by Karen Payton Holt
photo by TheMacNerd
The sun casts dappled shadows on lush green meadow.
The warm breeze is pleasant on his sweat dusted face.
Her hand in his is a source of excitement.
Every time they walk together, he craves her touch above everything else…
The satin texture of her skin uncoils the serpent of longing in his gut.
Deeper into the woods, the chill raises hairs on his nape.
A sudden rush of heat inside dusts his skin in sweat.
The constriction of his clammy shirt feels like heavy hands clutching at his shoulders.
A panicked feeling scampers through him and his hand squeezes hers too tightly.
The hissed breath as she tugs away floods his anxiety with fiery anger…
His smiling face — dressed in shadow — smears with malice.
He grips her hand as she turns away.
She tugs her damp fingers from his clawed desperation.
She runs. She runs fast.
His harsh rasping breath fills the humid air with her terror.
Her weight tumbles forward, her fingers scrabbling over slick lush grass,
She cries as slivers of sunshine give her hope.
The warmth beats down, the gusting breeze chilling her skin.
Goosebumps cluster over her tight flesh.
Her feet are yanked away and a scream grates through her dry throat.
Her breath leaves her body. Her ribcage rattles as she hits the ground.
Turning her over and straddling her hips,
he watches her pupils dilate until oil-black pools reflect his tight face.
A smile, a blade, a thrusting cut so deep.
The cold steel slice opens up aching flesh.
As her rented wounds gape wide and bleed,
the knife pounds in a dozen times.
Its hungry edge dicing the banquet,
and the honey sweet smell fills his nose as the spray splatters his chest and face.
Billy awakes with a gasp, a noise at the door tearing him from his sleep. His fist grips the hilt of a knife which disappears when his dream fades. The sweat on his naked chest trickles, reminding him, for a moment, of her blood.
Swinging his feet over the edge of the bed, clawing his damp hair back from his face, Billy stares at the bare wall opposite. Heaving up to his feet, he staggers across the room to a sink set into the wall. Bracing his hands on either side, he leans in and peers into a disc of silver-coated plastic. He isn’t allowed a glass mirror. It’s a potential weapon, they say.
He isn’t allowed knives in his rented room, either. The parole officer searches the place every day. There is only a chest with drawers and a bed in the room. Why make it harder for the guy to do his job? Billy shrugs.
The same fear that clutched him on that sunny day in the woods cramps his skin, now. He’s out there. Like a sleepwalker in a trance, Billy takes in a deep rattling breath and walks, with a stilted gait, over to the second floor window and parts the drapes. There he was. Down on the sidewalk outside the apartment building, the girl’s father stood with rain dripping unheeded from steel grey hair, down over the pained expression chiseled into his face.
‘I’m sorry’, Billy’s mind screams. Billy’s hands splay over the cold glass. The man’s features, even though blurred by rivulets of water, are seared into his mind from that day in the courtroom.
“Not guilty by reason of insanity.” The jury foreman’s voice shook as he read the words written on the scrap of paper he held.
The gavel cracking onto the wooden bench had silenced the outrage in the room, but the keening rasping cry of the man who now stood down there on the sidewalk… there was no way to silence that, nor to take that sound and remove it from Billy’s head. Like nails down a blackboard, it tore at his nerve endings, even now. He served eight years in a psychiatric secure unit, and since his release the girl’s father hounded him.
Will the knife be there? It sat there in the hallway, every day, wrapped in a thick linen cloth, for three hours. At least, it always vanished before the parole officer arrived.
On the first day, Billy opened the mysterious parcel and read the note wrapped around the knife hilt. ‘Take your own life, like you did my baby girl’s. You deserve to go to hell’.
Staring down into the street, Billy presses his nose to the icy glass. The father’s glare glitters in the dim light of dawn as he lifts his chin and drags a finger across his throat.
Billy’s chest heaves. Turning away, he walks to the door and opens it. Picking up the linen parcel, he brings it inside, shuts the door and places it on the bed. Unwrapping the flaps as though the contents might explode, he rears back and stares. The blade burnishes in the dim light like a siren call dressed in steel.
Billy pulls the notepaper away from the polished black handle and closes his fist around it. It is the same jagged edged hunting knife he pulled from his belt that day. Well, not the same one, but her father has found its twin.
Billy crosses to the window and yanks the drapes wide.
“You win. You win. At least, if suicides go to hell, I will be free of you.” Billy’s eyes bore into the father’s as he settles the icy edge against his sweating skin, applies pressure until it stings, and slices the blade over his throat.
The window becomes a curtain of red silk, Billy’s life force rippling down it in waves.
Billy crumples to the floor, his blood pooling around him as the pressure plummets and black clouds race across his brain, but not before his dying retina registers the flash of silver he had seen in the father’s hand as, stepping to the edge of the sidewalk, he mirrored Billy’s own defiant movement. With a smile on his face, the father sliced a straight-cut razor across his own carotid artery.
With his limbs bent under his slack body, the pain of awkwardly stretched ligament fades as Billy’s heart stutters. It feels like lead is settling in his chest as a wraithlike whisper sends shivers through his flesh.
“See you in Hell, Billy Boy.”
The rasping dry tone of the father’s voice was the same one that would scratch over Billy’s eardrums for the rest of eternity. As his last breath whispered from his lips, a tear rolled down Billy’s dead cheek.
Karen is an aspiring author and compulsive writer. She lives in England with her family, and when she’s not at work, she can usually be found under her laptop. Karen writes novels, and is hard at work on her ‘Fire and Ice’ series of five post-apocalyptic vampire novels in the horror/dark fantasy genre.