He took his time choosing the knives. Of course. It was an important decision. He didn’t want to get it wrong. He slowly pulled the kitchen drawer open, using two hands, one to pull the handle, one to steady the drawer, not wanting to let it rattle or creak. Inside the drawer lay a plastic cutlery divider. It had already been there when they had moved in. It was the colour of dirty vanilla ice cream, and each long compartment contained only a handful of the correct cutlery, all of it mismatched, all of it lying amongst the dust and the crumbs. He looked down at the choices he had and it seemed a strange thing; how much thought and preparation he was willing to put into this. He barely seemed to be breathing as he lowered his head slightly, running his eyes over the cutlery. He was thinking one big one and two smaller ones would be the way to go. There was no doubt in his mind that he was going to need more than one. One would not be enough. What if he dropped it and couldn’t reach it again? That would be it. Game over. A big knife was a temptation he knew he could not resist. Something in fact he had been dreaming about for years. But the small ones were easier to hide, he remembered. Easier to disguise around his body. The small ones would be the surprise. The back-up.
His hand approached the silverware tentatively, like a child reaching into the biscuit tin without permission, and he licked his lips. A noise in the other room alerted him to the fact that he was not alone, and needed to be careful. His mind wandered slightly. Was he really going to do this now? Had it really come to this at last? He lifted his eyebrows thoughtfully; had he always known it probably would?
He moved in stealthily, his hand curling around the black plastic handle of the biggest knife in the drawer. It had a serrated edge. Nasty, he thought, lifting it out and turning it over onto his other palm. His hands shook so he placed the knife on the sideboard, and glanced back into the drawer. As his eyes scanned the remaining knives, he considered what the act would make him, if he really carried it through. A killer. The end justifies the means; he told himself and smiled stupidly for a moment, wondering where that had come from. He had been talking to himself a lot lately, he realised. On the face of things he guessed he probably seemed pretty normal on the outside, to those that knew him. A little self-absorbed maybe, a little secretive at times, but he knew they would always allow him this. On the inside he had been scarily alive, wired, buzzing with the voices in his head, the constant chatter and argument. At the end of every lengthy and animated conversation he would nearly always fall asleep with the same thought in his mind; it doesn’t matter anyway, it just doesn’t matter, because nothing matters, nothing, nothing, nothing, so don’t worry.
It is true though; he nodded to himself now, picking up a second knife. Kill someone, or don’t. Go to jail, or have a life. Die. Live. Whatever. What did it matter? So why are you doing it then? This was the only vaguely rational voice left within him, and it did not trouble him much. Why are you doing it then? Why? Because, he shrugged, clutching the handle of the second knife, one he believed to be a cheese knife, because I want to, because I said I would, because he deserves it, because then it will be over, because it is him or me.
He sighed, decided on the knife as a good choice and placed it next to the first. It was small and compact, he nodded, it could easily slip inside his sock, or up his jacket sleeve. Then he remembered the main reason he had reached this point, and he told himself this to make himself shut up about it; because I don’t care anymore. He looked back into the drawer and made a face. Tricky. Lots of bread knives. No good. Too blunt. Another long knife with a serrated edge, but it was flimsier than the first one; he remembered it was useless to cut bread with. He poked through them, taking care not to make a sound.
You had to think about these things, he reasoned. You had to be prepared to a certain extent. Okay, he wasn’t going to bother with bin liners, cleaning rags or bleach, because he had no intention of even running away once it was over. He hoped it would feel like he imagined it would, and he pictured himself sat close to the body, breathing in his own existence while the life blood flowed from someone else’s. Would it make him feel more alive? Would he find his own life with the taking of another’s? Would it make him feel free? Would it be over? Or would it make him nothing more than another monster in human form, walking the planet, hunched and sorrowful, seeing no good in anything or anyone, rotting from the inside?
He opted for another short knife with a brown wooden handle. It had a rusty edge, but what did that matter? He laid it next to the others and pushed the drawer shut as carefully as he had opened it. He placed his hands on his hips and released a puff of air upwards, which momentarily lifted his hair from his forehead. They would know he had come prepared, obviously. They would use that against him, if he did it this way. There were other ways, of course. He had lain awake imagining them all last night, the night he had finally decided what to do to end it all. Make it look like a suicide or an accident, one of the voices had advised him. Then he could still have a life for himself afterwards.
Again, it amused him how much thought he had given it already. It had always been there of course; the urge to kill, the desire to rid the world of one’s enemy, but it had never festered into a lifelike thing until last night. It had never materialised into a plan of action. The trouble is, he thought, tipping his head to one side to gaze at the knives before making his final decision, once you start to think about killing someone, once you start to really imagine how much better you would feel without them on the planet, then it is hard to stop thinking about it, it is hard to get it out of your head. He knew the thoughts had consumed him day and night, building force and momentum within him, gathering a level of reality, or possibility as they tumbled along inside. They had strengthened, and they had had good reason to strengthen. It had been a battlefield lately. Last night had tipped him over the edge. He laughed softly under his breath, shit; it had been a fucking war.
Well, he thought, crossing his arms now over his chest, wars all have to come to an end eventually, wars all reach their bloody climax one way or another. Wars have winners and losers, bloodshed, and ultimately death. Okay then. His thoughts were increasing now in speed, and he found himself licking his lips again, as he imagined the speed of the cocaine he had taken hurtling through his bloodstream, waking up his sleepy veins, crashing into cells and setting them on fire. He smiled a slow, delicate smile and welcomed the tingling through his limbs. The knives shone back at him on the sideboard, pushing out his chest, filling him with fight. Fight, he thought and mouthed the word dragging his top teeth backwards across his bottom lip. Fight. And who had taught him to fight anyway? He shook his head at the knives as if to say oh dear, who will be sorry now? Dear, oh dear, not the way you thought it would go eh? He wanted to laugh, but he did not want to wake anyone. Fight, he mouthed again, and it was you who fucking started the fight, it was you who fucking started it.
He knew he did not have much time to organise himself. He had time to reconsider of course, he had a chance to back out of it, but so far he was not letting himself be swayed that way. He marched on instead. He took the small knife and pushed it down the inside of his sock, and then he squatted down and pulled the laces of his boot tighter around it. He straightened up and examined it. You could not see it was there. Satisfied, he picked up the other small knife and held it in one palm, blade against his forearm. He would wear his denim jacket and keep it tucked inside the sleeve. Slightly dangerous, he reasoned, flexing his arm and feeling the point dig into his skin. A rustle of bedclothes in the next room reminded him that he did not want to get caught. He grabbed the biggest knife and pushed it inside the waistband of his jeans. It would do for now. He had the letters to write and he didn’t want the coke to start to wear off any time soon.
He had placed his notebook on the side with a pen already. He tore out a page and stuck the end of the pen in his mouth. Christ, what to write? Where to start? A creep of panic tickled his spine and sweat broke out on his forehead. He lowered his hand to the paper and nothing came out. He bit his lip, tried to concentrate, felt like a twat and realised he should have written the letters before he took the coke. Fuck, where to start? What to say to them? How to explain? His eyes were drawn to his own wrist, to the dark crust of blood that circled it, and he thought, how do you tell people about things like that? How do say those words? How do you speak the horrors that have been only yours? How do you explain what it all means?
They will understand one of the voices assured him gently but firmly, don’t doubt them for fucks sake, they will understand, more than you realise. They are your friends, your friends. He smoothed the notepaper out with his palm, accidentally smearing his own dried blood across the page. He screwed that page up, threw it to one side and tore out another. My friends, he thought and sighed into one hand, pen poised above paper in the other. He didn’t like the way he felt when he thought about them; like he was slipping down somewhere, fading away somehow, losing himself and in danger of losing the moment with it. He had to hang on to now. I’m not the same person anymore, he shrugged, I’m gone already, or I will be soon enough, I’m no good to them now anyway, no good.
Get on with it, the coke fuelled voice urged him, commanded him, get it over with. He stuck his tongue out between his teeth, leant down towards the paper and wrote; Dear Michael, he laughed then, thinking what he really wanted to write was something like; the first time I met you all I really wanted to do was smash your fucking face in! He chuckled softly, one ear strained to the next room, ready to sweep the paper onto the knives should anyone suddenly start to stir, or wake. Get on with it, he told himself; it doesn’t have to be a fucking essay, does it? Just tell them what you need them to know, and get out of here. That voice was the strongest, he realised, and he knew it had been radically encouraged by the ingestion of a shitload of cocaine. That voice had rubbed its hands together in bloody glee, hadn’t it? Yes, oh yes, more of that please; we’re going to need that where we’re going. He started to write then. He started to let the pen move swiftly across the paper, trying his best to keep his wrist aloft so that the crusty blood would not rub against the page again. The pain in his wrists was a good thing though, he remembered. He remembered that he needed that pain to spur him on, to keep him going, and to keep him marching on to war. Something had snapped in him the previous night, in the midst of horror and fear and a thundering, galloping kind of rage. Something within him had snapped, and now lay broken. He could almost feel it if he paused long enough to consider it. It broke his heart but it was true. Something had gone.
And now someone had to pay.