A business school hopeful working at a gas station is offered sex from a schoolmate on the condition he murders the next person he sees.
WARNING: Disturbing content.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
See, the thing about Hollywood horror that’s got it all wrong is that they make these psychos out to be easily spotted; strutting down the street with a big ass kitchen knife or a hook, wearing some cryptic Halloween mask and a jumpsuit, or rocking some sort of stroke-faced deformity. We imagine evil as having a matching physicality. It makes it easier for us to accept.
But the real psychos of this world aren’t some monster that just crawled out from a boiler room. They’re the Bundys. They’re the Gacys. They’re the Dahmers. Guys with a charming smile and khakis.
They’re your classmates. They’re your co-workers. They’re your next door neighbors. They’re the kid that pumps your gas.
They’re a kid like me.
“Hello? Are you hearing me?… God, not another one. Do you speak English?”
I click back to reality. The thought bubble aflutter with wet pussies and severed heads pops and there I am at work, at the fill-up, a gas pump in my hands, the nozzle buried inside the gas tank of an old Honda Accord; white and rusted around the edges. Looking back at me from the rear-view mirror, hunched over the steering wheel like Quasimodo, is an old, dusty crank with thick spectacles and ashy hair cut short. I manage to see her eyes despite the drooping skin on her raisin-like face.
“I can hear you, mam,” I say with a smile. My eyes drift up to the sky and squint at the blazing sun. It’s a perfect summer day. The kind of day that makes you want to have an adventure.
“Make sure you close the tank. The last guy left the tank open. I drove with my tank wide open, all the way home.”
Raj no doubt. He was always doing some dumb shit like that. An immigrant from Pakistan, apparently he was a doctor back home, though, I wouldn’t trust him with any life-saving surgeries. Yeah, right. He’d probably forget to sew me back up afterward. What kind of doctor doesn’t remember to close the gas cap?
“Sorry about that, mam. I’ll make sure it’s closed nice and snug for you.”
“Make sure you do,” she says. Then, just as her shape begins to sink, her head springs up once again, those spectacles locked on me through the rear-view. “Make sure its twenty dollars and not a penny more. I won’t pay it if it’s a penny more, so you just make sure.”
I respond with an assuring smile and nod. But inside I’m thinking how fun it would be to sink a gas soaked rag into this old lady’s fuel tank and lighting that shit ablaze. But, if I get accepted to U of T’s business program in the fall, I’m going to need this shitty job to pay my tuition.
I watch the meter roll past eighteen…nineteen…
I let go of the trigger. The meter stops. Twenty on the dot. Fuck yeah, bud.
I call out to her, competing with the afternoon traffic whizzing by on the adjacent road. “How will you be paying, mam?”
“My credit card,” she frailly replies.
I squeeze back on the trigger. The meter rolls upwards. Twenty-one…twenty two…twenty-three…
Afterward, I head into the store to run the card. Raj is on the register. I start to tell him about leaving the gas cap open but stop, knowing it will only result in me having to repeat myself multiple times, most likely having to throw some hand signals in there as well, while he stands behind the register looking back at me with those droopy lips and dead eyes. Instead, I get him to ring me up a pack of MacLean’s Lights and charge it to the old lady’s card.
I’m barely out of the store before the lady starts hollering again. “I hope you brought the receipt. I keep all my receipts.”
“Sure did, mam,” I respond with a wink, folding the receipt and putting it in her awaiting hand. She takes it without inspecting and puts it in the purse on her lap, which is bursting with a thousand other old receipts.
She pulls out to the road. I send her off with a wave.
An hour later my shift is over and I’m eager to get out off the fleece uniform shirt that’s been itching me all day. I throw it over my shoulder and stroll down the street, letting the sun soak my face, taking my time as I contemplate what might be worth getting up to.
I walk a little more until I come by a Dairy Queen where three girls from my high school are leaning on their cars, licking on soft-serve ice cream cones. Marcia, Lauren, and Joanna. Most guys in our school were in love with these girls but too beta to do anything about it. They were intimidated by the hoop earrings, salon eyebrows, and teased hair. That’s how Marcia and Lauren dressed anyway. Joanna was different. She was raw and fearless and didn’t need to peacock to come off as intimidatingly beautiful. Her hair was tangled and unwashed, she didn’t wear make-up, even when she had a pimple or blemish, and she bought clothes from thrift stores that were loose fitting and tattered. And yet even Marcia and Lauren could not help but envy her beauty.
Leaning against her red Tercel, an older model in only slightly better condition than the old lady’s rusted Accord from earlier, a large plain white t-shirt with more wrinkles than mine is draped over her slender, bra-less torso. The breeze blows against her, pinning the shirt to her figure, exposing the rising shape of her nipples. Her eyes lift from her ice cream cone to meet mine, boredom oozing from her spirit.
I return a subtle grin.
Marcia and Lauren’s eyes follow me closely as I pass. During the school year, social status prevented them from talking to a loner like me. But school is out for the summer and sexual desire supersedes social status in these warm months. I feel them watching my mouth, searching my face for imperfections they won’t find. I know I’m attractive, but I choose to put my stock in intelligence. Intelligence is the key to independence, that’s what these two don’t realize. Looks just make dependence easier.
Another twenty minutes pass aimlessly walking through rows of suburban homes; most of them identical, with the exception of subtle, singular differences that fool you into thinking they have some individuality…just like the people who live in them. The sun beats down on my almond skin as I smoke a cigarette from the pack the old lady bought me. With each draw, the ember tumbles toward the filter, glowing orange, then dimming grey, and falling to ash.
Just as I toss my butt on the road, I notice a red Tercel creeping up slowly behind me, the puttering engine lifting any veil of surprise. Joanna is in the driver seat, head sticking out her window, her icy blue eyes staring me down. The car slows to a snail’s pace beside me.
“Hey…You’re Corey, right?”
“You know how to roll a blunt?”
A weak chuckle escapes my lips. “Uh, yeah.”
“I got some weed and a Century,” she says. “I’ll smoke you if you roll it.”
I look ahead, down the street, pretending to think it over. Finally, I agree.
Her one hand lazily gripping the steering wheel, the other rises and runs through her knotty mane as she quickly scans me over from top to bottom. “Cool…get in.”
Stoned to the bone. The two of us lay on the grass beside a soccer field, taking shelter under a broad-trunked tree for shade, staring up at the ridged branches breaking light into shards through the foliage. The greens are vibrant and alive. Cotton candy clouds sail slowly across an endless blue sky. We’re silent, listening to the soft blow of the breeze and the squawks of seagulls in the distance, enjoying the tickle of grass on our skin.
I don’t know how I fell into this moment, but I’m well aware that moments like this one are what life’s all about. I’m going to miss this when…if I get into the business program at U of T. Then it will be the hustle and bustle of the big city. Subways and coffee lines. Meetings and schedules. Money and martini bars, and bringing naive freshman back to the apartment my mother’s renting out for me. I’ll do just fine, I’m sure. But I’ll miss moments like these …and girls like Joanna.
“So where are you going in the fall?” asks Joanna, breaking the span of silence.
I tell her about U of T.
“Sweet. You going to live on campus?”
“Yeah, I got an apartment. It’s better than the commute. I don’t drive.”
“I know, right?”
Joanna folds upright, single blades of grass stick to her hair and shirt. “Too bad. I always thought you were kind of cute. Guess we won’t have a chance to screw after all.”
Her words catch me off guard, but I remain aloof. “Oh yeah? Well, we could probably take care of that right now if you wanted.”
I turn my head to meet her gaze, looking down on me as I lay, glowing in the late afternoon sun. Her tangled hair like golden ribbons and her eyes like sapphire.
“I may hang out with Marcia and Lauren, but I’m not like them,” she says. “I don’t just hand my vagina out to any guy I think is cute.”
“Well, as I mentioned, I don’t really have time to sweep you off your feet.”
“Time is inconsequential. It’s all about passion. Without passion, time is just a sentence.”
I sit up to meet her. “Who says I’m not passionate?”
Her eyes remain looking deep into mine, testing for cracks of dishonesty. “Do you want me?”
“Yeah. I do.”
“How bad do you want me?”
“My dick’s getting hard just thinking about it. Feel it.”
She puts her hand on my inner thigh and squeezes, slowly running up my leg. Then puts her face so close to mine I can feel her breath on my lips as she says softly, “How bad?… Would you kill for me?”
She rubs my crotch over my jeans. I don’t flinch. “Uh-huh.”
Her grin grows wide and she takes her hand away, retreating slowly. “Okay,” she says with a giggle, like a child asked if they would like to play a game. Her finger rests thoughtfully on her chin for dramatic effect and then she says, very drawn out, “How about you kill the next person that walks through this field?”
At this point, my primal lust is in the driver’s seat. “Fine,” I reply. “Let’s do it.”
Her grin drops flat and in an instant, the mood loses all playfulness. “Do it. I’m not kidding,” she says with surprising force. “If you kill the next person to come through this field, I will fuck you so good, you’ll never forget it.” Her lips curl upwards. “I’ll let you put it anywhere.”
At this point, I don’t know what to think. I figured we were just playing around and talking dirty. Part of me thinks maybe we still are. But now the lines feel blurred and a small part of me thinks she might actually want me to murder someone in exchange for sex.
Good sex. But still sex.
“How would I even do it?” I ask, playing along.
Joanna looks around the field, left to right, locking on to a spot of bright white in the middle of all the green. It’s a plastic grocery bag stuck on the pine of an evergreen tree. Her eyes light up and in a second she’s on her feet. She jogs over and takes a cautious look around to see if she’s being watched before picking up the plastic bag and running it back over to our spot. She sits down, legs crossed, and hands it to me, satisfied at her choice. “You can use this.”
I examine the bag for dog shit. It looks clean.
My attention is pulled away when she smacks me on the arm and points downfield. “Someone’s coming!”
I squint at the on-comer walking our way. His red fleece shirt is familiar. His flat nose and bushy mustache are unmistakable. It’s Raj from work. I laugh at the thought and shake my head. “I can’t kill that guy. We work together.”
“We said the next person. No exceptions.”
I find the irony of this whole thing humorous. “Actually, if I was going to murder anybody, it would probably be that guy. I’m always getting in shit for his fuck ups and then getting told I need to cut him some slack. The guy’s a fucking moron.”
Raj’s figure grows bigger as he nears. Joanna’s eyes are glued to him, aglow with excitement. Then she becomes frustrated I haven’t moved yet. “Do it. Don’t you want me?”
“What if someone sees?”
“Take him behind the trees.”
I look over at the row of evergreens lining the field, calculating my chances of being seen. It scares me that I’m actually planning it in my head. Though I can’t say that I’ve never fantasized about killing someone before. Actually, I think about it a lot. It can’t be some coincidence that we should hang out on this day and this should be her test of worthiness for me. This has to have been fate. This girl is meant for me.
I don’t think she really wants me to kill him. Just to see how far I’ll take it. It’s like a game of chicken for her. Some fucked up foreplay. So, I’ll play her game. It’s actually working. I’m really turned on.
I get to my feet, dusting blades of grass off my jeans. She watches and laughs, ripe with anticipation. Taking the plastic bag with me, I head behind the row of evergreens, where I’ll creep toward Raj until he is in front of me with his back turned. Then I’ll come out from the trees and slip the bag over his head. Just to scare him a bit. Then I’ll let go.
I lose sight of Joanna behind the thick of the evergreens. Between each tree, I watch Raj get closer. I walk toward him slowly, taking great care not to be heard shuffling through the grass. The moment he passes, I don’t move. I don’t even breathe. Then, when I’m comfortable that I haven’t been seen, I breathe again.
I come out from behind the trees into the open field, still at a creeping pace, looking around for witnesses. It’s only Raj and Joanna. Joanna’s trying not to look, but I can feel her urge. Her thrill.
I maneuver the plastic bag into the position where I can slip it over his face in one quick motion, and then pull back on the straps and squeeze as hard as I can.
Only a few steps behind him, Joanna can’t resist her urge to look any longer and lifts her head up to Raj. He smiles back at her; those big lips and shaggy mustache. Yeah, right. You wish, Raj.
At that moment I pounce and succeed in slipping the bag over his head in one smooth motion. He reacts quick, trying to sink his way out of it, but I pull back on the straps and the bag tightens over his face. He’s panicking, jerking harder back and forth, throwing all his weight from side to side. I keep my feet planted, holding on like a Mexican bull rider. I throw my knee into his back and Raj falls to his knees, then flat on his stomach, face first in the grass. He’s screaming now, but they’re muffled by the bag and the grass.
I look up to Joanna. She’s on her feet, biting her lip, pulling at her nipple over her shirt. She’s a goddess. And we’re going to fuck like Gods right here in this field next to Raj’s cold corpse.
His jerks have become staggered. His screams have become a raspy, choking gurgle. This is how it sounds to die. Die Raj, you fuck. Die! Can’t even close a fucking gas cap. Die Raj!
I release the bag from my grip and it immediately expands with air. Raj chest expands at the first breath, cut short by hacking coughs. He takes another wheezing inhale that’s followed by more harsh coughing. I leap off him, turn around and run. As fast as I can. As fast as my legs will carry me. Away from Raj. Away from Joanna. Away from what I almost just did.
But wow…did it ever feel good.
I walk into the house, out of breath, head spinning, sweating from running in the heat. Mom is busy setting the table for dinner, Elton John playing softly through the speakers in the sitting room. I run straight upstairs and into the shower.
After I’m changed into new clothes, I go back downstairs. Still in the kitchen, now mom is on the phone with someone.
“Hold on. He just got out of the shower,” she says. She comes around the corner, her free hand over the cordless receiver, greeting me with a smile and raised eyebrows, whispering, “It’s for you. Some Indian guy?”
My heart sinks in my chest. Could it be Raj? Had he seen me in the trees? Or maybe he recognized my shoes when I slipped the bag over his head? But how would he have my number? From work? It is possible.
I reluctantly take the phone from my mother. She returns to her glass of wine in the kitchen. I put it to my ear, my heart pounding. “Hello?”
“Is this Corey?” says an Indian accent. I can’t tell if it’s him or not.
“Yeah. This is me. Who’s this?”
“Corey, my name is Harjinder Singh. I work with the Admissions Department at the University of Toronto. I’m just calling you to inform you that you have been accepted to our business program in the fall. Congratulations. We’re excited to have you with us.”
A rush of relief washes over me.
“Wow…thanks. That’s great news.”
“Not a problem, Corey. If you have any questions, we have lots of information on our school website.”
“I’ll make sure to check that out.”
We say goodbye and I hang up the phone, feeling much in a daze as I walk back into the kitchen to put the cordless on its hook. My mom asks who that was. I tell her.
She’s so excited she almost spits out her wine, putting her glass down on the counter before giving me a hug. “That’s amazing! I’m so proud of you! My son, the businessman. Oh, I can’t wait to post about it on Facebook!”
She picks her glass back up and takes a sip. “Well, go sit down. Dinner is almost ready. I’ll call you.”
I leave her in the kitchen and plop down on the couch in the sitting room, staring up at the ceiling fan blowing cool air down on my heated face.
I got in. Life is about to become a whole lot more interesting. The big city. The money and martini bars. The girls.
Watch out, world. Here I come.