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This was my second workshop piece, the first being an excerpt from my '09 NaNo. No instructions were given for workshops, so I played with writing Ryan in the throes of his psychologically-driven killing spree. He suffers from dissociative amnesia, forgetting his entire life before he arrived in an unnamed town in Rockland county, and calling himself Sol because it is the only name that sticks.


The old woman upstairs called him Kevin, because she once knew an Asian youth named Kevin. She was also a bit senile, which was why she didn't question the fact that "Kevin" was suddenly living in her house, doing her housework, her groceries, making her passable meals.

He thought his name was Sol, because he didn't know what else to call himself, and the name floated around in his subconscious when he wound down at night. He was short in stature and robust in figure, with straight black hair and light olive skin. The strong arms and back hinted at an athletic past, but there was no other clues. No mementos, no photos, no familiar faces in this small upstate town.

At the moment, though, he had more pressing matters. The man downstairs was screaming again.

Sol didn't like the stairs to the basement very much. They creaked with each step, and the descent was steep, especially for his short legs. But the old woman barely remembered the basement existed, and that was why he kept the man down there.

He closed the door at the bottom of the stairs behind him quietly, though the gesture was pointless when the man was screaming himself hoarse. He'd been down here for two days now, screaming until he fell asleep and then screaming again when he woke up. Yesterday had been a string of insults, against his height, his assumed homosexuality, his race, anything the man could grasp at. Today words seemed to fail him, though.

When the man caught sight of him he finally shut up, chest heaving as he glared through sweaty hair that clung to his nose and mouth. Sol regarded him with half-lidded eyes, squatting in front of his prisoner. Thick wrists were bound with rough twine to a ring that had been haphazardly hammered into the wall, though apparently not haphazardly enough for it to pull free, as the man's rope burn attested to.

"When I get outta this, you're gonna rot in Sing-Sing," the man hissed, spittle flying from where Sol's fist had loosened a tooth two nights ago.

"Do you know why you're here?" Sol asked softly, just as he had last night.

"Because you're a sick, twisted fuck, I dunno." The prisoner spat, but with his loose tooth his aim was off, and the wad landed on Sol's shirt rather than his face. Sol thumbed the saliva off his shirt distastefully, and wiped it on the man's pant leg. He wanted to say something witty about how maybe he was a sick, twisted fuck, and he could hear the words in his head, but his throat froze, and he scowled at the man, and at his own sudden inability to speak.

"You can't keep me down here forever," the man said, shifting against his restraints as Sol rose and watching his captor. "People will come looking for me. I have family, I have friends, probably things you don't have. They'll come and find me, dead or alive, and you'll get yours, buddy, you'll fucking get yours. That's how it works. You lose! Don't you watch Law and Order?" He was babbling.

"I don't watch things," Sol said, blanking on the certain word for precisely what appliance watching shows required. He touched the wall in front of him, opposite his prisoner, looking up as he let his fingers trail down. The words on the wall varied in meaning from day to day, written down when pieces of memories he hoped were unimagined came crashing through his head. Each memory had nothing to do with the next, but it seemed important that he remember who he'd been before he'd found himself in this basement.

His fingers came to meet the handle of the sledgehammer, and he pulled it away from the wall in a firmer grip before lifting it completely to hold it in both hands. The sledgehammer made him feel small when he looked at it, made him feel like a giant when he raised it. He hefted it once, twice, turned to face his captive.

"Doesn't matter if you kill me, you'll still go to prison forever," the man said, but Sol could hear the fear that made his voice tremulous. Sol took a step toward the man, and the man shrank against the wall. "You can't kill me," the man was saying as Sol took another step, and another, and his voice was faltering. "You won't kill me, you fucking pussy, you don't have the balls to kill me, you're just some sadsack creepy fucker living in the basement, you can't—"

The crunch of the man's sinuses as they splintered into his brain and beyond echoed against the bare walls of the basement, and the carcass slid down slowly—the area above the neck was still somewhat stuck to the painted brick—to hang limply from the twine loops.

Sol touched the mess that had been a head tenderly, thinking that perhaps there had been something recognizable in the angular, earthen-skinned face before he'd destroyed it.


Sweat rolled from the back of his hairline down under the collar of his shirt. He hated night clubs. He hated being short in night clubs, he hated being alone in night clubs, but mostly he just hated night clubs. The thump of the bass and the darkness lit only by occasional sweeping spotlights and tiny phone screens negated communication, blew out the senses and made him feel numb.

But already he could see what he'd come for.

The man was as lithe as he was drunk, dancing with only half a sense of balance and grace. When he recovered from nearly falling over, he tossed back a head of shaggy black hair to reveal a thin face with small, sharp features. A petite, vulnerable-looking mouth above a slightly hooked, narrow nose. His eyes were brown, and that seemed wrong, but then his hair fell in his eyes to obscure them and Sol's feeling of right returned. His clothes said I want to look like I don't care in the faded print of his likely carefully picked band shirt, though the band name was so obscure Sol wasn't sure it was even real. His shoes were beat up striped Adidas, the suede toe mangled and ugly from walking in the rain. His skin was the color of dark clay, stark against the white of his shirt, and that, too, seemed right. Whatever right was. His enormous bony hands grasped at the bar counter when he fell again, and the sight of them made Sol feel as though something had cleaved his collarbone and torn down his abdomen.

The dark man laughed as he collapsed under the counter's edge, and two girls helped him up, laughing just as much. Perhaps nearly as drunk, as well. Their clothes weren't exactly scanty, but they were too tight, giving one of the girls a pale muffin top around her hips. The same girl was wearing a low-cut top, so when she bent to take the man's left hand there was a full view of most of her breasts, and of the edges of the plain white bra that probably her mother had bought her at Wal-Mart.

Sol shook his head, but it didn't break his train of thought. He didn't like watching the man interact with these two teenage girls, their probable fake IDs tucked into their back pockets as they tried—and successfully—to impress someone well above drinking age. When he watched them there was a desire, in the back of his mind, to forget himself and join them, knock back a drink or two, play grabass. There was a chance he was over drinking age, too. Maybe.

Then he saw the desperation in the girls' eyes, the way they clung to this man who had to be ten years their senior. Worse, he saw the lust in the man's eyes when he looked at the girl with the muffin top hips, and any wish he'd had to be a part of that vanished. The girls were pathetic, but when he looked at the man his head hurt and he tasted bile. The man made a word bubble up to his lips, something starting with a V. Vincent, Victor, victim. Only the last word made any sense.

He drew himself up from his place alone on the couch, eyes always on the man as he approached. No hurry. There was still a whole night ahead.

The girl whose clothes seemed to fit better intercepted him when Sol was close, giggling as her hand grabbed the top of his head, and then slid off. "You're tiny!" she said, the alcohol in her system making her sway. "Are you—haha—are you lost or something? Widdle boy!"

He swept past her, and she was so intoxicated she didn't seem to care, instead sashaying off toward the bathroom. As if sensing that being alone put her in danger of doing more than flirting with this old fart in his twenties, the other girl darted after her, though she ricocheted off a wall in the process.

"What the fuck," the man mumbled at Sol as he finally reached him. "Is it cockblock o'clock? It's—ha! Haha!" The man interrupted himself, congratulating himself on a gem like cockblock o'clock, before remembering the person in front of him. "The fuck! I was gonna get that big girl, man, what the... Come on!" Now he was groaning, draping himself all over the counter and rolling his forehead all over the surface. When he stilled, he glared at Sol from one eye.

"What'd you even come over here for? If you're lookin' for...that," and the man waved his hand around vaguely before flopping it from the wrist, "I'm not into that. So." Now he was just moping.

"What's your name?" Sol asked, slipping easily into character. Not Sol the murderer with unstable thoughts, not Sol not quite grounded in reality, but Sol the smooth clubgoer looking for whatever everybody else was looking for. A friend, a hookup; a fight, if it came to that.

"You know," the man said, springing up suddenly from the counter, "I was really gonna get some fucking tail tonight before you came along! And now you wanna be friends? Fuck you, asshole!" He spun to shove Sol back before staggering slightly himself.

Don't be like that, Sol's brain said, and his lips might have too, but his lungs weren't in on the plan, and no sound came out. He held up his hands anyway, which did little to placate the man, who took a swing at Sol.

"I only wanted to make friends," fake Sol said. But the man was angry now, and combined with his intoxicated state he wasn't going to be listening to anyone, least of all Sol. He swung again, Sol barely dodging, and on the third swing Sol pulled something small and black from his back pocket to press it to the man's abdomen.

The man went rigid for a few moments, teeth ground so hard they threatened to crack, and then he slumped forward to fall on top of Sol. The taser was tucked back into his pocket quickly, and then Sol was looping the stranger's arm around his shoulder, as if they'd always been friends. In the dark of the club, no one was even looking their way, and Sol made his way toward the exit, jaw set.

Fake Sol borrowed real Sol's mouth again, saying to the bouncer, "What do you guys put in those drinks? My friend is out cold." The bouncer rolled his eyes; he didn't care for making small talk with customers, so Sol kept dragging the man outside.

There were no buses running at this hour in this small Rockland county town, and Sol found himself faced with the challenge of carrying this man back to the old woman's house on foot. A few cars honked at him, and a few others, full of more drunk people, whistled and catcalled for no better reason than that they were drunk and he was there.

The man came to when Sol was still locking the door behind them, and a groggy punch to the back took Sol by surprise. Sol turned to punch back, at last, and the man stumbled back over his own feet to land near the basement door.

"Whadda you gonna do, rape me, you li'l midget?" the man slurred, laughing. "Li'l faggit! Goddamn, the fuck did you do to me...!"

"You're a piece of shit," Sol hissed, fake Sol falling out of his mouth to die until further notice. "You're disgusting."

"Lemme go an' I won't call the cops," the man said, even as he tried and failed to get up. "Sh-shit, you really—ungh—!" Sol had closed the gap between them in swift strides, and he stomped upon the man's midsection to cut him off. The same foot rose and swung to connect with the man's ribs. The man grasped for Sol's legs, but a kick to the face cured him of that rebellious thought.

"It's funny to me," Sol said quietly as he unlatched the cheap wooden door to the basement stairs. "How many guys that look like you that I find."

"Wh—"

"V is for Victor, V is for victim," Sol said, and he repeated it a few times, wishing he could derive more meaning from it. "V is for victim and the victim is you," he finished, and he moved to haul the man over to the top of the stairs. The man struggled with newfound energy, long limbs flailing, looking to do damage and to keep him in one place, but the man was tired, drunk, still recovering from being tased, and surprisingly weak for his size. He tumbled down the stairs face first, his spine bending in wrong ways at least once.

When Sol joined him downstairs, there was still the mess of the previous man left behind, and the still-living man began to scream. Sol silenced him with a cinderblock to the shoulder, knocking him flat long enough for him to untie the corpse from last night. He really had to be more conscientious about these things.

"Don't kill me, please," the man sobbed, a different story from the previous victim. "Please, oh god, I swear I'll never hit on jailbait ever again, just please don't kill me! I'll p-pay my bills on time, I'll do work at the Salvation Army, p-please—" His chest shuddered and heaved as he cried, and Sol placed a gentle hand between his pectoral muscles as he locked eyes with his victim. There was no more disdain in the man's brown eyes, and as Sol let his hand trail down to rest on the man's stomach, the fear in those eyes was amplified by something else that rang alarm bells in Sol's head. Sol snatched his hand back and looked above the shaggy head, his breath catching in his throat.

The man kept on blubbering even as Sol tied him to the rings on the wall, and he forgot words when Sol reached for the sledgehammer. The sight of this man crying triggered something in Sol's head, echoes of someone else's voice, V is for Victor, and Sol closed his eyes for a moment, gnashing his teeth. When it seemed the sobs would never subside, Sol finally opened his eyes and brandished the sledgehammer.

"Do you know why you're here?"

June 2011

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