Erik and Lena's Spooky Schoolyard Mystery
I've passed by this building hundreds of times while running errands, but I've never given it a second look. There has to be a dozen other buildings on this block that are also chained up and ready for the hammer of gentrification to fall.
Lena tugs at the padlocked chain holding the cyclone gate together. Someone forgot to loop the chain around, allowing a generous gap between fence sections if forced open. Lena looks back at me, disappointed that I didn't drop the parcel I'm carrying to give her a hand.
As much as I try not to, I still slip up. For a moment, I was preoccupied with the inconvenience of the task she gave me. The box is heavy and cold to the touch. The weight inside shifts awkwardly when I squeeze through the fence. It slides around, but it's solid.
"So, uh, what'd this used to be?" I ask, hoping I could glean the purpose of today's trip by asking.
"I think it was a convenience store, and the owner lived upstairs."
Her description certainly matches the looks. Downstairs, the inside is a mess of partially-dismantled shelving and shattered floor tiles. The first floor is even more inhospitable, with the apartment fully gutted down to the studs and rafters. A few tables and chairs remain for the benefit of the demolition crew. The dust we kicked up scratches my throat, and the midday heat is turning this place into an oven.
"There," she directs, as though she senses how tired my arms are getting.
I'm thankful, though I could have kept at it all day. I'm not a good beast of burden, but I don't willingly falter.
Besides, carrying a heavy box across town is hardly the hardest thing I've had to endure.
Lena opens her messenger bag and takes out a couple lengths of rough looking hemp rope, each two or three meters long. She takes one of them, grabs it with one hand, wraps once around her elbow, and starts winding the rope upon itself. I offer to lend a hand, but she swats me away. Whatever Lena's doing is something she doesn't yet trust me with.
I wish I could help her with more of the things she does. Lena and I have a symbiotic relationship. She endures a lot in her life, and I do what I can to alleviate her suffering. In return, she provides purpose. It doesn't look like much, but the services I provide are no less helpful than say, a parent protecting a child or a husband providing for his spouse.
Ah, I see what she's doing. It's a slip knot. I know what to do now. Lena tosses me the bundle of rope and I climb atop a table to drape the noose over a rafter.
"The ice," she says while pointing with her chin at the box we brought here. The sharp lines of her mask make for a very effective pointing device.
We've done things like this before, and I have an idea how it's going to play out, but it's not my place to presume to know what Lena wants and what Lena needs. Last time, we used a folding chair in the woods, and the time before that, a doorway and some linen. This time, she has me place the block of ice up on the table and stand on it. By now I'm perfectly comfortable placing a ligature around my neck, and I do so as if it's merely a necktie that I'm too lazy to tie more than once.
Lena pulls the rope taut enough to pull my slouching posture into anatomical correctness and anchors the other end against a bare wall stud. I can feel my head being pulled up by my chin ever so slightly.
The things I do, or have done to me for Lena, don't really hurt. As the mantra of battered wives goes, she's under a lot of stress, and she does so much for me. True, we don't really associate at school, or in class, or on weekends...
But that just distills our relationship into its most vital and basic gestures. When I see her around campus, however far, brief, or fleeting, I can feel her. I can tell when the world has been good to her that day, or if it's taken more than its fair share. Today, she's working through creative differences in the yearbook club. When it comes to work ethic and professionalism, Lena is on a whole different level from those slackers. I used to be a part of that club, like maybe I could be useful there. It didn't last long. I soon found that my place is here.
I could feel the stretch in every bit of me as my pedestal melts.
I do what I can for her, but we have to be careful. Last time our intimacy left a mark, it showed and I had to provide a reason for it. In the end, a troublesome classmate of mine was expelled for assaulting me. Lena was furious, but she knew I would protect her. My only regret is that the extra scrutiny kept us from consummating her rage.
Lena takes a chair across the skeleton of a room and starts playing around with the other rope. I wonder if she's really going to use that on me today after I'm done with the ice. Usually, once I black out, it's enough for her. Lena would let me down and I will have done my duty for her.
I wish we had more time alone. I imagine that she needs to see blood from time to time, but that's not always possible. While certain areas of the body heal faster than others, it's never quick enough to be truly invisible. Maybe it's better this way. Maybe squeezing the life out of me, slow and deliberate is a more intimate and soulful experience than violently slashing away at flesh.
Are those tears? Lena quickly shuffles behind me so I couldn't witness her weakness.
Is there more I could be doing for her now? Evidently not, as Lena's yanking my arms behind me. I could feel the hard, narrow embrace of nylon cable ties zipping my wrists into a tight X behind my back. She doesn't need to do that. I know not to do anything without permission.
She has me completely immobile and at her mercy. A lesser man would be panicking with coarse fibers of rope drawing him closer to hell with every sweltering minute, but I know better than that. My hands are tied and my life is literally hanging by a thread, but I am the most powerful person in this room. Without her whipping boy, Lena would self-destruct in no time. She'd lash out in ways that would have her be put away forever. Without me, Lena can't do anything.
She's back at the other side of the room again, standing on the chair fiddling with that extra rope she had before. She ties another noose, from another rafter, anchored to the wall facing me. She thinks I'm too comfortable as I am now. She knows that I know that she's going to cut me loose before gravity inflicts incriminating rope burns on my neck. So what's she got planned for me on the other side?
"You think you're so fucking smart," she growls.
She's putting the rope around her neck now. She's not going to do it. She holds herself in too high regard to degrade herself with threats of suicide.
"Manipulating me like that."
"What do you mean? What did I do?"
"You used me. You saw my weaknesses and you abused them."
"Abused them? I'm the one whose life is literally melting away because I let you."
"You're some sick fucker who thinks that just because I choke you once in a while that you're entitled to love."
"But you do love me, don't you?"
"I fucking hate you."
"That's okay. I can love for the both of us."
"I hate you so much."
Lena doesn't so much as fall off the chair as she does leap from it. She was probably hoping to get a quick and clean break but her muffled cries betray her sloppy technique. It's a pity that she engineered such a lovely end for me, yet she couldn't take care of herself. She really did need me, right to the very end.
Her face goes from pink to red to purple to blue as she stops twitching. It's a heartbreaking sight, seeing her expire while the tips of my toes still support me against the ice block. My turn is coming, but not soon enough. Out of everything she's done, forcing me to outlive her is the most grueling torture of all. But I will embrace the minutes I have left.
I will endure. I will love.
No longer an active MS developer; I'm just here for the memes
I did make a yuri game called Highway Blossoms