Misery finds me lying on the floor of Eaton's local dive bar, a place where the women come even cheaper than the beer served there. I had been caught in one too many bar fights, had one too many drinks, and the tired bartender had left me for the owner to catch later on in the wee hours of the morning. He's late, though. It's a shame he is, too, because a night in jail has more prospect than a night with this woman and the gas can clutched in her left hand.

Her lips are cherry red arrows aimed directly at my heart: the slow curve of her generous mouth gives way to the utter perfection of piano key teeth and a razor tongue. The leather on her legs groans pleasurably as she kneels next to me, sky-high boots brushing my forehead and dark hair sweeping across the floor. Dirt catches in the mahogany strands and shivers down each time she moves.

The familiarity of it all pains me to an extent: the beauty, the great and terrible irony, the sudden tragic comedy the scene gained: the woman I had once loved and feared with everything I never had, here to collect penance for the promise of love and success I'd been given eleven years ago.

"John Smith," she whispers, "I've been after you for a long time. I gave you an extra year, John, and I haven't gotten what I wanted." Her fingers catch my chin; sharp nails scratch at the stubble grown on my skin from my night at the bar. "I can't wait any longer."

She stands then. Her legs appear as skyscrapers before my hungry eyes, Twin Towers waiting to be demolished by my desperate fingers. I scrabble at the floor and work myself up into a sitting position. The room swirls with the effects of the alcohol; I fight the urge to vomit across the leather calves positioned on either side of my lap.

"I'm working on it. I've got - give me a game of poker and I'll win it, I swear-"

"Eleven years is far long enough, don't you think?" The gas can tips lazily towards the floor in a quiet threat. The smell hits my nose before the drops hit the floor; my thoughts scatter like frightened rodents in a lab experiment at the scent from either the association with fire or the memories of huffing the chemical as an errant high schooler.

Misery gestures to a chair in the center of the room with a dangerous smile and a flick of her hand. "Sit."

The rope sways threateningly from her waist. I press myself against the front of the bar and think furiously, searching for a plan of escape in the final act of my eleven years on the run. "I'm sitting."

Her eyes flash; she points a long fingernail at the chair. "This will go a lot smoother if I don't have to call in the men waiting outside. Sit there."

I could run.

I could fight her.

I could wait for the owner of the bar to arrive, but good sense tells me he's long gone. The muscle Misery brought would've ensured that, just like they'll ensure my death.

It can be quick, or they can torture me.

Make a decision.

The idea of death pauses the thought processes connected with motion, but the threat of the muscle waiting in the car moves my body. The sweat on my palms squeaks against the formica top of the bar as I stand on shaky legs and make my way across the room. I sit down in the chair with the reeking scent of gasoline and blood emanating from the woman before me.

I'm not her first stop tonight.

"My daddy's been waiting for you to crawl out into the open, John Smith. I've been a-waitin', listening for any whisper of your arrival in our town. You've done a damn good job of hiding out, haven't you?"

I close my eyes. "Give me more time. I can get the rest of the money, I swear. I just need more time."

"I told you," she spits, "your deal was made. My daddy gave you a loan with the promise of it being repaid within ten years. Where's the money, John?" The rope sighs against the leather as Misery pulls it from her belt loop and slips it around my torso. She pulls my arms back and knots those with a smaller rope I hadn't seen before. My pulse throbs painfully; tears prick at my eyes. A slow wave of nausea rolls into my stomach and crushes into all of my vital organs. It knocks the air from my lungs and my heart pauses for a beat before picking up at a faster pace than before.

The cool metal of Misery's favorite toy sings against the bobbing Adam's apple in my throat. A sharp nick tells me that she's made a cut with her knife, the toy she uses on lovers and enemies alike. I suppose I fall into the latter category, though I would have fallen into the first ten years ago. She's always killed them off, so it's not as if it truly matters in the end. The heat of my blood drips down my throat and soaks into my beer stained collar.

Misery steps away and takes a good, long look at me before leaning in and pressing a chaste kiss to my mouth. She pulls back after a few moments and pours gasoline into my lap.

The reeking stench sends tears cascading down my cheeks. Snot smears down my face; I gasp for air as the scent chokes off my breath and constricts my windpipe. Sheer panic tears at my nerves and I struggle with the complicated knot binding my wrists; my boots kick senselessly at the crumb smattered floor.

She laughs quietly at my struggling. The gas drips from the nozzle onto the counter. It streams off and splatters the barstools, the floors, the vomit-stained rug lining the walkway. It splashes, thin and quick, and spreads into every tiny grain along the wooden floors. When she's done, she tosses the can into the gleaming puddle of gasoline at her feet. From her pocket she produces a lighter. The scent could set that fucking contraption off, I swear, but she backs away to the entrance of the bar and watches me with a pleased look on her face.


"For a hundred thousand dollars, I'll please you any way you'd like," she whispers, her Southern accent lifting and swirling into my ears. She smiles and the pointed tips of her incisors gleam against the orange glow of her lighter. "I'll see you on the other side, John."

She flicks the lighter to the floor.

Author's Note

This is for the Review Game's August Writing Challenge Contest. The prompt is, "When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite-" Winston Churchill.

If you like this, voting begins the eighth and ends the fourteenth! Vote for me if you liked this, vote for someone else if their piece caught your eye. Check out next month's challenge when it comes around, too - it's all fun! :)


PS Reviews will be returned for this story! :