“I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had…
It’s a very, very mad world, mad world”
-Mad World lyrics
Sara brushed a strand of her blonde hair from her forehead as she opened the DVD. Tonight was going to be wild. She inserted the disk into the massive entertainment system, before taking out her hair tie, letting her long golden locks flow down her back. “Do you think we need to turn down the volume?” she asked her friend.
“We should be fine, my wife’s bedroom is clear on the other side of the house.” Diego Quinto walked with a cane despite being only middle-aged. He was attempting to carry both the two bags of microwave popcorn as well as a large plastic green bowl.
Sara grabbed the popcorn bags from him. “Take a seat.”
He did as she asked but made a point of grabbing the DVD case from her hands. “You didn’t get the Blu-ray version?”
“I don’t own a Blu-ray player,” she muttered. “And the DVD was on sale.”
Sara watched the older man lower himself down on the posh black leather sofa. His body was muscular and strong, despite suffering from chronic pain. He tossed the box back to Sara. “But with a DVD we don’t get all the behind the scenes content.”
Sara shot him a glare. “Remind me again, which one of us is still in high school and which one of us lives in a mansion? Next time you can buy the movie.” Sara sat down next to Diego. She smacked the plastic DVD box against his chest as she reached for the remote.
“I would, but alas, my wife would not allow such anti-Christian rhetoric to defile the sanctity of our movie cabinet.”
“Then you could buy it as a present for me.” Sara made her innocent blue eyes big like a doll’s and pouted her lower lip. “Plus, Human Chainsaw Caterpillar 3 is not anti-Christian. Maybe the first one was, but this one is about how one of the survivors of the first experiment went on to continue MadFace’s legacy by purging the world of sinners with his army of killer clowns. It’s really inspiring when you think about it.”
“We might have different viewpoints on the nature of what is inspiring. And did you not just say that you don’t own a Blu-ray player?”
“You can buy me one of those too. Maybe a PS4? Or the new Xbox?” Sara moved on to his lap, twirling the remote between her fingers as she straddled his hips. “You can be my sugar daddy and I’ll be your baby doll.”
“Very Funny.” Diego smiled sweetly, his cheeks turning a shade of pink that she did not think was possible with his dark complexion.
Sara playfully pressed the start button, but as she did, the television emitted a bloodcurdling scream. “Maybe I should turn it down.”
“I hope that didn’t wake the neighbors,” Diego said with a laugh. “I would hate for the police to barge in on our movie night.”
“Why? To check on whether I stabbed you in the chest? Maybe I went psycho and murdered my best friend.” Sara mimed stabbing Diego with an invisible knife.
Diego chuckled and shook his head. His hands were reaching for the popcorn so Sara took the hint and got off his lap.
“What?” Sara giggled. “Is this weird? That you’re my best friend?”
“Your brother is your best friend, or perhaps my daughter, certainly not me. I’m just your tutor.”
“You’re my mentor. And you’re the only one who can sit through a movie like this without vomiting or calling me a psychopath. I mean It’s not like I’m cheering for the victims to fail the maze and fall through the hole, where the evil clowns dismember their bodies and… ”
“Did you watch this already?”
Sara bit her lip, hiding a smile. “Maybe, it is my DVD.”
Diego laughed as he ran his fingers through his hair. “You’re lucky you’re so adorable.”
“The movie is really good! You’re gonna love it!” Sara reached for the popcorn. She squealed with delight as a clown appeared, dragging a bag of body parts.
“I suppose you are correct. I did rather enjoy the first two. It’s so rare to find a movie that does not rely on special effects, but rather traditional makeup and outstanding horror performances.”
“You got that right.” Sara tossed a piece of popcorn at Diego’s mouth. It bounced off his chin.
“What was that?”
Sara giggled. “Sorry, I’ll give you some warning next time.” She held Diego’s hand. As usual, his muscles were in spasm. “Are you in pain?”
“I’ll be fine, I took some Vicodin earlier. Just relax and enjoy the movie.”
Sara rested her head on his shoulder. Her brother loved to tease her about her relationship with Diego. Yes, the man was handsome. With his beautiful Hispanic features, his dark eyes, caramel colored skin, and his black hair with hints of grey throughout. But the most beautiful thing about him was his smile.
Sara adored his smile; the way the wrinkles around his eyes made his face appear as if he was overcome with emotion. It was the way she imagined her biological father would have smiled. Perhaps that’s what it was: daddy issues. Her father died when she was only three, at times she could barely picture his face. Maybe that was why she wanted a best friend like Diego.
“Open,” she whispered. Sara grabbed two pieces of popcorn. The first piece she tossed towards his mouth. It once again bounced off his chin, on to the floor. The second piece she moved closer. Her finger brushed against his bottom lip.
Diego’s tongue emerged and licked the oily popcorn piece from her fingertips. He then playfully kissed her hand. “You have such a beautiful heart, Sara. You’re going to make a man very happy one day.”
Sara laughed as she scooped up a large handful of popcorn for herself. “Who says I want a boyfriend?”
“Someone as special as you can’t help but find love.”
Sara could feel her cheeks flush. She turned her attention back to the movie just in time to see a woman getting her hands impaled as she reached for a key. Sara burst into laughter. “No matter how many times I see that scene I still can’t believe the nail went through both her hands.”
“When you stick your hands in the box you have to commit.”
“It’s such an easy puzzle: you stick in one hand, use your forearm to set off the pressure plate, grab the key, the nails go through your wrist.” Sara mimed the process. “And then you can use the other hand to free yourself.”
“Clearly that poor stripper was not as scholarly as you, my dear.”
“You could have figured that out too.”
“I didn’t say I couldn’t. But with my luck, my wife would have paid MadFace extra to put me in a maze with unwinnable puzzles.” He reached his arm around Sara’s shoulder pulling her close.
“And she’d want her own special copy of the footage,” Sara added.
Diego had no comment. Sara took his silence as a cue to put an end to the joking.
They watched as the killer clowns dragged the bloody, unconscious body of the stripper down a hallway lined with cages. Arms and legs extended from the grates as random men and women screamed for their lives.
“What’s the point of screaming?” Sara muttered. “The only people there are the people who are going to kill you.”
Diego sighed. “That’s what I love about gruesome horror movies, it makes me feel better about my life. No matter how bad things get, at least I’m not in a cage, or about to get sewn into a chimera.” Diego turned and kissed Sara’s forehead. “And regardless of your sense of humor, I consider myself fortunate to have you as a friend.”
“Thanks, Mr. Q.” She had never called him Mr. Q. It was always an inside joke as to what they called each other. Sometimes she called him Diego or D and sometimes he called her Ms. Sara or even Ms. Foster. She never felt like anything less than his equal. No one cared about him the way she did.
“Diego will be fine.”
“I know.” Sara pulled a nearby blanket over both their bodies while wrapping one arm around his shoulder. She could feel his muscles through his shirt. Starting at his shoulders, she stroked his clavicle, following the lines of his muscles to the base of his throat. She could feel the rise and fall of his chest with every breath.
Diego stretched his legs, kicking his feet up on the coffee table. In this position his shirt rode up slightly, revealing a few inches of his stomach. He had a large tattoo that read, ‘Vato.’ A reminder of a time long ago; a time when he was young, free, happy.
Sara walked her fingers across his exposed skin, tracing the letters. She smiled as her knuckle grazed his belt buckle. It would have been so easy for her to open it. She looked at his face, his attention was on the movie. Or maybe he was pretending for her benefit. Sara stroked her fingers over his thigh, lacing her hand with his. Sara looked back at the screen.
The heroic paramedic Johnny-V, was attempting to figure out the secret to the maze but in doing so he was about to fall into a trap. But Sara already knew how the movie ended. He would be saved, with the help of a mysterious girl who was the daughter of one the clowns. It was actually a really interesting twist. Sara closed her eyes and fell asleep with her head on Diego’s shoulder.
Hours later Sara opened her eyes. Diego was lying in her arms, shivering badly. Fearing the worst she shook him awake. “Diego?”
“I-I don’t feel well. I may need your help with my medications.”
Sara helped him sit up. “I’ll grab your cane.” Arranging his body weight on her shoulder and his cane, she helped him stand and got him to the nearby bathroom where she knew he kept his medications.
And this was not the first time she had to help him. She had witnessed him having severe panic attacks even seizures. During these moments of extreme physical discomfort, his mind had a way of slipping from him, resulting in screaming, crying or even worse: self-harm.
“Diego, I’m here. I need you to focus on my voice. You are in your home, you are safe, you are going to be ok.”
Diego nodded silently.
Sara didn’t offer to wake his wife. She never did. After the first few times she asked if his wife ever stayed with him during his episodes. She never did. Hell, they didn’t even sleep in the same room. “Sit down, I’m going to help you.”
Maybe his wife was hurting him, or maybe she just didn’t care. After all there was only so much hurt a human heart could carry.
Sara helped him remove his shirt, revealing his disfigured body. His back was a map of scar tissue which played host to chronic infection. All memories of his past; a soldier, a warrior, a murder- everything society forced him to be. “I need you to take some deep breaths.” She stroked her fingers over a series of scars that resembled a rose; red, textured and deep. She could feel he had a slight fever. “I know you said you took some Vicodin earlier but did you take the rest of your meds?”
“I-I don’t remember,” his voice was breaking,from pain, emotion or both. “Every time I close my eyes I see all the pain I’ve caused. and I- I just want to end it all.”
Sara pursed her lips, she had no words but she had her own pain. “You know, if we were in MadFace’s maze, I would find the key and I would come back for you.”
Diego smiled a soft, genuine smile. “I have no doubt. You are brave just like little Eliza.”
“You saw the ending? Wasn’t it the greatest! My favorite part was when she showed him the hidden tunnel that she used when her parents sent her to go grocery shopping.”
“I would have to say my favorite part was when he saw Eliza without her clown mask and realized she was the same little girl who had been sent on a grocery run with not enough cash to pay for everything on her list.”
“And the fact that he ended up paying the difference probably saved her from getting a beating from her psycho clown parents.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Diego’s smile began to fade.
“Yeah, I guess.” Her own father had died half a world away. She had only been three at the time and now she couldn’t even picture his face. All she knew was her father worked as a missionary and died as a captive. And no body was ever recovered.
“I truly believe God brought you into my life. When I’m with you. I no longer feel afraid.”
Sara blinked tears from her eyes. “I don’t want you to ever feel afraid.” In one smooth motion, Sara cupped his face and kissed Diego’s lips. Locking on to his mouth, it was as if she was trying to siphon some of his pain. His lips were soft, his tongue tasted of buttered popcorn. At sixteen, this was Sara’s first kiss and it was everything she hoped it would be.
Maybe she could claim him as her own. She could save his soul, love him the way he deserved to be loved.
But as their eyes met, time stood still. Suddenly, all Sara could think about was her late father. ‘This isn’t right,’ the words echoed in her mind. Tears streamed down her cheeks at an alarming rate. Sara pulled away, unable to breathe. “I’m so sorry.”
Diego put his arms around Sara, holding her close. “Y-You’re going to make some lucky boy very happy one day.” He lifted her face. “Maybe someone like Johnny.”
“I love you too, Mr. Q.”
The adventure continues in Dakota Son, available on Amazon