|Author's note: This is a rough cut of the opening bits of a novel I started a few years back. It started here, then changed to the short story you can find in my portfolio titled "The Devil Inside Me." I keep coming back to it and thinking of completing it. I really would appreciate anyone who would take the time to R&R this and tell me whether you think it's worth the effort to finish.
It may seem unfair to you (and perhaps it is, though I myself feel justified) that I lay the blame at the feet of my younger sister, that I hold her responsible for those paths that my life has taken which now I feel were probably wrong turns. But, however unfair it may be, the fact remains that I do.
The first crime is the same as always: birth. While I was born squalling loudly on a chilly November morn, healthy, fat and screaming, Bonnie came into the world with nary a whimper, her lungs deflated and the doctors worried. I was left with a neighbor woman for two weeks at the tender age of 18 months so my family’s full attention could be devoted to the new infant.
When at last she was allowed to return home from the hospital, I was returned to my family. I was, at that age, walking and talking in simple sentences. Home videos capture me pacing in a play pen, yelling, “Want out! Help!” while my family cooed at the precious Bonnie and occasionally yelled back at me, demanding my silence.
With these auspicious beginnings, it is no surprise that for as long as I have had conscious thought, I have despised my sister. Each of her triumphs felt like a personal failure, just as each of her failures were my triumphs.
Of course, as I would sit in my room and gloat over her mishaps, a small nagging guilt would jab at the back of my mind. Would I appreciate my elder brother treating me as I treated her? How would I react were I to find out that he hated me as much as I hated Bonnie?
I pushed these thoughts to the back of my head. As far as I was concerned, Ron thought I was the perfect little sister. Just as my two other little sisters and my two little brothers thought I was the perfect elder sister before things went wrong.
For years, I stood by and allowed it to happen. I sat in my room as Bonnie took over my house. I lay in my bed dreaming of a happy future as she brainwashed my parents. I listened to old records on a thrift store turntable while she convinced all my teachers that she was perfect. I read Potok and Hemingway and Dostoyevsky and Poe while she quietly turned my friends against me. I sat at my desk, clacking away at an old typewriter I had received upon the death of an aunt while she charmed the population of our town.
For 18 years, I stood by and allowed it to happen. I sat in my room until the day she won the writing contest.
I always wanted to be a writer and she was trying to take that away from me, using myself against me.
That’s why I killed my sister.
The famed psychiatrists and psychologists of our age are engaged in a battle, one in which everyone has an opinion and everyone is certain they are right. One side claims that all our mental problems and deficiencies are results of hormonal and chemical imbalances, while the other side leans heavily on the notions of id and ego and the importance of developmental stages.
In my case, it seems irrelevant. The truth is that if I am crazy, it does not matter why. It does not matter if perhaps my parents did not love me as they should or if my brain is incapable of processing the chemical responsible for rational thought. It does not matter if I was damaged during that fragile stage of trust versus mistrust or if my genetic code predisposed me towards those things which I have done.
What does matter, or so my lawyer, Mr. Jeffrey Korsmo, Esq., tells me, is that I do not have the proper amount of emotion that I should. What does matter is that I have not apologized. What does matter is that I did not cry during my testimony.
What does matter, I suppose, is that I am, of course, confusing you with my telling of it. You have picked up this book and purchased it because you read the blurb on the back. It intrigued you when you saw the author’s name that an infamous murderer such as I would write a tell-all book such as this. You have an expectation that, having spent your hard-earned cash on this collection of paper and ink, you will gain an insight into the mind of the demon, the belly of the beast, so to speak. And so, of course, you shall have it. I do not care to disappoint anyone, least of all you, as you have been so kind to me thus far. I shall try to begin more towards the beginning, rather than bouncing around so. If, at the end, you still feel unsatisfied, you may return to your local bookseller and demand a refund. I doubt that it will be given to you, but one must ask if we are to receive anything.
But that, of course, does not matter. What matters is the story, the dreadful tale of my gruesome deed, the slow unraveling of a young girl’s mind and that descent into the maelstrom that is me.
"In the beginning"
My first memory is of a cut and bleeding arm. I had been playing on the rickety swingset in our backyard when I was viciously attacked by the metal chain of an errant swing. I came inside, dripping blood from my tiny arm – an arm that, just as the rest of me, was only just over four years old at the time. I came into the house, holding up my wounded arm to my mother. She was standing in the kitchen, helping a two-year-old Bonnie wash her hands. I screamed, terrified from all the blood dripping from my arm. Bright red spots hit the floor as I sobbed, spreading into a small pool just in front of my bare and dirty feet. My mother did not turn from her task, but instead instructed me to go wash up for dinner. I carefully sat down on the low step that led up to the kitchen from the back door, hardly daring to move, lest I die. A sudden drowsiness came over me and I slumped back against the wall, the tiny pool of blood gently spreading out across the beige patterned linoleum.
I can only imagine the gruesome sight that must have greeted my befuddled father when he came home from work that day. A trail of tiny blood droplets led into the house from our backyard, a smear of dark red-brown graced the white expanse of the rear entrance. He opened the door and found his eldest daughter lying, quite still, in a pool of semi-dried blood. Not knowing what had happened, he quickly and carefully combed the house, searching perhaps for the person who had injured his family, or the remains of his wife and other children. What he found was my mother and Bonnie, stacking alphabet blocks calmly in the master bedroom.
To my parents’ credit, once my mother became aware of the situation, they both checked that I was alive and did their best to comfort me. I slowly came awake as my father bathed me with rough, yet gentle, hands, scrubbing away the dried blood and the dirt that children of four often attract. I was, as you have probably deduced, not dead. My parents did not take me to the doctor to seek out stitches, but I have use of the arm today, so the injury could not have been quite as bad as it seems in my mind. It was more one of the flesh wound type that quickly drains what seems to be vast amounts of blood and then, just as quickly, stops. It did leave a mess on the kitchen floor, which my mother spent a long time cleaning up, which she did while comforting, talking to and playing with Bonnie.
I’m certain my parents must have been glad that I was still alive, though they never came out and said as much. My mother never apologized for ignoring me at that moment when I needed her most, nor did my father ever apologize for not checking if I was alive before seeking out the rest of his family, although he was quite honest in his portrayal of the event when it came up at trial. He did not lie to make himself come out better, a trait that, despite his many faults, I appreciate in my father. They did not feel they had done anything wrong. My father’s trial remembrances were somewhat sketchy in many of the details other than his concern for Bonnie and his wife upon seeing me and, as for the rest of my family, they seem to remember the day sketchily, at best. I alone in my family bear the full weight of the memory, the mental attack, just as I alone bear the visible scars, the physical scars – a lovely gash across my right arm. I alone understand the significance of that date, of that moment, of that instance when I realized that, while I loved and cared for my parents, the feeling was not as mutual for them as it was with Bonnie.
But, this is not one of those “woe is me” tales. While I was never showered with affection by my parents, I was never incredibly abused or neglected. While my father did on occasion take it onto himself to slap me or bruise my posterior with a few well-placed spanks, he did not punch me, and I rarely suffered even bruises from these moments. On those occasions when he did hit me, my mother would become enraged at him. I often suspected her anger was less that it was I who was being assaulted, but at the thought that at some point, I would not be around and my father’s anger would be directed toward another source: the pristine and protected Bonnie.
Here again, I have gotten off topic. Perhaps it would be best if I skipped to the moment you are all wondering about: Bonnie’s death and the moments leading up to it. That is, after all, what you have purchased this book to find out about, is it not? So here, dear reader, I shall tell you the facts of the act, and then get on to the circumstances surrounding it.
"The worst crime"
I am, at the core, a writer, or at least that is what I have always fancied myself to be. I still have well over a hundred notebooks of my earliest writings, and several thousand pages of that which I wrote upon receiving my first typewriter. Now, in this computer age, I have filled up disk after disk with stored 1’s and 0’s, all representing my works. My family knew of my passion for writing and so, it seemed only natural that, when Bonnie had a writing assignment, my mother expected me to help her.
Bonnie brought the assignment to me, an essay on approaching and solving problems. I remember that I thought it more than a little funny that she should be writing about problem solving, given that her main method of dealing with adversity was to go crying to our mother and beg her to make it better. Nonetheless, she had written it and a colossal piece of crap it was too. I tried to explain to her the way words should flow, the way ideas needed to be expressed for clarity’s sake and the way an essay of this nature should be constructed. Bonnie’s thick head refused to allow any of the information to permeate. Exasperated, I stood up and declared simply, “I can’t help you with this.”
Bonnie was indignant. “I’ll tell mom you refused to help me,” she threatened, her voice low, her tone the mocking “I’ve got you now!” she only used when speaking to me. She had me. If she told our mother that I had been difficult and unwilling to help Bonnie, it would be I who would face the consequences. I would be in trouble.
“Fine,” I muttered, cursing under my breath. I took out a sheet of paper from Bonnie’s notebook, hatred filling my body and spilling out into my penmanship and terse writing style. I wrote Bonnie’s paper as she sat at the table next to me, smirking, gloating, knowing that she had, once again, trumped me. I finished her essay, slammed it onto the table in front of her, swiftly broke her pencil in half and stormed from the room.
It was a scene that had played out often and, though I was furious about it, I had no reason to believe it was anything different than the other times she had played her hand and used our parents’ love of her and despisal of me to her advantage. She had won another round and my vengeance was breaking a four cent pencil. The script was the same as it had always been, but the end of this one turned out differently.
I came home after school one day three months later to find my father home from work an hour early. He, my mother and Bonnie sat in the living room, papers strewn about in front of them on the coffee table. When I entered the room, they looked up at me. I remember clearly this moment, because it has haunted me for almost two years now. They looked at me and my mother announced proudly, “Bonnie won a writing contest.”
I was in shock. I knew Bonnie had never written a sentence worth retyping in her entire life. How had she won a contest? Then it hit me. Something I had written for her had won the contest. I looked at her and she smirked, a smarmy gleam in her eye.
“What for?” I queried, trying to discern the details of my win under Bonnie’s name.
“That paper I wrote a few months back about problem-solving. Didn’t I tell you I was entering it in a contest?” she asked innocently.
Trying not to appear as shaken and upset as I was, I muttered something about winning a paper certificate and set off toward my room. My father’s laughter stopped me.
“Dear,” he began patronizingly, “she didn’t win just a certificate. The contest was worth one hundred thousand dollars.”
I was aghast. I know my shock showed on my face because Bonnie’s eyes were filled with triumph. She knew exactly what I was thinking: that she was getting credit for my work and that she was getting rich off of my work. She had triumphed again, she had come out on top again, despite everything. I could only think of three words to speak at the news. “You stupid bitch,” I screamed. My father stood up, his eyes telling me he was coming to slap my face.
I did the only thing I could do: I fled to my room and locked the door behind me. I knew it would take him only a few moments to get the door unlocked, so I moved my heavy wood bed against the door. I then slid my bookshelf against the window opening, effectively blocking out all sunlight from the room. I sat, alone, on my bed, feeling it bump slightly as my father tried in vain to force the door open, hearing his muttered curses and his threats to break down the door, then more cursing as he went outside to break in through the window only to discover I had covered that possibility too.
I sat alone in my room and formulated a plan.