Monday, March 28, 2016

The Long Knife, Part One

David wandered down the hall, running his hand upon the fading paint and the chipped railing that had always been here at the Alice Grove Apartments for as long as he could remember. The red carpet, with its twisting dark red and brown cubist design made for an interesting walk when compared to the light floral print of the wallpaper, once a brilliant white but now a faded yellow, showing the hard times the apartment had suffered.

The place was a nexus for losers and aspiring actors, the mix often intermingling at small parties one or the other would throw every other Friday night in an attempt to forget they lived in this dump, in their own dumpy little lives. David was an aspiring writer, a man who wrote for two separate newspapers (both of which were constantly on the verge of collapsing) and sold short stories online. They weren’t the best, nor were his works glamorous; he just loved what he did.
Reaching his door, 5A, he pulled the assortment of keys he kept and unlocked the door, before giving it a shove with his shoulder to push it open. Mrs. Rattigan, the Resident Assistant, often said that the waters swelled due to the humidity of the air. David smiled as he rubbed his shoulder, savoring the bone-dry breeze that followed him in before closing the door with a kick. Quickly moving to his liquor cabinet, David began fixing himself a Whiskey Sour while sorting through the mail he’d gathered earlier. Flyers and bills, assorted coupon books and even an offer for a credit card; David snorted and pushed the letters into the trashcan, not bothering to even open them. The bills were first notices and the flyers were pointless… his life here in Los Angeles was so depressing it almost physically hurt him to admit it.
Looking at his rather Spartan furniture, he smiled at his one piece of furniture that never made him depressed; his high-backed armchair. Walking over and sitting down in it, he undid his shoes until he was sitting in bare socks, and reached forward to pull his ottoman closer to rest his feet on.
Sitting in the quiet of his apartment, David began thinking about the choices he’d made and what kind of life he’d carved out for himself.
“Maybe Dad was right,” he groused, resting his chin on his knuckles, his other hand holding his drink. “Maybe I should have gone to college, or joined the Army.”
Looking across from him at the television, he stared at the screen for seconds before he noticed something was wrong. In the distorted, dark view of the television, there was a woman, in a white summer dress, with black marks on her chest and arms, holding a knife high over David’s head.
Spinning in his chair, David looked behind him to see nothing but bare space, and his front door creaking open, his kick not having done enough to close the swollen door. Laughing nervously, he got up and went over to the door and closed it, adding in a ram of his shoulder to drive it home, before locking the door.
“I’m just tired,” he said, nodding his head. He walked into his bedroom and groped the nightstand in the dark, taking two white pills out from an orange bottle and downing them with his whiskey. They said it wasn’t safe to mix them, but what did it matter? Walking out to the living room, he dropped down into his chair and grabbed the remote control from the side table, turning on the old television and scrolling through the channels until he found something he could drink to.
A cooking show.
Diane used to love cooking shows, the thought wriggled into David’s conscience like a worm into a rotting apple. He clutched at his head, dropping his drink, chanting in his head the mantra the doctor had told him to chant.
Diane is no longer here…
Diane is no longer here…
Diane is no longer here…
For a minute, he did this until he could finally think straight. By then the program was over though he changed the channel to a comedy show to get his mind away from his wayward girlfriend. He reached down and picked up his glass of Whiskey Sour, frowning as some had spilled on the multi-hued carpet covered in past stains.
“I guess I’ll get a rag,” he muttered, standing up and walking to the small kitchen that overlooked the living room. It was cluttered, the sink full of unwashed dishes and the trash overflowing. David shook his head and grabbed a rag, hesitating only for a second to fetch a beer from the fridge, the glass for his mixed drink joining the others in the sink.
Getting down on the ground, he began scrubbing the floor, trying to get the stain of whiskey out of the once-white carpet. He looked over in front of his armchair, at the large dark stain his ottoman was sitting over.
“That’s one stain I’ll never remove,” he murmured, returning to the task. He’d taken an entire bottle of bleach to that stain, with no results. It was destined to stay there, forever taunting him about his safety deposit he’d placed on this place all those months ago, and how he’d never see it.
After finally cleaning the floor of sticky Whiskey Sour, he settled into his armchair and began to watch the comedy show, his feet propped up on the ottoman. He laughed at the jokes and drank another four beers before finally stumbling into the bedroom, reeking of booze. Looking around his room, with only a mattress on the floor and a comforter to go with his four pillows, he dropped to his knees and fell face first into a pillow.
His mind drifted drunkenly from subject to subject, finally settling on what he thought he saw in the reflection of the television’s black screen. The woman was young, with a lithe body and a large knife in her tiny fist. He hadn’t looked at her face, as he’d been too preoccupied on the blade, but he could swear he’d seen her before. Maybe on the bus line…

He slowly drifted off to sleep, with the ever present feeling that someone was watching him.

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