I’m writing a piece of flash fiction every day for the month of January based on these prompts. With a nod to Thomas Harris, Bryan Fuller, Bret Easton Ellis and Poppy Z. Brite for their cultured serial killers, damaged empaths, beautifully dressed psychopaths and murderers in love, here’s my response to prompt number one – hangover.
I imagine there were days before you when my conscience would have had something to say about all of this. I imagine because I don’t remember. Sometimes I try to recall my view of the world and of myself during the wasted time before you, not as an act of remorse but as an experiment in identity. My memory falters, tumbles and blurs because before you was nothing more than a dream in a waiting room and my conscience has since become a stranger. Whoever I was then is not who I am now and it’s because of you. It’s all because of you.
The first thing I noticed was your coat. Long, black, expensive and perfectly tailored. Then your shoes. Also black, also expensive, and I assumed probably one of a number of near-identical pairs purchased when you found a style you liked and bought every colour without looking at the price. I later discovered this assumption was accurate and extended beyond shoes to shirts, suits and watches. Then I noticed your hands. Elegant, strong, with a flair for creating, for patiently constructing intricate things. Or deconstructing them.
As we walked through the parking garage I kept my distance behind you and inhaled deeply, allowing my head to fill with images of the labels on your shampoo bottle, your hand cream, your aftershave lotion. You walked with long strides, with strength and purpose, but you slightly favoured your right leg. There had been an injury but it had healed, although never completely, and as a result you were accustomed to pain. I felt a flash of a heavy boot impacting a child’s kneecap. This, too, I later discovered to be accurate.
As you approached your car—sleek, understated and, unsurprisingly by now, black and expensive—I caught a sense of the music you had been listening to on your way here this morning. Modern classical, a favourite composer, a familiar comfort. I could see you at home in an antique leather chair, head back, eyes closed, fingers silently playing along against the armrest. It was a captivating image. At that moment, you turned to face me and with a slight tilt of your head and subtle raise of your eyebrows I felt my breath catch as if your beautiful hands were wrapped around my throat. I wished they were. And that was our beginning.
After our first time together, as we basked in the glow of the fire, clothes torn and bruises darkening, you asked, “How do you do it? How do you know the things you know?”
“I’m not sure”, I replied. “I’ve always just been able to. It’s useful. Or it can be”.
“Is that how you choose them?”
“It helps. I mean, it’s kind of how I get a feel for them. It’s not the only way I decide but it’s part of it. I can tell I don’t like them and I can tell how to make them trust me. It makes it easier”. I smiled and felt a splitting of skin.
“Your lip is bleeding”, you said, with a combination of concern and delight in your smooth, hypnotic voice as you leaned over and kissed me deeply anyway.
And so it continued, beyond our beginning, beyond our first time. I never expected to find someone like you, someone who understood. We were a miracle of chance. Before we had each other, our individual approaches were different. I preferred the ones I took an instant dislike to, the shallow ones, the cruel ones. When the time came, I did it slowly and I enjoyed their fear. I watched them closely and saw more than they meant to show me. Afterwards, I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to stop. You preferred the ones you could fall in love with for a little while first. When the time came, you did it quickly and as painlessly as you could manage. You held them gently and whispered kindness to them as they faded away. Afterwards, you felt a deep, enduring calm. We found ways to compromise though, to satisfy both our needs. We grew together. It felt right.
It was the last day of December and this one was special. He was self-centred, cold and vicious so I could hate him as much as I needed to. He was also sharp, intelligent and refined so you could allow yourself to fall for him a little. We had mixed a drink with an extra ingredient just for him and as the paralysis set in I enjoyed my part of the performance without hindrance. As fascinating as I found the terror in his eyes while I snapped his fingers back one by one, I found the adoration in yours much more so. When your blade whispered across his throat, you leaned down to speak soft comforts in his ear but you were looking at me when you murmured, smiling warmly, “Shh, it’s going to be alright”. The clock struck midnight and the glorious, delicious indulgence of our aftermath began.
This morning I found myself dragged into consciousness by a dull ache in my head and a persistent need for a large drink of very cold water. My stomach lurched as I reached for the glass on the bedside table and my hand found one of the empty bottles from last night instead. We had fallen into bed still blood-soaked and had slept peacefully, wrapped in each other. You half-opened your eyes against the intrusive morning light and smiled through the lingering effects of last night’s celebrations, his blood still dried on your wine-stained lips.
“Happy new year”.
About the photo
It’s old, like almost twelve years old, but it fit so perfectly with the story I couldn’t resist using it instead of shooting something new. Although I do intend to shoot new photos to accompany some of flash fiction I’ll be writing over the next month (because yay photography inspiration!), if an existing picture feels right for something I’m posting, I’ll use it. I’ll aim to include a few words about the photos in the fiction prompt posts, so expect a bit of old, a bit of new and a bit of bonus information.
The knife in this picture has been with me for about fifteen years. A friend moved into a house which he got at a discount because the previous occupant had killed himself there. There was some furniture still in the house that my friend, understandably, wasn’t too keen on hanging on to so he gave it away to anyone who wanted it. I adopted a lovely chair and when I was taking it apart to clean it, I found this knife hidden in one of the cushions. It has been a prop in many photoshoots over the years and now lives on my altar.