Aly’s neighborhood was still lit up like Christmas, and that was, surprisingly, the biggest hurdle I had to face while planning my little stunt. A week had passed since I saw her text to Tyler. Seven days of trying to talk myself out of this insanity while practicing my lock picking, researching whether or not Aly had a home security system – she didn’t, which was unacceptable – and driving through this neighborhood at night doing recon. Clearly, the still-rational part of my brain had failed to get the rest of me to see reason because there I stood in the shadows by Aly’s back door, trying to catch my breath after triggering a mini street-wide blackout and sprinting behind her house to unscrew her rear floodlights before the power kicked back on.
I leaned my head against the vinyl siding and closed my eyes. I was gonna get caught. I was gonna get caught and make international news, and because of who my father was, there was no way a jury would ever think this was my first break-in. They’d think I planned something far more nefarious, and I’d get sent to jail for the rest of my life for this stupid shit.
All because I wanted to fuck a pretty girl while wearing a mask.
I should have gone home. Pushed off the wall, got in my car, drove away, and forgot about Aly’s mask kink. A normal guy would. A sane guy. But I must not have been either of those things because the second thoughts of leaving swirled through my head, a resounding “NO” cut them off. Maybe it was time to accept the fact that I wasn’t normal, and I never would be. I wanted things most people didn’t, craved darkness and depravity instead of light and love. I’d been fighting against my nature for as long as I could remember and was tired of it. So fucking tired.
It’d be so much easier to give in for once. A relief, really. I’d worked so hard to fix and suppress the things I’d been taught were abnormal, but after over a decade of therapy and drugs, the problematic thoughts and desires remained.
Here was my chance to finally live them out. I’d done as much preparing as I possibly could. My skin was covered head to toe, so there’d be no trace epithelial for a forensics team to find. Only one of Aly’s direct neighbors had a security system, and I’d hacked into their network to see if any of their cameras overlooked her backyard. They didn’t. Just in case I’d missed something, I wore a balaclava to hide my face. The boots I’d shoved my feet into were a size larger than I normally wore, and I’d plastered over the soles so there wouldn’t be any distinguishable tread marks left behind. All that was left to do was get in, do what I had to do, and get out.
I took a deep breath and turned toward the door. The moon was only half full, but between it and the nearby Christmas lights, I could just make out the doorknob. I tugged my backpack off and pulled out my mini lockpicking kit. The steel tools gleamed in the moonlight as I slipped them free and got to work. My personality sometimes led to obsessive behavior, and I’d practiced this so much that it only took a minute for me to get the door unlocked. I turned the handle, praying it wouldn’t be this easy, and let out a relieved breath when the door wouldn’t budge because of a deadbolt. It still wouldn’t be enough to keep me or a serious burglar out, and Aly needed better security than this.
I made a mental note to place an anonymous order for her as I put the lockpicking kit away and pulled out the expensive magnets I’d bought online. Getting the deadbolt open would take a lot longer than the lock. I could have easily kicked the door in or used another destructive method to gain entry, but I didn’t want to damage Aly’s property or make it easier for anyone else to follow in my footsteps, so that meant doing things the slower, harder way.
Sweat beaded along my brow as the minutes ticked by. Every time a noise sounded too close, I froze, my heart hammering in my chest as I wondered if I was about to be caught. I nearly bolted when I heard the sudden wail of a siren, but instead of coming closer, it seemed to move parallel to Aly’s street and then away.
I lost an entire minute afterward as I relearned how to breathe.
This was fucking crazy. Full blown batshit. And yet, I couldn’t seem to stop myself as I lifted the magnets and got back to work on her deadbolt.
After what felt like a small eternity, the magnets caught, and the lock slid open. I leaned my forehead against the door and let out a shaky breath, so much adrenaline sluicing through my veins that my whole body shook with the need to expel it. I was still half afraid this would end in disaster, but the sheer thrill of doing something so dangerous and illegal was more exhilarating than anything I’d ever experienced, including skydiving. Was this what it had been like for my dad? Did this same thrill drive him on as much as his more sadistic desires?
I shook my head and straightened. I could wonder about that shit later. Right now, I needed to get inside.
I turned the handle and cautiously pushed open the door. The one thing I couldn’t find online was whether or not Aly had any pets. I hadn’t heard barking while I jimmied the locks, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t an attack dog waiting for me inside that had been trained to be quiet. Sure, I could have assuaged my worry by asking my roommate – Tyler had been here a few times, so he would know the answer – but I didn’t want him to think I was interested in any of his exes, especially Aly.
The rear of the house was dark, with only a soft glow of light penetrating the darkness from the front rooms, where Aly’s Christmas tree still stood proud and fully lit in front of a window. It was enough illumination to make out my surroundings. I stepped into a kitchen and saw no dogs waiting to pounce, so I quickly shut the door behind me and locked it.
An unholy yowl split the air.
Fuck. Aly had some sort of demonically possessed canine after all, and it would probably rip through my pant leg and splash my blood all over the fucking house for the cops to find.
I grabbed the doorknob and was about to tear out of there when a small, fluffy shape darted into the room and stopped short. A cat. Aly had a cat.
We eyed each other in the darkness. It was pretty runty despite the long black and white hair. If push came to shove, I could take it.
“Don’t fuck with me,” I warned.
In response, it turned sideways and stood on its tiptoes, fluffing up like a skunk.
Despite myself, I grinned. The cat might be small, but it looked like a fighter, and that I could appreciate.
I’d never had a pet. Psychopaths were well known for getting their start on small animals, and I didn’t want the temptation. I worried that if I adopted one, I either wouldn’t feel anything for it – meaning none of the protection or cute aggression most pet owners seemed overwhelmed with – or I’d have all my greatest fears confirmed and take one look at a pet and think “prey.”
As the seconds ticked by between Aly’s cat and me, I stood glued to the doormat, waiting for some violent urge to overtake me. All I felt was slight trepidation. Cats had claws, right? What if it lunged at me and scratched deep enough to draw blood? Even a drop was enough to identify someone.
Without warning, the cat deflated and sauntered toward me.
Oh, fuck. What was it doing?
I stepped back and flattened myself against the door, weirdly mesmerized by how its eyes glowed in the darkness. This small fluffy creature would be so easy to kill, yet I had no desire to harm it. That had to be a good sign, right? Or was this such a new experience that whatever horrible response I might normally have was muted?
“No scratching,” I told the cat.
There was still a chance that some monstrous craving for blood was stirring beneath the surface, undetected, and if it attacked me, those murderous instincts might roar to the forefront of my psyche and do something terrible. I’d been taught not to trust myself my whole life, and this seemed like the perfect setup for learning just how alike Dad and I really were, once and for all.
The cat strode right up to my feet, unperturbed. I stood frozen in place, waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, but instead of biting me, it sniffed my pant leg and butted its forehead into my shin, purring so loud that it sounded like an engine turning over.
I let out a relieved breath and half fell to a squat to get a closer look at it. The thing was kind of…cute, with white patches above its eyes that made it look like it had eyebrows. Right now, they were drawn together as the cat half-lidded its eyes and butted against my leg again as if looking to be petted. Had I ever thought anything was cute before? Maybe the better question was, had I ever let myself before?
“Sorry if I fuck this up,” I said, lifting a hand to scratch the cat between the ears and then stroke down its back like I’d seen other people do on TV. This was the first time I’d ever pet an animal, and my fingers shook. Thankfully, it was from unspent adrenaline and not the rising desire to strangle it.
Crisis averted. For now, at least.
So far, I’d learned two crucial things about myself this week: I didn’t want to hurt Aly or her cat. Maybe I wasn’t a psychopath after all. They cared about no one and nothing but themselves. But that didn’t rule out sociopathy. Most sociopaths were capable of caring for a few select people. They were their rare exceptions, developing intense love and devotion for them while feeling absolutely nothing for anyone else. I cared about my mom, stepdad, and Tyler. They were my people, and I barely thought of others. But was that because of a personality disorder or because they were the only ones who had actually earned my trust?
I shook my head and stood, ignoring the cat’s annoyed meow of protest when I stopped petting it. I wasn’t here to bond with an animal. My time was limited, and the longer I lingered, the higher the risk of detection. I could puzzle out my mental health, or lack thereof, later. I had a video to film and a camera to place.
It was time to find out just how serious Aly was about wanting to walk into her house and find a masked man waiting for her in the darkness.
Copyright © 2023 by Navessa Allen
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.