Oh little playmate, you would not play with me…
The discordant jangle of this long ago childhood nursery rhyme echoed under the bed where he hid. Some things never forgotten, he heard the sound of all that screaming like some fucked up sing-song that gets stuck in your head and never goes away. What did they call it, an ear-mite? He didn’t care. The rhythm soothed him while he waited for her to come home.
I’ll take your life, you see…
Those weren’t the words precisely. He giggled in time with the ringing in his ears.
Eddie, lying on his back, sharpened the knife, not minding the flakes of metal dust that landed in his eyes. He was singing and crying and none of the other shit mattered anymore. She wouldn’t play with him; she didn’t want to climb through his cellar door, as the song went. She would be sorry.
“I asked you to play with me, Kate. I told you I wanted to play…” The voice trailed off, but the song kept right on playing, if only in his head. He worried at the edge of the knife while he waited. He tested the blade, touched the razor-sharp edge to his tongue, tasted blood instantly.
Not sharp enough.
Eddie had been killing his way across the mid-west looking for someone to play with him, anyone. But, each time he showed up in someone’s house or their office late at night, all they did was scream.
Not very friendly, were they?
Not a bit.
Eddie giggled again. The sounds of those desperate cries and shrieks were the things he collected. He could listen to them when riding a bus, say, or walking through a crowded city park. They were his friends and he loved each of them, remembered each of them, knew where each came from.
He spent years of his life terrified of everything before he had taken his first friend. After that, he wasn’t afraid anymore.
A sudden jolt of adrenaline ran through him and the blade of his kitchen knife halted an inch from his right eye. This was the same knife that had taken the head off an old man in Meriville, Tennessee and the arms and legs of a woman in Columbia, South Carolina. The knife he’d driven into the skull of a guy who tried to rough him up outside a bar in Fairfield, Virginia. This friend didn’t run and it didn’t scream.
Had he left the bodies of this woman’s family where she would see them? That was the panic that had stopped his hand, and that nursery rhyme mid-jingle. Where had he stashed Kate’s mother and father?
A piercing rip of laughter peeled away from under the bed. He didn’t know if she was coming home today or tomorrow, but it didn’t matter. Once Eddie made you his friend it was only a matter of time before you’d try to scream.
Once he picked you as his friend, he didn’t change his mind.
One time he waited outside a trailer house door for four days; waited and listened. Apparently the occupants did nothing more than screw and do drugs. When they ran out, the man of the house, on wheels like a toy car, left to find more narcotics.
He never made it as far as the car, did he? No, ahhh.
That screech of laughter again and the rhyme came back.
Eddie had spotted Kate at a local coffee stop. Luck had brought them together. He had been tossed out of the fast food joint down the street. The kid behind the register called the cops, said he looked suspicious. The cops apparently didn’t think so and he was walking down the street five minutes later.
Kate, he got her name from the coffee cup she had picked up at the counter. She bumped into him and Eddie knew at once she was going to be his next friend. He even thought he might love her. She was pretty and tall, like his mother, and she smiled so big and bright when he stepped in front of her. She recoiled a little when he smiled back, but that was alright. Not many people liked his smile.
Let’s be jolly friends, Kate.
That’s what he said to her, or wanted to say as she stepped back from him uttering something mostly polite. He decided she was the one for him, the next one anyway, and followed her down the street to her office.
Kate hadn’t noticed him, but then again, they never did.
Maybe Kate won’t notice I’m here under the bed until later.
His mind ran wild with thoughts of how he’d pop out from under the bed and scare the hell out of her, or maybe he’d drag her momma in here and drop her on the bed next to Kate after she slept?
So many options for my new playmate, so many choices…
He was getting excited.
It was dark now. Eddie thought about trying to stay awake and sharpen his knife more, but one look at the pointed edge and he could tell it was good. More than good. He closed his eyes, dreaming of all the things he and Kate would talk about and all the screaming she would do. He’d never used anyone’s parents as toys before and he was excited.
She will scream the loudest of any of them.
Sleep took him. It was the sleep of the mentally young and the criminally insane. Eddie chased his playmates through a park in his dream, waving the knife at some and running others down in a car he stole. Somewhere in the distance he heard a new scream, a new playmate was coming.
He opened his eyes to a flood of light pouring in from the hallway. Kate had made it home and wandered into the kitchen while he was asleep. She found her parents at the table where Eddie had found them. Well, he had found two people sitting having lunch but now there were enough pieces to fill every chair.
It’s rude not to fill up the empty seats.
Kate screamed and screamed like nothing he’d heard before. It was marvelous. He cried a little at the thought of all those screams to take with him when he moved on.
Like the scream lottery…
Eddie wriggled himself out from under her bed, his knife in hand and a smile on his face. He started to hum silently trying to find the tune he’d been humming for nearly a year now. The words would come, or most of them.
He started to sing aloud, rough at first but by the time Kate heard him, it was steady, if not out of tune. The words comfortably familiar.
“…come out and play with me, I have this knife you’ll see…”
Eddie walked around the corner into the kitchen. Kate stopped screaming for just a moment and listened. She registered the song and then the face. She hadn’t seen the knife until the very end.
Eddie sang and Kate screamed, and he smiled at her all the while.
~ Christopher A. Liccardi
© Copyright 2017 Christpher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved