Katrina Monroe's The Rack
I’d just gotten the last bit of blood scrubbed from the rack when I hear someone knock on the library door. Everyone should have gone home by now, so the incessant pounding catches me off guard—a rare occurrence. It intrigues me.
I sling the rag over my shoulder and cross the library. The pounding grows louder as I approach. The door opens as I reach for the knob.
Her hair falls in a long braid over her shoulder, the ends tickling the lacey edge of a corset. Behind thin-framed glasses, her eyes sparkle.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
She pushes past me and makes a beeline for the rack.
It isn’t until I see her from the back that I recognize her. The author of WAY WALKERS. They call her The Dragon Lady. “Leigh?”
I wasn’t expecting an interrogation today, but far be it from me to turn away the willing.
“Miss Leigh,” She says. "A rack, really? This isn't very intimidating-- I mean, unless I'm afraid of getting my back stretched out or my shoulders dislocated.
What about a breaking wheel? Or a Brazen bull? Something more diabolical-- something that says 'I'm serious about this torture thing'."
She’s not the first to question my choice of torture device. The bull is nice, but there’s nothing that quite compares to the sound of a shoulder popping from the socket, or a knee dislocating.
“Why don’t you climb on, then?” I gesture to the table.
She winks and lays on the table. Leather straps secured, I latch them to the chain and start the crank. Only a few clicks at first. She thinks she has an advantage, springing this visit on me, but I’ve heard the rumors. I know things about Miss Leigh. Bad things.
“How many people have you killed?” I ask.
She chuckles. “Main Characters or side characters? And when you say 'people' are you only referring to the generic human base or do you consider alternative races as 'people'? And are you talking published works or the whole body of works in the wings to be published?”
“Don’t get coy with me. We both know there’s more than that.”
“Obviously the latter is more.” She shrugs. “Oh thank god, I think that finally got that kink out of my lower back.”
I roll the wheel until I hear a satisfying pop from her shoulder. Not quite dislocated, but precariously close. She grunts, but refuses to relinquish the cry I desire.
“Your book, WAY WALKERS, wades into dragon lore. Are you a dragon? Is THAT how you know so much about them?” I ask.
"If I were a dragon I'd have shape-shifted myself out of this rack by now. Then again, it really is doing wonders for my back, so well, I might be pretending to be human in order to get my back fixed. So, yes. But no."
I kick the wheel another two clicks and leave her to retrieve my cabinet of curiosities. Unlike my rack, I haven’t had a chance to clean it and the bodily fluids of my last victim still crust the edges of my older pieces.
I select a cat-o-nine-tails from the cabinet and brush the leather strips over her arms. “What’s your favorite part of the book?”
She shudders. "For TANGLED PATHS I really love when my main character Jathen has something horrible happen to him—because that's when he steps up and grows as a character. Which is a lot. So, basically, the whole book. And I know I deserve to be here."
“Is that why you invited yourself to my table?” I ask, but don’t give her time to respond before I slap the cat-o-nine-tails over her chest. The metal clasps of her corset jingle. “Least favorite?”
Her face is red, but still no scream. “Nothing. Love it all. The joys, the sorrows, the pleasures and the pain. It's a well-rounded journey through a highly detailed fantasy world, and I spare no one's feelings. It's delightful."
Pleasure and pain. Two feelings I know well. A thought occurs to me. “What’s your biggest fear?”
“Zombies. You just can’t reason with a zombie.”
I scowl. Not an answer I can use. No matter. I twirl the wheel another three clicks and her right ankle pops. From the head of the table, I see it bend at an awkward angle. It’ll be purple soon. I love purple.
“If I were to stick a couple of pins under your nails and withdrew a bit of food from your last meal, what's it most likely to be?” I ask.
She squirms a little. Fingers twitch. "I am not nearly that messy of an eater, thank you very much."
“Wrong answer.” Another click on the week.
Is that a squeal I hear? “Fine, fine. Sushi or steak. Or both."
I pause. Sushi does sound delicious. I know a good place not far from DCP headquarters. I consider taking myself out for a well-deserved lunch once this is over.
“How do you feel about dinosaur erotica?” I ask.
She winks, though her eyes water. “Never on a first date.”
Her answer makes me smile, so I grant her the briefest of reprieves. I place an ice chip on her lips. Good girl.
“What’s your next book going to be about?” I ask.
Her tongue darts over the liquid on her lip. Another few cranks and she’ll break. I can feel it.
After a moment, she answers. "The same things, basically. It's a sequel-- so we get to continue to follow Jathen after I've been super-cruel to him and watch as he over comes it, grows a back bone and starts solving the mystery of why he is the way he is and why those he loved were killed. And then I do more horrible things to him."
Leigh and I, we’re twin terrors. Unfortunately for her, this is my library. My rack.
I place my hands on the wheel, caressing the M I burned into the side. “Why should we care?”
Her eyes follow my hands. Sweat beads on her brow. "Because angst, slaughter, trials and tribulations are what make for good stories, dear. Reading about Jathen is to witness the true creation of a hero from someone who was nothing. And that is good entertainment."
I use the bloody rag on my shoulder to mop her brow, and then blow her a kiss. I disable the catch and throw the wheel, hard.
I close my eyes as Leigh’s scream rattles the books on the shelves, savoring the sound. I lean down to release the tension on her bonds, and as I reach for the metal clasps, something like a choked giggle meets my ears. I ignore it and unlock the clasps.
J. Leigh wrote her first novel at the tender age of eleven, delving deep into the extensive fantasy world she entitled Way Walkers. Since then, she has never really left, though occasionally does emerge to enjoy the company of friends, family, horror movies and the ever-popular sushi dinner. She currently lives in southern New Jersey with a chow-chow, several cats and fictional cast of hundreds. Leigh’s published works include a ‘choose your own’ type interactive novel Way Walkers: University with Choice of Games.