“Oh… yeah, bring her in.”
“Loretta, come in now.” says Master.
I want to scratch my temple, but I’m having trouble lifting my arm. Loretta enters through the door. She sits in the sofa across from me.
“Babe, I didn’t know you came-”
Master interrupts. “It’s not just football, Phillip. It’s finances, it’s your inability to be a true ‘man of the house.’ Everyone thinks you’re a joke not because you never made it in football, but because you’re a loser in real life.”
“What kind of therapist-”
“I’m not your therapist, I’m your master.” He stops behind Loretta, and sets the canister of gasoline on her shoulder. “How many people will you kill to save your family?”
Master unscrews the canister. “Loretta and Avery are mine. Are you, or are you not, willing to kill to see them alive again?”
I take several breaths through my nose. “Move that gasoline away from my wife.”
“Answer the question, Phillip.”
“I’m not a man of violence… get that god-damn gasoline away from her!” I try to stand – my legs won’t budge.
Master pours gasoline onto Loretta’s head. I can’t do anything but listen to the ‘glup glup glup’ as he drenches her dark hair.
“My bet is, you are. Our actions often contradict our words.”
“What are you-” I want to charge him, but my back is stuck to the sofa, my feet are glued to the ground.
“Light it,” says Master, then tosses the lighter to Loretta.
It lands in her lap. She stares up at him and blinks, then turns to face me. She looks like a sick puppy dog.
“Do something baby,” she says.
“What’s going on?” I scream. “What is this, where are we?”
“Obey your Master, Loretta.” Master pulls a handgun out from his pocket. “Light it.”
“Baby I’m scared,” says Loretta.
“Why can’t I move!”
“Light it!” Master says. He loads the gun.
“Help me Phillip!”
Master reaches his arm long, then presses the barrel into Loretta’s temple.
Loretta and I meet eyes.
“Save me,” she says softly.
Master pulls the trigger. It clicks. No bullet comes out.
I wince my eyes closed, then return my view to my still-living wife and let out a breath. “Thank God,” I mutter.
Master opens the chamber, then seems disappointed to discover he’s out of bullets. He drops the gun on the ground, walks over to his desk, then opens the draw.
“What is going on here,” I say, calmly as possible. “Why can’t I move the rest of my body? When did you drug me?”
“Stop speaking.” He finds something in one of the draws of his desk that makes him smile– it’s a book of matches and a cigarette. He lights up.
“What are you doing?”
Master takes a seat, sniffs the cigarette, then frowns. “I need you to deliver a package for me.”
“You got it. Let us leave.”
Master grins at me. “Sounds lovely. I’m fond of that idea.”
He sighs. “Not practical though. Tell her you love her before you leave, you may never see her again.”
“What are you talking about?”
Master flicks the lit cigarette at Loretta.
“No!” I scream.
Flames engulf her from head to toe. Her skin melts like wax, her hair shrivels up like dry weeds. “Baby!” she says.
“I can’t move!”
The heat from the fire warms me. I smell my wife’s flesh burn away. My wife dies in agony before my eyes.
- Thomas M. Watt