He was there, the mysterious and bruised stranger, when I swerved off the road to avoid an armadillo and hit the guard rail. His wild eyes and rumpled suit were just out of the corner of my eye before I hit and I swear I saw him laughing from the edge of the trees.
He disappeared before the cops showed up and I was too busy dealing with the repairs and my insurance premium increase afterwards to really give it a second thought.
Weeks later, when little Tommy from down the street broke my window with his baseball, I swore for a moment that as Tommy ran away in fear he was wearing a suit with that baseball hat.
In the summer, when a freak hurricane formed over land and a once-sturdy oak crushed my newly repaired car, I thought I was going crazy when I saw a man jumping on the fallen trunk, burying it further into the interior.
I blamed it all on stress. I was having accident after accident and my annual premiums were rising well above my annual mortgage payments. A man didn't throw an armadillo in front of my car. Nor did he dress as little Tommy and break my window...and Tommy confessed ten minutes later, anyway. And no one would be crazy enough to stand in a hurricane, especially on a downed tree that took several power lines with it. I was going mad. I needed help, but I couldn't afford psychiatric care with my cut rate auto and home insurance.
Winter came and I had been accident free for 6 whole weeks when my Christmas tree caught on fire and and burnt up a good portion of my living room. The firemen were perplexed when they found, amongst the charred remains of my once mighty Scotch Pine, a man's tie, completely intact and unburnt.
The New Year arrived and my 3rd rate insurance was threatening to drop me for good if I had one more accident. I lived as carefully as I could, only turning on low-watt light bulbs when I absolutely needed them, taking the bus as much as possible, and living off foods that didn't need to be cooked at home.
February saw the coldest winter in a century for Florida. Snow fell, roads froze, and I called in to work, not wanting to risk it. I sat reading a book by the sunlight, eating a peanut butter sandwich. I heard a car door slam and walked, slowly, to the door and peeked out the peephole. Before I could get a good look, I saw a quick blur of motion and my visitor slipped on my icy front porch.
I flung open the door to help my mysterious caller. It was the man I had been seeing for a year. On my front porch. Knocked out cold. I didn't salt the porch or put out a rubber mat or whatever I was supposed to do for ice and he was dead and now I would be dropped from my policy for sure. I pulled my fingers from my hoodie to check for a pulse and the man stirred when my warm fingers touched his icy skin.
He wasn't bleeding, but he was covered in old bruises and bandages. He opened his eyes and rubbed at his latest injury, rolling over to crawl towards me as I backed up in fear. He smiled a frighteningly charming grin as he came to me.
"I'm the armadillo you swerved to avoid. I'm little Tommy who hit a pop-up fly ball in his front yard and broke your window."
His eyes were focussed intensely on me and his tie dragged across the tile of my porch. I scooted into my house, attempting to shut the door on him, but one hand swiftly pushed back, stronger than my two hands.
"I'm the trash can that fell over in the wind and broke off your wing mirror when you were driving home. I'm the asshole who keyed your driver's side door when you double parked at the mall. I'm that freak hurricane last summer. Did you like that one?"
He continued to crawl towards me, but I had backed up against a wall. Hard. My laptop fell off the countertop from the force of my back hitting the drywall. It shattered into what seemed like a million pieces. "I just destroyed your laptop. I'm the little faulty bulb on your Christmas lights that destroyed your living room. I'm the man you killed by not salting your porch."
He was practically on top of me then, all sadistic smile and evil charm, and God help me, I was falling for it. My car was destroyed and replaced with the only car my crappy insurance's payout could buy: A 1986 Pontiac 6000 with a missing rear window and a radio that only picked up one station and it was Christian Talk Radio. My house was slowly falling apart and my yearly premiums were now more than the house was worth, but this mysterious, broken, bruised, and handsome bastard who was responsible for it all was seducing me into forgetting it all. His lips brushed my ear and I shivered, smelling antiseptic and that distinctive band-aid smell.
"I can help you. I can take you away from all of this."
Warm hands slid up my shirt and I gasped at the the combination of his heat and the cool air rushing in from outside.
"If you want this to end, for me to stop, tell me now, or I can keep going until you can't take anymore and you have to beg me to stop...and even then, even then, I can't guarantee that I will...because...it's what I do."
And in my distraction, I couldn't tell if he was talking about the incidents of the past year or the obviously sexual turn our latest encounter had taken, but the last brain cell capable of higher thinking I had told me I was beyond caring at that point.
He pulled back to look at me and I said nothing. I don't think I was capable of speaking and even if I were, he shoved his tongue in my mouth before I could grasp what was happening. The kiss was warm and alive. I couldn't breathe, couldn't hear except for the rush of blood and...crashing? Something...or somethings had a terrific collision outside and I knew in the back of my head that the broken rear window and the Christian talk radio monopoly were the least of my car's problems then, but he had loosened his tie and I had lost my shirt and most of my bottoms and I steadfastly ignored the ominous sound of something exploding in my backyard as he pushed into me hard and fast.
It wasn't long until I was seeing stars, my vision white and bleeding into all the hot colors at the edges until they faded into grey and I cried out, covering the noise of the sirens speeding through the neighborhood. He sped up, thrusting harder, eyes squeezed shut and whimpering, biting to control and making me arch into him as he did. I heard screams come from down the street and I swore I heard gunshots and glass breaking. I cared, but I didn't, and I definitely didn't want him to stop, even if letting him hav his way risked my own death.
"Are you doing this? What's happening?" The words fell out and I didn't want them to, but I could hear sparks of electricity from the overhead power wires outside.
I could feel him tighten and his breathed hitched, arching up so far I could see the tendons in his neck tense. He bit his lip and bent down to whisper in my ear:
"Mayhem is coming."
And he cried out, coming so hard the walls shook.
No, that's not exactly true.
It was an earthquake.
A mild one, but enough to fell some trees and break a few more windows.
He had collapsed on top of me, but I managed to wiggle out from under him and stand, naked, in a doorway, because as earthquakes don't happen in Florida, all I had to go on was what I learned on tv.
I don't remember much after that, but the paramedics tell me that a chunk of damaged door frame from the Christmas fire broke off and hit me in the head. They found me, completely naked and alone, with a business card from a home and auto insurance carrier that was not my own on my stomach.
Three days and fifteen minutes later, my discount insurer dropped me.
Five minutes after that, I called the number on the card.
Oh, I still see the mysterious man sometimes. I swear he was driving a pink SUV at the mall the other day. He winked at me before he crashed into a parked car. I'm pretty sure the week before that he was in a very expensive luxury car drinking coffee in the city. I eventually got a new car and fixed up my house and I've been accident free for a year, but I am super cautious about everything I do, everything I see, just in case Mayhem...wants to come again.