Read the title? Good, then you're up to speed with what's going on.
Laptop? 15% batteries. Better keep this moving. I'm hiding behind a tree with Mark Burnham as I'm writing this, although lately he's been more commonly known as "Stacey".
Pretty soon a 42 year old man with a wife he cares nothing about is going to drive up the dirt trail. The man has been getting to know "Stacey" for the last few days at a nearby park. She seemed to like him, but the man was shy about meeting "Stacey's" parents. That's why he said he wanted to play out here in the woods where they wouldn't be around.
A white van - seriously? There he is. Right on schedule. Can't get the bus to arrive on time, but set a date with a predator and you can set your watch by it. This is Mark's third victim, so I'm starting to get a pretty good idea how this works.
Mark Burnham is a 26 year old (I think they prefer to be called "little person"?) He suffers from a hormone disorder which causes proportionate dwarfism, rendering him 4 feet tall but otherwise remarkably normal. Turns out a clean shave and a baggy sweater are enough for him to pass off as a little, albeit chubby, eight year old girl named Stacey.
I'm watching the 42 year old climb out of the van. He's looking up and down the trail like he's afraid someone is watching. Bastard doesn't have a clue what's coming.
Anyway I met Mark a couple weeks ago in our group therapy. I'm not going into the details, but it's enough to know that we both survived a traumatic experience as kids. We got to talking (you can't avoid the awkward small-talk after someone just confessed to being turned into a hand-puppet), and Mark tried to lighten the mood by making a joke about being the only one who never gets too old for pedophiles.
It wasn't a good joke, but our intentions were.
The 42 year old man is calling for Stacey. Mark straightens his wig and we exchange a maniacal grin. It's hard not to laugh while Mark calls out in that shrill childish voice. The man has spotted Mark now. He's coming this way. Mark scampers further up the hill, calling for him again. We have to lure them a bit further into the woods so no random hikers will interrupt his execution.
The man has passed me now. I'm going to follow in a minute. I've got a handgun with me for backup just in case. I'm not very good with it, but fortunately I didn't have to use it the first two times. Mark is a wizard with his butterfly knife and can make a man scream like you wouldn't believe.
Deep breath. Deep breath. And go.
I followed the man for about five minutes before Mark stopped. His little legs were kicking the log he sat on: a mask of pure joy and innocence. The man sat nearby. They were speaking softly; I couldn't catch what they were saying, but it wasn't long before he leaned in to kiss Mark.
The wig came off. The knife went in. I don't know which happened first, but I'm sure both contributed to the dumbfounded shock on the man's face. I jumped out from behind the tree and leveled my gun. Shit, left the safety on - doesn't matter though. Mark had already slashed the man's face and hands a dozen more times. This one was too surprised to even scream - he just stared.
Stared as Mark punched him between the eyes.
Stared as the blade drove into his stomach.
Stared as his throat was cut.
Stared, and then smiled. Mark was already making some space between them. He was just standing their shaking in exhilaration, unsure of what to do next. The man rose to his feet and began dusting himself off as though mildly annoyed at discovering dog hair on his jacket. The blood had already stopped flowing. The cuts were healing, tattered flesh plastering themselves together into scabs which receded into the skin before disappearing entirely.
"You're a liar, Stacey," the man said, his voice a dreadful calm.
"Shoot him!" Mark yelled.
I didn't move.
"You said you were eight." The man didn't look at me. He just took another step toward Mark. "They can't be older than eight."
"Holy shit, what are you waiting for?"
I squeezed the trigger, flinching as the sound ripped the air in half. The dull thud as the bullet hit a tree. The man still didn't so much as glance my way. His hand lashed out and grabbed Mark by the neck. I fired again, but I was too afraid of hitting Mark and it wasn't even close. The man heaved Mark into the air, swinging him wildly in my direction as a shield. The little man's arms were beating helplessly against the implacable grip; thrashing legs turned the air into a turmoil of desperate energy.
"Shoot him! Shoot me! I don't care, just do something!"
I did do something. I watched. And even that was more than I could bear. The man's chest exploded outward, ribs opening wide like so many giant white teeth. His head was bent backwards so sharply that his spine bulged against his neck. His whole body was bending to make way for the impossible jaws. Mark managed to get a few more swipes in, but the abomination pressed the dwarf's entire body into his gaping chest cavity.
The ribs snapped shut faster than a striking snake. The horrendous gash that marked where the skin had separated was already fading. Soon there wouldn't be anything but his torn shirt to show where he had mocked his humanity.
"Bring a real eight year old tomorrow," he told me.
I turned and ran. So fast and so hard that every bone in my body felt like it would shatter from the impact of my flying strides.
"Or don't," he shouted after me. "What's the worst that could happen to you?"