by Joe Sidwell
Stuart Russell stood at the window, the shade’s frayed edge pinched back, staring into the black, moonless summer night. His eyes jumped from one dark shadow to another, searching for the source of the noise. It might have been a stray cat scavenging for food, or the bay slapping a piece of driftwood against one of the huge rocks along the shoreline. Or it could have been something else.
On the bed several feet away, Angela Sheridan’s arms twisted at the wire, heedless of the deep, seeping gouges the iron strands had already dug in the flesh of her wrists. Suddenly, through a silence spun of fear and anguish, of old death and death promised yet unconsummated, through thick, sticky air that reeks a stench of insanity and of horrors past and to come, the wire screamed a rusty squeal as it scraped along the metal bedpost. Her body tensed, every muscle a twisted, snarled knot, waiting.
Russell ignored the loud screech; it was a sound he had become accustomed to over the past months, one he had come to expect, a comforting, even enjoyable testament of his success. But any real comfort, any pleasure was yet to come, come as it had before, from more human sounds, sounds most would find.... Loathsome? Repulsive? Maybe, for some. What did it matter? What did anyone’s opinion matter. His guidance, his very inspiration came from the dark, from powers those who knew less-than-nothing called evil and demonic. A sudden urge washed over him, a need to get along with what needed doing. His eyes shifted and picked up the young woman’s rigid form stretched across the bed. He could feel the urgency growing inside, getting stronger. Soon it would take over, leaving caution and planning behind. But there was still some time, a little. He pushed the craving urges into a corner and covered them with a thin, temporary blanket of necessity.
Russell’s attention returned to the outside of the house, for there lay the danger, and the threat.
When her muscles would stand the strain no longer, Angela sunk limply into the old, rotting mattress, and at the same time released a lungful of air that had been trapped in a gasp inside her chest. But her wide, terror stretched eyes never left his back. What was he looking at? What was out there? Who was out there? Help? Someone had come for her? She wanted to scream, cry out with the loudest shriek the world had ever heard. Oh God how she wanted to scream. If she could only let whoever was out there know that she was inside, that she needed help, that she didn’t want to die the way the man had promised.
But the cloth stuffed into her mouth made anything more than low, guttural noises impossible. She had already tried, tried until her throat ached and her eyes burned from the buldging strain. She had even tried while he stood watching, his thin, cracking lips twisted in an wild, open-mouthed grin that exposed yellow, rotting teeth and evil intent.
Finally she closed her eyes. She was so tired, so very, very tired.
She had come-to tied as she was now, spread-eagle, on her back, her