Witch Burning

NOTE: This story contains mature subject matter and may offend some readers. Discretion is advised.

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Witch Burning

By L.L. Ballack

 

 

 

“It’s worth more than your life,” I said.

He stood there holding a hammer, a huge sneering grin on his face, the battered carcass of my computer’s hard drive haemorrhaging a blood more lifelike than my own.

“People like you should have their fucking balls cut off.”

“I’ll kill you!” I screamed. “I’m telling you – I’ll kill you!”

He sneered at me again.

“I’m not old enough, am I? You haven’t got the nerve to put your hands on a grown-up.”

Alright, so I confess: I’m a delinquent – of sorts. I prefer to put myself in the Nabokovian category of nymphet admirers, but I accept the world beyond the page is a harsher judge of my indiscretions. To many, I’m just a plain old nonce.

“You have no idea what you’ve done, have you?”

I could feel my face reddening with anger; my veins pulsing as though they were about to burst.

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’ve just smashed up a load of kiddy porn.”

It was at precisely this point – foreman of the jury; m’lud – that I realised I would become a killer. Be clear, though, this was no murder; no homicide; no malice aforethought. It was no worse than squashing an ant with the sole of a plimsoll.

“It’s my computer!” I screamed, emphasising the object with the zeal of an unrepentant heretic. “You’ve no idea what you’ve fucking done!”

“I’ve just pissed off a paedo who owes me a debt.”

Then he tapped the hammer menacingly into the palm of his hand, like some cartoon rodent about to smash the head of his feline oppressor. For in that moment, it was clear to me who the rodent really was.

“You didn’t receive the money, because the product was substandard.”

He tapped the hammer into his palm again.

“I don’t give a shit. You want eight year-old girls tied to your bed, you pay for them you sick cunt. It’s not my fault they fucking scream.”

Don’t be fooled by his cant; his earthy sanctimony. He’s no better than the most pious slave trader, exonerating himself through empty deference to God Almighty.

“The computer is replaceable,” I said. “The memory on the hard drive, however, has no price adequate for compensation of its loss.”

Again, the despicable Caliban sneered.

“Do you speak English?”

“Indeed, I do. Yet I fear fault for the incomprehensibility of my words does not rest with me.”

The atmosphere, suddenly becalmed, still had an air of the faintly surreal. It was as though, at any moment, awareness of our predicament could spark the most violent of denouements. But, thus, for a second it was a mere trifle over clarity of expression.

“What the fuck are you talking about, you fucking–.”

Then he went for me, hammer and all. Fascinating, I feel, looking back, that he was prompted towards barbarity, not by moral objection, but by the wound to his vanity. The power of the hammer, it seemed, was no substitute for an education.

“Cretin,” I hissed, ducking towards the fireplace.

He stumbled clumsily beside the coffee table and took a while to regain his balance. I wasn’t sure which ought to take a greater share of the blame for his mal-coordination: alcohol or stupidity.

“You owe me a fucking grand,” he insisted, baring his yellowed teeth.

“Bear with me,” I replied, the irony of my tone perceptible only to myself. “Just give me your account details and I’ll organise an immediate electronic transfer.”

“Are you taking the piss?”

“Indeed, no. Yet I shall have to ask your permission to temporarily waive the tariff so that I might pre-invest in a brand new computer.”

For all my frivolity in the face of mutilation, death, extinction, what have you – for he had made another gesture with the hammer by this time – I felt no fear; no affinity with the humdrum mechanics of my demise. I was hardly myself by then, anyway.

“One more sarky comment and I’ll fucking finish you off.”

“But what about the grand?” I replied, unable to hide my relish at the feeble man’s deadlocked arm wrestle with inadequacy. “Surely my shattered cranium is no substitute for a thousand pounds.”

He twitched rather obviously. Aware that his discomfort revealed more of himself than he cared to let me see, he sought an immediate rebalancing of the power dynamic by smashing to pieces the Rembrandt above the mantelpiece. A feeble man with a brittle ego and a psyche twisted beyond recognition: he could well have passed for a portrait by the Dutch Master, so decrepit were his frozen features in that moment.

“Give me the fucking money,” he hollered ever more erratically.

“As I said, dear boy, the money does not yet exist in physical form. Presently, it floats somewhere in the ether; no more than binary numbers and bleeps.”

More twitching; more idle threats of a skull-bashing.

“You make me fucking sick!”

I detected, within the eye of this emotional hurricane, that there was something static about his discomfort.

“We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

The question was, of course, meant metaphorically. Indeed, for all the man’s cognitive flaws, he seemed to know precisely what I meant.

“Fuck off,” he replied through quickening breaths.

“No, your face looks terribly familiar.”

“Fuck off!”

By this time, I was certain of it. I can spot that cancerous vulnerability a mile off. I’m something of an expert, wouldn’t you say? It’s not a matter of cruelty on our part; merely one of convenience. It simply makes them easier prey. No different from a lion stalking a gazelle until it tires itself out.

“What’s your name?”

His eyes filled with tears and he tried to wipe them away by smashing the decanter on the dresser.

“Fuck off! Fuck off!”

“You do have a name, don’t you?”

I added a note of patronising discernment, sensing the scales of the dynamic tipping in my favour.

“I’m not telling you,” he blubbed.

I’ve come across such tears many a time. At first, they seem to take the form of resistance, until you realise it is but the mere draining of clarity from their souls.

“You don’t deserve a name,” I mocked.

“Fuck off!”

Then he destroyed the candelabra.

“You don’t deserve a name,” I repeated.

Again, he made his feelings clear in the vernacular. It was all a matter of survival on my part, you understand? Unlike the more sadistic predators of my kind, I endeavour to have some sympathy with my prey. Indeed, they do not choose their fate; it is merely thrust upon them by a moral order beyond their comprehension. Never once, I must add, had I wilfully drawn blood, although, I must confess, there were one or two occasions when my exuberance was met with complications.

“Give me the fucking money,” he sobbed, retching at some memory.

“A thousand pounds will be no use to a piece of shit like you.”

Still, he sobbed. I had almost chiselled through the wall of the hammer, if such an image makes sense to you.

“I hate you. I hate you.”

Indeed, I had little doubt his words were true, for I felt the same such hostility towards his existence. We share a common feature, the predator and the prey. For if we were ships at sea, the prey would be a deserted schooner in a storm; the predator, a frigate bereft of a captain due to a mutinous crew. We are not bound by opposition – one the master; the other the slave – but by similarity. We are merely pieces in a kaleidoscope settling after the flux: the predator is the yin to the prey’s yang.

“You have no idea what you’ve done,” I went on. “That hard drive contained my life; my art. A miserable animal like you hasn’t the capacity to understand the sanctity of –.”

He sobbed a little harder.

“Give me the fucking money.”

“The money won’t make a difference, you disgusting little creature. You can’t buy your way out of your worthless, failed existence.”

Then, something peculiar: he crossed his arms across his face, as though defending himself from a devastating blow. And him with the hammer still in his hand! By Christ, the stifled sobs of an eight year-old girl fill me with less pity than this degenerate.

“Get away from me.”

He was barely coherent by this stage; huge streaks of phlegm were dribbling from his mouth.

“But it’s my house,” I replied. “You forced your way in here, you little maggot. It’s my house; my computer; my hard drive.”

I placed the emphasis on the personal pronoun. They don’t like that: the chief reason being the sense of identity is so weak inside them, the mere sniff of it in their oppressor fills them with the most dreadful feeling of emptiness.

“Fucking…get away…Fucking–.”

“You sicken me! Do you hear?! You sicken me!”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Sorry isn’t good enough.”

“Don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.”

More sobs; more quivering.

“That computer hard drive contained more life than you’ll ever live in a thousand years of existence.”

I took the poker from the fireplace and gave him a gentle prod in the ribs.

“Please,” he begged.

“You didn’t just destroy my hard drive, you odious little worm. You eliminated years and years of work; of philosophy; of experience; of–.”

“Leave me alone.”

Again, I poked him in the ribs.

“You don’t understand, do you? They aren’t just girls in those videos; they’re the subjects of a higher art form. Their value is not in the physical or human, but in their application to the craft. And now you’ve gone and destroyed all fucking record of it.”

Then the wretched creature vomited all over the Persian rug. If ever I sought a metaphor for the aesthetic vulgarity of his ilk, that was it.

“Get away from me,” he spluttered, barely coherent.

I was just about to launch another spear of invective at him, when his phone fell out onto the floor. I lashed at his kidneys with the ends of my foot, the memory of my nymphets still fresh in my mind.

“No,” he begged, as I snatched the phone from his feeble claws.

“Is that terror in your eyes?” I mocked. “What on earth could you be so frightened of?”

The answer was plain for all to see. Like many of our kind, he started out not as the perpetrator but as the perpetrated.

“Don’t–.”

“Let me see. Ah, yes! Here we are. Recent videos. Clever boy! Password encrypted.”

“No.”

“Come on, out with it.”

I made sound use of the poker, prodding and jabbing until he gave me the password. Alas, the pretty boys in the moving images could well have been him, prior to the end of his innocence. Indeed, Beauty and the Beast have far more in common than you might imagine.

“Good Lord,” I said looking at the video, doing something of a double take. “Now I hardly think you’re in any position to take the high ground.”

The pathetic wretch was sobbing himself beyond coherence now.

“Urrgh!” he choked, as if struggling to overcome a heavy cold.

“Yes, ‘urrgh’ indeed. Now, if I may say so, this is rather rich by anyone’s standards, even those of a connoisseur such as I. You really are a broken tool, aren’t you?”

As if by way of bringing that humdrum simile beyond the realms of symbolism, I took the hammer from his hand and tossed it into the fire.

“Now then,” I said, crouching down. “What are we to do about this fascinating revelation?”

I pointed at the boy in the video. His sobs were mirrored by those of his oppressor. The wretched man could barely stomach the sight of what he’d done. Do not be fooled: this was no pang of conscience, merely a slight confusion over the parameters of pleasure and suffering.

“No,” he repeated. “Please, no.”

“If I were you, I’d break off these ugly chains of self-disgust as soon as. It won’t do; it simply won’t do.”

I had a quick peek at the other treasures he had stashed in his cave. Not my cup of tea, by any stretch. He has a fetish of the choirboy variety;I incline towards nymphets.

“Stop! Please stop!”

“You can’t stop, can you? That’s entirely the point.”

“Smash it up,” he begged. “Please, just fucking smash it up.”

“What good would that do?”

“Get rid of it. Just fucking get rid of it. Please!”

Even in desperation, I’m fairly sure the pitiful creature knew his pleas were in vain. He had fallen deep into a well of self-loathing, his legs broken beyond repair.

“You ought to be exterminated,” I said. “Like the rodent you are, you ought to be wiped off the face of the earth.”

Cue more sobs.

“Please.”

“No, not a rodent. A parasite. Yes, that’s precisely what you are. A leech; a tapeworm. You’ve been buried deep in the gut of humanity and now you’re tearing it apart from the inside.”

“Stop.”

“I’m not finished with you yet.” I took the poker in my hand to reiterate the point. “You see, now I understand why some of my acquaintances gain so much pleasure in taking their proclivities to the final extreme. Once the subject has served its purpose, it has no real value. It becomes damaged goods; no use to anyone. And you, yes: you’re a prime example. Look at what you’ve turned into. It would have been far better had your oppressor – No, let’s not call him that. Let’s call him your—-creator. Well, why not? I mean, that’s precisely what he did, isn’t it? He made you into something. And look at what he made you into! Dear God! You’ve shown me the light; you really have. Things are going to be very different from now; very different indeed.”

And, thus, I confess, that was the moment the deed was done, with a propitious collaboration between the tip of the poker and the roaring flames of the fire. I didn’t make him suffer for too long, straight for the jugular, so to speak. I gained no pleasure from his death, merely satisfaction that philanthropy had been accomplished. For, as I said, the despicable creature taught me something important. No doubt I, myself, must share some of the blame. God knows, I must have created scores of girls – women by now, I would presume – who have been scarred by the blade of my pleasures.

The mere thought of it fills me with horror, that I myself was somehow responsible for the destruction of my own work. It wasn’t simply the loss of the hard drive; the ruination of my art; my nymphets! No, it was worse than that. It was an altogether sicker aberration on the heart of mankind. Like witches, they cast their spells over first one then two, then maybe three or four. Then, before you know it, entire villages are damned by the wickedness of their sorcery. That is why they must be burned, starting with the present corpse, soon after I have divided it into parts more accommodating to my log burner. And then what follows? A nymphet is coming here at eight o’clock; a fresh one at that, as yet untainted by the artist’s brush. I must keep the fire roaring. God knows what kind of monster she’ll turn into if I don’t.

END