He had blood on his hands: literally.
Where he had held the knife was a solid sheen of impossible red, but it was his index finger that drew his gaze; the blood had clung to the ridges of his fingerprint and left the valleys his skins natural pale pink.
Fingerprints were unique, he thought, once one is destroyed its like will never be seen again.
Her body lay sprawled next to the sink. The remnants of the supper table were strewn across the worktop next to it like a battlefield. Her eyes were open and staring with slight surprise at the spot just ahead of her open left hand, its palm up and fingers curved in a relaxed arc. She wore what she always wore in the house. The shorts were unfashionably long, almost to her knees and her t-shirt was her favourite, a blue thing with short puffy sleeves that made her husband think, uncomfortably, of school.
He never understood why, or perhaps he did and simply did not admit it to himself.
The flats third occupant was hung halfway out of the hallway window, his back slashed to ribbons, the knife still burrowed deep into one buttock. He was as still as the woman but the end for him had not been as quick.
The man with the blood on his hands had expected to hear sirens; he still expected to hear them. The blood was now cold and the bodies were almost certainly cold by now as well; but still the man expected to hear the approach of the authorities.
The man in black that hung through the window had screamed so loud.
Nothing made sense.
He looked at his palm and followed the scarlet river that was his lifeline from its home between thumb and forefinger down to where it ended two thirds of the way across his palm. He could not see its end; it disappeared into a small lake of red.
He contemplated this for a time.
Her look of surprise comforted him.
It must have been sudden; surely.
The man in blacks screams had comforted him too.
The man rolled to his side and fought his way to his feet, his pyjama bottoms had dried to the linoleum flooring. As he stood the cotton tore free with the sound of a piece of adhesive tape being torn off. With a brief glance to the woman he stumbled into the living room and the phone that sat on the broad window ledge there.
He dialled and within seconds an androgynous voice asked, “What service do you require?”
“Police,” he replied and listened to the electronic clicks and pops as his line was transferred, another voice, this one unmistakably masculine began to speak but the man could not decipher a word of it.
His brain swam and his stomach joined in the motion; he heaved.
When he began to speak he didn’t notice the vomit on the mouthpiece. In fact he didn’t notice much of anything except the smell. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it before; it was strong and coppery and sweet and not altogether unpleasant.
“She’s dead…” He said, followed by his address and the phone slipped from his fingers.
That was it, it was done; there was no turning back now.
It was about then that he started to feel a burning sensation in his stomach, he looked down. He was covered in blood, parts of his pyjama top was crumpled into hard little mountains and valleys where it had dried.
How long had he sat on the kitchen floor? It must have been a long time if the blood had not only cooled but actually dried in the time.
The clock read 4:00, and the darkness he saw through the windows indicated that it was a.m.
The last thing the man with the blood on his hands remembered was reading in bed as he heard the dim clattering of pots and pans from the kitchen on the other side of the wall.
Pain tore thought him; it came from nowhere, a proverbial bolt from the blue.
His hand instinctively clutched to his stomach and something burst there. Blood, hot against him as it flowed, the waistband of his PJ bottoms soaked it up; smearing it and cascading it down like a little red waterfall. His bare left foot was suddenly painted crimson as the puddle spread on the living room carpet.
He walked unsteadily, a bolt of pain every few seconds, leaving behind him the shape of a foot stencilled in blood followed by smudges and smears afterward. His bare feet touched the cold linoleum.
“Why don’t you go and read for a while Honey?”
She turned the tap and the hot water splashed into the glistening sink, on the clock the second hand clicked past the eleventh hour, the detergent in the sink smelled of pine. The kitchen window was closed and outside he thought he could still see a faint charcoal of the previous day still clinging to the sky.
“Okay.” He replied. “Don’t be too long.”
The last thing he saw as he turned was her leaning over to the window to unlock it.
She lay sprawled, her mask of surprise unchanged.
Her dark hair was tied in a rough ponytail, whisps of it falling over the slight wrinkles of her brow. He imaged her blinking any moment and shattering the illusion of death; because that’s all it could be… An illusion…
He slid down next to her, his back pressed against the white veneer of the kitchen unit and his shoulder against hers. He took her hand; the illusion had even leeched the warmth from her body, and clutched it in his own. His head rested on her shoulder and the whisps of her hair tickled the bridge of his nose.
He closed his eyes and drifted.
The dark haired girl was filthy and her bottom lip had been split by the fall. The young man looked up the long flight of concrete steps, easily thirty of them, and dropped to his knees next to the girl.
He slid the case from his pocket and presented it to her, inside the ring shone with an unnatural brilliance. She cried and said, “Yes, yes I do.”
“I do.” He answered and turned to face her, someone said “You may now kiss the bride”, but he was already there.
But he was too late and he knew it. He heard the baby cry as he stumbled through the doors, the scrub mask barely covering his mouth.
Already his cheek was beginning to swell from the slap, the boy’s mother’s eyes swelling too; threatening tears at any moment. “It’s a nightmare…” She screamed.
But the man in black wouldn’t stop. Drug fuelled he tore through their belongings, searching for something, anything, of value while the woman, his mother, begged him to stop.
He wouldn’t, perhaps he couldn’t, his eyes were bloodshot and his skin a mass of broken capillaries and sores. He was no longer the boy they raised. The man entered the kitchen in time to see the knife raised and the look of surprise on the woman’s face.
The blade slashed down, the man’s mind blank with rage, the man in black’s escape stopped abruptly as the keen edge of stainless steel opened the flesh of his back.
The man closed his eyes, his cheek against the soft cold flesh of the woman’s shoulder, his fingers intertwined with hers. The pain in his belly was distant now, like the throbbing of a sedated wound. Around his belly the blood had congealed once more but the barest movement would send flesh blood flowing.
He waited and thought on the choices and chances that had deposited him here.
Regrets? He was littered with them; but never the ones he had had a hand in, but the ones he had avoided. He wished he had taken the time, time to talk and time to dream as well as the time to speak of his dreams to others.
Especially his son…
The boy had no dreams, nothing to hold onto through the running battle of life.
…And especially his wife…
Who he wondered about now as the sounds around him dulled and the sensations of his flesh became more distant still.
How many times did he tell her that he loved her?
And that he needed her?
The man sat and ruminated on life until it left him: and around him the kitchen cooled in the early hours before the new day.