Harry watched the woman smile with congeniality as she sat adjacent to him at the table. The sconce on the wall above projected light onto her face; the angle of her head hid her eyes behind a lapse of darkness. She could have been searching his eyes for the reason why he was observing her as if she were a greasy brunch buffet on a hungover Sunday: salvation, with a side of homefries; or, perhaps she was searching the small coffee shop for a quick exit. Harry was the first to throw himself into the silence, carefully breaking the surface, watching for rogue shards' sharp edges.
“It was very nice of you to agree to meet with me. I wasn't sure you'd actually show. I'm a very big fan of your work—the poetry, the prose, the essays, your beautiful mind—everything!” He was a little taken aback by how that fell out of him, just rolling out from the back of his throat like a death-trap from some film from way-back-when. The woman smiled. Her name was Melissa Patricia Hartburgh. Harry thought her name to be ghastly, wondering whether it was a facet of her living art persona, or if her mother was simply a cruel woman; a family name which evokes a deep pain in one's chest due to phonological similarity to 'heartburn' would be awful enough, but to give her two rhyming first names is fundamentally just bad parenting. We mustn't tip-toe around that.
“I was a little surprised by your offer, actually. It isn't often that I meet someone who can entice me to join them for coffee in a strange city.” While Melissa Patricia Hartburgh spoke, she maintained her pleasant smile, always the smile. She shifted in her seat, and Harry could now see her eyes. Green or maybe blue, but possibly grey. The mood lighting did little for thorough examination. Harry flicked his eyes down to his left and felt a smile start to bubble across his face because
“I have a copy of your new book, if you wouldn't mind signing it.” The author agreed, and accepted the open book and a pen, swirling the one on the other, laying out curls and curves which supposedly read her name, a smiling doodle represents full stop. She closed the book, which was the latest of a fictional series about strong, feminist women in medieval Europe. The title spread across the top, Situations Within Stone Walls; her name across the bottom. Harry took the book back boisterously, face fissured with contentment. He cradled it against his chest, the author’s picture peeking from between his arms, happy to be held in them.
Miss Harburgh was staying in a hotel close by; but so was Harry. He drove in from out of town and got a room to spend the night. It’s sure to be mighty lonely. “Just come for a drink.” She was reluctant. The next morning, she was saying, she had to catch a flight. But Harry was a big, velvet bag of charms; he kept a few extra big smiles in it, as well. Miss Hartburgh laughed, eyes closed, head back. With her signature smile, she looked at Harry: “I’d love to.”
Harry led Miss Hartburgh to his house, a quaint wartime home with pink aluminum siding, garden boxes outside the windows. On the way, they spoke of literature and bad habits, ambling abreast, eyes kept within the ninety degree range between straight ahead and the person beside the other, smiles all around. They came upon a mahogany door, and Harry pulled out his keys. They walked in and lined their shoes on the mat under the hooks on which they hung their coats. Harry glanced into the mirror above the coat hooks, flashing a smile; Miss Hartburgh then did so as well, fluffing her explosion of loose, dark brown ringlets, flyaway hair forming an oblong halo. Wine or beer, Harry wondered aloud, to which her retort was, Beer. Coming right up, Harry said, and he asked her to, please, take a seat, make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.
Harry opened his fridge and took out two beers. Twisted the off the caps. Walked across the kitchen. Opened a cupboard. Took out a little bottle. Open. Tip. Close. Back in the cupboard. He returned to the counter where sat the beers. He put his hand over one (smile), then over the other, and picked them up, bringing them to the couch. When he came up on Miss Hartburgh, she was peering around, eyes bright and innocent. She jerked her head over when she heard Harry walk into the room, and greeted him with a smile. He handed her one of the cold, brown bottles, and she thanked him with a few big gulps. Harry beamed on and on. They spoke lightly: how have you been enjoying the weather, seen any good films, if you were stuck on deserted island, how would you kill yourself? As she finished her beer, he could see it in her eyes, ferrous eyelashes pulling them closed. In the middle of the sentence that she was speaking, she started to slur, her languorous tongue no longer co-operating. She looked at Harry with terror as he continued to beam from the other end of the couch, picking up his beer and taking a slow sip as she slid down, falling into a forced slumber. Harry finished his beer.
She was lighter than he would’ve thought; she was almost as tall as he. And she looked taller now, because her hair was trailing behind her body, which he dragged along the carpet as he walked backward, toggling between looking over his shoulder and back at the woman. At the end of the hall, he stopped and opened the door on his left. He pulled Miss Hartburgh around the corner, along the edge of the doorway, over the jamb, and across the white tiles to the tub. With a heave, he pulled her up onto his right shoulder and set her into the tub, feet under the faucet. He lurched out of the bathroom, down the hall, and through the kitchen to the basement. He walked slowly down the stairs and was back up minutes later. The difference: the sledgehammer gripped tightly in his hand. He marched to the bathroom and shut the door behind him. He stood over the tub, leering austerely at the beauty sleeping beneath a layer of melted coma; groggy, gore-laden drug daze trauma. He raised the hammer steadily above his head, no rush, and locked his target with his stare. He breathed in. Then out. Small grunt as he tore the air with the mallet-head, breaking the silence for the second time that night. The sound was the most foul, hollow crack, wet sounding, gushy. He hit just above her green-or-blue-but-possibly-grey eyes. There was a lot of blood, but he didn’t think he quite did the job; so he swung again. He didn’t think that it could hurt. (Broken jaw.)
Harry crouched at the side of the tub. He liked the feeling of the cold fibreglass under his arms as he reached in. He grabbed the largest piece of skull that he could find, with which he vigorously dug into the scarlet mess, scooping up still warm brain, bringing the skull-bowl up to his mouth. He chewed, picked a bone fragment from his mouth, swallowed, repeat. His hands were dripping, staining syrup straying down to his elbows. After a while, he tossed his bowl to the side and just grabbed handfuls of what used to be inside the woman’s head, eating it, absorbing it like an Aghori sadhu, filling himself with her knowledge. He felt it surge within him.
Harry locked the door behind him as he left. He wrapped what remained of the author in his shower curtain, the plastic diaphanous casket, and took a shower (bleach and Brillo pads); a change of clothes, and he was good to go. He was beginning to feel sated, enlightenment sitting heavily in his stomach. He always liked to take a walk after a meal, to help digest. There was a park near his house, a favourite of joggers and sunbathers. At this time of night, though, it was not more than a place for the sale of bodies and services, different minds stored in powders and plants. There were four or five main paths that criss-crossed and cut across the park in curvilinear lines. Harry kept on the path that started in the darkest corner, trees growing astutely, tall and space-consuming. Early into his gait, he could hear disturbances on the gravel behind him. A jogger this late? Peculiar. Esculent.
Harry ducked slowly off of the path. He took a quiet breath and held it as he submerged himself into the ponderous sea of shadows twixt the trees. The crunch of the path under a pair of tightly tied running shoes was blatant in its rhythm, a clear sign as to when to make his move. The steps grew closer and closer; then further and further as Harry watched the man jog past him. Harry was eyeing up a thick tree branch that had fallen to the ground. He picked it up, feeling how heavy and dense it was. Harry though the man’s lack of awareness to be endearing, and Harry felt that they may have been able to have a real connection, a string from heart to heart, were Harry not about to eat that of this stranger. Or maybe his calves; they looked to-die-for.
He tread quietly out from the shadows, light feet quickening pace. He came up on the man after a stalk of twenty metres; then ran at him ahead full speed, pulling the large stick through the air, above his head, and down over the jogger’s, which promptly flew forward with such force that, upon impact with the steel bench to the slight right, his head cracked open and spilled right into the park grounds, contents slithering down the path. Distant traffic could be heard. If alone and swallowed up by the purple sky of midnight, the whizzing and whirring of hurling piles of steel might make you feel like you could just scream if something terrible were to happen, banking on somebody coming if you caught their attention. But Harry was rather confident that the trees would muffle any screaming: silent accomplices. Harry walked aloofly up to the loosely held body crumpled at the base of the bench. He knelt and rolled up the man’s left pant, grey material that felt like a tarpaulin, and put his hands on the man’s calf. Warm and damp; inviting. He leaned forward, put his mouth to the flesh and took a bite, from canine to canine. The man’s flesh was challenging to rip from the meat, but Harry managed a mouthful, soon going in for another. Within ten minutes, the man’s left calf was picked clean to the bone, and Harry had started on the other.
Harry was sure he hadn’t even a stitch of space left in his stomach. He sat beside the corpse of the jogger, contemplating his night, feeling the man’s muscles settle at his core, elongating and wrapping around his own, fitting over every lump like a glove. He now had the brains and the brawn. He felt aglow, as if his face were the Sun at the centre of some mess of nine large rings made of old, wire coat hangers. He had become his own science fair project, the hypothesis regarding the symbiosis of the physical and the conceptually spiritual. Harry stood; the smile had returned to his face. He grabbed the jogger by his arms and dragged him out to sea, leaving him where the full, large boughs of three conifers met; it was sure to disguise and conceal one man worth of wasted physical remains—at least until the smell overcomes the pleasant evergreen fragrance. Harry wiped his hands on the grass, and started off down the path. Déjà vu, he thought.
Harry felt thirsty; he hadn’t run so much in years. He decided to stop by a bar for a quick beer or a dirty martini (gin). The street with which the path converged boasted a handful of bars, neon lights blazing colourful ghosts onto the pavement, swerving between stumbling feet. All he wanted in his choice of establishment was: one beverage; minimal lights; enough people to not be noticed. He found this place near the end of the road. He could hear an electric guitar wailing a tale of excess and misogyny through the door as he walked up to it. He opened it to a fair sized crowd, composed of many microcosms, an inebriated consciousness, dodging people on his way to the bar. Beer or martini, he wondered to himself.
“Gimme a,” he decided on the spot, “dirty martini. With an olive.” He took his drink to a table in the back corner and sat down, back to the wall, infrared eyes. He wasn’t planning on staying long; he was already half-done his cocktail. With three big gulps, he voided his glass and made his way to the bathroom. He walked up to a stall, leaving one between himself and the man who was shaking himself off as Harry walked up. The man was eye-catching; Harry couldn’t help but look him down. Thick, dark eyebrows sat atop dark eyes, as big as moons. A round, defined nose and thin, soft lips were separated by short stubble which spread around his chin and before his ears. His black t-shirt clung to his body, curving surreptitiously; his jeans hugged his hips and fell loosely to his black shoes. Harry thought that he may have seen a small mountain on his crotch, recently shaken. The man washed his hands and left. Harry quickly finished and followed him out. He spied him from across the room: the man was putting on his coat and saying his final farewells. As he walked out the door, Harry followed nonchalantly, keeping his steps slow. They went out to the left, one after the other, walking down the street teeming with quietude and neon ghosts. The man led Harry right back from whence he came, the obscure park drowning in tides of pure pitch. He entered the dense shadow and disappeared. Harry trailed into the park, between the same two trees as the man before him. But he was gone. Harry couldn’t see him in any direction. He was slightly disappointed, but a twang in his abdomen promptly reminded him that he couldn’t stand to eat another morsel; so he lay on the grass, looking up at a break in the foliage to the shining sky; the moon was as brilliant as always just off beyond his field of vision. Harry felt fulfilled, caressed warmly by his appropriations, physical acquisitions put toward his spirit, paid in full. His sated eyes started to flutter, bits of sleep getting stuck in his lashes, like dandelion fluff. The last thing he saw before he was enveloped by eternity was a figure off near his feet; big, dark eyes peering from beneath black slashes of supercilium.
The sound was the most foul, hollow crack.
An analyzation; a propagation; an exclamation; a declaration; a conversation; a desecration; a proclamation of truth. Peace and love.