He clenched his fists into a tight ball. His nails dug into his palms, leaving indents that would forever be reminders of the moment that had just transpired. His legs hadn’t been able to hold him up afterwards; without noticing he had descended to his knees; pain and anguish and fear consuming every part of his being.
How long he knelt there on the hearthrug; he couldn’t say. Time wasn’t anything that really mattered to him at the moment. The only way time could matter now was if he could turn it back. If he could go back just five minutes and not raise his hand, the world wouldn’t be crumbling around him.
Finally, he eased himself to his feet and looked around him. It was dark out, sometime in the early evening. The street lamps cast long shadows over the interior of the room. They loomed around him; grisly reminders of the darkness that he had unleashed from inside himself.
He carefully picked his way through the broken glass and ceramic pieces until he stood before the window. Without looking too hard, he shut the curtains; the room was completely black now. His eyes took a moment to adjust to this new darkness, one that extended deep inside him.
Like a zombie, he walked out of the offending room and down the hall to the kitchen.
Mechanically he poured himself a glass of water. Surprisingly his hands were steady, barely a tremble escaping him. This scared him even more; the darkness was deeper than he could imagine. He drank it down, without a thought. He placed the empty glass back in the cabinet; not bothering to dry it out or clean it in any fashion. Nothing would ever be clean around him again.
Where to go from here? That question now chased itself around his brain. The words a red neon sign, blazing brightly in front of him; impossible to ignore. He saw nothing before him but an ugly blackness. What was he supposed to do?
“You could clean it up,” the voice said. He grimaced, his mouth snarling at the voice that had pushed him too far. Listening to this eerie whispering had been what got him here in the first place. He shouldn’t listen to it anymore; but it was so intriguing.
No matter what he thought of the whisper, it was actually right. He couldn’t leave the mess just sitting there. It would just remain as a scar, taunting him. “This is what you’ve become; what you’ve done,” it would continue to scream at him every time he entered the room. He couldn’t live with that.
Still with robotic motions, he gathered a broom and dustpan and went back into the offending room. With a slight hesitation he flicked on the lights; his eyes streamed from the sudden shock. He walked in and swept up the broken figurines that were scattered across the ground.
As he swept he reflected on what he had destroyed. In pieces lay her favorites, the monkey that hung from the palm tree. It was the first he had ever given her. He had said it symbolized the fun and happiness she had brought into his world. Now it lay in pieces, all of that completely and irreparably shattered.
Also in pieces around him was the snow globe they had found at a garage sale. It was nothing fancy and honestly quiet boring. It had been just two figures building a snowman. They had said it was perfect for the new life they were building. Like the snowman, it was sometimes cold and rough but once you stuck with it, you had created something alive and magical. Now that image was gone; the water had dried into the rug. The snowman was not even remotely possible to repair. Just like them, it was broken and gone. All of it was gone.
With the pieces gathered and the evidence wiped physically from the room, he went back into the kitchen and threw all of it away. Watching the pieces fall into the trash finally made everything visibly real to him.
The floodgates opened and he collapsed back against the kitchen floor. Tears streamed down his cheeks and he choked on the sobs that no one could hear. His heart wasn’t breaking or cracking it was crumbling into dust. Never again would it be whole. “I’m sorry,” he gasped out. The apology fell on the silence around him. No one was here to care; no one was here to try to give him a single ounce of understanding. He had pushed his one companion out the door. With one slap, he had toppled everything they had worked so hard to build.
As he sobbed on the floor, he let himself sink back into the moment if only to see that it was all real and not some horrible nightmare.
He couldn’t quiet remember how it had started; it was just one of those petty arguments they had occasionally. Somehow, though it had escalated into a screaming match, one that he was sure the neighbors could recite word for word.
“How could you!?” she had screeched at him. She was in a rage. He knew that usually the best way to calm her down was to let her fume and then resume the conversation with level heads. However, not today, he was just as pissed off as her. This wasn’t going to end with calm words and a kiss. This was going to be a hair tugging and fist flying, all out brawl. Too bad, he didn’t know how literal that metaphor was.
“Are you freaking kidding me? Me!? We are going to blame me!?” his anger was no longer controllable. “You’re the whore; not me.”
She reeled back as if he had slapped her just then. “What did you call me?” her tone was pure ice.
“You heard me. You are the whore. You think I don’t know what goes on at that office? Well you are mistaken.” He shot back at her.
This should have been the point where she should have spluttered looking for words to fix the situation. She should have stumbled trying to find a way of defending herself, one where she tried to cover up everything but would fail miserably. However, that wasn’t her MO, she was a fighter. She was going to fight him tooth and nail, no faltering.
“Well guess what sweetie pie; I’m not the only one screwing around. I know all about Rebecca and all that shit,” she took a step toward him. “I can read bank statement too you imbecile.”
“Good for you,” he said. “Glad to see you’re finally using that useless head of yours for something. Maybe you can find a way to fix this.”
“Fix what?” She spat. “Us?”
“Yeah, what else?”
“How about this, I’m done! Done with you and your sneaking around! Done with your lies! Done with everything! I’m absolutely done!” She had turned to go then. That should have been it; they should have walked away from one another, to cool down and resolve this or to finally go their separate ways. However, letting her go wasn’t an option.
The voice that would forever haunt him reared its ugly head and purred in his ear, “Stop her.” Without hesitation he picked up the happy, playful monkey figurine and smashed it into the ground.
She had paused then, half turning back to him, her eyes wide with fear. He didn’t throw things. He screamed and acted big and bad but he had never actually physically damaged anything.
“What are you doing?” She couldn’t conceal the pain in her tone. She had loved that piece, now it was gone.
“We aren’t done,” He snapped. The anger that burned inside him was like a chemical fire. It wasn’t going to be easily extinguished. It would burn bright and fierce for some time. He had to let it run its course.
“Now let’s try this again,” his voice was no longer his own, something else was in control now. “I’m not the one to blame here.”
“Seriously?” she had turned to face him again, but hadn’t moved any closer. He had seen the flash of fear that had lit up her eyes when he had smashed the figurine. Her control was slipping.
“Seriously. You are the one running around behind my back,” he stated simply.
“Because you’ve been sneaking around behind mine for years now,” her own anger wasn’t fizzled just yet. “You have a secret love child for Christ’s sake!”
He didn’t even realize the globe was clenched between his fingers until it joined the mess on the floor. He should have been reeling by now; shocked at his actions but he wasn’t. Something just felt right; as if this was the true him.
She was in the doorway now, ready to flee should he move closer to her. She opened her mouth and mumbled, “What do you want from me?”
“I want you to accept it’s your fault, that you destroyed what we had,” he advanced toward her.
“No,” she said, her voice firm. She had recovered slightly from the globe smash and her fire was reigniting. “No, I won’t. None of this was my entire fault. There are two of us, not just one.”
He was directly in front of her now. His anger was cold steel; everything seemed to stand in limbo. Their eyes bore into each other’s, each daring the other to do something, anything. A move had to be made; words were no longer any use.
Her foot slid backward an inch and he reacted instantly. In a moment everything burst. The voice hissed, “Now!” and his hand rose and struck. The slap he was sure was heard across the ocean. The tension had been broken; the ultimate move had been made.
She stared at him, eyes full of complete and utter shock. She hadn’t cried out or reacted in the least bit. The utter surprise of the action had stunned her completely. Now she was animate again. She didn’t say anything, there was no room for words anymore. She turned on her heels, grabbed her keys from the table beside the door and tore out of the house. Without a word or a glance to tell him anything, she was gone.
His head pounded from the memories he couldn’t release. He was curled into a tight ball, when he heard the knock at the door. Pausing in his anguish, he listened closely. The knock sounded once again.
Carefully getting to his feet, he started down the hallway. He refused to look out the windows; trying desperately to hold onto the hope that it was her. He knew it was a long shot; why would she be knocking? Nevertheless, he refused to let himself totally give up on everything.
With one more silent prayer to the universe, he twisted the knob and yanked open the front door. He almost dissolved into tears again; but not tears of joy or relief, tears of disappointment. On the other side of the door stood James, his best friend since grade school, looking grim.
“Hi,” James said. His tone was slightly off and Kevin knew that he must look like an utter disaster. He probably had tear streaks on his cheeks and his hair was no doubt all over the place. He knew James saw further than that though. He saw the pain and anguish that had to be pouring from his eyes.
“What the hell happened?” James pushed his way inside and shut the door. Once again blocked out from the rest of the world, Kevin allowed himself to be pulled into the living room.
Wincing slightly at the memories that now coated the place, he sat himself on the edge of the sofa. Head in his hands Kevin mumbled, “I hit her.”
Kevin felt the sofa edge sink down beside him as James asked, “You what?”
Kevin pulled his hands away and looked up, “I hit Mel,” he said in a clearer voice.
James was silent for a beat. He really didn’t have any words. He had known Kevin for more than half his life. He was generally a gentle kind man. Sure, he had a temper but never did he let it control him. James actually respected his ability to keep such a cool head at times. Apparently, even the best can lose control sometimes. Not that he condoned Kevin’s actions but there had to be an explanation.
“What happened exactly?” James asked him. He was hoping to find the trigger, the reason for all of this.
Kevin took a deep breath and began his tale. James listened, as the story progressively got worse and worse. The shouting had turned into throwing knick-knacks, which had cumulated in Kevin hitting Melanie. James was barely able to keep the wince from his face. What had driven his friend so far over the edge?
James held his tongue for what felt like an hour. He didn’t know what to say or do. He wanted to shrink away or run from his friend. Whoever this man was, it wasn’t Kevin. Nevertheless, he was still his best friend; he had to help him no matter how much this situation made his skin crawl.
“Where is she now?” James asked.
“No idea. She grabbed her keys and left. She didn’t say a word or even look at me.” Kevin said. The men sat staring at the hearthrug for a moment before Kevin asked the question James knew he was dreading the answer to. “She’s gone isn’t she?”
James didn’t want to answer. He could see his friend was in unimaginable pain and he didn’t want to add to it. But he couldn’t lie to this man; a man who was basically his brother. Therefore, he said the only words he could, “Maybe.” It wasn’t a declaration of the apocalypse but it wasn’t false hope either.
“What do I do?” Kevin begged.
“First we clean you up. You look well… horrendous if I can be honest. Now it might help to show you’re so upset but right now you look a little frightening,” James stood up. “Shower first then we’ll call her, set up a meeting. You two need to talk.”
Kevin just shook his head dejected. “She isn’t going to want to see me, let alone talk to me. If I was her I would never allow me anywhere near her again,” he sat back into the cushions. “Plus if she’s gone to her parents I’ll be lucky not to get arrested.”
James looked down at his shattered friend. What he said was completely true. If Melanie were the least bit sane, she would never come here. If she was too clouded by her emotions, her parents and friends would be rational for her. They would never allow her to get anywhere near Kevin again. Nevertheless, James couldn’t let Kevin stay this way; he knew if he didn’t do something then the Kevin he knew was going to completely dissolve and there would be no getting him back.
Kevin showered, refusing to dwell too deeply on his current situation. He knew if he let his mind wander, even just a little bit, all would be lost. He would have to realize that he had lost everything, that she was gone for good.
He turned off the water and left the shower. He slowly toweled himself off and was about to work on getting dressed when he heard a familiar beeping sound. Dropping his towel in a heap he left the bathroom, stark naked and dashed to his dresser where he had left his phone.
The backlight was just fading when his hand fell on the device. One new text message blinked up at him. It was from Melanie; hands trembling he flipped open the phone.
He refused to look at the words for a full minute before he gathered all his resolve and cast his eyes down. The words were simple; there was no room for interpretation.
“We’re done. I’m coming to get my stuff tomorrow at two. Please don’t be there. I won’t be alone. Goodbye.”
“Short and sweet” was the cliché description for this type of message. However, there was nothing sweet about any of this; his world fell in a heap around him. It was all over, he had destroyed everything.
The phone fell to the floor with a thud; his knees sank to the carpet and his eyes just stared straight ahead. He didn’t see anything; his vision was darkening. Slowly the darkness crept in and that was it. He was gone.
James sat at the counter in the kitchen swirling a glass of water around in front of him. The water slid up and down the sides; the waves swishing back and forth mesmerizing him. He really didn’t know what to do. He could call Melanie and try to get her to come over and talk with Kevin. But what would that do? It wouldn’t change what had happened. No matter how he pleaded with her; told her Kevin wasn’t normally like that, she would just shrug him off. If she had any sense she wasn’t coming back.
Instead of trying to salvage this relationship, he had to work on saving Kevin. He had seen his eyes when he went up the stairs for a shower; they had been clouded, hazy. Something wasn’t quite right; something about those empty eyes scared him.
He was so consumed in his musings and watching the water slide around the glass that he didn’t notice Kevin’s presence until he heard the drawer slide open and Kevin exhale sharply.
James lifted his head and watched Kevin’s back curiously. What was he doing? James wondered. He saw the glint of the steel blade, watched it arch high in the air. Without a second thought, he sprang from the stool, his glass falling off balance and crashing against the tiled floor. The tinkle of the glass caused Kevin to pause for a moment; it was only a fraction of a second but it was all James needed.
He got to Kevin’s side and grabbed the knife blade. Caught by surprise Kevin’s grip loosened and James was able to tug it free and get full possession of the weapon.
Slightly out of breath, James gripped the handle and held the knife at his side. “What the hell are you doing?” he snapped.
Kevin just stared straight ahead at the wall in front of him. Mechanically he reached up and pulled open the drawer again. He began to reach in again but James was paying attention this time. He used his free hand to slam the drawer closed. Kevin winced. James took a step sideways and stood in front of the drawer.
“What the hell?” James barked.
Kevin’s voice was flat, resigned, no emotion. “She’s coming for her stuff tomorrow. She doesn’t want me here. She told me goodbye.” He explained.
James let out a sigh. He had known this was coming but he hadn’t seen this reaction. Death wasn’t the answer here.
“I know this all really sucks but knifing yourself isn’t going to turn back time,” he told him.
Kevin finally looked over at him, his expressionless lips turning into a confused snarl, his eyes scrunched up in confusion. “I’m not going to kill myself,” he stated.
James relaxed a little; that was relief to hear. “Good,” he said.
“It’s not me who is the issue here,” Kevin said. James felt himself tense again, what was he getting at? “It’s this,” he raised his hand to his face and flexed each of his five fingers. The reverence and scorn that shone from his eyes terrified James. “This is the problem. It threw those pieces, it struck her,” he looked directly into James’s eyes. “It needs to go,” his voice was still flat but James could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
“Excuse me?” James asked. He was really hoping that those words meant something extremely different from what he was envisioning.
“My hand has to go,” he said again, his voice a bit stronger, sterner. “Now move,” he placed the offending appendage on James’s shoulder. He didn’t apply pressure but James could read it all in his eyes. Move or I’ll move you.
He wasn’t going to let this happen. He was not going to let Kevin sink into this illusion or hysteria or whatever it was. “Why don’t we just talk?” he suggested. It was a weak and lame idea but it was all he could come up with on the spot.
“No, talking did nothing before and it would be useless now,” his hand applied pressure. “I’ll say it again, move.”
“You can’t do this. This is literally crazy,” James, pleaded. “Seriously, you think cutting your hand off is going to bring Melanie back? Seriously?”
“She’ll see the danger is gone. We’ll be happy again,” he stated. He sounded so sure of himself, like this was the most logical thing in the world.
“No, what she’ll see is that you are nuts. She’ll get her things and run as far away as possible,” James had to get through to him. “Cutting off your hand is the last good idea there is. It doesn’t even count as a good idea!”
“NO!” Kevin growled. “The hand did it, not me. I’m not that dark. I’m not that man,” his voice was a snarl now. “I won’t let this happen to me.” With another growl, he pushed James. James wasn’t prepared for it and fell off balance.
The knife he was holding slipped from his grip and slid across the kitchen floor. Kevin watched it slide and stop before he ran to grab it. James tried to push himself to his feet but he foot caught on the rug and he fell on his face.
He heard the satisfied sigh as Kevin lifted the knife high in the air. James again pushed himself to his feet, this time getting his footing. He jumped up and lunged toward Kevin. Kevin spun toward him, but instead of running or turning away, he took one-step forward. James wasn’t ready for this shift and he couldn’t stop his forward momentum. He felt the sting and heard the wet slide of the blade as it entered his side.
With a yelp he sunk to his knees and then onto his back. His vision began to blur. Pain, panic and utter confusion took hold of him. The last thing he saw before unconsciousness consumed him was the dead look of approval in Kevin’s eyes. Then everything was gone.
Kevin knew he should be doing something, calling an ambulance or trying to stop the bleeding. However, he didn’t move, he just stood there and watched as the red pool grew underneath his oldest friend.
“It’s for the best,” that voice hissed. Kevin didn’t shrink away from it now, its tone was soothing, calming almost. Moreover, it was saying what he wanted to hear. “He wanted to stop you. He didn’t want you and Melanie to be happy. Now we can’t have that can we?” the voice continued to coo.
Kevin felt his shoulders relax and the tension in him ease. James didn’t understand him; he thought the evil was part of him, that wasn’t true. The evil was in the hand, the voice said so. It had to go. If it went then Melanie could come back. Anyone who didn’t understand that had to go.
Kevin looked down at James’s still body. What was he supposed to do? The voice in his head whispered, “Don’t bother now. Finish your other work.” Kevin nodded his head in agreement. He had to finish what he started. The hand had to go.
Gingerly he stepped over James’s body and without stepping in any blood, he walked over to the drawer and pulled out the knives again. He contemplated for a moment the best choice. His eyes fell on the cleaver and he knew that would work the best.
Kevin clenched the cool wooden handle. Anticipation and longing thrummed through him. Anticipation at the thought of finally being free from this cruel piece of himself; longing for that moment when Melanie saw that it wasn’t him who had hurt her. She would see the threat was gone and that would be enough. Enough hopefully to reunite them in the bliss they had once lived in.
He raised the knife above his head and with one fluid motion brought it down with a thump. He opened his eyes, not ever remembering closing them, and groaned. He had missed. His hand still lay on the counter. His fingers were still sprawled, each one twitching and taunting him.
He went to raise the knife once again, this time he caught the slight tremble in it. He took a deep breath and stood there, trying to get the courage to swing the weapon through the air.
“Do it,” the voice whispered. “Do it and everything will fall into place. Promise,” the hiss strengthened him. His hand stopped trembling.
The voice was right; once that thing was gone, everything would be all right again. He would have Melanie; he would have everything he wanted. Without another thought, he swung the knife through the air once again. This time his eyes remained opened. He watched, as if detached from his body as the knife cleaved through skin. Red spluttered up through the slice, he felt the burn of detached nerves, but nothing crippling.
Once again, he raised the knife and brought it down; it hit bone chipping away at it some. He gradually chipped away until at last his hand was detached. The fingers stopped twitching and became still. The thing was dead; the devilish part of him was gone.
With an abrupt jolt, he snapped back to reality. The stump was bleeding profusely; red was drenching his arm, causing another pool to grow around him.
“Cauterize it,” the voice commanded. “Bandage it, and then go get her,” it hissed.
“Yes,” Kevin replied, accepting the command.
Just as Kevin got the old stove top to flame up a knock sounded at his door. Grabbing a towel and wrapping it around his stump, he went to answer it.
With a quick peak outside, his heart nearly leapt out of his throat. It was her. It was Mel, she had come back to him. She would see the hand was gone, would know they could go back to life as it once had been. They would live again in their wedded bliss.
Without a second thought he threw the door open, He expected a hug, a smile or even a kiss. What he wasn’t prepared for was her scream. She was shrieking in utter terror, as if a three-eyed monster was standing before her instead of her loving husband.
He didn’t notice the police officers until they had the hands wrapped around his arms. He couldn’t make out the words each of them was spouting. He just kept trying to get to Melanie, kept saying repeatedly, “It’s gone. We’re free.” She wasn’t listening, she was backing into a corner, tears streaking down her cheeks.
“No,” she was crying.
Kevin elbowed and fought the officers, desperate to get her to hear him, to understand him, all while trying to silence the voice that kept humming at him, “The body. Don’t let them see the body.”
“Screw the body. I just want her,” Kevin shouted.
Everyone went silent then Melanie screamed and dashed inside. Another shriek told him she had found James’s body.
One officer held him while another ran inside. The voice barked angrily in his head. “You idiot, it’s all over.” Kevin felt tears sliding down his cheeks.
A stabbing pain was shooting through his arm. He looked down and let out a terrified sob. His hand was gone. An officer was chattering into a radio, calling back up and an ambulance. Images, sounds and pain flowed around him making him dizzy and a bit sick. His head spun and spun. Just before his mind blanked out from pain and confusion, he quietly whispered, barely heard by the officer at his side, “What happened?”