Master – 9.1

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CHAPTER 9

It’s the last person I ever want to see – Ashley Dupont. My first real girlfriend. We dated through high school and the first two years in college, up until I got with Loretta. She’s also Loretta’s ex-best friend. And that’s a capital ‘X’.

“Are you… carjacking me?” she says in her typical high-pitched voice.

My gun hand won’t keep steady.

She blinks, then holds her pink nails out like an invisible plate rests on the top of her hand. “Like, for real?”

My blood boils. My adrenaline rushes. A realization has dawned on me – If I leave Ashley behind, she’ll be waiting to tell the authorities who I am and what I look like, not to mention the exact license plate number of her red mustang. I have to kidnap her. I aim at the diamond in her ear.

“Scoot over.”

“This is a jay-kay, right?” She looks around. “Some new reality show or something? Carjack your ex?”

The gun fires. We both jump. I accidently shot a bullet through her blonde hair and into her headrest.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Ashley scurries over to the passenger seat, then fastens herself in.

“Holy fuck, what is wrong with you! Don’t kill me!”

“No-”

“We were together for like, 6 years! What the fuck Phil!”

My arm is locked in the air, my eyes can’t stop blinking. I’m in disbelief – nearly killed my ex-girlfriend.

“You want the car? Me? What is it?!”

I shake my head, then cough and lower into the vehicle. My knees jam into the steering wheel, but I find the lever and scoot the seat back. I start the mustang, turn it around, then head for the Sheraton Inn. I let out a breath. Holy shit, I can’t believe I just did that.

“Where’s your phone?” I say.

“What’s going on? Are you gonna kill me?”

“Just give me the phone.”

“Did I do something? Why me?”

“The phone, Ashley.”

“Phil! You’re a criminal now? Why? What happened-”

“The phone goddammit!”

“It’s at home… Don’t kill me.”

I take a good look at her. She’s wearing a black mini skirt. Her legs are clamped together. “Take your phone out from under your skirt.”

“I told you, I left it at home.”

“I carjacked you. I’m not afraid to wrestle your legs apart.”

I can’t stop thinking about how close I came to cracking her skull open with a bullet. This sucks; every part of this sucks. I decide to give up on the phone thing. I’m a married man; the thought of touching Ashley inappropriately sickens me. Because I’m a married man and my wife is missing, not because I’m not attracted to her. Ashley is every man’s dream – she’s even better looking since I left her, in a materialistic sense. Her breasts perk up like they’re resting on an invisible shelf, and they’re twice as plump as they used to be. Plus now she’s got these big fisheyes like the Kardashians after applying ‘make-up contour techniques’. Ashley got work done, and the doctors knew what they were doing.

I hate every part of this. I hate that Loretta and Avery are in danger, and I hate that I’m on my way to a hotel where I’m supposed to kill whoever is in room 203. I don’t even know what I’m going to do when I get there.

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  • Thomas M. Watt

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Master – 7.2

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Master strolls over to his desk, then searches through the various drawers. “I need you to kill the man staying in room 203 at the Sheraton tonight. Sleep in his bed and wait for further instruction.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for…” He says, more absorbed by his search than our conversation. “Ah, here it is.” Master returns into view with his hand wrapped around the handle of a spoon. He holds the rounded tip up to his nose, then sniffs it.            “What?”

Master makes his way over to me, stops, then stares plainly into my eyes.

“What?” I say.

He places his thumbs on my temples. “I don’t think you’re half as handsome as she thinks.”

“As who thinks? What are you doing?”

Master stabs the blunt end of the spoon into my chest.

“Ah!” I scream.

He grinds it in until the pressure is enough to break through my skin and tear into my muscle. I rock my head back and scream. Master carves out a portion of my flesh, then digs in again. And again. The pain is real – I feel Master scrape out my chest, piece by piece, with the round tip of the silverware. He plucks out one chuck of flesh after another.

The pain from his endless digging only intensifies as more time passes. My eyes roll back in my head, and I shout in terror. So much blood splashes off my tongue I’m forced to shut my mouth to save my nose from the stench of it.

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  • Thomas M. Watt

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Master – 7.1

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CHAPTER 7

It’s raining this time. I can tell through the window. Down below I see the same trees and cars as last time. Sitting in the couch opposite my own is Master. My first instinct is to stand and charge him, then beat his ass to a pulp. But I can’t move any body part lower than my jaw – this dream belongs to Master. He scribbles in his notepad.

“Ever had your heart broken, Mr. Gordon?”

“Where are they?”

“Some say the emotional wrench of lost love far surpasses any harm that can be inflicted physically.”

“You have them, don’t you?”

Master stops writing. He folds his hands and sets his heel over his opposite knee. “Your wife and daughter have been kidnapped. They will be returned, alive and well, as long as you observe my instructions.”

“What are you? Who are you?”

“We discussed this already. I am Master.” He sets the notepad aside, then adjusts the square box glasses sitting over his nose. “Our meetings will take place in your subconscious, though the threats and demands I will make pertain to the real world. Your wife and child are mine, I told you this during our previous session together.” He rubs the tip of his index finger against his temple. “Tell me, Phillip, how would you react if the love of your life left you for another man?”

My teeth clench shut.

“Well?”

I breathe through my nostrils. “Return. My. Family.”

Master sighs, then traces his finger along his chin. “You are important to me, you know. If I am Morpheus, you are Neo.”

“You touch Loretta, I’ll end you.”

“Loretta and Avery will be returned to you, unharmed and intact, so long as you comply.”

“Lay a finger on either of them I’ll slit your god-damned throat.”

I breathe. I stare.

Master rises from his seat, then strolls around the room. His wrist swoops up imaginary snow as he talks.

“I don’t think you’re capable of saving your family, Phillip. That’s just me being honest, man to man. You might be big and strong, but underneath all that meat you’re nothing but a coward.”

My head rattles in place. He stands still and faces me.

“I’m inside of your mind, and all that surrounds us are your countless fears, troubles, and anxieties. You do not think you can save your family, not even for a moment. You plan to try, yes, but you don’t plan on succeeding. Oh, no, no, no. And it’s not the first time, either.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Football, Phillip. You quit. For so long you persevered, for so long you improved. But at some point along the journey, a realization occurred to you – you’re just not good enough, and never will be. The thought of failure doesn’t bother you; not in the slightest. You’re happy to walk around town as the loser you are. You hate success because it doesn’t match your personality. Failure, yes, that’s your comfort zone. And after your family is killed, and everybody is telling you how sorry they feel, you’ll be ecstatic deep down, your little secret between you and yourself – you lost; the side on which your personal preference resides during competition. You’ll be relieved to no longer concern yourself with providing financially for other humans beings. Gleeful that Loretta didn’t live long enough to leave you – and yes, she would have anyway. A woman like that deserves better than a failure like you.”

Master grins, then continues. “Loretta will be murdered before she can divorce you. Remind you of anything?”

I don’t respond.

“You quit before you had a chance to enter the NFL and become the wasted draft pick you knew you were bound to become. Just as comfortable as you are with that decision, so shall you one day be with the death of your family – with your inability to save them in time.”

He clicks his teeth together so I can hear them, half a dozen times, then speaks.

“I don’t understand why you failed to properly warn Loretta about our last therapy session. I told you I was going to abduct her.” He balls his hand into a fist, advances forward, then knocks his knuckles against the side of my head. “You could have prevented all of this, you know.” Master returns to his seat, crosses his legs, and taps his fingers on his kneecap. “Sheep would sooner follow the herd off the cliff then risk communal castration by reversing their direction.”

“I don’t care what anybody else thinks.”

“Of course not, you’re a loser. That’s what losers do; they accept their inability to contribute to the rest of mankind. You’re dead weight, lying down and covering your ears is what you do best. Allow others to step all over you, allow others to take the little you have. You don’t care, after all you’re content with just being ignored. You don’t care what others think because you know what they think: You’re an embarrassment – your entire town is ashamed of you. You, more than anybody, should have escaped this dung-ho community and made millions of dollars with all the fame and fortune a celebrated life entails.” Master breathes a laugh. “Pathetic. A miserable wash-up. Why did I pick you?”

“Why did you pick me?”

“Oh, oh-oh oh.” Master points his index finger at me, then stands again. “Now you’re asking the right question.”

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  • Thomas M. Watt

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Master – 6.1

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CHAPTER 6

My left hand chokes the steering wheel while my right sticks to my phone. I flip it open, push ‘send’ for Loretta, then wait. Voicemail. I ring again. I speed along the roadway. I’m not far from home, and I’ll see that white van coming a mile away.

“God, protect my family. God almighty, for the love of God protect my family.”

I don’t breathe. I’m locked on the road. I enter my neighborhood doing 50 plus. When I see him, it’s too late. Charlie – wearing the red-shirt, playing with chalk.

Now he’s drawing in middle of my street.

I press the brake pedal down, but I’m way too late. I rip back the parking brake – fumes from burnt rubber swarm my pick-up. I’ve veered right, straight for my neighbor’s oak tree. Charlie flees blind – and heads the same direction.

“No!”

I punch my horn and hold it down.

He watches me barrel toward him like a dumbfounded deer.

I crash.

Airbag deploys. Everything’s hazy. Blood and glass are everywhere.

Oak tree splits the front end of my truck. I wobble outside, then search my surroundings.

“Charlie? Charlie, are you okay?”

I’m dizzy; my brain is still bouncing. I don’t see his body anywhere. Then I hear crying. I turn to see –

“Oh my God.”

Hand to my chest. The kid dove into some bushes. If it weren’t for the tree, my Dodge pick-up would have obliterated him. He’s got a few twigs and thorns in his arms, but that’s it.

Charlie screams and goes running inside. I don’t blame him.

Tires screech. I turn around – the white van. It just turned onto my street. I see one roided-out driver, but his comrade from the passenger seat is gone.

“Loretta!” I scream. I pump my arms and race home. “Loretta!”

I reach my driveway. The van skids behind me and stops with a loud ‘bang’ against my garage door. I fly up the front porch and turn the door handle.

“Loret-”

Shotgun clicks from the monster holding it the second I shove the door open. He smiles, then stabs my neck with a syringe. A shooting pain enters my neck as I crumble to the floor. The injection comes from the man I saw in the passenger seat of the van – one with the cleft lip. He’s been standing here, waiting for me.

I’m too late.

I slip out of consciousness.

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  • Thomas M. Watt

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Master – 5.3

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“What kind of pansy-ass…”

It goes against everything I know about conduct with police officers, but I step out of my Dodge pick-up and walk over to the officer. He’s now sobbing uncontrollably.

“Easy.” I continue to creep carefully. “Hands up, don’t shoot!” I say with a laugh, hoping to get a rise out from him. He doesn’t even react.

I’m within feet of him now. His chin is in his chest as he looks downward at his gun. He’s shaking it erratically in his lap.

“Why don’t you put that gun back in its holster, Officer?”

“No, no. Everything is not alright!” He waves the gun as he screams.

I take a step back. I swear if he were any person besides a police officer, I’d grab that gun away from him.

“I can’t do this anymore, Phillip.” He says, then turns away.

My brain starts to spin, but then I realize he has my driver’s license. “Hey, relax, it’s okay.”

“No, it’s not. You won’t let me sleep, so what’s the point?”

“What?”

He points the gun at me. I dodge the shot by smacking his wrist with my forearm. I drop back a step then go sprinting toward a front lawn. Another gunshot rings out and I dive. I lie on my stomach with my hands on my head.

“Ahhh!”

I open my eyes and look up. The scream came from a little girl – she points at something behind me.

I whirl around.

“Jesus,” I say.

The police officer blew his own head off. Chunks of brain litter the pavement behind his bike, along with a fresh red pond.

Neighbors exit their homes. I have no idea what’s going on, but they won’t stop asking me. Then someone realizes there’s an officer down, and I’m the guy he pulled over.

“Stay there!” yells a middle-aged woman. She points a plunger at me.

“I can’t,” I mumble. “I didn’t, I don’t know what-”

A familiar ring – my cell phone, sitting in my driver’s seat. Loretta’s calling! I stand, sprint over, fling my dented door open, and rush to answer.

“Loretta!”

“Help.”

Call ended.

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  • Thomas M. Watt