I watch from the shadows as he opens his eyes. It takes a few seconds before I’m able to recognize the confusion on his face and a few more before fear takes over. His fingers twitch but he’s unable to move his hands because of the cages I’ve fitted over them.

It doesn’t take long for him to realize that his fingers, eyes, and mouth are the only parts of his body able to move. He can’t see it, but the modular body cage and straps I attached to the padded table keeps him completely immobile. It’s not very pretty to look at but it took months to construct and I’m proud of the final result.

“Good morning, ” I say cheerfully as I move to the table, next to his head. I lean over so he can more clearly see my face. “I hope you slept well. Are you comfortable? Nothing pinching, I hope.”

His eyes grow wide and then narrow. He says a few words but the thick strap of leather covering his face from just under the nostrils to the middle of his chin prevent anything but muffled sound from reaching me.

“I would say I’m sorry about the restraints but that would be a lie. You were always very keen on honesty. ‘Real men always tell the truth.’ You were fairly selective on when you’d follow that maxim but since I’m a real man and it’s what you said you wanted, that’s what I’m going to give you. Here’s the truth: I plan to hurt you very badly. I want you to know what’s coming and I want you to know that I’ll be the one to say when it will stop. You have no control here. You will lie still and wait for me, night after night, day after day. You will be dependent upon me for everything and it will be up to me to decide whether I feel like providing.” I’m surprised by the coldness I hear in my voice.

The unintelligible words have been replaced by whimpers. I lean farther over his face, our noses are touching now. “You may have found God and believe that He’s given you absolution but I certainly haven’t forgiven you. You can dwell in His house after you die, but until then, you’re mine.”

I move away and grab the metal folding chair I had been sitting on while waiting for him to wake and drag it noisily to the head of the table. “I want to show you some of the toys we’ll be using to pass our time together.”

I’ve got an assortment of items that will bring back plenty of old memories for us both. I scan over the cigar, lighter, and dildo before I decide. I double the thick leather belt and bring it down hard against his bare legs. The crack of the leather and the cry of pain bring a smile to my face.

“Welcome to your new home, Dad.”

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“Thank you for calling. This is Sheila, how can I help you?” I don’t really want to help but that’s what we have to say. Honestly, I don’t want to speak to anyone at all. I had a terrible night and I know that everyone who’s taken a moment to glance at my face would have noticed my swollen, bloodshot eyes.

It’s nearly 9:30 and the noise level in the open workspace has increased considerably. There’s always more chatter on a Monday morning. Everyone catching up with each other about what they did over the weekend. I don’t participate and hope no one asks me to join in. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional small talk with co-workers, it’s that I haven’t got anything I want to share. I spent the past two days arguing and defending myself against claims of infidelity. As if anyone would even want to have an affair with me. I’m 53 years old, overweight, and haven’t been called pretty once in my life. But Jeff would hear none it. A few texts from some stupid man who had the wrong number but wouldn’t stop with the sexually explicit messages – even though it was clear that he had the wrong person – seemed to be all the proof he needed. His paranoia has been growing since being laid off and I’m beginning to fear for my safety. He’s never been violent before but he’s changed so much.

I’m still listening to the caller ramble on about her billing problem when there’s a loud bang near the reception area and the conversation around me ceases immediately. Another booming sound reverberates around the us. Then I see him. Jeff, his eyes wild and his face red, is steadily making his way toward me. He hasn’t said a word but is scanning the room, like he’s looking for someone in particular.

I am completely unable to do anything besides watch as he turns to his left, brings the shotgun to his shoulder, and shoots Paul in the face. The group of women he had been with scream and drop to the floor.

“Was it him, Sheila?!” He’s not looking at me when he shouts but, instead, moves to the right a few steps where Carl is still seated behind his desk. Jeff raises the gun again and I can see the back of Carl’s head explode.

I jump to my feet as he’s reloading, pulling shells from the pocket of his black parka. “It’s no one, Jeff! I told you! There is no one. Please, dear God, please stop!”

And he does stop. He stops, looks me in the eyes, and aims the shotgun at me. “You fucking whore.” He says it quietly, calmly, and I can barely hear him.

Without lowering the weapon, he marches up to the front of my desk and presses the barrel to my forehead. It’s still hot.

“Whore, ” the word reaches my ears a split second before the blast.

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