I’m awake far earlier than I expected to be this morning, so I got the random inspiration to attempt the resurrection of any story-writing ability I may have ever had. This is what came out. Critiques are welcome, but let’s try to keep the “dude you’re fucked up”s to a minimum, shall we?
He Was Just Visiting…
He was just visiting. Always just a visitor here, never belonging, never quite at any kind of peace with his surroundings, never anything closer than something left of center. The space between the air colored by his existence there just didn’t blend with the background. He was just skilled or stealthy enough to effortlessly glide past the careless, inobservant or just plain apathetic eye. So it was and so it had always been. That was, in most cases, more camouflage than he needed, and certainly more than enough to get by.
This time it was someone he knew, which was an unfortunate circumstance in his particular profession. In this instance it was a girl, and someone who unfailingly incited a smile across his dimly expressive features. She was working the night shift on the fourth floor; the interim tomb which housed the dying and nearly dead. She was someone from what you could accurately describe as a past life, though not in the same sense that the cycle of becoming acquainted with the pale horse’s rider and returning to wormy earth to rot had come full circle. She was someone whose less than virtuous character traits he chose to ignore, for the simple reason that he allowed himself to enjoy what little mortal comfort there was in the space of the fractions of seconds between a smile of recognition, the embrace of honest friendship that always followed, and the tiny moment of awkward silence that shared space with the dissipation of warmth after the parting of clothes and skin. He had always thought of her with fond remembrance, and a silent reverie he rarely allowed himself for anyone.
On his way out of the elevator as it made its characteristic “ding” and the digital display lit up with the number four, he passed a girl he did not recognize from his earlier visits here, presumably an LNA or something along those lines, going about her business, nothing terribly distinguishing about her at all, really. In her wake though; that little void of air someone leaves behind with every forward step, that absence of space where the bleach and sterile-smelling molecules once resided, was flooded with the unmistakable scent of a very familiar perfume as their paths paralleled in opposite directions. His lungs, purely by reflex and perhaps cellular memory reacted, and filled themselves to capacity.
He thought it funny, amusing in a slightly twisted way, how what was once and somewhat still his favorite scent could flood his mind with pleasant memory and in less than the space of a moment, drive him to undeniably consider throwing himself from one of the fourth story windows. The past always finds some kind of inopportune instant to remind you of the failures you play closest to your chest.
He turned to the left out of the elevator and continued with a determined gait down one of the many long, fluorescently lit, sterile and generally uninviting corridors toward the patient rooms and tiny staff area, which he knew was sure to be deserted at this time of night. At least, it would be deserted except for the object of his night’s mission. Aside from the one girl walking in the opposite direction in the last hallway, he saw not another single body, not even as he passed the nurse’s station. At least that would make his work slightly easier. He took no particular pleasure in what he did, or had to do, he just knew it had to be done. He wasn’t even entirely sure how he knew, just that it was a conviction of the kind he never felt in any other aspect of his hollow life.
After another two hallways, he found her, back turned to him, right outside the staff area filling a pitcher with ice and water, presumably for one of the patients in her charge that night. She turned around with a slight start, hidden almost immediately when she recognized who was behind her. Her honey-blonde hair swept over her shoulder as her head turned toward him just slightly before the rest of her body, in a graceful motion he had always appreciated about the fairer sex. Something about the pivot from the hips that always seemed of especially elegant design only found in females. She tilted her head up to meet his eyes, as there was almost a full foot’s difference in their height, and smiled at him in that way of hers that always seemed to bring color into his world. He could never help but smile back, most often with absolutely nothing to say beyond ‘Hi.’ His vocabulary when it came to responding to the affections of women was stunted, at best.
She grabbed his hand in hers, so small and delicately articulate, and led him into the small staff area just beyond the ice and water machine she had been standing in front of when he unintentionally surprised her from behind. Idle conversation followed as it inevitably was bound to do, but he never took his eyes off the smile that both played across her lips and in the corners of her eyes. From his meager understanding of emotion and how it displayed itself in facial features, he knew she was genuinely happy to see him. It only made him even more despondent with what he knew he had to accomplish before leaving the hospital. She backed up against the wall to the right of the staff refrigerator with her hands linked behind her back and her head slightly cocked to one side as she always did when she was totally comfortable around someone. He took this as one of the highest compliments, and wished it meant something more than that he did his job incredibly well. He asked her how her night was going, how the patients were treating her, and other such insignificant details of her life since he had last seen her. She responded in that meek voice that he had come to love hearing, until there was a moment of silence between them, just breathing… she never stopped smiling.
He stepped in closer to her, not a foot between them while looking directly into her eyes. He could tell by the expression on her face that she was slightly surprised, but by the quickening in her breathing and the rising and falling of her chest that she was also excited. He placed his left hand on her corresponding shoulder for a moment; she cast a quick glance down toward it and silently peered back into his eyes once again. He brought his hand up to the side of her face, the back of his fingers just barely touching the porcelain skin and brushing a few strands of hair back beyond her ear. The pale in the skin under her eyes flushed for just a few short seconds, and he resigned himself to what he had to do with a slight twinge of sadness that it would be the last color he would ever see in her skin. He knew from experience that the memory would linger like the echo of a ghost for as long as he drew breath.
The slender, silver blade slid silently down his right forearm, under the sleeve of his coat until only about four inches were exposed; that was all he needed. Before she could register what was happening, or avert her gaze, he brought his left hand to cover her mouth and his face flashed to one of resigned pity and remorse as he drove the blade home between her third and fourth ribs, directly into her heart. There was very little blood, there never was, even though the blade pierced the muscle wall of the heart itself. It was designed precisely to leave little more than a puncture behind. The breath poured from her lungs in one strained gasp, then several shorter ones as she stared up at him with the look that always pained him the most; it wasn’t one of pain, it wasn’t one of betrayal, it was the look of someone who just didn’t understand. They never understood, and he could never explain it to them. He couldn’t bring himself to look away from her beautiful face, her mouth slightly parted in surprise underneath his hand, and those eyes looked up at him in terrified disbelief. As the life drained out of them, he stared into her beautiful blue eyes, some of the most amazing he had ever seen. The kind of blue one would think reserved for gods and kings. The muscles around his mouth tensed for just a moment and he felt a solitary tear, sickeningly appropriate for the solitude he felt in his life, fall down his cheek as the last of the light faded from those dilated cerulean glacial pools. He thought of how he could have so easily lost himself in those eyes under different circumstances, and now he would never have that opportunity. He removed his hand from her mouth, no longer capable of emitting sound, and removed the tear from the path it was taking toward his chin. He brushed it across her cheek, ran his hand down across her eyes to close them, kissed her forehead and said a wordless prayer for her safe and painless passing. To say he regretted what he had to do would be a significant understatement in cases such as this, but he knew there was a reason. There was always a reason.
He let the blade slip back up into his coat sleeve and caught her delicate body as her willowy limbs lost their ability to support her, and her musculature went limp beneath him. He gently slid her body to the floor against the cold, cinder block wall, and crossed her arms over her stomach which would no longer move in pace with her breathing. Her head titled slightly to the right as her body rested on the floor. He wished there was a more graceful way to leave her there, but he knew there wasn’t much he could do once his job was over. He lowered himself down into a crouch before her body on the featureless tile floor, her back resting against the wall, whispered a sincere apology he knew she couldn’t hear, then said another prayer, this time for the little bit of added darkness in his own soul. He brought himself to stand, took one last long look at her and almost allowed himself to wonder why, but he caught himself quickly. He knew there wasn’t room in his life for those kinds of questions. He would miss her, her smile, her voice, and especially her eyes… but it was time for him to leave.
He flipped the switch as he left the small room, leaving her in darkness, probably for at least an hour before anyone found her there, and by then he would be long gone and forgotten to anyone who might have seen him enter or the brief moment in the hall when he first caught her attention. Her name was Katherine, a name which would probably fade with time, but he never forgot their faces, especially in their final moments. There wasn’t a way to erase that from his memory no matter how much he may have wanted to. He did not know what she had done to warrant her fate, and he found it in his greater comfort to never want to know. He turned in the opposite direction from which he had come and directed himself toward the service stairwell at the end of the hall.
He caught that same scent as when he arrived just before he entered the stairwell at the back of the building. He paused with his hand on the door, halfway open, and had the same thought of hurling himself out one of the windows only a few feet to his left before he let the door close behind him and was once again on his way. His job was done here, and he hoped he’d never have any reason to return.