George, while looking at his grandson and shaking his head, claps his hands and the side door to the stage opens. Four men wheel in a large cross-like contraption, with the man I met at the bar last week secured to the wooden structure with barbed wire. Blood oozes from the wounds, making a growing pool of blood on the stage.
Facing the crowd, I hold my hand high for silence. “The condemned will choose his justice.”
George steps close to the apparatus and reads from a scroll. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. You choose the sentence. Do you pick the crowd or do you pick the Master of Holden Farms?”
The man tries to speak, but he lacks the strength and the words can’t be heard over the murmurs from the audience. I take a few steps closer and wait for him to speak again. The crowd begins to shout and I hold my hand high again for silence.
“Execute him!” A lone voice screams. The crowd cheers in delirious approval.
“Make your choice,” I say and lean closer, putting my ear near his face.
The man groans in pain and the entire room becomes quiet while we all wait for him to speak. “I…choose…you.”
The crowd inhales in shock almost as one rather than several hundred people. This is the first prisoner to choose me. Every single one takes the mob justice to mine. Until now.
“Very well,” George says, clapping his hands again. Several men begin removing the man from the contraption while another group wheel in a large canopy topped bed, with pink frill sheets covered in rose petals. George Jr recovers his senses and finds the cake, placing it on a table positioned near the bed.
“You choose me?” I ask, but it’s not a question. The man groans in pain as his body is thrown on the bed by my workers. Jr ties his hands to the posts while Saul secures his feet.
“Start the playlist,” George says when Saul and his grandson finish.
Rihanna’s ‘Birthday Cake’ begins to play and I push everything in the room from my mind. Closing my eyes, I let myself drift into memories, searching through the rooms of horror for an exact moment in time. I see my father eating the cake…
“Are you familiar with Game of Thrones? No? It’s a series of books by some guy and a major character is a girl serial killer named Arya. Throughout the series, she recites a list of names – people she wants to kill.”
The man groans, but when I open my eyes, he is watching me and I know he understands.
“I have a list too, you see,” I whisper to him. Without looking, I tap my phone and change the playlist. “It’s Just Me” begins to play. “Do you want to hear about my list?”
He nods even though his eyes say no.
“Answer me a question. Is your name Ray Holden?”
He looks at me in confusion. We got the names thing out of the way days ago. I repeat the question, but still he doesn’t seem to understand. While I wait, George approaches the cake table. He takes one of the knives and offers it to me.
Taking it in hand, I close my eyes when the song changes. Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the world)” plays.
“Answer me. Is your name Ray Holden?” I ask, climbing on the bed with him, throwing a leg over his torso to straddle his waist.
“No,” he says again.
Pressing my chest against his, I hug myself to his body and whisper in his ear, “Then you are not on the list, sir.”
“What?” he asks.
“You are not on the list that gets to live,” I scream in his face.
I close my eyes and sing with the song, letting my mind drift once again.
…Make me feel, like I’m the only girl in the world,
Like I’m the only one you’ll ever love,
Only Girl (in the world)
At that moment I can see my father’s eyes watching me as I enter the kitchen. He’s eating Ray’s cake, my birthday cake. No, I say inside my mind. That’s my fucking birthday cake. My arms start moving before I open my eyes, the knife sliding into his body without resistance. Over and over I flail and jab my arm until I start to feel fatigue, but I don’t lose the count. I never lose count. …35, 36……45 and I finally stop.
I open my eyes and see the bloody pulp that used to be a man’s face gushing blood onto the sheets. The knife is taken from my hand and I feel something warm in my palm. I turn and see George nod at me and I smile: cake for me. Jamming the cake in my mouth, I realize how hungry I am. I don’t care one bit that the cake is dripping in blood. It’s so fucking good.