A midnight snack: A short story

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Austin Shipley/Staff

Michael found himself hiding in a corner from his own house party.

The party had just reached capacity, and there was no way he was venturing out from behind his beer. He sighed at the collection of bodies loosely covered by trendy superhero costumes and suggestive animal suits. Pop culture had disgorged itself into his living room. From the corner Michael was hiding in, he could pick out brief moments of gross hilarity in the kaleidoscope of characters vibrating in the space between the kitchenette and the wall closest to the door. By the lampshade, Superman was gyrating on a black cat in lingerie. On top of the couch, a police officer was entangled with a Pocahontas. He’d seen a couple dressed as Woody and Buzz enter the first floor bathroom about an hour ago, and it made him think of what an X-rated version of “Toy Story” would look like. Thoughts of Pixar pornography gave way to the idea that two strangers had been his bathroom for about an hour. Fuck his housemates. Michael didn’t want this party. He felt stupid in the Han Solo outfit he was too tall for. And he didn’t even like Halloween. All he had wanted to do was stay in and play StarCraft.

“Michael,” someone called. Michael turned around, his roommate Eric was waving him over to the front door. Eric had decided to dress as Abraham Lincoln. Beside Honest Abe, Michael noticed a girl dressed in a Bambi onesie. She was cute, but not enough for Michael to go over there.

“Michael! Get over here, man!” Eric yelled. Michael contorted his face as if the music were too loud. Eric figured out what he was doing and approached Michael.

“What’s up, man?” Michael said.

“You didn’t hear me shouting your name just now?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, well listen up my boy, because I’m trying to do you a favor.”

Michael remembered distinctly not asking for a favor. “What is it?”

“You see Bambi over there?” Eric said. Michael nodded. “Her friend, the one dressed as Elsa, wants someone to walk Bambi home. She lives on the other side of Charcuterie Park. You how that shit gets at night? Spooky. So I think to myself, who is the nicest guy, a guy who would love to make sure a lonesome doe gets home safe and sound?” Eric was looking at Michael as if Michael had already bought what he was selling. But Michael wasn’t buying.

“You take her home, man.”

“Mike, can’t you see I’m trying help you out here. It’s been like a month since Dev left you, and you haven’t been out of your room, let alone talked to a member of the other gender since. Walk her home, use that nice guy charm of yours and see where the night takes you.”

“What if I want the night to take me back to my room for a round of StarCraft and a nice sleep?”

“Well, you’re going to have to wait awhile, because Elsa and I kind of already have dibs on the room.” Eric patted Michael on the back and bounded up the stairs, Michael shouted in protest, but Eric was already gone. Shit. I guess I’m taking Bambi home. Michael walked over to the front door.

“Hey,” he said. Bambi turned around. Her eyes were pretty. Pale blue. They looked intense against the black hair peeking out from under her pajama onesie’s hoodie. Like full moons. And the smile on her face matched her disposition like a well-coordinated outfit. She was really cute.

“Hi,” she said, “I’m Rachel.”

Michael wondered if she could tell he was checking her out.

“And your name?”

Shit she could. “Michael. I think your friend said you wanted someone to walk you home?”

“She’s so overprotective. But it would be nice to have someone to talk to, you don’t mind?”

She smiled up at him. It was a bright, full smile, starting from her mouth and finishing in her eyes. “Nope.” They stepped outside and began walking. A few steps away from the house, and the obligatory small talk started up. What year was he? A junior. Her too. Where was he from? LA. Her? New York. What was he studying? Media studies. How about her? Pre-med. No, he didn’t know what he wanted to be. Yeah, it was pretty badass that she wanted to be a surgeon.

“Why surgery, why not like dermatology or something else?” Michael asked.

“I like bodies.” She said. Her hand brushed his chest. Was that on purpose? Her foot caught a crack in the sidewalk, but luckily her hands hit the ground before her face did. She giggled it off and got up. Michael hadn’t realized that she was this intoxicated until now. Once the giggling stopped, conversation picked up again. Michael couldn’t stop thinking about that touch. Was it a sign? Should he make a move? What did he accidentally read in Eric’s ridiculous men’s magazine? Her feet had to be pointed directly at him, if she was really interested. Except they were walking. Well shit. How was he supposed to tell now? Suddenly Rachel stopped moving. They’d reached the edge of Charcuterie Park. They walked off the sidewalk and treaded onto the grass.

Michael didn’t know why maybe because it was Halloween or because he had heard rumors of tweekers devouring lone students late at night in the park — but he found himself gauging what was behind every tree and shadow in his peripheral. Then he noticed a warmth on his chest. Rachel was leaning into him. They’d be fine, he assured her. Nothing to worry about. He put his arm around her. Confident and collected, he wondered if she could tell he was still staring at the shadows. As they walked along, the conversation continued to escalate. She was a gymnast in high school? She was still flexible. He’d always had a thing for girls with glasses. She read with glasses. She read? He loved reading. She always liked guys who read. How far was her apartment?

“Right there, across the street,” she said. Michael hadn’t noticed the park pass by so quickly. They crossed the street and stood on her stoop. She put her hand on his forearm and said,

“You got me home all safe and sound. No monsters in the big, bad park after all, huh?”

Kiss her, idiot. Say something cool. Ask to come up. Jesus, do something.

“Would you like to come up?” she asked. Yes he would. They walked up two flights of stairs, down a narrow hallway, and she unlocked her door. She had a single. They were all alone. She leaned into him and began working her way from his neck to his mouth. A build began between them, a rhythmic escalation of shirts removed and onesies unzipped, moving toward a crescendo of intimate nudity until Michael pulled away. He remembered himself. He was a good guy.

“You seemed pretty drunk earlier,” he said, “I don’t want to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

She laughed to herself, “You’re sweet, Mike, but don’t overdo it. Do I seem uncomfortable?”

“No.”

“Good, now what are you comfortable with?”

“Anything.”

“What if strapped you to my kitchen table?”

He’d never done something like that before. “I’m into it.” She undressed him and walked him back to her table. She laid him down on the table, opened a kitchen drawer, pulled out what looked like large leather belts and proceeded to tie Michael down. Michael was so excited that he didn’t stop think why she owned straps like these. Or notice how tight they were.

“Now,” she said, with one finger in the middle of his chest, “Mind if I take you apart?”

Odd choice of words. “Go for it.” Michael closed his eyes expecting to be leapt upon, or at the very least touched. But nothing happened. He opened his eyes. Her onesie was zipped up. And she had donned what looked like a plastic butcher’s apron and large rubber gloves. Michael wanted off the table.

“Rachel, what are you doing?” Michael watched her turn around for a brief moment, remove something heavy sounding from one of her kitchen draws and turn back around.

“I’m taking you apart, Michael,” she said. But all Michael could register was the massive meat cleaver in her hand. A foot above his body. His very naked body. He fought his restrains.

“What the fuck is this? This isn’t what I wanted.” The leather wasn’t giving out.

“Michael, I asked, and you agreed I could take you apart.”

“Well, I didn’t think you meant literally! You no longer have my permission.” His restrains were really tight.

“Sorry Michael,” she said, “But yes means yes.”

It felt like the leather was squeezing back. “What are you some kind of a sociopath? Are you like a fucking coed Hannibal Lector or something?”

“Actually, I think they’d diagnose me a narcissistic psychopath with cannibalistic tendencies.” She put the cleaver down and pulled out a Sharpie from her apron. She began drawing lines across his chest. “Chuck,” she said.

Down his ribs. “Ribs,” she said.

Across his stomach. “Flank,” she said

Across his thighs. “Shank,” she said.

Around his neck. “Neck,” she said.

She began to mumble complaints to herself about how his sinewy his skinny neck would be, Michael lost it. “Oh Christ, you’re going to eat me.” The leather wouldn’t break. Michael couldn’t tell if he was crying or not. His head began to itch with frustration and fear. He shook so hard he rattled the table underneath him. The only thought worse than the image of him being eaten like a rack of ribs was the thought of how’d he smell cooking. Flesh filleted. Skin simmering. He vomited on himself, and he began to sob. “This isn’t real, you can’t being do this, it’s a joke, right? Well you got me, ha-ha, you got me! Did you film it? Is that what is? I’ll be on YouTube, right? That’s a rubber knife. I know it.” She picked up the cleaver and cut off a piece of his hair with a flick of her wrist. “Okay, so it’s real. Fine. Fuck you. How do you expect to get away with this?’

She began to cry false tears. “Oh officer, it was awful, we slept together, and then he left early in the morning. I can’t believe I was the last person to see him …” She laughed.

Michael was desperate. He could feel the circulation being cut off in his hands, but he kept struggling against the strap. “You think that’ll work?” If he could just get one hand free.

She was practically grinning now. “Yeah,” she said, “You were drinking, spent the night, and then, being a one-night stand, you took off before morning. People won’t look for you. You know how poorly a known homicide affects a college’s ratings? There will hardly be a search. The investigation will end as soon as it’s assumed you just went missing. Your loved ones will hold out hope, but what can they do? It won’t be long before people aren’t even surprised that you drunkenly disappeared. They might even say you were asking for it, walking through Charcuterie Park late at night.”

Michael could feel the strap loosening. “You’re a monster.”

“And you were such a nice guy,” she said, shoving a gag in his mouth.

Michael made one last attempt, the strap loosened, it started to give, he was so close now, he would break free, knock Rachel out or improvise something, and then he’d be home free. The strap gave. His hand was out. He did it! He’d live! But then the cleaver came down. Michael watched a part of himself leave his body in an organic mist of color. Over the roaring pain he could hear Rachel speaking.

“You’re going into shock now, Michael. I know you’re scared, but if it makes you feel any better, you weren’t my first, I know what I’m doing and I’m actually a pretty good co-” Michael fainted.

. . .

Rachel enjoyed a lovely Halloween meal.

Contact AJ Newcomb at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ajnewcombDC.