“I don’t know what this means.” Angie sounded legitimately confused. “Did they kill each other?”
“I don’t think that’s even possible.” Daniel responded.
He was probably right. You could only look into one person’s eyes at a time and, as far as David could tell, someone always won the race to death. David certainly knew what he had done. Carl was screaming bloody murder when they’d touched eyes and David didn’t waste a thought before dropping him. But that didn’t explain the other two. It was possible that Carl may have gotten to one of them before looking at David, but things happened so damned fast, it didn’t seem likely. David suspected that either Daniel or Angie, one of the two sitting blindfolded with him now, felt as guilty as he did. Except David didn’t actually feel guilty. He’d given that up after only a few weeks. Besides, if he were going to feel remorse, there were other things done over the last 24 hours that he should regret more than surviving Carl’s wrath. In any case, he certainly wasn’t going to be the first to admit something. He opted to play along. “It’s that or one of us killed them.”
“I don’t like this.” Angie’s voice betrayed her anxiety, which made David uneasy. He didn’t know her and if she got upset there was no telling what she might do. Based on the shudder in her speech, he figured she was probably the other killer.
“Look,” Daniel again. “If one of us did something, we should just admit it. I don’t think…”
No. David had already decided against that route. He obviously couldn’t trust these two and he felt certain this was going bad. There was no way he would admit to anything. This could easily turn into a witch hunt or an ambush. Nope. No way.
“I can’t take this!” David’s composure broke. “I gotta go!”
He was done with this façade masquerading as civility. Civilization was over. The world had ended months ago and these guys simply refused to acknowledge it.
David had been a real estate agent. After wasting a few years in college (because that’s what people did after high school) he dropped out and took a real estate course. Six nights of classes and a three-hour multiple-choice test later, he held a license in one hand and an offer at one of the largest real estate firms in the city in the other. He couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their time in college when it took so little to break into one of the world’s most lucrative professions.
After three weeks he realized clients didn’t just call and ask for an agent and ‘floor time’ really meant hours he was required to sit in the office answering zero phone calls and watching no one walk in the door. When David asked more seasoned agents for advice they would chuckle and suggest he do some cold-calling or ask if he had any aging relatives in the area. After four months of getting nowhere, his broker gave him a break and let him babysit a listing for a vacationing agent. It was a crappy little house in a working class neighborhood that hadn’t yet gone transitional but he dove in as deep as he could – cleaning carpets, rearranging furniture, replacing the cigarette-smoke stained drapes, setting potted plants on the porch, shooing the grey-faced owners out during Open House – and the place sold on the second showing. The buyer, fresh out of school, had just moved to town to join a local tech start-up. David ended up with both sides of the deal and a new computer geek friend. That began a roll. As the city rose out of the recession on the back of the second tech boom, so David rode his nerd’s IT contacts. He was on his way to the good life. Until God forsook them all.
“No, David, don’t,” Angie seemed to have gotten a grip on herself, probably one of those infuriating people that get calmer when you freak out at them. “We have to stay together. We can make this work.” Except that was crazy.
“Make what work?” David asked. Seriously absurd. Nothing here was working. “This is insane! This is death waiting to happen!” And that was about as honest as he would ever get with these people.
David turned his face away from the others and pulled the bandana from his eyes. He blinked until the brightness subsided and stood to leave.
“You’re right.” Daniel’s bewildered voice followed David out of the room.
Yeah, David knew he was right, but life had always been death waiting to happen anyway. The curse just made it obvious.
David figured he was one of the last to know. He’d woken up on a regular Sunday morning, done his little workout routine – crunches, push-ups, and the three pull-ups he could manage on a good day – and skipped through the headlines on his phone while he sucked down two cups of coffee. If there was any news of unusual deaths, he couldn’t remember registering it. Then he drove to the listing, set up signs on the corners in a six block radius, sliced up a log of cookie dough and popped it in the oven. He sat for four hours and not a soul showed up. David was confused, but not terribly upset. He was anticipating the arrival of his new tryst. It would be their second liaison after hooking up spontaneously when she’d toured him around her listing the week before. It had been a moment straight out of his fantasies – alone in a house with a woman and then bing-bang-boom they were naked on someone else’s bed. She wasn’t a fashion model or anything, but a solid suburban somebody-else’s-wife. Well kept, professional, and very hungry. She planned to swing over after finishing her own open house a few streets away. David expected her around 4:15 and waited until after 6:00. While strolling the neighborhood collecting signs, disappointed and angry, he realized something was amiss. Dead people on the streets have a way of waking a person up.
David’s first kill was a random dude in a parking lot. He’d been watching a kind of battle explode in front of him and realized they were killing each other with their eyes. Some of them were yelling things like: “You die!” and “I wish you dead.” So when a crazy-haired dude spun around on him he yelled: “Die! Die! Kill kill kill!” The guy was down before the second ‘D.’ After that it was easy.
“I’m not going to let you go out there alone.” Angie’s voice rang after him as he pushed through the door to the alley.
“Too late now, lady.” He didn’t understand who the hell Angie was anyway. She certainly didn’t run with the gang that killed Scott. Tatiana was no fool, but sometimes she just got things wrong.
The alley was wet and cold, the dreary clouds left it dim and awash in shadows. He stood and breathed deeply, feeling a relief and freedom at his resolve to simply leave Daniel’s collective behind. His nose rebelled quickly, the stench of rot and urine stinging his nostrils.
Freedom has its price.
That’s what Scott had said, seconds before David killed him. Scott had been gushing about how Tatiana had finally let him down her pants. David didn’t want to hear about it. Not because he wasn’t interested. He obsessed about sex, and about Tatiana, and even Tava. But he didn’t want to hear about Scott getting what David couldn’t have.
“I used to worry about getting tied down.” Scott said as they walked through the barren aisles of the supermarket. “That is definitely not a concern of mine now.” Scott laughed.
“What’ll you do if we come across a pack of females?” David asked. He knew it was a stupid question, but he really wanted to wipe the grin off Scott’s face, scrub it, with steel wool.
“Uh…nothing.” Scott smiled. “Look, I like women, but Tatiana is all I need. I wouldn’t give her up for anything.”
“Alright, bro,” David said. “If you want to give up your freedom for a skinny chick with an accent.”
Scott looked David up and down, assessing him. “Freedom has a price.” He’d said. He turned and started walking down the aisle.
That’s when David picked up the wire magazine rack and threw it at his back. When Scott spun and glared at him, David downed him. Dead.
At first he panicked. How would he explain this? Say they’d had a fight? Then he realized he could say anything. Nobody was there. Nobody would question his story. He rehearsed the tale about the gang jumping them in the supermarket as he ran, full-bore, back to the hideout, as if he were actually bolting from an ambush. He got kind of into it, pretending he was being chased. He started thinking that maybe someone was coming after him. Method acting, they called it.
Everything worked perfectly. He came in and told his story and no one even blinked. It would only be a matter of time before Tatiana let him down her pants.
Angie showing up was icing on the cake. Any suspicion about Scott’s death just magnetized onto her. Tatiana was convinced that Angie had killed her boyfriend, which set David up perfectly as the concerned friend, the last one to see Scott alive, the sympathetic shoulder to cry on, and then….
Everything went to hell.
Carl, Roy, both girls. The only one left was Angie and…
The door banged behind him. He picked up his pace in the opposite direction.
“Hey David!” Angie. Speak of the devil. “I can’t let you leave!”
David pulled up. Let me leave?
“Who died and made you queen?” David jeered. “Oh that’s right. Everybody!”
“That’s not fair.”
“Not fair?” His sarcasm dripped. “You’re right. I’m still alive.”
Angie caught up. He watched her boots come together and stop three feet in front of him.
He continued. “I suppose Daniel is down there bleeding from his eyes?”
“No,” Angie replied, almost whispering. “Daniel’s fine. He’s waiting for us to come back.”
“I’m not going back.”
“Trust me, David,” Angie said, sounding almost genuine. “I’m only looking out for your best interests here. You don’t have to hide your eyes from me.” She stepped forward, leaning down, trying to move her face into his line of vision.
“I’m certainly not going to look at you!” David said, keeping his gaze averted, down and away. “I’m no fool.”
“Whatever you prefer.” She said. David heard the smile curl her lips.
He barely caught the flash of metal in the corner of his vision before he felt the sting in his ribs. The knife tore quickly back and forth slicing through his heart and he gagged on the blood and bile that rushed up his throat before slumping to the concrete.