I’m thinking about doing another set of weekly installments here on Rememorandom, in the vein of flash fiction. Some of the tales may be connected. Some won’t. But I like micro fiction. I like short stories. I like the possibilities they offer. I’ll try to keep each one around 500 words or less, but I make no promises. This one’s 705 words.
He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, reveling the brief respite of feeling the lids closed. How long has it been? Too many years to count. Too many faces to remember. One he wished he could forget.
He turned from the sink and grabbed the hatchet, suddenly ready to end the dark business that lay ahead. The blade was as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, honed and cared for as a child. He’d cast the iron himself, shaping it and molding it to suit his own needs. The handle was worn and aged, weathered and smooth. A perfect tool for an imperfect man.
Downstairs they were tied up. Three of them. Two females, one male. All nameless faces to him. Important names to someone else, maybe. Names were no longer important to him. Why do they do it? Won’t they learn? He slowly made his way down the steps, letting each foot-fall bang loudly. He liked the way it sounded. Made him feel important. Made him forget he was crippled. Almost.
The room was dim, lit only by the fire within the hearth. Long shadows draped across the wooden floor, and he thought briefly of hell. The flames of eternity burning away sins forever. Men cooking in their own filth. Women baking in their own peccancy. He pictured himself there, in a special furnace for people like him. Bile filled his mouth and he spat.
All three were just strangers, in the wrong place at the wrong time. He hated it, but it had to be done. He stood and stared at them for a handful of moments, looking into each red-rimmed eye, hoping his sorrow and remorse shown through his scarred and ruined face. They see only fear. No regret. They were young. Probably college students. Full lives ahead of them. They’re a threat.
He gripped the hatchet and moved closer to the fireplace. How much easier this could be. They were whimpering now. Tears pouring from the three faces, running over the grey tape that covered their mouths, hanging at their chins until the weight grew too much and they fell away into oblivion. Three pitiful sets of eyes, but he had no pity left. He’d been doing this for far too long to have pity. Only regret. Regret that he didn’t get out sooner. Regret that they took everything from him. Regret that he couldn’t leave even if he wanted to.
His hand was white from squeezing the handle of the hatchet, aching slightly and eager to be released. He obliged. The honed blade buried deep into a burning log, sending out a sharp thump and a spray of sparks into the small room. All three sobbed and their bodies shook. One tried to talk, but through the tape it was next to useless.
“This is going to hurt a little,” he growled, his voice cracking from lack of use. He rummaged around through the glowing coals and found what he was looking for. A vial of a lunar caustic variation, or silver nitrate as they liked to call it nowadays, white hot and wicked. He took the hatchet, now edged in orange, and moved behind the trio.
Gently, carefully, he made a searing gash down the male’s neck, between the spine’s beginning and the fringes of hair. One slit, peeling away the skin like butter. He uncorked the lunar caustic mixture and poured the boiling liquid into the cut. The body began to shake uncontrollably until it eventually ceased. He repeated the process with the other two.
The tube was nearly empty, but he’d take no chances. He buried it back beneath the coals, trying to get the image of hell from his mind. “I could’ve killed them,” he said aloud, a weak vindication. It would’ve been better if you had. Now they’re ruined, like you. How many have you broken now? You know what happens to them.
He took his hatchet and managed towards the passed out youth. He bandaged the wounds, cut the restraints loose, and sighed. The bodies slumped down into a pile. They looked dead, their chests rising only slightly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. No you’re not. And he wondered whether or not he was.