Friday, September 5, 2014


Genre: Horror

By Daniel Skye

     Chris Brooks raced up the long, narrow driveway to Jacob Reese’s mansion in his blue Mustang, the tires kicking up chunks of gravel. Jacob Reese had buzzed him in through the main gate at the end of the driveway and was waiting patiently for him at the front door, a snifter of brandy in one hand.
     “Did you have any trouble finding the place?” Reese asked as Chris exited his Mustang and approached the front door. Chris was twenty-three years younger than Jacob, whose dry, withered skin and receding hairline already made him look twice his age. He looked exactly as Chris expected; he was just as Vanessa had described him.
     But Chris did not look as Jacob had pictured him. Jacob expected a lumberjack beard, tattoos or piercings, long unkempt hair. Instead he was greeted by a well groomed young man with no tattoos or piercings, his brown hair all slicked back and held in place with styling gel.
     “No trouble at all,” Brooks assured him.
     “Excellent,” Reese said. “I’d hate to inconvenience the man who has been sleeping with my wife.”
     “I see you like to skip right to the point,” Brooks said. “And Vanessa won’t be your wife for long. Not after you sign those divorce papers.”
     “Do you honestly think I’d grant Vanessa a divorce after everything she’s done to me?”
     “One way or another, she’s not going to be with you. She’s ready to move on. Now, are we going to talk standing in the doorway, or are you going to invite me in?”
     “Where are my manners?” Reese chortled. “Please, come in.”
     Brooks wiped his feet on the Welcome mat before he stepped in, at Reese’s request. The carpets were suede and Jacob would not dare see a mark left on them.
     Jacob was a man so fastidious he wouldn’t even allow his guests to use the guest towels in his bathroom. To see his beautiful suede carpets soiled would be akin to seeing his wife Vanessa slip through his controlling grasp. It was something he could not allow to happen.
     Jacob led Chris to the living room, which had a full bar that was stocked with every brand of liquor you could name.
     “Can I fix you a drink?” Jacob asked. “Vanessa mentioned you were a scotch man.”
     “Sure, I’ll take a drink.”
     “I’ve got a top shelf bottle imported from the UK,” Jacob said, pouring Chris a glass. “I hear there’s a special rung in hell reserved for those that waste good scotch. Cheers.” He passed the glass to Chris and they clanked their glasses in celebration, though it wasn’t exactly clear to Chris what they were celebrating.
     “Thanks for the drink,” Chris said, finishing his glass. “Now let’s get down to business. Why did you call me out here?”
     “Are you a chess man?”
     “I prefer checkers.”
     Jacob scoffed. “Checkers is a game for lowbrows, imbeciles. It’s the game of the common man. Chess is a thinking man’s game. You must have a strategy in order to win the game. Would you like to play?”
     “I think I’ll pass.”
     “Shame. You might’ve liked it. Well, I’ll get right down to it, I suppose. When’s the last time you’ve seen my wife?”
     “I saw Vanessa two days ago.”
     “And where is she now?”
     “She’s with her mother.”
     “You know this for a fact?”
     “That’s what she told me.”
     “But have you spoken to her since the last time you’ve seen her? Are you positive she arrived safely?”
     “What are you getting at?”
     “I’m saying you have you no idea where Vanessa really is. She could be here for all you know.”
     “I kindly doubt it,” Chris said. “Now I think you’ve wasted enough of my time.”
     As Chris walked from the living room, two musclebound associates acting behalf of Reese turned the corner, blocking the exit. “I must insist you stay,” Jacob said. “Please sit.”
     Chris walked back over to Jacob and plopped himself down on the couch, which Chris noted was also suede.
     “So what is it you want?” Chris asked. That was when he first realized he wasn’t feeling so hot.
     “I just wanted to have one final chat with the man who destroyed my marriage before he dies. It’s a shame you declined to play me in chess. If you had won, I might’ve let you seen Vanessa one last time.”
     “What have you done with her, you bastard?” The bass in his voice demanded answers. Even with the odds against him, Chris was ready to fight for Vanessa.
     “Nothing as of yet,” Jacob said. “She’ll be safe for as long as I choose to keep it that way. And let’s not get rude or feisty, Mr. Brooks. My bulky associates over there can snap your neck like a chicken, and they’ll be happy to do so if I give them the nod.”
     “I’ll ask you again, what do you want? You want me to play chess? Fine, I’ll play chess with you. I’ll play freaking backgammon with you if you want. Just let Vanessa go. She’s innocent in all this.”
     “Vanessa is anything but innocent. And it’s far too late for a game of chess now. We don’t have much more time. But please, tell me a little about yourself. I’m interested to hear your story, kid.”
     “There’s not much to tell. I’m a waiter, and I bartend on the side to make extra scratch. I have my own place, which I inherited from my folks. They died in a plane crash. I’ve lived in New York my whole life. Was born in Manhattan, grew up on Long Island.” As he finished speaking, the room was starting to spin.
     “Did you go to college?”
     “I attended Hofstra.”
     “And did you graduate?”
     “I did.”
     “And what did you study?”
     “Criminal justice.”
     “I wanted to be a police officer.”
     “And instead you’re a waiter?”
     “I can make just as much money waiting tables without having to risk my life on a daily basis.”
“Can I pour you another drink?”
     “That’s ok,” Chris said. “I’m feeling a bit woozy. That’s strong scotch.”
     “It’s not the scotch,” Jacob said. “It’s what I put inside the bottle. Never accept a drink from a stranger,” he chided.
     “What did you give me?” Chris asked. He leapt from the couch as he went to snatch Jacob by his lapels, but instead he sank to his knees like a stone thrown to the bottom of a river.
     “Just a mild sedative. You’ll pass out and wake up fast enough to discover a similar fate that awaits your dear, sweet Vanessa.”
     “You monster,” Chris muttered as his entire body sank to the floor. He could no longer cling to consciousness, and closed his eyes to a world of darkness.
* * *
     Chris awoke in a gray, windowless room with a steel door that was bolted shut from the outside. But Chris noticed the door had a tiny slot at the bottom, barely wide enough for a person’s hand to wiggle through.
     The room had a two-way mirror so that Jacob could observe Chris from an opposite room. He could sit back and enjoy every minute as Chris could do nothing but stare at his own reflection of confusion and terror.
     “Now it’s time to start the show,” Jacob spoke through an intercom that was mounted to the wall beside the mirror. “Release the snakes,” Jacob said, presumably to one of his many associates. Reese was a very wealthy man, and people did what he wanted, no matter how bizarre his requests were.
     Snake after snake slithered in through the tiny slot at the bottom of the door and then the slot was snapped shut from the outside.
     “I wouldn’t get too close if I were you,” Jacob spoke to him through the intercom. There was no button on the intercom for him to press and communicate with Jacob. No way for him to plead his case or offer a rebuttal. “They haven’t been fed in days so they’re quite agitated. It wouldn’t be wise to make any sudden movements.”
     “What do you want?” Brooks shouted, assuming Reese could hear him through the glass.
     “I just wanna see you squirm,” Reese laughed. “I so wish Vanessa could join you, but she’s in the scorpion tank as we speak.”
     “You sick bastard!” Brooks cried. “I hope you burn in hell, old man!”
     “Oh, I’ll have my day eventually,” Jacob said. “But it’s not my time yet. I’m afraid it’s your time. Like I said, no sudden movements.”
     Chris stood frozen, trying to remain as still as possible while a rattlesnake slithered between his legs. A yellow python was circling around one ankle.
There were vipers, cobras, and coral snakes everywhere that Chris glanced. A black king cobra raised its hooded head and hissed ferociously in his direction.
Brooks was so distracted by the other snake that he didn’t see the boa constrictor that had coiled its way around his thigh, squeezing so hard it forced Chris down to one knee.
     In his weakened state, the snakes seemed to take this as their cue to strike. They all sunk their fangs in at once, and Chris could almost feel the poisonous venom coursing through his veins. He heaved and struggled to take in the air as his face puffed and his eyes swelled shut. His legs were twitching, but this wasn’t the signs of a struggle. This was an involuntary act.
     Jacob watched through the glass until his legs stopped scraping against the floor and the venom ran its course.
* * *
Three days later, Jacob Reese received a visit he had anticipated. It was the police.
“Can I help you?” Jacob asked when he answered the door, playing innocent.
     “I’m Detective Carter. Here to ask you a few questions about Chris Brooks, and your wife Vanessa.”
     “Please come in,” Reese said, holding the door open for Carter.
     “Nice place you’ve got here,” Carter remarked as he stepped in after wiping his feet on the Welcome mat at Jacob’s request.
     “Why thank you, detective,” Jacob replied. “Say, are you a chess man?”
     “I’ve never been a fan,” Carter said.
     “Shame,” Jacob said. “One more question, detective: You’re not afraid of snakes, are you?”

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