A Stalker’s Mistake
By Ian Cooke Tapia
During the course of lifetime, there are things unavoidable, regardless of creed and story. Reading a dictionary is one of those things; as it is tasting new flavours and new meals, or perhaps a new twist to a childhood favourite. You might find yourself going into a new place you cannot comprehend all at once, and going into a place that bores you to your bones. These are things you cannot avoid, as is being followed. Stalking is its extreme form, and you cannot escape this. Be a dog that took a liking to you one day you were walking in the park, or a love-struck person trying to find secrets of yours without you noticing. You will be stalked, one way or another, in varying degrees, at least once in your life.
For Koo Yuan, stalking was an art. An art not of the brush or the keystroke, but of silence and patience. Painting and stalking have much in common, according to Koo Yuan – both can be misunderstood, and both can be used for good. But more than anything, stalking and painting both require a set of skills that only talent and years of practice can perfect. Trial and error were like parents to Koo Yuan, teaching him what to do and what to never try again. Trial and error were parents he had surpassed, in his road to being a master of the craft.
Thanks to his years of stalking – pretty, fat, gross, ugly, tall, thin, dumb, smart; Koo Yuan was not a judgemental person – the plain-looking man had become the undisputed expert on how to properly stalk a person. He knew how to avoid detection even if his prey looked him in the face; he had learned how to control his face lest he give away his plans; he had mastered the skills required to rummage through someone’s belongings in a way that not even God, in all his supposed omnipresence, would notice something amiss. But, above all other skills, above the ability to hide and disappear without a trace, Koo Yuan knew what special qualities made someone great stalking material. Your stalked potential, as he sometimes called it.
It was an art only the deranged could appreciate.
Koo Yuan had stalked all over the world – in Korea and Australia and all the islands in-between; some months in Tristan Da Cunha were amongst the trickiest of times, and the few years he spent in England passed in a drunken stupor of hilarity; a night in Norway left him with fond memories, unlike a summer in Paraguay, where he broke an ankle escaping a security guard; he avoided the United States for years, but didn’t leave the nation for a decade after getting there; he spent a month in France, and then travelled to Iran. The latter did not go well, and the master stalker found himself escaping a hair’s breadth from getting caught.
Nothing had ever been as exciting!
And as he sat pondering his next move while he sat in a surprisingly clean Armenian airport, Lady Luck answered Koo Yuan’s prayers. You see, for several years Koo Yuan had started to feel this desire to not conform. Throughout his career as a professional stalker – and, oh!, was it a career, for how do you wonder a man could afford to travel the world when all he did was stalk men and women alike? – he had never discriminated against his prey, good-looking or not, he would stalk them. But as of late he felt that only beauty would fulfil him in a meaningful way. Lady Luck made him lazily pick-up a magazine while he waiting in this airport, and Lady Luck made him read an article that spoke of a new nation, a tiny country, with a tiny city, in the northernmost part of South America. Could God be granting Koo Yuan a gift – a reward! – for reaching such a perfect level of skill in the art of stalking? Koo Yuan didn’t remain to question this and was soon sitting in the Economy Class on a flight towards this country, all the while the words describing the most beautiful people on the planet flashing before his eyes.
Explosion City, was the city named, and aptly so. Named after what the locals referred to as the Eternal Explosion, which, on his first day as a tourist, Koo Yuan discovered was a massive ball of fire and heat that had been there even before the Europeans had reached the continent half a millennia before. It was a fascinating phenomena, but that did not keep his interest for long; he had travelled a long way to see beauty beautiful enough to burn your eyes. Koo Yuan was no fool, but he was blind and prideful.
After spending some days wandering around the city, getting acquainted with every nook and cranny, with every alleyway and footpath, with every pub and every club and every library. He witnessed magicians in every corner, some puff smoke out of mouths that had not touched a cigar, or women jumping from building to building like parkour queens, or even flower vendors who appeared to pull them out from somewhere within their bodies; after seeing and hearing and smelling all that, Koo Yuan became one with the city. And once he became one with the city, Koo Yuan found himself ready to do what he was put on this earth to do: stalk.
The city had many strange sights, indeed, and beautiful sights too. The advertisement Koo had read didn’t lie; the women of this city were extremely beautiful.
He would’ve liked to stalk each one in turn, but Koo Yuan was nothing but a professional. As a professional stalker was nothing but an incredibly obsessive man. Koo Yuan wouldn’t allow himself to divide his attention between two persons; no, that wasn’t fair at all! If he was going to stalk someone, he was going to do it properly – all of his energy and attention going towards stalking one person.
Her name was Joan Stalichnokova.
He first saw Joan one day when he was walking down a place called The Walk of Legends, a grand park painted a thousand colours by exotic plants, and with a marvellous cobblestone path framed on both sides with rows of the great figures and heroes of the young country. He had regarded the statues as Japanese cartoon-styled caricatures of real people – they stood in imposing, exaggerated poses, with carved fire or lighting flowing out of their hands. They looked nothing like people who could make such a tiny country into the world power it had become.
Joan had been walking the Walk, alone, a history book in her arm, regarding every stone rendition with the inquisitive eyes of a student. When Koo Yuan laid eyes upon her silver locks and her curvaceous figure he felt the click echo in his head like dripping water in a cave. The click, as he called it, was a very special sensation he had when he saw all the markers that made someone prime stalking material come to life. It was like suddenly understanding a painting. He had once tried to explain the sensation, but that had gained him nothing but a letter from court. No one but the deranged had been able to understand it. He had had no idea he was talking to a serial killer.
In a matter of days he had discovered her name. In a matter of weeks he had found out that even though she looked no older than twenty-two years Joan was actually forty-four. Sometimes we ignore what is in front of us, and it wasn’t until Koo Yuan found this out that he realised that no one over the age of thirty in the city looked but half their age. This was one of the four reasons he was fascinated with her, another being how she had glared at rodents in the park. Something about how she glared made him flutter on the inside.
He found out where she worked with little enough effort. Shadowing her from her office was so easy he found himself growing bored, but patience rewarded him with the location of her abode. From her rubbish bins he found that she enjoyed milk-based soap, frozen dinners, National Geographic (only for the pictures, since all the issues he found had the photographs cut out), and shopped at a small supermarket at the other end of town. He had also found out very unsavoury details that, to more balanced people, would’ve been utterly disgusting; but for Koo Yuan they were elements to be regarded as intriguing, like a scientific mystery. Pieces of the puzzle that was Joan Stalichnokova. And that was one of the reasons Koo Yuan loved stalking so much – you could get to know someone if you talked to them, you could get to understand them if you lived with them; but you could only truly know their soul if you stalked them.
Joan Stalichnokova became an obsession beyond obsessions. And for the first time in his career, Koo Yuan made a mistake. But he didn’t know this, and so wrapped around the idea of this woman was he that he went against all the rules of a professional stalker by starting a log-book of his findings. Had anyone read that book, they would’ve known Joan Stalichnokova in such a deep way that not even Joan could believe.
Ignoring the annoying voice of self-doubt and logic that, strangely, sounded like a Scotsman, he started a book in which he put nail clippings, napkins she used in restaurants, pictures he discretely took as she got on the metro, pictures he took when she went out for a beach trip to a neighbouring province, and all other manner of stalking paraphernalia. It was a beautiful book that would’ve made any stalker anguish with jealousy. Or put Koo Yuan in prison.
Koo Yuan had never stalked someone because of how they looked, not once. People were interesting stories, regardless of appearances. But something had changed in Koo Yuan. Perhaps it was a sudden desire to try something different, or perhaps he was tired with where his stalking had taken him. But one bright morning the idea of stalking turned left into the dark and slobbery corner of sexuality, with its gooey walls and fluids that stuck to the soles of your shoes. All of a sudden he realized he wanted to do more than stalk the beauty that was Joan Stalichnokova. He wanted to do much more than just stalk her. Only an obsessive man could be a stalker.
This epiphany happened at the same time he was enjoying a supermarket pre-packaged Caesar’s salad under the shade of a mango tree. It had been a very good salad, perhaps so good (or laced with preservatives) that it had caused the epiphany.
That had been two weeks ago.
Koo Yuan was pondering his situation, rolling the idea around in his head like a dung beetle rolled dung. His rolling about had led him to a pub Joan frequented, where he had been drowning his indecision with vodka. Two shots in and Koo Yuan could barely remember what he was drinking for. Koo Yuan wasn’t known for being a drinker – anything stronger than orange juice usually hit him like an asteroid, rendering him unfit to stalk without consequences.
Time passed and the bottle was drained. By the time Joan had walked into the pub Koo Yuan would stalk the sun if you didn’t restrain him. But he hadn’t simply sat there to ponder things; he had known she would show up. He was a professional stalker. He had chosen a place at the bar with a perfect view of where Joan and her friends usually sat. As long as he didn’t stare too intently he wouldn’t be detected; and Koo Yuan knew how not to be noticed.
Joan Stalichnokova’s laugh was like an ice-cold shower, for his worry over what he was going to do to her resurfaced like zombies from their graves. He considered reaching for another bottle of vodka, but decided he enjoyed living too much and such an amount of alcohol would bring an early demise.
So he waited.
So he mulled things over.
So he obsessed over her beauty, like he had never done before.
Time passed and the zombie kept pestering his mind. He couldn’t put the idea out of his head, just like one’s mind would infested with horrible music the moment you stepped into a shopping centre’s lift. And suddenly he knew what to do.
He was thinking what he was going to do tonight. He had never thought about ra- violating somebody in a forceful manner. Never, really. He was a stalker not a rap- a violator of personal space. Well… not in a sexual fashion. Koo Yuan simply enjoyed stalking. Since he was a boy he liked to follow people around and find out everything he could about them. At one point this skill brought him money from people wearing trench coats, suits and black glasses, and one hairy Italian. But this Joan person had made something click inside his not quite so deranged psyche. But what had it been? She was beautiful, yes, but everyone in the country seemed to be. She was – according to the notes he had found in her computer when he broke into her apartment – a well-loved person and at the same time a bit racist to something she called ‘non-Nethers’, whatever those were.
So, what was that made him want to, you know, drug her and abu- touch her in a very, very, very bad way?
Koo Yuan asked his past self, and asked the bottle of vodka in a slurred voice. One, two, three shots of burning, clear liquid and he had his answer.
He waited until Joan neared the bar. His plan was simple: to seduce her. For anyone else, picking up Joan Stalichnokova would’ve been impossible. But the illusion of impossible disappeared if you had been gathering so much information about someone you practically knew how their liver worked. Even drunk, seduction came rather naturally to Koo Yuan. As they say, “knowledge is power”.
Sixteen drinks of which Koo didn’t partake (he had no idea just how much Joan could drink), surprisingly stale chat, and a cab ride later and Joan was staring dreamily at Koo as he made a blunder of opening his tiny, tiny flat’s door. He succeeded at the fourth attempt. His hands were shaking, and the world was spinning, but if it was from nervousness or tipsiness he couldn’t tell.
The flat’s walls were almost non-existent; plaster had fallen in chunks and littered the ground, keeping the many cockroaches company. In some places there were holes you could see clear through. For an instant Joan thought she saw an eye staring through one of the holes. She paid no heed to it, giving the lack of furniture or decoration more attention. She had once been with a minimalist, and that had not been a nice relationship. Seeing a flat devoid of anything made her sensors react awkwardly. Was this man a freak? Was he insane? Would he do nasty things? She wondered, but she was drunk enough to ignore the questions. Besides, she found him rather attractive and alluring. They just had so much in common!
Koo looked over his shoulder and smiled at her. Why was a second woman standing next to Joan? Oh, no, it was nothing. He was seeing double. How much had he actually drunk? He allowed her to walk into the flat, staring at her backside, and the way she moved from side to side. Could she be on about his plans? No, that was impossible. He had not misplaced his log-book. He had nothing in the flat to highlight. Though, his inflatable mattress being his only furniture would cause alarm in some.
She ventured into the jungle of mould, fungus, a carpet that sucked at your feet, the neon light from outside a window, and the thing that could be mistaken for a pile of pizza boxes but wasn’t.
All of a sudden Joan heard three to four locks being clicked shut and about two working bolts and one that simply rasped the door. When she turned around she saw Koo Yuan’s thick, tall, strong frame grinning in a disturbing way. His shaking hands rubbed the old wall, moving on their own.
“I understand your need for privacy but isn’t that a bit too much?” Joan said with a voice like flowers. “It could scare a girl away, that behaviour.”
Koo was panting slightly. “You never know who might be walking outside in this neighbourhood.” He said in a somewhat accented voice. “People do strange things around here.”
Joan eyed him suspiciously and then allowed her eyes to look around the flat once more. She decided that she agreed with him. She wanted to sit down somewhere they could kiss, but she couldn’t find anything in the room taller than that pot of paint in the corner, and she didn’t want to sit on something that had melted until it looked like part of the floor. So, she decided to not sit at all – the carpet sucked at her shoes and there was the nagging feeling that if she touched something she would wake feeling very sick. And that was saying something, from a person who could never get sick. Why didn’t she leave? It wasn’t just the alcohol, was it?
But before she could think of anywhere to sit Koo started barking orders. “Undress, now!”
Joan looked at him with inquisitive eyes – for a moment she had heard a dog barking instead of a man yelling an order, though you couldn’t blame her when both sounded so alike. When she finally understood what he said she gave him another inquisitive stare, a sad stare. She had hoped for something more loving than roughness. But that was before seeing where this man lived.
“Now… o-or I’ll drug you.” Koo tried his most threatening voice, which, taking account of his size and build, was quite threatening, didn’t faze Joan one little bit. In this city, you had to back your threats with a little more… well, keep reading and you’ll see soon enough.
“Oh, easy there. Don’t get like that.” She blamed the alcohol on his sudden change of demeanour, and how his voice slurred and quivered.
He started to walk towards her in a threatening fashion. From his pockets he pulled a pair of handcuffs and once more said, while holding them in front of him: “Undress. NOW!”
Joan gave him a quizzical look, and snapped her fingers with half a thought; little orange sparks flew from her fingertips as if from a campfire. She then looked at him like someone who might look at a bank robber who forgot his gun.
“Are you deaf, woman!? I said, undress now!” He shook the handcuffs in front of him and took another ponderous step. His heart was like a drum in his chest – he felt so alive, so… powerful, strangely. Why hadn’t he tried doing this before?
Suddenly it clicked together in Joan’s head. Koo Yuan knowing everything about her, or seeming to; him living in a hole; his accent… it all made so much sense now! Had it been a different city, she would’ve been quivering with fear. Had she been someone else, she might’ve already escaped.
“Oooh!” Joan said, smiling to herself. “You are new in town!”
Koo Yuan nearly stumbled over a paint bucket. When he looked up, all of the strength he had a moment ago seemed to have gone. What was this woman on about, Koo Yuan wondered. People usually reacted differently when threatened with the possibility of rap- a very unpleasant and non-consensual introduction of foreign phallic objects into tight places. Usually, they would scream, trash, dig their nails into skin, peeling away, using the desperation and knowledge as raw strength, their breathing hot and ragged… not that Koo knew anything about that, but he figured that must be how it was.
Then he heard her chuckle. If he had been disarmed before, now he had been undressed and paraded around town.
His cheeks coloured, and his hands tightened into fists. How dare she mock him!? Didn’t she know how hard it had been to act on that disgusting impulse?
He snapped, then.
Koo Yuan had drunk too much alcohol, and his nerves were as a plane crashing down to earth. He was acting irrationally, for the first time in twenty years of stalking.
He lunged at her with the strength of a tiny, young bull. A bull with a lame leg, and with one blind eye, and no space to build up speed. Actually, he stumbled with the strength of a tiny man. A drunk tiny man. A very drunk tiny man. He stumbled forward and almost fell.
But from his perspective, he had charged with the might of a warrior about to meet his foes.
To Koo Yuan bad luck, Joan Stalichnokova had strength enough to hold her own against a fully-grown, enraged bull. She had once tried it and realized that she could be very violent if given the chance. Stories are still told of a certain evening.
Joan had seen his attack miles away and reacted years before. She moved to the side just as his hands punched empty air, and pushed him with enough force to leave a hole in the shape of a curled man through the cardboard and plaster wall and into another flat. Had it not been empty the scene would’ve been received with indifference instead of, well, nothing. She might have also broken some important bones, but that was of no importance.
Koo Yuan, who had learned to take his blows from nasty bodyguards during the first years as a stalker, quickly shot up to his feet, a little more than startled. He was totally confused and a little bit flabbergasted – he had been pushed through a wall! (Not that it had actually been a wall, more like cardboard glued with spit to a twig; but he went through it because of a push. A push!) The pain of broken ribs did contribute to his state of confusion.
To keep his sanity from abandoning him, Koo Yuan decided to ignore what just happened, and began to make a ponderous and unnecessarily dramatic thing of walking towards Joan with the intent of beating her into submission. Or giving her a bear hug; his mind was scattered and he wasn’t thinking clearly. He couldn’t make up his mind on which path to take, but he would once he his hands wrapped around her neck. But only if he didn’t collapse before he reached her.
“Let me guess,” She began to say with an amused smirk. “You showed up here without knowing a thing about this country, did you?” She took his growl as a yes. “Then you don’t know what a Nether is, do you?” She moved her hands in front of her like a magician about to do a sleight of hand.
He groaned what she took as a no.
“No? Oh,” She said with glee. “ Well, I am one.”
Her hands were aflame.
A beautiful smile on her lips, they frame.
Engulfed in orange and red and white.
Her palm a dangerous light.
Searing hot air shivering around them.
To red-hot colour, fingernails they condemn.
Combustion licking around her knuckles.
Koo Yuan jumped back, fell on his rump, and began to yell things that some sixteenth-century exorcists might’ve shouted out when confronted with a similar situation. The only difference was that Koo Yuan lacked blessed mineral water to throw at the evil before him, not that it would’ve done anything. Or he could’ve drunk the water – it is a sort of ironic insult to Death if you drink water before burning.
“So… were you going to… rape me?” She said with the mild curiosity of a child who had just found out about dinosaurs, an eyebrow just barely raised. How could she be so calm? Her hands were aflame!
Koo Yuan croaked and nodded, his tight trousers suddenly sporting a dark, wet, and acrid-smelling spot over his groin.
“And you’ve been stalking me for a while, I gather?” Joan had noticed someone going over her rubbish bin some months ago, but hadn’t given it much thought until she saw the same person following her around metro stations and holding a camera.
Koo nodded as if his head was one of those bobbing-head dog toys people put on their car’s dashboards to simulate youthful playfulness. Up and down, up and down; it looked as if his head would come lolling right off.
“That means you’re a horrible stalker. How come you never found out I could do this!” She pulled her hands to the sides, pulling them all the way back and the pushed them forward in what could’ve been a karate pose. Twin rings of fire flew from her fingertips; dancing and licking at the air as they grew wider the closer they got to the squirming form of Koo Yuan. He screamed as if he was already on fire and passed out, foam coming out of his mouth, piss joining the collective of fluids, turning the carpet a haven for vermin.
The twin hoops of fire consumed whatever fuelled them and disappeared just before they reached his face. The air that kissed his visage was hot enough to sear away his eyebrows and whiskers. Curiously, he looked better without them.
Once Joan Stalichnokova made sure that he was unconscious, and that the handcuffs he had intended for her were holding tight his right wrist to his left ankle she walked to a wheel phone on the floor and dialed for the police
“Good day, how’re things? Good, nice. Ehm, yes, I am in Hungary Street, Ratwell Building, flat number six-o-seven. I was just led to this place by a moron who had an idea of raping me swimming in his little head. I believe he had been stalking me for a while.” She stopped to listen what the operator was saying. “Oh, yes, he had no idea about Nethers. Yes, he wasn’t one himself and just passed out when I gave him a light show.” A laugh from one end, and then another pause. Joan looked at a roach scurrying under her feet. She made it burn to a crisp. “Name’s Joan Stalichnokovia, with a C-H, a K and a V. Oh, thank you. Ten minutes? That’s awfully fast! Oh, thanks. Have a good night.”
She put down the receiver and eight minutes, three seconds later a good-looking man in blue-violet uniform was knocking on the flat’s door. Since she didn’t have a key, Joan melted the locks and let the police officers in.
The man gave Koo Yuan a disinterested look, as if was used to sights of this natures. “I gather that’s him?” He said in a rhetorical tone.
Joan nodded as she looked the police officer over. He was tall, with brown eyes and the sort of well-maintained physique only a Nether who favoured constant exercise could have. For the second time in a night, Joan’s heart beat a little bit faster than usual.
“Excuse me for doing this to you, but it is standard procedure to question the witnesses or, in this case, would-be victim.” He gave Koo Yuan another look as one of the thin girls started taking pictures and noting things down. “Though, I guess he’s the victim now.” He looked at Joan. “Luckily you will not be charged for this.” And he winked.
Oh, good humour. I like him. Joan thought with a mischievous smile.
“Could you tell me about yourself, Miss Stalachnikova?”
Oh, he pronounced it correctly! She thought “Forty-two years old, originally from the States. I work as a lawyer at a small firm by Searing Park Avenue.”
The police officer noted things down. “Abilities?” He asked with a smile. The thin girl told the other thin girl to remove the suspect; she easily heaved the heavy man on her shoulder with one hand and went out of the building without a huff or puff of complaint. The first thin girl walked out without uttering a word.
“Standard Nether skills, with a somewhat increased strength and reflexes.” She placed her hand next to her face and set it aflame at will. “Pyrokinesis of the eight order.” The flames disappeared with a wave of her hand. Nether abilities were scaled in Orders, of which there were twelve.
He looked up and smiled. “Anything else?”
Joan thought for a second what might be considered abilities and then added, “Oh, I’ve been studying for two years at an Ability School.” By which she referred to the many schools that had sprouted all over the country like hopeful artists in an art school; they were useful, actually, and taught people how to better harness their abilities.
“Which one?” The police said with interest.
“The Stinging Needle.”
He perked up with interest. It really was a small country. “Really? I am there too!”
Joan stared at Officer Caldango – according to the plate on his right breast – like a ravenous dog would a roasted chicken. “Say… would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?”
Officer Caldango stared at Joan Stalichnokovia like someone who knew what she was thinking, which, he actually did. “It would be my pleasure.”
The two locked stares and smiled warmly. “Would that be all?” She asked.
“Well, would you be pressing charges?”
Joan thought it over for a second and then realized she didn’t like stalkers and would be rap- violators of personal tight orifices. “Yes.”
Officer Caldango noted it down. “Would you excuse me a second, I have to make a… call.”
When Joan nodded Officer Caldango turned away, placed his hand over his face, and started to hum to himself. At least that was what Joan heard, but she had seen enough telepaths to know that he was sending his thoughts to someone important, most likely someone at the police station, and the humming was just his way of concentrating. “Done.” He said to himself and turned to Joan. “I asked for some help collecting the creep’s belongings. I scanned his sleeping mind and got the feeling that he might be in up to the neck in shady dealings. Most likely this isn’t his only attempt at… whatever he intended.”
Joan smiled sweetly. “You’re a telepath.” She felt that stating the obvious was fitting. Now she felt ashamed; the image she had thought up had not been exactly proper.
Officer Caldango stared at her with a smug grin. “Seventh order. Can go into the mind of people in a radius of ten miles around myself. And affect their thoughts too.” He put away his notepad. “And, don’t worry, I didn’t see what you were thinking.”
Joan glared at the man. “You were inside my head.”
“What evidence do you have, miss?”
Joan gave a bored smile. “You pointed out what I was thinking.”
“Oh!” He grinned. “That… well… a mistake.” He was charming.
“So you know what I am thinking.” She winked, smiling broadly.
“Oh, I do.” He winked back.
Joan Stalichnokova took Officer Caldango’s notepad, wrote down an address, gave it back and said: “See you at seven thirty.” Before she walked past him and out of that greasy building.
Officer Caldango blushed, and got back to work with a smile on his lips.