Author : Sithara Jayakumar
Company : Aptara
Email : email@example.com
She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood-stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.
I couldn’t pull my eyes off that scarf, fascinated by the small stain right where gravity brought the fabric in contact with the tip of the knife under it. She had placed it—her one good scarf—over the knife as soon as I showed it to her.
The stain was widening, spreading ever so slowly even as I stared at it, the cool blue silk fabric sucking up every drop of the still warm blood that it could—a thirsty vampiric fabric.
“I don’t know if it’s a gift or a curse, but I’ve always been able to see and interact with the spirits of the dead.”
At the sound of her voice, I finally drew my gaze away from the incongruous stain on the scarf and looked at her. I was surprised that was her opening statement. Sometimes, she still surprises me.
She continued to stare out the window, her gaze locked on something in the far distance that only she could see. I didn’t bother looking, resisting the urge to bark at her. Instead, I settled for something much better.
“I see dead people.” I stage whispered.
If looks could kill, the withering gaze that came my way at that would have probably burnt me to a crisp.
I smiled. “Not that funny, I suppose.”
She resumed gazing out the window. And I focused on the knife.
My reaction to the blood-stained knife was not what most people would describe as normal. Most people would at least wrinkle their brows. Most people would definitely stay away from it. Ah. Who would want to be near a blood-stained knife in a public place?
But that was not me. I was fascinated by blood; always have been. I loved the smell; the taste. And I loved it when it made such lovely patterns. I am an interesting piece of work.
Even now I could smell the blood. I wanted to taste it, maybe run my fingers over it, and say “Hmmm! Finger-licking good.”
Enough of that fantasizing, I chided myself, for now. The finale is yet to come. Right now, I need to deal with this particular knife and this particular woman. I had plans.
She suddenly spoke, her voice barely leaving the space between her cracked lips and the cracked brim of the coffee cup.
“What were you thinking, coming here with this, this . . . ?” She stopped mid-sentence, searching for an appropriate word, and she suddenly appeared to be shrinking before my eyes. Not being able to find the right words do that to people.
Or maybe it is fear. I know that definitely shrinks people. I have seen it before, watched it with fascination; it is like watching a touch-me-not shrink at a touch.
Now, was she scared for herself? Or was she scared for me? It could be both, you know.
“I did it, Sheila. That is what I meant by coming here with this knife;” I said.
She has never been pretty. She could maybe work at it. But I don’t think she wants to. So here she is, uglier as ever. And that stoop is a new addition, and it is definitely not helping.
Now, I wish I had called somebody else. I could do with looking at a pretty face.
“I can’t help you, Tony. I don’t have any money. And I don’t know what to do.”
I rolled my eyes. Help! From her! That’s got to be the joke of the millennium. She couldn’t help herself, for God’s sake. All she could do was squander the money she had and live like a street urchin.
“I didn’t come to you for help. I wanted to show it to you. I wanted you to see it.”
“I’ve seen it. Shall I leave now?” She asked, the urge to escape evident. She is probably going to smoke pot the rest of the month over this.
“No, Sheila. Don’t leave now. Enjoy while it lasts.”
“You are crazy, Tony, you always were. Our parents should have committed you. They should have done that a long time ago.”
“Ha! I am crazy? At least I got the money intact, Sheila girl. You squandered it all away. If they had committed me you would have got more money, wouldn’t you? Now now, is ugly sister getting a tad greedy as well?”
It was time to hurt and I enjoyed it. Look at the crazy eyes filling with saline. She was the sentimental one and I was the mental one. Our parents should feel blessed.
“Tony, I don’t want your money. I am happy this way. And I love you. But I don’t understand the things that you do. And now this . . . this is not normal.”
I lost interest. She should have fought me. Then I could have hurt her more. You know, you don’t have to hurt a person physically to watch them bleed. You can do it with words. And you can watch them bleed and bleed and bleed till they have nothing left to bleed and bleed and bleed. And you can still smell blood—the smell of iron and rust—the erotic smell of that dark red, viscous liquid.
She spoke again, pointing upwards; “I think I should ask them for help.”
Now, that is a change. She has moved from giving up on me to doing something, even if it is just some voodoo stuff she claims she can do. Yeah, she claims she can talk to the dead.
“Who is it going to be this time, Sheila?” I asked her, contempt for her dripping in every word. “Dad? Mom? Or is it going to be the boyfriend who ditched you for a truck? Ah. Wait. I get it. It has to be the gardener who raped you. Right, you should talk to that one. He will love it.”
She ignored it. “I am not loveable, Tony, I know it. But that is about the only thing I can do for you.”
She doesn’t move me. But she is the only one I called. She is the one I selected to act out my plan. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is already acting like a wet puppy.
“For God’s sake, do whatever you have to. I want to end this. If you want to talk to ghosts, go ahead and do it, Sheila. There is no need for a prelude.”
“I am trying to help you, Tony. Can’t you be at least civil to me?”
“No, I can’t, Sheila. Street urchins don’t deserve civil.”
“What did you call me, Tony? I demand that you apologize to me right away or I go straight to the police.” Her eyes suddenly changed from crazy to menacing. Amazing transformation, I tell you. But I could be more menacing; trust me, I have been there.
“Go on, Sheila girl. Call the police. There is no reason why you shouldn’t do that. In fact, you must do it. But it is your scarf that is covering the knife. And you touched the knife. So it is your word against mine—a drug addict street urchin against an upstanding citizen, an heiress, a teacher. You have always been stupid, and that is probably the only thing that got you laid, or should I say raped? And now you can go to prison too.”
She shrank further into her chair. But I was not done. She wanted me to apologize to her. She had the nerve to threaten me. I didn’t come here for that. I had other plans.
“Do you even know what I did, how I did it, whose blood it is on the knife? You don’t know one thing, dearie, and you are going to call the police? Don’t make me laugh any more at you, woman. At least wait till you have the facts right.”
Not a word from her. She sits there, staring at her feet.
“Sheila, I asked you something. Answer me.”
She looked up. “I don’t know anything, Tony. I offered to talk to them for a solution. I can do that, you know. You tell me, what do you want me to do?”
“No, Sheila. Them won’t help. I want you to surrender.”
Her eyes widened. She looked at me as though I was Evil Incarnate. And she opened and closed her mouth like a fish. No words. And I stared right back at her. Now it is going to come—the avalanche of tears and words. The only question was, when.
It took her ten minutes. Ten minutes of silence wrapped in noise. Ten minutes of silent whirlwinds. Ten minutes of rewinding her life till now. Ten minutes of considering options. Ten minutes of pondering over what to say. Hell, probably all that.
And then she spoke, her head high, her eyes blazing. “You trapped me, Tony. You made me a fool, again. You killed some poor innocent and you want me to own up. Nobody has come looking for you; so they probably don’t even know yet. And you have money. You can afford a lawyer, even if they frame you. But you want me to surrender. Why, Tony? What is in it for me?”
“In it for you? Well, let’s see. Life, probably. Or if you get lucky, the electric chair, Sheila. Or the stainless steel ride. Your call, I hear. What more can you ask for? You get a decent bunk till you die, Sheila. That’s got to be better than the street. I can’t think of anything better for you.”
“Are you serious, Tony? I am your own sister, for God’s sake. How can you do this to me?” The saline was flowing now, and her fists were balled tight. She was very close to screaming.
“You do exactly what I tell you, Sheila. Or I call the police myself. I think I would make a nice witness—sister testifying against sister. I will cry on the stand, Sheila, I will beg for mercy for you. It will look good.”
“I can do all those too, you know.” She spoke, challenge in her tone. She had forgotten what I said to her less than five minutes ago. No wonder she flunked school. She is still that dumb.
“No, you can’t. Remember what I told you—my word against yours. And I didn’t do someone I knew, Sheila. I did someone you knew.”
She panicked. “What! Who? Who is it, Tony? Maybe we can still save them. Are they dead? Who is it, Tony? Please let’s help them. There might still be time.”
Helplessness has got to her. Interesting to watch, it is. And I took my time deliberately deliberating. This was going the way I wanted. So I decided to order a chocolate raspberry crunch cake and a double chocolate muffin. I was contemplating cookies when she so rudely interrupted with her whining.
“Tony, please. Tell me.”
“Yes, Sheila. I want cookies and crunch cake and double chocolate muffins.”
“Will you tell me if I get them for you?”
“Yes, Sheila. I will.”
She sighed and got up to place the order. I went back to staring at the knife. The blood has caked now. It has dried. I don’t like it dried. I like it flowing. So I took the knife still covered in the scarf, put it in Sheila’s bag, and walked to the restroom to wash it off.
When I returned, Sheila was there, appearing much panicked. The dodo didn’t even try to run away when I was away.
“Where is the knife, Tony?
“In your bag, Sheila. See, now you are really trapped.”
She ignored it, took the bag, and kept it on her lap. Cheap fabric against cheap fabric. I bit into the cake.
She prompted, “So tell me, Tony. Who is it?”
“Did you hear from Maddy in the last two days, Sheila? Did you check in on her? I did her, Sheila. Two hours ago. Beyond help now. You didn’t help her, Sheila. You didn’t check in on her. You killed her.”
In a moment, I witnessed another transformation. She went from cowering cow to a bleating bull. “Maddy? My Maddy? Why, Tony, why?” And she was screaming, which meant she got everyone’s attention. That’s got to be new for her.
I calmly replied, “Because I could.”
And then everything happened in slow motion—in exactly the way I wanted it. Her right hand plunged into the bag, brought the knife out, and wham! One moment, it was in the air, and in the next, with many eyes watching, it plunged right into my heart.
As pandemonium erupted all around me, I slowly wet my fingers in the red liquid that gushed out of me and licked them. I filled my senses with red before darkness and silence overwhelmed me.
And I lived in red before I died.
? Life Lesson: Commit or at least treat people who are abnormal.