Ted didn’t take his job too seriously, how could you? It paid the bills as long as he did enough work to keep his boss quiet.

He liked the quiet. It gave him time to plan his weekend.

The personals ad caught his eye. “SWF, tortures small animals, seeks same.” Freaky chicks were sometimes the hottest. What could it hurt?

October continues with a cautionary tale in “Tortures Small Animals, Seeks Same.”


Ted was at work, Employment Securities Department, in the big office building that went up right before the State started laying off everyone in Olympia. It was Friday too, when half of the staff were off on unpaid leave. Of course he’d gotten scheduled to work, because he always agreed to work.

Still, it left the offices quiet. Not even phones ringing. He’d gotten used to the quiet. He even liked it that way.

The blinds were closed against the rare sunny Spring day outside. Otherwise the glare on his computer made it impossible to see anything at all. Not that he was looking at the computer anyway. He had his iPhone out, flipping through the ads on Backpages for a little excitement.

One of the posts caught his eye.

“SWF, tortures small animals, seeks same.”

It couldn’t be real. Cops, probably. Who would fall for that anyway?

Ted rubbed his hands on the hard plastic arms of his seat. He rocked back, looking out past the gray Ethospace cubby into the empty cubby across the aisle.

Used to belong to Dolores. Skinny woman, too bony, smoker. Usually sounded like she was coughing up a lung half the time, but now the space was stripped bare. The computer looked lonesome sitting in the corner of the cubby.

Ted looked back at the post.

“SWF, tortures small animals, seeks same.”

He licked his lips. Twisted. Seriously messed up stuff. Sometimes the twisted girls were the hottest. He had dated a few over the years. This one girl had even been living with a guy. Just roommates, she said, but when the guy came home to them screwing on the couch, that wasn’t the reaction of ‘just a roommate.’

Hot, though.

But this?

“SWF, tortures small animals, seeks same.”

That couldn’t be real. He hoped it wasn’t real. He didn’t get off on that sort of thing. He wasn’t a bad guy. Single, sure, he liked it like that. First dates, that was his favorite thing. You got to have a nice time with the girl, company for the night if nothing else. Even then usually a kiss.

And plenty of times you’d at least get to make out with her.

And a few, fewer than he’d like, honestly, would go all the way on a first date.

Not being a girl or being into guys, Ted found it difficult to judge his attractiveness to the opposite sex. At five eight he wasn’t exactly tall, not really short either. Thin build that he kept up with some light sprints and weight lifting. He didn’t go all chronic with cardio. Usually kept his diet pretty primal, few grains, starches, sugar or gluten.

Good-looking or not he knew the thing that really matter for most girls was being confident. He’d show up to take them out, and he dressed nice. Suit and tie, nice restaurants, a good time.

Three dates max, if she wasn’t going to sleep with him then she wasn’t, and he didn’t hold that against her. He was always mostly honest with girls. He didn’t go on about marriage or anything to trick them into bed. Nothing like that.

Most of the time he didn’t bother with online sites or anything. But Backpages had some girls on there who simply wanted to hook up. Some charged, others didn’t, and today he didn’t really want to take time to go find someone to ask out.

He really just wanted to get laid. Was that horrible? After a while jacking off just didn’t really swing it. He wanted someone in his bed.

The phone went dark. he pressed the home button to wake it back up. “SWF, tortures small animals, seeks same.”

That was some crazy stuff. Maybe cops, but if he just offered to take her out on a normal date what crime was that? He’d set up a meeting at Anthony’s, and if she was hideous or looked like a cop he could also stand her up. And if she was hot? Well, it wasn’t like he was going to torture small animals with some crazy girl, but if she was hot enough he might fuck her brains out.

Who knew? It might actually help the poor girl.

Ted used his Hotmail account to answer the ad. “Hey, saw your ad and found it intriguing. Would you be interested in meeting tonight? Ted.”

Then, before sending the message a bright idea popped into his head. A test to see if the girl on the other end really was freaky. He changed the signature on his email.

“Ted, you know like Ted Kaczynski.”

He was getting a bit stiffer just thinking about the possibility when he hit send.

Nothing to do about that now. Chances were that he’d be going home alone tonight. Was it any wonder that so many civil servants ended up being found offed with a bottle of pills, or a razor in the tub? You worked these jobs long enough, it was bound to get to anyone.

Ted pocketed the phone and turned back to the mind-numbing grind on the computer. Paper pushing turned into digital pushing but he was still a rat smashing buttons in order to get fed.

Too bad he didn’t just have his pleasure center wired to doing work. It probably wouldn’t be long before they started doing that, wiring people up so that you came to work and plugged in. Each task you checked off would send a wireless signal to your implants in the pleasure center. Say goodbye to vacations and sick leave. They’d have people working overtime without any bonus, just for the privilege of working.

Only a matter of time.

A half-hour after he sent the email his phone buzzed, vibrating against his leg. Ted pulled it out, thumbed it on. Email. He swiped it open.

It was her, Tortures Small Animals, answering back.

“I’d love to hook up tonight. What did you have in mind? We could go by the pound, see if they have any kittens in? – T.”

T? She’d signed it T.? What did that mean? Was it short for her name, or his? And go by the pound to see if they had kittens? Okay, so it fit with what her ad said, but that was just twisted.

“Maybe that’s what T stands for,” Ted muttered aloud. He glanced around, but there wasn’t anyone around to hear him talking to himself.

He hit reply. “Kittens sound great, but do you mind if we get something to eat first? I was thinking Anthony’s? We could meet there at seven. Wear a red dress, so I know it’s you.”

He hit send with his pulse pounding in his ears. He liked women that could make red dresses work. A red dress, generous cleavage and pouty lips. Too much to hope for from Tortures Small Animals, but you never knew and it didn’t hurt to try.

The phone beeped and buzzed again. Her reply. “The pound closes before seven, but never mind. I’ll bring something special. Can’t wait to see you at Anthony’s. – T.”

Ted snaked a hand into his pants and made the necessary adjustments, but after that his mind wasn’t on work.

That evening he showed up at Anthony’s early, a quarter to seven, plenty of time to see her show up and decide if he was sticking around for the date or not. It wasn’t raining but he stayed in his Prius, parked in one of his favorite spots just down the street where he could watch the front of Anthony’s without drawing too much attention.

She showed up five minutes before seven by his phone. Red dress, creamy complexion that he couldn’t wait to taste and a fantastic body. He’d guess mid-twenties. He caught a glimpse of her face framed by waves of dark hair and didn’t even stop the laughter bubbling up inside.

Way, way out of his league. She was gorgeous. This woman couldn’t possibly be Tortures Small Animals, but he didn’t give a shit. He got out and raised his hand in the air as he started to the front of the restaurant.

She stopped, coolly watching him. Looking right at him as he jogged up. At least he had on a suit, but she still out-classed him. Close up he saw diamonds glittering at her neck, and on her surprisingly delicate ears. She hardly had any ear lobes at all, but the diamond studs she wore were probably worth more than he made in a month.

“I’m Ted.” He reached out to shake her hand and she let him. There was that almost electric feel when skin touched skin. Her nails matched her dress, and her hand was warm and smooth in his. Such soft skin!

“Good evening, Ted.” Her red lips spread in a wide, toothy smile. “I’m glad you could make it. I’m Tina.”

“Tina. I like it. You look absolutely stunning, Tina, I have to say it.”

“Thank you. Shall we go inside?”

“Yes, yes! Let’s do that.” Ted slid around her to open the door, taking advantage of the gesture to lightly touch her back with his other hand. That’s when he discovered that the dress she was wearing was backless down to her lower back. His fingers touched bare skin and he almost jerked away as if he had touched a hot stove.

Tina didn’t react, other than murmuring thanks before brushing past him, her hand grazing the front of his pants. She smelled like roses, and he was already reacting to her, getting an uncomfortable hard-on. He wiggled, walking through the door, trying to adjust position, but he couldn’t wait to get to the table before someone noticed.

He gave the hostess his name even though Megan knew him as a regular by now. She had the table ready and showed them right in. At the table Ted focused on the steps. The odds against getting this girl into his bed, shit, he didn’t even want to think about it. If he did he’d freeze up. Instead he focused on the routine.

Pull the chair out, which brought her close enough that her hair brushed his face as she sat, like touches of silk scented with roses. His hard-on had subsided by then. Sitting across from her Ted looked into her eyes, hazel with green flecks, almond-shaped and dark. It was the first time that he’d gone on one of these dates and ended up with someone that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a movie screen. Usually the girls he dated were pretty, or at least cute with a decent body, but never someone in Tina’s league.

She leaned forward on the table. “I’m so happy to meet you, someone that understands.”

He understood that he wanted dinner over quickly and then a trip back to his place, but he couldn’t rush this. Confident, but not over-eager, especially not with a woman like this.

“I feel the same way, Tina. I couldn’t believe your ad, when I saw it.” He laughed. “I even thought that it might be the cops putting it in.”

She laughed warmly, tossing her head a bit. “That’s so funny! I had the same thought, but as soon as I saw you I knew you weren’t a cop.”

“You did?”

“Oh yes, cops have cop eyes.” She looked at him through her lashes and her voice dropped lower. “I know what your eyes want.”

Her gaze dropped and he looked down to see what she was looking at only to find himself looking at the swelling mounds of her breasts, pushing against the red lace along the top of her dress.

Ted looked back up into her eyes, slowly, not rushing it. No apologies. “As I said, very lovely.”

The waiter came. “You want drinks, perhaps? Or to hear the specials for tonight?”

“Could we have a glass of Cava to start?” Ted asked. He looked across the table at Tina. “That’ll give us a chance to decide what we want.”

“Of course, sir. Very good.”

All routine, but Ted appreciated the fact that the man never sounded like he had heard it before. And then the waiter was gone, which Ted also appreciated.

Tina smiled. “I told I’d brought you something special, let me show you?”

Ted fought to keep his thoughts off his face. Please, not a kitten. So far Tina was by far the hottest girl he’d had out on a date and he really wanted to take this date all the way.

She reached into the small red purse that she’d carried in and came out with her hands cupped together, fingers extended, almost as if she was going to pray. She kept her hands together as she reached across the table.

“Put your hands over mine,” she whispered.

Okay. Anything that meant more touching had to be good. Ted slid his hands along hers, relishing the feel of her silky soft hands. He didn’t know what she did to take care of her skin, but it felt great.

“Keep your hands together.” She started to pull back.

Her hands sliding again against his, he wanted to do the same thing with their whole bodies.

Then something flicked against the inside of his hand. A light touch, but something twitched and it wasn’t her fingers.


“Keep your hands together!”

Ted looked around. Nobody was paying them any attention. He kept his hands together but there was something in his hands. Alive. Feathery. A bird? Tina slid her hands entirely out of his, leaving him holding whatever the thing was.

She gave him another one of those big toothy smiles. “Look!”

Ted moved his thumbs back and a bright yellow head with a beak popped up between his fingers.

Tina’s hand darted out, onto his, pressing the bird back down into his hands. “Careful!”

Her hand slid down, caressing the back of his. Then her other hand was also caressing his hands, sliding up and down across his skin. The bird twitched inside his cupped hands. Tina’s hands pressed hard, almost massaging the backs of his hand, sliding back and forth. His hard-on came back, pressing against his pants. Fortunately the long table cloth hid that from view.

Tina was watching him, watching his face and her smile grew wider. “Exciting, isn’t it? Knowing you hold such a fragile life in your hands?”

It wasn’t the bird turning him on, exciting him. It was her touching his hands that definitely had an effect.

The waiter showed up then, suddenly at Ted’s elbow. He put the glasses of sparkling wine on the table. Tina had stopped stroking Ted’s hands but her hands were still over his.

“Do you need more time?”

Ted swallowed. “Uh, yes please. A few minutes.”

“Very good, sir.”

After he left Tina leaned further over the table as if she intended to kiss him. Her hands pressed firmly against his. Ted found himself leaning to meet her. She was a freaky girl, but what was the harm of a kiss? She stopped with her lips just above his, he could nearly feel them, her breath playing on his mouth.

“Crush it.”

He couldn’t believe what she’d said, but her hands pressed down harder.

“Crush it,” she repeated. “I’ll let you do it.”

Her tongue, just the tip, touched his lip, and at that he squeezed his hands together. Her hands pressing against his, his hands pressing in on the bird as her lips found his. Hot and wet, tongues touching, exploring, playing as bones and feathers crushed against his palms. Hardly any resistance at all.

As Tina drew back he was shaking. His hands were together, pretty much flat.

“You can use your pocket,” Tina said.

Right. Before someone saw. What else could he do? He pulled his arms back, cupped the pulverized limp body by feel in his left hand and stuffed it into his pocket. Only then did he even look at his hands. A small smear of blood on his left palm, and a tiny yellow feather stuck to it.

Tina reached out and used her thumb to wipe it away. Just like that it was gone. No sign of what had happened.

Tina lifted her glass, sipped the sparkling wine, watching him over the edge of the glass. “Do you know what you want?”

God help him, he did. He knew what he wanted, and dinner couldn’t end soon enough.

During the scallops over linguini they took turn feeding each other the morsels from the plate and while the buttery taste melted in his mouth Tina kept reaching over and rubbing his pocket.

Those pants were so going into the trash after this date.

Any chance of escaping without desert went out the window when Tina ordered the chocolate mousse. Ted asked for two spoons and once again they took turns feeding each other. He loved watching her lips slide over the spoon. He felt dizzy, intoxicated even though he’d barely even touched his wine with dinner.

Tina ran her finger around the inside of the bowl when they were nearly done and then held out her chocolate smeared finger to him. Ted bent down, taking the proffered digit between his lips, sucking off the sweet chocolate.

When she pulled her finger back she leaned in and he found himself drowning in her lips again, drinking in the taste of her mingled with the chocolate while his pulse pounded in his ears.

Her hand slid around the back of his head, fingers digging into his hair. As they broke apart he found himself looking into her eyes.

She asked the words he’d been dying to hear. “Should we get out of here?”

Ted smiled. “Let’s go to my place.”

Tina flicked her finger lightly across his nose, smiling. “No, silly. You’ve got to see what I’ve got for you back at my place.”

It felt like someone had opened a window as a chilly ran down his back. “Uh, your place? What did you have in mind?”

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise,” she said, coyly.

Ted ran his hands down her arms, exquisite, like the rest of her. Why not go with it? So she was a bit crazy, look at her! This was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one he’d regret forever if he fucked it up now.

“What’s the surprise?”

Tina’s eyes narrowed. “You’re impatient. I’ll bet you couldn’t wait to open your first puppy.”


She reached out and ran her fingers through his hair, lightly playing with his ear. “Come here, I’ll whisper a hint.”

Ted leaned in and found himself shivering as her lips brushed his ear. He wanted her more than he’d wanted any girl before. What did it matter what her surprise was, if he got the chance to screw her?

Her lips brushed against his ear again, her tongue lightly licking along his earlobe, sucking on it, and suddenly he was squirming in his seat. She stopped.

“It’s a surprise,” she whispered.

Then pain, sharp and immediate in the earlobe like an icepick through his head. Ted screamed. He jerked back, but Tina was still attached, teeth clamped firmly on his ear.

Other people were looking. Tina released him. Ted fell back against his seat, wilting away from her. His ear throbbed with pain. Tina slowly rose, showing him every fantastic inch of her body. She leaned on the table and Ted shrank back against his chair.

Tina made a tsking noise. “Maybe we shouldn’t take this too fast, Teddy Bear?”

She pouted, blew a kiss at him and then walked away, out into the night.

After that Ted figured she was gone, out of his life at least, off torturing someone else. He had dreams about screwing her, and they weren’t all bad. Mostly.

Saturday morning the doorbell rang. Ted looked up from his coffee, at first unable to even comprehend the sound. By the time he figured it out and got to the door he didn’t see anyone outside, but when he opened the door he found a small box sitting on top of a newspaper.

Ted picked up the box, it wasn’t heavy. No postmark and besides, it was too early for the mail. The newspaper must have come with the box, he didn’t get the Olympian, it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Tina. The box was wrapped in plain brown paper, no marks, but he knew, knew it was from Tina. How she knew where he lived, he didn’t have any idea, but this had to be from her.

He couldn’t not open it, as tempting as it was to toss it directly in the trash. He tore at the rough brown paper. Tossed that aside. A plain white cardboard box, like the kind that Chinese food came in, without any markings. There was plain white card taped to the top. He peeled it off and read what was written in beautiful handwriting.

“Teddy Bear, look what you missed out on last night. I’ve got to go out of town for a while, but when I get back maybe we can try again. Kisses. – T.”

Ted tossed the card down on the counter. He really didn’t want to know what was in the box now. His eyes fell on the folded newspaper. A smiling little girl was on the front page, blond, probably about four years old. In big black letters beneath the picture he could read part of the headline.


The box. The newspaper. Ted’s ear throbbed. He stuffed his knuckles into his mouth, but even that wasn’t enough to muffle his screams.

3,626 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 34th weekly short story release, written in March 2012, while at a workshop on the Oregon coast. I’m putting up scary or disturbing stories all October.

Eventually I’ll do a new e-book and print releases when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the stories. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new  e-book and print versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. I’m also serializing novels now on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Check back next Monday for another story. Next up is an unsettling, sad story, The Bug Builder.