Pragmatism. It’s a word I’ve heard thrown about. A word that people have on occasion used in conversation with me, and I have nodded my head with conviction, feigning intelligence, and as far as I know succeeding. Only recently have I discovered its meaning. Straightforward thinking, practical, concerned with results rather than theories. I suppose this is me, I am pragmatic. People who have met me would believe this, people I have rubbed shoulders with coming to this conclusion in seconds. If it’s not the things I say, or the tone of my voice it is my appearance; a balding head, four-eyed face, atop a tall, feeble frame. Usually dressed for work in grey uncharismatic suits, asphyxiated with tasteless ties. With all the personality and grace of a robot, the term square seems fitting if I do say so myself.
As I sit here at my desk, my brain vibrating in unison with the tapping of keys and the ringing of phones around me, I question the point of it all. Everyone has these moments, the spark of an epiphany but never the full flame. Right now my head is on fire. Five, sometimes six days a week I propel my existence in this god forsaken office. Diluting my workload with whatever distractions I can muster.
I’m taking a breather. Attempting to cool my head, slow my thoughts, but I find myself on edge. I keep staring at my wedding photo. Sitting on my desk, a constant reminder of the vow I took, of the woman I love and the family we made together. Immaculately poised in a sterling silver frame. We look so happy, but now I question that smile of hers. She looks ecstatic, we both do, but she cant have been? How can she be happy with me?She hid it well I’ll give her that, look at her, even now I question myself. She is an Oscar-worthy actress and I couldn’t see past my own lust, I was weak. Story of my life.
I couldn’t look at it anymore, so I flipped it face down on the desk, and already I feel better. Better but not quite right. I cant work right now, the tedium will kill me. My brain is on overdrive, synapses firing like never before making everything seem clear and disorganised all at the same time. I need to get out of here, and I don’t care what happens, what repercussions I might face! Anything would seem so insignificant now.
I look around this office for the last time and I notice just how ugly everyone is. Not necessarily disproportioned, or unsymmetrical, just ugly, and each in their own way. I grab my things and thunder towards the exit, turning a few heads as I pass. I seem to be shedding unwanted weight as I pass security and head to my car. Losing metaphysical baggage of some sort, but its rejuvenating and whatever it is I could do with losing more, though the swelling in my head seems a little alleviated now my brain still throbs, rhythmically stroking the inside of my skull.
Success! My Trixie started first time, Trixie is on my side, my beautiful car. Nothing much to look at but she is special to me. My portable bubble, protecting me from the stench of the streets, the hooded thieves, the underage whores (babies in tow). Mitotic scum spreading like germs clawing at what they can, whatever they can get for free. While the suckers like myself work, and work hard to provide for our families.
Family? The word has all of a sudden lost all meaning. Its like when you repeat a word so much that it becomes gibberish. I worked everyday for my family, for their safety and their happiness. Before today that ideal was irrevocably clear to me. My purpose in life. But now the feeling is gone, and I cannot fathom why?
As I drive down this road, as I so often do, things seem askew. Colours washed, shapes distorted. People insignificant, just evolved microbes, bacteria that have grown arms and legs and the ability to feel worth, unwarranted as it may be. We have no more right to anything than the snot we dispel into our hankies. I suddenly feel like the world is teetering, and about to topple, and if my brain keeps working this hard my head will burst!
As the air electrifies the first few drops of rain hit my windscreen. The patter on Trixie’s roof hides the sound of my grinding teeth. I don’t grind my teeth, so why are my molars wrestling each other. Maybe I’m losing control of my body? My mind? Maybe my subconscious is taking over. I wont fight it, I haven’t felt this kind of release before, its cathartic. I cant go back to being my burdened self again, selfish as that may be I am no longer in control, and I can take comfort in that. Anything that happens from here on is not me, not the man who left for work this morning, not the husband who kissed his wife goodbye, not the blissfully ignorant man I once was. I trust my mind and my instincts, and as I head home I let my instincts guide me.
I instinctually made a stop at my mother-in-laws. I have never liked her, and I didn’t even hide it, even back as my rigid sycophantic self. Charlotte, my wife knew how I felt about her, and couldn’t ignore my feelings whenever her mother would visit. I didn’t stay there for long, she forced me to eat a little while I was there, making it impossible to refuse I endured. Borrowing a few things from hers before leaving I promised myself that this was the last time I would enter her god-forsaken bungalow. I left feeling different, had a sense of wellbeing, a sensation I have never felt, not that I can remember. The throbbing in my head had subsided and a stoic calm washed over me as I sat inside Trixie. Found myself hesitant to go home though, waited a few minutes before pulling away.
Someone is parked in my spot, the driveway that I laid brick by brick. I recognise the car, shiny and new, flashy and modern, putting my Trixie to shame. For some reason I cant enter the house, not just yet, so I turn off the engine and wait. Cant stop staring at the car. I know whose car it is and I know why it is boastfully sitting there in my drive, its an act of dominance, an act of contempt aimed solely at me. And if I hadn’t left work so early I wouldn’t have seen it, no doubt it would have been gone by clocking off time. But still the insult is the same, and whether I witness it or not it is still aimed at me, the same people laughing at me, at my impotence, my ineffectualness.
Enough waiting, my goal is clear, my thoughts clarified, though my head begins to throb again, reverberating like a bass drum. I move to its rhythm, getting out of the car, grabbing my things and pacing across my gravelled path and to my front door. My momentum ceases temporarily as I slide the key in the keyhole, turning it as silently as possible, knowing the particular sounds it makes I avoid them skilfully until the door opens, then close it with the smallest of creaks. The house seems empty, so I head to the kitchen and place the bag of borrowed objects on the kitchen side. A sound from upstairs grabs my attention, I hold my breath and concentrate. Another sound, and as expected more to follow, rhythmic thumps. The throbbing of my brain begins the harmonise, syncing with the sound as it swells and shrinks.
I grab something from the bag and move into the landing, the narrow room funnels the sounds, amplifies and directs it at me as I stand firmly at the base of the stairs. The carpet turns to glue, it tries its best to hold me still, but I manage to pull each foot free and take one step at a time. Each step seeming a mile, I approach the source of the noise. The object in my hand seems to get heavier, it seems to pull me downwards, the inanimate object having an agenda of its own. The carpet turning to glue, the steps stretching on for miles and the object in my hand weighing a ton, none of this works, I make it to the summit and the sound now loud and clear begins to sink my stomach.
Now approaching my goal, doubts begins to surface. Not now! I tell myself, it’s already too late. I push through it and move down the hall to my bedroom door, already slightly ajar. The light in the room changes, sunlight coming in through the window being disturbed by moving figures. As I push the door open the sound that I had followed hits me hard, now undeniable, I see the cause of it. The creaks coming from my bed, grunts coming from a large naked man, and the moans of ecstasy coming from my wife. My wife laying down, being fucked by a another man. I swallow the air because my lungs don’t seem to be work.
Standing here now for what seems an eternity I watch and listen, I listen to the utter delight my wife is taking, moans I have never heard before. I see her clawing the mans back, writhing ferociously, her hands clasp at him, grabbing him as if to keep him there, pleasuring her forever. I have had enough, I must end this.
’Stop!’ I whisper. I tried to yell but my lungs betrayed me.
They didn’t hear me, why would they? My wife is having the orgasm of her life and this man is busy, dominating her. Showing her what he can do, or more to the point what her husband couldn’t. I try again, this time putting all of my work’s Assertiveness Training courses to good use. I shout with all of my might;
‘GET OFF HER!’ I surprise myself.
This time they react, the man sprung upwards and rolled to face me, while my wife sat up covering herself with the bed sheet, hiding her breasts as if I were a stranger. Both panting and refocusing their blissfully dilated eyes. They treat me as an intruder, like I have been gone for years and have rudely interrupted my estranged wife and her new partner.
‘Love!?’ She pants, having forgotten all about me, as if pleasure so exquisite could be achieved only by my lack of existence.
‘Is this him?’ the strange man asks my wife, sweat glistening on his brow.
‘What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at work?’ She snaps, to suggest that I have wronged her somehow. That to be home at this time, and to disturb her and her lover was selfish of me.
I cant speak and I can see that this annoys her, she is confused and reacts the only way she knows how.
‘Why are you here!? You are supposed to be at work! Don’t just stand there, say something!’ She shouts, and screws up her face in contempt.
I had hoped that she might show some remorse, a little guilt. Seeing my doleful face at the doorway seems to have angered her, the same way my doleful face has angered her so often over the last year or so. I realise now that she feels justified, that she has the right to be satisfied by this man. And with this realisation my throbbing head ceases. Something happens to me, like an anvil suspended by a rope, and the last thread giving way the tension is released. The suspense, the anticipation is removed and I feel better for it. My face reflects this, the expression of sorrow disappears and my face becomes blank.
My darling wife begins to squirm with discomfort, obviously waiting for my reaction I decide to disappoint her and stand there in silence a little longer. The man now lost, attempts to get dressed but I don’t allow it, as I raise my hand he freezes and my wife shrieks. And so she should, as I point her own fathers Mauser C96 pistol at her. Her father was a collector of antique weapons and he had kept this a secret from his daughter. Dead now, he had shown me his collection before he passed on. I know that this gun is inoperable but my wife and her lover are none the wiser. To be faced with something like this, in the hands of a man that had been wronged so vindictively, who would risk finding out.
‘What are you doing? Where did you get that?’ She begins to whimper. ‘I’m sorry! This isn’t what it looks like!’ She begins to plead.
This continues for a while, my wife regurgitating clichés, lines from soaps, scenes of cheating wives and husbands caught by their partners. All scripted, all safe and all before the watershed.
It is amazing how a small metal contraption can demand so much power. This morning I was a whelp, a man of insignificance, as intimidating as a moist piece of bread. But now I am god, to my wife and her lover I am god, and while I hold this gun they have no choice but to obey me as such.
I try not to smile as I tie the oaf to my dining room chair, it would seem unprofessional of me. I wouldn’t want either of them to think this was a joke, a prank gone too far. I used rope from the bag I had filled at my mother-in-laws, I had improvised while raiding her shed, anticipating this moment. The stranger now a fixture in the centre of my living room, I tie my wife to the radiator by her wrists, sprawled out on my cream carpet. Both as naked as when I caught them, and I had made sure that they were facing each other, just out of each others reach. I impress myself with my knot tying, I had always wanted to be a boy scout but feared meeting the other kids.
My wife continued to beg, all the while looking at me like a we had never met. This helps me, the more disgust I see in her eyes, the more her pleas become white noise. Her lover sits still, courageously so. It is obvious to me that he is trying to remain dignified, trying to impress my wife with his machismo in the face of probable danger. Taking one last look at the adulterers I leave the room, give them a few minutes to catch their breath and slow their pulses. Her lover offers words of consolation, I can hear his deep voice reverberating through the wall. It amuses me. His voice stops as I rustle through my bag, clunking and thumping as much as possible, just to break their touching moment. My blood is coursing like never before and as I ponder the potential of my situation, butterflies fill my stomach. Excitement is a rare sensation for me, I haven’t felt it in a long time, and as my hands brush the tools in this bag my heart races just that little bit more.
I enter my living room again and sit on the edge of my sofa, head to the ground I take in a deep breath.
‘What is going on here?’ she begins to sob.
‘You know what is going on here sweetheart.’ I reply, raising my eyes to meet hers.
‘No I don’t, I don’t know what is going on… Where did you get that gun?’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘I don’t understand!’ She begins to wail.
‘Are you crying because of the gun?’
‘I don’t know what you want!?’
‘Well… yesterday I wanted you, today things are different!’
‘I’m sorry.’ She snorts. ‘I am sorry, I didn’t want to hurt you!’
‘Ha! There you go, quoting your soaps again, I’m surprised you keep up with them, being as preoccupied as you are.’ I gesture with the gun towards her lover.
‘What are you talking about? I still love you…’ Before she can finish I jump out of my seat and raise my hand to her. She recoils.
‘DON’T!… Don’t you dare tell me you love me! I can still smell him on you!’
‘You hit her… It’ll be the last thing you do!’ Her lover interrupts us.
I didn’t turn to face him, I just look dead into my wife’s eyes and smile. I knew that this affair of theirs had been going on for a while, but now I am beginning to think that they love each other. Fuel for the fire in my head, making everything so easy, so justifiable. I pull out a roll of duct tape from my pocket and tape her cheating mouth shut. Turning my attention to the hero, he struggles but I seal his trap up soon enough. He hates me, I can see it in his blood shot eyes, his damp brow quivering and eyebrows arched. I struggle to contain myself and before I laugh I head back to the kitchen. Back to my bag of tricks.
This time I surpass my wife, avoiding her gaze and head straight towards the hero. He cant turn his head to see me, though he is trying, and almost breaking his neck in the process. I side step in the hope that he will turn just that little bit more and cause his spine to snap, but no such luck.
As I pull out my first instrument my wife tries to scream, muffled as she is its still effective, it causes even her courageous lover to panic. I hold in my hand a knife, an ordinary serrated steak knife, but because I hold it, it implies a terror all of its own. I like this, the power of suggestion, intimidation, and its my job to keep the suspense unbearable. The only way to achieve this is to start small, so I decide where to make my first cut. I really have no idea how to go about this, but I don’t dare let them know that, as I study him I point out his parts with the knife like a seasoned butcher. I have never cut anyone, who in normal society has, and I am yet to know how it will make me feel? Will I vomit? I will try my best not too, because I have a long day ahead of me.
Shoulder? Neck? Back? No…Shoulder, I will start with his shoulders. They seem brawn enough, there’s enough meat there. So I poke him, and as the metal touches his right shoulder, just above the shoulder blade he begins to spasm. My wife reacts worse than he does, and I watch her reaction just to keep myself going. I wonder to myself, would you cry and beg this much if the tables were turned? If I was in the chair? I highly doubt it. With that motivation I push with the blade, making my first incision. It isn’t as easy as I thought, the knife is sharp but it takes some force just to pierce the skin. I push until the skin’s elasticity gives way, then it becomes easy. It slides in and scrapes a bone, I am surprised at how easy that was, even as he writhed I felt righteous. The sight of blood seems to be a welcomed one, (and there is a lot more than I expected) this makes the second prod much easier. I don’t want to get carried away so I slow down and drink in my wife’s distress. I am breaking her heart, its not because her husband is wielding a knife, but because he has decided to use it to cause her lover agonising pain.
I have stabbed him, for the first time in my life I have stabbed someone and I enjoyed it, now I want to experiment. I think I will try a slice. Slicing is what this steak knife does best, and he looks well done to me. I push his head to one side, still standing behind him I lay the blade on the flesh to the right of his neck. Just above the collar bone, this causes him the shake violently. I expect my wife will scream until her throat gives out, and I begin to hope this happens soon, because her squeals are getting very annoying. I slice, to be more precise I saw. As I move the blade back and forth I push his head harder. This causes his skin and flesh to open up, it tears, doing most of the work for me. I hit his collar bone, the sound makes my teeth clench and I almost hesitate, but today is my day of ascension, so I push through. I saw enough to blunt the blade, and turn a slice of his bone to chalk dust. As I remove my hand from his head he doesn’t realign it, I don’t think he can.
The knife is useless now, it was part of a set of six, I cant help but mourn its loss, and the empty place in the knife rack. I back off a few paces and decide to fulfil a childhood dream; I throw it, like a circus knife-thrower, at his back. It hit him handle first and fell to the floor. That was disappointing. I leave it where it lies and turn my attention to my swollen eyed wife, her face is soaked in tears and mucus. Her muffled screams are giving me a headache now.
‘Darling… Please shut up!’ I ask, calmly.
This doesn’t work, in fact it makes her louder. I turn on the thermostat, as high as it will go, and I do it without her knowing. Should be a nice surprise for her. I grab a small rusty hatchet from my bag, and move to face her lover. He doesn’t look so brave anymore, in fact I think he is crying, though it is hard to tell with the sweat pouring from his forehead. He looks dazed, sleepy, so I slap him. His eyes widen a little.
‘So you are the one who has been fucking my wife? Putting me to shame right? I bet you both have a good chuckle about it too? Her pathetic husband, working his arse off all day, all week to provide for his family, cant even provide his wife with what she wants? Needs? I bet you thought I was stupid too?’ He shakes his head. ‘Oh yes you did, both of you did. Rutting away while I spent my days going crazy in that fucking office. And believe it or not I do… Did love that woman!’ I point to my wife. ‘But you don’t care do you? That means nothing to you. You just wanted to stick your dick in my wife, and I bet you thought you would get away with it!’ I breath the last few words as I kneel in front of him.
I raise the hatchet and take aim, his legs are spread and each foot tied to each chair leg, he begins to wail. Finally I hack, I hack at his penis. It isn’t easy at this angle, and with him struggling so, I cut the inside of his thighs as I do it, collateral damage. It takes about five hacks to sever most of it, but its still attached by some skin and tendons. I cant help but envy the man and his manhood, I’m sure that mine would have only taken three hacks at the most, maybe this is what she sees in him.
My wife begins to moan again, this time I realise its because the radiator has heated up. I pull at his penis until it snaps, and comes away from him, I immediately toss it at my wife’s face and it slaps her across her cheek like a wet fish. It shuts her up, for all of a second. I turn my attention back to her lover and notice the enormous flow of blood, leaving his body, mainly through his thighs. I had heard that there are major arteries in the thighs, I didn’t mean to hit them. At this rate he’ll bleed out in a minute and this is not what I wanted, I have hours till the kids get home. I don’t have a choice now, I have to finish him and get the most out of his fleeting life while I can. I run to the kitchen and run straight back in with a claw hammer. I’ve stabbed, I’ve sliced and I’ve hacked, now its time to bludgeon. I hit him over and over atop his head, switching between the blunt and claw side of the hammer. This is hard work, not like I imagined, it takes a while before his skull gives way and I feel the metal bounce of his brain. I don’t stop until the hammer is wedged in his head, and then I leave it there to rest my arm and catch my breath.
He is dead. He was probably dead a few blows back, and I am unsatisfied, he didn’t endure nearly enough. Not as I had hoped. I wipe my face with my hand and feel his blood on me. I turn to acknowledge my wife’s expression, she sees my red face and her eyes are wide, so wide in fact that her eyeballs could fall out of their sockets. Silent and shivering, she doesn’t even notice the searing radiator anymore. I move towards her and kneel, I place my hand on her ankle. She pulls her leg away and I take offence to this, grabbing her ankle and pulling it back towards me at some force.
‘Are you sad?’ I feign sympathy. She doesn’t answer me. ‘I know you are, you loved him didn’t you! And now I bet you’re wondering why I did this? Hmmm?’ I tilt my head, and hope to ease a response from her, but no luck.
I get comfortable and sit on the floor cross-legged, I have forgotten how nice this carpet feels and decide to stroke it a little. She cant take he eyes off me, struggling to comprehend what I’ve become. In truth I have known what I am for a long time now, and I guess that I am not so innocent in all of this, having deceived my loving wife for so long. I shouldn’t blame myself, not at all, until now I have never acted on it. Not like her, she has been cheating on me for almost a year now. I am righteous, I know it. I tear the tape from her mouth, aside from her intermittent panting she is still silent.
‘Wont you say something? This isn’t like you, wife of mine. usually I don’t get a word in edgeways… Have I surprised you? Is this newfound respect?’ I prod her face with my finger, she doesn’t react. ‘You are my wife… I am your husband, now which part of that did you forget while you were fucking him, in our marital bed no less. It was obvious to me that I wasn’t important to you anymore, not like I used to be. I still worshipped the ground you walked on, I would have done anything for you. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my life it is that if you want something, you need to go out and get it. You work at it, and I wanted to be important to you. So… I made myself important again. What could be more significant to a person than their killer? Short of giving birth to someone, killing them is the only other way to truly make an impression. And speaking of your mother, I popped in to see her earlier. She tried to feed me, accusing me of being too thin, like she always did. She made me eat some of her special lasagne, you know? Her trademark dish, well she had a piping hot batch just waiting for me.’ I smile as she shakes her head. ‘I grabbed her by her stupid fucking perm and forced her to eat the damn lasagne! I held her face in that boiling hot dish until she was full!’ I look like a kid on Christmas morning.
She breaks her gaze and drops her head, sobbing. Exhausted as she was she mustered a few more tears.
‘I was important to her! I was important to him.’ I point at the corpse. ‘And now, I am going to be the most important person in the world to you, just as I was meant to be, just as you would have had me believe when you took your vows!’ I turn as I finish my sentence, grab one last object from the bag and finish my masterpiece.
As I sit in my Trixie I watch my house, billowing smoke. Flames shattering the double glazed windows that cost so much. Neighbours gather round and eventually fire engines arrive, but they are way to late. I know where the fire started and how long it has been burning, everything in there is charcoal by now. It all seems like a dream, and if it wasn’t for my blood splattered face in the rear view mirror I could have believed it was.
I could have drove away but for some reason I wanted to see this through, right to the last ember, because for some reason I wasn’t satisfied. I was hoping that seeing my marital home swallow itself might make me complete, but as the roof gave in, and the walls tumbled I felt the same, still angry, still frustrated, still insignificant.
I see my kids arriving home from school. I smile. I Wave. They look at me like I’m a stranger.
© Copyright 2016 Daniel Mullaney. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Horror
Short Story / Horror
Short Story / Science Fiction
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