Katrina Monroe's The Rack
There’s Bunny hair everywhere. Long, silvery strands tangled up in the gears of the rack, dusting the floor like tumbleweeds, even in my morning Captain Crunch. Scraps of construction paper and dried glue pellets I’ve come to call rabbit shit litter every corner of the library—castaways from Bunny’s crafting hour.
If not for her deep and unwavering worship, I’d have gotten rid of her.
I send her out for more Windex (that shit works on everything) and start sweeping the floor. As much as I would love to enlist one of the Dark Comedy demons to do this for me, the stench they leave in their wake is hardly worth an hour of manual labor.
I’m on my knees, collecting the clutter from beneath The Rack when my appointment strolls through the door.
He’s got a spring in his step—glasses bounce on a wide nose and he winks when he catches me staring.
“You’re early,” I say lamely.
I hate it when they catch me off guard.
He kicks off his shoes—a little too at home, if you ask me—and climbs up on the table. He crosses his legs at the ankle and tucks his arms behind his head.
Bunny sprints in after him, gulping breath after breath. “S-sorry, Mistress. He was—” She doubles over and thrusts forth a bottle of blue liquid. “Sorry.”
I throw the broom and dustpan at her feet. I’ll deal with her later.
“Stephen Kozeniewski,” I say. “Boredom driven you to my table early? What do you even do when you’re not writing?”
“I masturbate while weeping,” he quips.
“Don’t laugh! It saves a great deal on tissue expenses.”
“Enough.” I turn to Bunny. “Straps, please.”
She grins and goes to work locking Stephen into place. She frowns at his shoeless feet. “Do I have to...?”
“Yes. You do.”
She nods and threads the straps around his ankles. There’s a hole in the big toe—he waves at her with it.
I slap him. “Be nice.” Zombie writers.
“YES MISTRESS.” Bunny shrinks. “Oh. You meant…”
Sighing, I wave her away.
“Right to it then?”
Stephen nods, a little too enthusiastically.
I close my eyes as I spin the wheel. The first turn is always special. “Been a lot of Walking Dead talk lately. Who’s on your zombie apocalypse team?”
“Harry Callahan, Deanna Troi, um...Isaac Newton, Miraculous Ladybug, Nelson Mandela, and…Gillian Flynn.”
My heart pitter-patters at the sound of her name. Ah, Miss Flynn, how do I love thee? Let me count the—
I give the wheel three full turns. The straps cut into his wrists.
“What was the hardest part about writing BRAINEATER JONES?”
He pretends to consider the question, squinting and screwing up his mouth. “The hardest part about writing BJ...well, I wrote it in real time, so I guess the hardest part was making sure that the mystery actually made sense in the end. I seem to recall going back and making sure that I had sprinkled in enough "clues" (that's an industry term) throughout the text for the big “reveal” (also an industry term) of the “aborted fetus who was the main villain” (not an industry term, just a spoiler.)”
Bunny returns from the closet, aghast. “Mistress!”
I shake my head, a grin spreading across my face. If there’s one thing I don’t tolerate, it’s spoilers.
The wheel clicks like a card in a bike wheel as it spins. Stephen’s cheeks purple and his shoulders plow into his ears.
“That’ll teach you!” Bunny says.
She means well.
“Do you have any writing idols?” I ask Stephen.
It takes a minute for his breath to catch. His arms are tied closed together, pinching the sides of his ribcage the higher they’re pulled. “Well, I have a statue of Hermenthotip above my computer. Stop, stop, I’m just kidding. I know what you meant by “idols.” You meant humans, right? I used to always just answer this question with “Brian Keene.” But then I met Brian Keene and now he’s not just my writing idol, he’s just generally my everything-in-life idol. Oh, but I know! Katrina Monroe. That chick, she can really…do…do a story. Do one up. Story it up. Yeah.”
In a fit of jealousy, Bunny climbs on the table and digs her Mary Jane flats into his sides. She leans forward and spits—Bullseye—in the center of his forehead. I stroke the girl’s arm, whispering sweet nothings.
“Another spin,” she says.
I raise my eyebrow.
“Please,” she amends.
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” I tell Stephen as the wheel spins once again.
He groans as something in his back pops.
“What’s your biggest fear?” I ask.
Stephen adjusts his shoulders and cracks his neck. “Being…being let off the rack? It’s come to be somewhat comforting to me. I…don’t know what I would do if I had to leave it.”
I scoff and throw the wheel.
Pouting, Bunny climbs down, driving a heel into his wrist as she does so. A squeal escapes his mouth and she smirks.
As Bunny sits at my desk and withdraws a journal, fondness for her inspires an
unplanned question. “Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?”
I tilt the wheel—a reminder to be careful with his answer.
As all the others, he doesn’t heed my warning.
“Don’t listen to writing advice because writing advice is bullshit. You know who gives writing advice? Morons. Don’t even listen to this advice. You know what this advice is? Bullshit. Bullshit from a moron. It’s all bullshit.”
One pained look from Bunny is all it takes.
I remove his glasses and set them on the top of my head. I lean in close to his ear. “How dare you tinkle on the hopes of my Bunny?”
He opens his mouth to protest, but a hard turn from the wheel shuts up him. Another pop—this one somewhere in the leg—and his face turns deathly pale.
“Which hurts worse? This—” I rock the wheel, forcing his twisted knee to rock on its ligaments. “Or this?” I flick the knee cap; his entire body flinches.
“Silly human. I have temporarily turned my nerve receptors from pain to pleasure. Don’t let me stop you from trying both ways, though. Please, push harder!”
“Words lie,” I mutter, turning the wheel. “But the body speaks the truth.”
His ribcage pulses with his frantic breath. Bunny practically drools at the prospect of a scream and, admittedly, I’m just as anxious for the climax.
Stephen’s saving grace, though, is that I am, at the end of the day, a fan.
“What are you writing now, and why should I care?” I ask.
Through quivering lips, he says, “Write (get it?) now I am putting together a mucousy, gore-soaked sci-fi/horror piece for Mirror Matter Press called THE HEMATOPHAGES. It’s about a species of lamprey-like aliens who burrow into your skull in breeding pairs and…but perhaps I’ve said too much already. And you should care because…I like your money. Give me money.”
“Oh I will, darling,” I mutter. “But first…”
A spin of the wheel.
A deafening crack.
My long-awaited scream.
“Life is good, Bunny,” I say. “Life is good.”
STEPHEN KOZENIEWSKI (pronounced "causin' ooze key") lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.