Call Me Crazy
People say I'm insane. I laugh when they say this, because they're right. I'm fucked up and I know it. Hell, I embrace it! I love the sight of blood, the metallic smell, the coppery taste. I love to watch the light fade from a person's eyes, to see their last breath escape their lungs.
I'm a fucked up guy, and I love every second of it.
But what made me this way, you ask? I certainly wasn't born with this crazy shit in my head. No, no. I wasn't always like this. I wasn't always a bloody psycho. No, that started when I was eight years old.
Her name was Caroline Sarno. When I met her, she was probably thirty, thirty one. I saw her at the park. She was with her daughter - I don't remember the kid's name. Didn't care much about either of them, until Caroline talked to me one day. I was running by where she always sat, and I don't know what made me do it, but I looked over at her. She was looking right at me, smiling the creepiest smile I'd ever seen. Eight year old me was a little freaked out, but I was intrigued, too. Why me? Why was she staring at me, and not her kid? When I didn't run away, she tilted her head to one side and raised one hand, curling her index finger in that 'come here' motion adults used sometimes. I took a glance around the park, then walked over to the bench she always chose.
"Nikolaus, right? Nikolaus Riva?" she asked with that same smile, patting the bench beside her. She pulled her purse closer to her exposed thigh when I moved to sit. "You're here a lot, aren't you? Where's your Mommy?" I gave her a look that made it clear that I didn't trust, but I was interested in the strangeness of it all.
"She's right over there. On the other side of the swings," I said, pointing with one hand toward where my mother sat. She wasn't watching me. She was absorbed in my four year old sister, Elyza. That wasn't unusual, honestly. Caroline smiled at me, shifting her bag again to get my attention back to her.
"I wanted to ask you something, Nikolaus. You're different, aren't you? There's this...darkness around you. A curiosity for the dangerous things. Like when you picked up that copperhead snake a week ago. Everyone else was so scared, but not you," she said. There was an element of awe in her voice that I didn't recognize as a child. "I was wondering if you'd play a game with me." A game? Of course, a game always wins a child over.
"Sure," I conceded without argument. "What kind of game?" She smiled again, then looked around. Her daughter was off playing with a small group, under the watchful eyes of three parents. After confirming that, she stood up and gestured for me to follow her, and I did. I followed for a few minutes, until she stopped walking. We were out by the old train tracks, abandoned and rusted for years now.
"It's a dangerous game, so no one wants to play it with me. You see, Nikolaus, I like risk. Do you know what that means?" I shook my head. "I like doing things that could get me in trouble, or get me hurt."
"Why would you like doing things like that?" I asked her, genuinely curious.
"Why'd you pick up the snake?" she countered.
"Because it was fun."
"Exactly," she giggled. "It's fun! But it's not that fun when I'm playing by myself.... Do you want to play with me?" I nodded. She reached into her bag and pulled out an old six-shot pistol. Back then, I knew it was a gun, but that was about it - after a few months, I learned the gun had many names. My personal favorite, for its ironic opposite effect, was Peacemaker. I watched her pop open the chamber, load in one brass bullet, close it up and give it a spin. Then she gripped the barrel in one hand and held it out, handle toward me. My hands were a little small, but she helped me find a comfortable grip. She explained how to aim, how to pull back the hammer, when to pull the trigger.... When she was confident in my ability to do as she said, she stepped back, sat down, and said, "It's a game of chance. There's one bullet. One in six. I win if you don't shoot the bullet! Go ahead, try."
It didn't take much convincing. I was an innocent little kid, I didn't think she'd actually have a bullet in the gun - and even if I did, I don't think I realized the power I held in my hand. At her request, I cocked the gun, aimed at her head, and pulled the trigger. *Click.* Nothing. She let out a squeal, a laugh, and sagged a bit when she realized there was no hole in her head.
"Again?" I asked. I wasn't sure how the whole thing worked. She nodded, that eerie glow in her eyes once more.
"Again," she agreed. I complied easily, repeating the procedure. *Click.* "One more?" she asked, her eyes wild with excitement. I shrugged, she nodded, and I took aim. Rinse and repeat. Hammer back, aim for the head, pull the trigger. *Bang!*
A scarlet mist sprayed into the air, a hole in her forehead about the size of a quarter, and she fell backwards onto the leaves. Her green eyes stared blankly at the passing clouds overhead, dull and lifeless. Everyone at the park heard the shot, and a few came running. My mother wasn't among them - I hadn't expected anyone to come at all. One of the mothers saw me, gun in hand and still aiming at the corpse, and froze. Her husband, I suppose, held a hand out to his companions.
"Call nine-one-one," he murmured to them before trying to approach. "Hey, son.... Why don't you give me that gun, okay? That's not a toy..." I didn't hand it off, instead dropping it on the ground and walking over to the body. The man moved forward, keeping himself between me and the weapon. "What happened, kid?"
"She said she wanted to play a game. She wanted me to play a game with her. She said she won if it didn't go off." I looked up at him and giggled. "I won."