I spend a lot of time out on my 5th floor fire escape, taking in all the surroundings and looking at all the people in my neighborhood. It’s a way for me to relax. My fire escape is the equivalent to a front porch for most people. If I had a rocker I would sit on it and rock back and forth, waving at everyone as they passed by five stories below.

My years of hanging out there on sunny, good-weather days has earned me many friends and acquaintances on my block. But there is one acquaintance in particular that has always left me with a sense of unease…

Beatrice. Beatrice the white toy poodle. I often see Beatrice being walked proudly in the neighborhood by her septuagenarian female caretaker. Everyone loves Beatrice. All the kids run to pet Beatrice the poodle as the woman parades her around on a pink leash. She’s become the block mascot. Beatrice has typical poodle hair that is bright white, and is fluffed, sculpted and cut into one of those pouffy “toy poodle? cuts that look so good in photographs and dog shows. Except in Beatrice’s case… her human caretaker, her “master,? is an elderly woman with semi-poor eyesight… so Beatrice’s sculpted fur is slightly off balance, off kilter. She also has years of accumulated dirt staining the white fur around her feet, mouth and behind. This is actually an interesting contrast to the pink toenail polish that Beatrice’s master slathers onto her toenails… which are too long and “click? on tile pavement when Beatrice walks on them. Beatrice, who is probably about eight years old herself, looks loved and cared for but slightly unkempt.

This combination only makes Beatrice more loved in the neighborhood; makes her less than perfect and more human, as it were. There is slight pity in the admiration projected on Beatrice, and this is a favorable thing for the dog. In a few years this lovey-dovey commiseration will be heightened when glaucoma will set into one of Beatrice’s eyes, a sign of her age in dog years. But old age, lopsided fur, soil stains and sloppily-painted clicking pink toenails are cursory fractions to Beatrice. Horrible, horrible, horrible Beatrice. Why, you ask?

I know Beatrice better than most. I see the way she looks up at me on my fire escape from way down on the sidewalk, and I’ve learned things about her over years of observation. Beatrice is a flesh entity of pure evil. Her body is just a living cell and molecule “drag? for a astronomical force so benevolent that it pre-dates the human mind. This force has been ruling the dark half of the universe’s ying and yang for an eternity. When our world is snuffed out, this entity will find another dimension to inhabit… in whatever disguise it needs (it transcends time). But right now it’s in our dimension. And this inter-dimensional force of infinite evil, this unspeakable anathema, inhabits Beatrice the wobbly, lovable poodle on my block. What’s more, Beatrice knows I posses this knowledge about her, and that means it’s just a matter of time before I pay for my knowledge.

I’m out on my fire escape right now. It’s a beautiful spring day. As usual, Beatrice has recently arrived out on the sidewalk via her caretaker, and is making the rounds. Soon, or perhaps inevitably… I see Beatrice dancing to salsa music. Yes, dancing. Beatrice’s owner leads her by her leash near a radio placed on a card table where some old men are playing dominoes. Leads her like a ciruc animal. Beatrice wiggles her butt and yaps and yips and dances for little pieces of scrap pizza cheese thrown by enthusiastic kids who have gathered to watch. It’s an amazing trick for a dog to be able to dance and keep a beat to music for scraps of cheese - but for the infinite, all-knowing inciter of foreordained chaos, death and ruin that I’ve already explained to you that Beatrice actually is - it’s nothing at all, really. Oh… look at all of them down there. They all gather around her with simpering, open mouths, clapping along and buoying her pantomime. How perfect. If they only knew. Beatrice doesn’t care about them. Dance Beatrice, dance your silly canine sock hop… you cruel destroyer.

The only human you are concerned with in this vicinity is me, because you don’t fool me. I know you. I see you dancing for them, using them as a cover. Keep dancing Beatrice, work your poodle ass to the salsa music Beatrice. All the while I’m still up here. I’m the one missing piece in your apocalyptic jigsaw puzzle. Oh… if only I would fall into place Beatrice! If only! Ah-ha… but I won’t! At least, for now…

Your pitiful, cutesy-cuddle hypnotism and oh-love-me block mascot-erade and sinister frolicking doesn’t distract me from my prescience for one second. My prescience about YOU! From your cheese yapping charade to look up, and meet my eyeballs on the fire escape. You steal a peek here… another peek there. From five floors up those black, beady, bat-like eyes can penetrate right up through me. At me. ME ME ME… the end goal of your evil plans. Every time our glances meet I look into The Abyss itself, I know what my destiny is. You terrorize me… but you complete me too, Beatrice. I must deal with you in the same way I will one day deal with my own demise. My own death. You are death Beatrice. But the death of a human being is a mere blip of a pebble in the vast ocean of evil that you are Beatrice. Oh if only those people saw what I see in those eyes! They see cute poodle eyes of Beatrice. I see two black voids as wide as the universe and as deep as the accumulated collective human consciousness of one trillion years of mankind’s regret, hate and despair. I see an impenetrable curse in your little black eyes Beatrice. And I know you’re looking back Beatrice.

I’ve always known Beatrice.

For a moment, I begin to suspect that my dark thoughts about Beatrice and her secret are summer-tinged madness. But my momentary relief is snuffed out. Suddenly… at a moment just as Beatrice’s eyes have briefly locked with mine in mid-salsa… something unbelievable happens. Time stops all around me. The clapping street people freeze… the birds in the air freeze… the trees blowing freeze… cars… children… the very air… everything around me freezes. It’s as if time has stopped… yet I can still move. I’m amazed. l look all around. Everything is still… a three-dimensional photograph. What happened? In the moment, I catch myself from leaning in mid-faint against the metal bar railing of the fire escape. The button from my shirt sleeve clicks on the metal bar. It’s tiny sound echoes in the endless quiet all around me. A vacuum of quiet. It’s like God pressed the pause button on reality, but for some reason I’ve kept going. What… who could have done this? Oh my God… no… it couldn’t have been…

I perilously look down at the circle of street people who were clapping and feeding cheese to a dancing Beatrice. They are frozen in a perfect circle, looking down… at nothing. Beatrice is gone. My eyes dart around the frozen street for her. I can’t find her.

Chimerical fear becomes real. I try to swallow but can’t. Then, amongst the immense quietness… I hear a sound… a single sound. It’s a tiny clicking sound coming from deep inside my apartment building, behind me, below… down in the stairwell. In contrast to the muteness all around me, the clickity-clicking sound is deafening. I’s coming closer… *click clickity click* …it seems to be coming up the stairs. My subconscious knew all along, but soon it hits my cognizance. It’s Beatrice! Beatrice the most evil force of dread and oblivion, Dark Mother of the Unknown, Mistress and Creator of Fear! Coming up my stairs …for me! Coming alone up my stairwell in a world where she and she alone can stop time and space itself and make me her next target. Me, her next victim, her next conduit to pour whatever unspeakable blackness she may deem necessary into… *click clickity click* closer… closer… oh God in Heaven, no! Please don’t let it be Beatrice. But I realize God is nothing compared to Beatrice. *click clickity click* …closer it comes. I want to move from my fire escape, but I can’t seem to will myself to. What is the point of will against a malevolent force like Beatrice? *click clickity click* …closer… closer… the sloppily painted toenails hop up each and every step, without hesitation. Somehow… even as a child, I always knew it would end this way. I would be wiped from the face of the universe by the most evil poodle in the world.

The clicking has now stopped. I know Beatrice is in my hallway, behind my front door. She just sits and waits. She knows I’m scared. She senses my fear, she’s known it all along. It pleases her.

I still face outward into the stillness… the bright sunshine-y but frozen and life-less world which Beatrice has caused and that, in her doing so, has claustrophized the world all around me and made the very outdoors seem as closed-in and as indoors as a locked closet… a fetid basement… the locked trunk of a car. Outside has become inside… concave has become convex… the vacuum has become it’s opposite… day has become night… or the difference between the two has become irrelevant. There is no need for balance or ying and yang in a numb world where light and dark have become the same thing. Beatrice’s stopped-time world where her and I are the only ones moving is the worst possible reality to know… but it’s home sweet home to Beatrice. These are the dimensions of her arena. Hell. Worse than Hell.

I hear a clickity click on my front doorknob. It’s Beatrice’s hand opening my door. I hear her clickity click feet walk into my apartment and shut the door behind her. I have no need to turn around and look through the living room to see if it’s her. I know, and I know she knows. She has paused… still. She is sitting up and looking across my apartment at me out on the fire escape. I can feel her. Beatrice is milking my trembling fear for every depleting drop it is worth. As a pathetic kind of consolation, I start to imagine a world or reality without pain or pleasure. If light and dark have become one in Beatrice’s frozen-time world, could pain and pleasure cancel each other out? I feel a tiny flame of hope inside my soul as I contemplate this… but it’s snuffed out instantly, and appropriately, by the very slow clickity click of Beatrice’s toenails on my kitchen floor walking slowly towards me. Beatrice could sense my thoughts of hope and has acted upon eliminating them… letting me know she’s the one allowed to do so. I hear the clickity click enter the living room… the bedroom… and stop right below me… inside the window… behind my turned back. Right behind me!

I sit, having still not moved. Or can I move at all? What’s the use… escape? Man has been trying to escape death for centuries. I would call Beatrice “death? itself, but she has removed that option for me. “Death? doesn’t exist in the parameters she has created. I can only accept Beatrice. A new kind of death. Beatrice sits quietly behind me, feeding off of my churning mind, my dread, gaining nourishment from it. I look out and see several small children frozen in mid-play on a jungle gym. I weep for them. Beatrice… how I loathe thee.

I try to clear my mind… but it’s too filled with fear to purge. but… wait! Perhaps… as I sit here in petrified stillness… if I allow myself to get frightened enough, I will actually pass out from fear, become unconscious! Then I will not have to endure the…

My grasps at hope are once again snuffed out by the tiny front paws of Beatrice. I feel her small poodle arms reach from behind me, around my ears, gently placing themselves on my eyelids. I feel her paws. I feel the rough… black, pebble-like soles under the fur on her feet… the long, cold, pink toenails… the dirty fur. She gently closes my eyelids and then slowly pulls my head back. I smell her stinking dog breath. I feel the warmth of her panting on the back of my neck. She pulls my limp body through the open window and onto the bedroom floor. She grabs my hair with her paws, and pulls. She begins to drag me across the floor by my hair. My head is turned sideways as I move. I open my eyes again and watch the bedroom wall move horizontally across my field of vision. I want to speak, say something… anything to Beatrice. Fear has turned to resignation. I want to tell her I’m sorry, sorry I failed her. I want to tell her I will do anything for her no matter how humiliating. But I have nothing in the face of Beatrice the evil poodle. A man with no hope can barter nothing… and one in total control by another cannot bargain. Why even contemplate apologizing or groveling with Beatrice? She knows all. She owns all. This makes me feel almost calm.

I hear Beatrice’s clickity-click toenails on the floor as she drags me along the floor like a bag of garbage. She drags me out of my apartment door and into the hallway. She tugs me over each step down the winding flight of stairs. *clickity* *thud* *click* *thud* I wonder if Beatrice has feelings? Emotions? Perhaps a higher plateaux of feelings and emotions that we mortals cannot even fathom? No… probably not. Those concepts don’t exist in her capacity. Feelings, emotions, pain, fear, loathing… these are sates of being experienced by other living things because of her. Beatrice is a force, and a force runs on pure instinct. She is a resolve, a reality, my new unspeakable reality. I begin to leave trails of moisture on the black tile stairs as my head bumps against each one. It is not blood… but tears. My tears. I’m sorry Beatrice… so sorry.

*click* *thud* *click* *thud*

She drags me down further and further, flight after flight. We reach the ground floor. I hear her clickity click paws as she drags me to the back of the building, past the mailboxes… to the back entrance. Beatrice works without haste or pause, but every moment feels like an eternity. I hear Beatrice open the door to the back stairs. I see the sun beam in and hit my face, but it does not feel warm or good… it’s frozen like everything in Beatrice’s numb macrocosm. She drags me past the rancid garbage cans… which look like gentle fields of blowing wildflowers to me now. My head clangs on each metal step as Beatrice drags me down the stairs that descend to the basement door. My limp, malleable body follows suit. Beatrice stops at the basement door and opens it. It squeaks and clangs, I can finally hear another sound! A sound besides Beatrice’s hideous clicking toenail feet! The door swings open with a groan… Beatrice drags me into the darkness… the blackness of the basement. She shuts the door behind me. I hear the clickity click of her toenails and see her white, puffy frame bounce around me as she does each thing. Busy as a bee… the busy little poodle… busy wiping me off the face of the world.

Beatrice grabs me by the hair again and begins dragging me through the dark hall towards the furnace. I see her flickering shadow against the brick wall as she drags me closer and closer to the hot, stinking furnace. The only thing in Beatrice’s Hell world that is not frozen.

Beatrice stops me at the feet of the furnace. I cannot move, I am without motion or will. Paralyzed. Beatrice is my master and my death at her hands is an extension of her will. Beatrice moves into my field of vision. My head is sideways against the concrete floor. I see Beatrice’s face… close-up and clearly for the first time. Her poodle puff hair, the balls of fur at the end of her ears. I see her cast in relief against the orange flickering light of the shadows from the furnace on the wall behind her. I see the tiny yellow reflections of fire refracted in each of her black beady poodle eyes. I think I see what is behind her eyes, but I do not know it. I do not want to know. I want you to teach me Beatrice. To show me the way to destroy me. A tear rolls down my face sideways and penetrates the hot concrete floor.

Beatrice knows I am ready. She takes a razor from the floor into her little white poodle paws and begins to carve into my face. She works quickly and economically… but I am the machine. The pain is sharp. She cuts and removes my eyelids - so I can watch everything. The pain is excruciating, I feel it in every molecule of my body. But I cannot react. She knows this, and I am happy to serve her. I want her to do this. I want her to correct my appearance… to make my death a sculpture in her poodle paw hands. I am wet clay in Beatrice’s paws. The searing hot pain and humiliation are like sweet caresses from Beatrice. I welcome her fate like a mat. Tears and blood gush from my eyes now, each indistinguishable from each other. Beatrice reaches down further on my face with the razor an begins making cuts. She removes my nose. She wants to disfigure and humiliate me before the end… remove my pride, so hating myself is the last thing I ever experience. She then reaches down with her stinking mouth and grabs my removed nose with her hideous, yellowed dog teeth. She chews the nose like any dog chews on a dead, discarded rat. She wants me to watch this. I feel happy to be consumed by her, to nourish her… I want her to use me to further herself. Beatrice then moves across the floor, taking a small mirror from across the flickering, orange shadow furnace basement room and props it up across from my face. I see myself… I am forced to stare through removed eyelids at the mute, hideous monster I have become. Thank you Beatrice.

I try to move my tongue to speak, to thank Beatrice. I open my mouth and my tongue slowly unfurls onto the dirty basement floor, anticipating. Without haste Beatrice automatically reaches down with a paw and slices my tongue off with the razor. She then slaps my limp, flaccid tongue on the concrete in front of me. She takes oneskinny poodle leg and steps on my tongue with it. She squashes the dead muscle, twisting her leg to pulverize it with her paw. I see her pink painted dog toenails splay out as she grinds and destroys it on the hot concrete floor. I am not allowed to speak.

I see Beatrice then quickly moving all around me in the flickering light. She is using the razor to sever all my major tendons. She works with a surgeon’s precision. She does this to prevent me from being able to move at all. I am now a puppet. Beatrice takes her paws and drags my hideous, disfigured, obedient vessel into the furnace. Thank you Beatrice. She shoves me inside the little furnace door, feet first… then stuffs the last of me inside with her little poodle paws. She faces my head outside the door of the furnace and shuts the little door. I can watch her… through my removed eyelids… through the slits in the iron door. She moves her tiny, puffy, white body across to the other side of the orange, flickering basement. She stops on the other side of the room, and for a moment I cannot see her. She is behind a table… and on the wall behind that table is the “on? switch to the furnace. She turns around and looks at me from across the room. I only see the upper half of her head now, poking up from across the top of the table… her white poodle head and the puffy white ball of hair on top. And the eyes. Just the eyes. She looks at me for a length of time, paused. Her eyes look right at me. I see the flame of the lower part of the furnace fire reflected in them but, I also see… me. I see myself reflected in her eyes, inside her. Beatrice keeps her head facing me and her eyes locked with mine, as she slowly reaches behind her and places her paw on the switch to activate the fire in the main part of the furnace I am in. I gaze into her eyes. I hear her pink toenails click against the knob of the metal switch as she places her paw on it.