move across the wall where the steps reach a flat level and then come back the direction they came. We hear a heavy, deliberate inhale. It is not from the source of the foot steps, but much closer. Jennifer Anderson slowly comes into our line of sight, the roots of her parted down the middle, blonde hair first; then her eyes. “Those eyes that seem so deep and to hold such a secret. Don’t worry, Jenny. I won’t tell.” Her tired smile fades as her eyes meet ours. She seems startled. We then see what was so startling. It is our narrator, sitting against the wall a few doors down from hers. He is wearing a hospital gown, a nightcap and a false white beard and breathing in and out on an oxygen mask. The tank of gas rests next to him. He chuckles to himself as he looks up at her and then away. “Are you OK?” she asks. “I’m OK.”, he assures her with a weak and yet slightly playful tone. “I got lost. Could you call the home?” She keeps her eyes focused on him as she twists the key, unlocking her door and proceeds inside. “I’ll see what I can do”, she replies, quickly closing the door behind her.
She attempts to turn the deadbolt from the inside but it won’t turn. She looks out the peephole and sees nothing. She opens the door to find the previously seemingly decrepit old man towering over her in her doorway, reaching for his oxygen tank with his right hand and grasping a putty knife with his left. He smiles at her and quickly shoves her back into the apartment. She begins to scream but the sound is muffled by the slamming door and the neighbor’s loud music. As the door comes to a stop against the frame, we follow a small piece of paper as it floats to the ground. As we come closer to the glossy paper as it finally comes to rest on the cement floor, we find a small picture on the top left corner of what Jennifer saw when she looked out her peephole, an empty hallway.
Back inside the apartment, our narrator holds the oxygen mask over Jennifer’s face with his right hand and holds her head from behind with his left. Her screams are muffled by the mask as she swings violently, punching and slapping our narrator on the shoulders, back, and top of his head. “She could last so much longer if she wasn’t screaming so much.” He laughs quietly to himself as she has to stop to inhale. Her screams slowly die out and are replaced with the sound of gas seeping from the tank. Our narrator drags Jennifer to the nearby couch, never removing the mask or his hand from the back of her head. Dragging across the wood floor, her black heels cause the red and brown rug to bunch and fold as they pass over it. As he lays her down, the slit of her skirt reveals light blue, lacy underwear. Our narrator removes his false beard and cap and sets them on the table next to the couch. He then turns back toward Jennifer and leans down. He extends his hand, sets the fabric of her skirt back into place and sits next to her unconscious body. His hands rest on his knees and his body faces forward.
From the other side of the couch, we see him looking down on her from his position of fully upright posture. The only part of him out of place is his head which is turned to his right, toward Jennifer and us. He looks down on her with wide eyes. His eyebrows are raised high with anticipation. “Will she know me when she wakes? How could she? It’s not too late to stop all of this madness and just go home.” Jennifer looks up from her position on the couch with a look of confusion. She looks as though she is desperately trying to make sense of the presence of this man. “Let’s see what Jenny thinks of the idea.” He asks with a sense of suggested absurdity, “Does Jenny want me to go?” Jennifer smiles, looking up with relaxed, half-closed eyes and lets a hissing laugh slip through her lips. Our narrator brings the mask back to her mouth; and she accepts it, bringing her right hand up to hold the mask in place. He moves Jennifer’s skirt back out of the way and begins to rub her genitals through the light blue fabric. In a more serious tone, “I’ll tell you something, Jenny. I’m not going to have sex with you.” She whispers through her breaths, “OK”. He leans over her, moving his right hand up the inside of her right arm and slides the four fingers on his right hand between her neck and the tube feeding the gas to her. She continues to breathe deeply. He gently rolls his thumb downward, wrapping her neck in his grasp. He then reaches his left hand up to hold the mask in place. The muscles of his right arm tighten, but his face maintains that glowing look of wonder. Jennifer’s forceful breaths slow until all we hear is the gas. A few seconds later our narrator leaves the shot. We hear the squeak of the knob on the gas’s tank and the sound of the gas stops. We are left with the sound of base vibrating in the distance. Then we hear our narrator begin to weep. It starts quietly at first, but soon overtakes the sound of loud music coming from a few doors down.
We witness our narrator remove his hospital gown to reveal a white t-shirt and blue-jeans. He folds the gown neatly, using the flat surface the wooden chest of drawers to the left of the sofa provides. He calmly looks up and at himself in the mirror atop the chest. He wears a calm expression through his red eyes and blots the tears from his cheeks with the folded gown. He stands tall, breathes in deeply through his nose and then sighs. “I always hate this part. It’s how I would imagine the morning after a one night stand feels. Don’t let em see you cry.” Wearing an apparently effortless smile, he makes his way back down the hall. We hear his foot steps in this shallow corridor fading as he makes his way down the steps. We are left outside Jennifer’s door with nothing but the sound of those loud and yet muffled electronic beats.
Back at home, our narrator sits in front of his computer. The city outside is dark again. Our narrator scrolls through obituaries in the Krimble Reporter. We see the screen from his perspective: “Mathew Briar is survived by his wife, Pam Briar-Grier, and daughter Stephanie.” Our narrator looks at the screen with disbelief. “Pam?”, he spits out with a twinge. The next shot is of a screen that says “Stephanie Brair” at the top. Under the name are the words “Born August 2, 2001″. The a picture of a blonde girl displays to the left of this. “She’s pretty. I wonder if she’ll be my friend.” The screen opens to a search engine. In the search field, the letters “cute boy” appear. The mouse selects an image and saves it. We close in on the clock at the bottom of the screen. It reads 7:14 PM. The clock changes to 9:27 PM. We then come out to see the full screen. Words appear quickly as our narrator talks with Stephanie via an instant messenger. The image saved hours before is now at the top left of the screen. To the right is the name Thomas McKinley and the words “Born May 7, 1999″. “Kids are usually very trusting.” Clicks from his busy fingers on the keyboard sound off as he mumbles to himself. One final “click” of the keyboard and “Aha, Chester Elementary!”
We see our narrator from the passenger’s seat of his car. He is in the driver’s seat, facing forward, his hands folded on his lap. We see to his left a red brick building. Long blades of untrimmed grass grow up the sides of the wall facing us. The rest of the grass is neatly trimmed. A deserted playground rests just to the left of the school building. It is quiet. The sound of children screaming in play begins to grow. The playground is soon alive with energy. We come in close to see Stephanie Brair swinging as she engages in conversation with a friend on the swing to her left. We then see from a distance our narrator standing at the fence. We then see Stephanie from his perspective. She has stopped swinging and looks back at us uncomfortably. We hear our narrator’s voice, “How’s your mom?” Stephanie stands up from her swing and cautiously begins to approach the fence: “You know my mom?” Our narrator kneels to be at eye level with Stephanie, his fingers locking into the chain-link fence. “It is good, when dealing with someone who may have reason to fear you, to make yourself seem as unintimidating as possible.”, his voice notes to us. Now just a few feet away from Stephanie, “I should have been your father.” Noticing the approaching school staff, our narrator returns to his feet and then walks quickly back to his car.
(To Be Continued)