He stated that with the exception of his fiancé.
It was the whispering I noticed first. It was barely audible in the back of the room. At first I didn’t even hear it. Then, it’s begging persistance forced me to acknowledge the almost silent sound. I had been writing in my diary at my desk using the small, antique lamp my grandmother gave me to illuminate the pages. I glanced behind me when I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It stopped. I exhaled, letting the breath hang in the air as I gave the sound a moment to return. It did not. That is, until I started writing again. I whirled around when I heard it once more, and it, again, stopped with the presence of my sight.
After that, it did not return until that night as I was laying beneath my duvet. It haunted me the moment I closed my eyes. It repeated the same phrase over and over.
“Destroy yourself. Destroy yourself. Destroy yourself.”
I am positively sure that the sun exists solely to stalk me. Every morning, he’s greeted me with his impaling brightness, warning me of the prevailing light that will last for the next several hours. I had known him to perform this every day since the very first day I can remember, and I’m very well aware that he thinks he’s clever. He hides one day only to strike me the next. I’ve learned to deal with this, but the battle between me and the sun has been lasting for the last sixty seven years, and I am slowly losing. I’ve come to realize he will never stop murdering me.
The remedy of a cure does not exist. It exists only in the mind, burrowing it’s way into the corner of the subconscious, playing hide and seek with the truth. It never dies; it only slowly festers until it makes it’s way into the heart, where it destroys every atom in sight.
It had never occurred to him that he would be standing on the same bridge in Massachusetts again. It had been eleven years since his beloved flung herself from it into the murky water waiting below. He peered into it, staring as though he could stop it’s wretched currents that had swallowed his heart whole. He reached into his pocket and groped for the cigarette he had kept in his pocket. He tried and failed to ignite a match and keep a flame long enough to light it. Damn wind, he thought. He turned his back against the bridge and cupped his hand around the cigarette, praying the flame would catch. After a few minutes, it caught and smoke was welcomed into his lungs. He inhaled deeply, letting it stir inside him. He exhaled upwards toward the gloomy sky, watching as it swirled into the atmosphere. After waiting a moment, he turned and tossed the cigarette into the water below him. It vanished as soon as it hit the surface. He mentally added it to the list of things he would never feel again.
Valerie drug her three suitcases behind her as her heels clicked across the granite floor. A five star hotel and no assistance with my luggage, she groaned to herself. She got in the elevator and pressed the number 5. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror of the elevator’s walls. Her blonde hair was more than a mess, her mascara had run, and she was sure she would not attract anything resembling the male type.
The elevator dinged and she took a deep breath, then stepped out into the hallway, her eyes finding the sign that read ‘Rooms 500-530’ with an arrow to the left and ‘Rooms 531-560’ with an arrow to the right. She re-checked her hotel key. 534, it read. She hoisted her shoulder bag over her shoulder, still grumbling about the lack of service, and stomped in direction of room 534.
Her heels clicked on the concrete of the sidewalk as she strolled down sixth street, though it was a sound that was quickly lost in the abyss of New York City’s chaos. To Alexis, the noisy chaos only made her feel safe - the overwhelming addition of sights and sounds comforted her, as well as the countless amount of nameless people that always seemed to have somewhere to be.
She kept walking, her long skirt swaying against her calves. She glanced in the windows of the shops to her right, focusing on her own reflection. Her dark brown hair was frizzy, but tamed by the braid she had put it in that morning. Her blouse was pretty enough - certainly not her favorite, but the pinstriped blue fabric was enough to highlight her delicate frame and accent her figure. She smiled at the sight. She was doing all right, she realized. After all, it had been nearly four years since the attack.
When she arrived at fourth street, she made her way to the coffee shop she visited almost every day. It was 8:00 AM and the coffee rush was in full swing. She paid for her usual order of a white chocolate mocha and settled in the chair next to the window of the small store. She grabbed the morning newspaper and begun to read, sipping at the espresso.
It was nearly twenty minutes later when he walked into the shop. She almost spilled the her coffee as soon as she saw his face. The familiarity hit her like a lightning bolt. It was him - the man who had saved her. She was absolutely sure of it.
“Sir! Excuse me, sir!” she shouted across the coffee shop.
The man lifted his head, startled.
“You! You’re the one that saved me!” she proclaimed.
“I can assure you we’ve never met,” he replied, a look of confusion on his face.
She searched his eyes. “You saved me from an attack. Years ago. Bradford, New York. You saved me.”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I haven’t even ever heard of Bradford, New York. Now if you’ll excuse me,” he replied, attempting to step around her, clearly annoyed.
Alexis was dumbfounded. She had no idea what to say. Muttering a quick apology, she returned to her seat by the window. She watched the man pay for his coffee and make his way out the door. She stared at the back of his jacket as he left, slowly slipping away into the chaos of New York City along with what was left of her sanity.
It was 6:07 AM, the usual time John came to the kitchen for his breakfast. His wife Maria was at the table, sipping her daily morning tea. He didn’t admire her like he used to, and she didn’t seem to mind. She ignored his presence entirely and remained fixated on the morning newspaper, as she did every morning.
Their relationship had fallen apart five years ago when they moved to a smaller town for more privacy. It turned out that they had suffocated each other in the confined space of a tiny house and the people surrounding them only made them hate each other with false rumors and small town gossip. But the conclusion to any argument about moving was that it was too impractical and a waste of invested time.
He plucked a letter from a stack of mail on the counter. He opened it and moved his lips as he skimmed over the words on the page. ‘Eviction Notice’ was written in bold, red capital letters. The realization that his house was going to be taken from him set in.
“We’re moving, Maria,” John said.
She sighed. “No we’re not, John.”
He waved the letter in front of her so she could see the bright red letters.
“Yeah, we are.”
She snatched the paper from him and read the letter, her eyes moving from line to line. She looked up when she finished. John saw something in her eyes then- a glimmer that had disappeared in the five lost years. It was hope.
The dim light of the morning dawn shone through the wooden framed windows of the small restaurant. It was March, the particular part of spring Alice dreaded all year long. It harbored the type of weather that was warm enough to melt the snow still left lingering on the ground, which caused everything in sight to pure slush. The snow no longer held its fluffiness, but rather turned to a watery pulp that splashed every time a vehicle passed over it and soaked the bottoms of pants of those who were ignorant enough to walk through it.
Alice stared out the window, pondering the idea of moving to Hawaii, where she could lie in her simple blue bikini drinking piña coladas on the beach all year long. She would move by herself and not tell a soul where she was going, she thought, simply because she was and had always been perfectly content with being by herself. And that was fine, she had decided long ago. She had never needed the carelessness of others and their selfish intentions.
“More coffee?” the blonde waitress asked, interrupting her reverie.
“Please,” she responded, shifting her mug to the end of the table.
“You’re Alice Edwards, right?” the waitress said, refilling her coffee mug. Her inquisitive tone seemed genuine, as her eyes expressed nothing but curiosity. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail with frizzy wisps of hair sticking out of the headband that she had attempted to tame them with. She wore black pants, a white button up shirt and an apron: a common uniform for a waitress, but Alice noticed she looked especially awkward in it. It was as if she had been plucked from someone else’s life and was expected to live as a waitress in Jerry’s Main Street Restaurant. She wasn’t someone Alice considered worth trying to get to know. After all, the tan line on her bare ring finger and the bags under her eyes clearly revealed that her life had already fallen apart. It was a shame, Alice thought. Such a young woman and already corrupted by her life’s tragedies, just the same as everyone else.
“May I ask how you know that?” Alice responded coolly.
“Oh. I’m sorry! It’s just.. Everyone knows everyone here, you know? If someone new moves in town, their name kind of gets around..” she trailed off.
“Ah,” Alice said curtly.
“I’m sorry if I offended you..”
Alice said nothing.
“… What brings you to this little town?” the waitress continued. “If you want I could show you around. On Lionel Street there’s a -”
“No. Thank you,” Alice interrupted. “My job is what brought me here.”
“Oh, okay.. What’s your job?”
Alice exhaled, exasperated with the unwelcome questions. “I am a psychologist, and that’s all you need to know. Now, let’s focus on you, shall we? You’ve been working here for years and you absolutely despise it. Oh, and you’re recently divorced, which was, sadly, not what you wanted,” Alice responded. She could tell she had the waitress’ attention now, as her expression was one of surprise and confusion. Smirking, she began gathering the papers she had scattered across the table, packing them in the briefcase beside her. She continued, “you always wish you could’ve gone to college, but you could never find a way out of this godforsaken town.”
The waitress simply stood and looked at her for a moment. She was staring at her as if she pulled every secret she had from her mind and laid them out on the table as if it were as simple as serving morning coffee.
“Ex.. Excuse me?” she managed to stammer.
Alice stood then, grabbing her jacket and shrugging it over her shoulders. She leaned back into the booth, picking up her briefcase. She laid a twenty dollar bill on the table, then looked the waitress in the eye.
“Let’s just say I can read people well,” Alice said. “Thank you for the offer, but I do not need friends.” She adjusted the collar of her jacket and flipped her hair behind her shoulder. “Keep the change,” she added quickly. She then gave her a halfhearted smile and walked out of the restaurant, leaving her still standing at her booth with the steaming coffeepot in her hand.
A half an hour later, Alice found herself sitting in the driver’s seat of her Mazda in front of the police station. Taking a deep breath, she glanced at the lock on the side of the door. She ran her fingers over it, starting at the scratches on it. It had been years since the time she had been kidnapped from the same car. A criminal she had once been responsible for helping out of prison had discovered where she lived and the car she drove. Her plan had backfired, she realized too late, because the mentally unstable man was convinced she had been the reason for his time spent in prison. After that night, she had vowed never to help a man out of his sentence; she only wanted to help them get their head on straight and to go home every night knowing the scumbag criminals she was exposed to were fit to live as a free human being.
It hadn’t started that way. When she was eighteen, she dreamed of this job. She wanted to help those who were lonely and trapped in their own minds with everyone in the world competing against them. She wanted to help them, that was all. However, her dream job had spun into a nightmare that she couldn’t wake up from. She had made herself vulnerable to the dangerous minds she first had wanted to help.
She exhaled and opened the door, stepping into the slush of the parking lot.
Once inside the police station, she made her way to the interrogation room. The room directly behind it had a two way mirror. Stepping inside, she unbuttoned her jacket and placed her briefcase next to the desk. The criminal, a man by the name of David Labay, sat in one of the two chairs in the blank room.
“How long has he been in there?” she asked the policeman sitting in the room monitoring the inmate.
“About ten minutes. Whenever you’re ready, he’s all yours,” he said.
She nodded in response as she eyed the criminal she was about to interview. Opening her briefcase, she gathered the file of information she had been given on David. He was thirty one and had been found guilty for the murder of Theresa Hayden, a newly promoted CEO of a large corporation.
She dropped the file on the desk and leaned in close to the window. He was an average-looking man, with short, brown hair and stubble covering his chin and neck. He had peculiar eyes, she wrote on her notepad. They did not seem to hold the usual gray emptiness that most of the criminals she interviewed did.
Alice took one last glance at the man, then made her way to the door. She twisted the knob slowly, then entered the interrogation room. David Labay quickly sat up in his chair.
“Hello, David,” Alice said. “I am Alice Edwards, I’m here to ask you a few questions.”
“I assumed so,” he said in response, the meaning behind his calm tone unidentifiable.
“Let’s start out with the basics. We’ll start from the biggest questions and we’ll work our way from there. How does that sound?” Alice asked, her eyes focused on her paper rather than the person she had directed the question to.
“Okay,” David said simply. Cooperatively, even. Alice noted this in her mind.
“Why did you kill Ms. Hayden?” Alice asked.
“She deserved it.”
“That’s the only answer I have for you, Ms. Edwards,” David said.
“David, I would appreciate it if you answered my questions in an elaborative manner. I am a professional, and I am here to get to the bottom of your motives, and hopefully get you the psychological help you desperately need.”
“I don’t desperately need any sort of psychological help.”
“David, I would appreciate if you took the fact that I am a professional into consideration.”
“I am taking that into-”
“Please stop arguing with me, David,” Alice said as she raised her voice. She rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“I am not arguing with you. I am telling you that I do not need any psychological help. I may have been caught committing a crime, but that does not mean I am crazy.” He slammed his fist into the table as he articulated the last word, frustrated at Alice’s willingness to listen to him.
Alice eyed his fist and leaned back in her chair. She stared into his eyes - those lively, bright eyes. They weren’t one of a criminal. She sighed and turned the page in her notepad.
“Why do you think she deserved it?” Alice continued.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”
“It’s my job.”
“You look at me as if I am nothing to you,” David said. His cautious tone caused Alice to raise her eyes at him. He looked around the room. “I have committed a crime, but I am not crazy. I am begging you, please, do not put me in a mental institution. I am sane. I am one hundred and fifty percent sane. I have a ten year old daughter, I have a wife. I do not belong in a crazy house.”
“You killed someone, that alone is-”
“They’re going to forgive me. I’m going to get out of here, but my mind is fine. I do not need to be on medicine in an institution for the rest of my life, I cannot go to somewhere like that, you cannot put me there, you cannot put me there..”
“Please take deep breaths, David,” Alice said robotically. The hope she had that this criminal may somehow be one that is sane and would never hunt her down afterwards was dwindling.
“You think you have the world and everybody in it figured out, don’t you? You think you can come in here with your fancy degree and wave it in someone’s face and that because you know what goes on in someone’s head, it gives you the right to treat people like the dirt on the bottom of your shoes,” he spat, getting angry and clearly losing his temper.
“THAT is enough,” Alice interrupted, piercing his eyes with hers. “As far as I am concerned, you are the dirt on the bottom of my shoes,” she retorted.
He smiled, then. He stared at her for a moment and then chuckled humorlessly. “You think because I committed a crime in the eyes of the law, I’m worse than you? No. You’re no better. It’s people like you that makes me do what I did.”
“People like me. Is that so?” Alice asked, her tone dripping with sarcasm.
“Then answer my question, David,” she said, leaning forward so that her elbows rested on the table, her hands folded together. “What really made you kill her?”
He stared at her, his eyes never breaking contact from hers. “She thought she was better than everyone else, walking around like the world owed her for something,” he said as if it were common knowledge. “Every day I watched her destroy people’s lives with the flick of her wrist, including mine. She fired them from the jobs they worked so hard to get, sending them into a financial frenzy, struggling to live in this shit economy. And then she went home every night, that stupid smirk on her face, and she slept well. She slept very well, because she thought that none of us did our jobs well enough and we were better off. No - that’s not how it was. She knew we weren’t better off. She just didn’t give a damn.”
“So you killed her because she, in your eyes, did not show empathy towards you and your fellow workers?”
“I killed her because she deserved what she dished out.”
“‘Dished out’ meaning… killed?”
“Have you ever been tested for multiple personality disorder, David?” Alice asked, changing the subject, now scribbling furiously on her notepad.
He looked at her in disbelief, as if she was a ghost and he couldn’t fathom the sight of her.
“You know, you’re just like her, thinking no one in the world is as good as you.”
“You know nothing about me,” Alice said curtly.
“I know that you were attacked by a crazy ex-criminal. I know that you still drive the same car you were taken from. I know.. I know that you’re scared to death,” he said quietly. “Just like me.”
Alice was stunned into silence, then, unable to escape the lock his eyes had on her. “That’s all for today, Mr. Labay,” she said finally.
He said nothing in response, his face expressionless. Two policemen in uniforms entered the room within seconds and escorted him back to his cell.
Two days later, Alice decided to go to restaurant on Main Street again. She had pondered the idea of apologizing to the blonde waitress, but was confused as to what she should say. Ever since she first interviewed David Labay, she didn’t know the difference between who she was the years following her incident and who she really, truly was.
Grasping the metal knob to the entrance of the café, she slowly opened the door. She was suddenly acutely aware of her surroundings, noticing the handwritten “no checks accepted” sign and smell of blueberry muffins. A small part of her hoped the same waitress would not be working, but was disappointed to find that the young blonde was the first to greet her.
“Table for one again, Ms. Edwards?” she asked with a cold tone, her eyes making it clear she did not forget their last encounter.
“Look, I never meant to be so arrogant about -” Alice started.
“Please,” the waitress held up her hand in a stopping motion. “Just tell me if you’re to be dining alone.”
“Yeah,” Alice replied before glancing out the window, staring out at the weather she hated, trying to ignore the soaked bottoms of her slacks.
We would be in a big city, somewhere where there’s people hustling and going about their fast-paced days. There would be traffic and noise and the chaos of the city. We would meet in a small, private café located in the midst of all of the huge buildings and businesses. Ideally in the morning when the rising sun shines through the windows and the day is fresh. We would pick a small, two person table in the cozy atmosphere of the café, somewhere off to the side where we would be out of strangers’ way. We’d drink coffee and talk for hours on end. We’d stay in the same place across from each other as the rest of the world around us maintained it’s usual chaos going unnoticed to us because we were too busy getting lost in each other.