The challenge was to have a good look at this startling digital print, Revenge (from The Wolf You Feed series), by Aida Muluneh, and then write a story of no more than 250 words about the hidden assassin that lies in wait in all of us. Image courtesy David Krut Projects Cape Town.
Jenny Alence ‘Moves like dagger’
Walking, as he did daily, along the airy passage to and from his cubicle, George found nothing quite as mesmerising as the rise, sway, jiggle and fall of a large, tightly clad butt. There were a lot of them here where he worked. There was one in front of him now. It belonged to Faith, Head of Human Resources. Sometimes he imagined how a composer might be inspired to express in music this solid rolling and swooping, with contemporaneous playful shimmy.
He was on his way to The Big Man’s office for his annual performance review and it would appear that Faith had been invited too.
The office was large and high, the city stretching obediently before its vast windows. The Big Man loomed behind his big desk. There were three chairs in front of it, one already occupied by The Manager. Faith sat down, motioning for him to sit in the middle.
Immediately he realised that the scene was set, the script rehearsed, the ending certain. Faith’s role was conductor. Having signaled for The Big Man to begin, she would cue The Manager at strategic moments with a deliberate look. Dutifully he would respond by underscoring The Big Man’s sonorous monologue with a concurring nod or corroborative mutter.
Taking his mental leave, George looked over The Big Man’s head and stared through the glass at the sky-scraper opposite. In the midday sun its mirrored windows were glistening like a multitude of dancing daggers.
‘I Do’ Suzette Leal
He insisted on the Josh Groban song for our first dance. When it comes to clichés, John is a star performer. His mom must have known this when he was still writhing around in her womb. She chose the name John and it wasn’t because it runs in the family. His father’s name is Mauricio.
‘I love you,’ he whispers just as Josh ends off with the final you raise me up line.
I avoid the assault of his affection for the rest of the evening by throwing bouquets and garters around. We eat our buffet beef, roasted potatoes, sweet carrots and white sauce broccoli at his parents table. John took charge of planning the menu. With his mom.
‘This is cooked to perfection, wouldn’t you say, Olga? Sarah is still chewing on her last beef bite and looking at me with John’s eyes, waiting for an affirmative answer. ‘It’s delicious,’ I put my knife and fork next to each other on top of two thin slices of roast beef drenched in gravy.
We disappear to the honeymoon suite when the Grease music selection starts. John came up with our exit strategy.
I tell him to cover his eyes while I disappear into the bathroom. He expectantly complies. I slip out of the room instead and pass the plastic card key to a man waiting outside. He slips a cell phone into my hand.
I hear three shots almost immediately.
I press the green call button.
‘Mauricio, it’s done. Please come.’
‘A Word Before Sentencing’ Alan Saunders
It wasn’t murder – murder’s more personal; just think of the word – Murder. Say it with your bottom jaw extended, so that the sinews in your throat stick out – MUHRDERR. Now couldn’t you just be strangling someone? Of course there are other forms of murder beside strangulation, and they are all personal. Murder needs strong emotion; anger, hatred, vengeance (not love though, that would be euthanasia – but that’s a different story).
What about random acts of murder you might ask; targeting and dispatching a stranger, or someone you don’t dislike for instance. Well that borders more on psychopathy wouldn’t you say? And what about bombings you might ask; or schoolyard mass shootings for instance, surely the perpetrator doesn’t dislike all the victims? Well, I’d say that’s murder against a concept, an ideology, a system, an ethic. Takes emotion, takes premeditation – not that my actions weren’t premeditated – on the contrary, carefully planned, timed and orchestrated. But I wasn’t angry at anyone, I wasn’t trying to prove a point; I wasn’t scared, my life wasn’t in danger (in which case of course it would have been manslaughter perhaps, and that’s a whole nother ball-game).
You could call my actions ‘righteous wrath’; I saw the necessity and did what I had to.
These were my words to the rapist:
By your behaviour you have displayed that you are not deemed fit to be called a member of decent society. As a representative of said society, I hereby remove you from it.
The oxygen concentrator slurped like a kid sucking the dregs of a milkshake. Roland Mason slouched in the oxblood leather armchair, the mask permanently strapped to his gaunt face. His dressing gown hung loose exposing a bony chest and tufts of white hair. The sumptuous study inside his palatial home counted for nothing anymore.
Dennis held the document as Roland’s trembling hand scrawled his unsuspecting signature. Dennis scanned it, folded and slid it into the envelope marked Will. He reached down and switched off the concentrator.
Roland lurched, clutching at the mask. He fell forward like a koi that’d jumped out of his indoor aquarium. White foam bubbled from his lips onto the Persian carpet. Dennis walked to the wall safe and punched in the code. He removed an envelope and replaced it with his new version. He had plenty of time. Beauty would only be back much later to check on Roland.
He reached down and felt Roland’s pulse. The Bull of the Boardroom was no more. He switched the concentrator back on. He stared at Roland. He and Beauty had always wiped Roland’s arse literally and figuratively while his spoiled brat children had waited in the wings for their inheritance. Now it was payback time. He would give Beauty a million.
As he bent to throw the old envelope onto the glowing embers in the fireplace, curiosity got the better of him. He peeled it open and read the content. He froze. This had all been for nothing.
I’m trying too hard again and get hammered on wine so good I can’t afford it. Then I fall asleep on the couch without ever taking my clothes off. There’s no romance. This time, he doesn’t carry me to bed or cover me with a blanket and when he breaks up with me after breakfast I’m too embarrassed to protest. Later, though, I sip from one of the designer wineglasses he forgot to pack and think long and hard about punishment. This is not the real me. He should know that.
I drop the glass from just high enough that it cracks into large shards. The gut is the most painful and the most satisfying, so that’s where I stab and tear. By the time I’ve screamed as much as I want to, she has dragged herself out from inside me, luscious and slick. Her stomach is flatter, her muscles are hard and she doesn’t have any scars on her face. I remember when I looked like that.
I’m dying so I don’t waste any time. “Go easy on the wine,” I tell her, me. “And stop fucking telling yourself you need to stay home to work.” She nods and I recognise the confident resolve in her eyes just before I close mine for the last time and “she” becomes “me”.
I trash my sloppy old self and mop up the gore. “You’re better than this,” I say out loud, and wonder if I finally sound like myself.