The Anguish of an Echo by Ian Zerafa
It wasn’t the most pleasant of murders. I’d like to say that I wasn’t taking it personally – Elijah and I had been trying to kill each other for years. But he was definitely crossing a line here, this was my home! I must’ve really pissed him off when I set that fire… I coughed, expelling the blood and broken teeth I’d been choking on. Elijah had petulantly demolished his way through my teeth with a pair of pliers, after I had stubbornly refused him access to my tongue. After such a drawn-out conflict, I was quite nonchalant about dying, but I refused to make it easy for him. I tried to spit as much as I could onto him, but in my weakened state, all I managed to do was coat my own face with the annoyingly warm, sticky substance. In my defence, being stapled to the floor by a spike through the left shoulder, the angle was against me. Plus, spitting without a tongue was hard. Elijah wordlessly jammed something blunt into my eye. I conceded him a short scream.
“You know,” he said, grunting as he plucked my eye out before walking back to his table of tools. “I’m almost sorry that you won’t be able to see the rest of what I’m going to do to you. But don’t worry!” He lifted something off the table and waved it, “This way you’ll get the best part of the show!”
I froze as my remaining eye focused on what he held. He was using my blood to paint on a white urn, copying symbols from his black book. He didn’t need to tell me my tongue and eye were in there. A cold knot settled in my stomach, and my bravado faded as I realised I wasn’t the only one involved in his plan. A real terror set in. I thrashed, but my broken, twisted limbs couldn’t muster the strength to dislodge the spike through my shoulder. He smirked as he saw my contempt and arrogance slip away, along with any possibility that I could make a good show of dying. He knew he’d won. He wielded the blunt object again, and I saw nothing but blackness for the short remainder of my life.
Sandra had always thought that being tired but happy was the best combination. It’s a combination that signifies a life that is busy, but busy with things that fulfil it. She’d had a great day at work, coming up with such a breakthrough on the project she was newly in charge of, that her boss insisted she take the afternoon off. Sandra sneakily suspected that Adrian’s good grace had at least a little to do with her gorgeous new business suit, but she was too proud of her work to let that get her down. She’d used the rest of her day to brush off errands she’d been saving for the weekend, meaning that for the first time in ages, she and Eric would have a completely free Saturday together.
She was always wary of putting relationships before her own needs, but she was terribly excited to make an exception just this once – it was, after all, the first weekend they’d have together since their engagement. Feeling too accomplished not to be cheeky, Sandra picked up an Indian from her favourite place on the way home, rather than the Chinese she knew Eric would’ve preferred. She never thought she’d have come to appreciate his messiness, but it seemed to have paid off today – he always left his clothes on the armchair rather than chucking them in the laundry, so she’d swiped his lucky tie to wear with her new suit. As far as she was concerned, the smell of his day-old cologne was more than enough luck, but that damn tie had really gone above and beyond today.
Linguini had a sixth sense for Indian food, and could be counted upon to be ready and waiting behind the door whenever she brought some home, unless an emergency came up, such as Next Door grilling a tuna. Seeing as she was not assaulted by a grey furball upon entering, she assumed it was a tuna night. No matter. She emptied an extra box of chicken onto the cleanest of the little plates near the cat flap. Tuna, with Indian for dessert – why should she be the only one who gets to indulge in a perfect day?
Or at least, almost perfect. Eric didn’t seem to be home yet. The lights weren’t on in the kitchen and she knew he’d never miss the football. But she’d seen his car outside, hadn’t she? Her lips curled into a frisky smile – the bedroom? Sandra bounded up the stairs, threw open the door and – empty. He must’ve gone shopping. She slunk back down, shoulders slumped. And the kitchen smelt like shit. Eric probably hadn’t cleaned up, honestly, one of these days she was going to – she flicked the light switch, and blanched.
The Indian fell to the floor, forgotten. Three tall wooden stakes kept Eric’s body upright – the outer ones each passing through a knee and elbow, the middle one bursting from his mouth. Sandra couldn’t tear her eyes away. She gasped for air as she stepped forward, each ragged inhalation peppered with a sob. She tried to scream his name, but her gulps drowned her words. The horror emanating from the grotesque totem seemed to pulse in physical waves that broke over her and forced her screams back down her throat.
Impossibly empty holes where his warm eyes once were. Ears – stumps, caked in dried blood. Face such a mess Sandra would never know that his nose had been removed too. Or that the skin from his fingertips had been flayed off. She saw more than enough though. A mutilated torso. The unnatural contortions of the limbs. The spikes through the limbs. A ravenous hole straight through the left shoulder.
Then, breaking the monotonous dripping of blood, she heard a whimper.
Sandra’s heart lurched with a unique mix of revulsion and hope. He couldn’t be alive, but….
“Eric! Don’t move! I’ll call someone!” She found her voice as she clutched his wrist. At her touch, Eric’s limbs went taut, and he groaned. The wood echoed his groan as he reached to take her hand in his, then crushed it with inhuman strength. Sandra screeched as, with a thunderous racket, the corpse ruptured the wood binding it and leapt upon her, driving her to the ground.
The urn ignited as Elijah’s spell took effect. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin burned, symbolising each of my senses, manifesting a spirit that could see, hear, and feel all. Elijah forced me to watch my own cursed, mutilated corpse tear my fiancé to pieces. The last things I saw on this earth were the fear, confusion and betrayal in her eyes as the man she loved rained down punches like bone-cracking thunder, before raking and ripping her to gore with his bare fingers. Ethereal as I was, I couldn’t pull the corpse off her. I tried with everything I had. There was no way. And when I failed, I held her hand while she died, trying to convince myself that she could sense me and take solace in her final moments. And after my corpse ripped the still-living hand off, I kept trying to cry, until everything in the urn fell to ash.
About the Author: Ian is an M.A. student, reading for a degree with the faculty of arts. Within his creative circle, he’s best known for squandering all his creativity on nightmarish puns.