Mercer Evans feels the accustomed shift in mentality as he drives into the night-shrouded parking lot of his employer. Game face. Poker face. The mask of professionalism. Whatever you want to call it, he is transformed as he steps out of his car. Holds his spine more straightly. Walks more casually. Adopts a visage of genuine friendliness and cooperation.
His mind embraces the metamorphosis, thoughts positive and cheerful. At least, on the surface. The waters beneath are a churn of lightless chaos, teeming with beasts of scale and slime and bulging eyes that writhe and lash out at one another, mouths bristling with endless rows of pale fangs.
Mercer exchanges greetings of “good evening” with half a dozen coworkers on the way to his desk. He feels the barest true interest in them, seeds of connection and good will that his mind claws out and burns at the end of every work day.
An update about the database problems that are preventing him from completing three of his eight projects. More delays; vendor issues. Might be another day. An angry beast thrusts up into the light, thrashing its dark gray body before plunging back into the ebony waters. Mercer avalanches away the negativity. “Oh well,” he whispers with a smile. “I’ll focus on what I can get done.” His right eye twitches several times, a tick he’s never noticed.
Around 1:00 AM, he runs into Breanne in the break room. She started a few months ago and immediately caught Mercer’s eye due to her massive chest. But he liked Breanne’s other physical qualities as well: short, a bit plump, kinda cute, and one tooth turned at a funny angle compared to the neat rows of the rest, which Mercer found irresistible.
Apparently, Mercer had also caught Breanne’s eye, because she gave him a warm smile whenever they talked or even passed one another, warmer than he had seen her give anyone else. Every time she did, her snaggletooth was so endearing and the curves of her twin blimps were so enticing — and so obvious that he could fully enjoy them with his peripheral vision, maintaining his professional disposition — that the dark waters of Mercer’s mind surged with lust and images of their bodies tangled together.
“Hey Mercer,” she says, flashing the accustomed smile. Mercer grins in return, his face such a spot-on imitation of friendliness and romantic indifference that if his best friend, Tucker Campbell, had seen it, he would have thought Mercer’s brains had been scrambled by a brick to the head.
“Hey Breanne,” he replies as she walks past him to water machine with an air of knowing that he secretly enjoys her body and hoping that he’s sneaking a peek. “How’s the foot?”
Breanne glances at her shoes before returning her attention to the water machine, her smile conveying gratitude and the validation of feeling important.
“Much better, thanks. Not many people have remembered to ask about it since I stopped limping.” The flow of water into her travel mug prevents her from holding his gaze, but the brief glance she manages, eyes closed ever so slightly, tells Mercer that she wants him to make a move. Come on Mercer, ask me out already, he can easily imagine her thinking.
Mercer has a rule that he doesn’t date coworkers — he doesn’t want to have to maintain the nice-guy persona any more than he already does — but he’s been considering breaking that rule for Breanne. They’re not on the same team, he doesn’t collaborate with her on any projects, and in a company of four hundred third-shift associates, it would be relatively easy to avoid conversation with her if things turned sour.
At least, Mercer had been considering it until a few days ago. Now when he sees Breanne’s body and the warmth in her demeanor, he always thinks of Karen. Today, his mind’s redirection toward his ex-wife is stronger than ever.
“Glad to hear that,” he says, face and voice still friendly. “Hey listen, I gotta run. Urgent project.”
Breanne’s smile diminishes as she tightens the top on her water mug. “Sure you don’t have a few more minutes?” she says, closing the distance and stepping a fraction into his personal space, staring up at him with her head lowered a bit so that her gaze is slightly obstructed by her eyebrows.
Mercer is amazed at the effects of Karen re-entering his life. He looks down at Breanne, who clearly wants to see Mercer outside of work, and no longer feels the slightest bit of desire. Karen, he thinks. I love you so much.
“Yeah, I really do have to go. Have a great night, Breanne.” He turns with a brief wave and heads out of the break room.
“You too!” Breanne calls after pausing a few seconds. Mercer can imagine her face, the disappointment, maybe wondering if she did something wrong.
Sorry, Breanne, he thinks. I think we’d have a lot of fun together, but my heart is completely spoken for.
As he sits back down in his chair, his fingers pause, hovering over his keyboard. Karen. Karen! I just can’t believe you came back to me. This is going to be the best thing we’ve ever done. Our lives together will be amazing. A huge grin holds residence on Mercer’s face as he unlocks his computer and dives back into his work.
At 7:00 AM, Mercer heads out of the office. His muscle car roars to life, and he lets it growl for a few minutes while it heats up.
As usual, the facade begins to fade from his mind. The sky turns black. Water and gravity vanish. The beasts that had been swimming now sprout scaly wings and careen wildly into the vast expanse. His right eye twitches again.
“Breanne Balloons, you huge-titty slut” he says with a greasy smile, thinking back to the pathetic, vulnerable way she had looked at him in the break room. “Yeah, you’d be a right fun fuck, no doubt. I’d plow you for hours. But I’ve got Karen again. Karen. Karen! Karen fucking Dean! Woooo!” Mercer slams the cold vinyl of the steering wheel with both fists and laughs. “I can’t believe it. I can’t fucking believe it. Back with Karen again. Unfuckingbelievable.”
Mercer unleashes the engine and heads to his favorite after-work spot.
Tammy flirts with him from behind the bar, her tits almost exploding her shirt. Mercer upnods without saying a word and glances in her direction without actually looking at her face or body. He sees Grill’s towering form from the corner of his eye, but Mercer doesn’t give a single fuck.
Tucker isn’t there, but Mercer doesn’t give a fuck about that either.
As Mercer surveys the sparsely populated tavern, he spots the guy who told him off for speaking crudely about women. Hey, he thinks, there’s shit dick faggot. What was that fairy fuck thing he said? Massage a niss dick? What the gay fuck does that mean? I don’t know, whatever, but I’m going to mess with this pillow biter.
Mercer takes the two-seater next to the man and directly in his line of sight. When the man meets his eyes, Mercer smirks and looks away.
Shirley takes Mercer’s order. He no longer cares about her body any more than he cares about Tammy’s or Breanne’s. Karen is filling his mind, infusing him with elation and purpose.
Mercer returns his gaze to shit dick faggot. The guy glances at him, then back at his TV, then back at Mercer. Holds his eyes.
“Problem, buddy?” the man says, tone indicating that Mercer is anything but his friend.
“Not at all. In fact, I want to help you out.”
“How’s that?” the man replies, face skeptical and a bit disgusted.
“Well, the other day I saw this guy in here I thought you might like. Lean, clear skin, maybe ten years younger. Talked like an excited girl. Very animated. He’d probably be right up your, uh, alley. Want to know when he was here?”
Mercer expects the man to stand and walk over, but he doesn’t. Instead, he seems to relax a bit. Takes a pull from his beer, holding Mercer’s gaze. Sets down his drink.
“I remember you. Rude comments about women. Now you’re calling me gay. I don’t know why, and I don’t care. I’m gonna teach you some respect. You man enough to get a lesson?”
Mercer chuckles and nods. A squirm of tension knots his guts, that familiar discomfort with conflict, but his conscious mind refuses to acknowledge it.
“Not here,” the guy says. “Obviously. Not in the parking lot either. We both get in our cars. Head to Hayfield Park. Find a nice spot in the woods. You man enough for that?”
Mercer smiles, adrenaline already surging. “Hell yeah.”
“All right. Let’s go.” The man drops cash on the table, stands, and strolls to the door without looking back. Mercer does the same.
The man gets into a quad-cab pickup that looks almost brand new. Starts it up, shifts to drive, pulls out of the parking lot with no indication of being in a hurry. Mercer has a grudging admiration for shit dick faggot’s show of calm. He follows suit.
A cold Thursday in October. Several other cars are in sight, but the park appears empty, the play equipment motionless except where the wind nudges the curved rubber of the swing seats. Mercer sees shit dick faggot watching from his truck. As soon as he spots Mercer, he cuts the engine and heads away from the play equipment, toward the woods. Mercer parks and tails the man’s retreating form.
Several hundred yards in, Mercer finds shit dick faggot. They lock eyes. The man looks calm and confident. The twist of discomfort tightens further in Mercer’s abdomen, but his mind still ignores it.
“We fight barehanded,” the man says. “No weapons, not even branches. I’m not going to jail for your pathetic ass.”
“Sure, whatever,” Mercer says. He feels invincible.
“Come on, then,” the man commands, raising his fists.
Mercer’s instantly back in High Desert State Prison near Las Vegas. His six months there taught him how to control his emotions, how to put on a mask, which helped him land his third-shift office job several years after coming back home to Riverside. It also gave him one hell of a crash course in street fighting.
Judging by the way shit dick faggot is holding himself, he’s trained in boxing, maybe kickboxing.
Still feeling invincible, Mercer puts on the mask of a spineless pussy who’s in over his head.
“Hey, listen,” he says, making his voice weak, “I think maybe we can just talk this out instead.”
“Not a chance, asshole,” the man says. He advances on Mercer.
Mercer holds up his hands, palms outward, and cringes.
The man pulls a leg back, turning his foot sideways.
Mercer smirks inside. Kickboxing.
As the man arcs his foot to connect with Mercer’s kidney, Mercer rapidly steps forward. Uses his upraised hands to grab the man’s wrists. Pulls the man’s arms to the side. Smashes his forehead into the man’s nose.
The man starts to lean over. Mercer thrusts a knee into his stomach, then shoves hard on both shoulders. Shit dick faggot falls back.
Mercer knows he could move in and do some serious damage, but the rhythm of the prison flavor of street fighting has taken hold. He can imagine the other inmates yelling and jeering, their adrenaline almost as jacked as his. Mercer paces, keeping his eyes locked on shit dick faggot.
“Let’s go, bitch,” Mercer says. The man glances up at him. Blood streams from his nose, forming a ghastly mustache. The man coughs several times, hard. Stands. Shakes his head. Raises his fists again. Mercer can see that his hands are balled up less tightly this time. He again smirks inwardly.
“Ready? Or had enough?” Either way, Mercer plans on hurting this motherfucker more.
This time, shit dick faggot motions Mercer to come to him.
Mercer makes a show of charging in for a jumping cross punch, but pushes his weight to the side at the last second, bring out a fist to the man’s stomach. The man isn’t fooled. He sidesteps and connects a punch with Mercer’s ear.
Nerves screaming, Mercer dodges the man’s follow up jab and slams a fury-powered fist into his nose. There’s a audible crack as it breaks.
The man drops to the ground. Holds both hands to his face. Crimson gushes through his fingers.
This time, Mercer closes in immediately.
He kicks shit dick faggot in the stomach. The man makes a sound like “hooouhhhl”, eyes bulging. He moves his arms to protect his abdomen. Locks eyes with Mercer. “Stop!” he manages in a yelling whisper.
Mercer aims a kick at the man’s face. The man raises his arms and squeezes his eyes shut. But Mercer knows he doesn’t want to get the man’s blood on his clothes, so he pulls the kick and jumps over him instead. Turning, Mercer cannons his booted foot into shit dick faggot’s kidney.
The man screams.
“Stop! STOP! I’m sorry!” the man says.
Mercer had already planned on stopping, but he wants to mess with the man a little more.
“Phone. Keys. Now.”
“Please,” the man says.
“NOW, fuckstick, or I’ll show you some real pain.”
The man fumbles his bloody hands into his pockets. Produces his phone and keys.
“Throw them to the side.”
The man does.
Mercer grabs a rock and destroys the phone. Throws the rock high and far into the trees. Then, he grabs the keys by a metal ring, careful not to touch any surface that could hold a print, just in case. He tosses the keys thirty feet away into the underbrush.
He’s not quite done, though. Mercer finds a hefty stick about a foot long. Moves near the man. Points it at his face like a dagger.
“Listen up, shit dick faggot. I don’t ever want to see you at Tammy’s again. And if you see me around town, go the other way. I don’t ever want to see your cocksucking face. You fucking understand me?”
“The man nods, holding Mercer’s gaze.”
Mercer walks away. Near the edge of the woods, he throws the stick into a scattered mess of branches.
Stepping out from under the trees, the world looks diminished to Mercer. Smaller, more fragile. He feels like a billionaire with a three-pound cock.
As Mercer revs his engine to full roar, all he can think about is Karen. Soon, babe. Real soon.
* * *
Karen Raylor awakens with a start. The clock says 3:27.
In her dream, Mercer snuck into the house. Climbed the stairs. Found her in bed. Laid on top of her, pinning her down. Forced his tongue into her mouth.
Mind confused from abrupt waking, Karen’s body still feels as though he was just on her. She glances around wildly, knowing he’s not there, but needing to check anyway.
The sensation of pressure from his weight subsides. Her mouth no longer feels like a cesspool of his moist germs.
Karen stares at the ceiling. I know I decided against getting a gun. Just barely. It’s still tempting, but I’m not willing to take the risks. Still, I could find another weapon. It sure would be reassuring to have something under my spare pillow.
Knowing she’ll be unable to sleep until she decides, Karen grabs her phone and researches the most attractive options.
Chapter 12 Choice: What kind of weapon should Karen keep under her spare pillow?
- Assault Flashlight: Blinding or hitting (25%)
- Brass Knuckles: One set for each hand (0%)
- Taser: Delivery of 50,000 volts (75%)
This poll closed on January 8th, 2018.