Turning up the television, Tess started to work on one of her many projects for finals. She’s the top of her class, and never ceases to go the extra mile. An alert comes on the television, warning about some criminal on the loose. She suddenly feels small in her little apartment, and got up to close the curtains, making sure to lock the windows. She hears a thump through the noise, and stops. Listening, she hears it again. I bet it’s that goddamn cat again.
“Charlie, knock it off or I swear-” She’s silenced by a crashing noise. Tess sprints to the door and comes face to face with a black figure. There’s suddenly an exploding pain to the front of her head. She falls to the ground. Slipping into her dreams as it all goes black.
Mildew. The smell is inundating her senses as she gains consciousness. What - Where am I? She takes a good look around. Cement floors, no windows, some yard work tools, a nest of dirty blankets underneath her, and a staircase. A basement. She gets up and heads to the staircase. There’s footsteps and she runs underneath it.
Tess stares at him from above. Big, burly, and extremely intimidating. His footsteps sound like crackling of lightning. This is my captor, huh? Crawling from behind the stairs, she stands tall and faces him. Their eyes meet, and she flinches. He lifts a bat above his head, but she keeps her grounding.
“Why aren’t you running in fear?” He says, confused.
“I am not to be compliant to someone so disrespectful,” she crosses her arms and tilts her nose up, faking confidence with ease. He’s taken aback by her fearlessness; he’s never been faced with a brave captive.
“I’m not done with you. Don’t expect anything out of me.” He goes up the stairs with a huff. Tess was left in the dark for a few minutes before he reluctantly returned. She’s rather intelligent, and doesn’t seem like one who should go to waste. His thoughts suddenly spiral out of control. Hundreds of questions bubble up, only to be brushed away with the stern look on her face. His shoulders tense up, he catches her looking at him.
“Are you going to stare all day?” He says with exasperation and anger.
“How long are you keeping me here? I actually have better things to do,” she looks at him with a glare. He grunts to himself and leaves in a fit of rage, throwing items out of the way. She, the top of her class, kidnapped by a wanted criminal?
Oh jeez, I’m going to be either killed or treated like a zoo animal by this buffoon. She rolls her eyes and paces the dirty, dreary basement. Maintaining her sassy but bossy attitude is the only way she’ll keep him from getting to her.
“I ain’t your everyday victim, you insufferable pig!” She yells up the stairs. She could hear him slamming things above. It must all just be a bad dream. Tess decides to try and get some sleep, despite the haunting thoughts.
She awoke to a blanket next to her, soft and seemed to be cared for. Looking around, she realizes that the basement was actually… cleaned? So he wasn’t a complete monstrosity, even though he’d been keeping her captive. Tess wraps the blanket around her shoulders and walks to the stairs. At the top was a plate of bread and vegetables, along with a cup of tea.
He can cook at least. He’s full of surprises. She looks at it with disdain, but her stomach made her give in. I hope it’s poisoned, anything is better than being stuck here. The food satisfied her, even if the tea was cold. Becoming curious, she decides to try the door. It’s unlocked. Slowly, Tess creeps in to see him passed out on a chair. The house is clean for a killer, and she admired the artwork on the wall. It was all watercolor, but full of emotion. She gets up to touch one.
“What are you doing!?” He grabs her arm, his knuckles white.
“I - I was just looking…” She stammers, suddenly fearing him and his booming voice.
“These are extremely valuable, and not to be touched by your grimy hands.” He pulls her to the basement and drags her down the cement staircase. Red with anger and possibly embarrassment, he grabs the dishes and shuts himself in the house. Those were his. He’s talented… Why choose this life instead? Confused, she paces the lonely basement for what seems like hours.
Slowly, he opens the door and braces himself for her screams.
“They’re beautiful,” she says, turning to look at him. “Where’d you learn to do that?”
“Self taught, I guess…” He opens the door more, and stomps down the stairs, the banister creaking with his every move. They meet eyes, and it’s like he sees her for the first time. The blonde bangs, covering her eyes. Her pale yet beautiful skin shining in the dull light. Her clothes are ratty, but they don’t affect her beauty. He sees her struggling, it reminds him of being bullied and having no way out as a kid. He suddenly feels remorse for what he’s done, having killed so many people and kept them in these conditions. He could’ve been one of those people. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and full of life. Why end it?
She sees him staring, it’s as if he sees her soul. He’s not ugly, and has the ability to be somewhat of a good person. He slouches his shoulders, like there are bricks on his back. He’s carrying the weight of all those victims, and she’s bound to be the next.
“You’re beautiful,” he suddenly blurts out. She cocks an eyebrow, intrigued.
“And why think that?”
“The way you carry yourself. You’re confident, and not many have that. The way your life is going… Well let’s just say I wish I led that life.” He looks down, suddenly looking much less intimidating.
“Why are you like this?” She stammers. “Why kill? Do you feel anything?”
His heart drops. Tell her. So with a deep breath, he starts to open up to a stranger like never before.
“I’ve always been afraid of revealing my feelings, I never went for help. I’m going to tell you my story. It’s cruel and has a s***ty ending, but I’m going to tell you. It started in middle school. I wanted to fit in, despite my looks,” he gestures to his face. “I strived to have friends, and I did just that. They were the losers, so that made me one. At my age, it was perfectly normal to be bullied. The boy’s fathers encouraged their sons to pick on the feminine guys. and I was one of those. Teachers never helped, they looked it over as a friendly push towards greatness. You see, I LOVED painting with a passion. They threw me around, and called me various profanities for it. One day a kid went too far. He trashed my artwork. Ripped it to pieces, spat on my feet. Fast forward to college. This guy ran into me on my way home. I clearly kept my reputation, and he shoved me to the ground. This guy started kicking me, again and again, until he thought I learned. But I lost it. I grabbed him and just… Lost it. I blacked out, and when I came to he was long dead in the alley. I continued to do this with everyone like him, but it’s never enough.”
He started crying. Finally, sharing his struggles was a relief. Overwhelmed with what she heard, she cautiously went to his side, and he didn’t pull away when she touched him. She saw his side, the real him. It was odd, but Tess comforted the killer. She didn’t question him, just sat and listened to his sobs. They stayed like that for a few hours, and she didn’t say a word.
“I get it. You’re mistreated and want them to feel it too. I was treated like that as a child, I was considered too bossy,” she says with a halfhearted laugh. She looks at him and reluctantly puts her hand on his gruesome face. He looks up and suddenly realizes what’s happening. Oh f*** that. I am not falling in love with a pretentious woman. He abruptly stands and leaves.
Who pissed in his cereal? Tess walks over to the blankets and sits down, blowing her bangs out of her face. Something crashes upstairs and she rolls her eyes. “Men.” He’s pacing, she hears the steps above her. He repeats for hours, and finally slams open the door.
“I’ve decided to release you…” He was struggling with words. “ Yes, that’s it. I don’t think you’re worth wasting, even if it’s in my nature.”
“I’m not your bully, you mean.” She gets up, arms crossed.
“Just leave.” He lowers his eyes and her gaze turns soft. “I do think you’re amazing. You’ll be great one day, with all that talent and intelligence. Just know I spared you for that. I want to see you on the front page of a magazine.” His small smile is quirky, and she sees the boy in him. He lets her pass, and they go to the door.
“Tess. You helped me open my eyes, and it’s the first I’ve ever felt this way. I love you, I think. I care about you, even if those feelings are not reciprocated.”
“This is a totally different ending than I imagined,” she laughs.
“You and me both. Now I think you should go before I change my mind.” The killer watches as she walks away, and she turned her head to look at him.
“Do something worth your while, maybe start painting again,” Tess says with a smile. “Make it known to public at least.” He nods his head and closes the door. Tess contemplates her options. I can’t let him get away with this. She starts running, but stops. He’s done so much for me.
She turns back and knocks on the door. He opens the door with a knife in hand.
“What are you doing…” She’s cut off when he swipes at her, slitting open her arm. “Stop it!”
“I just can’t let you… I can’t part with you.” He hit her with the blunt end and she falls to the ground, losing consciousness. She feels herself being dragged inside, down the basement stairs. He set her up on the blankets, where she’s spent days wondering what to do.
“I love you too much…” He walks back up into the house and closes the door, sobbing once again.