Brendan Reid is a 2nd year ACS student who just finished writing a short story called SUBJUGATION. Read it below!
Nothing but troubled thoughts circled through Julian’s mind as he pulled into the driveway of his home. He parked his Mercedes behind Victoria’s station wagon, shut off the engine, and buried his face in his hands. Of all the mistakes Julian had made in his life, this one was surely the worst.
“Shit,” he said to himself, looking up at the modest home he and his wife had worked so hard to pay off. Could he bring himself to tell her that all their efforts were now useless? That he had lost everything, and all because of his own selfish needs? The question made Julian feel sick, and it took every ounce of will he possessed to step out of the car and walk up the steps to his front door. It was late fall, and the breeze chilled him. Taking a deep breath, and beginning to rehearse how he would deliver the news to his wife, Julian firmly grasped the door handle and walked inside.
Being as quiet as possible, he shut the door behind him. Julian knew this was pointless, because as soon as he got home, his four-year-old daughter Eliza would run to the door, announcing to the house “Daddy’s home!” before hugging his shins. Despite the weight on his shoulders, the thought of little Eliza made him smile, and he waited for her to arrive.
But the house was silent.
Confused, Julian took off his shoes and coat and peered down the hallway to the kitchen.
“Hello?” he called. “Victoria? Eliza?”
There was no answer, and the house remained eerily still. Perhaps they’re watching TV in the basement, he thought, and he headed to the cellar door. The den in the basement, however, was empty, and was exactly as he had left it this morning. Concern flashed in Julian’s mind. He glanced at his watch. In read 6:32 PM. Victoria was Eliza’s kindergarten teacher, and they should have been home hours ago. Julian bounded back up the stairs and headed to the top floor, checking all the bathrooms and bedrooms. All empty, all pristine. He went back to the main floor, checking the dining room and study. Victoria and Eliza were nowhere to be found.
Fear was now openly assaulting Julian’s sense. Did they take them? Was their retribution that efficient, not even giving him a week’s time to solve his problem? Julian ran his fingers through his hair and paced back and forth in the kitchen. This can’t be happening, he thought. Maybe they went for a walk in the park. I’m overreacting.
Then on the fridge, he saw a note.
He hurriedly picked it up, and saw it was written by Victoria. The pit in his stomach grew heavier as he read it.
Julian, I’ve had enough. I can no longer deal with the life you’ve chosen to live. I have taken Eliza, and we are leaving. On the other side of is a number where you can contact me, and we can figure out the details.
Julian read the brief note three times over. Somehow, she had found out. Someone had told her before he could explain the situation. He sat heavily at the kitchen table, sighing as he was gripped by a deep sense of remorse. You fucked up one time to many, he thought. Julian flipped over the note. As she had said, there was a ten-digit phone number he had never seen before. Uncertain of what he would say, he picked up the wireless phone on the table and dialed. It rang six times before someone picked up. A man answered the phone.
Julian was taken aback. “Who is this?”
“Who is this?”
“My wife left this number on my fridge for me to call. Her name is Victoria.” Julian suddenly became suspicious. “Is she with you now?”
“Your wife?” the man replied. “Oh…of course. You must be Julian.”
“How the hell do you know my name? Where is Victoria?”
“She is with me. It’s been that way for about six months. And I know more about you than you realize. She’s got a real mouth on her, that one.”
Julian suddenly felt appalled. “Are you sleeping with her? Where the hell is she? Put her on the phone right now!
“ Hmm, I figured we’d get to this at some point. Victoria is currently unable to talk. She is out with Eliza. But you and I certainly have a lot to chat about. Can you meet me at the Urban Café in ten minutes?”
Julian couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You’re having an affair with my wife behind my back, and you want to meet for a coffee date?”
The man chuckled. “Oh, I assure you this goes far deeper than you know. I’ll meet you at the coffee shop in ten minutes. And I advise you keep your temper under control, you don’t want to make this situation any worse for yourself. Goodbye, Julian.” He hung up.
Julian looked at the phone in his hand, fuming. The nerve of this prick! He would hear what he had to say and if there was even a whiff of mockery in his tone, there would be serious trouble. He scooped up his jacket and headed out the door, not even bothering to lock it behind him.
Julian arrived at the Urban Café in just under eight minutes. Despite the chill in the air, he sat at a table outside, so he would be visible when the man arrived. He didn’t know who he was looking for, but the man knew his name, so Julian assumed he knew what he looked like too. Two minutes later, a jet black Corvette with tinted windows rolled up beside the café and parked on the side of the road. Julian sensed this was his contact. The man who stepped out of the car was exactly what he expected to see. He was wearing a black suit with a very well fitted overcoat, and was exceptionally handsome. He looked over at Julian and walked towards him.
The man’s features became vividly more handsome as he approached. His jaw line was rugged yet refined, his dark hair flowed his unhindered ease, and his eyes were a deep, cold, engrossing blue. He smiled a brilliant, perfect smile as he reached the table.
“Julian, I’m presuming. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Damian. “ He extended his hand. Julian simply looked back at him and did not accept the gesture. Damian returned his hand, his smile disappearing.
“Usually I don’t tolerate rudeness in my meetings, but with you I suppose I can make an exception.” He sat at the other end of the table. “We have much to discuss.”
Julian sat up. “Like hell we do! You’re sleeping with my wife, and are going about this whole thing like it happens everyday. You’re lucky I didn’t break your pretty teeth the moment you sat down.”
Damian glared at Julian coolly. “Actually, I think you’re lucky you didn’t do that. Like I said, your temper will only make matters worse, so control it. I’m hoping to keep this meeting as pleasant as possible. But with the truths I’m about to scrutinize, I can tell that will be impossible.”
Julian instantly became wary. “How the hell do you know anything about me?”
Damian grinned. “Well, it’s not what I know, but what Victoria knows. And she knows a lot more about certain, shall we say, undesirable characters than you’d like to admit.”
Suddenly, Julian’s anger was replaced by cold fear. “You know of Lucio?”
“Know him? I practically grew up on his left shoulder. He and I go way back. And I know that you have gotten dangerously involved with him, more so than you intended.” Damian took a breath and looked into Julian’s eyes. “The way I se it, you are a greedy bastard. You had it all. Lovely wife, happy daughter, beautiful home, and most importantly, a balanced check book. But that wasn’t enough, was it? You needed more. So you went into town, and you paid Lucio a visit. Lucio has lived a difficult live, and I know he got his hands dirty getting to where he is now. You borrowed money. You bought yourself some fancy new toys, went on a few vacations, lived the dream. You even got a promotion at your computer company, and easily paid back your first debt. But still, you needed more. You borrowed again, but this time you borrowed more than you had. You figured, hey, I got a steady job; I’ll be able to pay it back. Ah, but you weren’t expecting the markets to crash, were you? You should have paid more attention to the business section of the newspaper. Suddenly, you had no job, a massive debt to pay back, and one hell of a guilty conscience. Care to correct me on any of that?”
Julian sat in his seat, motionless. Every painful word Damian had said was true. Fuck, he thought. What have I done?
Damian continued. “And yes, Victoria knew all about this. She knew that much money couldn’t have come from any job promotion. She knows of Lucio, and of what he does to those who don’t pay him his money. She feared for her life, and for her daughters. I gave her respite, and a hope for the future, whereas you did not. And this isn’t the first time you’ve put your family in hot water, is it?”
Julian looked up, surprised. “How much did she tell you?”
“Like I said, she’s a talker. I know that before your daughter was born, you threw away everything you and your wife had saved at the roulette table, drunk with your friends and encouraged by your ludicrous dreams of wealth. You’re just damn lucky that Victoria’s parents were caring enough to bail you out, and that she was forgiving enough to give you a second chance. But you screwed up again, and she just can’t bring herself to forgive you any longer.”
Shame and anger rolled through Julian, and he felt tears accumulating in the corners of his eyes. “So you know everything terrible that I’ve done, and have taken from me the one thing I had left to hold on to. How do you expect me to react to that?”
Damian laughed. “Well, you can expect the end of your marriage, that’s for sure. You are financially unstable. Victoria simply can’t live that way. But I think you have a greater concern at the moment. You owe Lucio an obscene amount of money, an amount you have no way of ever paying back, especially without Victoria’s help.”
Blinking, Julian looked up at Damian. As much as he loathed this man with his perfect smile and flawless features, he was absolutely right. Julian had no way of paying back his debt, and if he didn’t find a solution soon, his life would be in serious jeopardy.
“What can I do?”
“The way I see it, your options are very limited. The best method, I think, would be to kill Lucio.”
It took a moment for Julian to process what he just heard. “What?”
Damian seemed impatient. “You heard me. Lucio never forgets those who owe him. He will hunt you forever, and the only way to be free of you problem is to eliminate it from the source. You want to ensure the safety of your daughter, don’t you?”
“This is fucking crazy! How do you expect me to even get close to him? He’s one of the most powerful men in the city!”
“I’ve already figured that out for you. Today is Friday. Every Friday at 8 PM, Lucio goes to the sauna at the Stevenson Country Club just five minutes from here—you know of it, I’m assuming?—to relax after his week. There, he is unguarded and vulnerable. There is a broken fire exit at the back of the building that leads directly into the bathroom. Use that to get in, and get out. Its all very simple.”
“How the hell do you know all that?”
Damian shrugged. “I have my sources. Now, you have about an hour until Lucio will be at the sauna, so I recommend you go home and get yourself together. Goodbye, Julian. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
He stood, smiled brightly, then walked back to the Corvette and drove away. Julian watched him go, unsure of what to make of the meeting. Damian was a difficult man to relate to, that was for sure. He hated him for destroying his life, but at the same time, was fearful of his reckless confidence. And deep down, Julian knew what he had said was true. Lucio had to die. It was the only escape. This dark thought circling through his mind, Julian walked to his car and drove home to think.
At 8:05 PM, Julian sat in his car across from the Stevenson Country Club, a sheathed, razor-sharp hunting knife lying across his lap.
Five minutes earlier, Lucio had driven up in his Rolls Royce and entered the building. By this time he was undoubtedly relaxing in the sauna, his eyes closed and his mind sluggish. Now was the time to strike. But Julian was riveted to his seat.
“I can’t do this,” he said aloud. But in his mind he knew he had to. “ I have no choice. If I don’t do this, I will be hunted and I will be killed. I am doing this to save my daughter.” Saying this provided him with a sliver of confidence, just enough to get out of the car and walk around to the back of the large building. The knife was stuck down the side of his belt, concealed by his shirt. Its weight felt uncomfortable and menacing.
A short while later, Julian arrived at the fire exit Damian had mentioned. Normally these doors were locked, but the latch that was supposed to be holding it shut was non-existent. By curling his fingers around a metal lip at the top of the doorframe, Julian was able to pry it open. He peered inside and was greeted by rows of empty shower stalls. He crept inside, closing the door quietly behind him. The showers appeared lavish and sanitary, and the floors and walls were tiled with intricate marble designs. It was clear that the Stevenson Country Club catered to only the wealthiest of patrons.
Julian noticed a door marked “POOL” to his left between the shower stalls. He assumed an organized swim session was happening, and that he needed to get out of there as soon as possible. He walked forward into a large change area, eyes and ears open for any signs of life. Bags, jackets and shoes were sitting on the benches and hooks, but the change room was silent. Directly to his right, Julian noticed another door; this one made of wood and marked “SAUNA.” Lucio was undoubtedly inside. Every fiber of his being protesting against what he was doing, Julian drew his blade and pulled open the door.
Steam rushed out to meet him and he instantly began sweating inside his coat. Through the thick mist, the burly silhouette of a man could be seen.
“Hurry up and shut the door! You’re letting all the heat out.” The accented voice that commanded Julian was instantly recognizable. Lucio was sitting right in front of him.
“Sorry,” Julian said, and shut the door. He suddenly felt panicked. Why the hell did I just apologize? I’m about to run a knife through this man, and I’m apologizing to him! Sweat dripped down his back. He gripped the knife tighter and stepped closer to Lucio, still unable to see him clearly through the steam.
“You gonna sit down or what?” Lucio said. His tone was casual, and it was evident that he could not see the pained expression on Julian’s face, or the weapon clutched in his shaking fist. Julian shut his eyes. I have no choice. I have to do this.
Letting out a cry, Julian thrust the blade forward with all his strength. It struck Lucio’s naked chest and pierced the layers of flesh effortlessly, blood flowing openly from the wound. It saturated Julian’s hand, and he began to reel with disgust. Lucio let out a guttural yell.
“Fuck!” he cried, his voice strong despite the fatal wound. He reached up and grabbed Julian’s face with a powerful hand, and pulled him in close. His breathing was labored, and his dark eyes glared at Julian with menace. “You! How the fuck…I’ll fucking kill you! You think you’re tough shit, but I’ll fucking kill you!”
Julian pushed the hand away, and with another desperate cry, pulled the knife loose from Lucio’s chest and lodged it in his neck. Blood spurted into Julian’s face and the thick air seemed to grow heavier. Lucio sputtered blood from his mouth, trying to say something, before falling to the floor at Julian’s feet. A red halo encircled his head as he died.
Julian starred down at the body, unable to grasp what he had just done. His stomach twisted violently, and he turned to the corner of the small room and vomited. He then realized that he had to get out of there, and fast. Grimacing, he bent down and pulled the blade from Lucio’s neck, and fresh blood flowed from the open gash. Doing his best to hold the contents of his stomach, Julian exited the steamy sauna and shut the door behind him. The change room remained empty, but he feared it would not stay that way for long. Julian hurriedly retraced his steps, his gaze fixed on the ground in front of him. He went through the broken fire exit, back around to the front of the building, not even looking up to see if people in the parking lot were noticing him. He got into his car, threw the bloody knife under the passenger seat, and drove home, making sure not to go over any of the speed limits.
Julian stood motionless, staring at his reflection in the mirror.
I’ve killed a man, he thought. Lucio’s blood still stained his face and hands, and with nausea assaulting his stomach, he began to wash in the sink. He scrubbed his face first, the dried blood being particularly stubborn. He scrubbed until his skin was sore, and no trace remained of the splatter. Then he got to work on his hands. To Julian, the evidence of his crime seemed to permeate every crease and pore, and he washed frantically until the abrasive cloth burned his skin. Frantic, he then fetched a garbage bag, stripped out of his bloodstained shirt and pants, and threw them all inside. He put on fresh clothes, and left the bag on the floor of the room he used to share with Victoria. The sudden reminder of her hit Julian like a wall, and he sat on the bed and rubbed his temples. Be felt utterly defeated, spent beyond recollection. The love of his life was gone forever, and there was nothing he could do to get her back.
Julian looked up suddenly, and realized he still had work to do. The murder weapon was still in his car. Wiping his eyes, he got up and went out the front door. In the distance, he heard a police siren. Had the body been discovered? Were they coming to find him at that very moment? He smothered his sudden panic, assuring himself that as long as he covered up the evidence well enough, he would be fine. Fetching the bloody knife, he walked around his house to the tool shed in the back yard. Picking up a metal spade, he went to the corner of the yard and began digging. He dug the hole two feet deep, deep enough that anything buried within it would be forgotten. Tossing the blade in the hole, he covered it up as quickly as he could.
“Julian, what the hell are you doing?”
Julian spun around the spade raised, ready to strike. Nobody was behind him.
“Jeez man! You’re higher strung than usual. What’s eatin’ ya?”
Julian’s next-door neighbor, Paul, was looking at him curiously from over the fence. Julian sighed, and lowered the spade.
“What are you doin’ out here at this time of night? It looks like you’re burying something over there.”
Julian glared at Paul. He had never liked him much. “Eliza’s guinea pig just died. I’m going to get a new one before she notices.”
Paul raised his eyebrows. “Died? You didn’t murder it, did you?” He laughed over-excessively and Julian nervously joined in. “Nah, I’m only kidding. But you shouldn’t lie to kids like that. It only makes the truth more painful later on.”
“Thank you for the parenting advice, Paul.” Julian made no effort to hide his sarcasm. “What are you doing out here?”
Paul held up a watering can. “Just giving the roses a late night spritz. Keeps ‘em happy and healthy.”
Julian shook his head and began walking back to the shed. “Goodnight, Paul.”
“Wait! How’s that new car you bought?”
Julian turned around. “What are you talking about? The Mercedes?”
“Not that! The snazzy black Corvette that’s been sitting in your driveway since spring! I wouldn’t mind giving that baby a test drive, if you catch my drift!”
“Umm…yeah, that’s right. You feeling ok?”
Julian was baffled. Damian had been coming to his home for the past six months, and he hadn’t even noticed it? How was that possible? He felt an incredible feeling of incompetence welling up inside him. He was too tired to be dealing with this shit right now. Throwing the spade to the ground, he walked back to his house.
“Jeez, all you had to say was no!” Paul said. Julian offered no response as he walked in through the back door. Ditching his shoes, he headed straight upstairs to his bed. He lay down slowly, and shut his eyes, his heavy heart thumping loudly in his chest.
Nightmares haunted Julian’s restless sleep. The world melted away around, and he was immersed in complete blackness. Terror, isolation and pain assaulted his mind, and malicious laughter pierced the darkness. Julian felt emptiness inside him like he had never felt before, and phantoms began invading his consciousness.
Lucio, broken and bloody, fell from above and landed before Julian in a sickening heap. His head lolled to one side, and dead eyes looked at Julian. The corpse opened his mouth, and as he did, blood shot out from the wounds in his neck and chest. All Julian could do was watch in sheer horror as Lucio screamed, and before long, the apparition had been reduced to a bloody husk. Julian cried out and turned away, only to be greeted by an even greater dismay. Victoria and Eliza were walking toward him through the black. The fear inside him instantly turned to regret and sorrow, and all his composure crumpled at the sight of them. They came closer, and as they did, Julian could see the looks of disappointment in their faces. They glowered down at him, and he knew their souls were lost. Somehow, he knew that they had been consumed by the greatest evil imaginable, and he had failed to prevent it. He cried out in agony. They simply continued to look at him in his despair, and when he looked into their eyes, he saw nothing but cold, desolate emptiness. As he watched, they turned their backs and walked away. He screamed their names, but it was useless. They were gone.
Julian suddenly shot awake, breathing heavily and sweating. He shuddered and sat on the side of his bed, rubbing his eyes. He was still dressed in the clothes from the day before, and the dream had only amplified his feelings of guilt and regret. Looking at his watch, he realized it was morning. Standing, he shuffled to the window overlooking his street. The sky was grey, and the trees were stark and leafless. He grimaced, and began turning away, but something caught his eye. Looking down through the window, Julian saw something he hoped he would never see again. Damian’s Corvette was sitting in his driveway.
Julian’s mind fumed. Who the fuck did this guy think he was, showing up here after he stole my wife and convinced me to commit murder? From below, Julian heard his front door slam. Jesus, now he’s letting himself in? He gritted his teeth. Rage coursing through him, Julian walked down the stairs and looked down the hallway to the kitchen. There sat Damian, his back to him. Making no effort to conceal his approach, Julian made his way to him, unsure of what he would do when he got there.
Damian spoke without turning. “I would recommend you keep your temper under control.”
Julian could no longer contain himself. “How do you expect me not to lose my temper? You have fucking destroyed me! You took my family from me, you convinced me to kill Lucio, and now you come here unannounced and let yourself in like you own the place!”
A smile appeared on Damian’s lips. “Well, it sounds bad when you put it that way.”
Driven by fury and hate, Julian stepped around the table and threw a punch at Damian’s jaw. With startling speed, Damian single-handedly deflected the blow and seized Julian by the throat. He stood slowly, his cold eyes never leaving Julian’s. His facial expression almost looked bored. Damian’s grip tightened, and Julian felt his airway constricting, his heart beating faster to compensate. His anger quickly turned to fear as Damian lifted him into the air, the pain in his neck exploding. Raising an eyebrow, Damian smashed Julian down on the table with inhuman strength, its feeble legs snapping under the impact. Julian lay in the wreckage of the table, stunned and winded, and Damian towered over him. The grin returned to his face.
“I warned you not to lose your temper. There is nothing you can do to stop me. There never has been. When I choose somebody, there is no escape, no respite. You have proved to be relatively resilient, but they always break in the end. It makes the entire process much more difficult, but certainly more enjoyable.”
Julian looked up at Damian, the pain in his neck and back pinning him to the floor. What was he talking about?
“I’ve always known you, Julian. You have lived a very tedious life, and I waited for the opportune moment to begin wearing you down. Six months ago, I knew you were in your life’s prime, and I started by taking away the things you love most. Victoria was remarkably easy to influence. Usually dedicated spouses put up a little bit more of a fight, but she was drawn to me with barely a struggle. Eliza, being a child, was simple to control. She came without any difficulty. After that, I just had to exploit your greatest weakness: your greed. You heard of Lucio because of me. He got to be that wealthy because of me. And he thought he could escape me. I’m amazed people still haven’t figured out how this works. Ah, but I digress…you killing Lucio was doing me a huge favor. He owed me more than you ever owed him, and you did the dirty work fore me.”
Julian managed to roll of the surface of the table and onto the floor. Damian watched in amusement as he stiffly got to his feet.
“Who are you?”
“Still haven’t figured it out? I thought you were quicker than that.” Damian took a step towards him, then reached up and clasped his hands firmly around Julian’s head. His cold eyes seemed to pierce the very fabric of Julian’s soul, and he became lost in their murky expanses. The shadows in the room seemed to lengthen, and Julian was suddenly gripped by intense terror. Damian spoke, and his voice was deep and powerful.
“I am everywhere. I have been here for all eternity. I am in the hearts of all men. You cannot escape me. I have chosen you, and you will succumb to my will. I am your worst nightmare, and I have come to destroy you. You are broken! I will take from you what I claim to be mine!”
Julian screamed. As he did, Damian’s grip on his headed tightened, and a cold, black pit materialized inside his chest. It began spreading through his torso, then to his extremities, and he felt his consciousness fading as the emptiness seeped its way through his skull. His vision blurred, feeling left his body, and Julian relinquished. All will to resist gone from him, he exhaled deeply, and shut his eyes. The last thing Julian heard was soft, wicked laughter in his ear. Then, there was nothing.
Paul looked through his front window at the black Corvette parked in his neighbor’s driveway. He was consumed by jealousy. How was it that Julian, the moody, rude, conceited prick that he was, could afford such nice cars? First the Mercedes, and now the Corvette. All I ever got out of life was a crappy marriage and a piece of shit Mazda, he thought. And he didn’t even let me take it out for a test drive, when I asked so politely! Paul shook his head. Some people these days just don’t understand common courtesy.
He recoiled when he noticed Julian’s door open. It was not Julian that stepped out, however, it was a man he had never seen before. He was very tall, very handsome, and had a cheery smile on his face. Paul watched as he walked directly to the Corvette. Then he realized. So Julian doesn’t own the Corvette. It’s his friend’s! Feeling relieved, Paul took the opportunity before it drove away. He walked out his front door.
“Hey!” he called. “You a friend of Julian’s?”
The man’s smile widened. “More than you know.”
“That’s one hell of a beautiful car you got there!”
The man laughed. “I would have to agree. You seem like a nice guy. Want to take it for a spin?”
Paul couldn’t believe his ears. He didn’t even have to ask! He liked this man a lot more than he liked Julian.
“Hell yes I would! Just let me get my coat.” He scurried inside. A short while later Paul returned, looking like an excited puppy. He ran down his stairs, opened the door and hopped in the drivers seat.
“Lets go!” he said eagerly.
Damian laughed and walked to the passenger’s side.