Chapter no 12 – UNLEASHED


Rock watched as the children found their way. Some took their time, slowly gliding through the cool ocean air on the swings, while others whipped around at breakneck speed on the merry-go-round. Some were even exploratory, making their way through the collection of various tubes that wormed their way around the entire playground.

They all had one thing in common: they played.

The rides and giant toys at their disposal were what being a kid was all about. The controlled freedom to find joy in whatever they should choose. The carefree, thoughtless nature of just letting the spirit of adolescence possess them and allowing their innocence and curiosity to flourish.

The joy was difficult to watch.

They were all things and concepts Rock wished he’d been able to enjoy at their age. But agonizingly, that wasn’t to be the preordained path for him. Rock never knew the luxury of stretching his legs as a boy, nor as a young man, and certainly not as a perpetually policed adult.

It wasn’t the first time he’d felt that way.

Whenever Geraldine tasked him with snatching up a new child for her playground, he was reminded of these harsh, unwanted truths.

The cycle had been going on for far too long, never failing to garner the same unpleasant emotions. The juvenile jealousy and adolescent anger mated, giving birth to his depression. The twisted feelings never waned they only amplified—occupying more space in his brawny chest and his bitter brain. There wasn’t a morning that Rock awoke without being reminded that he’d been slighted.

His breathing grew heavier.

Rock had been bringing the occasional child to The Borden Estate for some time now, plucking them away from the peacefulness of their families and dragging them into Geraldine’s warped imagination.

He’d watched them play, these tiny bodies that had yet to find their way. The kids were always grateful at first until their undeveloped minds realized the playground out back was just the beginning.

Those same auspicious preteens with a vivacious lust for life always ended up looking nothing like they once had, and Rock was the one tasked with gathering their remains. Disposing of their stunted bodies was a strange duty. Being confronted by their destroyed, vacant husks—purged of the promise he’d seen them previously brimming with—made him feel evil.

As he watched the pack of children in the playground having the time of their lives, it was difficult for Rock to dissect how he felt about it.

The situation was complex.

His unsovereign assimilation into a family of maniacs didn’t help, a family that wasn’t even a family. The sick circumstances had indefinitely distorted his logic. But despite his cruel upbringing and the cantankerous queen of the castle, at that moment, he felt different.

As Rock watched the kids frolic about, he couldn’t put his finger on why. But the absence of a reason didn’t stop the horrible sensation in his gut or quell the ghastly, predictive imagery he painted in his mind.

What’ll they look like tomorrow? Rock wondered.

Maybe it was because he’d never seen so many children having fun all at once on the playground. When Rock was a boy, he would’ve cut his own pinky off just to get a chance to play by himself for a few hours. Geraldine never saw fit to reward him with the simple opportunity.

Rock had pictured it in his head before, but that was the closest he’d gotten. It wasn’t the same. His imagination alone could only take him so far. And most of the time he was too preoccupied with Geraldine’s bidding to truly immerse himself.

Rage swelled inside his chest.

How many friends did he miss out on making?

How many parties was he deterred from attending? How many smiles had been stolen from him?

As each question piled onto his thoughts, he couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. Rock despised what he’d become. The pathetic slave in the

mirror that stared back at him each morning. How had he allowed his fears to control him for so long?


The doorbell rang. Rock looked back through the French doors that had been left propped open, then back to the children. He had no choice but to go get the door, but the fury that lurked inside him still smarted.

Rock clenched his fists. He turned toward the patio, digging his wide fingernails into his palms. The pain felt good, but not good enough.


The doorbell echoed repeatedly like an impatient child was standing in front of it. In some ways, that wasn’t necessarily untrue.

When Rock opened the door, his heart was already racing. He didn’t deal well with people. But Geraldine was counting on him to keep things organized.

Geraldine always somehow found a way to bring out the best and worst in him.

The tall duty she’d saddled him with was one of Rock’s greatest challenges. While approaching and coaxing disadvantaged families at the inner-city playgrounds to participate in Geraldine’s experiment was an evil act, Rock surprised himself in his execution. He was astounded he was able to convince a single family, let alone three.

Fear was his ultimate motivator.

The wicked fury that fluttered through his torso intersected with a newly-emerging dread. A grim dread he was already aware of, but a dread that had been lying dormant the entire morning. Rock’s instincts told him things were only set to get more tumultuous.

Caroline Clarke didn’t understand just how distressed her presence made Rock. A flash of Caroline yanking her son’s leash on the playground flickered in Rock’s head. When he’d approached her, uncommon thoughts of violence had crept into his mind. Even after their initial meeting, the fantasies hadn’t fully dissolved.

As she stood on the doorstep with six-year-old Donnie Clarke once again tethered to her, a loathsome leer lingered on Rock’s face and the memories resurfaced in full force.

When he’d watched her from a distance that evening, he noticed the parallels he could draw to his own life. Just like Geraldine, Caroline was

overbearing to the point of suffocation. She kept him inches away at all times. The leash that was attached to his back wasn’t merely a measure of safety—it was a symbol.

A lack of trust.

A sense of ownership. A craving for control.

A symbol of dominance.

Rock knew where Donnie’s path of darkness eventually snaked, and it wasn’t a good place. It was a massive black hole of perpetual terror and despair, of self-doubt and gratuitous dependence. A synthetic, pre-packaged mindset manufactured by Donnie’s disturbed overseer to keep him under her grubby thumb.

Caroline Clarke knew exactly what she was doing. Geraldine Borden knew exactly what she was doing.

It was like Rock was looking at two parallel dimensions where identical atmospheres were being cultivated. Tightly wound worlds of suffocation that used fear, compliance, and reliance as fuel.

When Rock had watched Caroline and Donnie in the park that evening, he’d felt like he’d been placed back into his own childhood under a different set of nuances. It didn’t matter that he’d grown up in a prettier house or around more money than little Donnie. They were both emotionally poor.

When Rock heard Caroline scream orders at the boy, he knew Donnie wasn’t enjoying the ride. The swing he sat upon meant nothing to him. With his smooth face drained dry of enjoyment, it was clear—Donnie was merely dancing for the puppet master.

As Rock watched Caroline pull and position Donnie by the literal string sticking out of his back, the metaphor in his mind was demonstrated before his eyes. The leash attached to Donnie kept Caroline physically connected, as if the umbilical cord had never been severed.

Why? he wondered.

Rock’s world had always been a place of disappointment, but he was realizing he’d underestimated the scale.

Now that he’d ripened some, things had become clearer. His thirty-four horrifying years on the planet felt more like a hundred. Could little Donnie really handle that? He was just a boy, a moldable wad of putty set to be stuffed into a box, confined in a way only a corpse in a coffin should.

Everyone else was oblivious, but Rock and Donnie knew they were already dead.

Dead inside, dead alive, and dead tired.

An ungodly sneer dominated Caroline’s face when they locked eyes. Her mouth was moving, but he hadn’t heard a word she said. As her repulsive aura pulsated, the audio finally came back to Rock, but Caroline was no longer talking to him.

“I said don’t move,” Caroline demanded, teeth clenched with rage.

Her demeanor gnawed at Rock’s guts. He watched as she lifted the hand opposite the leash and took a massive drag of her cigarette. She exhaled, sliding her bifocal glasses up from the edge of her pointy nose, and looked back at Rock.

Fuck, he hated her.

“What’s the matter with you? You don’t remember me?” she asked.

Before Rock could answer, her head snapped back toward Donnie, who stood just a few feet away from her on the steps. Innocence hung in his eyes above a red tee shirt and his white and blue striped shorts. His sneakers were also white, one of which had been left untied.

“Donnie! If I feel this fucking leash move again, there’s gonna be trouble!” Caroline barked.

Rock hadn’t seen it move. The false claim only infuriated him further.

He was also accustomed to being accused of things he hadn’t done. “Donnie, stay close!”

Caroline took another monster puff off her dwindling Parliament and the thick streams of smoke flowed from her nostrils. Her frizzled hair bobbed when she jerked the toddler tether unnecessarily hard.

Donnie stumbled over the step ahead, dragging his bare knee over the hard stone. The tumble caused a scrape, leaving his kneecap skinned mightily. The slimy patch of drippy red revealed would’ve surely caused any child his age both hurt and worry. But as his mother heartlessly dragged him up, Rock noticed something strange.

The boy wasn’t crying.

That level of numbness was far more telling than if Donnie would’ve sat there screaming hysterically.

Suddenly, Rock’s brain felt like it might explode. It was far from the worst thing he’d ever seen, but it was certainly traumatic.

He was at a tipping point.

“Ugh! You cut yourself again!” Caroline shouted. “Watch where you walk! You never wander away from me, are we clear?! When you grow up, you can run around and hurt yourself all you want, but until then, you’re mine!”

Rock’s angry eyes widened with horror as he heard the word that ruined him.

Flashes of Geraldine’s heinous scowl and the glowing branding iron went off like fireworks in his skull. The old hag’s hideous body parts. The reflections of his humiliation in the hall of mirrors. The venomous verbal lashings. The deformed husks of lifeless children.

Something inside him snapped.

Rock’s arms rushed forward, moving without warning. Seeing all that he’d been robbed of just minutes prior at the playground, and now this. He couldn’t take it any longer. It wasn’t even a choice, it just happened.

While Rock had relinquished control of his actions to the deep-rooted hatred that infected him, his mind was also being overrun with thoughts—a forced reasoning of sorts.

They both gotta die anyhow. What’s it matter if she goes early?

Geraldine wouldn’t be happy with him, but it wasn’t as if he could control it anymore.

Rock stole the leash from Caroline’s grasp and used his meaty fingers to unclip it from the boy’s back.

As he wrapped the length of leather around Caroline’s neck, in his heart, Rock wished it was more wrinkled. He wished it was the flappy, weathered, loose skin stretched over Geraldine’s throat. He wished it was her evil eyes that looked about to pop out of her head.

Caroline struggled, but her arms weren’t long enough to reach Rock’s face. In an act of desperation, she used the lit cigarette in her hand and pressed the hot ember against the side of Rock’s suit.

Donnie stood frozen in place watching the assault unfold. The aggression and violence didn’t break the blankness on his face.

The cigarette ate its way through the clothing until it was singeing his arm hair and skin. The pain of the scald was nothing to Rock; it was like amateur hour compared to Geraldine’s track record of torture.

Burning the burly man was an unforeseeable misstep. The stinging sensation took Rock back to the time of his own helpless suffering. But he wasn’t tied up or afraid any more—he was unleashed.

Rock utilized his soaring stature and leveraged the leash like a noose. He elevated Caroline off the ground, allowing the force of gravity to create a crushing pressure around her larynx. But as her face transitioned in color, Rock realized he didn’t want it to end quite yet. Seeing purple or blue wasn’t enough; not while he was seeing red.

He turned her over in mid-air and slammed her skull-first onto the stone steps. The same as she’d done to Donnie. It was only fair.

Caroline’s face connected hard. The sickening sound of her head smashing and surging pain was more than enough to stun her. The force of the collision cracked the right lens of her glasses and buried the metal frame deep in her eyebrow. Caroline’s nose let off an expulsion of blood before her awkwardly arched body turned over itself.

Rock looked at the gruesome mask of torment that Caroline’s broken face projected. He’d never unleashed such violence upon anyone. Surely it would’ve left her an invalid, or at the very least, altered for life. But neither of them would get the opportunity to find out. Rock was too possessed to pause.

It wasn’t enough; nothing would be enough for her.

Rock flipped Caroline’s quaking body over. As he mounted her, he couldn’t help but notice her messy face as a wave of blood seeped out of her babbling mouth. The fractured enamel left some of her teeth looking unnaturally sharp and demonic, a fitting new characteristic. Rock could see Caroline was unable to speak, but inside, he knew she was begging.

You got nothing to say now? he thought.

He cocked back his gargantuan mitt and launched his scallop-sized knuckles into Caroline’s chin. A cringe-worthy crack erupted from her mouth as the jawbone shattered in two places.

Caroline was on autopilot.

She flailed about and lifted her head off the stone as the next punch landed on her brow. The thud of her skull smacking back against the concrete sounded like a bag of potatoes being dropped. Along with her head, the stiff shot also pushed the glasses further into the massive laceration on her face.

The size and speed of Rock’s hands were a fatal blend. It was a notion he’d never comprehended before. While the violence wasn’t new, the active participation aspect was. It was finally his time; the whipping boy was long overdue to exorcise his demons.

Rock never imagined he might feel relief in hearing another person’s bones break and crumble, but he did. The hits he continued to dish out on Caroline became more targeted. Rock pounded into the deep gash over her eyebrow with brute force, unleashing decades of frustration.

As the devastating blows piled up, Caroline’s face was pulverized. The destruction was so severe that the audio accompanying the thrashing sounded like Rock was punching a puddle.

He was too enamored with the act to notice Caroline’s face collapsing in on itself. The pile of pink, mushy tissue, broken enamel, and splintered bones had been thoroughly tenderized. The once modest tear that appeared on Caroline’s face had grown to disturbing lengths. She now looked like an ad for gape porn.

Still, Rock didn’t stop.

The parts of her shattered lens slashed and stabbed into Rock’s hand with each additional strike, but the cuts were of little deterrence. He was finally in a safe place, spellbound by the bloodshed.

Rock heard his own voice echo inside his cranium, but there were no words, only screaming.

Adrenaline flushed through his system as he went further. The mush that remained was now unidentifiable. The way Rock saw it, the distorted mini-mounds of meat and swelling tissue in front of him could’ve been anyone’s. He used the slop to play out what he now realized to be his ultimate fantasy.

On the brink of exhaustion, Rock pushed out a final series of strikes with a subtle difference from the blows that preceded them. Each time he hit the ugly goop was harder than before. Because now the drippy gore Rock felt mush against his mitts was no longer Caroline Clarke’s—it was Geraldine Borden’s.

When the blackout ended, he sat atop Caroline’s lifeless body. The cuts and blood that covered Rock’s hands bled downward onto her pancaked head. The splatter collected by his suit made him feel like he was in a dream. But when he looked up at the ghost of his past, six-year-old Donnie Clarke, he knew he wasn’t.

The little boy stood steady as ever, unflinching as he awaited whatever came next.

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