I’ve got a tattoo quoting Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm: “Life, uh … finds a way.” I wish I didn’t. People think it’s optimistic. Optimism goes against everything I stand for.
If you actually watch the scene, it isn’t optimistic at all. “Life, uh … finds a way” does not mean, “everything happens for a reason.” It does not mean, “you are exactly where you’re supposed to be on life’s journey,” or “the universe only dishes out what you can handle,” or any other sunshiney drivel trending on social media.
“Life, uh … finds a way” means, arrogant scientists will be bested by nature Every. Damn. Time.
It means, the lesbian dinosaurs are gonna figure out a way to murder your smug human asses.
Today Viv and I are wearing our “Melinda & Laurie & Hope & Toni” t-shirts. The print is a personal fave of mine, although online sales have been disappointing. People prefer the obvious ones. Our bestseller is the “Sadie & Patricia & Leslie & Linda” print. I hate that shirt. The Manson girls weren’t even that impressive, IMO. Mere followers.
I guess it’s good Viv’s got more business sense than I do. Viv is my flat-slash-soul-mate, platonically speaking. We run our Etsy business from home, so this lockdown stuff doesn’t impact our lives much. I could do with a long break from the outside world.
We work side-by-side on the couch for six hours straight. Finally I get up to stretch.
“I’m gonna order pizza. You in?” I ask Viv.
Viv and I are wearing our “Andrea & Susan & Brandi & Robin & Theresa & Dena & Martha & Banita & Waneta & Amy & Deanna & Christina & China & Clover & Diane & Rekha & Elaine & Allyson” t-shirts. I refer to this as our “Excellence In Motherhood” design. The names cover both the front and back. We could have kept going, but Viv doubted anyone would want a shirt with hundreds of names in teeny tiny print. She’s probably right.
We’ve got a routine more or less down by now. The first few hours are for Etsy business. Next, a TV break. (I narrow it to a few selections, but I always let Viv make the final call. Ditto on our food orders). Then, back to work–this time, on our writing.
I spitball story openers, and Viv gives me her honest opinions.
That patronizing bitch should be the first to go, the girls decided. Even now, she doesn’t take them seriously:
‘It’s normal to feel this way when you’re young,’ she says with a sympathetic smile. ‘I was the same, at your age. Everything felt like an existential crisis.’
‘Ugh. What boring last words,’ says Lil. Vivian nods as she swings the meat tenderizer through the air.
Viv’s bubbly laughter fills the room. I look up.
“It’s solid, right?”
“Without a doubt.”
I look at the clock. 5:37. We’re supposed to work until 6 before we order dinner, but I’m starving. “Viv, what do you say we quit early and–”
“Yes,” is all she has to say. (Yup; we’re those insufferable, finish-each-others-thoughts bitches).
“What if we give the Thai place another try? They said they were sorry the last time, the current estimated wait is only 20 minutes–”
Viv’s eyes cloud over. “Don’t count on it,” she mutters.
Ever the pessimist, is Viv.
“The two-year-old was the first to go. Crazy right? That’s a much smaller target.”
“It is,” Viv agrees. “Decidedly so.”
We’re wearing our “Brenda & Sylvia & Priscilla & Snochia & Amy & Laurie & Jennifer” shirts. Hence our conversation.
“People are forever underestimating women. Nothing’s changed. Admittedly, there are fewer female mass murderesses—”
“Decidedly so,” repeats Viv.
“Yet. There are fewer female scientists, and female politicians, and female artists. Etcetera.”
“Most people understand this is the result of misogynistic societies not affording women the same opportunities as men.”
“It is certain.”
“Quite. And yet. We do not extend this insight to the murderer imbalance! We believe it reflects something inherent in the female sex’s gentle, maternal, nonviolent nature, or some horseshit.”
“Without a doubt.”
“Quite. Unreal! Obviously one must be able to move about freely in the world, particularly at night, to rack up a formidable body count. Women rarely have that privilege, to this very day.”
And of course, men are more likely to possess financial means … cars and vans, gas, motel rooms, weapons, tools and cleaning supplies all cost money.”
“They’re more likely to have a job outside the home, for longer hours, which provides an excuse to be away. And they’re less likely to bear primary responsibilities for any childcare arrangements.”
“You may rely on it.”
“Then too, boys are far more likely to receive instruction in guns and hunting … and projects necessitating tools … and martial arts, or other violent sports … and scientific pursuits like chemistry. All highly beneficial skillsets to killers. Girls learn fucking stupid skills, to prepare them for a liftetime stuck in the home. Cooking and cleaning and looking hot and putting out and changing diapers for babies and old people … which is why the vast majority of child and elder abuse cases are perpetrated by women. Women can only hurt those even less powerful than they are.”
“True power would be taking out high-value humans. Males in their prime. Obvs.”
“Yes,” murmurs Viv. She fixes those murky blue pools on me. “Definitely.”
We sit with that in silence for some time. Then:
“I yearn for a monstrous equality, Viv.”
I get them though. The weak ones, the mere followers. The Manson girls, the Myra Hindleys, the Carol Bundys. Better than being alone. If you’ve known what it is to be truly alone, and then you found a way out, who would go back? I’d go along with anything and deal with being a monster, than be someone who’s good and all alone.
I rub at my eyes and crack my neck. Christ, the writing’s been slow going.
“Oi, Viv. You still up?”
“Signs point to yes,” she mumbles from her end of the couch. It’s dark in the apartment but I hear the snap-crackle-pop of her joints as she stretches her limbs.
“Shall I read it back to you before we call it a night?”
Viv yawns. “Outlook not so good.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be quick. I’m beat too.”
When they find him he isn’t even scared.
‘What are you going to do? Kill me?’ he sneers. ‘You’ve found me on my deathbed.’
Lil smiles back.
‘There are deaths and there are deaths. This is gonna be one of the latter, motherfucker.’
She turns to Viv. ‘Help me get him inverted. The longer blood’s flowing to the head, the longer he’s alive.’
Viv nods without a word.
Once they have him in place, Lil squats down beside him:
‘You know what this is? This is a meat tenderizer. And you see those clumps of hair stuck to it? That ain’t head hair.’
I’m getting weirder. I didn’t think it was possible. All this time away from others probably isn’t the best thing for me. I was never good at being around people but it feels harder than ever now, when I have to venture forth on dumb errands.
I tried getting Viv to come with me but she refused, the traitor.
“Hey. Viv. We’re out of almond milk. You feel like running to the bodega with me?”
She peeks out from beneath her pillow. “My reply is no.”
Not much of a morning person, is Viv. I throw on shoes and a mask and head out on my own.
I laugh and smile inappropriately sometimes. I don’t mean, finding things funny I shouldn’t. I mean when I don’t find something funny—far from it—but I laugh and I don’t know why and I can’t control it.
Or I murmur to myself, in public, or I’m making strange faces and movements to match my thoughts, until I catch how other people are looking at me.
And when I’m supposed to be in actual conversation with people? Even worse.
Sometimes, when I’ve left the surface conversation and I’m in my own thoughts and the person on the outside cuts in, trying to force me back to the surface and it’s too abrupt, I feel frustrated and overwhelmed. And then they’re annoyed with me, because I cry or I respond with enormous anger, with an emotion that is too big for what’s happening in the surface moment and they don’t understand. They’re repulsed and they leave me, or they’re hurt and disappointed.
“We’ve sold three more of our ‘With Friends Like These …’ print!” I call out to Viv. That’s what I call our “Karen & Laura & Sheila & Rachel & Sarah & Angela & Amber & Peggy & Justina & Christa & Bernadette” shirt.
They stretch him out on a hammock a couple inches above the bed of bamboo.
‘I hear you’re a fan of houseplants,’ Lil explains.
‘You like a bit of indoor greenery? You find it soothing, or something? Well. We want to honor that. You should be feeling right at home in a day or two. Yup-yup. Gonna be one with nature reeeeaaal soon.’
Lil and Viv exchange smiles.
“Get a load of this, Viv. From the BBC. Some neuropsychologist cunt says brain imaging shows parts of the female brain develop more rapidly than the male. According to her, this is scientific proof that girls mature faster than boys. How’s that sitting with you, Viv?”
Viv grimaces. “Better not tell you now.”
“That’s pure science, Viv. Don’t tell me you’re doubting science? This learned lady says that the vague, sweeping claim girls mature faster than boys is indisputable fact. That claim is NOT a tired old excuse to sexualize young girls, and blame young girls for their actions as though they were adults, and shorten their childhoods, and foist responsibility on them early on.”
I look up. “I take it from your face, you’ve got a problem with that?”
“As I see it? Yes.”
“Thank Christ. Because so do I, Viv. The thing about brain imaging (even if you believe it’s legit, and not the phrenology of our time)? There’s neuroplasticity to account for. Example. The portion of the brain believed to control spatial configurations is significantly larger in London cab drivers, than it is in the brains of the general population. And yet. I have never heard it suggested, that this is because London cabbies are a self-selected born-that-way bunch. Rather, they altered their brains via their preparations for the infamous Knowledge exam. You see where I’m going, Viv?”
“Signs point to yes.”
“So. Why would we not interpret any alterations in the female brain as neuroplasticity in action? Seeing as how, beginning in utero, girls are hearing how they grow up so much faster than boys, and are far more responsible and serious and adult-ish and whatnot. And treated accordingly.”
Viv sighs and shakes her head. “Ask again later.”
“This brain-science bitch will be the next one we make to see, Viv.” I smile at her. “Outlook good?”
She smiles back. “Outlook good.”
When he comes to, he’s in a standing X position, wrists and ankles cuffed to the metal railings of the roof deck.
‘Relax, relax. Please don’t struggle, you don’t want to to do that. Trust me,’ Lil says in the softest voice possible. ‘Now listen: the eye drops were strychnine. You know about strychnine? Not a nice way to go. Is it, Viv?’
Viv’s face is expressionless. ‘My sources say no.’
‘But this was a nonlethal dose, or ought to be. The key for you now is to avoid harsh stimuli, ok? No loud noises, no bright flashes. With dark and peace and quiet, you should pull through.’
Viv heads back into the building and down the stairs. Lil follows, but pauses in the doorway:
‘I’ve got to go now. Happy Fourth of July. The fireworks will be starting any minute; the view should be superb.’
The “German Girls of Autumn” print is doing well. I’m relieved. Viv was dead set against it for the longest time. It’s rare we can’t come to an agreement.
I gloat a little.
“Hey, Viv. What do you say we wear our ‘Gudrun & Ulrike & Brigitte & Petra & Susanne & Sieglinde & Ingrid & Astrid & Irmgard & Birgit & Angela & Eva & Margrit & Daniela & Ilse & Angelika & Adelheid & Christa & Hanna & Carmen & other Ingrid & Verena & Juliane & Inge & Monika & Gabriele & another Ingrid & Waltraud & Nada & Sabine & Sigrid & Silke’ shirts today? To celebrate sales?”
Her blue eyes blaze. “Ask again later,” she growls.
Sore loser, is Viv. Can never admit when she’s wrong. I love her anyway.
I’m on my way back from the bodega when I have an idea for the writing. I tap my foot in the elevator and repeat over and over so I don’t forget:
Colonic with boiling water colonic with boiling water colonicboilingwater–
I notice the toddler in the stroller smiling up at me. I scowl back and look away.
I get an uncomfortable feeling around small children. Something about their fragility is exciting; always has been. Their dumb trust, their helplessness … I start thinking how easy it would be to hurt them, to make them afraid. I used to babysit, when I was a kid myself. I enjoyed the babies who were just learning how to walk by holding onto things. I’d bend down and take their hands in mine, and step them out into the middle of the room, and then pull my hands away and back up. I liked watching their smiling drooling faces crumple and quiver, their legs shake and they whimper, until their legs buckle and they fall and start crying for real.
Stupid babies. Stupid parents, for thinking they could trust me with their kids because I was a girl.
Their captive looks up as they enter the room.
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Lil tells him.
“Good news is, your dreams are about to come true. Bad news is, it’s the ones where you lose all your teeth.”
Viv shows him the pliers.
One of the sad parts about being left-handed is, it’s harder to get away with murder. They can usually tell when it’s a lefty doing the stabbing and bludgeoning and whatnot. Science reasons.
And if you have to write anything down—letter to your local paper boasting about your crimes, ransom note to the fam, random shit scrawled on walls in the victims’ blood—that telltale lefty smudging will give you away Every. Damn. Time.
Some dumb bitch in the bodega is staring at my “Juliet & Pauline & Mary & Norma,” aka my “child prodigies,” shirt. I don’t bother explaining these things to the likes of cow eyes.
I was going to make other stops, I need to pick up laundry, but I hurry home instead.
The schedule has really gone to shit. This has dragged on for too long, even for us. I don’t care about the Etsy business anymore; mostly we just write.
Well, I write. Viv is Viv.
‘Careful!’ Lil shouts.
His head snaps up at her voice. Mouth gagged, wrists bound behind his back, eyes saucer-wide.
‘It’s important you don’t step off that stool, ok? If you do, that noose around your neck’s gonna tighten and you will die.’
With a smile, Lil advances and lights the fire beneath the metal stool. It isn’t long before he’s dancing up a storm.
‘Whaddya think?’ Lil asks Viv. ‘Will he keep his feet on the stool?’
‘Very doubtful,’ replies Viv.
“We must be the difference we want to see in the world, Viv.”
“So sayeth Starbucks mug Gandhi.”
“You may rely on it.”
“I love that mug.”
“IRL Gandhi never said it, of course.”
“It is a made-up quote from a movie about Gandhi, made by a white dude starring another white dude as Gandhi.”
“It is decidedly so.”
“God I love that mug. Such an inspirational mug.”
“Viv? I know you’re not much of a talker and that’s ok. I love that we have the kind of relationship where we can sit in comfortable silence together. Yet. I’m starting to need a little more, I think, Viv. Even me. I’m going crazy without anyone to talk to, without hearing anything that isn’t from my own head. I’m sick of TV, and I can’t look at the news. The news is half the reason I’m crazy. Can’t you tell me a story, Viv? Please?”
She hesitates. “Better not tell you now.”
I stare down at the stains on my “Genene & Beverley & Miyuki & Audrey & Velma” shirt. When was the last time I changed shirts?
I look over the day’s writing and groan. I can’t even get excited about writing anymore. Today’s work is a jumble of half-baked fragments.
Man tied to bitch post and repeatedly raped by specially trained female dogs with strap-ons.
Hammering nails through his penis into the floor.
Cut off a dudes dick, stuff in his friends mouth, sew mouth shut. Tell him when they find his body, it’ll be with a dick in his mouth; how gay is that? PS he’s a homophobe.
“I can’t,” I moan. “My brain is mush. Viv, you’re gonna have to start pulling your weight around here. When are you gonna have some ideas for me, Viv?”
“Cannot predict now,” she tells me.
“What the fuck, Viv? When?”
Those blue eyes cloud over. “Reply hazy, try again.”
“I’m not in the mood, Viv. Cut the shit. When?”
“Concentrate and ask again.”
“What are you saying, you’re not making any sense!” I grab her and shake her, hard.
“Talk to me, Viv, please why won’t you talk to me?” I sob, but she just keeps repeating “Reply hazy, try again.”
“Say something real! Talk to me! Please!” I shake her and shake her and shake her, until she can’t say anything at all.
Sara Corris resides in Brooklyn with a dog from London and a spouse from Buffalo. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Bending Genres, Defenestration, Horror Sleaze Trash, WryTimes, Funny-ish, Misery Tourism, and Fiction on the Web.