It’s late. You stare at one of your many aquariums. The tank light is off but you can still see the neon tetras flitting about in the darkness. Hence the name. Oh, to be one of them. Cared for. No predators. Mating with impunity.
Once, when you were a boy, your brother had become terribly mad at you. You don’t remember why. He’d taken it out on your butterfly collection, breaking the mounts with a baseball bat. Grimly, you imagine Sarah smashing your aquariums, myriad fish splashing onto the floor gasping for air. Outside you hear the wind blowing down from the mountains.
Enough. Turn off your computer. Make sure the house lights are off as well, the front, the back and the hallway. The girls always leave every light on. They are teenagers.
Has it only been three days since receiving the letter? It seems painfully longer. You are in purgatory, riven by dread, knowing yet unknowing what terror awaits you. The extortionist had given you ten days from the postmark to sort out your payment. Waiting for the gallows, you would have expected time to pass faster.
Take your pills. Brush your teeth. Find the bed in the darkness. Slip under the covers, next to your wife who, tonight, is not snoring. Not yet anyway. Hopefully she won’t before you fall asleep.
To be continued…