The year was 2069. As the weather always proved to be in Kenya, Africa, it was a dry and blisteringly hot day. All life present in the area had disappeared into the caves, water holes, mud and sand in order to keep from over-heating and dehydrating in the burning African sun. This is where I had chosen to start my new, crime-free life.
Yes, I was once a criminal. A most wanted criminal. A ruthless criminal. You see, there was this detective who lived two houses from mine when I lived in Boise, Idaho. He was interfering with my affairs constantly. He'd call me whenever I listened to my systematically modulated sound drive unit and tell me to lower the volume. I couldn't have any type of party without his calling to complain about something. I couldn't live like a hermit anymore, just because of one troubled person. Something had to be done.
I had a friend in the Turbo Aerial Force of America. He had access to all of the latest military weapons. He got a hold of a linzikite sub-ocular mine. He sold it to me for just 235 kerxt. A bargain for such a powerful piece of weaponry. The day after I got it, I went to the front of my bothersome neighbor's house. He wouldn't be home for another hour at least. That was plenty of time. I placed the mine, which was about the size of a ping-pong ball, on the lower left hand corner of his door. When he would open the door...KABOOM..no more nag. Was I insane? Of course.
He arrived an hour later, as I had predicted. He opened the door, as I had predicted. The mine went off, as I had predicted. He was reduced to a pile of ash, as I had predicted. So was his detective buddy. That, I had not predicted.
So, I fled to Kenya. There I would be safe. Or so I thought.
It had been seven years since that day. I grew tea for a living in a massive greenhouse I built with the money I had. That was enough to keep me alive. I grew to love Kenya: the trees, the sand, the cacti, the mountains, the heat, and the wildlife. None of the animals had any fear of me. Hyenas would take meat from my hands, birds would fly onto my shoulders, elephants would sleep at my doorstep. Ah, yes, the majestic elephants: my favorite of all the creatures. They were beautiful. I will miss them. For they are extinct. A victim of man's greed for money. I know not how a man could slay such a beautiful beast for two measly pieces of ivory. That will always mystify me. By now, I had forgotten all about the murders I had committed. They hadn't.
I was tending my tea when my servant walked in nervously and said there were six men at my door requesting to see me. I went inside and, opening the door curiously, was thrust onto the ground and cuffed, told I was being arrested for the murder of James T. Bullock and Richard L. Windford, read my rights, and thrown into the back of a van. I was teleported back to the United States where I was found guilty of murder and sent to prison in Oregon. A chill shot up my spine as the word Oregon rang in my ears. I had heard about that prison. It was the prison all criminals were utterly terrified of, your worst nightmare come true, home of the most horrifying means of punishment: a device that a criminal himself had invented, but was now used against us, the Fear-Stalker.
In this prison, you had a choice. You could either serve your full prison sentence without parole...or... you could face the Fear-Stalker. From what I had heard over the years, everyone who had ever faced the Fear-Stalker had never committed another crime. For if you did, you would not have a choice of whether you want the sentence, or the Stalker. You would automatically have to face the Stalker once a day...until you died. I had absolutely no idea what it looked like, but I knew its purpose. It probed deep into the bowels of your mind, into your worst nightmares, and sought your greatest fears, whatever they may be. Then, it would make these nightmares a reality, or so it seemed. You would feel, see, smell, hear and taste your greatest fears.
While sitting in my cell, I could hear the moaning, wailing and ear-piercing screams of men facing the Stalker. In two hours they would come and ask me if I wanted the sentence or the Stalker. Which would I choose? I would rather be dead than spend the rest of my life in prison. It would be a life of suffering. If I faced the Stalker, I could be out the following day and only suffer for a matter of minutes. Yes, I would choose the Stalker. There was one thing though that frightened me more than the Stalker itself. It was the fact that I really didn't know what my greatest fear was, so I had no idea of what horror to expect.
The guards came for me shortly and I gave them my decision. They both smiled, for they loved to watch our faces as we experienced a living Hell.
I was taken to a room and stripped of my clothes. I strained to see through the tinted glass to the room of the ever-so-famous Fear-Stalker. They brought me out of the room, and there it was, a half foot off the ground. There was a pillow-like protuberance at one end with multi-colored wires extending from it. Each wire had a suction cup attached to it. They instructed me to lie down on the table. They strapped my arms and legs down and stuck the suction cups to my forehead. Then, the man at the activator switch looked at me with pleasure in his eyes and said, "Don't be scared!!!" and proceeded to activate the machine.
I felt nothing at first. Nobody ever does. Then I felt this dull itching feeling all over my body. I could see nothing though. The itching got worse and was starting to develop into a stinging pain. Then I was engulfed in terror as I saw them... Fire ants...completely covering every inch of my body. All I could feel were their little feet scampering all over me. They were in my nose, in my ears, and when I screamed they would crawl into my mouth! It felt like they were inside my body, inside my stomach, inside my lungs, biting, stinging, tearing at my flesh! I couldn't breathe. I tried to scream, but my throat and lungs were overflowing with these insects. Then they were gone. It was over. I could not hear, see, smell, or taste them anymore. It seemed I could still feel them stinging and ripping at my insides though.
The man at the switch turned to me again and said amusedly, "Enjoy the ride?" I was clothed and informed of the consequences if I were to commit another crime. I was then released into the cold Oregon night. I caught the next teleportation to Kenya and continued to grow my tea and talk with the animals. This was where I belonged. I'm actually glad I committed those murders. For if I hadn't, I never would have discovered this paradise. I love it here. I just tend to stay away from ants.n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.