Off in the distance a lone seagull squawks against the silence. Not even the sand crunching under my feet breaks the feeling that I’m walking toward a precipice that I can not cross. Will I fall into the darkness or conversely, will it fall into me?
Beside me walks a giant of a man who huffs under his weight. He seems not to notice how unearthly quiet it is or how not even 200 feet ahead of us the darkness seems to shroud the beach in a deep void. He labors under the opinion that I’m going to let him go free though he has been accused of unspeakable crimes against children. A person I never met in jail sends people like this man to me. I have never met the person, I don’t know how he gets the prisoners out of the prison. It is not for me to know. He was told that a mere $15,000 would make his charges disappear and he’d be a free man.
He has not asked why we are traipsing down the beach rather than releasing him on the street. He is not suspicious and I am not obligated to divulge that information to him. He had paid me back at the car – it will go to his victims – just a minor payment on what he actually owes. How the sum was set, I do not know. What universal being knows how many victims a person has, I don’t know that either. I realize this sounds ambiguous so maybe I should start at the beginning.
Six years ago I was sailing with three friends on my 32ft schooner aptly named “The Mystic”. Miles from shore we were besieged by a sudden squall that seemed to come out of nowhere. The Mystic rolled beneath the crashing waves before righting itself again as she was built to do. In that first roll we lost Amanda. One moment she was holding onto the safety line, the next she was gone. I searched the waves but she never surfaced.
As I fought to keep the normally easy handling boat under control the other two passengers, my college friend Joyce and her friend Joan clung to the bow line. Amanda was Joan’s sister – I don’t think Joan even noticed she was gone.
I tried to yell for them to move closer to me but they couldn’t hear me over the roar of the wind. At the crest of one wave I swore I could see sunshine and calm seas ahead but the waves kept coming.
Our third roll took out Joan – maybe she panicked and let go of the line – I don’t know. Each roll it seemed the Mystic took longer to right itself yet there didn’t seem to be an obvious reason why that would be.
The Mystic was holding its own, or so I thought. A sudden crack let loose the main sail which slapped into Joyce on its way over the rail. Alone on the boat I realized that whatever held us in its grasp was not going to let us go. As the boat rolled for its last time, I tried to kick clear of the lines to reach the surface. I could see from below that the last wave had broken the boats back and tried to dodge the debris on my way up.
Just as my head broke the surface, a tug from below pulled me back under. I could see a line from the quickly sinking boat looped around my foot. I could feel myself going down into the deep crushing darkness and as I expelled the last of my breath I experienced a hard thump.
Seconds later I was vomited on this very beach I now walked. I had no idea how I had gotten here and over the days I might have convinced myself it was a dream had my friends and boat not been gone. I told the authorities that Joyce had borrowed the boat – that they hadn’t returned and I had no idea what had happened to them. After an exhaustive search they were listed “lost at sea”. What else could I tell them when I didn’t understand it myself?
Two weeks later, in the middle of another sleepless night, my phone rang. I hadn’t been sleeping because I always knew the other shoe had yet to drop. On the phone was a nasally sounding man. He explained that my new job was simple. I would start getting emails from firstname.lastname@example.org – it would contain a name, a sum of money, and the pickup time/location. My job was simply to pick up the individual, get the money, and walk them down to this very spot that I had landed. They walked forward into the darkness and I went home. The money was always gone from the car when I returned.
Over the years the pickups would talk during their rides. I soon saw a common thread – my pickups were always people who had victimized others in some way. I didn’t ask, I never did or had to. These people would be so happy to be free that they would babble about their crimes – some even about the crimes they still hoped to commit. I guess they figured if I was springing them I must have a twisted past as well.
“Are we almost there yet?” the fat man asked earnestly. I had noticed him glancing at my chest more than once. At 5’5” I did look pretty young for my age but didn’t think I looked in the pedophile range.
“Yes” I murmured looking away. He had no idea what lay in wait for him. For that matter, neither did I because I had never witnessed whatever happens once they walk beyond the dark curtain.
“I want you to know I’m very grateful. I know what I done was wrong but I was drunk.” He twitched – I said nothing.
“I thought the girl was over 12 years old.” he continued, wetting his chubby lips. “She was only 10 but that little bitch looked older. I don’t go for the young ones, I’m not a pervert.” Still not getting a response from me, he stopped and grabbed my arm. I met his stare with a cool glare. He released me but didn’t move.
“I’m telling you this cuz I think you are cute and maybe your taking me way down here because you want a taste of old Freddie”. He rubbed his crotch disgustingly. I recognized that look in his eyes for I had often seen it in my own stepfather’s eyes. He would be waiting for me when I came home from school or sneak in my room in the middle of the night. His horrible fumbling and ineptness often lead to anger. After a few hard smacks to make me cry, he could usually perform and I’d lay there suffering in silence.
My mom was oblivious or maybe she just didn’t care. The abuse lasted until I was thirteen. That’s when I borrowed a knife from the kitchen and threatened to cut his jewels off if he ever touched me again. He was gone the next morning. Mom committed suicide the next year so I was sent to Miami to live with a wealthy aunt. It was the best day of my life.
“Sure dude. Whatever you say – but not here. Up there a bit are some rocks we can do it behind.” I lied as I moved toward the darkness once again. It often sent a shiver down my spine, seeing how the darkness let no light penetrate it. It seemed to be waiting expectantly.
“Alrighty then! I knew you’se were the type to know a real man. Most girls can’t resist old Freddie. Some try but they always want it in the end.” He rubbed on himself some more. At least he started moving again, I thought as I turned away. I needed a shower.
We came to the end of the darkness but he still didn’t seem to notice it. The air was colder but he continued to sweat.
“You go over there by those rocks while I get undressed.” I pointed forward and he nodded like he could actually see rocks there in the dark. He openly leered at me. His hand shot out too fast for me to move away. He grabbed a breast in each hand and squeezed them tightly. He moved in, his saliva dripping tongue licked against my cheek before he leaned in even closer. I wanted to vomit, briefly hoping whatever the darkness planned for him was worse than I could imagine. I could imagine it being pretty bad.
“You aint gonna be disappointed. I’m the best you’ll ever have.” he whispered before releasing me and walking off into the darkness. Normally the darkness lifts off like a fog and disappears as if it had never been, taking the person along with it. Not this time. I heard him whisper “Oh yeah baby” though to whom I don’t know. Then came a high-pitched scream that ended in a gurgle. Yet the darkness still seemed to wait for something more. After several seconds it dawned on me what it wanted. I whispered “Thank you” and it was gone.
As I made the trek back to my car I breathed deeply, letting the salt air fill my lungs to capacity. I paused a time or two to enjoy the brightness of the stars – always thankful that I could see them twinkle instead of just blackness.
I do not know how long this service will be asked of me. But I realized this night that the bad guys do get what they deserve and that making sure they do is everyone’s responsibility. Anyone of us could be a victim of a predator – everyone one of us had a voice to speak out against these monsters. Maybe my life was all about this from the start. Maybe being a victim has given me the strength to rid the world of such trash. Or maybe this is what the Bermuda Triangle was all about – a darkness that just descends from the heavens.