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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Horror Story

A Life for a Life
Barbara Jane Mackie

You are staring into the eyes of a Murderer and that Murderer is staring back at you. My story? How do I tell you my story, a story so dark and undignified that it has only started to float up into my consciousness from that sad place of secrets where it has been festering, locked up, a crippled prisoner in chains, for thirty years? How can I share the story of a murder of an innocent so sweet, a mere baby and beginner in life, and a life, which I, a vile and shameful Murderer, ended so brutally?

Holland, 1970. A seaside village, Bergen-aan-Zee. A holiday of sorts. Myself, just thirteen, my older sister and my parents. It was summer, the sky a portentious grey, the weather heavy, the clouds troubled. We were staying in the house of a Dutch Painter of some renown and his gloomy canvases adorned the house, hollow eyed witnesses to some ghastly act of violence staring at us from every room. The local coffee bars, where my sister and I were occasionally allowed, was full of bearded hippies, hunched over mugs of coffee, smoking, depressed.

No fun there for this mischievious, thirteen year old kitten-cat. My father, the ‘great writer’, firmly on his pedestal, typing up a script, locked up in some distant attic. My mother, kindly but absent and my sister, at sixteen, gloomy in her self-absorbed world that I was not allowed to enter. I was curious, wanting to know about life, wanting to know about boys, wanting to know about … everything.

My mother shouted up brightly to our bedrooms: ‘Plenty of good books here, girls! Are you both reading?’.
I was reading indeed: not the version of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ my sister had flung at me, but a copy of ‘The Joy of Sex’ by Alex Comfort. Comfort indeed! If I were to spend this hell-a-day lonely under my quilt, I would enter a dark, delicious world of sexual delight and nervously fingered self-knowledge. The bearded men of this book, frowning with intent as they positioned their naked female counter-parts, would become my lovers, the willing women in these sketches, (all strangely compliant) my teachers. I would learn sexual positions, I had never dreamed of! Bliss!

One problem, or two or three problems, scratching at my door, tumbling in to scatter-gun my precious first steps of sexual exploration, were a group of tiny kittens we had been entrusted to look after by our Dutch hosts.

Now, dear Members of the Jury, this Guilty-as-Accused teenager who stands before you, had never committed a murder before. I had never been a teenager before that Dutch holiday either. I was a kitten myself, don’t you see? An innocent who was about to take the life of an innocent. A paradoxical position indeed. Maybe this could be taken into account before you judge me, stare at me coldly and deliver your final verdict?

One certain kitten, my favourite (most Murderers know their ‘victims’) a streaky grey tabby, the cutest little thing, would escape my wrath as I banged the floor loudly with a nearby broom. This would cause the other kittens to scatter, but this kitten, so brave, with it’s inquisitive slate blue eyes, it’s perfect markings, a pale pink button of a nose … oh, I should stop?

As I relate this act so deliberate, so brutal, which has torn up my insides like a festering cancer, I can barely force myself back to the memory of the sickening ‘thwack’ as the door broke that kitten’s neck. For one split second, I lost all morality and the earth stood still, and, writhing under my quilt, I experienced explosion. A curious pause in the steady ‘thud-thud’ of my Father’s typing upstairs in the attic. Perhaps he realised that his ‘kitten’ had now become a ‘cat’? My own sexual pleasure was more vital, more essential that the life of a living, breathing being.

The bearded men in the book were making me aroused, they fingered me, held me down, sucking and nibbling at my nipples. How could I stop? What young girl could? As I hurled the broom irritably at the door, where this mere baby, was scratching and trying to stick it’s soft furry neck, I became a woman who now knew her place in the world of men.
The shame that I felt when the kitten’s limp dead body was found, was dulled by the bright flame that had been lit within my own body. I had, though, murdered a small part of myself, flung it out into the garbage. Something innocent, deep within me, had been lost forever. Guilty as accused. Sentence? Life.

You are staring into the eyes of a Murderer and that Murderer is staring back at you.
© Barabara Jane Mackie Nov 2009
Barabara is a screenwriter and TV producer by profession

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