by Craig Douglas
Sam licked the end of candle and waited by the door. A vacuum of light and we were in the abyss. My chest thumped, a beat threatening to burst
“It takes an amateur 30 minutes to kill a man with a hammer where it would only take a professional under a minute,” this he explained to me in the Charity Shop after we picked her out.
The hammer shook in my hand. The weight of it magnified the gravity of the situation. My damnation and salvation.
The steady beat of feet spurned my heart into uncontrollable fits.
She was behind the door.
It was time to turn the boiler on. Sam is breathing like a rapist. I could hear her sighing and choosing a key.
A key slid into the lock.
I gripped the hammer.
The lock turned and the door opened.
I stood, hammer ready.
“No. No. Stop! Stop!” Sam grabbed my hand and pried the hammer from my grip. Patiently and calmly, he lifted a finger in the air and I watched as it descended. “Here,” his finger rested at the point between where Mrs Pickering’s eyes should have been.
“One good, hard….” he held onto Mrs Pickering, “Hold her!”
She was fighting, or trying to. Somewhere between the now and unconsciousness she held on. Her hands scrabbled for purchase on the wooden floor, fingernails breaking.
Sam handed the hammer to me. Flecks of frothy blood began to spout from the gash where her mouth had been. I brought the hammer up, then down. The contact was sharp and quick, like hammering a nail into a wall. I remember putting my wedding photographs on the wall yesterday and this image seemed to help. It eased me out of the situation for a bit.
“Good.” I could hear Sam. He sounded pleased.
He gripped my hand as Mrs Pickering lay, perfectly, mannequin still. He shook and I could feel my knuckles crack.
My stomach ached, but nothing came out.
“I told you not to eat anything before your first, didn’t I?” Sam said and I sensed he was smiling. I held out both hands, their bloody images shook through my tears.
We burnt the store. I mean we razed it to the ground. I tried to tell Sam about the apartments, but he just grinned. Smoke ran out from the cellar where we lay her out, dowsed in lighter fluid. The smoke ran quicker then orange flames followed their companions up the walls and the interior.
It was an old building so the occupants, didn’t have smoke alarms fitted.
“Wait a while,” Sam said, half singing to a tune in his head.
“The people – there are people up there.”
“Wait for the cries,” he said. “It’s music.”
Very soon, one cry erupted and this infected the others. The hive of occupants were calling out and screaming.
“Only one exit. That’s a breach of Health & Safety.” Sam said.
The night became a heaving ball of heat, its core the building. It pulsed and spat with the fat of its occupants that roasted like cockroaches in their homes.
We walked away from the inferno amid the guttural howls choked with smoke and pain.
“Remember to give your wife and children a kiss goodnight. Tomorrow you go solo.” Sam left me as the blue splashes of light came to play on the horizon.
The night whirled as I ran home. Stars that judged me, the moon chastised as they brought an uncanny fulgent light to my world.