This story was inspired by two brief unrelated news items. In one, a young girl, under the effect of drugs, jumped from a window to her death. Her boyfriend tried to hold her by the leg for a moment but had to let go. The other item described a mysterious young girl, obviously naked under her raincoat, meandering in the early dawn as if in a trance and was never seen again. From the description, one well known dentist recognized his estranged daughter.


By William Markiewicz

Octopus face
Octopus -- photo collage,oil pastel, graphite -- WM)

Sygismund was driving home through empty city streets late at night. His head was bursting from the one-too-many drinks he'd had as he buried his bachelorhood with office buddies. Tomorrow -- as a matter of fact today -- he would marry Helene. The driving went uneventfully. In spite of his condition he controlled his car with a skilful hand. The lights shone on the road advancing toward him, anonymous buildings with closed windows passed monotonously. Suddenly he noticed something dangling from a window ledge. He paid no particular attention until he was close enough to see that it was a human form at the fourth floor window. It was a girl; a man held her by one leg, half falling himself. Sygismund braked abruptly, jumped out of the car, and heard the man calling something in a strangled voice. Surely he cried for help and undoubtedly was at the end of his strength.

"Hold on, I'm coming!" shouted Sygismund. With a leap he reached the entrance, ran the four floors as quickly as possible, and found himself in a narrow hall leading to a single door. He broke it open with one shove, ran at once to the window and grabbed the girl.

Everything had happened so suddenly, as if time, suspended in its course, now started again. Sygismund's exhausted lungs craved air. Drops of sweat showed on his forehead and his heart pounded. He looked back and forth from the girl whose life he had saved to the man. She was very young, blonde, petite. She trembled, maybe from the cold; she wasn't wearing much. She threw herself on the mattress in the corner of the room, sobbing silently.

The man was young and unshaven, kind of a hippie. He slumped, staring fixedly ahead as if the rescue had wiped him out. Sygismund couldn't get a single word out of him. Were drugs the reason for the whole situation?

He looked around. The apartment consisted of a small room and a corner kitchenette. A box instead of a table, cushions for chairs. He searched for a telephone but found none. He felt helpless. The situation didn't seem likely to change and the protagonists held their postures -- the girl prone, sobbing, while the man stared straight ahead murmuring incoherently, probably not aware of anything. Could they be left by themselves? No, the risk was too great, the girl might try to jump again. Sygismund had made up his mind to call out the window for help when he looked at the girl and -- something stopped him. She was so petite, defenceless . . . Her sobbing softly moved her golden hair spread out on her naked back. Sygismund felt the blood beating at his temples. He softly touched her hair, then quickly withdrew his hand, looking at the man. But the man continued to stare numbly as if in a trance. Sygismund was undoubtedly the master of the situation.

She has to be saved ... he repeated to himself mechanically, but pure hypocrisy dictated the words to him. Other thoughts, clearer and more stubborn, germinated in his brain: It would be a magnificent goodbye to his bachelorhood. This porcelain doll, this mysterious stranger, had literally fallen into his arms. To leave her alone with this immobile dummy is, after all, impossible, he thought. He isn't able to protect her.

He spoke to the man again, hoping that the words would not penetrate the other's awareness. "It's impossible to leave her in this state ... you might have, uh, trouble again when I leave... it will be better if ... I take her with me ... my friend is a doctor in a good clinic. She will be well taken care of ... " Saying this he covered the girl with his coat and delicately lifted her. The girl didn't resist and the man didn't seem to notice anything, lost in his dream world. Sygismund tiptoed, as if on burning coals, carrying his precious burden. He expected to feel a heavy hand on his shoulder at any moment. On the steps he felt more secure and by the time he was downstairs and had the girl in his car he no longer doubted ... the beautiful loot belonged to him. He felt like a caveman, a primitive feeling of machismo filled him with excitement not experienced since adolescence, or maybe not even then ...

He arrived home, lifted the girl from the car and carried her across the threshold like a bride. Putting her on the sofa, he turned on a discreet light and put on a record with a delicate and romantic melody. He left her alone for a moment and came back dressed in a robe holding a cup in his hand. "Drink," he whispered, lifting the strong, aromatic liquid to her lips. "Everything will be fine, you'll see, everything will be fine ..." The girl, not resisting, drank while he whispered consoling words, caressing her hair, her face, covering her with his hot breath, finally, not controlling himself, he embraced her and started to kiss her over and over.

Suddenly he felt immobilized. At first, overpowered by passion, he ignored it. Then a terrible pain ran through him and simultaneously something cut off his breath. His frightened eyes beheld a black and formless shape, a slippery cold mass was crawling beneath him, the countless monstrous tentacles coiled around him, asphyxiating him, sucking his juices and his life ...

Dawn was coming. In a bachelorette, a fragile young girl prepared to leave. She didn't cast one glance toward the corpse lying on the sofa. His bloodless paper pale skin showed hideous violet round bruises and an expression of horror was fixed in his wide staring eyes, as if the last picture he saw before his death would exceed in monstrousness anything the human imagination could conceive. The record continued to turn with the same delicate and romantic melody.

The few passersby on the street at this early hour looked with surprise at the young fairhaired girl in a man's coat that was too big for her, visibly wearing nothing underneath. She walked automatically, as if guided by instinct, toward her home, to her junkie ... To each its own.

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