This story is by Rylee Ann and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I try and settle my stomach, watching the woman two tables away drinking her smoothie. She went down with muscle spasms, paralyzed as the toxin made its way through her system. I get up and hold the contents of my stomach until I reach the dumpsters behind the restaurant.
This locally owned restaurant has no cameras. The only person who saw me was the woman, as I made up the drink. The owner had run out of milk before opening and ran to get more.
Part of me wishes my life isn’t like this. I didn’t want to kill that woman. I put enough hemlock in that vegetable smoothie to take down three men. I huff angrily, frustrated that this is now my life.
You see, I’m cursed. It wasn’t always like this, just for the past year. Just when your boyfriend is a warlock, maybe don’t dump him over text. So now every good thing I do reduces my lifespan and every evil thing increases my life, but the catch is that the evil thing has to be taking a life, and the life has to be chosen for me. He had chosen murder because that was the one thing I knew I could never do but now have to.
I didn’t believe it, until I saved someone from getting hit by a car and went to the hospital because of a heart attack and a concussion. That’s when everything became real.
I started researching curse cures, all the sites told me to kill the one who cursed me. So I put out an add on the dark web in the meantime, before I found him again. Don’t ask me how I found it because I don’t know. The things we do to save our lives. I became a contract killer.
Every person I killed meant I could have a month before killing again, with small good deeds in there shaving days off my lifespan. Holding open a door takes off a week, or so my possessed Fitbit tells me. At least the bastard left me that.
That was a year ago, I am now 21.
I walked steadily back to my apartment.
I mark the date in the hemlock column of my kill chart. I cycled through kill methods so people wouldn’t think it was a serial killer. I don’t like that I am so good at this, but it pays the rent.
I toss my long unkempt brown hair to the side. I grab a beer from the fridge and see my reflection in the metallic surface. The bags under my eyes have gotten worse.
I sigh, feeling the emptiness of depression envelop me. I pull out my computer to talk to my client. Quil’s chat, one of my frequent customers, is still pulled up. I close it out to pull up the other chat. We never use real names, only codes.
“It’s done,” I type, and close the window.
“Cass, you’re back!” Natalie call, jumping at me.
“Fu-” I yelp, shutting my computer. “What are you-?”
“I wanted to see my best friend,” she says. “I do still have your spare key.”
“You can’t just show up here,” I said, but I’m not really mad at her.
Natalie has long gold hair, with bangs that cover one of her shining brown eyes. She is wearing a skimpy red and aqua sundress even though spring just started. She looked like the human embodiment of a sunrise.
“What are you doing here?” I inhaling sharply as I see a handgun sloppily hidden under my backpack. Even though she’s an investigator, Natalie doesn’t seem to see it, and I let out my breath.
“You seem stressed,” she observes.
“I just finished work, it was a hard day,” I said, sugar coating it. I could see there was just something she was dying to ask me. “So?”
“I joined the Kane murder investigation,” she says.
“What? That’s great!” Kane, not one of my contracts, thankfully. I listen to Natalie go on and on about the case.
“So what made work so bad today?” she asks. “Where do you even work anymore? I feel like it has been forever since we talked.”
Well, I started killing people. “I serve,” I answer. I sigh as Natalie relaxes a bit.
“You know what we should do?” she asks, getting excited again. I groan, knowing the look in her eyes. This is when she drags me off to do something I regret.
“What?” I ask, shaking my head.
“We should go outside,” she says, voice full of wonder. “You are so pale anyway, and it’s spring! There are hot guys.”
Other girls don’t know seven different ways to kill people. Nat is already dragging me out the door.
She takes me to the park across the street, it was one of our favorite places to go. She runs around, like a schoolgirl at recess, talking to everyone she corners. I find a bench, and observe.
My phone buzzes. “Pretty, isn’t she?” the text reads. I didn’t recognize the number.
“Who?” I ask. Another text pops up.
“You know me as Quil, Cassie,” it says.
I shoot off a quick response, fear propelling me. “How do you know my name?” I only ever used the codename Dealer to communicate with customers.
“Oh, I know all kinds of things about you,” Quil answers.
“Who is that?” Natalie asks, running back.
“No one,” I answer, sending another text.
“What do you want?” I put my phone back in my pocket then stand up.
“We should go,” I said, leading Nat away.
“I have to head down to a club across town, to meet up with some friends,” she says. “Want to come?” I shake my head. It’s too risky.
“I’m going to go for a walk,” I said. I slide my phone out of my pocket when I am well away from her.
There is another text from, Quil. “Meet at the newsstand outside your apartment.” How does he know where I live? I walk across the street casing the stand.
A tall man stands inside the box, short silver hair. “Who are you?” I ask, looking into his eyes.
“My name is Jacob, but you know me as Quil,” he says, voice sounding like the crackle of thunder, but oddly familiar. Voice modulator.
“What do you want from me?” I ask.
“A fake name, some hair dye, and you don’t recognize me?” Jacob asks. I look closer and see a familiar scar over his left eye.
“Bruce?” I ask.
“Oh, you do remember.” He smiles.
“How could I forget the man who ruined my life,” I grumble. “Why are you giving me commissions?”
“Did you really think I wanted you to die?” he asks. “You were the one who broke us up.”
“Is this you making up for cursing me?” He nods. “What do you want?”
“Your friend Natalie is working on the Kane case,” Bruce says. “Mr. Kane was looking into some of my business. I make people disappear.”
“You killed him. God, Bruce!” I said.
“Don’t get all high and mighty with me, Cas,” he snaps. “It would be fine if your friend had just went with the fall guy I set up.”
“Why are you coming to me?” I ask.
“I need you to kill her,” he says.
“You can’t refuse.” Bruce points to the Fitbit that is counting down every second I was indecisive.
“What if I killed you?” I ask.
“It wouldn’t cancel out the job,” he says. “Or lift the curse like you want, those are fairy tales.”
“No wonder I dumped you,” I said, and he winks at me. I slam the pocket knife I had been playing with through his hand. He cries out in pain.
Later that night I found myself up on a roof, across from one of the trashiest nightclubs in town. No one went there, almost no one. It’s Nat’s favorite spot. I try hard not to cry, looking down at the gun in my hand.
“This is selfish, this whole thing is selfish! I kill to live, I kill innocent people,” I said. “And now I am going to kill my best friend.”
I let the handgun lay on the ground, glinting in the moonlight. “How long is this going to go on?” I ask myself. “I don’t think I can mentally take much more, but do I want to die?”
I look back at the entrance to the nightclub. Nat always gets drunk and rushes away to puke her guts out. “This is wrong,” I whisper. She comes running out, barefoot, and ducks into an alley.
I pick up the gun. “One of us has to die,” I said, letting the tears flow from my eyes. “I’m sorry.”
I press the metal to my temple and sigh. “There is no good choice!” I yell. “Only one of us deserves to die.”
The guns bang echoes out into the night.