by Jessica Barratt
I’d say it all started around the time I convinced Mike to move outta that stuffy old Witticker house and head to the city with me. You know, I was his only pal at that point, and the chap relied on me. Yeah, there’re some people who might have said I was using him, and I was—hell, he would give up anything I asked when I put him in the right mood. But I’m right in saying those gifts were the only thing that made him feel something. Otherwise, there was really nothing living in him.
He was a good roommate, though, no complaints. Didn’t bother me with any of his stuff, so I usually didn’t bother him with any of mine. We lived the good life too, all set up in his old man’s condo down around Northern. You could look out one window and see riches but turn around and see this great mess of poverty out the other side. Not sure if Michael paid any mind to the amenities provided us though. Guy seemed to stick around at home after work.
Kinda makes more sense now, you know?
He was a growing boy. And I suppose we could have stopped all this happening had I not been so stubborn. Perhaps it would have been better had we done away with Palmer…
Yes, Orson Palmer. He’d pester our son Michael all hours of the day – with outlandish pranks to embarrass him – until Michael wouldn’t take it anymore (or, so his Headmaster told me regarding a few of Michael’s more “violent” outbursts).
At the time, Helen and I disagreed on how to approach this new relationship in Michael’s life. But then, we saw him developing a new habit which we thought might have been his way of coming to terms with his difficulties at school. We even began to joke about his little “giving-complex”: he would clean up before the help arrived, or assist Helen and I with our projects even after we’d been in a fight. With Orson, the change became especially apparent. It didn’t take long for their rivalry to turn into a steady, if a tad unhealthy, friendship.
Mostly though, we were proud of Michael. He graduated top of his class, donated often to charities, and went into the family business.
We didn’t think anything like this would ever happen.
Orson? Oh yes, that young bat always used to come ‘round and spend a-plenty. All us girls loved him, with those quick riches and thick haunches. Four of us could sit on him at a time! He became like a regular of sorts, and didn’t play favourites neither.
Didn’t know he would associate with such a straight-back. Thought at first maybe he was only having the other boy in on business. But that… Mike? Yeah? When he came in I knew he was trouble right-off. There was not a wrinkle in him! Too tight a man won’t want many a woman, and even fewer women would want that kind a man. But I’m thinking now, that Orson probably brought him to see… her. To see Fiona.
I guess I just wanted us to have a little fun. Like, me and Mike had been getting along for some time by that point, and he’d been really generous with me all the way.
To be honest, I was really starting to feel this heavy sort of feeling, kind of like guilt at taking so much from him.
So one night, after bugging him a little for some spending cash, I asked him out for a drink at Warehouse. It’s a sweet little joint, nicest kinds of women you’ll meet. It’s hidden inside this building that looks more like a pile of bricks too, totally sketchy, but once you go there you’ll find yourself going back over and over again. It’s all fixed up with this fine red carpet inside, and red table-cloths, and a big red piano on stage…
That’s where Fiona always played. Because she played so often, I wasn’t properly introduced for some time. As soon as I saw her though, I knew she was for Mike straight-away. Just as tall as him, with these long thin fingers and a head of spinning blonde hair. Totally dazzling. Figured if any of these women could catch Mike’s attention, it would be her.
So I brought him around, just the once, to play.
He came back that other time on his own, I swear.
In fact, it’s quite simple: about the fourth month Orson and I lived together, he came around quite drunk and told me he had something for me. I’ll admit, it was a first for us. We had quite the… one-way relationship.
He said it would only be a drink. That I had to meet this girl. His desperation was disgusting. I remember sitting there, looking at him, and imagining that slimy mouth of his sliding off into a bubbling puddle on the ground. Of course, I felt bad for that little delusion, and offered to buy him a couple of drinks for it. But Palmer said he would only take them if I was there to buy them in person.
At that point, it had already been a long day. I’d purchased a new copier for our admin assistant after imagining pushing her from the top floor’s balcony. I’d called and told Helen I’d bought her that gaudy old mink she’d been eyeing after daydreaming over lunch about clubbing her to death with Barry’s golf-clubs. Obviously, I was in no mood to argue.
So I went.
Man was I surprised when Mike got all cleaned up and came out with me. I was pretty drunk by that point, and I don’t really remember us getting to Warehouse, but I definitely remember seeing the look on Mikey’s face once Fiona stopped playing and came out to see us. I guess I can say I’ve seen that look on him before. Kind of this hungry look.
At the time, I just thought I’d hit the jackpot, you know? That I’d really gotten him excited.
Women have never been of interest to me. In my mind, they are just as deserving of punishment as men. As well, I hadn’t been able to understand what was supposed to be appealing about them: the way they whined all day long? Or talked about a million things at once but never seemed to make any sense? No, all that got in the way.
I’ll admit then, I was almost moved at how well Palmer knew me when he introduced me to Fiona. Knew it was mostly to do with how long we’d been “friends”, but, it was almost pleasing nonetheless. She pulled in everything around her and ripped its head off with her smile.
It was under this spell that we became acquainted. My lack of immediate hatred for the girl still surprised me, even after that first impression, and I further surprised myself by being able to converse with her for more than twenty minutes without even thinking of killing her.
But Palmer knew right away he’d succeeded. Began congratulating himself with tequila and mumbling about some other girls he wanted to see.
That was always like him.
Hell, of course I was watching her! What kind of question is that? Gotta take care, much of these boys is nasty. Scilla had come over already and told me to watch out for him, but I didn’t see nothing wrong with the guy: tight-lipped maybe, a little cold, but I knew Fy would warm that arched heart of his right quick. Taught that girl all me know-how. Shame.
Wasn’t more than twenty minutes they could have been talking before Fy grabbed his hand and led him to 341. Followed ’em for a bit, then sent word to Brock to keep time. Didn’t want the jackass cheating us on our best girl, hey?
That time, it was fine and dandy. They stayed in for about two hours, before he came rushing out, trailing hundreds all through the lobby. Fy came out smiling a little while afterward, her dress torn near the shoulder, all sexual, her eyes shining. Just looked to me like she’d made a regular.
That’s why when mister came in the next time without his pal I greeted him with open arms. I cancelled whatever else Fy was supposed to be doing as soon as I sniffed his profit. That’s business.
But certain, it was kinda strange how shitty he looked that second time, how long the bags under his eyes were. But they all the same. I brought him to Fiona, he straightened up real quick.
No, not brightened up. No that was a funny bit. Just straightened, like a board without no soul.
No, I am not ashamed.
In fact, I believe I was under the pressure of my own personal mania, and couldn’t help what happened.
After the first time, yes, with Fiona, I went home and slept like I never had. I dreamed of how, during our time together, she had so swiftly been ready for violence. I dreamed of how she had taken my cheek so lovingly in response to my first slap, and without looking away, dug her nails in, hard. Oh, the warmth of it was almost like feeling.
I let her do other things, to other parts of me. She let me do the same. Walking home afterward, my mind was a revolution: it became free for an entire evening from what I had come to know was at base simply a temptation.
Yet, as it was with all other days, the next morning’s sunlight hit my forehead and those flashes came back, poured in, washed the calmness away. I remember feeling this nausea. In waves. Headaches.
I tried giving a few things away, but the reprieve just wasn’t the same. I had tasted prolonged peace, and I needed more. Just giving wouldn’t work anymore.
Bear in mind, this was the first time I had truly questioned my process from the outside. I began thinking, is giving the best way to dispel the thoughts? And then, within seconds, they would come again:
Flash. Fiona’s legs, twisted and broken under a grand piano.
Flash. Her lips, stained crimson with bubbling blood.
Flash. Her eyes, greying as I slide a knife deep into her stomach.
The answer became clearer, over time. She would simply have to repeat our experience, always. It seems selfish perhaps, but my desires overwhelmed; I was not myself. She had to be with me.
A little dazedly I admit, two days later I returned to her. A plan in mind about how to persuade.
But when I saw her again, I couldn’t help but be slightly underwhelmed. Instead of being led to the piano-room, they took me straight to her, Room 804, where she was already naked and waiting on a bed of lavender in a pose I assume someone else had managed for her. None of the peace I remembered from the night before returned. There was a repulsive kind of anger then, the kind I had felt only once before. I knew the outcome. I knew it even before it became reality.
I desired to leave then, but something else, something much darker, much more powerful in me stood it’s ground and mouthed the words to her. This was the side of me that had nothing to lose. At first, even I didn’t hear them. I was too busy noticing the slight desire in her face as they were said.
Their echo finally rising in my ears, I found that I had said, without thinking, the very answer I had been searching for. How could I make the peace come? There was only one way.
Everything was over quite quickly after that. True to her trade, she played along with my fantasy and beckoned, long fingers trailing through her hair, an “I-dare-you-to-hurt-me” look in her eye. From the first touch, our damages escalated quickly, back and forth, blood spilling onto the lavender sheets a little bit at a time, then more. The sounds between her squeals became true whimpers. Her eyes became wild with fear. Until,
Flash: Fiona’s body, face-down in the center of her bed, the linens blackened by litres of her blood.
It was a blissful moment when I came to realize that the vision of her dead would not disappear like the others. It’s vividness overwhelmed the meagre light of my usual sequences and did not waiver. Nor did it cause the need to react. I was balanced. Finally.
For this, I will not apologize.
“You need a beer, Tesla.”
Sydney slid one my way, a knowing look in his eyes. I almost don’t catch it for the shakes.
“Why you so worn tonight?” asks Rent. Sydney leans forward over the bar and gives him a nasty look before wigging a thumb at me.
“He met Witticker today. Sat through his whole trial.”
“Awe, didn’t he just kill some prostitute?”
“That’s what I thought.”
Three of the boys, the bartender included, stop everything to listen. A ringing starts in my ears just thinking about him, about the way he sat up there and smiled and pretended he was… Human.
“Premeditated doesn’t cover it. It… it felt like…” but words can’t finish the thought.
Thankfully, Syd jumps in.
“…Like he’d been waiting for it his whole life.”
Banner illustration courtesy of Janelle Holod (janelleholoddesign.com).