She paused, her voice softening. “I loved that dog. I loved him, but I made him suffer as much as I could. Didn’t want the moment to end.”
I shook my head, trying to knock her words out of my ears. “You need to go home.”
“I’m always tempted to.”
“Let’s go, then.”
With one blink, her eyes changed. The wetness vanished and a cold, hard look shot straight at me. “Humans are murderers, Freeman. I’m not saying it’s right to kill. But it’s natural.” She straightened her back. “I’ll hurt my girls if I go back. That means I stay here.”
When she had been speaking, I’d listened intently, leaning in for a closer look at each word. Now that she was done, I pushed new thoughts into my head, moral thoughts, about how fucking psycho she was. About how sickening her stories were. About how she was the abnormal one.
She must’ve sensed my judgment, because she said, “You carry a gun. Don’t tell me you’ve never wanted to use it.”
“Police brutality’s not my style.”
When her lips curled up, her dimples had perfectly placed drops of blood in them. “Try it before you leave. If you can’t kill something here, something imaginary, then how are you going to kill someone that threatens your life, or Kenny’s?” She licked her lips before adding, “The high is great, you know. Best drug you’ll ever take.”
I wondered how she knew about my experience with illegal substances, but the thought drifted away as I considered her offer. One killing, just to see how it felt. No. To see whether I could save my partner when placed in an emergency. That was the real reason. It had to be.
“How do I do it?” I asked.
She circled back to the spot where we’d first interacted. “You can have one of mine,” she said and after blinking her eyes, the body she had been straddling earlier was walking around, lively as ever. “Have fun.”
The man stood ten feet away from me, as stiff as a mannequin with a face as empty as one. My hand moved toward the gun in my belt slowly, trying to guess his next move. But he never made a first move.
“I can’t do this,” I said, my hand dropping to my side seconds after I’d aimed. “He’s completely innocent. Not harmful at all.”
When Kaylee rolled her eyes, her whole head moved with them. A ridiculous gesture to match how ridiculous she thought I was acting. Her lids closed to focus, to find control.
When they opened, the man sped toward me, his arms poised in front of his torso like he wanted to box. With one hard hit, he knocked me to the ground and pinned me down by the shoulders. He swung at my cheek and dots of light flashed across my eyes.
“I thought they couldn’t hurt me,” I yelled back to Kaylee, saliva spilling down my chin.
“All in your head,” she said. I imagined her staring at her nails, already bored. “It looks real, so it feels real. You’ll be fine when you go back.”
After one more punch, this time to my chest, I found the strength to lift my gun. I pressed it against his heart, ready to give him a quick death, then moved it to aim at his lung. Let him bleed out instead.
The drops cascaded from his wound onto my stomach, staining my uniform, so I pushed him off of me, my hands shaking with adrenaline. Kaylee slow clapped from behind me.
“Do me one favor?” she asked. “You need to unplug my body from the machine. I don’t want to be tempted anymore.”