And I ended up writing my first piece of fiction in five years. Finally, I'm back in the saddle. Let's hope I don't fall off again.
Please enjoy. I know not many of you wanted to see original fiction, but it's only a thousand words. Humor me. You're going to have to sit through my commentary on the writing process tomorrow anyway.
Title: Killed the Cat
Fandom: The twisted recesses of my own mind
Spoilers: It was Earth all along
Word Count: 1000
Summary: She'd wanted to see what it was like to kill someone.
Notes: This story was written for the picfor1000 challenge and thus inspired by this picture, officially. And this song, unofficially. Thanks to my betas: cadhla, amy37, and especially my dear hobviously, without whom this story would be 80% crap instead of 20%.
What she had done was murder, plain and simple.
As Karen stared at the speckles of blood on her old college sweatshirt, she thought about how she was going to explain herself. Everyone would think she was crazy, that she was acting out. But blaming it on her dad's death would be insincere. She hadn't done it as a form of misguided revenge. She hadn't done it to make a statement. She'd just…wanted to see what it was like.
She'd wanted to see what it was like to kill someone. To take a human life. To eliminate a person's future. She wasn't insane. She was simply curious.
The sun was setting on the last day of Karen's natural life. From this day forward, her life would be rather unnatural. She was living on Max's time, now. Each day she spent in jail—and she was going there, she had no illusions about that—would be a day she had stolen from him. She was a thief as well as a murderer.
She paced back and forth in the alley, walking from one wall to the other. She still had the gun in her purse. Why hadn't she gotten rid of it? Wasn't that the first rule? It was unimportant, she supposed. Her unnamed accomplice deserved to be implicated in her crime.
When the man had asked her why she wanted a handgun, she had answered, "Protection." From fading away into the background, from becoming absorbed by a life that refused to begin. She had been set apart already; now, she would set herself apart.
Karen couldn't pinpoint the catalyst. Media saturated with violence both real and fictional merged with scenes she had witnessed herself to form a morbid mental collage. From what she could see, death had no rules, plucking people out of the timeline with no regard. Those left behind had their worlds ripped apart. She had found it both fascinating and horrifying. In her decades of life, she had never done something so momentous. Yet, she hadn't even thought to learn how to properly shoot a gun: she would only use it once, after all.
She had closed her eyes. At the last second, she had cheated herself out of actually seeing what she was doing. She had walked up to Max, who was standing there on the sidewalk, and she had pulled the gun out of her purse, raised it to Max's head, and shot him. But she had closed her eyes. All she knew of the experience was from her other senses. The sound of the gunshot. The smell of the gunpowder. The taste of spearmint gum, which she had temporarily stopped chewing. The feel of the trigger against her finger followed by the surprising recoil that had almost caused her to lose her grip. Her eyes had flown open, but all she'd seen was the sky. She hadn't even looked at the body; she'd just put the gun in her purse and walked away.
There was an unexpected emptiness inside her now, as if a piece of her soul had been stripped away and the cold air had rushed in to fill the void. Tremors ran up and down her arms and legs like little demons condemning her for her transgression. She had thought there would be—yes, there it was, the increase in heart rate. But that was nothing more than fear, the same as if Max had pointed a gun at her. She closed her eyes and searched for the guilt.
Karen leaned against the wall, breathing in and out. In, out. In, out. Inhale, life. Exhale, death. Spearmint-flavored death. She shamefully gorged herself on the oxygen that Max could no longer enjoy.
She had named him Max, if only so she could think of him as someone other than "that guy I killed." Even though naming him made him a person, one she knew nothing about. For all she knew, Max had a wife and kids. Yes, and he sold insurance. Insurance! And he drove a mid-size sedan and played poker with friends every Tuesday. And his daughter's name was Sophia. She was probably in third grade.
Karen thought about it in terms of potential. She assumed she had zero, and Max had eighty. Eighty what, she wasn't sure, but she decided Max had eighty more than she did. Because she was a known quantity, a Borders cashier with a Master's in Russian literature, but Max, Max could have been anyone. He could have done anything. Maybe she had inadvertently changed the course of history.
She slid down the wall.
Maybe it shouldn't have been someone random. Not someone entirely random. She should have done research. But that would have changed it all. That wasn't how death operated. To have put more thought into it would have been cheating.
The sun had set, and Karen's alley had gone dark. She could no longer read the graffiti on the walls. The artist had left his mark on the world, and now so had she, although she was more of an eraser than a painter. A negative mark. Maybe she should have called him Mark.
The emptiness inside her was growing, expanding. Not content with devouring her heart, it had taken a good chunk out of her lungs. She placed a hand on her chest, but the cold was contained. It was if it weren't even real. Like she was imagining the feeling of cold, like she was maybe even imagining her guilt. Maybe she didn't feel bad at all. Maybe she just thought she was supposed to feel bad. Did it really matter, with the cold inside her?
Karen pulled the gun out from her purse. Might as well make it easy for them. The gun was cold now too, and this was a cold she could feel with her hand. She closed her eyes and waited for the police to come.
She couldn't help feeling bad about her sweatshirt. It was ruined.