Her heart beating wildly, the opening of the DVD player sounded to Cathy like thunder-the Sony logo on the television screen casting the darkened living room in the light blue wash of a gathering storm. Markham had opened the brown paper package in the kitchen-used a paring knife to slice the tape and handled the bubble wrapped contents carefully with a paper towel. The DVD case, like the disc inside, was eerily blank-no writing or any other distinguishing marks-and still carried with it the scent of newly minted plastic. Markham placed the disc into the DVD player and took his seat next to Cathy on the sofa.
The screen dimmed, went black for a moment, and then a countdown began-four seconds, grainy black and white in the style of an old film countdown. Black again, and then a gentle whisper in the darkness of: “Come forth from the stone.”
Cathy’s heart dropped into her stomach when she saw Steve Rogers’s face fade into the frame-a strap across his forehead and what appeared to be two stubby leather pads by his ears holding his head in place. He was sweating badly, his eyes blinking hard.
“Oh my God, Sam,” Cathy cried. “It’s Steve.”
“What the fuck?” said her ex-husband on the television screen before them-his voice hoarse and gravelly.
“That’s it,” said a man’s voice off camera. “Shake off your slumber, O Mother of God.”
“What the fuck is-”
Cathy and Markham watched like gaping zombies as Rogers struggled then abruptly stopped with a look of confusion across his face. The light on his shiny cheeks had changed ever so slightly, and he seemed to be watching something above him-his eyes widening and narrowing in an eerie silence.
“That’s it,” said the man’s voice again. “Shake off your slumber, O Mother of God.”
Rogers attempted to turn his head toward the voice.
“Who are you? What the fuck you want?”
The light on Rogers ’s face changed again, and he stopped straining. In their stunned silence, Cathy and Markham could tell that something had caught the man’s eye. Rogers ’s breathing seemed to quicken all at once, when suddenly the camera angle shifted-a bit jumpy now, filmed directly above him.
“He’s using two cameras,” Markham said absently. “One stationary, the other handheld.”
The continuity of the cut was seamless as the camera began to pan slowly down from Rogers ’s face to his neck. And just as the first of the bloody stitches scrolled upward from the bottom of the screen, Steve Rogers began to scream.
“What the fuck! What the fuck you do to me!”
“Dear God, no,” Cathy gasped when she saw the breasts-plump and white and stitched like eggs at awkward angles onto her ex-husband’s muscular chest. She cupped her hand to her mouth as Steve Rogers went on screaming on the screen.
“I’m sorry, Cathy!” she heard him yell. “I’m sorry!”
And as the camera continued to pan down over her ex-husband’s stomach, over the thick leather strap which held him down to the steel table, Cathy felt like her head would explode. It was as if she had already seen in her mind what was coming next-knew deep down that she couldn’t bear the sight of it. And in a flash she was up off the sofa and vomiting in the hall as Markham, frozen in horror, watched the bloody stitches where Steve Rogers’s penis should have been rise onto the television screen.
The screaming stopped for a moment. Another edit. Then the last part of the scene played again from the angle of the stationary camera-the screams of her ex-husband echoing once again through the walls of Cathy’s East Side condo; the soul of Steve Rogers taking flight before Sam Markham’s eyes just as Cathy fainted into black.