International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Horror Story
Life for a Life
Barbara Jane Mackie
You are staring into the eyes of a Murderer and that Murderer
is staring back at you. My story? How do I tell you my story,
a story so dark and undignified that it has only started to float
up into my consciousness from that sad place of secrets where
it has been festering, locked up, a crippled prisoner in chains,
for thirty years? How can I share the story of a murder of an
innocent so sweet, a mere baby and beginner in life, and a life,
which I, a vile and shameful Murderer, ended so brutally?
Holland, 1970. A
seaside village, Bergen-aan-Zee. A holiday of sorts. Myself, just thirteen,
my older sister and my parents. It was summer, the sky a portentious
grey, the weather heavy, the clouds troubled. We were staying in the
house of a Dutch Painter of some renown and his gloomy canvases adorned
the house, hollow eyed witnesses to some ghastly act of violence staring
at us from every room. The local coffee bars, where my sister and I
were occasionally allowed, was full of bearded hippies, hunched over
mugs of coffee, smoking, depressed.
No fun there for this mischievious, thirteen year old kitten-cat. My
father, the great writer, firmly on his pedestal, typing
up a script, locked up in some distant attic. My mother, kindly but
absent and my sister, at sixteen, gloomy in her self-absorbed world
that I was not allowed to enter. I was curious, wanting to know about
life, wanting to know about boys, wanting to know about
My mother shouted up brightly to our bedrooms: Plenty of good
books here, girls! Are you both reading?.
I was reading indeed: not the version of Catcher in the Rye
my sister had flung at me, but a copy of The Joy of Sex
by Alex Comfort. Comfort indeed! If I were to spend this hell-a-day
lonely under my quilt, I would enter a dark, delicious world of sexual
delight and nervously fingered self-knowledge. The bearded men of this
book, frowning with intent as they positioned their naked female counter-parts,
would become my lovers, the willing women in these sketches, (all strangely
compliant) my teachers. I would learn sexual positions, I had never
dreamed of! Bliss!
One problem, or two or three problems, scratching at my door, tumbling
in to scatter-gun my precious first steps of sexual exploration, were
a group of tiny kittens we had been entrusted to look after by our Dutch
Now, dear Members of the Jury, this Guilty-as-Accused teenager who stands
before you, had never committed a murder before. I had never been a
teenager before that Dutch holiday either. I was a kitten myself, dont
you see? An innocent who was about to take the life of an innocent.
A paradoxical position indeed. Maybe this could be taken into account
before you judge me, stare at me coldly and deliver your final verdict?
One certain kitten, my favourite (most Murderers know their victims)
a streaky grey tabby, the cutest little thing, would escape my wrath
as I banged the floor loudly with a nearby broom. This would cause the
other kittens to scatter, but this kitten, so brave, with its
inquisitive slate blue eyes, its perfect markings, a pale pink
button of a nose
oh, I should stop?
As I relate this act so deliberate, so brutal, which has torn up my
insides like a festering cancer, I can barely force myself back to the
memory of the sickening thwack as the door broke that kittens
neck. For one split second, I lost all morality and the earth stood
still, and, writhing under my quilt, I experienced explosion. A curious
pause in the steady thud-thud of my Fathers typing
upstairs in the attic. Perhaps he realised that his kitten
had now become a cat? My own sexual pleasure was more vital,
more essential that the life of a living, breathing being.
The bearded men in the book were making me aroused, they fingered me,
held me down, sucking and nibbling at my nipples. How could I stop?
What young girl could? As I hurled the broom irritably at the door,
where this mere baby, was scratching and trying to stick its soft
furry neck, I became a woman who now knew her place in the world of
The shame that I felt when the kittens limp dead body was found,
was dulled by the bright flame that had been lit within my own body.
I had, though, murdered a small part of myself, flung it out into the
garbage. Something innocent, deep within me, had been lost forever.
Guilty as accused. Sentence? Life.
You are staring into the eyes of a Murderer and that Murderer is staring
back at you.
© Barabara Jane Mackie Nov 2009
Barabara is a screenwriter and TV producer by profession
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