He could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the wall. There must have been hundreds- no thousands- of people waiting for him. He rolled his shoulders back and tried not to think of the crowd.
Priscilla was still standing in the doorway behind him. She glared at his back.
“I can’t believe you- doing this again.” Her voice was steady, but he could tell she was trying hard not to shout.
He turned around to face her.
“I’ve told you, I have to do this. This is who I am; I’m their hero.” He started to turn back towards the arena when something in the shadows caught his eye.
“For gods sake! Stop being the damn hero!” She was yelling now. She sounded exasperated.
He took a step towards the shadows.
“You don’t have to be their hero. Come home with me; be mine. Be my hero,” She whimpered.
“Priscilla, shush.” He narrowed his eyes. There was something there, right in front of him.
He stepped closer. He could make out the outline of the figure through the darkness. There was something in its hands.
The shadowy figure lurched forward. He couldn’t move out of the way fast enough.
There was a sharp searing pain in his chest. He wasn’t sure what had happened but he started feeling hot.
There was something dripping- no, pouring- down the front of his chest.
He saw drops of blood trailing towards the mysterious figure. Lionel’s hands went flying up to his chest. They were covered in blood- red, hot, sticky blood. He reached for the dagger and tried to stop the blood from spilling out of the wound.
“Lionel!” Priscilla’s voice echoed from behind him as he collapsed to his knees.
The dark figure was running away. The murmur of voices became quieter. Priscilla’s sobs bounced off the stone walls.
She was gripping his face; shouting, hoping, for him to respond.
“But… I’m the hero,” he whispered before his eyes rolled back and he entered a world full of darkness and silence.
That was the first time I killed a man.
I sat back on my knees and looked at my hands. They were long and slender. They didn’t look like they could accomplish much, but they had started to prove me wrong.
My hand clenched in a fist- the dull blue veins struggled to pop out against my skin. My hands were calloused from the days I had held my weapon in anticipation for Lionel’s death.
Those days, if I closed my eyes, I could picture holding the hilt of the dagger between my hands. I knew I had to thrust it into Lionel’s heart, but I wasn’t ready to, and wouldn’t be for a long time.
I rubbed my hands together. They were rough, and felt grimy. I had no idea they were capable of such a horrific thing. I didn’t want to kill Lionel, but there had been no other way.
I couldn’t let his life go on. I couldn’t let him continue to love Priscilla if he was just going to repeatedly hurt her. He was going to keep running away; keep trying to be the hero. But every hero dies eventually.
My hands felt different.
For years, I had hid my hands under long sleeves. I would wear out the stitches as I constantly tugged at the sleeves, wishing they were just a little bit longer. My hands had never been anything to be proud of. They were dry and chapped; the nails were bitten down and broken; the muscles were clenched and stiff; and they always felt like ice.
But now- now my hands were different. They felt stronger- bigger even. I didn’t want to buy expensive gloves to hide them, or big rings to distract from the rough skin and broken nails. I wasn’t ashamed of my hands anymore, because I knew what they could do. These hands, these hands were my hands, and they were capable of anything. I was capable of anything.
I had a sense of pride, and an overwhelming feeling of being in control. I had control over my life- I had the power to do whatever I wanted. I had the power to change other lives too, so I made Priscilla’s life better. Even though it meant destroying Lionel.
Lionel was important to me. Lionel was my oldest…my oldest friend. I had never given that much attention to anyone. I knew him. I knew his hopes and dreams. I knew why he wanted to be the hero. And I took that away from him.
The day of Lionel’s death was difficult for me and all those around me. I drifted around my house, not really cluing in to what anyone said. I knew I wasn’t focusing. People would talk to me and I would just stare ahead, never being able to concentrate.
There was a distance that day. I was disconnected from everything. Even my body. I felt lost; like I was staggering through a forest in my dreams. Everything was hazy. I didn’t know why I was there. I felt isolated.
I thought about how easy it would be to just fix Lionel’s death.
I didn’t tell anybody right away. No one had known how much it tore me apart inside. Lionel. He wasn’t supposed to die- not yet. But the idea had entered my mind months prior, and it was impossible to push away. I saw the benefit from his death for everyone. Well, everyone except me.
My hands felt incredibly dirty at first. I kept wandering into my bathroom, hoping that time I would feel better. I remember leaning over the bathroom sink and turning on the tap. There was no blood, but I continued to
The water burned against my hands.
They were bright red. They shouldn’t be red- there was no blood! I stopped scrubbing and started clawing. Clawing and scratching at my hands, desperate to get out of my skin.
They burned like hell.
These stupid, stupid, hands were causing me so much pain. Maybe if the water was hotter….
There was blood now. I reached for the soap. My hands were numb, and I missed. I barely heard the shattering of the soap dispenser over my wailing.
“Winnie,” a voice called from the other side of the bathroom door, interrupting my endless scrubbing, “Are you alright?”
I answered. Not sure what I said, but I did answer. I had to, because I couldn’t let anyone know what had happened. Not yet. I had made a promise to keep it a secret. I didn’t say anything, not until everyone was allowed to know. Not until I had finally made headlines.
I stepped out and looked my husband in the eyes. I tried to smile.
I knew he knew. He could see right through that smile.
He took my filthy hands in his and stared at them. He was silent; I tried to hold my breath.
“What-” he started, but I just shook my head.
“Don’t ask. You don’t- I can’t tell you, yet. Please,” I whispered.
My husband looked me in the eyes. Whatever he saw there scared him because he slowly backed away.
“Winnie,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ll listen. When you’re ready, I’ll listen.”
A few hours later he was pleading for me to come out of the bathroom again. He gave me a tea, wrapped my hands in gauze, and carried me to bed. My cries filled the house that night.
Eventually my husband would begin to recognize the signs. He would notice my constant anxiety the days before, or my bloodshot eyes from the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. And those red hands; he would always understand what the red hands meant.
He would try to stop me before I spent hours in the bathroom. He would try to stop the constant scrub,
He would recognize the signs. He would coax me out of the bathroom- call me back to reality. He would kiss my hands and gently rub lotion into them. But then, he would back away from me- just like he did the first time with Lionel. He would back away and give me my space. Eventually I would talk to him, usually a few nights later. I would confess who I had killed, and then tell him all the dirty details; how I did it, who watched, and my pen of choice.
He would listen to all of my confessions. He sat there, wide-eyed. Slightly frightened, but understanding.
“Priscilla was there. He was just about to go out for his big fight. Lionel had promised Priscilla that they would be together- she wanted to run away, but he- he lied to her. He was never going to stop fighting just for her. He loved the glory too much. I had to do it- I couldn’t keep hurting her.
“It was the weekend you were away. I locked myself in our room and planned out the entire thing for hours. Lionel couldn’t know who his murderer was- it had to be a secret.
“Oh god! I’m a terrible person! It was so hard; so hard to press the pen to the paper. That pen had granted him so much, and then it just took it all away with one stab to his heart.”
“You’re sick. Absolutely disgusting!” The voice in my head would shriek.
“You had to do it,” my husband would say.
“It was thrilling,” I would admit several days later.
That thrill never really left. It latched onto me and I haven’t been able to shake it since Lionel’s death all those years ago. There was a sort of excitement that came with obsessing over the perfect way to kill someone.
It was exhilarating.
It made me feel in control.
I remember the first time I experienced the adrenaline that came when I decided I was definitely going through with Lionel’s murder. That’s when I realized that my life had changed forever. I had disrupted the lives and stability of hundreds of people. It was exciting… and terrifying.
I would spend the weeks afterwards trying to sort out the different emotions in my head. The logical part of me would say it had to be done; that there was no way around it. The emotional part wished it didn’t have to be this way, and that I could have let him be the hero that lives. He didn’t have to go so soon. But the sick, twisted part of my brain chanted, “let’s do it again.”
And I did. To keep my career going and my image consistent, I continued to kill. At least, that’s what I told myself. If I’m honest, I killed because I liked it.
I killed Julie just for fun. Everyone had loved her, and I thought it’d be fun to shake things up again; to cause even more anger.
Adam was destined to die right from the start. From his very first word, I knew he would be dead by chapter twenty-eight.
Sometimes I would kill the heroes, like Lionel, so that others could have a chance.
Some people never accepted my kills. Others loved me for it.
Time and time again, I thought back on the first time I killed a man. Lionel. His death was tragic. I thought I had lost my mind. I didn’t think I could go through with it. I sent my editor an apology letter and a fruit basket.
Lionel was so important to me, for many reasons. He was the first person I felt truly connected to. He was the first one to demand that his story be told; he wanted everyone to know how powerful he was. He was great at everything, except loving, and for that he had to die.
I revisit his death every time I kill someone else. It’s a sort of mourning process. Misery loves company, and what’s more tragic than killing your best friend?
I remember what it was like to have the blade stab him in the heart. There was no resistance- his heart was empty. There was blood everywhere; it pooled at his feet and spilled over the pages. Priscilla screamed a few feet away. I wanted to calm her down, but I had to get the blood off my hands. They were stained. I had to scrub,
and scrub until I stopped feeling deceitful.
I ran the water to drown out Lionel’s cries.
Or was it Priscilla’s?
“It’s for your own good,” I told Priscilla after I had calmed down, “Please, your life will be better now.” Then I slammed my notebook closed to shut her up too.
I sank back on my knees. I wrote that. I described his murder. I tore her heart out.
Her life did get better. I made sure of it. I introduced her to someone who would be her hero. I made everything final, and then I waited.
Sure enough, the day after its release, a newspaper was delivered to my door. The headline read:
“Winnie Williams Isn’t Afraid to Kill! Spoilers Ahead!”