BillyShakespeare.com: It’s like Shakespeare...only in English.

“I dream in color. Mostly blood-red.” ~ B.S.

The Incomplete Worlds Of Billy Shakespeare | BillyShakespeare.com: It's like Shakespeare...only in English.

Who’s Gonna Read This, B.S.?

short short stories

William Shakespeare is not generally celebrated for his short stories. I think the following examples illustrate why that remains true to this day.

"The Waiting Room"
a horror story by Billy Shakespeare

Marginally Noteworthy

While most of the material on this website is of a humorous nature (Oh, what? You don’t think so? Really? And what’s your website URL, Chuckles?), Shakespeare was definitely a man driven by demons. Big, scary demons who didn’t write particularly well, as this month’s featured horror story illustrates.

With a slow inhale from her cigarette, the room’s interior was briefly lit by a hellish glow. Once familiar furniture outlines were turned, for an instant, into nightmarish shapes and crimson silhouettes, then were lost again to the darkness.

Sara’s head buzzed from the tobacco rush. She bent forward and rubbed the end of the cigarette into an ashtray overflowing with extinguished butts. She sat back again and sank heavily into the overstuffed sofa. Her eyes closed slowly, then suddenly jerked open again. Her mind fought to remain conscious and alert while her own body plotted against her. Her body slowly shifted from her upright position on the couch. Her head came to rest on the sofa’s over-stuffed arm, and she fell asleep immediately.

Starving and depriving herself of sleep for days now, she surrendered at last to a deep, black unconsciousness. Her brain flashed images at random until they eventually formed a pattern, then at last a dream sequence...a sequence of events she had become very familiar with in the past month: her nightmare. It began the same way each time, as it had happened in real life: with Derek.

It had been her birthday in real-life, as well as in her dream, and her only friend Kathy had come by Sara’s apartment to surprise her, and to try to cheer her up. Her turbulent relationship with Derek over the past year had completely beaten Sara’s spirits. Kathy had been the only reason she had survived the year at all.

Sara leaned in to the birthday cake, preparing to blow it out. “Only one candle?” she asked.

“You never told me how old you are,” Kathy answered, then more to herself, “You can be so goddamn secretive sometimes. So it’s one candle for every year we’ve been friends. How’s that?” Kathy smiled. The flickering light danced upon Sara’s face, and she inhaled deeply. She glanced upward to see Kathy’s round, smiling face. She closed her eyes, burning the image of her friend into her mind’s eye, and made a wish.

God, if you even exist, she began to pray silently, please keep Kathy...

And before she could finish the thought...before she began to exhale... the knock at the door sounded, echoing through the small apartment. Sara froze, holding the rest of her breath, noticing the one lone candle on the cake remained lit. Then the knock became a pounding.

“Don’t let him in,” Kathy whispered hoarsely. It was advice she had given to Sara a thousand times before. “I’ll call the police,” Kathy said, moving to where the telephone hung on the wall.

“Sara! Open the goddamn door, bitch!” The voice was only slightly muffled by the apartment door. Derek’s voice was hard and deep enough to penetrate the wood almost completely. It had managed to penetrate Sara’s fear, and out of habit she walked to the door and let him in.

She was jerked backward by Kathy’s grip on her arm. “Don’t you dare open that door! Are you insane? We are not letting him in here!”

And in real-life they had not...

They had not answered the pounding at the door; not when it became a heavy scratching noise as Derek dug into the wooden frame with a heavy tire-iron; and not when he finally threw the iron bar through the window and tried to climb in. If Sara’s apartment been on the first floor instead of the third story of the complex, or if her window been placed next to the door instead of several feet off to the side, “letting” Derek in would have been a moot gesture.

Seconds after the metal rod turned her window into a shower of glass daggers, a shout was heard outside the door. Sara followed its path through the wall to the broken window where it stopped. Derek’s bloodied fingers held him three stories off the ground as he struggled to climb into Sara’s apartment. He had jumped from the iron railing that bordered the third story landing.

Kathy ran back to the window before Derek could better his leverage. Bending down, she picked one of the knife-like shards of glass from the carpet and held it up high like a dagger.

“Kathy! No!” Sara screamed.

Ignoring her friend, Kathy slammed it through the back of Derek’s right hand. He shrieked in pain and anger. “You fucking bitch! I’ll kill you!”

Ignoring the threat and the deep cuts to her own hands, Kathy pulled the glass from his right hand and drove it into his left. Sara could see his blood running down his fingers and along the inside wall of her apartment. She heard Derek’s feet kicking hard as he struggled to raise himself higher. His head peered over the window’s ledge and he looked to Sara, his eyes burning into hers even as he was smiling. “Say goodbye to your fucking friend, Sara. ‘Cus I’m gonna fucking kill her...” He grinned up at her, his eyes closing into thin slits.

“Die, you son-of-a-bitch!” Kathy shrieked. She came down again and again with the glass until it broke in her hand. Sara could hear his shoes scratching and scraping against the wall, against those was a background of police sirens.

“You’re dead, bitch,” Derek said, then fell.

That had been one month ago.

But in her dream...

...in her nightmare...

...the one she’d been having for a month now...

...Kathy hadn’t stopped her in time and she had let Derek in. The steady pounding that was his knock continued, only now it was her own heart; a sound so loud it seemed to beat in her ears instead of her chest.

Derek stood motionless in the night, the harsh porch light illuminating his hard features. She had found his face so cruel and handsome at one time. Now, only the cruelty remained. Her mind flashed to a conversation she had with Kathy several months ago. They had discussed Sara’s attraction and apparent obsession with Derek.

“I heard once,” Sara had told her then, “the things we find so appealing in other people are characteristics we want to see in ourselves.”

Kathy asked her to explain. “In other words,” Sara continued, “if we’re attracted to someone because they have a wonderful sense of humor or very flirtatious, it’s because we ourselves want to be funny or a flirt...”

“Sara,” Kathy interrupted, “I wouldn’t qualify Derek as a funny flirt.”

“That wasn’t my point. Although, he does have a great smile, doesn’t he?” she laughed.

“Yes,” Kathy grimly admitted. “He does. When he shows it. I just don’t understand, Sara. Please, make me understand. Why do you stay with him?”

She was quiet for a moment. “He’s very focused,” she answered finally. “If he wants something, he doesn’t quit until he gets it.”

“I’m not sure that really answered my question,” Kathy said.

“He kind of reminds me of my father,” Sara added, but so quietly Kathy hadn’t heard.

Derek was a very determined man, Sara thought now. He had wanted to be let inside Sara’s apartment, and here he was. Even if it was only in her nightmare, Derek was inside her apartment.

...the apartment they had once shared....

...the apartment where he had beaten her with weekly regularity...

...the apartment where he had brought other lovers while she worked to support them.

And he was back.

In her nightmare – the same nightmare she had every night for the last month – he strode forward and slapped her face, immediately raising a welt across her cheek. She fell to the side and he caught her with his other hand, gripping her neck, then throwing her head hard against the heavy front door. With a blinding flash, her world exploded and her sense of balance left her. Vertigo set in and she dropped to the floor. She looked up to see Derek now moving towards Kathy.

Kathy had raced to the dining room and grabbed the long knife laying beside the cake. She held it in front of her with both hands and charged at Derek. She was shouting at him, but to Sara it seemed as if she only mouthing her words. She could only watch as Kathy lunged at Derek.

With one deft motion, Derek was now holding Kathy’s forearm in his left hand. Reaching over with his right, he pulled the knife from her grasp. Still in forward motion, Kathy’s step faltered and she was already beginning to fall as Derek lifted the knife over her head and speared Kathy’s broad back.

He let her plump body slide off the knife’s end and fall the rest of the way to the floor. He stepped back and watched as Kathy staggered away from him on all fours, blood staining an ever-widening circle on the back of her white blouse. Derek was toying with her, walking behind her as she forced herself up on two feet again and tried to reach the telephone.

Still unable to move, Sara began to cry softly. She could only watch as her ex-lover murdered her only friend in the world. Kathy was now leaning heavily against a far wall, her back to Derek. She turned to face him again when he yanked the phone from her weakened grasp. Kathy’s knees began to unlock and she slid slowly down the wall. She stopped only when Derek grabbed her long auburn hair, wrapped his hand around its length once, then lifted her back up. As Kathy’s hands clasped around Derek’s in a futile attempt at freedom, he dragged her to where Sara still lay by the open door. On the way, Kathy’s large body stumbled and knocked over the small table with the birthday cake. The table now lay on its side, the floor now littered with cake and broken plates. Sara noticed the lone candle was still burning.

She wanted to raise herself up, desperate to help her friend, but the more she fought, the harder gravity held her down.

“This is your punishment, bitch,” Derek said as he held Kathy over her. “You get to watch her die. I want her blood to drip slowly over your body. I want it to cover your face. I want you to taste it in your mouth.” Sara watched as he brought the knife around to Kathy’s throat.

“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” Sara had finally found her voice, though her lips were numb with fear.

“I told you not to leave me. We belong together, Sara. I’d do anything for you. I’d even die for you.” He turned his attention to Kathy. “But right now it’s her turn.” The knife’s edge drew a red line across Kathy’s throat. As she jerked to break free, the knife dug deep into her flesh. Soon, bright red bubbles of air formed around the knife blade.

“We were so good together, baby...until this bitch got in our way. If there’s one thing I cant stand, Sara, it’s people who butt in where they don’t belong.” He leaned closer to Kathy’s ear. “And you stuck your fat ass in just one too many fucking times, didn’t you, bitch?” Derek pulled the knife away. Kathy’s eyes were frozen wide and fixed on Sara’s now. Derek leaned Kathy over Sara’s body, letting the blood spill onto Sara’s chest, then her neck, then over her mouth.

Sara shut her mouth hard, but soon the warm red spill of blood was choking her...running down the sides of her face and choking her. A sudden desperate gasp for air brought the taste of Kathy’s blood into Sara’s opened mouth.

“I didn’t want us to end this way, Sara. I think she and I just got off on the wrong foot, don’t you? I just can’t have anyone bad-mouthing me, baby. That’s just not right. When you grow up like I did, you learn to take care of your reputation. If someone shows you disrespect, you teach them a hard lesson. And if you’re a good teacher, it’s a long time before anyone disrespects you again.” Derek interrupted himself. “I’m sorry, baby, you’re gonna want to open your eyes for this. She’s dying here. I’d really hate for you to miss this lesson. This is always my favorite part. Remember...you brought this on yourself.”

The knife tore into Kathy’s neck. Derek sliced in a circle until all that held Kathy’s head to her torso was bone. He threw the knife to the floor; then, with a quick punch, Kathy’s body fell forward. Derek stood and admired his handiwork, turning the head in his hand from side to side. He smiled and his eyes formed two thin slits again. He unrolled his wrist from the tangle of hair and let it hang over Sara’s chest.

“Class dismissed,” he said. He stood up straight and tossed Kathy’s head aside. There was a quick sizzle as the now-dead flesh extinguished the last lit birthday candle on the floor. “So...pick you up tomorrow? Eight” He walked through the still-opened apartment door. He stopped, then turned to face Sara again.

“By the way,” Derek said around a smile. “Happy birthday, baby.”

It was at this point, and no other, that Sara would awaken from her nightmare. She bolted upright on the sofa and checked her wristwatch for the time. She had been asleep for only seven minutes.

Sara stood up and ran her hands through her sweat-soaked hair, then wiped the moisture on the gray t-shirt she wore. She tensed her neck muscles, leaned her head far to the right and the left, listening to the stiff crack it made each time.

Walking through her dark apartment, she made her way to the kitchen. With her refrigerator door open, she reached in and removed a clear plastic gallon water bottle. Flicking the cap off its top, Sara took deep swallows of the cool water; it was the only sustenance her body seemed to allow her lately. Anything heavier, even juices, induced waves of nausea, ending only when she threw them up into the toilet.

She finished drinking, gasping for air at the end, and lifted the bottle over her head. Turning it over, she let the contents spill over her hair, down her sweaty face and through her shirt to her breasts. She shivered as a river flowed down her emaciated torso, through lace panties. A month ago they had fit her snugly; now they barely held position around her waist. The water ran down her bare legs and formed a large puddle on the floor tile. She leaned over the opened refrigerator door for support as gravity took hold of her arm. She dropped the bottle to the floor, letting the last of its contents spill as she collapsed to the wet kitchen floor.

“I...can’t...take...this...anymore!” She shouted to no one, striking her fists to her head on each syllable. “I...can’t!” It had been a month now since her birthday celebration with Kathy, a month since Derek had fallen to his death. She could feel herself descending into madness. Perhaps Kathy, who was now too far away to help her, had sensed it, too. She had stopped by to see Sara on her way to the airport last week. She had almost cancelled her business trip, in fact, but Sara had somehow convinced her to go.

Sara’s hands fell to her sides now, too weary to hold them up any longer. Too weary even for tears. “It doesn’t matter,” she said to herself. “She can’t help me now.”

Sara began to think back on the last year. She could feel the sting from Derek’s hand on her cheek. She remembered the force with which he threw her around the apartment, and her body responded to the memory. She threw her head back suddenly, as if he had just shoved her. The motion forced her eyes open. She lay motionless, panting, feeling the cold air from the open refrigerator cooling the beaded water and sweat on her body. Although her eyes were open, she found herself focusing on images from the past. Derek’s cruel smile as he looked down at her lying on the floor.

Sara shut her eyes against the memory of his angry, smiling face just before he fell. She felt her own features twisting to match the image. She found an odd comfort in the act, as if she were drawing strength from the ghoulish expression. She felt a warmth from within, even as her skin was chilled. Sara focused on that last image of Derek. She again tried to draw strength from it, wanting to fight madness with anger.

But other smiling faces began to fill her vision now...other men...smiling cruelly as Derek did...using her...abusing her. An entire lifetime of abuse revealed itself to her, stretching from her year with Derek to nighttime visits from her father when Sara was only a child. It was a lifetime of playing a victim and a fool; saying and believing things would change, when they never did. The grim determination that had rushed through her system like adrenalin now passed just as quickly, replaced by utter sadness and a sense of inevitability in all things.

At least she now had the strength to stand, and close the refrigerator. She then began to wander without purpose through her small apartment. She craved sleep desperately, but would not allow it. It wouldn’t do any good; the nightmare would come within seconds of sleep, playing through in its entirety each time. In the past month she had lost countless hours of sleep, nearly twenty pounds of weight, and...what else?

Oh yes.

Her mind.

She was definitely losing her mind.

What the hell was that ringing? The door? Her alarm clock? The phone! Of course. She made her way to the phone and answered it as the image of her blood-stained friend Kathy flashed in her mind. “Hello?”

“Sara! Where the hell have you been?” It was Kathy. “Why haven’t you returned my calls? I called your office and they said you haven’t been to work all week!”

The receiver slipped from Sara’s weakened grip and it fell to the floor. Kathy’s voice became an insect whine as Sara grabbed her head with both hands. She surrendered to dizziness and collapsed to the floor beside the dangling phone receiver. “Kathy,” she spoke when the buzzing stopped for a moment. “Help me.”

The buzzing returned. “Sara! Sara! Are you all right? Pick up the phone, Sara!”

When she had regained sufficient strength, she groped for the phone and pulled it back to her ear. “Kathy...”

“Sara! What happened? Are you okay?”

“I’m not feeling well. I think I need...doctor, I think.” Kathy fired a thousand questions at her and despite the panic in her only friend’s voice, Sara could not answer her; Sara passed out.

The nightmare began in seconds. It began as it always had, with the birthday cake with the one lit candle remaining. And then Derek at the door, pounding, determined as hell to get in.

Determined...

Well, damn it...so would she be. The bastard was not getting in this time. In her dream she forced herself to stand beside the table; she was not going to let herself yield to his will again and again. Though weakened by malnourishment in real-life, in her dream-state Sara felt strong enough to fight Derek. Strong enough maybe to win.

A part of Sara’s mind had realized this was all a nightmare, and even if she was powerless to stop it, for the first time in a month she felt strong enough to change its outcome. She also knew that in the real world her friend Kathy was still calling to her over the telephone. She was powerless to awaken and answer her, but felt rejuvenated by even this small contact with her. Together they could save Sara.

The pounding and scratching at the door stopped finally. Then the window exploded to her right. With a roar, Derek leaped from the railing to the broken window. Again Kathy raced to the pieces of glass and began stabbing Derek’s already bloodied hands. This was the way it had really happened, Sara thought. The nightmare is changing. Sara stood frozen for a moment watching her friend defend them both.

Enough, she thought. No more nightmares!

She ran to where Kathy stood and looked around the floor for the iron crowbar. Finding it in a corner, she ran to the window just as Derek had pulled his left arm through the window completely, his armpit resting on the window sill. “Come here, you bitch! You can’t fucking hide from me! Come here so I can kill you and your fat fucking friend!”

With a sickening thud, the metal rod split Derek’s head open. Blood ran down his forehead and around the sides of his face. “What the fuck?” he shouted through shock and pain. His head tilted far back and when it leaned forward again, Sara brought the crowbar down on him again. “...the fuck are you doing?” Derek spit blood from his mouth as he spoke.

“Will you just die!” Sara screamed. “Will you just fucking die and give me my life back!” She pulled the tire iron back and pointed an end toward Derek. “Get out of my apartment! Get out of my life! Get out of my fucking head, you bastard!” She thrust the chiseled tip at him like a spear and felt it hit, breaking through facial bones. Derek fell three stories, his face still impaled on the metal bar.

Sara stepped away from the window and turned to Kathy. Neither spoke a word, yet both reached out to comfort the other. With the nightmare ended, Sara felt herself gaining strength again. With Kathy there, she was complete. Both women had come from worlds of emotional and physical abuse. Separated, they could cope. Together, they could conquer. “Are you okay?” Kathy asked, hugging Sara tightly.

“I think so,” she said. “Thank you, Kathy.” She suddenly smiled despite a face full of tears. “That somehow doesn’t seem like enough. I owe you my life.”

A soft knock came at the door. “Police!” shouted a voice from the other side. “Is everyone all right in there?”

Kathy smiled and wiped the tears from Sara’s face. “We’re okay,” she yelled at the door. She walked with an outstretched hand to the doorknob. Unlocking the deadbolt, she swung the door open quickly.

“Surprise, bitch!” said Derek. As Kathy screamed he reached up with one hand to grab her throat. Walking into the apartment, he swung her hard around, pressing her back against the wall. “Hiya, Kathy. Watch it now,” he said as he lifted the bloodied crowbar like a spear, pointing it inches from Kathy’s open mouth. “This may smart a little.” He stabbed Kathy’s mouth, breaking her teeth as the iron bar broke through the back of her head and held her fastened to the wall as if by a nail. Gurgling, blood flowing from her wound, Kathy grasped the bar and tried to pull it free. Moments later, her arms fell to her side as she died.

Derek turned to Sara. “Have you learned your lesson yet, Sara? Is class fucking dismissed, or are you trying for extra credit?”

“Why are you doing this to me?” Sara screamed. She looked past Derek’s bloody form to where Kathy hung motionless against the wall. “Why?” she asked again.

“You just don’t get it, do you?” Derek smiled and took a few steps closer to Sara. “You’re in school again, Sara. And I’m your teacher. I’m here to teach you a valuable lesson...a life lesson.” Derek met Sara where she stood by her sofa. He grabbed her by the shoulders, picked her straight up into the air. “Why don’t you have a seat?” he told her, then flung her hard into the sofa’s cushions. “Make yourself comfortable. I don’t know how long this will take.”

Derek lifted a hand to his bleeding scalp. “Whoa, baby girl...made myself a little woozy there. You hit me pretty hard with that goddamn bar. You’re a lot stronger than I thought. Hell, the two of you were a helluva lot stronger than I figured.” He waved to Kathy’s corpse. “But with her gone, I’m sure I can stay in control. I can handle you alone.” He smiled. “Always could.”

Derek was quiet for a moment, staring at Sara who was sitting in a fetal position on the couch, her knees pressed tight against her chest. “What’s the matter, baby? You look scared. I ain’t gonna hurt you. Not yet. Class ain’t over yet.” Derek shook his head from side to side for emphasis. Sara recoiled as a chunk of hair and bone dropped from the back of his head.

“Now,” he said, “where was I? Ah, the lesson. To be more precise: why am I doing this to Sara? Poor Sara. Poor baby. Daddy never showed you enough love, did he? And some nights he showed you way too much, isn’t that right? Tsk, tsk. It took you seventeen years to get away from him. That was smart, Sara. You did real good.”

Derek walked to the sofa and sat down next to her. He reached out with his hand, a glass shard still piercing the back of it, and touched her arm gently. “But you know what you did, you dumb bitch? You started dating me.” He laughed. “All that time you spent, planning your escape...you travel hundreds of miles to get away from Daddy’s ass-kickings...and, for what? So I can kick it instead!” He tapped his finger against the side of his head. “Not too fuckin’ smart.

“Life is just choices, Sara. Some people’s choices are easier and more obvious than others. Yours was pretty goddamned obvious, if you don’t mind me saying. Other people have to stumble through life. They make good choices sometimes, and sometimes they don’t. And when they make bad choices, they get punished a little bit. God...the Devil...doesn’t matter who you think is punishing them, they get punished all the same. But people like you, Sara...the ones whose path is painfully obvious to everybody as well as themselves...you get punished a little harder.”

“This is a dream,” Sara said at last. “You’re just a fucking dream, and I can wake up whenever the fuck I want!” she shouted. “And I want to wake up right now! I want you to get the fuck out of my life!” She lifted her leg and kicked Derek as hard as she could in his face. For a moment, blood streamed from his face, then stopped. He hadn’t moved an inch.

“So, wake up, bitch. I’m not stopping you. Wake up! That’s not gonna stop me...I’m still gonna get you. You know how stubborn I can be.

“It will stop you, goddammit, ‘cause...you’re...DEAD! I saw you die! I saw them take you away and YOU’RE DEAD!” She kicked the cushion beneath her on each word. Her hands became fists and she beat them against her own legs. “WAKE UP!” she screamed at herself. “WAKE UP!”

“Shhh, baby. Calm down. Class is almost over. I’m almost through. You’re right about one thing, baby. It is time for you to wake up now. You only had one chance in this life, Sara, and you blew it. It’s time for your punishment.” Derek stood up and leaned over Sara. He pulled her hands down from around her face. “By the way,” he said around a bloodied smile. “Daddy sends his love.”

Derek moved his hand back and then slapped Sara across her face. All she saw was the palm of his open hand, then a blinding flash. She awoke on the floor, gasping for breath and surrounded by a puddle of her own urine. And amid the noise of her heavy breaths was the steady pounding at the door.

“Go away, you son-of-a-bitch!” She staggered to her feet. Her voice was a hoarse whisper and couldn’t be heard. The pounding continued.

Sara leaned against the wall for support. She noticed the telephone’s receiver still dropped to the floor, and gained support there as well. Knowing Kathy was there, even in this small way, gave her the strength she needed.

She fought the waves of dizziness that threatened to take her down again, making her way to the kitchen. Pulling open a drawer, she found the knife she and Kathy had used to cut her cake one month ago. The stainless steel blade caught what little light came through her curtained window from the streetlight outside.

Time for your punishment, Derek.

She moved as quickly as she could to her front door. She positioned herself to the right side of it; the same spot where Derek had impaled her friend Kathy in her last nightmare. She wiped the sweat from her hand onto her t-shirt, and held the knife firmly in her right hand. Taking a deep breath, she reached over and touched her hand to the door’s deadbolt lock. A quick twist and the door was unlocked.

Sara jumped back to the shadows beside the door.

The door swung open and slammed against the interior wall with a crack. A lone figure stood outlined in the now-harsh streetlight, features masked by a white corona. Sara spun from her hiding place and planted her weapon squarely in the figure’s heart, her eyes squinting hard against the light.

She allowed her hands to fall away from the knife’s handle and she stepped back quickly, the last of her strength being sapped dry. Against the background noise of her heartbeat pounding in her ears, Sara heard her name being whispered.

Kathy stepped into the apartment, one hand gripping the knife that was buried in her chest. “Sara...” she said again. She collapsed face forward, forcing the knife further into her chest.

Sara sat herself down on her sofa, watching her friend’s blood leave her body and forming a stain on the carpet. When she closed her eyes, she could see Derek smiling back at her. He always had a great smile.