I asked the doorman for a light, but he didn’t smoke. I just placed the cigarette between my lips and allowed its presence to calm me. Center my mind. My hands shook slightly at my sides as I released a breath I’d been holding for too long.
The night was over, and I was heading home. Bennett Vandermeer had invited me for dinner, on account of his being featured at the art gallery Pluto-Neon, and his need to shove my face in it.
I was standing, waiting for a cab, pulling my coat tighter around me. I waved one down as it came back around the corner, probably fresh from dropping off someone I would never know.
When I’d arrived Bennett had greeted me warmly, a friend of his, Louis, was already there, sitting at the couch with a snifter of scotch. “Oh Malak I’m so glad you could come! I do hope you like sushi!”
There was a platter set out with a wide array of sushi’s, which he was clearly displaying as though he had made them, but he was a painter, not a sculptor. I suspected they were from the sushi place three blocks over.
“Well I’m sure I can help put a dent in it.” I joked, faking a smile and following Bennett to the table.
As the cab came to a stop I climbed in. “Where to?” He grunted.
“Anywhere but here.” I handed him a fifty and sat back, looking back up at the beautiful facade of Bennett’s apartment building, before we pulled away and into the darkling night.
He had sat us at an oddly shaped table. It was perfectly round on one end but tapered to a rounded point on the other, like an egg. The platter sat centered in the rounded portion and Louis and I were forced to sit on the tapering side, with myself sitting nearest the end.
Bennett served the sushi to us along with tall glasses of wine, which Louis didn’t touch, focusing on his scotch instead.
“This tuna is Sashimi grade.” Bennett chimed as he placed a piece of said tuna which rested upon a bed of sticky rice before me. I doubted he had any idea what he was saying and was probably reciting what he’d seen on the menu.
I ate a piece and actually did quite enjoy it. That restaurant knew how to perfectly slice, roll, and serve its sushi so that each bite was a little glimpse of heaven.
I rubbed my face and sighed. It had been a long night. The streetlights flashed by, one after another after another. I breathed on the glass and drew on the fog which bloomed. A few lazy waves.
Bennett raised his glass halfway through the quiet dinner. “To artists! Creating the unseen, and always striving to better one another!”
I must have smirked because Bennett locked eyes with me. “You have something to say, Malak? After your little stunt at La Petit, I would think you of all people would admit how important it is to not snub your fellow artists. How many came to your showing? Oh, remember, your mother doesn’t count…”
I wiped away the doodle and looked down to my other hand, which lay, palm up, and trembling uncontrollably. The night had been… so long.
Louis was choking on a roll. Eyes bloodshot and face a rosy hue which was slowing turning blue. I stood beside him, hand jammed within his mouth, a grimace across my face. “Oh you’ll fucking see Louis! Silent neutrality does not mean you aren’t to be held responsible too! I know what you did! I saw the emails you bastard!”
Bennett was weeping and beating his fists upon my back. “Jesus, Malak, stop he didn’t do anything! You’re killing him! Fuck! Stop!”
I grinned as I saw Louis’s eyes roll back and felt his body go limp in my grasp.
There were still bite marks on the first knuckles of my left hand. I squeezed my hand shut and closed my eyes. Justified. I was justified. They had ruined me…
I was holding Bennett by the hair, head yanked back and dragging him to the sink. “You fucking ruined me, Bennett! You RUINED ME!” I turned on the water and shoved his head beneath the stream. He sputtered and screamed beneath the flow and I used one hand to jam a kitchen towel into the drain. It began to fill.
The cab stopped and I stepped out with a, “keep the change…” I was outside of my apartment building… I hadn’t told him where I lived. I looked back and the cab was already pulling away.
I turned slowly and walked to the door, keying in the code and opening the security gate with a squeal.
His head bounced once, twice against the bottom of the sink as I held him down and he tried to struggle free. I shoved his head down myself, and slowly the water began to turn red. I had never smiled so much in my entire, miserable life.
The stairs creaked as I ascended to the third floor, fishing my key from my pocket. As I reached my apartment, I grasped the doorknob and turned the key. It glided effortlessly. It was unlocked already.
I opened the door slowly. Beyond the frame all was shadows except those things silhouetted by the windows. I flicked on the hallway light…
I released Bennett’s lifeless corpse and spat on it. “Hey, at least your shit will be worth something now… you hack.” I kicked him hard in the temple and his body didn’t so much as twitch.
I turned to leave the apartment and trod upon Louis’s hand, hearing bones snap. No reaction. They were dead.
I was sitting there, in my arm chair, which was moved to the middle of the hall, smiling at me as I stood in the doorway, stunned and alarmed. “Oh you’ve… you’ve been very bad, haven’t you, Malak?” The smile I… he, was wearing was wide, almost too wide, and there was something in his eyes which worried me more than his inexplicable physical resemblance to myself.