Stan was a relatively quiet, unassuming database programmer. A little odd to some, overly religious to others. His manager knew that he was going through a bitter divorce, his wife even went so far as to take out a restraining order against Stan, his manager couldn't understand why. In his eyes, Stan couldn't even hurt a fly without having to say a little prayer for it after he hit it lightly with a news paper, hoping not to kill it, but just to stun it so that he could scoop it up and put it outside.
Stan would come into work after taking the train in from his little unassuming home just about 25 miles from work, up in the "sticks" as the people from downtown would call it. He would walk briskly, head down and counting the sidewalk squares as he went. Everyday he would get to his desk, open the bag that held his lunch, and everyday he would pull out an apple and 2 bananas, then put the rest of what was in the bag into the little refrigerator under his desk. He would work his 9.5 hours, pack up his stuff and prepare to make the trek back to the train and his 25 mile ride to the station where he would walk home, head down and counting the sidewalk squares back home, breathing a sigh of relief knowing that the number didn't change between going to work and coming home.
He'd grab the mail from the mailbox outside at the sidewalk, walk up the walkway to the stoop in front of his 1920's house that was left to him and his twin brother after his parents passed away 10 years ago. Stan's brother didn't live with him, this was the house where Stan and Linda lived for the 8 years of their marriage.
Stan put the key in the door, and after taking a quick look behind him, he opened the door and entered his house. The hardwood floors and wood work on the walls of the entry way made the house dark, but that's alright, Stan prefers the dark anyway. The house was immaculately kept. "A place for everything and everything in it's place" Was his mother's mantra. Every time he thought about the time he was blamed for his twin leaving the toy car out, his skin burned with the scars he received from the wire coat hanger across his back, only imaginary now, but still just as painful.
Stan wound his way through the house, past the craftsman style woodwork, over the pristine hardwood floors, past room after room of antiques, past the grandfather clock which chimed on the hour and on the 1/2 hour. Past the living room, where he wasn't allowed to go as a child, past the stairs that led up to the bedrooms, where he first made love to Linda as Husband and Wife, where their son had slept, and was eventually found dead. A horrible occurrence of Sudden Infants Death Syndrome, was found to be the cause. Stan and Linda never recovered, and that's when they slowly slipped into guilt, blame and eventually numbness towards each other.
Stan worked his way into the kitchen, the room was good sized, built for entertaining, but in the corner was a little table now where Stan ate his meals, now that Linda left. An incandescent bulb over the table was the only light that Stan liked using any more, it was comforting without being overwhelming. He went to refrigerator and pulled out a premade meal, put it into the microwave and set the timer. As he waited for the meal to finish cooking, he eyed the piece of paper on the table, one that had been crumpled, flattened out, folded and unfolded so often that you wouldn't think that it had come him only 2 weeks ago. When the microwave dinged to let him know that the contents were done, he pulled them out of the microwave, grabbed a fork, a glass of water and his book, then went to sit at the table.
He said a prayer for the people who had worked hard to supply his food, he prayed for the people that he works with and then he ate his chicken and rice, plain, and drank his water while reading his bible. He read passages about love and forgiveness, he read passages which he felt would enlighten and empower him. Lord knows that he needed that these days. He couldn't keep the piece of paper on the table out of his sight, he folded it again, no use, he tucked it behind the plastic flowers in the vase on the table, still no good. He pulled it out and skimmed over it again. After skimming over it a few more times, he folded it up again and put it into his shirt pocket. He finished his meal, walked it over to the sink and washed off the plate and fork, put them in the dish drainer. The dishwasher was a luxury reserved for more than 1.
After wiping down the table, Stan walked over to the drawer, opened it, and pulled out a shiny handgun. It was one that Stan's brother had given him for home defense. He showed Stan how to load it, how to hold it, how to take off the safety. If Stan didn't have his brother, he wouldn't have anything right now. Stan took a set of keys out of his pocket, put one of the old style keys in a door lock in a door under the stairs that led up to the bedrooms. Turned the lock and let it click before turning the door knob. He opened the door, pulled the string to turn on the light at the top of the stairs, and started to descend the basement stairs.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he turned, the basement was dark and dank. Dirt from the 80 plus years was the only thing in the house that seemed out of place. Stan walked to the center of the room, found the pull string to the light in the center of the room. With the pull of the string, the light clicked to life. With the light came a startled whisper. In the center of the room stood a cage only a 5' cube, metal tubes for bars, and in the cage was a woman. The woman, beautiful at one time, now bruised and bloodied, her hair strewn around the cage cut off in a fit of rage on Stan's part. Stan pulled from his pocket the piece of paper, grabbed the woman by the hair and wrenched her head back towards him, the only thing stopping her from going any further was the bars of the cage. His teeth in a feral sneer, he got down to her level, "I can't believe that you thought that a fucking piece of paper could protect you" spittle flying from his lips as he said this. Just for emphasis, he pushed her head forward and then back again into the bars. Linda whimpered, as another drip of blood fell from just behind her ear. "I should just kill you now Linda, just like you killed our son" He said, his voice reaching a fevered high at the last part of his sentence.
"I didn't do anything Stan... it was an accident... it was an accident..." her voice trailing off into a sob. "BULLSHIT!! You killed him, God wouldn't take such a beautiful creature from us... FROM ME!!"
Linda, in the moment of realization she was not going to live, spat back "FROM US! You're such an asshole Stan, just kill me and get it over with, That's what you want isn't it? To punish me for Lee's death, well just do it and get it over with you selfish FUCK!" She spat at him and he was taken aback if only for a moment. "Just remember, when you do kill me, they'll find you and put you away for the rest of your miserable little life, so just fucking do it so that I can go see your precious God and tell him what a miserable little prick you are". Linda wiped away a tear which was a mixture of blood, dirt and long repressed anger and sadness.
Stan stood back, cocked the gun that he had with him, Linda heard this noise before, "I hope you're happy being gang raped by all the guys in prison you little prick" She said to him, with that, he grabbed a handful of hair again and told her that he was not going to prison. She just laughed at him now, she had struck a chord with him and all she could do was laugh at him, she knew that her life was over, and in her final moments she was able to take comfort in knowing that he'll be going to hell twice for what he's done to her. Once to the prison yards to become someone's bitch, and when he finally suffered enough in this life, he'll spend eternity being tortured. Stan couldn't be taken to prison and the full impact of realization hit him, he wouldn't survive, not without his brother there. Frantically he reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He took his handgun and pointed it at Linda. "Go ahead you fuck, just kill me and get it over with, better yet, why don't you just do us all a favor and blow your own Goddamn brains out, oh that's right, you can't because that's just as much of a sin as killing me, you're fucked buddy... good luck in hell"
This last phrase cut through Stan like a knife, he had to do something, he prayed "Praying isn't going to help you" Linda retorted. Stan reached through the bars again towards Linda, except this time he didn't grab at her. He had pushed the gun through, she took it tentatively, was this some kind of trick.
"You're going to have to kill me" he told her
"No" she looked at the gun repulsed and confused.
Pacing back and forth in front of the cage, "You have to do it, if you want to get out of this, you have to kill me"
Holding up a ring of keys he told her "These are the keys to your cage, if you want to get out of this alive, pull the trigger"
"NO" holding the gun now as if cradling a newborn.
With that Stan reached through the cage, who did this bitch think she was to defy him like that, in his house at that... He grabbed for the gun, she brought it up and fired, one shot through the upper lip and out the back of Stan's head. He was still conscience as he stumbled back away from the cage, dropping the keys at the door. A rasping sound came from him as he fell back away from the cage. He landed flat onto his back, change and other things clanking in his pocket as he hit the floor, his head now lying in a pool of blood.
Linda sat shaking, the smoking handgun and spray of blood brought her back to reality, she slowly reached for the ring of keys on the floor in front of her. She looked at all of the keys on the key ring, they all looked ancient, not like the brand new lock on the cage....
Now before anyone lambastes me for this, I had this story from about 18 years ago. There was a picture in the news paper with the title "Tell us what this means" There was a picture of a man, a woman in a cage, a jester skeleton and something else, not sure what it was right now though. The above story was what I immediately thought of.