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The Catch

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It was the hot, humid summer of 2008. I believed myself to be the typical all-that, invincible teenage boy, always wanting to try new things, and just see the whole world. I was successful, my love life was fair, emotional state good enough, social life at its highest point, grades however, not so much.

And it was just those poor grades that got me into the predicament I found myself in... I had a Psychology teacher, a Mr. Preacher. He was a prudent ass to say the least, I had a D in his class and was told that just wasn’t going to have me passing next year, so of course, my “genius” brain concocted a plan.

I met with him after class, told him that I would do anything to pull my grade up, literally anything. Of course, what I was hinting at was sex. I wasn’t gay, as far as I was concerned, not that it mattered, and I needed to pass that class. I was willing to tackle anything, no pun intended.

So it was that Mr.Preacher and I went back to his place and performed the illegal acts that I was so almost willing to do for that grade. It was that almost part that got me down. Somewhere when he was unzipping his pants I realized, I didn’t want to do this. I must have told him no a million times.

I screamed for him to stopped, begged, pleaded, made futile attempts to push his hands away from the buttons on my T-shirt. It was rape in its finest sense. Afterwards I was humiliated, so embarrassed I didn’t dare tell anyone, I was so full of shame and self-pity that instead of helping my grades it just made them worse. I didn’t have the will to do anything. I went a few days without eating, didn’t get much sleep. It was hell walking into his classroom, the feeling of his eyes on me, the memory of the sweat trickling on his brow pounding at the back of my mind.

Suicide, not an option, I wanted to at least live a long happy life, but somehow I had to find resolve. Someway I had to make that bastard suffer the way I did...

That’s when I got to asking around, it was childish, stupid even but there before me on my computer screen was a Craigslist ad, talking about someone who could kill people with the sneaking abilities of a ghost. It was stupid, I laughed at it honestly... but somewhere in the back of my mind I lusted for it to be true. So I asked around, and managed to get the address of the place this guy hung out.

There was a street market, a Bazaar or sorts, he was into fortune telling, tarot cards, things of that nature, again, I was very amused but still quite hopeful. I went to meet with him a few days after I learned his whereabouts.

And when I got there... there he was... sitting at a table, glancing around cautiously, cards splayed out on the table. He looked a little older than myself, maybe in his early twenties or so. He was attractive... no... he was strangely beautiful, and again, I wasn’t gay, but there was an attractiveness to him that was something of boyish beauty, if his chin was more pointed, he had long hair and his jaw line less prominent he could pass for a woman, a hot one at that.

I sat down in front of him, managing to cover up my nerves with a sly smirk.

“Palm reading, tarot cards, what?” He asked, a smirk rising on his own face revealing pearly white teeth that were so perfectly straight a part of me wished I’d combed my hair and brushed my own teeth.

“No, no. Nothing of that sort... I’m here for your more... illegal dealings.” I said, hoping I’d worded that correctly.

“Forgive me, but I need to ask you which illegal dealings you mean,” He chuckled, a sound that resonated and reverberated at the back of my mind like the sound of a distant bell, “Sex, drugs, money... murder? What?” He was so indifferent by this conversation, made it seem so casual, that I found myself drawing a blank.

“Um.... oh right, I need someone dead, and I hear you can do it, and fast, without police ever having to know.” I nodded, snickering myself, though my own laugh was not as smooth as his, nor was it as lush, beautiful, I guess that was the toll of my smoking habit.

“Someone dead, eh? Name?” He nodded, and looked at me, piercing golden eyes catching me off guard another moment where I could’ve sworn my IQ level dropped.

“Oh, Markus, Markus Hawkes.” I said, extending a hand to shake his own, though he just laughed and shook his head.

“No, no, not your name... the person I’m killing.” He informed me, shaking my hand nonetheless causing my IQ level to drop even more. I swallowed hard.

“Sorry,” I said with a rough sigh. “His name is Nathan Preacher.” My lip curled up in something of a snarl, that image forming in my mind again, that bastards eyes glazed over in something pleasure and sheer ecstasy while I was beneath him pleading for him to stop.

He laughed. I wasn’t sure why though he spoke up quickly. “How... ironic... quite fitting that I, a demon will be killing someone named Preacher...” He laughed again, and I hoped my expression didn’t mirror my amusement and lack of belief. “You don’t have to believe the things I say.” He shook his head with a laugh. “Just trust I’ll get the job done.”

I gave a brief chortle that was practically a snort and I held back the urge to smack myself in the face for being such an idiot. “Of course, when can you have it done, do you need the address?” I asked, wanting to have him dead as soon as possible.

“I know where to find him.” He stated duly. “There’s an old shop off of the street corner near here, do you know of it?”

I paused a moment to think. “Yes, yes, I used to go there all the time as a kid, why?”

“Mr.Preacher will be dead today. Meet me at the shop at 12am sharp, and I will give you the news and proof of his death.” He nodded and stood from the table.

“D- do I need to pay you or something?” I sputtered quickly, going to grab the 500 dollars I had intended on giving him for his services.

“No no, not at all.” He smirked slyly.

I was happy, and I was just about to nod and walk away when a thought struck me and I stopped in my tracks. “What’s the catch?” I glared, brows furrowing in my confusion and something of unrest.

“Oh no, not at all, there’s no catch, the payment I receive is the pleasure of satisfying my customer and having a fresh kill at hand.” And with that he disappeared into the crowd of people in the streets. I was left with a feeling of fulfillment and yet an overshadowing doubt that sent shivers up my spine.

I waited. I waited a long time. It seemed like the clock decided to go in slow motion, so I played video games, pissed, slept, played more video games, pissed again, and then finally... my eyes went to the clock. 11:30, just enough time for me to get to the shop on my bike. I ran to the door, left my helmet behind and climbed on my old, paint chipped bicycle, pedaling as fast as I could to reach the shop.

It was easy, I got there in no time, set my back against the wall of the building, glanced through the window, and there, in the middle of the empty store he was standing, tapping his foot as if with impatience though I came to find I was actually a bit early. I sighed with relief and stepped inside, a smile on my face.

“So it’s done, he’s dead?” I asked eagerly, walking towards him with enthusiasm, if that bastard was really dead my life would be perfect, so perfect, everything would be better, I would have the satisfaction I wanted, closure. I was so eager to know, so eager my heart was practically bursting from my chest.

“He is.” He said with little enthusiasm, though his voice was more indifferent than anything. He tossed me a bag and my reflexes kicked in and I caught it quickly, the contents making a gut wrenching squish when I did so.

My stomach lurched forward when I saw the contents... the severed head of Mr.Preacher... in my hands... I dropped it to the floor with a start and threw up by the cash register in the store, holding my stomach. I didn’t think the bile would ever stop coming until I was suddenly just dry heaving and then I was able to be still and collect myself. I didn’t actually think it would be done, tears stung in my eyes. I was happy he was dead but... but was I really?

I looked over at the man who’d carried out the deed, and then to the severed head. Somewhere in my brain it registered, but disbelief shadowed my mind and I found myself struggling to grasp whether or not it had really happened.

He walked over to me and put a hand on my back, “It’s alright now, he’ll never be able to hurt you again.” His words were so fluid, flowed so well that I was lost a moment thinking about how poetic it seemed and then I realized what he’d said.

“Wh- what? How’d you know? I never... I never told you what he’d done...” I shook my head, aghast, in disbelief. There was no way he knew, it had to have been a coincidence.

“Markus dear, I know a lot more than you think.” He gave another of his beautiful chuckles, and stepped away from me, back to the center of the store, staring at me all the while. “Oh, Markus, I meant to say... there’s a catch.” and suddenly his voice wasn’t beautiful any more, it was dry and throaty, deeper than it had been before, and he was laughing, howling with whatever amusement had suddenly struck him. I was frozen, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I wasn’t sure if I was even breathing right.

I looked at him with wide eyes, I looked at it with a gawk expression, as once human features cracked and contorted, fingers unfurling until they were visibly longer and long, black nails were the result, I wanted to run, I wanted to scream for help but I couldn’t, I was stunned.

“There’s a catch!” It said again, and then he was barreling towards me with an inhuman speed that caused my heart to clench with such fear I was momentarily unable to function.

Somehow I managed to dodge, tumbling to the floor in something of a roll, and he went crashing into the wall of items behind the register, flinging cigarette boxes and lighters to the ground. He paused a moment looking at the wall and then his eyes snapped over to me. I scrambled to my feet and ran to the door.

“No!” It shrieked, and he was soon in my path way, blocking the door with his suddenly larger frame, where I could see the silhouette of torn, bat-like wings behind his back. “There’s a catch Markus, there’s quite a catch.” He mocked, teased, I backed away in my fear, shook my head, tears stinging at my eyes, a scream rising in my throat though I never knew if that shriek passed through my lips because then everything was black, and there was an empty silence that chills me to the bone to this very day.

I awoke in my bed the next day, earbuds in my ears, music blaring loudly. I had the vaguest beginning of a headache and my stomach was thwarted by a light nausea. I glanced around in confusion. Had I dreamed the whole thing? My eyes then went to the clock. It was 6 o’clock, I was late for my bus.

I struggled to get dressed, and ran outside, grabbing my bike and heading to school. I arrived late, though my first teacher didn’t say anything and let me pass.

The day went on as usual, I talked with friends, laughed, things were all so... normal. And then I made my way to my Psychology class... my stomach clenched as I walked in the door, I held my breath and almost closed my eyes, not wanting to see Mr. Preacher at the desk. But he wasn’t there... he was gone... there was a substitute teacher, a portly, balding man... I was confused, happy, and a little disturbed... Whatever I thought happened the night before couldn’t have really happened, I told myself, he was just gone because he was ill, or a family member died... something... anything other than what I’d dreamed.

I got home that day loaded with more homework I’d ever have to deal with in all my life. Of course, I didn’t do it, shrugged it off and pushed it to the side. I turned on the news and there... in front of my eyes was the headline “Teacher Nathan Preacher Killed in Tragic Car Accident.” And it panned over the scene... the brief image of his body in the car, and... well he certainly wasn’t headless, but he was still dead...

My phone started ringing I grabbed it quickly and answered, it was my friend Gabby, “Hey,” I greeted her, and she started talking about Mr.Preacher, how she was so shocked he was dead. I agreed with her, covering up the triumph that tried to sneak into my voice. Our chat was brief and I ended the call quickly, smiling in my enthusiasm.

Then my phone rang again, I rolled my eyes thinking it was her again and clicked the answer button with haste. “Yeah?”

The line was crackly, though through the static I heard a shrill voice, “I did it for you Markus, and you did wonders for me.” And then a chaotic laugh.

“Who is this?” I said seriously, angrily, though my brain had already supplied the answer.

“You know who it is.” Came the amused reply. “I did what you wanted, and I got what I had wanted from you... Markus, there’s a catch~!” He mused in a singsong voice.

“No... no... it can’t be... you... you took nothing from me... what do you mean? Wh- what did you do to me?” I practically yelled, and I could see my mom looking at me from the living room.

“I got what I wanted. You’ll see... with time...” He gave a hoarse chuckle and then began chanting over and over again “There’s a catch” over and over until I couldn’t take it anymore and tears bubbled from the corners of my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks.

“Stop it!” I screamed into the phone, but he kept going and finally I just hung up, what I should’ve done in the first place, though the voice was still there, still chanting in my head over and over...

There’s a catch... there’s a catch, but oh god... what catch? What did he do? And my mother was looking at me and she was holding onto my shoulders she looked worried, she was crying, she was talking, but oh god what was she saying? I couldn’t hear her, there was just the constant muttering of “There’s a catch” over and over again. And then she was screaming at me, I could see she was screaming, but oh Christ what was she saying!?

There’s a catch... there’s always a god damned catch.

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