please note: this is fiction, for pete’s sake.
i wrote this in about an hour one night in ocean city, md, having been inspired by some pulp fiction horror books i’d picked up that same day.
Almost absently, I looked out to the sea as I trundled along the boardwalk. The moon was the colour of flame, and completely shrouded by a smoky veil of a cloud. It was an orange smear, not a yellowish-white orb. Maybe it would change later. It was still early, and the moon had far to rise.
I love coming out here, especially at the cusp of the summer season. Not a day goes by in ‘Smalltimore’ that i don’t cross paths with someone I know. Superhuman effort is necessary to avoid contact. But here in this resort town, it’s easy to become lost in the crowd. When one needs a break, time away to think, it’s best to go somewhere that anonymity is standard.
“You know where the pot is?” The boy asked.
“What?” i responded, not believing my own ears. Had he really just asked me that question?
“You know where to get marijuana?” he asked, clarifying. A puff of cigarette smoke wafted from his toothy maw, brushing across his face like the back of a new mother’s hand.
“No,” I honestly replied, my perpetual slight smile widening in amusement.
“You don’t smoke?” His incredulity was palpable. I felt flattered.
“No,” I answered then continued my walk.
Somewhere around that point, I had decided I would end someone’s life that night.
Though it wasn’t quite Spring Break, being early April, there were still a lot of teenagers out and about that night. That whole weekend, actually, now that I think back on it. Easter was in a couple days; there must be a lot of families in town at that time of year, cashing in on the pre-season deals. That’s the best course of action, the economy being in its current state.
A gaggle of them lingered up ahead in a loose circle. Hoodie-wearing boys and girls, some with cruiser bicycles between their thighs, gathered round in a loose circle of hormones and anxiety, disguised within shells of youthful coolness and Ipod-fiddling. A girl asked one of the young men straddling a bike: “Anyway, how old are you?”
I passed the guy at the register a twenty-dollar bill, and scooped the 30-pack of Natty Boh under my arm. I received my change, nodded, and exited the store.
the metronomic flashing of the neon sign–arranged to look like a curious trio of dancing liquor and beer bottles capering overhead–kept time with my footsteps back to the truck. This could actually work. Cash isn’t traceable, and before I left town, I’d resolved to try paying for everything on this vacation without using an ATM or my credit cards. Recently, I’d become concerned with the government tracking me, and wanted to experiment with methods of covering my tracks.
I sat in the truck, ripped open the case, and slammed a beer. I turned the key under the watchful eye of the dancing bottles of alcohol. The Beach Boys were on.
With the 30-pack under my arm, I walked back to the same group.
“Who’s thirsty?” I asked cheerfully.
There wasn’t a dissenting voice in the crowd. That was easy. We walked a half-block to where the kids were staying: nine of them, partnered in various ways, with one girl remaining. There we go.
Upon entering, I placed the upended 30-pack at a long table across the back of one of the two overstuffed couches there in the living room. One of the boys grabbed a beer, and the rest of the teenagers followed suit. Someone turned on a DVD of “The Family Guy.”
After two beers between us, the ninth girl wanted me to join her in an unoccupied bedroom. I caught her friends’ furtive glances.
It seemed too easy when I finally did it. My hands quickly gripped around the girl’s neck, and I began to squeeze. The beers had dulled her senses to the point that I nearly laughed out loud at how long it took her to realize what was happening. Her makeup-caked eyes widened and stared into mine, like a goldfish.
First her fists–each with a thumb still hooked in the sleeve of her hoodie–hammered clumsily at my forearms, but I held firm. She sucked in a breath, teeth clenched, then attempted to kick me with her sandaled feet. A denim-clad knee contacted my groin, so to nip that in the bud I drew her in close for a moment and punched her, my fist pounding into her right eye. Dazed momentarily, her frail arms began their final protestations, buffeting my forearms once again. I extended my arms at full length, ensuring my face wasn’t in danger.
I had taken care to make sure my hands hadn’t touched her bare skin, and that instead it was her hoodie pressing tightly about her neck. I admit for a moment, I panicked; my concern was that she’d somehow regain her senses and try to scream or something, and since the hoodie was a flexible barrier of sorts, there’s be enough room for her to breathe. With fully-extended arms, I hunched my shoulders and tried gripping even tighter. I knew I’d done something right when I felt something popping under my overlapped thumbs.
Her expression changed, now enlivened with the full realization that I had become her killer. A rattling rasp emanated from her mouth, and her cheeks ruddied. Instead of battering me, her hands now gripped my forearms. I responded by gripping even tighter.
Neither one of us blinked for the minutes that followed. Realizeing that I was so diverted by my task that I myself hadn’t breathed, I gasped in a mouthful of air and unlocked my elbows with a jerk. The girl’s hands dropped to the mattress.
Was she dead? I felt a pounding of someone’s pulse in the pads of my thumbs, but I figured it was mine and not hers. My white-knuckled hands released and seemed to flee the area of her throat. The girl lay unmoving, eyes still and open.
I withdrew from the bed, arising from my knees to my feet. The girl, now an actual, real-life corpse, didn’t move. I couldn’t help but stare at her for a moment more, my jaw agape in wonder.
I had done this.
The sounds of laughter in the other room shook me from my trance. The other kids were still carrying on. With one last glimpse of my kill, I backed out of the room, flicked off the light switch with a sleeved hand, and closed the door behind me.
The four boys and one girl were playing some card-based drinking game. The remaining trio of girls sat together on a couch, animatedly talking and laughing. I snagged one more beer from the near-empty 30-pack.
“One for the road,” I intoned. A chorus of sprightly laughter followed.
Even at that late hour, I drove immediately back to Baltimore. The full moon shown down on me the entire trip home. I didn’t sleep again until about half past nine the following evening, I guess. I forgot what day it was.
I decided to never do that again.