Hello, all! It's been a few years since I started Outlet, but I am readying it as a manuscript at 77k. At the present moment, I am looking for capable beta readers for feedback, since I have come as far as I can with solo revisions. I will look for some on this site when I have time, but if you are interested in the story or know someone that might be and would like to be more involved in the process, send me a message with your thoughts. The full manuscript plays out in dark themes like those explored in Jeff Lindsay's Dexter, Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers, Katherine Ewell's Dear Killer, and S.E. Green's Killer Instinct.
Taylor wore a well-honed smile, a knife emanating death in her hand. Bent and twisted intentions would be fulfilled in short order. They had to be, or things might get messy.
Leaning against the coarse brick wall of the school, Taylor observed the undertakings of two teenagers beneath an oak tree just off the property. Both wore hoodies and brandished cigarettes in their hands, conversing about the "wackest rappers in the game" or something. It was unnerving to passersby that they were under the tree at this time, when the sunlight angled on them as if through a magnifying glass, but that was their problem.
Taylor laughed to herself, chided herself over the ridiculous amount of time she'd spent watching these hoodlums. It was like hamsters and gerbils spinning wheels in pet stores: pointless to do but hilarious to witness, a guilty pleasure for a spectator. She glanced at her knife. It appeared eager, and Taylor agreed.
The hoodlums had ordered a serving of this-here-basketball-team-is-ass to the table when their surprise waitress arrived. One of them was a black teen with dreadlocks and a faint beard, who looked up to her first. He had torn brown pants to go with an oxford-gray hoodie. The other, something of the stoner variety with scruffy brown hair, yawned and reared his ugly everything in succession. The girl had light-brown hair tied in a short ponytail and a thin, oriental tinge to her face, her eyes filled with the calm and color of lake water. Her left hand was the only one visible, a gold band encircling the ring finger.
"Whadda you want?" the stoner asked. There was a glazed tint to his eyes, in stark contrast to the dilated pupils of his friend. "Got a problem that needs solving?"
Taylor simply returned his stare. Though short and lithe, she noticed that her mute stillness had the one with the dreadlocks shifting uncomfortably against the trunk. She laughed to herself again at that, but gave no indication of such emotion to the hoodlums.
"Well, bitch? The fuck do you want?" The stoner still handled his cigarette, but his free hand was balled up. His brow was creased, but his eyes remained glassy. Taylor couldn't tell whether he was impaired or agitated—either way, the knife enjoyed interesting victims.
"Yeah, w-whadda you want?" his friend said, but he only established himself as the beta male.
There were a few moments of silence, during which the grass shivered around them in brittle undulations like a swath of cold arthritic hands rising from the earth to receive the fallen. Taylor's right arm had fastened itself behind her, and at length it reached out to the hoodlums. The one with the dreadlocks yelped. A pointed shadow drew its way up the body of the stoner in the intense sunlight. He didn't stiffen up—his friend did, the whole of his breathing stertorous and choked.
"I want you to take those cigarettes and shove them up your asses," Taylor said. Her index finger bored into the stoner's forehead like the barrel of a shotgun, and her hand was empty. A gold ring presented itself on the third finger here too, bearing an ocean-hued diamond. "Please."
The stoner's face slightly animated. He took a clipped breath and rose, his head about a foot over Taylor. He stood lank, with a pronounced nose and freshly visible clusters of acne. Taylor imagined him as what Shaggy Rogers would look like if torn from the sixties.
"Listen. I see you, but nobody tells me what to do," he said, stooping so his eyes leveled with Taylor. Close up, they were a dank brown, semblant of a viscous and murky liquid, like alcohol, his character now treading on the depiction of Poe's Fortunato. Oh, I'd love to bury this joker alive too, Taylor thought.
"Nobody's getting any trouble here. Darren, pick your ass up and give me your smoke," the stoner said. "You didn't even fucking light it."
Darren shakily stood himself. The stoner jabbed his hand at Darren, and a fresh cigarette dropped in to join the lit one. Taylor stepped back, simpering at this display. The simper vanished when the stoner turned back to her, snapping up his hand and tossing the cigarettes to the ground. The grass rustled and puffed a billow of insects into the air while he stomped the lit one out. Please catch fire.
"Happy?" the stoner asked.
Taylor tilted her head to the side, shut her eyes briefly, and shrugged her shoulders. "I suppose," she said. Not really. Your pants are still the same color. With that, she backed up two paces, met his stare again, and stepped through the high grass that lay rippling before the sidewalk, gradually turning away. Okay, I'm done here. No need to push it.
"You think this is funny?" Taylor looked back and found the stoner sauntering after her until he stood at the brink of the grassy sea.
Taylor debated her answer, keeping his stare. Stay cool, stay cool, she chanted—it was getting messy. I guess I should thank my mother for all of those self-defense classes about now. Darren circled the tree, idle, mashing up the fresh autumn leaves with no care for their silent cries. Taylor wondered if he felt empowered by trampling on the helpless, if he was compensating for something. It was laughable that he might have a goal in his traipse.
"I find him funny. That's all," Taylor said, tilting her head toward Darren and blinking a couple times. Darren met her gaze, noticed the lack of the simper he'd glimpsed, and reformed into a nervous wreck. Taylor lightly shook her head and turned back to the one that mattered.
The stoner gave her a dingy glower for a few eternal seconds. He exhaled once. Twice. It was a long and droning silence, slow and painful like a medieval rack. At length, he made a soft cackle. "You're right. That's really all he is," the stoner said. Darren straightened up and cast a bewildered look at him—the stoner kept his eyes trained on Taylor, however. "Darren's nothing but funny."
Taylor nodded slowly, pulling away from the stoner's glare. She watched Darren grow dumbstruck, his mouth agape and his hands aquiver. She wasn't sure where this was going, but it had already escalated far beyond what she had taken for a quick job. She looked down at her clothes, a blue-gray hooded raglan, capris and white sandals. Damn it. These guys are such dumbasses that, any earlier, I could have blended in with the sky and jumped them.
Her puzzled thoughts were scattered by the stoner's next words. "You're nothing but a bitch," he said, and he picked his head up. "Whatever. I've wasted enough of my time."
"I agree, and you're nothing but a stoner." Taylor's eyebrows had risen, but she quickly lowered them. "At what age did you move into whose basement?"
The stoner had started to shift away past the oak tree, but of course he turned back. "Yeah? I'm Kevin. I'd tell you to suck my dick, but you can eat shit with that mouth," he said. He turned again and walked out of sight.
Taylor watched him go, sighing her revulsion. She wished that her hand had actually drawn out a knife. Maybe she could let this off on Darren, the sorry excuse he was.
A mud-riddled creek bed ran along the outer edge of the field before forming a crude confluence with the road. Standing on the edge, she noticed some prints in a straight line across the mud, each flung far from the next. Well, at least he ran.
In her room that night, Taylor sprawled herself out on the bedspread, her legs dangling without aim over the soft verge. The room was modern, with bleach-white walls and vibrant yellows and blues thrown around in the forms of curtains, lampshades, and artificial flowers. A brown headboard with ornate vinelike patterns overlooked her, and it shot forth from the wall so prominently that it was a wonder it didn't fall. Sickeningly white drawers and nightstands lined the walls, each with marble tops. A mess of baby blue pillows lay at the head of the bed, but Taylor had not the energy to reach for one.
"I didn't want any crap! Just a minute or two!" Taylor whispered to the ceiling. She closed her eyes and spun a phantasmagoric reel in her mind in which she shoved the knife right into Kevin, twisted it, pulled it out with an adverse freshet of blood, and watched him drop to the grass beneath the oak tree. She replicated this with Darren, serving the leaves welcome treats of vengeance. It was beautiful.
Opening her eyes, she weakly tugged on the drawstrings of her raglan. "Why do I mess up like this?" A few tears carved out a path to the bed below.
Taylor couldn't discern what she was. Was she a danger to others?
Her knife was phantasmal, an extension of herself, invisible to others but a symbol laid in her very palm. Her thoughts were caged up, cloistered, brooding over her like a beehive. From a young age, grim tones had dominated Taylor's psyche. She held an ocean in her head, what teemed with a strong and certain darkness.
"All I want is some peace," she said. Pain like a ligature constricted her throat. "Is that too much to ask?"
Taylor despised interaction, and her dance with Kevin and Darren was no different. She had intended to spurn aside the cigarettes and walk off, nothing more, nothing more. The first day of school had already knocked the wind out of her—this in quick succession had laid her low and gasping.
She gulped, a brief knot sent down her neck, and the tension faded.
If it was any consolation, however, Taylor had slaked the beehive's thirst and then some. A simple threat she'd known would do the trick, but, at the expense of her reserves, the hive had ceased buzzing and brooding. She had learned from an early age and after several instances of knocking over classmates and their creations that her thoughts had to be acted on in some way, lest they grow unruly. She'd tried to lock them up for good once. She'd also had to bury her cat five years ago.
Listlessly beholding the whirring ceiling fan, Taylor's focus was rapt on the fact that nobody knew any of this. She had pondered consulting her parents or—God forbid—an actual counselor, but no amount of talk could posit that option in favorable terms. Her brother had walked in on her about to make gore of a Barbie doll with torn limbs and a ketchup packet once, but he backed out, knowing what was good for him. Taylor figured that he'd feared getting shot in the face with the packet, but he was a bit of an enigma himself, more in the sense that one had to wonder if he broke a window, a gaming world record, or his balls anytime he yelled than in any sense worthy of respect. She wondered how he—anyone for that matter—would handle it all. Could they?
Gathering herself and her thoughts, Taylor edged herself up into a sitting position on the verge of the bed. The mattress depressed a little, prompting her to stand. She flexed her arms and arched her back; she then heard a slight crack that elicited a gasp and made her stiffen up. Upon relaxing, she hung her head forward, still enervated, looking down at the tan wood floor and following wearily the thousand waves and ripples that marked the boards. They were blurry, soon so blurry that thousands converged into hundreds and into tens and into one, sliding into a white haze.
"Taylor! Time for dinner!" said a singsong voice from beyond the door. There was no response, and after a minute her brother thrust it open. He was thirteen, dressed in a Batman costume that looked very out of place within the bleached walls. There was obvious enthusiasm on his face, but it dissipated as he took the room in. The place was clean, almost spotless, with Taylor collapsed on the bedspread. Her brother inched closer, leaned over her body. He considered messing with her—or just pissing her off with the air horn in his closet. "Taylor?"
He was growing tired of her crying, but that was a vice to be found in the practice of almost every killer. They would never shut up.
"Please let me go! Please! My daughter's sick!" the woman said. The killer kept a firm grip on both the knot around her wrists and the nape of her neck as he escorted her into the dim garage. As they came near the middle, he reached up and pulled on the light switch, and even with a bulb ablaze the place held its eerie miasma.
"Keep in mind how much I care about your daughter," he said. The woman, probably thirty, turned to stare into his tinted sunglasses. Her jet-black hair had lost its vibrancy compared to when he'd seen her outside. The murky setting must have done its job—just as instructed.
"You would care if you were human!" She twisted her hands around in the knot to no avail. Sudden bursts of ferocity were to be expected as well, but this one seemed to be floating in the gray between this and that, weeping and howling, the only constant that of desperation. Interesting in a combination, he noted. I'll have to choose ones like this more often.
The killer remained silent, observing her flippant outbursts. After a time, it would no doubt become as tiresome as simple cries were, but he had been told not to rush this. The deliverance would also be slow, and he would not complain. That was the woman's job.
"Down," he said, kicking the inside of her thigh. Without a choice, she buckled and crumpled to the floor, her arms far behind her in his grip. Her tears dampened the garage floor, dropping at shorter and shorter intervals as she remained hunched over. He pleasured himself to another round of her outbursts and even thought about getting a chair and some popcorn. Sure, he'd have to fetch a blunt object and some zip ties, but it could be worth it.
"What do you do? Dream up sick fantasies and kill innocent people? Who does this?" she asked. The killer noticed her change to barking again, though her voice was coarse, raspy. Perhaps she was choking on her own dread.
He bent down slowly, taking to one knee beside her. Removing his left hand from her neck, he held it by his side before deciding to look her in the eyes. His hand caressed her chin and lifted her face even with his, delicate to a point just short of mercy. Through his shades, her features were darker than he expected, crafted of raw fear. She looked hopeless and drained, as if locked in a cage. The tears delineating her aged face melded with her hair, which he wouldn't be surprised to see gray once his shades were off. Her eyes were so black that he considered it useless to fish for anything in those waters. Maybe he would try that once they were gray too.
"No, I just do the dirty work," he said, at length standing up and sweeping his view across the far wall. Scores of tools lined the racks, but nothing there piqued his interest—he was just marveling at the cleanliness of the garage. He dropped his gaze a shelf, where various wood carvings were lined up, followed by more tools and a lawnmower as he turned his head. A working bench rested in the corner opposite the doorway, the jowls of the shade clenched tightly around it. The faint outline of something stationed on the bench was present as well.
Had he not readied her house hours prior, the bench would be quite lonely.
He turned back to the woman and struck both of her biceps; her arms went limp and ceased to struggle, however weakly they had before, and he pushed her to the floor. She lay flat. With no hesitation, he stepped away and pried open the dark jowls, came back into the light and stood over her.
The woman turned her head to the side, peeking up at his silhouette. Her eyes roared to life, and the thing in the killer's hands did the same. He squatted and said something that was drowned out by the device as he lowered it toward her thigh.
He would have loved to satisfy George, but the poor soul was too much of a help and too little of a man.