She always loved playing with knives, especially when she was a boy; he was so skinny and weak, his first knife became a security blanket of sorts. The first few years Tung was homeless; he always needed a knife. A homeless child can be an easy target. Now that she had fully changed, the affinity was still there.
After the transition, Thao often concealed a blade or two in her skimpy outfits. When she first started crossdressing, she liked to think of her knives as another thing to tuck away when meeting someone new. But that night it became another instrument of reciprocity. A tool to help her exact revenge on the type of men she loved but hated.
They were in his car (Brandon, some random dude she met at The Syndication), parked in the concrete channel known as the Los Angeles River. He thought he was so cool, bringing her down here, not knowing that he had been fucking a tranny all night. Thao surprised him with her secrets; figuratively and literally. After revealing her assigned gender, she pulled out the switchblade she had concealed in a pouch in her short dress (no one ever would have seen it). Thao thrusted upward into his abdomen, ensuring a puncture of the major organs, and twisted. This released dopamine into her brain and gave her a rush. She loved the feeling that accompanied violence, having grown accustomed to it when he was a hardcore gangster for the Vietnamese Boyz, and when she transitioned and started killing.
Thao was originally born Tung Dao, the youngest of five, with all his siblings having been born in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Min City). They always thought of him as the spoiled American child, especially his older brothers, Quyen and Chinh. They loved to torture him, holding him down and putting duct tape on his genitals. They laughed after ripping it off violently. Tung always associated pain with sex because of this, never forming healthy relationships as a child; meanwhile, a rage built in him. He let it fester as an adolescent. Eventually, he joined one of the biggest gangs in Torrance, VBZ (designating the Vietnamese Boyz). In the late nineties, they were so deadly that Fox 11 news did a special on them. Tung showed up in some footage with a green bandana covering his face. His parents saw and knew it was him. When he got home, Tung’s mom had a TV antenna in her hand while dad pulled his belt off his pants in a swift ninja move. They beat him until he ran away with only the clothes (and fresh welts) on his back.
Running away from home at fourteen can be dangerous. Tung had a very thin frame. As he struggled with crime and poverty, he eventually realized that he could turn tricks in Long Beach for a lot of money. Tung had no real sexual inclination, but becoming a gay prostitute, then starting to cross-dress, gave Tung a sense of purpose, and it subsided his violent tendencies. They were buried under a new identity, giving Tung/Thao a way to escape the past. No longer would he continue living on the streets and running with the Boyz. He soon found a world that accepted him and gave him shelter, as Tung lived with several transgender women that helped with the transition. Tung became Thao (after a trip to Thailand) and further immersed herself in the community. By the time she was twenty-one years old the violent tendencies had subsided almost completely. But not entirely.
Now she sat in the passenger seat of Brandon’s SUV, thinking back on how the urge to kill resurfaced from time to time. The first time she killed was a potential John that made an insulting comment about her chin. This upset Thao as she was unable to afford this part of the surgery—the surgeon kept insisting on this aspect as everyone sees the chin first. The prick asked for a discount because of her “manly” jawbone. Thao pulled out a pocket-knife and tried to cut his throat. He did not die as quickly as they do in the movies, bleeding all over the hotel room floor. She watched as it took about fifteen minutes for him to choke on his own blood. Tonight’s kill was so much more precise, and clean. Thao barely got any blood on her petit outfit.
The body-count rose as she practiced her craft. Thao kept a tally in a little notebook that she titled “Her Story”. It was filled with ambiguous details: initials of her victims, color of clothes, personal items lifted. She did not want to make it too obvious; most killers make that mistake by taking trophies and writing journals. She was smarter than that. She knew they could only find evidence linked to Tung and therefore any police involved would be looking for a male. Her new identity came with the proper forged documents to complete the transition. Brandon was her twenty-fourth death. She was a confident killer now.
Robbery was another way to throw off the police. Cops were likely to let a case grow cold when it was linked to robbery. The lack of pattern and monetary motive allowed for this. While most kills were random, there had been three men that she killed for personal reasons. These three were the only ones that followed any sort of pattern. She had sex with them, convinced them to drive her somewhere isolated, then revealed her birth gender and stabbed them in the abdomen. All the others she had taken precautions to not leave DNA or fingerprints behind. She often met them at clubs or on the track, in different cities. They would proposition her and then she trick-rolled them before they knew what was happening. Her method of killing varied as well, using guns, ligatures, and even poison.
She knew the big mistakes of previous killers that she studied so often. Bundy was too regimented, Ramirez never changed his shoes, BTK taunted the police until they linked his letters to a computer used by Rader. These silly men were amateurs. Thao knew that if she wanted to remain free, she had to avoid these mistakes and disconnect from these crimes. The three she did follow a pattern with were assholes. Pompous men who knew only confidence and arrogance. She reasoned that these men would likely have few friends and family to miss them as they seemed to shy away from close relationships. These men were like her brothers, whom she stalked on occasion. Quyen and Chinh lived their lives at a distance from everyone else, preferring their own company. Thao felt a sense of pride in being the one to make these scoundrels squirm after fucking a transexual. This intensified the thrill of the kill.
That night, the urge came to her with an intensity she had not felt in a long time. She felt the need to do violence to someone. Not just anyone; she would kill a real douchebag. Someone deserving of her malicious attention. She knew a great place where the gaudiest of assholes liked to hang out. A place where she could find the victim she wanted to find. A place where the drinks flowed while predators waited for their chance to pounce. Women lined up outside in their short dresses even when it was freezing, and men tipped the bouncers to jump the line and look important. Thao went to such a place with a friend to buy coke from the bartender. It was a lounge called The Syndication. Thao actually knew one of the bouncers there from her time at Taft prison, before her trip to Thailand; she knew she would be safe as he would likely keep his mouth shut about someone who blew him for favors while locked up. The Syndication was a perfect hunting ground, with its crowded dance floor and strong drinks, and she did not need to be there for long. She saw the asshole named Brandon acting the part. He noticed her and his fate was sealed.
Thao hopped down from the tall vehicle and felt the cold water on her feet. She bent down to clean her hands in the “river”. The concrete channel was a few inches deep with rainwater that recently swelled the synthetic waterway. She watched as the blood washed off her hands and the knife and it would make its way to the ocean. After killing a man, she often was hungry. It was about three in the morning. She took out her phone and looked for nearby coffee shops that would be open. Tranquility filled her as she found one within walking distance, if only she knew how to get out of the wash.
TITLE: Her Story
AGE RANGE: 21+
WORD COUNT: 1470
AUTHOR: Timothy Severtson
GOOD FIT: A diverse publication company like Trident Media Group would be a perfect channel for a writer like Timothy Severtson. His eclectic style is on display in this piece as the criminal he is writing about has many dimensions. This story is part of his Fallen Angels series that follows seven Angelinos living (and in some cases dying) in the Downtown LA area during one night in December of 2016. The stories make use of visual metaphors, tragic storylines, and a diverse cast of characters that reflect the cosmopolitan city that the author has grown up and worked in for his entire life.
HOOK: The first paragraph shows the duality of the main character’s life. It shows that we are not dealing with a simple man or woman, but a person who has redefined identity in two ways: one way through sex, and the other through violence. Like most of Mr. Severtson’s stories, the first paragraph is key to drawing in the readers and taking them on a journey through dark themes such as murder, drug addiction, and other sinful behaviors.
SYNOPSIS: Tung/Thao reflects on life after killing a man who just found out that he has been having sexual relations with a trans woman.
TARGET AUDIENCE: Adults with a dark sense of humor and a taste for the macabre. This is not a story to be taken lightly, but it is a story that makes you laugh and consider your own mortality.
BIO: Timothy Severtson grew up in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of the city of Angels (Los Angeles). Like his stories, he has had a diverse narrative throughout his life, with many different jobs and recreational activities. His main influences include but are not limited to the following: Charles Bukowski, James Elroy, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and Hunter Thompson. Recently, Tim has earned his BA in History from CSU Dominguez Hills and is currently working on his MA in Special Education. His senior paper on the Marital Culture of Colonial America was chosen to be published in volume 8 (upcoming) of The Toro Historical Review for the school’s History department.
PLATFORM: Timothy Severtson has been published in the above-mentioned Toro Historical Review, also receiving Editor’s Mentions and Winner on a few challenges on The Prose (please see profile for other works).
EDUCATION: BA in History at CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson CA; working on MA in Special Education at same school and Student Teaching for Los Angeles Unified School District at Green Design STEAM Academy.
EXPERIENCE: Timothy Severtson has been writing casually for most of his life. He started creative writing in High School as a member of the Speech and Debate Team at James Monroe Law and Government Magnet in North Hills CA.
PERSONALITY/WRITING STYLE: Tim is a simplistic man with a positive outlook on life (although his writing can be grim and transgressive). His friends all know him as a jester of sorts, always attempting to make them laugh even at depressing situations. His writing style has a more serious tone but still contains shades of his humor even in the dark tone of such settings as “Her Story”. He has been influenced by many of the macabre authors of the past.
LIKES/HOBBIES: Tim enjoys reading, writing casually, listening to music, homebrewing beer, cooking and barbequing, watching sports like football and ice hockey, and spending time with his wife, friends, and family.
HOMETOWN: Mission Hills CA.
Beer and COVID
This morning I woke up with the intention of going to the super-market early to avoid the rush. All I really needed was beer, hoping I could get in and out through the express lane if it were busy. Last night, my wife and I reasoned that the deliveries would be fresh off the trucks, and the items would all be waiting like gifts. This was not the case.
Let me take you back to a month before this outbreak started. I had quit working to focus on school, leaving a fucked-off job for a bright future as I am almost finished with my bachelor’s program. By May I will be graduated and on to better prospects. But before leaving my job at a bar in downtown I noticed the tapering of people. LA relies on visitors and events and good times. As early as January I can remember slower-than-usual nights; winter is busy at the bars of DTLA because of tourists and depression. This winter has been quite slow. It seemed like a good time to quit, so I left and fully focused on my studies.
Leading up to March I felt great. I was stress free and progressing properly at school. This changed gradually, as the fear spread further than COVID ever could. It infected the consciousness of everyone through our social networks and streaming services. It made us afraid again, a comfortable place for Americans (apparently the world as well). We all needed something to cling to for safety in the face of finality.
How does a materialistic society prepare for the Apocalypse? The answer: shopping.
We have plenty of food at home. We normally have a good amount of food; a lot of it is dry food and RO water that we have stored, as we live in earthquake country. I drank my last beer two days ago, and while I’m not an alcoholic, there’s nothing better for me to do (unemployed and forced online for my studies). I figured the best thing to do would be to go to the market as early as possible to get some beer, but everyone else had the same idea.
I walked to get some exercise, and my wife left for work. It was early on a Saturday; the streets were pretty much dead. There were cars here and there, but not many. Then I got to the market. It was busy, with cars rushing in and out of the parking lot. I approached with the caution displayed by the soldiers and zombie-slayers in my favorite movies.
Sensing I needed to relax, I took a hit from my vaporizer, deeply inhaling the shatter and coughing a little. Three people walking in front of me quickly turned with a deer-in-the-headlights look. I stopped and let them get clear of me.
The market itself was pandemonium. It was the busiest I had ever seen it. Not just because of the customers and the situation but because of the deliveries and lack of employees. I noticed the security guard with a look of discomfort on his face; I’ve been there brother. My wife always wants me to go to Black Friday sales with her, but I hate shopping. It was my worst nightmare coming true. And all I wanted was some beer.
Everything was picked over already. The shelves weren’t empty, but I surmised they would be that way before long. The stockers were in a state of shock, used to having an empty store to work in. One muttered under his breath “ridiculous”. He saw that I heard, I smiled, letting him know how much I appreciate his effort. I noticed some people in groups, going over lists with each other. Were they coordinating? The end is nigh, and we shop.
I decided to walk around the entire market to take it all in. By the time I got around to far side I noticed one aisle had a lot of people in it. I wondered what was so popular, then I realized this was where the line started. I walked to the front and saw two cashiers with probably twenty to thirty shoppers in each line. There were no cashiers in the ten-items-or-less lines, which killed my strategy of just buying a couple beers and leaving quickly. I made the decision to walk to the liquor store instead, bought two 40’s and walked home in the stinging rain.
To whom it may concern,
This is my first significant post to Prose in a long time. I have missed contributing something more than a smart-ass remark here and there. The reason I have been persona non grata is mentioned in the piece above. I truly am almost done with my degree and have been writing nothing but boring history papers for such a long time now. I guess COVID allowed me to break that cycle and step back into creative writing.
Thank you all for reading and see you this Summer,
I bomb atomically.
Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses
Can’t define why I be droppin’ these mockeries.
Lyrically perform armed robbery.
The lives we live would be incredibly boring if we were free of pain and suffering.
I'm really fucking tired of listening to you listen to yourself speak.
Doctor said I have high blood pressure, caused by stress. He suggested a stress free hobby. I have started doing heroin.
I lie awake, waiting for my day to begin.
The alarm will go off soon, but I won’t need it.
I am trained to obey; it is the family business.
Off to work I go, with delusions of freedom and choice.
But it all leads back to the bed where I dream of something better.
Summer is LA's winter,
Trapping the populace
Inside the air conditioned domicile.
The beach burns you
From top to bottom
While the tourists disappear.
The deserts are deadly,
Claiming the lives of the homeless
And the dehydrated ignoramuses.
We wait for the sunlight
To wain in the winter,
Because even spring and fall can scorch.
Beautiful Music on Burnett Street
“Heart and soul… I fell in love with you… Heart and soul… I fell in love with you… Baaaaaaaby…”
Daria’s grandmother was an excellent singer, even with the polish accent. Michael always enjoyed spending time at her house, with the jet-black grand piano taking up most of the living room in her modest sized house in Van Nuys. Daria’s family was full of musicians: her dad, uncles, paternal grandparents, and her mother was an avid Motown fan. Michael enjoyed visiting Daria whenever she came to his neighborhood. They were friends since meeting in fourth grade at Vintage Elementary. Michael’s family was also full of musicians: his dad was a trumpeter in a jazz band, his brother was a drummer in a semi-famous thrash metal band. But other than this, the two families could not be more different. Michael tried not to let this fact get in the way of their friendship, and gramma Bukowski did what she could to foster the young kids’ talents.
They loved to play, always winding up at the bench. Daria was a true classical player, while Michael was a natural Jazz musician, with his love for improvised solos. Often, she would play a classic song and he would try to figure out how to jazz it up and add a solo. She was very rigid in her playing; he liked to have fun. Together they made lovely sounds that resonated up and down the neighborhood streets on those summer nights, when the temperatures normally dropped double-digits by the time the sun set, and the cool breeze came through the open windows as the music came out. The neighbors never complained about the glorious sounds emitted, enjoying the private concert of Burnett street.
They always ended on Heart and Soul, Gramma’s favorite. Then a quick snack and Michael had to hurry home, before the streets got too dangerous for the young boy. He would call as soon as he got there, then they would spend another hour or so talking about how much fun they had had. This was the best part of his life; an escape from his family and the house they occupied. It was a three bedroom, but there were nine people living there. His older brother usually crashed on the couch, as well as his dad (the two musicians were used to late hours and missed opportunities to sleep). His mother slept in the king bed with his two younger sisters. His grandmother had her own room, as her social security payments were going straight to the mortgage. The third room was occupied by himself, his younger brother, and his older sister. There was little privacy. he relished the chance to get out of the house. But Daria only visited about one weekend a month. When she was not around, he went to Jesse’s house, whose dad let them smoke pot. Jesse was a half-assed drummer, with a set in the garage, next to his dad’s old electric piano. They half-assedly jammed, never making the beautiful music he had made with Daria.
As childhood relationships go, they were tight. After they culminated to junior-high they saw less and less of each other. But she still visited Gramma Nadia. He still came over to play. They both noticed changes. Michael saw the changes in Daria’s body as time wore on. She blossomed; he lusted; she saw his muscles grow; he blushed; they fell in love. But this was a different love. Not the puppy dog crushes that had plagued him before. She was the coolest chick he knew, and now she was showing signs of infatuation while he tried to play it cool. They sat very close on the piano bench, wanting to be closer, even though this was impossible (they were pressed up against each other’s side; you could not fit a piece of paper between them).
The first time they kissed was embarrassingly magical. It was a late summer night, the sun having gone down around 8:30pm, but not becoming fully dark until around 9pm. They talked as the sky went from maroon, to grey, to black. Neither one could tell you exactly what they were talking about, but Michael made his move, and Daria did not rebuff. They awkwardly kissed, open-mouth but no porno tongue, even though Michael wanted to, she pulled back when she felt him try to stick it in. They smiled wryly as Michael made an excuse to leave. She grabbed him and kissed him again; he pulled away; she was askance.
Michael walked back to his house, wondering why he could not just go with it. He truly loved her, a mature love. But what did he know? His parents were freaks, practically dry-humping in front of their children (his youngest sister was seven at this particular time). His brother showed him porno magazines, and his sister had let her boyfriend sneak in and have sex while he listened from his bed across the room. He felt his love for Daria was stronger than the frivolous affairs he witnessed at home.
He called her. She was getting ready for bed. Maybe it was a lie, but he felt she did not want to talk to him. He told her that he would see her next month. She said she had fun. He did not know how to respond. They awkwardly said their goodbye’s. He hung up the phone on the receiver in the kitchen, wondering what it all meant.
The next month brought tragedy. Gramma Nadia passed away. She had always enjoyed her independence, but this would be her undoing. She had a stroke, and no one was around to help. Daria called Michael to check on her, as she was not answering her phone. Michael walked the three blocks to her house. After knocking for several minutes, he returned home and called Daria back. Another half-hour later, Daria’s dad—Nadia’s son—made the discovery. He called the family in Porter Ranch from Michael’s phone (Daria’s father was an Executive at Universal; he was completely out of place in the white trash kitchen). Daria wanted to talk to Michael, who was stoic. She cried on the phone as he tried to find something to say and only managing to sound aloof when he asked when he can see her again. She said she had no idea when that would be. He almost told her that he loved her, but it would not come out.
The funeral was a week later, but Michael did not attend. It was partly because of his lack of a black suit, partly because of his outlander status with regards to the upper-class Bukowski family, but mainly he did not want to face the girl he was in love with. It was easier to bury these feelings, piling excuses on like dirt. You are not cool enough; she would never be truly yours; you’re just a poor kid from Van Nuys with a crush on a rich girl who would not even know you if it were not for her Polish-Catholic, Holocaust survivor, nurturing grandmother.
They continued to drift after this. Nadia had bequeathed the grand piano to Daria. Michael came over to play a few times, but it never felt right in the giant house in the hills of Porter Ranch. It was temperature controlled, so the windows were closed, and the music just came back in on them, trapped. Even if the music could escape, it was mostly chaparral covered hills that would absorb it, along with all the unappreciative rabbits and lizards. They stopped talking entirely by the time they were sophomores in high school. Daria would later go on to join her father at Universal, while Michael became a struggling musician with Jesse. The two would never play again.