A man is not so hard to kill as you might think. You hear tales of soldiers and warriors, marching through blood-soaked mud, bleeding into their boots, their weapons at the ready. You read histories of wild savages and untamed horses, and men so bold as to claim the wilderness for their own. News reports of eccentric mountaineers, caught between boulders, chopping off their own arms, no sacrifice too great for survival.

“Her hair is red,” he whispers. He doesn’t want to tell me, but how can he not? “It’s long and red and silky.” A red-haired girl should smell like apples, I think. Fresh and light. A fun girl who doesn’t hide razor blades in her purse.

You yourself, maybe, have had a close brush with Old Man Death — a near-miss in a car, a heart attack, a bar fight gone bad. You remember how it feels to rise up inside yourself, to shout that furious NO into the universe. You think you would fight until your last breath, that you would find superhuman strength to push back the night, that you would prevail no matter the cost.

You are wrong.

Or maybe she is hot and quick, like a fiery arrabbiata sauce. She kicks her legs high when she dances, and her blue eyes stare at me, bright and unafraid.

The hardest part of killing a man is not the actual shooting or stabbing of him, not the capturing or confining of him, or the poisoning of him, if you choose that route.

The hardest part is in that last, sweet moment of his last, sweet breath, when the blood rush has slowed to a trickle, and his bowels have emptied, and his eyes, still slit open, are focused on you, still in disbelief, knowing he has but moments, if not seconds left.

“I saw you. Through the window.” I brush my fingers along his cool, pale face. “You were so beautiful, wrapped around her. Writhing and thrusting.” I stroke his throat softly. Let my hands find their way down his body. He used to lean into my touch. Now he leans away. He can’t go far, of course. There’s not enough room. I made sure.

And there in the last breaths, you are suddenly seized with horror at what you’ve done, and you leap from your perch in the dark, intent on undoing what you have wrought, and find that it is far too late. Too late, you realize the enormity of your error.

He wants to beg. His sorrow is thick and heavy in my hands, like a story I wrote in the dark. He wants to talk about second chances and tomorrows and trips to Paris.

But my hair is not red, and I don’t believe him anymore.

He is dead. Safe from you forevermore. Untouched by your pain and your grief — if indeed he’d ever spared a thought for it anyway. Protected now, better than ever, from your vengeance. You have achieved the opposite of your desire. You have not tortured him, but freed him. And left yourself stranded on a rocky cliff, with no way down.

What will you cling to now, in the dark?

Categories: Flash Fiction