Thin Air (Jessica Shaw) by Lisa Gray
I park the car four streets away and walk the rest of the way. The house is conveniently situated at the end of the block, hidden in shadows, out of sight of prying eyes.
It’s dark now, but I know in daylight the wood siding is the color of dried mud, and the paint hasn’t been refreshed in years. At least, not since she moved in. I’m surprised to see the porch has been swept clean of fallen leaves and is empty save for a metal bucket with two pairs of outdoor boots—one adult size, one toddler size—next to the front door.
I pass the sign hammered into the front yard’s overgrown lawn, warning the house is protected by Smith & Wesson, and I laugh quietly to myself in the darkness.
I know a gun isn’t going to save her tonight.
I walk silently up the porch steps and see the curtains are drawn across the big front window, a flickering yellow glow escaping from a tiny gap where the material doesn’t quite meet in the middle. As I approach the front door, I hear music playing softly inside. It’s late, but I know she won’t be asleep. I raise a gloved hand and knock on the door, the sound muffled under the soft leather.
She opens the door, and I have to admit she looks beautiful, backlit by the candles burning in the room behind her. The music is louder now, one of those depressing Seattle bands everyone listens to these days. Her eyes are glassy, as though she’s drunk or high, and she looks at me, confused for a second.
Then she says, “I wondered when you’d show up. I guess you’d better come in.”
I follow her into the living room, and she asks if I want a drink. I say nothing. She walks over to the bar cart anyway and fills a glass with red wine. She tops up her own glass, which is sitting on the coffee table on top of a tattered cardboard coaster from a local bar. I assume it’s not her first bottle of the night.
She says, “Hey, what’s with the gloves? Is it cold out tonight?”
I still say nothing.
She holds out the wineglass, but I make no move to take it from her.
“Suit yourself,” she says and shrugs.
As she turns to put the glass next to her own on the table, I catch her full on the face with a powerful punch. She is stunned. She drops the glass. The red liquid soaks into the cream carpet. Blood streams from her nose, and she staggers. I deliver another blow, and this time, she goes down.
I’m on top of her quickly, knees pressing into her chest, the knife in my hand. I’m aware that my breathing has accelerated, but my hands are steady, and the cut to her throat is clean and precise. Her blood mixes with the merlot on the carpet, and I know she’ll bleed out in minutes, that the job is done.
But I’m unprepared for the rage that follows, the furious pumping of my own blood through my veins, as I watch the life drain slowly from her. I lift the knife above my head, and I plunge it deep into her heart. And then I do it again and again, until finally the rage is gone and I’m slumped on top of her, exhausted. Then there is a new sensation flooding my insides, and it takes a few seconds before I figure out what it is.
It’s my first kill, but in that moment, I know it won’t be my last.
I return to the living room. The music is still playing. The flames from the candles cast strange shadows on the walls. I walk over to the cream leather couch. I look at the lifeless body on the floor, and I smile.
Then I sit. And wait.