“I must be brief. By which I mean, to the point, or as some say, succinct. There is no sugarcoating this issue. No, how does one term it, beating around the bush. Being concise is of the utmost importance. Of this, there can be no dispute. I shall tell it as it is, plain and simple. To embellish would be to waste time, and time is a commodity one must cherish. I shall shock and disturb with my unerring bluntness. I shall hit the nail straight upon its head. My mind is focused. My intent is as unwavering as a sharpened, cutting edge, dagger-like. The words I have chosen are plucked from a pantheon of such for this one specific purpose. Oh yes, my young friend, you shall see how direct I shall become. You will see.”
“The details I must impart, of course. For they are of a delicate nature, thus this exacting conversation. To see it is to believe it, but to be told it, well… it must be indisputable. You see, my attentive, well-meaning fellow, he’s gone to meet his maker.”
“He’s defunct, lost, gone, departed, irrefutably non-existent.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You do! How so?”
“Shall I be brief?”
“Please, I should appreciate your not withholding those same indelicacies that I have not withheld from you. I would want it no other way. There is no other way. So, yes, you must be brief. In fact, I demand it.”
“I shot him.”
Grinning, she toasted his death, then smashed the bottle over his head.
They locked her away, called her mad. She was mad, but not without reason.
Seventeen years later, and release. She went straight to his grave and did a jig. The police were waiting. They each shook her hand.
She made sweeping changes, everything from burning the curtains to killing the cat. The outside faired no better. She had the garden walls knocked down, the fountain plugged, even the old willow tree hacked to pieces. She did all this with a smile on her face and an unwaveringly airy disposition. Next, came me.
She made sure I saw everything, every last detail. She stood there bold as brass, hands on her hips and announced in a voice so sick as to be sweet exactly who she was, this woman who’d bought it all, my business, my home, myself.
“I’m your half-sister,” she purred.
“Uh-huh. The worst half.”
Father had never said a word, and now he never would, after all, she’d disposed of him first. Apparently, it hurt less than the cat, and on the plus side, saved me a job.
There was something about her. Something impassive. All she lacked was the nictitating membranes of a reptile’s eyes, that brief translucence before the kill. She killed often. I know. After all, she killed me. We met on a windswept Wednesday, when everyone with sense remained indoors. I caught her umbrella as it blew from her hand, or rather, she let slip from between her fingers. We walked, drank coffee, and later… danced. Wednesday night became Thursday morning and the sun reappeared. The city streets steamed. It was inevitable really, she and I. She had a house near the swamps and I had the money to fill it. I’d always hated the city, anyway. We settled together like a hen on an egg, by which I mean, she smothered me. It was a slow disassembling of self, how she manipulated me with raised eyebrows and slight shakes of the head. She never moved more than necessary. Late spring became mid-summer and the weather turned hotter still. The flowers drooped, trees sagged, and the weeds burned to a crisp. Every day began with the misted leftovers of the prior fried evening. They never quite cleared, the sun a citrine blur behind the withering reeds. I took to walking along the thickening waters like a heron patrolling a stream. It was as if God reduced them daily to pour on his lunch instead of gravy, so unctuous they turned. They had that same solidity as skin and I wanted to walk across them, test physics and nature alike. I wanted to but didn’t. My keeper lounged. She always lounged. She wore as little as possible as often as she could, sprawled like a lizard basking in that endless heat. Nothing bothered her, not hunger, lust, or even death. As the world burned, she bronzed. It came to a head when I tripped over her one afternoon; I hadn’t even seen her there. A dislodged sandal slipped into the water and a whisky-lined throat scratched, “Get it back.” I tried. I really tried! But no matter how far I stretched, reached with grappling fingers deep into the shoreline, the sandal was gone. Her response, “Wade.” And I did. Despite the very real fear of knowing what lurked beneath those stygian waters, her presence commanded it. My own personal Cleopatra, her beauty expected nothing less. My stomach hurt, teeth ground, heart sank. I gagged on the stench, eyes watering and throat retching. She sipped her drink and sauntered over. And just when I thought she might help, she slid onto her stomach and slipped into the water face first. It was not a fast death, that drowning. She made sure of it. I saw the pitch-black night of those depths as an astronaut sees space, taking them in, navigating them needlessly. The pain became insignificant as I faded. She placed me in her parlour with a pat to the cheek, her teeth stained crimson, eyes glazed. There were others in various states of decay. I was just the latest. She remained there for those final moments, motionless, inches from my face. I drooled a lobotomy. “You have alligator eyes,” my last words on this earth. She leaned in close enough to kiss. They say you see your life flicks past at the end. That a jigsaw of all you’ve been and all you’ve known is laid before you. It wasn’t, though, not for me. And as I went to who knew where, passed on, all that marked it were her epitaph words. “Wait till dark comes, my love, they glow.” But I was already there and saw nothing.