by Lauren Ihrke
I can’t believe I didn’t see it before; it seems so obvious to me now. In front of me on the table the ashtray overflows with the butts of my habit. In the pack there were four measly cigarettes left, and the one shaking between my first two fingers was nearly used up completely. I take another pained drag from the stick, trying my hardest to ignore the voice chiding me. How did I never notice it before? Now it screamed at me, refusing to be ignored.
“Those will give you cancer,” it tells me, but I don’t respond. The next drag is extra hard, just to spite the voice, but the fire burns its way through my lungs and is released in a hacking cough. “I don’t know why you’re persisting in acting so childishly.”
I glare at it in offense. How dare it act that way! It should know exactly what’s going on here. Of course I’m offended! All of these years, it’s been lying to me, and now it’s upset because I don’t take it in a stride? I go to take another drag, but the cigarette has been used up. Instead, I scowl again and stub it out in the tray. I go to grab my next stick, but it grabs out first and swipes up the package.
“I think that’s quite enough,” it tells me with scorn as it turns away, rising from the table crossing the room. The package is dropped into a drawer, and the drawer is closed. It thinks it’s winning by doing this, but it’s only angering me. Those cigarettes were the only thing that was helping me to stay calm. I was already shaking for another.
“You can’t do that if I don’t want to you,” I say, almost to myself. I don’t move from the table. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s happened at all, or if I’m imaging things again. I’ve been imagining things a lot lately; it’s getting difficult to tell which is which. “Why are you still here anyway?”
It looks hurt, and then it sighs. “Something is wrong,” it says, looking at me in pity. “I can see that. But, please, stop taking it out on me. Haven’t I always been here for you?”
“That’s what I thought,” I murmur, staring at the table in front of me, rather than looking at it. “But you lied. Since day one, you lied. Still you won’t admit it though. You keep giving me that look, like I’m making things up.” I pause and lift my gaze, glaring at it. “I know you disappear!” I shout at it. “When I’m not around, you don’t exist!”
It’s eyes widen in terror. Now it’s sure that I know it’s lie, and it’s scared. It thought that I was still blissfully unaware. But, I know — oh, I know. I know everything, and I’m ready to tell the world. It isn’t real.
“What are you talking about?” it finally asks, taking a half-step toward me. It held it’s hand out, as if to sooth me, but stopped before it was within reach. It looked scared now, like I was the one here who was dangerous. As if it hadn’t brainwashed me all this time. “Are you okay?”
I scoff. It really was trying hard to keep the lie up. It was pathetic. The game is lost, honey; give it up. “I’m not falling for your tricks anymore,” I tell it, venom dripping from my words. I could see how they cut it; broke it down. Slowly, I stand from my chair, practically seething. “You have no power here anymore.”
I step out from behind the table, and it falls back a step. It’s eyes are wide now, full of terror. “Finally scare of me?” I asked, taking another step forward. It’s stuck at the counter now, and can’t run away. “That’s right. I’m the one in control here. I don’t want you here anymore.” My breath is coming in fast, like I’ve just run up a flight of stairs. I’m excited. I thought this day would never come. “You have to go away.”
It starts crying, staring at me like a hurt child. It plays these games — yes, it does. It wants me to believe that it loves me; that there’s something real there. For a long time, I believed it too, but not anymore. This is going to be finished now.
Wiping at its eyes, it nods slowly. “If that’s what you want,” it says softly. “I won’t stay if you don’t want me.”
“I’ve never wanted you,” I bark, glaring. “I didn’t think I had any control over it before, but now I know, and I want you gone!” I don’t care that it’s beginning to cry with more vigor. It will put on its waterworks, but I won’t be affected. Instead, I move a few feet over, opening a drawer.
Inside there are all sorts of gleaming knives. They were a set that it bought me. I suppose though, I actually bought them for myself, now that I think about it. They really were a very nice set. I fingered the edges of them a moment, relishing how sharp they were. I had finally discovered that I would need to visualize what I wanted to happen for it to happen. This thing wouldn’t just go away because I wanted it to; I would have to make it happen.
I hear a shifting behind me, and half turn my head. It’s trying to leave the room, and I know it’s because it knows what’s going to happen. It’s protecting itself, trying to get away for a few hours until I calm down. I’m faster though, and in seconds I grab it’s shoulder, pushing it up against a wall.
“Three years, you’ve lied to me,” I growl. It shakes it’s head fervently. “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’ve never lied!” My growl comes out more harshly this time. “Don’t lie to me!” I bash it against the wall harder, and it winces, letting out a squeak that ignore. “You let me make a fool of myself!”
Again it whimpers, shaking its head with as much emotion as it can. “I would never lie to you; I love you!”
“You’re not real!” I shout back, growing impatient. My free hand is gripping the knife at my side. I tell myself to just plunge it in; then this will all be done.
“What about me isn’t real?” it shouts. “I’ve lived with you; I’ve slept with you; I met your parents! We were a real couple! We are real!” It’s desperate now, sobbing while it spouts its lies at me. It thinks I’ll take pity on it for all of the fake realities it fed into my brain.
“I want to be healthy,” I tell it softly with a dangerous edge. I do pity it; it can only survive through me. I just can’t live in that world anymore. “You need to go so that I can be healthy. All of this is just a fantasy, and I can’t live it anymore.”
It puts its hands on my shoulders, looking at me desperately. “Just let me go,” it says, sewing its web of lies tighter. “You’ll never see me again. I promise. I’ll do as you want; I’ll leave and never come back.” It’s shaking now uncontrollably, because it knows what’s coming next.
I let out a scream of rage, thrusting forward the knife until I can’t push it forward anymore. My eyes are squeezed shut and all of my muscles are taunt. Then, the grip on my shoulders loosens suddenly; and then it comes back. I open my eyes and look into hers. She’s staring at me wide eyed, in shock. Tears are streaming down her face, but her eyes are quickly glazing over. Her mouth opens and closes in silent terror, but no sounds form. Like a fish out of water, she opens it with a clicking sound in the back of her throat, then it closes again.
Horrified, I jump back, and stare at what’s happened. It’s tricked me again. I didn’t even see her there. I wanted to stab it, not her! “Oh, no! Oh, God, no! I didn’t see you!” I repeat over and over to myself in little more than a breath. I lift my hand to cover my mouth, and it’s gleaming red with her life. “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!” I go forward and push against her stomach, but the blood doesn’t stop. Quickly, I retreat, looking at her in horror.
I rush forward again, picking her up from her slump against the wall, and cradle her against my body. “I’m so sorry,” I sob into her shoulder. “It did this. It didn’t like us being together. I’m so sorry. If I had done this sooner, this wouldn’t have happened. It would be dead, and we could be together; just like old times.”
As her last breaths come in, I pull back and look at her face, cradling it with my blood covered hand. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, even with a knife in her gut and blood creeping from her lips. She looks at me with hurt and betrayal, but still can’t form words. I know that she would tell me she loves me if she could, but death is coming on too fast. In moments, she’s gone.
“Damn you!” I shout at it. It’s ruined things again. Even at my best attempt, I couldn’t kill it! “I’ll get you yet. You aren’t real; I have to do away with you. I have to be healthy.”
Hours later, I still sat on the floor, cradling my love in my arms. Her body grew cold, the phone rang, someone banged on the door wondering about all of the noise, but I never moved. I waited for it to come back, but it didn’t. It finally had me where it wanted me. I didn’t see her there, and now she’s dead.
A manic laugh forms after some time in my stomach, and works its way up through my throat. Soon, my own laugh bounces around the walls, echoing in the empty space. For the first time in months, it isn’t here. I’ve lost her, but it’s gone too! It’s this thought that’s on my mind when the police break in the door, and I laugh at them too.