Michael stood in front of the mirror once again. As he opened his vest, a tear trickled down his cheek followed by the same contempt that had taunted him since he could remember. The bruises on his chest, the cigarette burns on his shoulders and the cuts on his entire torso that had healed long ago but never emotionally. The marks were a constant reminder, a disfigured image of the memory of his mother, a mother that loved him in a way no mother loves her child and never should. After all these years, he could still feel the whip lashings on his back and the cigarette burns felt so fresh. His hair never grew past a certain length and all his efforts remain unsuccessful to change his lean physique, all that makeup which are the lipstick and the mascara, turning him into something monstrous. He needed change.
He still remembers the day his father died. All familiar yet unwanted faces smirking all around, a look of pity in their eyes, all dressed up in black gathering around his father’s coffin. He was just seven. He knew something was wrong, but never realized that he would not see his father ever again. As the last grains of sand filled his grave, it started raining ponderously and as everyone around was busy opening their black umbrellas and running back to their cars, that is when he first noticed the look on his mother’s face, standing in the rain and unaware of the water drenching her. The look, dull, yet cadaverous, staring at him, down the stretch of the graveyard.
Michael, being a short and lean kid, had always been the subject of bullying at his school. His home and his parents were the only sense of relief and safety that he could expect. A week after his father’s death, as he came out after a bath, after returning from school, his mother was waiting for him in his room, that same look on her face and a set of clothes neatly parted on the bed beside her. As he went near her, he saw that it was a frock, a little girl’s pink frock.
“Michael, from today, you will not be a boy anymore. You’ll be my pretty little girl. See, isn’t this dress beautiful? I’ve got some makeup for you as well, I’ll make you pretty.”
“But mommy I don’t want to wear this dress. I’m a boy.”
“Don’t you defy me you little brat. You’re not a boy anymore. Your name is Mikaela from now.”
As she finished the sentence, Michael felt a hard blow on his chin and immediately blood spurted out of his mouth. Unable to say anything and terribly scared of the woman in front of him, Michael slipped out of his pyjamas and put on the dress. His mother caressed his cheek, and then held his face tightly and embalmed his lips with the cherry-red lipstick she never wore. The mascara that she had put on his eyelashes was starting to smudge and irritate his eyes that were all teary, not just from the mascara but the oppression.
“There. My Beautiful little daughter Mikaela.”
Michael remembered every slap, every blow and every whip. The scars spoke for themselves, and as he was driving the dagger into her heart, he didn’t flinch even once. As his mother looked at his face above hers, she could feel the life corroding out of her body, but the fact that had grasped her even before she was collapsing, was Michael’s expressionless face, not even the hint of a frown on his face.
She knew. She had created a monster, she had turned an innocent child into an emotionless killer, but she wouldn’t have time to reflect back to it. As the dagger plunged her heart and punctured it, she felt an astounding pain, and then there was nothing but darkness.
“Please let me go. What have I ever done to you? Please don’t kill me. Please.”
Blood was pumping through her veins. Her face all flushed and blackened from the blows that she had incurred in the parking lot of her office. Sara had seen a white minivan around a few times that week, a minivan without a number plate but a silhouette of a long-haired woman painted on its side. The thought that she was being followed had crossed her mind a few times but, she had almost forgotten about it given her hectic schedule. She just remembered a man with a well-built body and a masked face before she was knocked out. She wished she had taken the minivan more seriously.
Sara was in an old warehouse. A lot of machines and tools all around. It seemed like they hadn’t been used for ages. Her wrists were shackled to a wooden platform behind her head, much like Jesus’ crucifix. Her legs were stretched apart and chained to the floor. Her shirt was torn apart from the top, dangling like a scarf from her waist. Her face hurt like it had been hammered. As she saw him approaching, her heart began to race, the adrenaline rush made her try heartily to free herself from the chains, but futilely. His face was not covered anymore. Sara lifted her head to take a look at the abductor’s face — closely cropped hair, no hint of a beard or a stubble but a tinge of green from the regular use of aftershave, the eyes deep-set, sunken but an unusual glimmer in them, lips redder than usual, but, what made him more intimidating was the scar across his left cheek, from the ear to the where the jaw drops. As he approached close enough, a shriek came out of Sara’s parched mouth. She was in tears once again.
“Why do you want to kill me? I have a lot of money, I can give you whatever you need.”
Michael burst into laughter. His unusually shrill voice throbbing in Sara’s head. Suddenly, the expression on his face changed. A cold look on his not-so-manly face.
“Money? When have I ever needed money? Don’t worry Mikaela will not let you die in vain. She’ll honour every part of you.”
Michael reached the toolbox on the other end of the room. He carefully searched among the tools and took out a hacksaw and set out to approach Sara once again. As soon as Sara saw the hacksaw in his hand, the horrified look on her face made him smile, the fear in her nerves gave him unprecedented satisfaction. She was his first victim. The room was now resonating with Sara’s broken yet shrill voice. He held her head with his left hand firmly and drove the hacksaw near her forehead.
Fresh blood oozed out of her head, and as she struggled, he let go of her head and dealt a heavy blow to her belly. She was quiet now and although the pain was excruciating, her consciousness seemed to flutter. Her lips trembled as furiously as her legs. Michael carefully held her head again and skinned the scalp out of her head. In awe of the smoothness of her hair, he didn’t notice that Sara had stopped trembling. He slapped her a few times. There was no response. She was dead and that familiar pleasure that he had felt when he plunged the dagger into his mother’s heart, dawned upon him again. Michael picked up the hacksaw once again and started skinning her from above her breasts that were plump, yet small like that of a teenage girl’s. He drove the hacksaw till he reached her diaphragm, careful enough to not ruin the skin of the skinned out part. All the blood that spurted all over his body, his face and hands, made him feel calm and pleasant.
“No! This is a blasphemy.”
Michael let out a shriek. He was standing in front of the mirror once again. He was disappointed how Sara’s breasts made him look as he had hooked the skin to his back with large safety-pins. They looked like those that mannequins in the shopping malls had. He drew out the pins immediately and threw away the skin feet away. However, he realized that the first step to resurrect Mikaela was done. Her scalp fits perfectly on his head, her hair fell over his shoulders perfectly. The beautiful blond colour of the hair, although stained in blood looked glorious on him.
In the midst of all this, he didn’t notice the bulge in his trousers. When he did, a sense of nausea dawned upon him and he felt that he had to do something about it. Not even hesitating once, he slipped down his pants and used the hacksaw on himself. As he looked at the blood puddling beneath his feet, he realized that Mikaela still needed a lot of work. His art was incomplete. He had to kill again. He had to make Mikaela the perfect woman, as his mother would have wanted. He had to make her the perfect wardrobe of clothes as well. As soon as he managed to stop the bleeding, he looked at the second photo on the work-board and smiled. Amanda. A beautiful red-head. A voluptuous physique.
Michael masked himself as a lady, a blonde beautiful lady in search of a flat. He collected all the documents and searched for the flat where Amanda lives- 12 Hardrock Plaza, Winchester, Virginia. He bought a flat and made it home. He decorated it with dark paintings, he had made a secretive room that was hidden behind the closet, where he would keep his weapons safely. The closet had a password that wasn’t quite easy to decode. He now looked for a job and worked as a salesperson. After a hectic day, he was drained and was almost in a state of prostration and was sweating like a pig. As the lift opened, and he entered inside, all his fatigue was gone.
He finally found the redhead. He gave her a warm smile. She smiled back. Since Michael seemed to be a lady for the world, it was quite easy for him to get into gossips with other women and Amanda like every other woman was affable enough to be friends with her flatmates. They exchanged numbers, got in touch and became quite good friends. Michael now wanted more information about Amanda and ensured that he could be a salient part of her life. So he started visiting her house every day and they became used to a brief exchange of talks as they sipped hot tea every evening.
Amanda, a mother of twins who was sent to a boarding school just after she had a divorce with her husband. She was a well-trained spy. She was well aware of the camouflage and secrecy of espionage. Amanda kept her identity undercover. She had layers and not even a single person could yet figure out that she was a spy. Amanda addressed herself as a teacher.
Michael didn’t ask much about the school that she taught in, but asked, “Well, then I have many lessons to learn from you. Mind giving me tuition?”
Amanda laughed, “What kind of lessons do you want to learn?”
“Maybe some specific recipes first since I can’t cook.”
“Are you kidding? You have a home of your own, you work your ass off throughout the day and you are saying that you can’t even cook?”
”Trust me, why do you think I come to your place for tea? I don’t even know how to make tea.”
“Oh! You’re hilarious! I’ll teach you that. Making tea is everyone’s cup of tea.”
And she started teaching it. She asked Michael to try and she observed his hands carefully, she was sure that it was, by no chance, a man’s hand. She was acquainted with the fact that there was something very fishy and she had to figure it out. Now, Amanda was quite curious to know that why would someone hide their gender. She had her own ways to figure that out.
She immediately asked, “Hey! I’d like to visit your home, I’ve never been there.”
Michael smirked and replied, “Yes, why not? After all, you’re my good friend. Do come to 14A, tonight!”
“I’ll be there.”
Michael sensed that Amanda might have got a hint that he’s not what he pretends to be. So, he decided to kill her that night and planned everything. The doorbell rang at sharp 7:00 pm.
“Hey, Mikaela”, she hugged him tightly.
“Hey! Come in! Make yourself at home.” Amanda noticed a very weird thing about the interior decorations.
There were two paintings which were exactly similar, all were red in colour and every painting was connected to each other with a thread saying, “You’re next.”
Amanda slurped her saliva down her throat that was choking in fear. “What are these paintings? Why are they red in colour?”
Michael whispered in her ears, “Its blood, Dear. It’s made from the blood of the two victims that were murdered by me. Soon, there will be another painting with your blood.”
As Michael tried to slit Amanda’s neck with a blade, Amanda quickly fractured his ribs with her elbow. Michael had never encountered a woman like this before. Before Michael could take his next step, Amanda punched him hard on his nose and kicked him on his genitals. Michael fell to the floor immediately;
Almost fainted and paralyzed, he asked, “Who are you?”
“Amanda Stone. A Spy. Funny that you could think of befooling me with your fake appearance and behaviour, Mr Michael, a serial killer if I am not wrong? Oh, and yes, I do know that you killed two people- your mom and another lady. And you don’t really live here. You migrated here to kill me.”
“This can’t be true.”
“Sad for you! There are a loser and a winner in a game, and also sometimes there’s a draw. But in my games, there’s no draw. There’s nothing in between. I always win.
So Mr Not-So-Smart-Killer, you’re under arrest. Good luck with spending the rest of your life in misery behind the bars.”
Three years later Paolo was the perfect boyfriend Amanda could have ever dreamed of. He was the guy she always wanted. David never kept her as happy as Paolo could. He always knew what was on her mind. He made sure that she never had to stress herself over anything. The best part was that the kids loved him as much as he loved them. David never had time for the twins, forget about Amanda. But David was never this heartless man which time eventually made him. Amanda still remembered how they met on a rainy day waiting for the bus. He was this tall lean corporate worker, whose face reflected how much of a monotonous life he was trapped in. That day, she still could recall, how he kept on stealing glances at her. It was funny, that somehow she liked those innocent glances he stole. Maybe that is why she was bold enough to slip in her number into his hand just before she got on the bus.
It seemed like yesterday that he had asked her out. She had been in a different world that day. Her heart knew only one name, David! After a year of courtship, he had finally asked her for marriage. After this, there was no turning back. The twins were born after 2 years of marriage. David had been so happy. Amanda was living the life many dreamed about.
But dreams do not last long. And hers had to break the day she caught him fooling around with his boss, Cindy. After 6 long years, their marriage had to end. She got full custody of Judy and Ruth. He never even tried contacting them. No not even the kids.
She later heard that he had eventually married Cindy. It didn’t matter to her anymore. She was hurt enough that nothing could ever hurt her making her as hard as stone, in the process. After transferring the kids to Nape, she herself joined the FBI as a spy, all these while working efficiently in every case. Many times her co-workers tried to hit on her, but they all were rebuffed by her. She was given the nickname “The stone heart”.
But Paolo was the only one who had the ability to make her stone cold heart light up with love and warmth. After she caught Michael, he was sent to a secret mental asylum in a far-off island, and she decided to give a permanent halt to her career as a spy, as the encounter with Michael had drained her of all her energy. She now just wanted to be somewhere far with her kids. And hence she left her job, took her kids to Colmar in France far away from anyone to start life afresh. She started a small cafe there. She just made enough to keep herself and her kids lead a moderately comfortable life.
It was in her cafe that she finally met the love of her life, Paolo. She was so sceptical of him at first. But he made his way into her heart. And now she finally knew he was the one for her. She made him go through a lot of tests. Well, she was a spy after all. She had many enemies. She had to be doubly sure of what she was doing. And after two years of making him go through all kinds of shit, she finally agreed to his proposal.
“Hey, amour. Where are you? Weren’t you supposed to pick the kids up?”
“Amanda, I’m already here. I will be taking them to my house today. You join me as soon as you’re done ok? Je t’aime! (I love you)”
“Okay, Je t’aime aussi. (I love you too)”
Finally, Amanda could see the perfect life she always wanted. Entering her porch, she collected the newspaper. She had the entire afternoon to herself. The kids were at Paolo’s and she had decided to take the day off from the cafe in order to have this day to herself.
“I guess I will go get a long shower and then cook some lunch and read the newspaper,” she muttered to herself. As soon as she left the shower, she felt something was different about her house. She quickly wore her clothes and cautiously took small steps towards the kitchen. Somebody was in her kitchen. It was a lady. She was cutting chicken. Amanda got scared as to who the lady was and what was she doing there in her house. She picked up the first thing her hand could find. As she was almost about to hit the lady, the lady caught hold of Amanda. Amanda’s eyes got filled with fear and she turned pale when she saw the lady’s face.
At Paolo’s house
“Where is Mommy?” Judy kept on asking.
“She will be here soon sweety.”
Paolo knew how much the kids were attached to their mother that they couldn’t stay away from her for long. After 2 hours he finally was able to put the girls to sleep. He sat on the couch, took his cell phone, texted Amanda to come over as soon as she could. He took the newspaper lying beside him.
“Psycho cross-dressing serial killer escapes highly secured mental institution”, read the headlines.
“Coming honey! Open the door. I’m waiting,” came a reply from Amanda.
A slight knock was heard at the door, and a masculine lady stood on the other side of the door!
– Prajjwal Kundu
– Deeksha Chowdhury
– Rituparna Majumder
– Oindrilla Mazumdar