SDWC Short Story Competition 2015 – Runner-up.
This particular piece was inspired by a creative writing exercise that was set during an evening course I attend once a week in order to develop my writing skills. The exercise asked us to take one piece of paper from the ‘colour’ bowl, another from the ’emotions’ bowl and a mystery object from the black bag. I ended up with the colour brown, the emotion anger and a glass eye. From this I was inspired to write a short story set at Halloween for the 2015 Swansea & District Writers’ Circle Short Story Competition.
The long brown robe weighed heavily on my shoulders and the coarse material dragged along the floor as I walked slowly and fluidly forward, giving the impression that I was gliding. One great advantage of this costume was its cavernous hood which overshadowed my face. To add to the darkness, I was also wearing a black Lycra face mask, giving the effect that the hooded monk was faceless. I was comforted by the knowledge that no-one could see me, that I was anonymous. My hands, covered in brown leather gloves, were hidden because my arms were folded inside the wide flared sleeves of the robe.
I approached the entrance to the party, a black hole surrounded by pinpricks of orange fairy lights. The two black-robed figures flanking it bade me welcome in deep, menacing voices.
Stopping inside the doorway for a moment, I realised that the corridor leading to the main room was set up like a House of Horrors or a Ghost Train. I was disoriented by the total blackness, but it was also comforting. I was beginning to enjoy this feeling of invisibility.
The long robe hiding my feet, I pushed forward. As I glided along I was temporarily blinded by a flash of light as a mannequin, dressed as the corpse of a bride, was illuminated n the wall to my right. Her faded grey dress hung like cobwebs from her body and was coated in what looked like dried blood. My next step found me sinking into a jelly-like substance that felt cold and clammy, but I continued to move.
I reached the end of the corridor and was showered with something wet and sticky. I had just worked out that the liquid was meant to represent blood when a flash of light lit up another mannequin: this corpse had its throat slashed like a second mouth below the chin.
I was rewarded for my silent journey by the dimly lit entrance to the main hall housing the throng of party goers. I paused inside the door, adjusting to the brighter light and the firmer footing of more solid ground. I was greeted by a waitress dressed as a skeleton, her face shiny with heavy black and white make-up.
‘Welcome. Would you like an eyeball cocktail?’ she asked, brightly.
I looked down at the proffered tray: it held a collection of champagne flutes half-filled with sparkling white wine and raspberry juice. A lychee, representing an eyeball, floated greasily in the depths of each glass.
Once again I resisted the urge to speak and slowly shook my head before stepping into the crowd. I moved through the throng of party goers, unnoticed and unseen, and stood against the far wall. I had a clear view of the dance floor and entrance so I settled down to wait for my quarry to appear.
No-one approached me and it was a further fifteen minutes before I saw him enter the party. “Captain Kirk” was accompanied by a pretty brunette “Lieutenant Uhura”. Anger rose in my belly and I felt bile in my throat as I realised that they had planned to come to the party together; why else would they be wearing complimentary costumes? They were holding hands and giggling as they came through the corridor, clearly experiencing a frisson after navigating the nightmare experience together. My man, with another girl, at the party he was “too busy” to attend with me.
I willed myself to stay calm and continued to watch as he handed her an eyeball cocktail. He laughed as she took a first delicate sip with her pretty mouth and found the “eyeball” hitting her teeth. Hilarious! Maybe she will choke on it, I thought viciously.
Still, this wasn’t her fault as far as I knew. He was the deceitful liar, he was the cheat who had made a fool of me and he must be punished.
I stayed in position, watching the couple carefully as they chatted and laughed. Two drinks later they were gyrating on the dance floor, their hips moving in time with each other and the pounding music until he took her in his strong arms for a slow dance. His eyes never left her face and, slowly, he bent his head, joining his lips to hers in a kiss that seemed to go on forever.
The kiss ended and they stood frozen, barely moving to the music that surrounded them, gazing into each other’s eyes.
I felt physically sick as I watched her staring up into his handsome face, the face with the shining blue eyes and the strong jaw. His aquiline nose was not quite perfectly straight and it gave him an imperfection that somehow seemed to enhance his beauty rather than diminish it, the beauty of which he was so proud.
He leant forward and bent his head to whisper in her ear.
Was this it? Had my moment arrived at last?
I knew it wouldn’t be long before he needed to excuse himself to top up his confidence, to snort the white dust that, lately, he seemed to need more and more often.
My anger settled into an icy-cold fist in my stomach and I became very calm. I watched him give her another kiss and release her from his arms before he turned and appeared to move straight towards me. But he was heading for the toilets and didn’t even see me as he passed. I stepped out of the shadows on the wall and followed him, two paces behind.
I paused inside the doorway, momentarily blinded by the bright light bouncing off the tiled walls and shiny porcelain of the wash basin and the urinals. I retrieved the out-of-order sign I had hidden behind the door earlier and wedged the door shut with a chair. No-one could now enter without my knowledge. I heard him finish at the urinal and move over to the wash basin.
He bent over the washbasin, steam rising from the hot water and fogging the mirror, washing his hands as thoroughly as if he was about to perform surgery. After drying his hands on a pristine handkerchief, he took out his wallet and selected a credit card before pulling a packet of white powder and a small mirror from his pocket.
He still hadn’t noticed me, and I realised this was my opportunity. Moving silently and surely, I walked towards my prey until I was standing right behind him. As he straightened up it was the work of seconds to reach around his throat with my forearm and hold him tight against me, pushing hard on his windpipe. He struggled but was trapped between my body and the hard, unyielding porcelain of the washbasin.
Panic filled his eyes and heard his gurgles of protest as he saw the blade glinting in my gloved right hand. I raised the knife and drew it slowly down his forehead and across his now-closed eye until I felt the blade hit his cheekbone.
Blood spattered onto my gloved hand, hot and sweet, making the handle of my knife slippery and hard to hold but I kept my grip, savouring his shudders of fear.
I hadn’t pushed hard enough to sink the blade into his eyeball, but he would be scarred. Thinking of my vindication, how every day he would look in the mirror and be reminded of his deceit, warmed my blood.
He sank to his knees, clutching his face and groaning in pain and fear, as I released my hold on his throat.
Seizing the chance, I reached up to the mirror to leave him a message: daubing the letters with my finger, wet with his now-sticky, clotting blood. Leviticus 24:20.
Realising he wouldn’t stay quiet for long, I moved quickly out of the door and back towards the party. I made my way along the wall and through the door marked “exit” into the cold, dark night.
Once outside I hid behind the large industrial bins beside the kitchen door. Removing my robe, gloves and face mask revealed my skeleton costume and stark black and white make-up. I changed my shoes, rolled up my discarded garments and pushed them into a rubbish bag to retrieve later for burning.
Making my way into the kitchen I placed my beloved knife in the industrial dishwasher, added a generous dose of bleach, shut the door and switched it on. There was a short pause before I heard the machine start to fill with water. The heavy blades that began to rotate would create a whirlpool and wash away any evidence of the lesson I had taught him.
I picked up a tray and, smiling brightly, made my way in to the party to serve eyeball cocktails.