It’s so quiet… so dark in here. I wonder… what’s this? What is… it’s so cold and smooth. Hello? I can’t see anything. Is someone there? Why is it so cold? Am I… I’m naked! I’m not… why am I here? Hello? Ugh! Open up! Open!
It’s so bright. Is anyone there? My legs… mud and leaves… blood. Blood in my toe nails and on my ankles. Ugh, maybe I can wear this. It’s long enough. Maybe I can go up there. What is that? Another room? Where am I?
Is she laughing? Hello? Why is she staring at me? Don’t leave! I don’t understand what’s happening. Why can’t I go up there? Why are the lights going out?
Cannoli’s were her favorite—this he knew well. Surviving on a strict diet of Café Mochas and pastries, Virginia pipped with energy at a near-constant rate. It exhausted him, but he loved her with his whole heart.
That morning, as he made his way downtown, Daniel Thatcher stared to the bright blue sky overhead. He wore the jacket with thin brown lines—the one she admired. His glasses slid ever-so-slightly to the center of his nose and nestled their as though he were deep in thought.
“Mr. Thatcher?” a young woman in a flowing red dress spoke as she walked across the lobby of the building. Virginia was eleven floors up, handling software and writing code. The young woman closed her hands beneath her chin and looked to him with delicate eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve brought Gin lunch,” he lifted the bag of Cannoli’s and gave a grin.
“Daniel,” the woman started toward him. “Virginia hasn’t been here in a while.”
“What do you mean?” he lowered his lips. “She left this morning; she had a meeting at ten.”
The young woman shook her head and stared on with a fixed gaze. “Have you been here recently?”
“No,” he shrugged, then leaned back. He reviewed the craftsmanship of the interior, the details in every inch. “I haven’t been here in a few months, really.”
The young woman nodded with a slow exhale. “Why don’t you come up with me?” she suggested with her arm outward. Together, they shared the elevator for an uncomfortable nineteen seconds. “Have a seat here,” she spoke and began to walk away.
“Oh, but her office is just down the hall,” Daniel offered. He turned quick to see Virginia’s door—simply several feet away—then faced the young woman again.
The young woman, with a pressed brow and crinkled nose, sighed, and then nodded. “Right,” she agreed with dejection. “Please, Daniel. Have a seat here.”
With the Cannoli’s in hand, Daniel sat on the guest bench while the young woman went off to the left. She was gone for a minute before returning with a man in a dark blue suit.
“Daniel,” the man said with a stern laugh. He reached out and firmly shook Daniel’s hand.
“Martin,” Daniel returned with an open smile. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“The firm keeps me moving,” Martin simpered. “It’s been a long trial.”
Daniel nodded, but wouldn’t speak on the matter.
“I’ll leave you two,” the young woman said with a nod. Martin motioned for Daniel to follow him into an office beyond view. Martin closed the door and walked to the window.
“Daniel, I know this is difficult, but you can’t see Virginia anymore.”
“I just wanted to give her these,” Daniel raised the bag of pastries as if it were blatantly obvious. “I can wait if she’s in a meeting.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Martin corrected; his eyes dark as he turned to face Daniel. “She isn’t alert, and you know that.”
“I just wanted to see her one more time,” Daniel argued. His fingers twitched around the handles on the bag, his feet tapped lightly beneath the chair. The air was still as silence filled the room. “I loved her,” Daniel mumbled as his eyes glossed. “I’ve never loved someone so much.”
“Daniel,” Martin knelt before the man and spoke with an easy tone. “She wasn’t someone, she was something.” Martin’s eyes followed Daniel’s unsteady gaze until Daniel stood and dropped the Cannoli’s. “Something remarkable… nearly organic,” Martin stammered. “But not real.”
“She was real!” he shouted. “She wanted to stay, to live.”
“It was an experiment that we all agreed upon,” Martin countered. “It had an end date, you were aware before you ever took her home.”
Daniel was frozen for a moment before rushing out of the office. Martin exhaled as he turned to look out the window once more. And on the floor were the Cannoli’s; two pastries ruined by the hostile step of a man lost in artificial love.
Three buckets, an axe and a long cord sat against a wall in a dark garage. The man, with latex gloves up over his cuffs, approached the wall and leaned his head. He stared over his various tools hanging from the pegs above the buckets. The axe had bored him. He wanted something more interesting.
The drill was too loud, but the saw was too messy.
The man sighed.
Behind him, on a table made of stained cherry wood, glazed to prevent splinters, lied a woman with fear in her eyes. Her mouth bound by a bright white handkerchief, she moaned to get his attention. The man, however, remained with his back to her.
The woman’s hair, dirty blond with dark undertones, had once been neatly tied up for a party. Now, it was tangled on the table, knotted and stuck to her sweating neck. She struggled, trying to scream as her eyes clouded from tears.
The man glanced over the various knives and needles, pausing to study the long, slender blade on the far right. He raised his hand for a brief second, and the woman behind fought at her bonds intensely. The man, however, was still undecided, lowering his hand and continuing to look.
The man paced from the wall over to the desk. The woman settled for a moment as she watched him wide-eyed. Her upper lip was hot and wet; she wanted badly to swallow but couldn’t. Her eyes drifted to her left wrist. Tied down by cord, her bones ached and her skin chaffed.
The woman, still in her party dress, couldn’t calculate how long she’d been lying there. The man, with his back to her still, had taken his black jacket off, revealing a bold white shirt with minor ribbing. His suit, classic and supreme, was strangely modern. It was the first thing that attracted her towards him.
At the desk, the man pulled out the middle drawer, picking at the tools with his eyes. The corner of his mouth turned up ever-so-slightly as he reached in for a long, thin tube. He held the plastic piece in his hand as he pulled the top drawer out and grabbed for the tape.
The woman, seeing his hands full, started to squirm again. The man faced her and set his things on a small table near a tall stool. He paused, examining her skin with careful, pressed eyes. He then went to her face and moved the hair from her eyes. He pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the tears and sweat from her face. Close enough to smell his pure scent, the woman froze before his face.
The man checked the restraints and pulling them tighter. He reached behind the woman’s head and straightened the gag. The woman couldn’t make a sound, her heart filled her veins and scrambled her mind.
The man, sitting on the stool with his dark eyes fixed on her side, pulled a knife from the table. Carefully, he cut the fabric of her dress without touching her skin. His eyes met hers once again, and he smiled, slow and tender, as if to say perfect.
He lifted a syringe and the woman jerked away. His eyes scolded her and she settled. The needle, long and sharp, expelled an amber liquid when depressed. The woman shuddered, her bare skin bumped in fear. The man, careful and precise, stuck the needle into her side, just between the ribs.
A cold feeling went over her skin and into her chest. The sensation was frightening and relaxing, foreign but welcomed. The man, squinting to determine her level of pain, pushed at her ribs and waited. The woman’s eyes revealed nothing. Again, his lips turned up.
Then, without break, he lifted a small scalpel from the side table and went straight for her skin. She jerked away again, almost creating a terrible mess. The man sat tall and slowly exhaled through closed lips. The woman settled, but not before a tear fell down her cheek and onto the cherry table.
The man proceeded, hunching over under the flooding light from above. The woman, feeling no pain, allowed her heart to rest. She watched him as he cautiously cut into her flesh. His eyes focused, sharp as the blade. At his feet sat a bucket with a clean plastic liner. Drops of her blood began to fall over the table and down to the bucket.
The man shifting his gaze to the woman’s eyes for a split second, cleaned her skin with a swab of alcohol. His mouth opened to a grin before he turned to grab the tube. The woman winced as she felt the pressure of the tube sliding into her ribs. Her blood, thick and dark, slid through the plastic and into the bucket below. The man sat back and waited.
The bucket, not very large, but enough to leave the woman dizzy, held the blood he so desperately desired. He watched eagerly as the liquid dripped below. When he was satisfied, he gently removed the tube and wiped her flesh with another swab.
To the table again, the man lifted a needle and thread, made ready before she arrived. His gaze shifted to her once again, brief and blank. The woman watched as he stitched her side with four simple knots. He wiped her clean one last time, and then stood. The gloves, stained red, fell into the silver waste can with a gentle slump. He washed his hands and pulled open the drawer below the sink for a clean towel.
At the table, the man wiped the woman’s face with the dampened towel. She could see the strain in his eyes, the vessels bold and firm, the white clouded by need. He pulled the gag from her mouth and waited as she licked her lips and swallowed. When she spoke, her words were so tender he had to lean close.
“Is it over?”
The man, with a smile on his face, returned, “For now.”