See You Soon, Afton
Sleep was elusive, if not impossible, in an apartment upended and torn to shreds. My refuge no longer, but a foreign wasteland of fucking chaos. Rest had to wait, in favor of order and cleanliness. Sweeping up what remained of broken dishes. Returning books to shelves. Disposing of sopping electronics, ruined in the tub. Straightening furniture tossed askew. Returning area rugs, bedding, and garments, to their rightful homes. Dusting, mopping, scrubbing, until my hands were sore, my back ached, and my fingers turned red and raw. Whispering countless cries of apology to Twinkie, who, no doubt, had felt violated by the upset to his extended environment, beyond the four glass walls he called home.
And then, just as the night was shattered by the first traces of dawn, I crawled into bed, praying to a God I didn’t believe in for meaningful slumber. And yet I tossed and turned, my mind addled with an inescapable truth, that I was at the mercy of a man I couldn’t pick from a lineup, with a name I couldn’t verify. And that, having been foiled in my attempt to locate him, I’d been responsible for another night Kim would spend away from home. She was sick, I imagined. Hungry, cold, and uncomfortable. Filthy, bruised, and terrified that each moment might be her last. And that was the least of her tribulations, knowing the proclivities of her captor. All-out brutalization was probable by this point, leaving her bleeding and violated. Dead, even.
I took a certain undeniable pleasure in death and gore, but not when it came to Kim. She didn’t deserve it. I craved violence, so long as I could detach myself from the recipient. When it happened to them, or they, or someone else. People who, when alive, had caused others to suffer, or whom, at the very least, I hadn’t come to hold in a high regard. I considered that internal conflict with disdain, that degree of hypocrisy, while staring up at the ceiling.
The key to my survival, I had always known, was to choose targets with care, and to take every available precaution to avoid detection. To be meticulous. If I were to approach a murder without cold calculation, I’d be as vulnerable as those we see on the evening news, prone to the errors associated with erratic human behavior, most often motivated by passion or opportunity.
The problem with crimes of passion and opportunity is that they’re predictable and boring. Yes, boring. A trait that, until his menacing phone call, I’d never associated with myself. And behaving in a fashion both predictable and boring results in mistakes being made. Perhaps that’s just what Ray wanted. Not to harm me in a direct sense, but much like Animus, to bait me into recklessness. To overwhelm my better judgment with temptation and impulsiveness.
Close to ninety years ago, there’d been a convict by the name of Kürten, who was about to be beheaded by guillotine. Legend has it, right before meeting his demise, he’d asked an important question. He wondered if, even for a second, he might be able to hear the sound of blood spurting from his own neck once his head was removed. He claimed that it would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.
It was a sentiment I could appreciate at that moment. Self-preservation was a powerful force, but nowhere near as commanding as the thirst for blood and violence. Two impulses, forever in competition, at least for those of us with the desire to kill. And, feeling helpless in my futile pursuit of both Kim and Ray, that competition had me hurtling downward toward despair and madness. I was sweating through the sheets, twitching for no obvious reason, tweaking like a junkie desperate for her next fix. I was alternating between fevers and chills, scratching at my scalp until it burned, ripping the sheets off the bed, wishing that it had been me who’d twisted those shards of glass into Kenneth’s throat.
I was, after all, a self-proclaimed vigilante murderess, even if without deeds to match her intent. I suppose, if I were to be sentenced to death one day for the heinous slaughter of Kenneth Pritchard, I’d be wishing for the very same thing as Kürten in my last moments. The pleasure of being able to see it all come to an end.
It was with that image—me, with my head secured in a guillotine, taking my last breath—that my mind faded to restless sleep …