It was real because it was just that...truly human and personal, which can be scarier than any-damn-thing at times.
Everybody lies and everybody tell stories or sells some bullshit from time to time. And there are also times when we really don't like ourselves, or our lives, too much. As long as no one really gets hurt, well, what does it matter, right?
Catfish explores just those points from all angles...and it is unflinching in its portrayal of such. I strongly urge anyone who likes documentaries, or simply has a Facebook page, to check this movie out.
I wrote a fictional story, waaaay back in 1997, which explored issues that were extremely similar, although my (the protagonist's) solution was a bit more intense and macabre than the one found in Catfish, the themes (and solutions) that are touched on in both ring true, regardless.
This story was originally printed in GQ magazine in August of 1998. It is called "The Acid Bath."
“At length, I would be avenged; this was a point definitely settled - but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.”
~ The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe
“What a tangled web we weave
when we first practice to deceive!”
~ Sir Walter Scott
What it comes down is this: she shouldn’t have sent me that last e-mail. It was a taunt. It was an insult. It was affront that could not, would not, be ignored. “And my name isn’t Emily Kristine Ross either,” the message read. I could almost hear her saying it in that annoyingly droll British tone.
She sent it two hours after her previous message, that message essentially telling me to perform a certain sex act upon myself, which by all practical accounts is quite impossible to perform on oneself. You see, sending that message two hours after the first tells me that she thought about it for awhile. She actually sat there thinking of more ways to toy with me, as if she hadn’t scrambled my poor brain enough already. And all I wanted to know was how she was doing. Bitch. Cunt. Slut. Whore. Oh, I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!
It’s the forethought thing that sticks in my craw. Malicious intent, I believe it is called in first-degree murder cases. Did the accused plot and plan the crime before she actually did the deed? In this case, there is no fucking doubt about it. This is my call to arms, my rallying cry. Just like, “REMEMBER THE ALAMO!” all those years ago from some long forgotten war, I have, “AND MY NAME ISN’T EMILY KRISTINE ROSS EITHER!” It isn’t as catchy but hey man, it’s got a good beat and you can think evil thoughts because of it.
And that is what I do. It is my job. I sit here in front of my computer, the monitor casting off a warm, ethereal glow, in a most contemplative mode. Thinking only the basest and most vile thoughts one can imagine. I find it very liberating. I don’t really know, or care, for that matter, what that says about me as a rational person. All I know is at this moment, it feels good, damn good. Still meandering about my inside my mind (a scary place it is, I tell you!), musings of wickedness pervading, I envision myself as the mad troll stomping about in Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, wreaking havoc and widespread chaos throughout the land. I want death. I want destruction. And I want it on tap. Hearing that furious music rattle through the confines of my skull, sets the blood-a-pumping and stands the minute hairs on the back of my neck at attention. Ahh, the thoughts of deviance and despair, what beautiful music they make!
Her nickname was “outshined,” mine was “Wildstar.” We both knew the origin of each other’s nicknames, hers being the title of a kick-ass Soundgarden tune and mine being a character’s name from the classic Japanese anime series “Space Cruiser Yamato.” We just clicked from there.
Yes, I admit it. I met “Emily” on-line. In a porn-star’s chat room, no less. So, I suppose you wouldn’t be entirely incorrect in saying that this “relationship” was doomed from the get-go. I mean, what kind of backward-ass-fucks frequent chat rooms? The kind that lie to you about everything under the sun, that’s who. But we’re not just talking about your average run-of-the-mill chat room goons, we’re talking about porn chat room goons. These are the mongoloids that log into a room and the first thing they type is, “WHO WANTS TO LICK MY PUSSY???” or “WHO WANTS TO SUCK MY BIG, FAT COCK???”, depending on gender, of course, which is tough enough to determine in the land of chat as it is.
Until now, I totally denied the fact that we met in a chat room. I told everyone that I met this supremely cool English babe through work, which isn’t all that far from the truth. I was in work, bored out of my gourd, when we met. I wouldn’t have been on the Internet, slumming in a porn star’s chat room, if I had mucho important work-type-stuff to do (wink, wink, nudge, nudge…). But that semantical nonsense isn’t important right now. What is of import is that everyone bought my story. Hook, line and sinker. Christ, I believed it. That’s the true sign of a really exceptional bullshitter, when the bullshitter can force himself to believe his own bullshit and almost make it a reality. It’s either that, or the sign of a completely delusional mind. Whatever. I don’t particularly care to go the self-analysis route right now, thank you very much.
Over the course of three months or so, a day did not pass without “Emily” and I speaking. Some days I would get absolutely nothing accomplished at work, for I would be too damn busy chatting with her on-line, or on the phone. We had so much to say to one another. We shared the same wickedly twisted sense of humor and the simple enjoyment of kicking back with a beer while critiquing the finer points of “A Clockwork Orange.” The day she called and told my secretary that she was an executive from George Costanza’s fictional “Vandalay Industries” is a classic that I will not soon forget. That plastered a smile on my face for days. We had so very much in common that it fucking scared me. It was getting to the point were we would finish each other’s sentences. I was wigging out, man. Shit like this just doesn’t happen to me. I even confided in a friend that I though she was my female doppelganger. She was everything I needed, wanted, desired in a woman, mentally and physically. In my mind’s eye, she was the Venus in my clamshell. The yin to my yang. The Cher to my Sonny. The jelly to my peanut butter. You get the idea.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention one significant thing. “Emily” and I never actually met in person. You see, she was staying in Phoenix and I live in Philadelphia. There was much large talk of a palatial weekend rendezvous but lies and deceit put an abrupt end to such plans. This was almost exclusively an on-line relationship. And that is where she fucked up. She assumed that she was safe from me, that her Internet anonymity would keep her true identity hidden. LOL, that’s “laughing out loud” for all you people with real lives who have not experienced chat room giddiness.
Let me tell you a little secret, I could track down a pile of antshit on the Internet if I felt the need to do so. I am the Lord of the Internet, master of all that I survey. I’m the fucking Internet daimyo. I own the ‘net and everything on it. It is my domain. And I have her e-mail address, “ZOE006@fhl.com.” That’s more than enough for someone with my skills. So, in less than forty minutes with a little hacking, cracking, phreaking and sneaking, I have everything I need to put my plan of vengeance in motion. Real name, address, credit card numbers, the whole kit and kaboodle.
Guess who’s coming to dinner, “Emily” and it ain’t the natty dreadlocks.
Jerry Seinfeld was right. Airplane food sucks. This is my first trip on an airplane since I was twelve and my parents took me to “the happiest place on earthtm”, Disneyland. I don’t get out much anymore but it’s Phoenix or bust now, baby. Airport terminals suck even more, as does the whole “rental car” experience but through the grace of God (i.e. Bill Gates…well, he’s my God anyway…and one fine day, I will be as cool as Bill, I mean God…), I made it through the whole ordeal relatively unscathed.
That night, in my crappy hotel room (unfortunately, being Lord of the Internet doesn’t pay all that well…), while praying at the portable Temple of Bill (i.e. laptop computer), the plotting part of my revenge ended and the practice part began. First and foremost, I cancelled all of her credit cards and emptied all of her bank accounts. I know that’s kind of passe’ nowadays but some classics need to be heard every now and again, don’t you think? Secondly, I shitcanned all of her passport and visa information. Try getting back to jolly, old England for High Tea with the Queen Mum now, bitch. And finally, I located a chemical supply store in downtown Phoenix where I could purchase mass quantities of the most corrosive substance on Earth, Hydrochloric acid. Isn’t living in the Information Age a grand thing?
Okay. Now I feel really retarded. Move me to the head of class, Miss Crabtree, if you please. I am ready to dazzle the world with my awe-inspiring intellect. I am the sharpest pencil in the box and don’t you forget it.
I’ve been sitting in this fucking miniscule rental car in the blistering fucking Phoenix sun, with four, count ‘em, four fucking five-gallon jugs of Hydrochloric acid, all fucking day. No “Emily” in sight. I got to her apartment complex at the crack of dawn and now it is black, black, night. I’m tired. I’m cranky…no, check that, cranky is what little babies get when they’ve been crawling around in a wet diaper all day. I am pissed off to the nth degree. One question has been rambling through my brain for the past hour or so, dare I sleep? I wonder how these other psychopathic stalker types do it, stay frosty and mentally nimble during a loooooong stake out because I am one whipped puppy right about now. Maybe some research on Bundy, Berkowitz and the boys would have been in order before my little endeavor here. Research was never my strong point, I’m more of an action man. Fuck all this crap, I need to sleep.
Where is this wench??
I awake to the offensive, white hot clamor of a car alarm. Where am I? Who am I? What I am doing here? I loathe when I wake up and I don’t know what the fuck is going on. Soon enough, it all comes rushing back to me with the suddenness of a premature ejaculator. I’m a man on a mission and you can bet your ass, I choose to accept. It’s now 2:45 AM. I have been unconscious for over two hours. Have I missed my quarry? A quick scan of the parking lot brings a smile to my sleepy features. Lady Luck is smiling like a motherfucker on me this evening. Take me to Vegas this instant and let’s bet it all on black, baby.
The reason that the fine BMW automobile is wailing away like a twice stuck pig is due to the fact that some drunk asshole has puked all over it. The same drunk asshole is now leaning against the Beemer for balance purposes. That drunk asshole happens to be my “Emily.” My girl. My prey. This is going to be much easier than I thought. Woooohooooo. Luck be a lady tonight…
I exit my car with greatest of ease, for I am the man on the flying trapeze. I glide on over, just a valorous knight on his way to help out a damsel in distress. She’s too busy spitting bits of goo out of her mouth to notice me just yet. This has to be quick, quick, quickie-quick. Speedy Gonzales quick. Don’t want any nosy lookie-lou’s, or fat-ass donut munchers popping up to spoil all of the fun that is to come. “Hello, Emily, ” I say, with my best Cheshire Cat grin at the ready.
She glances up from her vomit. It takes her a few moments but finally, she recognizes who I am. The expression that sweeps across her face at the moment of my recognition is nothing short of priceless. A combo maneuver of terror, surprise, amazement and alcoholic stupor that only forces the grin on my face to grow to near insane proportions.
“It’s y…,” she starts. I am upon her before she can finish. She doesn’t even have time to consider screaming.
So, now I have an extremely naked and most unconscious female handcuffed to the sturdy, wooden chair in front of me. She didn’t lie to me about her looks, which is surprising. She is a dish. We exchanged pictures across the ‘net on several occasions. Each one of her pictures looked better than the last. And she looks even better in person. Good enough to eat. Yum-yum. Many depraved and wonderfully twisted thoughts are zipping and zapping through my head like hyperactive chain lightning at this moment. Shall I detail them for you now? Nahhhh, I have I better things to do right now. Let’s just say the majority of these meditations involve fresh produce and small farm animals. ‘Nuff said.
I fully expected her to be a nasty heifer-beast. I mean, she lied about every other fucking thing, why not this? I suppose when you look as fine as this, there isn’t any real reason to lie. Her looks are immaterial. Cindy Crawford or Mama Cass, it makes no difference whatsoever. She still has a lesson to learn and I’m gonna learn her real good.
A few splashes of water, splish-splash, and my darling is awake. She almost immediately understands the gravity of her situation. At first, she is angry, indignant. As she well should be, I have stripped, gagged and incarcerated her in her own domicile. She tries, most futilely, to break her bonds and scream for help. Her anger gives way to frustration and frustration gives way to tears. It’s a fucking beautiful thing to watch, I must admit. Glee, glee, glee and rapture! Her sobs grow in volume. She has seen me grinning away as if I was the King of Crackheads. Enough nonsense. It is time for my fantasies (and oh, how I dreamed of this moment!) to become reality. First, the tongue-lashing, then, the bath.
Hot damn, I should have been a Nazi.
“So, Emily,” I begin. I continue to call her “Emily.” To me, that’s her name. I don’t know this other person, who the records tell me she is.
“What made you think that you could fuck with my head and get away with it? What is it with the women in today’s world? The majority of them think that they are untouchable, that they have some kind of unspoken defensive prerogative, which protects them and allows them to treat men like dogshit. To make up any fucking lies they want and then walk away, leaving the poor, male asshole with his dick in his hands and no green in his wallet. No blood, no foul, they say. Oh, I am woman. I’m mysterious and that’s the way it is. I can’t and won’t ever rationally explain my actions or thoughts to you, you lowly, pathetic fuckwad. Well, ‘Emily,’ that kind of thinking, if you want to call it that, ends here. Tonight. Right here in this very room. Tonight, I’m taking one back for myself and for my male brethren. Tonight, we get even. So, you better pray to whatever god it is you pray to and get your shit in order ‘cause you ain’t gonna be around much longer.”
That being said, I leave her wide eyed and wondering, and I move behind her couch where my lovely, liquid avenger hides. At a leisurely pace, I roll each jug into the bathroom. So she can watch. And think. What I wouldn't give to be inside her mind right now. I would almost give up the actual deed itself, just to be inside her head, to know what obnoxious tortures she is envisioning. Oh, the delectable, maddening torment she must be experiencing as I wheel four huge jugs of something into her bathroom. Something that she damn well knows does not contain her recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.
With great alacrity, I dump the contents of the jugs into the tub and then return to my sweetie-darling in bondage. We cannot leave her in waiting, can we? No, no, certainly not. I return to her with the last jug still in my hands. Purposely, I let some droplets of acid drip off the end of container onto the bare flesh of her thigh. “HISSSSSSS,” says the acid as it smokes and chews through her milky skin. And she shrieks. Oh, how she shrieks. Even though it is muffled, it is still a shriek. For now, she knows.
“It is time,” I say in an evil voice that would put Vincent Price to shame. I place the jug on the carpet, fish the handcuff keys from my pocket and free the feet, hands and mouth of my darling-angel. Oddly enough, she doesn’t attempt an escape. She just sits on the chair, blubbering. It seems she has accepted her bitter fate. In one quick motion, I gather her from the chair and carry her, fireman style, to the soothing bath that I have drawn for her. This bath, my bath, will take you further away than fucking Calgon ever could. It will cure all your ills and take away all your pain forever. And isn’t that what the majority of us really want? To make it all stop. To make all of this silly bullshit we call “life” just fade away into nothingness. Ah, but I digress…
Now standing in front of the tub, facing her death and doom, she breathlessly mutters one word over and over. The word is “please.” Does this mean, “please do it,” or “please don’t do it?” I’ll surmise she is leaving that decision up to me. You get the big thumbs down, baby. Caligula eat your heart out.
“Goodnight sweet Emily and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” I whisper into her ear, almost singing Horatio’s classic epitaph for his dear friend. Usually, I try to avoid stealing from the main man, Willy S., but in this case I can’t help myself. The line works too damn well. What I can I say? I’m a sucker for great theater and that’s just what this scenario is, great, no, check that, outstanding fucking theater. The Greeks would have eaten this shit up for sure. Christ, they would have undoubtedly asked for seconds. But yet again, I digress. Could it be that I am stalling? Not a chance…
My arms flex forward, shoving her trembling, naked body into the bathtub. General chaos ensues. Splashing. Thrashing. Screaming. Yelling. That only lasts for a few seconds and then there is silence, for you see the bathtub contains mostly water. Three parts water, one part acid, or 15 gallons of water to only five of acid. I’m enough of a crazy bastard to plot this crime and trek across the country to implement said crime but I’m not enough of a crazy bastard to actually disintegrate a person in a bathtub full of Hydrochloric acid. This whole thing was set up to teach my dear, sweet “Emily” a lesson and a person can learn no lessons when they are dead. This much I know.
She sits in the tub of mostly water, her brilliant, gleaming eyes questioning me. Probing me. Sizing me up. I sit down on the tiled floor, so that I can look directly into those ice-chip-blue eyes. Ah, her eyes! Even in those crappy digital pictures that we swapped across the ‘net, I could see that her eyes contained something extraordinary. That these amazing, azure eyes possessed some hypnotizing quality that broke many a poor boy and God, I know I’m one. Who was it that said the eyes were the gateway to the soul? Whoever said that was a fucking-dead-on-balls-genius.
“You know, ‘Emily,’ my parents were married for 33 years,” I start, my eyes locked in with hers. My glare is nowhere near as potent as hers is but I can still stop a man dead in his tracks from 50 paces, if the mood moves me. “And the last year and a half of that marriage was pretty shitty. You see, my Dad had lung cancer and it was fucking ugly. That man suffered. He suffered through the chemo and the radiation and all that nonsense and it did not one drop of good. Not one, in fact, it made him worse. The cancer still migrated, traveled, whatever you want to call it. Give it a name, the malignant shit was ripping through his body. Finally, it wound up in his brain and that’s when the real fun began. He started to forget things. He lost his mobility, his equilibrium and the control of his bowels. Not to mention the fact that he looked like a goddamn concentration camp survivor. He was a shade, a fucking shadow, of the man that was. And my mother, boy, she was a total mess. Every night towards the end, she would sit there, beside that hospital bed. Watching. Waiting. Sometimes she would have to change him out of his adult fucking diaper and let me tell you what a pleasant sight that is. As she was changing him, she would stroke his head and body and she would moan, literally moan, ‘Oh, my Jimmy, Oh, my Jimmy…’ over and over and over. She may as well have been dying with him. I think she wanted to die with him. I mean, because he was checking out her life was over,” I pause, bowing my head but I can see that “Emily” is nothing short of engrossed.
“Telling you all this upsets me but not in the way that you would think. I miss my father, don’t get me wrong, his end was horrible and most undeserved. But what really gets to me is that I know, I fucking know, that I will never know a love and devotion like my parents had. That kind of love is a thing of the past, almost non-existent today. And that makes me sad, ‘Emily,’ very sad.”
I glance up to her. I don’t know what even to call the look that I see on her face. She leans forward and kisses me. Hard and passionately. “Please,” she murmurs quietly, “call me Zoe, that’s my name.”
I had every intention (as far as she knew), of evaporating her silly ass and now she wants me? What kind of sicko is this chick anyhow? This is what is wrong with women today. I try to kill her and now, somehow, I am desirable. Twisted. Fucking twisted. She is the reason why Jerry Springer, Montel, Ricki Lake, et al., get the ratings (and the guests) that they do.
I thrust “Miss Fucked-In-The-Head, 1998” away from me with all of my might and beat a hasty retreat. Exit, stage left.
Dawn is breaking. A gorgeous calligraphy of light showers across the Phoenix sky. And here I sit. In my cramped rent-a-wreck. In the same damn parking space. Nothing has changed. Nothing has moved. She didn’t even call the cops.
Two thoughts have been buzzing through my brain since I left her and I can’t, for the life of me, get them to leave. Would you like to know what they are?
One: I now know that I will never even come close to understanding the complexities of the female “mind.”
Two: This world is one incredibly fucked up place.
Here endth the lesson.