Written December 2009
Remember that good girl who never did anything wrong? She wore all the best clothes. She always treated everyone with the upmost respect. As you watched her, it seems impossible that a single person can resemble perfection so fully. That’s why, when her path of righteousness began to derail, it was impossible to look away.
She went to church every Sunday. She didn’t date until she was 16 and broke up with that boy when he tried to slide into first base. At some point, just like the rest, it all comes tumbling down. It’s a snowball effect with a beginning so miniscule that it is nearly impossible for anyone aside from her to pinpoint where everything began to go wrong.
She breaks one of the rules that she has lived by for years. It’s nothing big. Maybe she went to a party where there was alcohol and didn’t leave like her parents told her. For days she’ll sit and ponder that minute experience until she reaches the same conclusion that is always reached: I broke the rule, and the world didn’t fall apart. In fact, nothing truly changed at all.
Watch that girl in the days, weeks, and months that follow. She’ll tear down the fake world that was built around her. The rules that were worthless—always be home before nine—will mix with the rules that truly matter—don’t have sex until you are ready. Without that baring on reality, both worthless and worthwhile will fall without question. Within months, if not weeks, her A’s will turn to D’s; her virginity will be gone; her body will be drugged.
Until, that is, the day that she returns home and the rules that started it all are reinstated. The pendulum will swing from the furthest point on the right to the furthest point on the left until something gets in its way. Until then, there is no such thing as a middle ground.
Such is the way of the Women of the Waning Moon. As adolescence passed, these girls found that too many girls were being trapped within themselves by a past that they dared not confess. Why is it that when a girl who is walking home is chased, thrown into the back of a car, gang-raped, and thrown out left to wallow in her own misery? The Mothers—the two girls who founded this club of sorts—had been asking that question for years when they decided to do something about it.
Their answer was simple: flip the status quo on its head. These girls were not to be introverted on subjects in which they had no control, they argued. Instead, they were to speak of them loudly and proudly. They were told to scream every word. No, woe is not me! The stories were not to pity the girls who suffered. They did not want your pity. Each story was told as if a warning. ‘I may be 13. I may weigh 87 pounds. I may walk home alone along the same path. Please,’ one would scream. ‘Please, try it again. This time, you will be the one who suffers.’
I was prepared when I went to my first meeting. Still, disgust overtook me. I couldn’t place it though every one of them will tell you that they felt the same. You don’t know if the disgust is from the stories they tell or the way in which they tell them. How dangerous, I would think, is it to teach these girls to prideful about what happened to them? No, these girl should not crawl into shells like society tells them to do…but pride?
Unlike the Women of the Waning Moon, I knew my middle ground. When I walked in that first day, I cared not that they were going overboard. My only worry stayed with the girls who could not find the hope that they were looking for. I worried that, even with the Women, they would fall through our grasp.
I was not going to let that happen.
It was simple to see who most needed help. There is not a single way to identify someone in need. There are two—by looking at both ends of the spectrum. See the girl over there? She’s the one who said that she had something happen but got past it. She wanted to come to help other girls who suffered like she had. Her story would be easy to believe—if she weren’t smiling so widely and telling the other girls that, “everything was going to be okay.” Sometimes the happiest looking people are the hollowest.
At the other end are the ones who look and speak in tones of hopelessness. They are hard to miss but easy to overlook. Too often I see girls just like me walk into school in a long sleeve sweater. How is it that no one asks about her attire when the temperature is ready to pop past one hundred? Unlike the girl over there who lives in a shell, these girls do their best by running.
I know how I want to help them. I just need to find the right girls.
Three girls. That was my plan. All the Women of the Waning Moon arrived early to talk amongst themselves before the meeting began. Three girls were all I needed to find before the meeting began. By meeting’s end, none of the Women would want to talk to me. Three girls and done. That was my plan.
Ashley. I heard her story from afar and drifted closer as she carried on—as did many others. This was her first meeting too. She was looking for strength. It was frightening to see her frail body in a sea of strong women. I felt my empathy for the Women grow as I heard Ashley’s story unfold. The Women could give her everything she needed to fight back…almost. I was there for the rest.
At twelve years old, Ashley’s undeveloped and skeleton-shaped body made her look closer to nine. How horrible for something to happen to a twelve year old, I thought. How frightening a crime considering she looks nine, I wondered. Then she began. “When I was six…” How pathetic a man who is capable of such things, the whole room thought in unison.
Her words were weak. Her eyes, scared. From age six until now, Ashley’s elder brother had done more than the mind could process—more times than Ashley could count. It was strange to feel such intense anger for someone who I had never met. All I had to do was look around. Every girl here felt the same anger. Every girl here connected Ashley’s story to her own. It was then that I realized that I had met Ashley’s brother. In my mind, nothing separated him from the vile men who brought me to first meeting.
Beth. Who’s that girl over there with the wide smile, handing out empty advice like lollipops? Ah, of course, that would be Beth. Beth, all of nineteen, appears to take some sadistic pleasure out of helping those who have the inability of building a protective shell as strong as hers. I knew the shell too well. All I needed were a few carefully placed words to crack her shell and bring her back to reality.
Her story was like the others; though hers had hope in the end. A couple years back, she walked into the bathroom at school. She was working on her hair when the bathroom door opened and the lights went out. She had only enough time to look over and see a line of light coming from the well-lit hallway when an arm chocked her into a half-nelson and pulled her into a bathroom stall.
By the time it was over, she knew who it was. He had let a few too many words slip out to not recognize him. When he left, she felt embarrassed. Her monster was short, scrawny, and one of the biggest nerds in school. She didn’t feel like she could tell anyone. I wasn’t surprised when her story continued. Though most of the Women’s stories ended with the attack, her aim was to invoke hope into those who listen. She told us about how she prayed for courage and how God had listened.
She confronted the boy and made him confess. She told us about how she brought the boy into the light of God and forgave him for what he did. From the rest of her story, her words were far too pleasant. I couldn’t tell if I was the only one who didn’t believe her bull, but I wasn’t going to be the one to let it slid. Covered by a crowd of people, my voice could have been mistaken for many.
“You never confronted him, did you?”
“Wha-? Why would you-? I can’t-How did-? Of-Of course I did,” she stuttered. “Why would you say such a thing?” That was all of the proof that I needed.
Cathy. I needed one more story—just one more face before I left. My hopes of finding number three were dashed as the meeting was called to order. The Women took their seats and the Mothers began to talk. I never heard a word that either of them spoke. My attention was drawn to the young woman sitting next to them. I wanted to ask what she was doing in a place like this, but I already knew the answer. A short introduction brought Cathy to center stage.
“The night is always darkest before the dawn. Yesterday, someone forgot to wake the sun. My dawn is not coming. My hope is gone.” Cathy was eighteen. That’s why we all knew who she was. Had she been seventeen when her hypocritical priest took advantage of her, her name would be protected by the courts. Instead, we all knew the story in gruesome detail. I did not doubt that her words resonated with the other girls. Just 24 hours before the meeting, they found the pedophile Not Guilty.
I was the only one who knew that her words were false. Her dawn has not been canceled. Her dawn would be delayed by just two days. I would make sure of that. Cathy was to be my number three. Three girls to save—Little Ashley, Smiling Beth, Distraught Cathy. I had accomplished what I had set out for. Too many of these girls were attacked at random by people they didn’t know. Sadly, I could not help them as well. They would need their own savior. I had found my three girls.
More importantly, I found my three monsters.
Cathy took a step back and the Mothers began to talk once again. I still paid no attention to them; until I realized that all eyes were being focused on me. They must have asked if anyone new was present. I had prepared my words for so long. It felt surreal to have them reach for the tip of my tongue. I stood up to look around, steadying my breath before I began. By the end, this room would hate me. So easy it is to have people fall into a perfectly placed plan. By tomorrow evening, they would all understand what my words truly meant.
“I have never suffered the hardship that you have all suffered.” The look of acceptance that I held with the Women melted into one of anger. No longer was I one of them; becoming an intruder. They played so easily into my hands. “I came because I care about what you are fighting for. But, look around please. You are seen as nothing more than an I-Hate-Guys club.” I wasn’t even halfway done and I could already see it on their faces. They wanted me out.
“I want you to consider what I have to say.” No one wanted to listen anymore. It didn’t matter. I was focused on a young girl up front who was typing away with every word I said. She was who I was talking to. “One. Change the prerequisite for becoming a Woman. Don’t make victimhood the code of entry. Make reporting to the police a code of entry.” From across the room, a high school girl yelled something I couldn’t hear. Nothing I didn’t expect. More yelling would follow.
“Two. Far too many of your members are attacked a second time even after joining the Women despite your Never Again! mentality. Never again is not enough. If you have the attention of so many young girls, do more than just talk. Have a self-defense class that follows each meeting. Collect member fees and buy pepper spray in bulk to hand out. You need to protect your members.” A person behind me stood up tried to get me to sit down. When I didn’t, several others began yelling at me to shut up.
“Lastly, bring in therapists.” A wave of outbursts fell on me. I would have to wait them out. The girl that was typing away for the meeting’s minutes wouldn’t be able to hear me with all the members in uproar. I feared that my final request would be unheard. When a single scream muted out all of the yelling, I felt safe once again. Cathy was a demigod to the Women. It was no surprise that they were silenced by her voice.
“Please! Let her finish.”
I didn’t say thank you to her. I simply looked at her kindly and she understood. I was going to thank her in my own way. “I grew up with a girl named Danielle. I believe all of you know who I am talking about. She was a Woman, just like you. She was also the closest friend I have ever had. She talked about this place as if it were her savior. I know now that I should have heard the scream behind those words.
“This place doesn’t offer the comfort that I thought it did. Instead, it appears to be a breeding ground for the most sadistic competitions in pride. When Danielle killed herself, I lost all faith in this place while you held her up as your saint. Please, cut it out. Either make the Women of the Waning Moon a real organization that helps people or disband. Because right now you’re doing as much harm as the men who brought all of you here today.”
The quiet room remained that way as I walked out the doors. I may have made them think, but my words would be forgotten by morning. All that mattered was the girl that continued to type as I talked. Those minutes would serve as a reason for everything that was to unfold in the hours that followed. Only when I was finished would my words be held close to their hearts.
I picked up my old backpack when I reached my dark house. Nobody was awake. The tension that had built up on my way home relaxed. The only variable in my plan was a family member staying up late to watch the latest from Conan O’Brien. The empty house meant that my goodbyes would not have to be repeated—something I could not be more thankful about.
I removed the map from my backpack, revealing the three other items I had packed. I spread the map of the city across the kitchen table. If I was to do this correctly, I would have to start as far from my house as possible and work my way closer. That way, if any alert was sent up, I would have the time to get back to my house.
As I mapped out the three locations on my map, I repeated the same words under my breath. Ashley’s brother. Beth’s peer. Cathy’s priest. By the time that I would be done with them, each one would be dead. More importantly, their crimes would be known. I connected the dots that with a melancholy smile. I was planning out my final road trip. By the end of the night, I would be dead and branded just like them.
Over the weeks that I planned this particular night, the same thoughts crossed my mind again and again: what does it feel like to know you’ll be dead in a matter of hours? To me, it felt like drowning. No, not fighting against the water, trying to find a surface while your body tries to force you to inhale. That was the trauma that I had experienced in the months since Danielle’s death. With my plan in motion, the water had filled my lungs. As I drove to my first house, I felt the solidarity and acceptance of what was about to happen.
Ashley’s Brother. I found a few rocks outside her brother’s window. I grabbed a few of the smaller ones and started throwing them to his second story window. After five sharp hits, I saw the curtains flutter as he pushed it aside. When he looked out the window, he looked confused. So, we have a smart predator. He took a step away from the window. I knew what to say if only he could hear me. Instead, his warning signs went off. He looked like his was about to go wake somebody.
I had to think fast. When I pulled my shirt up to my neck—leaving nothing below—I’m quite sure that I had no idea what I was doing. His eyes grew big; back to the window he went. The predator, though smart, cannot resist such helpless prey. He opened his window and asked me who I was. I told him that it didn’t matter and that he would never have to see me again after tonight; just let me in. Crafted words, once again, playing like music to his ears. He pointed me to the tree. I climbed it, jumped to the landing, and in through the window.
He was on me before I had regained my balance. I pushed back softly, telling him to get comfortable on the bed. To him, my words no longer came out as anything but beautiful notes played by the greatest composer. He hoped that he wouldn’t wake up from such a vivid dream. He complied as I pulled off my backpack. He smiled as I unzipped it.
I laughed. Yes, toys.
“I’ll bring one out if you promise not to peak.” The music continued to play in his ears. He did so without question; lying comfortably on the bed with his eyes closed. I pulled out my first toy. It was a black toolbox. I undid the latches—cringing slightly when he let out a sound of excitement. Inside were three syringes. Each was filled with enough liquid to do the deed. Dealers deliver on most anything that you are looking for. Weed? Of course. Meth? Have as much as you want. Three syringes full of a liquid that instantly paralyzes their subject and kills them within minutes? Just give me two days.
I pulled out the first syringe.
“Are you ready for this?”
He laughed with anticipation. I reminded him to keep his eyes closed before I got onto the bed. I straddled him on the waist. He got noticeably excited and accompanied it with a chuckle. How pathetic it is when the predator is killed by what he believes to be his weakest prey yet. I leaned over and whispered in his ear. When I opened my mouth to speak, I did my best not to gag at the mucky smell.
“I’m going to count to three.”
“Three…” I sat up straight and positioned the syringe directly above his heart.
“Two…” He tensed up with anticipation.
“One…” I plunged the syringe directly into his heart—emptying it instantly. I expected to be thrown off of him as he reacted. His only reaction was to open his eyes. Instant paralysis, I thought. Dealers are some of the most trustworthy people I know. I bent over to look him directly in the eyes.
“I know what you’ve been doing to your sister. You’ll be dead in a few minutes. You know you deserve it so there’s no reason to make any fuss.” I smiled at him evilly. “Want to see my other toys?” I hoped off him and opened my backpack back up. I pulled toy number two out of the sack by its handle. It was a long metallic stick with letters on the far end. The letters, TSIPAR, were in bold face. I held the letters over his eyes.
“I can’t make out what they say. Maybe you can. No? Hmmmm. I guess we’ll have to figure out what they say a different way.” I had planned this day for too long not to have my fun. I knew I could take my time and I would. I went back to my backpack and pulled out toy number three. It was a green canister the size of a liter of soda. On top, it had a few handles. I held it a few feet above his eyes. I pulled the trigger. A steady flame about two feet long flew horizontal to his body. He felt the heat. I wanted him to feel the fear that he plagued Ashley with for six years—even if I couldn’t see it.
I held the letters to the flame until they glowed brightly on their own. I turned off the canister and set it beside the bed. I straddled him once more. There was no sign of excitement this time. The drug was working its way through his system. I would have to finish him off. I pushed his hair aside and shoved the brander to his forehead. Although he did not react, I knew he felt it. After a few seconds, I pulled the brand off. His eyes feel into the back of his head. I put the brand safely on the ground, then checked his pulse.
He was dead. One down, two to—
I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I turned quickly to see Ashley standing in the doorway. I knew not whether she would scream for help or thank me. She didn’t seem to know either. We looked at each other for several seconds. I was the first to break away. I took my toys and put them back in the backpack. I zipped them up. Still knelling, I looked out the window.
“You’ll be safe now.”
I was out the window and down the tree and still not a single word came from Ashley. For all the planning that went into this one night, there was so much that could go wrong. Somehow, I found myself driving to house number two without a single hitch. Would the others be so easy? As I pulled up to my second house, I had a feeling they wouldn’t be.
Beth’s Peer. He was outside—enjoying the night air from his hot tub. From afar, it sounded like her was singing something to himself. From the pop nature of the song, it was nothing to be proud of. It didn’t surprise me when he overreacted to me strolling up. He was hesitant when I asked if I could join him. He was a far more dangerous predator than the one that I had just eliminated. This one was small and geeky enough to play the victim himself—only releasing the inner beast when there was no chance of getting caught.
I put my backpack on the island in the corner. He still hadn’t told me whether or not I could come in so I striped off my shirt in one fluid motion and made my way to the steps. I didn’t need to see through the black water to know that his defenses were down. He may protest, but he would never kick out such a grand opportunity. They are all the same.
I shimmied out of my jeans and slowly submerged myself in the steaming water. The underwater light turned the steam into a deep fog that I could barely see through. I thought about turning out the light, but the fog gave the perfect cover. I had thought it would only get harder to take down these men. I was so very wrong. These monsters masquerading as predators were weaker than the most helpless and hopeless.
I took the seat between him and my island. I leaned over and whispered into his ear. I wanted him to enter a dream world. I told him that I would make all of his wildest fantasies come true. I kissed him passionately on the neck before I leaned back into my seat—trying to hold my floating body down. Just like a loyal dog, he followed. He went in to kiss me on the lips but I turned my head away. He kissed my neck instead and made his way lower. As he had his way with his newest play thing, I prepared my first toy once again.
“I hope I’m not dreaming.” He whispered. I couldn’t tell if he was talking to himself or to me. I pulled out the second syringe and placed it at ready over his back as he continued to kiss me. I put my mouth to his ear and whispered the words that came to mind: “You’ll hope it’s a dream when you wake up in Hell.” I plunged the second syringe directly into his heart. It was too simple. Two murders. No one notices. Life doesn’t seem so special when it can be taken so easily.
I brought out the torch, branded him, and left him face down in a race to death: drowning or poison. Personally, I hoped the poison would kill him. I didn’t want him to have the sweet sensation of acceptance that came with drowning. When I was done, I looked around. No witnesses to the branding this time. I had one man left on my list—a man on his first night of freedom in years.
Cathy’s Priest. The sun was not up, nor was it lighting up the Eastern sky. As I walked toward my final house, something was wrong. Why would his light be on so late…or so early? As I wandered on to his front lawn, I pondered my approach. I had played out so many different scenes before this night began. That’s probably why the first two monsters went down so easily. Before I could pick my method, the strangest variable was thrown into the mix.
The light to the priest’s room turned off. Several seconds later, someone opened and closed the front door of the house. I crept closer to see who it was. The figure looked around to make sure it was alone. When the face reach me—her face, rather—the strangest smile made its way across my lips. I walked out from where I was hiding, trying not to scare her. Still, she jumped when she saw me. She looked like she wanted to run. I ushered her towards me.
“You killed him, didn’t you?” She didn’t say a word. There was no guilt on her face. Melancholy was the only way to describe her—forever caught in a cycle of sadness. My mind raced to recalculate. For all the variables I had accounted for, this was certainly not one of them. “Cathy,” for the first time in over a month, my voice was weak. “Why?”
She didn’t answer. Honestly, she didn’t need to. I knew why she did it. The fire that brewed inside of me when Danielle told me what happened to her was powerful. It’s what drove me to bring together such an end to my life. I didn’t want Cathy to fall to those same urges. Cathy was the one I always envisioned leading the Women forward. Maybe I was already too late. They had already failed her. I needed to fix this for her. I needed to bring meaning into her life. My mind reeled. As all the wheels clicked into place, I realized what had to be done.
“You are the one who needs to lead the Women forward—not the Mothers. You are the one who can give those girls hope, not pride or pompous ignorance. Teach them and protect them. Cathy, you have more to live for than you can possibly imagine. Tonight, I am going to give that club the power to transform into something far more. With you at the head, you will have the power to help untold numbers. Do not give that up.”
A single tear rolled down her cheek.
“What do I do about him?” She pointed towards the house. I told her to go home; I’d take care of her monster. Without another word, she left. I may never know what happened to that young girl, or the Women, but I left them in the best position I could possibly imagine. I walked in the house and cleaned every inch. If there was any mark of Cathy, they would not find her.
I injected the final syringe into his chest to leave a trail to me. It would be far better to save a savior than to let us both fall at once. I branded the man then used the prongs to bring a droplet of my blood onto the dead priest’s body for good measure. They would never even try to find a trace of an accomplice. They would know it was me.
I made it home as the sun broke the horizon. I threw my backpack onto my bed. The authorities would understand soon enough about how I spent my final night. I killed and branded three men as rapists before I killed and branded myself as a martyr. From deep within my closet, I pulled out the handgun that I had hidden back when my plan was barely being formed. I gripped the metal—smiling.
I walked out into my lawn slowly. Each step I took echoed the acts of the past several hours. I felt as if it the Earth itself was screaming at me—trying to inform the rest of the world of what I had done. I was not ashamed. I would leave the world a better place then when I had entered it. The demented minds of the psychopathic few were gone and the city was slightly safer for my Women to wander.
I had picked the spot on the lawn so very long ago. I knew where I would die. It would be in the same place that I had realized I would never leave the world as the general population did. I would leave on my own accord. As I took my seat in front of the aging willow tree, I was brought back to that day.
For the past few weeks, I knew what I was going to do. I never told anyone because that would destroy the purpose. I’m not doing it for attention. I’m doing it because this world has nothing to offer me. When I came across that realization, I realized I had something to give the world. Now, as I scrapped some of the plaque off the world’s teeth, there was nothing left for me to do.
The metallic feel of the gun felt natural. I may not have killed the vermin with bullets, but the hands of a killer care not what weapon is used. The corridors of the gun were empty except for one. Knowing the end had come, the adrenaline in my body surged. Instead of ending the surge with one squeeze of the trigger, I decided to entice it.
I took the corridor out of the gun and spun it around—placing it back in as quickly as I had taken it out. The game was Russian Roulette. There are six chambers with only one bullet. That left a 16.7% chance that I would be dead in one shot—with no extra adrenaline. There would be a 20% of death on the second one—fresh off the biggest thrill of my life. There would be a 25% chance of dying from the third one—right when I was starting to feel lucky. The fourth one would be a 33% chance—leaving me wishing I could reach the next.
The fifth one would leave my mind racing as I wrapped my lips around the barrel. With the mere pulling of a trigger, I brought my chance of life and death to 50%—beyond anything that most people experience in a lifetime. The barrel clicked and all turned black as the beads of sweat poured down my forehead.
I pulled the gun away from my mouth and realized I was living my hypothetical. With a 50% chance of death, God had given me life. With a glance at the Heavens, I laughed at him and put the barrel back into my mouth. Where would God be when faced with a 100% chance of death?
I pulled the trigger one last time.
When nothing happened, I pulled the gun out of my mouth. Had God finally decided to show his face to me? I opened the barrel of the gun to find no bullet in any of the six corridors. So God was a thief, eh? So he didn’t want me to die? What evil plan did he have up his sleeve for me?
When the strange taste of smoke reached my tongue, the thoughts of a higher purpose faded from my mind. I saw smoke seeping from my mouth as I breathed out. Confused, I let my hand wander to the back of my skull where a gaping wound should have been.
It was there…
Part of my skull was missing…
My 100% certainty was correct…
From the skies above me, a laugh erupted that encompassed the entire planet. God was laughing at me, once again. The voice shook the planet with a gust of wind. The heavy chuckle ended and was replaced by a strangely melodic voice.