A man discovers the Magic Word works... to his detriment. (9600 words)
I killed a man.
In fact, I have killed at least a dozen people, and at the end of this tale I too shall be dead by my own hand. There will undoubtedly be an autopsy and they will come to the conclusion that I died of natural causes. I know this for a fact because all of my other victims have been adjudged to have passed away in that manner, and so why break a habit now? And Lisa, smiling at me from the bed, urging me on...
It all started with my grandmother; it's all her fault. That's right, blame the woman who brought you up but whom you secretly despise. Well, guess what, it's no secret that I have always hated the old bat, and I was even implicated briefly in her rather untimely death, but the processes of medicine quickly found that her death was natural, albeit unexpected. And, of course, as you have probably guessed, I was the one who killed her. But, again, it was all her fault, her and her "what's the magic word, Sam?" that I heard nearly every day of my life...
I lived with my mother until I was four or five and my rather vague memories of those times are filled with happiness and fun. But through some foible in the law, my grandmother had my mother – her own daughter – declared an unfit parent and took custody of me, then had my mother legally banned from seeing me. When I found about that – at the tender age of fourteen – I eventually sought and found my mother and we became good friends. In fact, she's the only one, I'm sure, who's going to miss me when I'm gone. But she's got her husband, Luke, and their three children, my half-sisters, to lean on. And, now that I think of it, I'm also sure that she's the only one who'll ever believe what's written here.
So, as a young child, two police officers took me to my grandmother's house while another three restrained my hysterical mother. Knowing that the old lady with whom I was being forced to live was the cause of my mother's distress meant that from that very first moment I hated her, and she never tried to rectify that. I was enrolled at a strict private school run by Catholics, forced to go to Church every Sunday, forbidden to listen to the radio or watch the television in the lounge-room, not allowed to have any friends unless their parents were influential or rich enough. Maybe she thought she was doing what was best, but by the time I was nine I already knew why my mother had left home at fifteen, two days after her father had died of a heart-attack (almost as though the old man's death was deliberate, she later told me) and why my grandmother had taken this cruel vengeance out not only on her eldest daughter but also on me.
She led me to my new bedroom like a warden leading the new prisoner to his cell and showed me inside. I hated it. There was already a half-stocked book-shelf and the walls were painted a colourless grey. Above the bed, nailed to the wall, was a two foot high crucifix with a grimacing Christ, blood oozing from his hands and feet and forehead and the gaping wound in his side... the nightmares I had about that image lasted me until I was a teenager. I looked around briefly and then uttered my first words in the house... and then we both knew the truth. She was determined to break me; I was determined to survive, no matter what.
"Where's the loo?" I asked suddenly.
Her eyes widened in anger and her hand struck with the speed of a viper, with just as much sting. Her age belied her strength and speed and I was sent to the floor. I started crying straight away, but quickly stopped; even then, I saw tears as a sign of weakness, something I did not want to this lady to see in me. "When you ask something of your elders," she boomed in a voice which I quickly came to associate with priests giving a sermon, "always be polite, and always use the magic word."
I just stared at her in bewilderment. I'd never heard of a magic word. "Abracadabra," I ventured nervously and her hand stung me again, this time harder and with more venom.
Her voice became a hiss: "Never, never be rude to your elders. And never use colloquialisms like" – she seemed to choke on the word – "loo." She stood over me, then lifted me to my feet by dragging on my ear. "Now, for your information, Samuel, the water closet is at the end of this hallway, and there is another one upstairs at the end of that hallway. Now, do your business, and then come straight back here." My face still stinging from the blows I almost ran away to urinate, though by the time I reached the toilet I did not feel much like anything except vomiting...
I didn't actually find out what the magic word was for another fortnight. I just asked for things and received only a slap for not using that accursed 'magic word'. And then, at Church during the priest's otherwise boring sermon he mentioned it. Such a simple word, but it really was one I didn't use, had never had had to use when I was with my mother. One syllable, one word, six letters, the cause of all my shit.
I couldn't wait to get home and try it out. It felt like a victory. I waited until lunch and what came to be the traditional Sunday lunch of roast chicken with the ladies from the Church auxiliary group. "Could I please have a drink, grandmother?" I asked in my politest tone.
If she was surprised she didn't show it. Her only words were, "It's about time you learnt some manners, young Samuel." And then she got me a glass of cordial. I felt deflated... yet still had to be reminded every day – with a slap as well as a stern warning – not to forget that fucking 'magic word' of hers. Some weeks the only thing she ever said to me was, "The magic word, Samuel." Yet, almost stubbornly I virtually refused to use it. But, of course, a child can only take so many beatings for something as silly and trivial as one word. So, almost without anyone noticing, it slipped into my vocabulary on a regular basis after a year or so of constantly being hit, and it was not for another four years that I discovered and actually realised what a word please really was for me... and just how right my grandmother was when she called it a 'magic word'...
It must have happened before that day, but I just didn't notice it or, if I did, I must have ignored it. Then again, I only realised what had happened because this particular incident was so out of the ordinary. And after it had happened it took a while and several other strange occurrences for me to actually work out the cause. And then, being young and, as I look at it now, repressed (and you amateur psychologists out there who might disagree – fuck off; I know my childhood with my grandmother, you don't) I used my newly discovered 'power' to its fullest... until it all got out of control...
As many people can testify to, private schools and public schools are similar in many, many ways. And one of those, the one most children come into contact with at least once, is the school bully. And the one at my primary school was named Durf. At least, that's what we called him. His real name was Dolph, but he had come from Germany and his accent was what we mimicked until he let all of us smaller kids know he was as strong as he was hard to understand. He was only two years older than me, but by the time I was nine and he was eleven and in year six, the final year of primary school, he ruled the place. And in the manner of bullies everywhere, his greatest source of joy came from giving little kids like me the shits.
My turn came while I was playing on the jungle gym in the playground. He came at me from behind and pulled me violently to the ground where he sat on my chest. "Dis iss my equimen," he spat in my face. "Yous ass me to usse or I hurts."
"Get off!" I breathed, but this just made him laugh and lean harder on my chest. I couldn't even draw a breath in properly. He took the weight off briefly only so he could ram his knee further down on my rib cage. "Get lost," I breathed, then he squeezed down and I let out a long and passionate, "Please!" The emphasis on that word came from the heart, and it had the desired effect... and that was what made it out of the ordinary.
Durf's eyes became vacant and he stood up and marched straight out of the school gates. The group of boys who hung around Durf like a bad smell watched him go, then stared at me before running in all directions. My own group of friends said nothing but helped me to my feet and into the toilet where I washed the dirt and grass from my uniform. The incident had not shaken me, but just sat on the front of my mind, just waiting for me to understand. Durf did, in fact, get lost. For two weeks no-one could find him. He eventually turned up at the wharves, living out of garbage cans on the docks. He came back to school but was never the same again. And he steered well clear of me and my friends.
Despite this, it took another accidental use of the 'magic word' for me to realise just what was happening. I was sent to the headmaster's office for back-answering a teacher. In rebelling against my grandmother, which I found I could never do to her face, I used to take it out on the teachers at school, which, in turn, got me into more trouble than I cared to admit. Not only did I have to endure the punishments dished out by the school, but I had to sit through one of my grandmother's sermons, all of which were punctuated by slaps to the face and/or tugging at the ears. Once she made my nose bleed, but that spurred her on and by the end of that particular lecture I had a black eye and a loose tooth as well. Shit, I hated her. But this day I only had to front up to the headmaster...
Back-answering a teacher is not such a big deal at a private school. One or two hard raps on the knuckles with a wooden ruler and you knew you were in the wrong. But when, like me, you were immune to physical punishment because what the teachers did was nothing compared to what happened to you at home, and when your back-answering took the form of swearing, the head-master was called in and you received "five of the best" with a bamboo cane he called 'Willy Sting' right across the arse-cheeks. Our headmaster invariably followed this with making us write twenty lines while sitting on a hard, wooden chair while he leant on your shoulders so you could really feel the pain in your arse. And that was what I thought I was in for on this windy autumn day.
"Samuel, I am doing this for your benefit," Father Mead said in his best paternal tone. But I'd been here before and I knew the spiel; the bastard just enjoyed seeing the bare buttocks of little boys, then whipping them and creating great pain. "You know what you did was wrong, so I will not explain it to you, but maybe this will teach you a lesson you'll not soon forget." He bent me over and pulled down my pants. His rough and callused hands ran over my buttocks before he patted them and went for his cane.
"Don't hit me, please," I begged. The emphasis I placed on that final word was due more to the sound of Mead swishing his cane through the air and the thought that it would strike at any moment than from any great emotional out-pouring, but it had its desired effect. My pants were suddenly pulled back over my bare buttocks and he stood me up.
"Just don't do it again," he muttered. His eyes were vague and his voice emotionless, but I was just happy to be ushered out of his office... and more than a little confused at what had just happened.
I left the office and walked across the asphalt compound slowly, trying to comprehend what had happened. My mind quickly reminded me that this was the second time that this had occurred in less than two months. It scared me, but also exhilarated me. I had almost come to a complete stop, thinking about everything when a voice boomed, "Get along there! Get back to class!" My trance was broken and I glanced at the deputy head staring at me from his office window and rushed quickly back to class.
I lay awake most of that night, just thinking about all that happened, I was only nine years old, almost ten, and inclined to believe in the sort of magic I read about in the Robert E Howard fantasy stories I bought as comics and hid from my grandmother. Not really believe, as such – religious upbringings don't allow things like that – but maybe wish it was true. And now, it seemed, I had a power, a power I was not sure of, and not even sure how worked. It had to do with the word please, but that was all I knew. Why didn't it work when I asked my grandmother things and she said, "No," without a second thought? But on two separate occasions something totally unexpected had happened, something that had never happened before, something that I had never even heard of happening before...
I decided to try out the new discovery the following morning. My grandmother did, in fact, own a large television on which she watched the news shows every night and the classical music on channel two on most Sundays, but which she never let me even see in operation. Apparently, I was too corrupted already and television would only make matters worse. I was eating my cereal when I asked, "Can I watch television, please?"
My grandmother hit me across the back of my head, sending my mouthful of food back into the bowl. "I have told you before, you may not watch that infernal contraption, and never before school..."
"Oh, please!" I interrupted passionately. Her eyes suddenly clouded over and went vague, just like Father Mead the previous day, and her entire face became emotionless.
"Yes," she muttered. And I knew then what it was and how it worked... and I milked it for all it was worth, until that fateful day when I realised things had gotten out of control, but by then it was far too late...
I killed my first man – a teacher – when I was twelve years old. I had swiftly fallen into the habit of using the emphasised please to get my own way in nearly everything. Many people became wary of me, but, of course, they couldn't understand what was happening and I wasn't about to explain myself to anyone and give away my big secret. But that does not explain what happened between myself and Mr Trevayne.
Right from the word go we clashed. He knew of my past terrible behaviour record and decided he was going to make an example of me; I knew this and decided he would never use me to make a point. He was also the first person to have a hint of the sort of strange power I wielded through a word. But that time over those first three months of the school year was a battle of wills between the two of us. He would punish me for the slightest indiscretion – often with a ruler attack from behind – and I would make him do things against his will, most often begging him with my please to not give us any home-work. But, to his credit, Trevayne was not as stupid as I thought. And one day after school he confronted me.
"I don't know how you did it, Hoyle, but you've made this class the lowest by stopping me from giving home-work, through your pathetic, babyish, whining begging," he growled.
I smiled and said, "Please..." But he was quicker and he clamped his hand firmly over my mouth.
"No, you don't," he hissed. "Not this time."
I bit down as hard as I could in the soft, fleshy part of his palm and his hand recoiled instinctively. "Go fuck yourself," I rumbled. And without warning his eyes went blank and he dropped his trousers and started to masturbate. I was confused briefly until I realised that my last words were spoken after an imploring please. I laughed and turned my back on him as I strode out of the room. I stopped when I reached the door to try to get my giggles under control. I heard a long groan behind me, then felt the heavy thud of something in the small of my back sending me crashing to the ground. I rolled over and saw Trevayne standing over me, his fists clenched, his trousers loosely redone. "Stand up, you little shit," he rumbled.
"Leave me alone, please!" I intoned, struggling to hide my smile. But he did nothing except look down at me.
"Say something?" he asked, then pointed at his ears. Two large blobs of blue-tack had blocked his aural passages end fear overcame my mind.
"No," I managed to whisper in fear as he grabbed my collar and hefted me to my feet, then rammed me backwards against the wall. My ears rang and my vision blurred briefly but this was overcome by a wave of nausea as he drove his clenched fist into my midriff.
"Now make me stop," he rumbled, a perverse, angry grin on his thin lips. I kicked my foot forward as hard as I could as his hand ricocheted off my face. The tip of my shoe buried itself in his crotch and he fell, writhing in pain to the ground. I turned to run and leave but his hand grabbed my ankle and jerked backwards. My forehead and nose smashed against the floor and he kicked me hard in the side. I rolled over and he lifted me to my feet by the collar, then my feet were dangling in the air and he spoke at my face. "If you ever say anything to me again I'm going to break you, understand?" he growled, his voice loud.
"Yes, you mother-fucking son-of-a-bitch," I muttered.
"What?" he asked, straining to hear. I bowed my head and repeated my remark as quietly as I could. He pulled one of the blue-tack pieces from his ear; that was his error, underestimating me. I saw this as my chance; that was mine, underestimating my power. "Repeat what you just said," he roared. I knew he had a vague idea of what I had said already, he just needed an excuse to lay into me.
I looked at him and my face must have held at least some of the pure hatred I was feeling at the time. "Just die," I hissed. "Please." He dropped me immediately, eyes wide, terror in his expression. I didn't understand what I had done, what power I really had until then, and, panicking, I turned opened the door and ran. I had barely gone a hundred metres when a hand grasped my shoulder and restrained me. "Get off!" I screamed.
"Hoyle!" ordered a voice I knew only too well. Father Mead. I calmed down immediately and a story came to my mind.
"It's Mr Trevayne, sir," I mumbled. "He tried to... to... you know, do things to me, and I kicked him and managed to escape and he was making all sorts of funny noises and..."
"Calm down, Hoyle," the priest said sternly. "Now where is Mr Trevayne?"
I pointed at the door of the room I had just left at the far end of the corridor. He grabbed my arm and dragged me down there and pushed open the door. There, laying the floor, his face still a mask of terror was Trevayne. The stain on the front of his pants was clearly visible probably from when I told him to fuck himself, but they were not to know that, and I didn't know about things like that either at the time – and the good father quickly ushered me into his office.
To cut along story short, they really couldn't work out what killed him, but I was given a large cash payment – or, at least, my grandmother was given the money – and nothing more was made of it... except my grandmother started to watch me out of the corners of her eyes and treat me with even more suspicion than usual. But that one incident had done it for me for quite a while, and I fell into a withdrawn state that psychologists put down to the 'attempted rape' and the teachers put down to divine intervention. And then I decided to find my mother...
My grandmother slapped me for the last time when I told her of my plan to find the woman she had taken me from ten years earlier. I was fifteen and determined as hell to find out what sort of people my parents were, why I had received this strange gift, this power to kill with a word. In the three years since Mr Trevayne's unexplainable death I had become reticent and tried hard not to use the word please at all... except of course for my grandmother's insistent "What's the magic word, Samuel?" I could have killed her every time she said that in the six months following the murder. I did, in the end, relent and say the word to her, mumbling it as though embarrassed.
But, things being as they were, and me being the little bastard I was, that use of the word which caused things to happen did come out, but thankfully not very often. And when it did it was not serious... at least, I don't think it was ever very serious. But the fact of the matter was that it was something I couldn't control, and I wanted desperately to be able to control it. The blood of a man – an arsehole to be sure, but still a man – was on my hands and that scared me. The religion which I was forced to believe in as I grew up, but which by this time I had personally rejected, had left some deep psychological scars and I honestly believed that somehow – I didn't know how, but I knew it – I would be punished for what I had done.
Yet I wanted to understand it and so I came to the conclusion that knowledge of my parents would help. I only found out my mother was still alive by accident when I overheard my grandmother and Aunt Liz talk about her when I was fourteen. I confronted Liz about it and she told me all about being taken away by law and the rest. My grandmother did not even tell Liz until three years previously, and then she never told me. But I let her know that I now knew... and I heard the argument Liz and my grandmother had about that. I never saw Liz again after that. Both my grandmother's daughters gone; that just left me. And no matter how much I hated her, I still felt some strange loyalty towards her, especially after that. Curse imposed morals!
But it eventually came at the height of my depression that I told my grandmother about my quest as we sat watching the television news one night. (One of the many things I had used my power for was to get the right to watch whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.) She didn't say anything but merely stood and looked at me. I thought she was going to just get the information from a drawer or something as she started to walk, but then she darted and, as I wasn't ready for it, her hand struck me a solid blow across the side of the face, rocking my head violently to one side. "Never," she hissed. "Never shall I have reminders of your mother beyond your presence."
"But she's my mother..." I began, but she interrupted as she did so often.
"And so why do you think the court allowed me to take you from her?" she retorted.
"Because you knew exactly who to pay to get what you wanted," I sneered. Her eyes widened and her thin lips became invisible as her mouth was pursed, as if holding her breath. Then the hand darted again but I was ready for it this time. I grasped her around the wrist and stood up. I was not tall by any means, but I stood half a head taller than the elderly woman and was, obviously, a lot stronger. "How dare you..." she started, but her voice trailed off in fear.
And for the first time in years I used my power deliberately. "Please give me all the information you have about my mother," I demanded. Her eyes went vacant and I dropped her arm as she went away. Within minutes she had returned with a hand-written page of notes. I took it from her loose grasp and smiled. "Thank-you," I said gently. "I don't know if I'll be home tonight."
"Samuel," she started angrily, but my look silenced her and I strode quickly away from the house, looking at the last known address and a photograph of the lady who gave birth to me.
As it turned out – and I wasn't at all surprised – in the intervening years my mother had changed address at least three times... the last accompanied by a change of name. But after three weeks of careful detective work – with the immense help of the father of a school friend who helped me with some of the harder-to-find information after I explained the circumstances – I finally tracked her down. Now came the hard part – how did I approach her after so long? What did I say?
I walked up the front path one Tuesday. I thought this was worth skipping school for, but my heart was pounding in my forehead as I knocked on the door. She answered, still as pretty as she was in the old photographs I had seen, though slightly larger. She smiled sweetly and said, "Can I help you, young man?"
My words stuck in my throat at first, but I finally managed, "Are you Carol Gordon, once Caroline Hoyle?"
She seemed surprised at that second name and nodded. "Yes," she replied cautiously, almost suspiciously. "Who are you?"
I smiled despite myself. "My name is Samuel Hoyle," I muttered. "Your son, Samuel."
"If this is some kind of sick joke..." she began, immediately starting to deny the fact.
"Please let me in. To talk," I implored. Her eyes went vacant and she obeyed. I cursed myself for using that... that power to get my own way with my mother. But what was done was done and, besides, it only took me a brief description of my grandmother – her mother – for her to realise I was who I said I was. I stayed so long I met her husband Luke, an office worker, and was introduced to her three children, all cute little girls. But it also took one session where she yelled at her kids for me to realise she did not have the power, and the story that my father, my real father had had to get her drunk before she would sleep with him – and hence refuse an abortion and so get kicked out of home by her mother – told me that he was also devoid of this power. Which left me in the position of having absolutely no idea how this all came about... But at least now I had a family, a real family, with a mother who was perfectly willing to accept me. And as time dragged on, I would spend more and more time there until my grandmother finally died and I inherited her house and possessions, all of which I gave to my mother.
But that's skipping slightly ahead. My grandmother was the fourth person I killed, but it was my second victim which was the start of the end.
I was in my first year of university, studying arts, hoping to transfer into the law faculty the next year. But doing a general arts degree was akin to bumming around and I soon hooked up with a group of people as far removed from the dickheads who had populated the private high school I had attended as possible. And, things being as they were, my grandmother disapproved of them with all of her old stone heart. So much so, in fact, that she stopped my allowance until I stopped hanging out with them. They were bad for the image she had tried so hard and for so long to cultivate for me. I told her I had stopped, but she very quickly discovered that I was lying – probably through her connections at the university – and then there was no way I was going to get a brass razoo for quite a while. She wouldn't even help me buy text books or new clothes; she bought just enough food to feed us with none left over. Within weeks my personal savings had all but dried up. I was desperate; my social life was suffering and without the proper books and paper and stuff, so was my work. And so I robbed a petrol station.
I didn't just suddenly decide one morning: Hey, I think I'll rob a service station. I was walking home from uni (I couldn't even afford bus fair and all my so-called friends had started to treat me like a mooching out-cast and wouldn't even entertain the idea of giving me a lift) and it was raining. Pouring with all its heart. I didn't have the money to ring my grandmother and beg her to come pick me up and by the time I realised this there was no-one about from whom I could borrow money, any money. And so, in the cold and dark and rain, I walked. I decided that the first person I came across I would use my please-power to get money from them and then get home in comfort. But after two kilometres I had found no-one... and then I came across this service station, its lights shining in the rain like a beacon.
I ran inside, shook the rain from myself, then strode boldly up to the counter. Apart from the attendant there were only two others in the shop – a young couple trying to decide which confectionery to buy. I went directly to the counter, ignoring my heart beating heavily in my throat, looked at the man and said slowly and evenly, "Give me all your money, please."
His face went blank as I had expected and he opened the till and handed over all the money that was in there. I dropped the coins on the floor and made to leave with at least a thousand dollars in notes when he suddenly yelled, "Robbery!" I spun to face him.
"Shut-up!" I growled.
"Thief!" he screamed and I could hear the male of the couple start to move towards me. I panicked.
"You," I said, pointing to the attendant, "won't you please just lay down and die!" Without waiting I turned and looked at the couple. The man was barely a metre away from me. "And you, please forget that you ever saw me! Please just leave!" They immediately obeyed and I turned back to the attendant. He was on his back on the floor, his whole body still. I checked his pulse; he was definitely dead. My mind just stopped thinking and I started to run on automatic. I rifled his pockets, found his car-keys, took a cigarette lighter from the display case and the ran outside. I placed a trail of petrol from one of the pumps to the door, got in, then lit the fuel before taking off as fast as I could. The ensuing explosion actually made the car lift up into the air briefly as a fireball punched its way into the rainy sky. Then I drove and didn't stop.
I spent three months away from home, living out of the stolen car off the money I had taken and off what I could from begging in my own unique way. I only returned home after I killed the police officer. My exact words to him after he had hassled me for vagrancy were, "Oh, please, why don't you just go out the back and shoot yourself in the head?" And, of course, he did. I dumped the car in a suburb neighbouring my grandma's house at midnight, then walked home and slept in the gutter outside the front walk. My grandmother found me the next morning when she got the paper from the front garden and almost dragged me inside. I didn't resist this time. I even suffered through her lecture. But she didn't even ask me where I'd been for the past three months. She just told me that the university had notified her that I was no longer a student there and what did I intend to do. I told her that those people I used to hang around had done something to a servo and that I knew and I left before they could do anything to me.
She actually believed me. I know that because she re-instated my allowance and pulled in some favours to get me accepted back into university. Despite all this, the only words she said to me about it were: "This is the only time. Next time, you can stay with your mother for all I care."
That was the only time I've ever felt an emotion that wasn't bad towards her. She seemed to actually care; maybe she had even been worried. And yet, despite all this, within eight more months she was dead...
After the return of the prodigal grandson it did not take long for things to return to normal. I spent more and more time with my mother and less and less time at home. My mother made such a fuss over me after my three months away that I started to cry; she thought it was for love, but it was really out of shame for having lied to her about why I really went away.
My grandmother and I did not actually have any arguments or anything like that, things just deteriorated between us. She was pleased that my marks were finally "reflecting my ability", but couldn't they be even better still? Why did I watch so much television? What did I spend all my money on? Who was this girl I was seeing so much of and why didn't I ever bring her to meet my grandmother? This last came about from a lie. I lied to my grandmother and she knew it. The girl in question was, as we both knew full well, my mother.
Luke Gordon, my mother's husband called me one night and asked me to come over. I told my grandmother he was a friend from uni and she grunted in return, but I could tell she knew I was lying. I didn't know how, but she knew. She even knew, I think, who he really was. I knew all this before I left, and I discovered how she knew when I finally arrived at my mother's house. My grandmother had been there.
My mother was in tears. Grandmother had offered her a huge sum of money to stop seeing me. An enormous sum of money. Enough to buy a new house and car and relocate to anywhere in the world she wanted. When my mother had refused, my grandmother had produced the legal document stating that she was not even allowed to see me at all, under any circumstances. Fifteen minutes after I arrived so did two police cars. One took me back home, the other took my mother to a police station where she was booked for breaking a court order. The charges were to be pressed by my grandmother. My wishes, because I was not yet eighteen (one month shy, in fact) were completely ignored.
"Why?" I asked my grandmother. She was seated in her usual chair, the television showing the channel two, commercial-free news service. I stood in the doorway, hands on hips, anger so powerful it must have been an aura. She looked at me and knew that it was pointless to deny anything.
"I did it for your own good. And, like the other times, you would never have known, but your mother's stubborn streak, which I see in you all the time, got the better of her."
"That Georgie girl. She accepted two thousand dollars to leave you. She was no good. And that Michael person who rode the bike. I gave him a thousand and he rode off into the sunset, never to be seen again." She saw me start to speak, but she continued before I could. "They – your mother included – are no good for you. It's bad enough you have a school record to contend with, let alone unsavoury acquaintances."
"Please..." I intoned, but she again interrupted... and that was her downfall.
"Your mother's a no-good, lying tramp! Your father was a bum! And now those genes are coming through in you! You're a disappointment! They could never have given you what I have! And, if I have my way – and you know by now that I do – you will legally never see that woman again. You should have left well enough alone. She could never have given you what I have..."
"Why don't you just die!" I screamed. "Shut-up and die! She can give me love and a family. You give me money when you think I deserve it. She gives me..." My voice faded as I realised I was talking to a corpse. My wish for her to die had followed my please... and now she was gone...
The next two years, until I was twenty, are a sort of blur. It was during this time that I killed most of my victims. I don't remember their names, and in most cases I don't even remember what they did to inspire their deaths. I managed to make over a million dollars just by begging in my own way. But I drifted from place to place, unable to settle. The death of my grandmother affected me more than I could ever have realised, made worse by the fact that it was all my fault. The police knew, but they let me go because how could they charge some-one with murder by natural causes? Suddenly there was no-one there to protect me, to force me to direct my energies. But there was also no-one who goaded me and made me feel constantly angry. But that's just me trying to justify for myself what I'd done. Despite everything the lady did to me and how much I hated her, she didn't deserve to die, not like that...
I wandered around, just feeling sorry for myself, for over two years, as I've said. Just wandering. And everywhere I went, I'd leave dead body, and then I'd just disappear. I'm not sure how many I killed in that time, but it had to be at least eight, including those three aborigines who tried to rob me in Alice Springs that time. And then, in Brisbane, I met Lisa...
She was not the best-looking girl I'd ever met, but she was pleasant enough. My God, but that sounds callous! She had lovely, long brown hair, incredible green eyes and an athletic figure... and I actually fell in love with her and six months later – yesterday, in fact – I killed her. Twice. Two times I killed her, the second by my hand... But, yet again, I'm jumping ahead of myself.
I was sleeping on a park bench in Brisbane, surrounded by seven half-caste aborigines and two pure-bloods, my friends and companions for the previous three nights. I didn't have to stay with them; with the money I had in the bank, there was no real reason to, but I felt like, maybe, it was a penance I had to pay for murders that couldn't be proved even if I admitted them to the authorities. That good ol' religious fucking upbringing again. Shit, I've always hated the morals imprinted on my mind... maybe there wouldn't be so many dead people because of me if I hadn't been repressed so much by those religious arseholes who dragged me up.
Anyway, I was the only white person there... and that's probably why I stood out when Lisa was with us. She was a uni student studying sociology and was watching us for part of a paper she was writing. Typical of most white Australians, she was at least partially and subconsciously racist and so it was me, the only white man in the group whom she interviewed. Well, one thing led to another and she accepted my invitation to dinner the following night. I turned up in a rented-limousine and brand new tuxedo and took her to a very nice restaurant. And, of course, she asked me why I was there, in the park, if I could afford all of this. And, of course, I lied my arse off.
I told her I was a reporter and that that was my angle for a human interest story. And she bought it, hook, line and sinker. And by the end of the week I'd slept with her and after another four days she moved into my hastily rented apartment. I explained the sparsity of furniture as all I could afford on a reporter's salary and she believed me and before the month was out all of her belongings had been shifted into my apartment and as I went off to my 'job' and she went to university we fell in love.
Sweet, huh? Well, not really. Right from the word go I was inundated with a feeling of deja vu. We argued and it built up. Just like with my grandmother. For six months we fought, but we loved each other and that's why we stayed together. The sex was great and, when we weren't fighting, being together was the best time of my life. But, as time progressed the fighting became more and more dominant. But I resisted – completely resisted – the temptation to use my special power on her. I told her to curl up and die more times than I care to count and she told me to fuck myself more times than I want to remember. Yet I, in fact neither of us, used that word... until yesterday.
I can't even remember how the argument started this time, as with most times, but it ended the same, but with that strange little difference which made it different and deadly. "I don't believe you can be so insensitive!" she screamed. She always screamed that.
"Me?" I returned. "I'm the one who comes home whenever she wants, no matter what we have planned?"
"I'm studying. And sometimes it goes longer than normal. Don't you understand that?"
"Sure. Studying another man's anatomy."
She stood and stared at me angrily. "How dare you!" she hissed, then slapped me hard across my face. Another wave of sickening deja vu swept over me. "Maybe I have spent time with Russell, but maybe he cares more."
"And maybe he's just using you for a cheap fuck." My own anger was boiling over, but I'd felt this many times before... especially where her study partner Russell was concerned.
"A cheap fuck? So now the truth comes out. That's all I am to you. You bastard!" She slapped me again, this time drawing blood from my nose. I didn't give her the satisfaction of wiping it away.
"If that's all you were, I know I could find something a lot less of a hassle." I managed to keep my voice toned down, which I knew annoyed her even more.
"And I have," she returned simply.
I grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her around to face me. "So, you have been screwing Russell," I growled.
"Go fuck yourself," she hissed.
"Curl up and die," I returned automatically, as I had done so often. "Now, just tell me: have you been screwing Russell?"
"And Mike and, once, Mike's wife Louise." Now it was my turn; my hand cracked across her cheek like a rifle shot. She collapsed to the floor. "I suppose I deserved that," she muttered.
"Yeah, you..." I started, but she interrupted.
"And you deserve this." She shot her toot up and connected with my groin as hard as she could. I'd never been hit there as hard as that before and I immediately fell to the floor next to her. I lifted a fist to hit her and she cowered back. My hand opened and came to rest on her breast. She looked at me, then darted her head forward and violently planted her lips on mine. I relaxed and grabbed her in a tight embrace... and then screamed. She had rammed her knee as hard as she could into my crotch again. The pain was even worse than before and my testicles felt like they had completely shrunk back into my stomach. I wanted to vomit but nothing would come out...
"You want a fuck," she growled as she leapt to her feet, "then, please, go fuck yourself."
I looked up at her and what came out was the old habit with the automatic phrase I had used so often when arguing with Lisa: "And you, please, curl up and die!"
You can guess what happened next. She rolled herself up into a ball and simply stopped breathing and her heart just stopped beating. I panicked; I'd been in this position so many times before, but never with some-one I felt so close to... apart from, maybe my grandmother. But despite everything I did love, genuinely love, her. And then an idea hit me. She could only have been dead thirty seconds; the brain was supposed to be able to survive for four minutes after the body stopped. I just prayed my power did not affect that as well. I tenderly picked up her head and whispered in her ear, passionately and tearfully, "Don't die; please don't die Lisa." Her eyes opened immediately, blinked against the light, looked at my face, and then she fainted in my arms. A brief glimpse of something stuck in the back of my mind; I knew there and then that not everything was as it seemed now, that things had changed forever... that the end had come...
I checked her life-signs quickly, to try and work out just what it was that had seemed so wrong but that I didn't want to admit to myself. Her breath came in laboured, short bursts and her heart-beat was faint, but she was alive and back with me... Yet, as I had thought, things were not as they seemed. Not by a long shot, and before the day was out I committed a murder that they really could find me guilty of...
Lisa awoke some four hours later. And the first thing she did was cry. Not just cry, but bawl, in a long, unintelligible stream of noise. Like a new-born. I ran to her side where I had lain her on our bed and held her hand and stroked her hair until she calmed down and started to gurgle happily. And it was confirmed there and then that something was seriously wrong. "Lisa," I said gently in her ear.
She turned her head towards the sound of my voice but her eyes did not focus on me. I continued to stroke her hair, but something did not seem right physically with her. I looked more closely. The roots of her long, brown hair had turned white, snow white. And her eyes. They had lost their green colour to turn a dull yellow and they were filmy, as if coated by a thin membrane. That was what I had first seen when she had come back from death, that was what had not seemed right, but which I couldn't put my finger on.
My mind went into a dull state. I didn't know what to do, but it was obvious that whatever had happened to her had had a great effect on her. An effect I couldn't even begin to comprehend. I reached down and took her hand in mine. Her fingers reflexively grabbed my hand but there was no strength in the grip. "Lisa, can you hear me?" I asked carefully.
This time she did not even turn her head towards me, she just stared straight ahead through those inhuman eyes. I dropped her hand and stood up. Her face contorted into a mask of fear and her whole body shook as she tried to move but couldn't, then came that pathetic howl I had heard before. It was pure terror and I quickly sat down beside her and stroked her hair again and held her hand. She calmed almost immediately and resumed her meaningless gurgling. I just looked at her, staying with her until she fell asleep. Only then did I stand and leave her. She made no other sound except a strange, heavy breathing, almost snoring, noise, her body not moving except the gentle rise and tall of her chest.
On the off-chance I reached out and placed my hand just below her left breast. Her heart-beat was strong, but it took a few seconds for me to fully realise that it didn't seem right. I tested it against my own heart. My heart was going b'm-b'm, b'm-b'm in double spurts. Hers was going b'm, b'm, b'm in single beats. What had I done to her? I carefully laid her down, making sure she was asleep, and then went directly into the kitchen, pulled a bottle of Scotch from the cupboard and downed the whole lot in ten minutes...
What happened next, as you can imagine after a bottle of Scotch, is something of a blur. But I think I know enough to write it down, making some guesses where appropriate, leaving things out which I wouldn't presume to guess. I know where it all started. Lisa was howling again, waking me up from a drink-induced slumber. The kitchen clock said that it was four in the afternoon. I ran to the bedroom and Lisa's side. She was sitting up, arms outstretched, crying. I breathed a sigh of relief; she could move again, maybe there was some hope after all.
But her head lolled crazily on her shoulders and then she collapsed and I got the full force of the aroma rising from her body. Like a baby, she had shit herself. The crying had stopped and she now stared blankly through those fogged-over eyes at the ceiling. "Lisa, what's going on?" I cried.
She didn't even respond physically. She just didn't understand my words; whatever had happened to her between death and re-life had destroyed her mind so totally and completely that there was no semblance of humanity left. What was once a pretty, intelligent uni student was now a human vegetable, unable to see, mindless, with no control. "What have I done?" I muttered to myself. But there was no possible answer.
For the next few hours or so I don't know what happened exactly. I know, but don't remember, that I undressed Lisa and cleaned her up. I think I tried to make love to her, but didn't receive a response in any way, shape or form. It was worse than masturbation, worse than anything. She didn't even seem to know that anything was happening to her. Would that be rape? There's one for the books – sex with a vegetable. But, as I've said, I'm not sure that I did; maybe it was just a very vivid fantasy.
I do remember looking into her eyes for ages. Just staring into those clouded orbs. There was nothing there, not a spark. In a moment of anger, followed by a moment of passion I had destroyed the life of a woman, a once beautiful woman, by killing her and bringing her back... and I didn't even know how I did it! Her eyes followed sudden and new sounds, but she couldn't have seen things properly. I wondered what she had seen in that all too brief period when she had been dead... and what was going through her mind and what she was seeing now through her view of the world. She had been dead and now she was alive... if you could call what cruel fate I had inflicted upon her life. A trickle of spittle ran down her jaw but she didn't even seem to notice. Her tongue lolled out and her hands opened and closed briefly in a spasm of muscle action... She couldn't be called human...
I consider me putting the pillow over her head euthanasia, but that is illegal here, especially if done by suffocation. She didn't even struggle, she just stopped breathing, and then that strange heart-rate stopped and then her entire body fell completely limp beneath my weight. I climbed off and looked at her still form. I had tried my please, but as she couldn't understand me, that failed. So, I had had to use more physical means. I had never been this close to one of my victims before. I opened her eyes and looked in. That cloudy film now completely obscured the irises; only the pupils were visible, and those as faint brown dots through the yellow. Those white roots at the base of her hair seemed maybe five millimetres longer. But, worse of all, she was smiling.
It wasn't a grim caricature of a smile like I've seen in pictures of drowning victims (apparently caused when they become anoxic) but a genuine smile. The tips of her teeth lust visible between the gap between her lips, the corners of her mouth upturned ever so slightly, but enough to make the tiny dimple in her left cheek show itself. And when I allowed her eyes to again close the creases at their corners showed that the smile reached them as well. She was really smiling, almost as if she was glad that I had killed her the second time... almost as if she had possessed some semblance of intelligence in that shattered mind.
People had seen the two of us over the past three days or so; how would they possibly believe that Lisa had suddenly become what she had become? Why hadn't I sought professional help if it had, in fact happened? Why did I pre-empt medical science and take her life? What could I tell them? The truth – that I did it with a word? And then get locked away forever, unless I used my power to get me out of it, which wouldn't be overly difficult. But would it be worth the trouble? And how could I live with myself after what I'd done not only to Lisa but those other, nameless people? Fuck religion and its self-righteous morals! If I'd been brought up by my real mother and then discovered this power would things have turned out differently? Would I be thinking like this, so confused and helpless?
I've got to stop asking myself these stupid bloody rhetorical questions. And so, instead of anything else, all I did was sit at Lisa's desk, switch on her electric type-writer and bang out this here tale. Ten hours I've been at it, and now I'm almost finished. Lisa's corpse is smiling so sweetly and gently at me from the bed where I propped her up so she could watch me and, well, inspire me and make me keep my promise. What promise? The promise that by the end of this tale I will be dead by my own hand.
Once last glance at my last victim... or my last two victims, depending on how you look at it. I killed her. Actually, she's not my last victim. I'm my last victim. I can't go on like this any more. Lisa's smile is mocking me, urging me to do it. How can I resist her when she smiles like that?
OH, PLEASE LET ME DIE!!