I tore my mother's womb out with me when I made my entrance, wore it as a cloak. That did for her. My poor father tried his best but it was not good enough and I was handed to a farmer and his wife for raising. He visited a few times early on but faded quick. I sought him out much later in a seaside town, found him acting as a photographer's assistant. I listened to his regrets for an hour then took him to the sea and drowned him there, his head in my hands held beneath the waves. I cradled his body until all the warmth had gone, then let it go and watched an hour or more as it rolled in the surf, the limbs at last relaxed, the face at last human. I watched the body turning over in the waves for a long time. After that I was free and the light stronger in me. All this took place in the south of the country. I desired travel, to see the length and breadth of the rest before I died. So I left the farmer and his wife to their muck, walked north and at length came to a city walled and castellated in the medieval style, popular with tourists and lovers alike.
During the walk I gained a new strength. I said fine and dandy you are now, ready for love, for the fruits of love. I was youth immortal, lovely and fresh, good to taste and look upon. My body was supple and I had a fair face on my skull. I made my smile warm and allowed it to shine as a lure. It very quickly caught a woman, a slender thing, clear skinned, married alas but one cannot have everything. Two young boys hung from her breasts. I fed there too, in competition with them. She let us fight, her boys she called us and her nipples were swollen from all our suckling. Her boys began to grow weak and thin, before she realised what was happening. She was already withdrawing before I could decide to take her.
Irena was by contrast dark haired with a fuller figure, heavy breasts, rounded shoulders, strong blue veined thighs, though her ankles were delicately turned and her eyes shone with Old World. I went after her through the cobbled streets and cake shops of the medieval city. We sat upon the city wall and watched the red sun go down. She seemed to get a deal of pleasure from it. I used the time to explore beneath her skirt. She was upset but I was never happier and told her of my love. She cried for joy I guess, and we embraced as night came on. Two halves joined and not even rising moonlight could squeeze between us.
In the end her fate chose me. We left the city on a fine bright day. The buds were tearing themselves open, an agony of grass grew up, the lambs were squeezing out of their mother's wombs; all over you could hear a most delirious popping sound. It was as they are, another noisy Spring. Irena by now hung on my every glance. I led her into a hollow and beside a yew strangled the life right out of her body. She was not unwilling, screamed but once as my fingers first closed around her soft throat. They sunk in such a distance the ends disappeared. Her face lost its creamy complexion. Oh, how surprised she looked. There was something almost comic in it. Then came a look of such disappointment as the light dimmed. The fight went out of her, a distinct moment when she left her body, ceased the tension with which she had long maintained herself. I stuffed her body into the hollow yew and made my way back to town.
After that, for a time, women lost their charm for me. I took it as a sign. I then still believed in signs. The town was in uproar. A nature lover out walking had discovered the body. I confess to a feeling of pride knowing it took four strong men to pull her out. I was sorry too, don't think I wasn't. Her absence from the world played on my nerves. I kept thinking of things I wanted to say to her, little ideas, observations, fancies, frivolous and serious. I went so far as to stand beneath the window of her old room and open my mouth to call, before I got a hold of myself.
This was no life for a man. I put on my thick boots, swung my stick over my shoulder, put a blade of grass in my mouth and set off again, further north, disposed to walk unaided, alone until I could walk no more. I intended to walk myself to death and pay something back for the sins I had committed. Yet, being human, as soon as I was quit of the town the whole thing became like a dream. I ceased to think of Irena anymore. I kept to ancient ways, cart tracks, drove roads, woodland paths, sheep-tracks and funeral routes which I selected myself for their brevity or dryness underfoot (I had come to learn already that I hated soft, wet ground). I avoided roads and men. I wanted to be with nature and listen in case I heard something to my benefit. I heard nothing, some rustling and groaning, nothing really. The earth slowly turned from clay to reddish sandy grit, sedimentary, alluvial, rivers and seas. Aeons passed. The plain began to undulate. I saw with the eyes of my own experience. The longer I stayed beneath the sky the deeper the sense of separateness from everything. I stole food when I could on the way, grazed on berries, kernels of wheat, but largely accepted hunger and discomfort. My ribs protruded, my cheekbones appeared. I tempered myself with solitude. I had murdered three people. Though I might not count my mother, I do. As in her way she murdered me with the birth. Double murder or double suicide. The difference is slight. Expulsion, cold and wet like a lamb born on frozen ground and no mother-love nor milk thereafter; even as I came out with that first long cry she was cooling, but I persisted, howled for a year so the story goes.
My father's murder had been the one to fetch me from childhood. Afterwards, for a while at least, I a man. Before I killed him, I'd been possessed by an image of him, a shoddily conceived mistake, maddening because the facts of my biological beginnings were enough to ensure I was a rough half of him, though he too was a rough half and so on back to the little silver fish, none of us ever a complete thing I admit, an assemblage of parts, a nose from here, a lobe there, a disposition to crime from him, a weakness of will from her, the habit of clicking his teeth when he thought, of hissing through the same teeth whenever he concentrated on something, all passed to me, or worse I thought, adopted by me for precisely the reason I most despised. Not remembering my mother, I lacked her image to add to his, nothing, no finer hand, no sweet remembrance of kisses, no warm lap, nothing but cold sheep milk. I said, at least these sheep have made my bones strong and put meat on them. But as I have walked so far now, the pride I had in my strength has waned.
Irena was my real grown up murder. After her I wanted a world cold and still as if dead. My dreams reach far beyond what I am. Thus I headed north. After some days, I was fully attuned to nature, if that means anything. My immersion in it had affected my eyes, the slightest degree of colour, a thousand shades of green in the one fern. I became inflamed with the ground, fore and aft. I had a moment of vision deep in, days from any sign of other men, of ground, fore and aft, being divine in its construction, of myself as part of the same divinity. However, what I had done came back to claim me. No moment of turning back, just a gradual dissolution, a low crawling doubt, perhaps the loneliness. I began to crave the company of others again, a face, a word to which I might reply with one of my own. I had to find people again. I came to a small town indifferent to me but a refuge. There I found two rooms and soon became familiar to myself again. The walls do that. I mourned myself, mourned space, but was soon caught up in the coming and going. I would go for long walks. I no longer possessed the heated eye. I was more invisible. I feared fading out. I would put myself in the way of others, as they came from the bus, or turned into the park with their dog, there I would be, a foot or two in front of them, man or woman, and for such I kept a hat ready on my head. I had a new smile too, to go with my lightless eyes. After my greeting, silence, and they would retreat or side-step me, until one evening, a woman, older and disappointed. I stirred, in the column of the body, the wick of longing, the wine of the blood. My hands tingled. I laughed at this new development, realising how great had been my longing for such a thing. We walked. She talked. We made giddy lines as we walked about, both restless, agitated by the appearance of this thing. The park was closing. We heard the clanging gate and the key turning in the heavy lock, the air still as the day declined to sweet twilight. I told her it was all vanity. She laughed; the first sign of her nerves. We found a bench, in memory of a woman who had spent many happy hours there. The name is imprinted on the bench, in me, upon the world. We kissed as starving souls kiss. Her body sprung into further life. She shook violently as my hands found her slender white throat. I thought it would begin again but it would not. I could not close them round the stem, and the kissing started up again and the trembling and the exploration. Afterwards, we sat exhausted. She began to weep, softly, persistently. I told her again, it was all vanity, the world and each separate thing. If you look closely no two blades of grass are the same, no two birds, each is obsessed with itself, opposed to the other. She laughed but it was derisory. Dry… a man's knowledge... she said as she rearranged her skirt, smoothed her hair, making ready to depart. I felt the same old ancient thing rising up in me. You know when I was a young girl life was all waiting for something to happen and fear that it would… In the fading light I detected the darkening and hardening in her eyes. They were almost black, though she smiled finally. I have to get back to my husband... I nodded. You are far handsomer when you say nothing… you may as well know, no one has laid me quite so bare... you have a gift.
I can come back with you.
Yes, and meet my husband? That would be nice. You should know I've done this before with other men… its nothing... men are like this - they don't mind that there is no preamble… She shrieked, like one of the animals you hear at night. A fox exposing her throat. Then I knew.
I must go, though the gates are closed.
My hands encircled her throat and forced her neck back, further and further with her resisting as hard as she could, but it was slender and eventually snapped. She fell to the ground. As I stood observing the result of my work, the park-keeper came round a corner from out of the rose garden. His melodic whistling stopped when he saw us, though he seemed unsure at first. He stopped walking, his arms dropped to his sides. What have you done?
I ran. I was not going up against another man so soon after investing my energies in her. The keeper was fat. He could not hope to keep up. But he had no need to. I was too weakened by my long hunger, and fell. He was soon upon me. As he laid his hands on me, I was flooded with a sweet weakness. He dragged me upright. Have you murdered her? Christ, why? All the while I was feeling in my pocket as unobtrusively as I could, until my fingers curled around my knife. One of two things I found in my father's pocket after I killed him, a French spring-bladed flick knife, the blade about four inches long and pointed. I'd kept it sharp, had a whetstone just for it and nightly whet it until it would cut paper without a sound. And as I could not answer this question right then, I sprung the blade and thrust it hard and quick as I could into the soft pad beneath his jaw, drew it back, severing again, this time an artery. A man is surprised to see his own fountain of blood.
Then I had no trouble answering him. He opened his mouth but all that came was a gurgle, absurdly like an infant foray into language. Then I heard a word, rising as he fell. Cur... But it could have been the last of him, just a ruined cry. Good work though, two in a night. Like the stakes doubled in a game of backgammon. Two still bodies and nothing amiss.
took her purse before I fled, and once over the railings, on the road beneath a lamp I took a look inside; as usual money, cards, receipts, and shielded behind plastic a photo of two smiling blond children, a boy and a girl, the elder boy behind the girl, arm over her shoulder protectively, just heading into the world.
I dreamt that night of a wood mostly felled, which I approached from a distance. As I moved among them I saw the stumps were cut necks, the heads lying neat beside them like stones, and from each open mouth an audible sorrow escaped. Moonlight made the necks silver and the blood welling up in them black; good old beauty again. I
After that, I made new plans, inroads into other ways, other paths, still making my way of course, no choice until I can summon up the lasting courage. Before a month was out I sat before a woman again. This one wore her hair long. Silky smooth, it crowned her plain face. 10.30am. A good time for such things, both of us reasonably fresh, the best part of the day laying pleasantly ahead, it's fine workings not yet frayed. I'd prepared much as the booklet had said; read up on the company, prepared answers to likely questions, polished my shoes, ironed my shirt and tie, knotted the tie in a double Windsor. I smiled at everything the woman said, nodding and agreeing. Behind her, through the glass walls of the room I could see others all brightly engaged. I would join them if this went well. Administrative tasks might pass the time as well as, or even better than murder.
There are so many things one might say, but I keep to the narrows. My answers are brief, moderately intelligent, concise, warmly given, smiling throughout. I dare at one point to say there's no time to waste. She smiles warmly back. We're making a small blaze in the room. Conscious of the invention, I uncrossed my legs and sat a little more upright before answering the next question, appearing to give it some thought.
What qualities can I bring to the Bank of the Rock?
There, for the first time I see a pulse in her throat, a febrile little flickering on the white skin… this delicate structure which fits the hands so well, final passage for those humid breaths, yet round which the most clumsy of fingers can tighten, closing the pipe, cessation leading to silence. In a finer world, one of greater clarity than this, such actions might meet with a reward, might even be a civil task… sorry, what?
What can I bring?
Everything I have of course!
Just let me in.