Best Served Cold (F)
I watch him climb the icy stairs and enter what used to be my house, unaware that I’m standing less than fifty feet away. I feel warmer just imagining his fear if he knew I was watching him.
The house will feel cold and he’ll turn up the thermostat, but the furnace won’t kick on. When he realizes that the lights aren’t working either, he’ll step outside to see if the neighbours have power.
Yes, here he is. He can see lights next door, so now he’s going back inside to find a flashlight, and that’s my cue to run around to the back door. He’ll notice that all the clocks have stopped at four, and he’ll pick up the kitchen phone to call the power company. But the phone’s dead, so he’ll stand there for a moment and think about what to do. There won’t be any noise at all, no humming from the fridge and no sound of the back door opening because I’ve already left it open. That’s when he’ll spot the tweed suitcase that I’ve placed on the counter.
He’s seen that suitcase before. He’ll remember what I kept in it and how he used the contents to send me to prison for counterfeiting. Eventually he’ll unzip it, slowly, and I see it all because now I’m watching him.
As soon as he opens the suitcase, a sleek reptilian head pushes out. You can’t mistake a bushmaster. He leaps back as several feet of pink and black viper glide toward him, its tongue tasting the cold air, tasting him. He moans and backs up into the dining room. I switch on my flashlight, and he hears me laugh because I’m standing right behind him.
“Afraid of a little bushmaster, darling?”
He whirls around, more terrified of me than the snake.
Finally, he’s staring at me and at the gun in my right hand. I’ve waited four years to see that look on his face, a mixture of disbelief and dread.
“How did I escape? Why in what I’m wearing, of course.” I pass my left hand down my jumpsuit like a model displaying a new gown. The arc made by my light reflects off the scales of the snake closing in on him. I can’t resist performing a quick pirouette so his flashlight will catch the lettering on my back: Ted’s Electrical.
“Poor Ted is all tied up at the moment.” I laugh, and I hear the joy in my voice as well as the touch of madness. Maybe the laugh startles the snake because it strikes his leg and he screams.
“Looks like you’ve been bitten, sweetie. You really shouldn’t have opened that suitcase, again. You’re so damned predictable.” He’s already down on the floor, writhing.
“Call an ambulance, please.” He stretches ‘please’ into a very long word.
“Sorry. The phone’s out.” My smile falls short of my eyes.
I wait until he passes out, but before I leave, I switch on the heat. For the snake.
This was written as an exercise suggested in Stephen King’s recommended book ‘On Writing’.