Before sunlight crept across hurricane-battered rooftops, illuminating the patchy brown lawns and pothole-ridden streets of post-Katrina New Orleans, beneath a blanket of bleeding pink and purple, faintly star-speckled twilight, within a ghost town of water-warped slouching shotgun houses, among which remained the former domain of the deceased Shotgun Queen herself, stood her property’s then possessor, a pretentious prick named Stephen.

“You’re probably wonderin’ what on God’s Green Earth you’re doin’ here,” he said with a mischievous grin across his clean cut visage.

Stephen was a middle aged white man. His early morning presence was a product of professional pride–not in his cracker country club clothing consisting of khakis, polo shirt and boat shoes, but in his punctuality, his work ethic. That and his self awareness.

“You’re here because the world is a rotten place, filled with rotten people. Plain and simple.”

Stephen hadn’t suffered a day in his life–a fact of which he was neither proud nor ashamed. He was a cis gender heterosexual white male, fortunate enough to have been born at chronal/geographical coordinates which placed him within an infinitesimal realm of excessively privileged human beings–a truth to which he needed not be privy in order to benefit, but was as aware as he was empowered. The revelation of his awareness, he made to few. Those who survived its revelation were fewer still, for revealing his awareness of his position put him at a strategic disadvantage, one that could irrevocably displace him from his station. It was a game in which men of Stephen’s demographics made the rules and were beholden to none of them so long as they pretended they were. Not so much was this his concern in the presence of a bound and gagged twelve year-old girl. So, when Stephen spoke so candidly of his intentions toward me, I knew I was fucked.

“More specifically,” he continued, whilst preparing an injection of some insidious opioid, “you are here because some sinfully wealthy individual heard rumor of a doomsday device being transported through Bywater. I am here because said individual saw fit to procure my services to obtain said device.”

Here was the interior of the deceased Shotgun Queen’s shotgun house. We occupied its rearmost segment, the part retrofitted as a vault, impenetrable by conventional means. This feature was not Stephen’s doing, rather it was a selling point to which the seller was clueless. For what an elderly black woman needed such high level security, I hadn’t the faintest and would not soon discover, though Stephen recognized the devilishly impressive feat of engineering and the fiendish applications possible with which it came. Among other selling points were its seclusion in an all but abandoned neighborhood and the previous owner having no next of kin. It was literally a steal, and Stephen swooped in amongst the volt of vultures preying on homes vacated in the evacuation of Hurricane Katrina. He stole a dead woman’s property and there became the where he delivered his long winded mansplanation of the world and its systems of oppression to a single unconsenting audience: moi. And how unfortunate I was with no reasonable expectation we’d be interrupted in the desolate Lower Ninth Ward. The exterior of the house was a weathered facade of distressed planks, warped floor boards, and shattered windows. Among its post-Katrina kin, Stephen’s playhouse was virtually unnoticeable.

That was Stephen’s talent: camouflage.

Stephen passed for what the scientific community would call a “mediocre white man,” a less than exceptional individual who got ahead on account of his whiteness and his maleness. Mediocre white men weren’t in and of themselves a plague, rather the social circumstances that allowed them to flourish, despite their basic-ass offerings, were the source of a toxicity that polluted humanity for an inexcusable number of centuries. As late as the twenty-first century, there were no shortage of these agents of mediocrity in places of power. Human history books were replete with tales of underwhelming caucasians whose placebo self confidence carried them far beyond their actual skill sets. For proof, look no further than Donald J ‘for Jackass’ Trump whose poorly written fanfiction life lead this moldy Moses of mediocrity to the United States Presidency. Men like him were a minority, and it was them who caused the collapse of human civilization. And this is what Stephen pretended to be, day in and day out.

I know this because Stephen knows this.

“Farfetched, I know, but being the opportunist I am, I couldn’t bring myself to pass on what was likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for such a significant payday, especially not one attached to an opportunity to seize an actual weapon of mass destruction! You can’t imagine how excited I was–”was” being the operative word, because you know what they say about somethin’ seems too good to be true! Lo and behold, there was no doomsday device. Just little, old, you…”

Twelve years old, bound and gagged, on a fucking futon, dressed like a goddamn…

“…Baby Doll.”

That’s what he called me. That’s how he saw me, as his plaything, a fucking baby doll.

“Not the payload we anticipated,” he said with same sick grin, “but a profitable consolation, nonetheless!”

Stephen walked over to my bedside. The clap of his steps became a thunderous countdown.

“You know, pussy don’t pay even a modicum of what we could’ve gotten sellin’ mass genocidal weaponry. Ain’t that somethin’! Men would pay more to destroy each other than fuck–such as life, I guess. We’ll just have to settle for the handsome residual you’ll make on the meat market, won’t we.”

Stephen held out a prepared injection to my face.

“This here is the first day of the rest of your life. What say we get you acclimated?”

As Stephen knelt before me, syringe in hand, eager to penetrate my epidermis, pump my veins with his venom and zombify me, enslave me to the needle’s substance only he could provide, to profit from every prick prepared to pay premium price to pry open my every orifice, he failed to notice the crimson creeping from my fist, fingers tightly gripped around mangled metal my twelve-year old hands managed to muscle from the futon frame, a jagged edge with which I intended to free me from my binds, aid in my escape, my crudely made blade became a flagless pole, a symbol of resistance to plant in his motherfucking thigh.

It behooved me to cooperate but the sounds that escaped his lips at the point of penetration possessed me with glee as I ripped open his femoral artery. Naturally, I knew then he would murder me after that. I found peace in the probability that in his blinding rage he’d attack me with so much blood pumping vigor, he’d pass out and die while taking my life. Stephen was three times my size, so, it didn’t take much effort on his part to clock me into oblivion. His fist connected with my face, as expected. My head bounced off a wall. More blows came, each fainter than the last, growing weak with blood loss, until at last everything I felt faded to black.

To be continued…

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