“Matt mixes humor and horror telling a story of a couple in a toxic relationship facing violence from a third party.”
Joelcy Kay | Editor | Edge of Humanity Magazine
Written by Matt Williams
“It’s like you’d spent the entire day feasting on the insignificant and the mundane, because it started seeping from your pores, creating this dreary miasma which enveloped us all in a cloud of boredom.” Denise spat as Tim’s key refused to get into the lock. “And it really ruined the appetisers.”
“What ruined the appetisers was the psychopathic-like nature you went about de-shelling that lobster whilst talking about that Dahmer programme.” Tim responds, his key now lodged in the lock, enabling them to leave the cold night behind and enter their home. “It was like you’d spent all month tracking its movements, and now was when you’d finally got it into your kill room and you were going to savour its every scream. I’m honestly surprised you didn’t bring back a claw as some kind of token of the kill.”
“No, because I eat my food. Unlike you, who couldn’t manage the teeny-tiny side salad.” She says, in a mocking tone whilst shaking off her shoes. “What’s worse is that you got the guy to put it in a doggy bag for you! Who takes home salad?”
“Firstly, I’d already filled up on the frites.” Tim says, tossing his jacket over the bannister. “Secondly, I thought I could have it for lunch tomorrow. After a big meal like that, something like a light salad will be nice. It’s called common sense. But you wouldn’t know about that.”
“Filled up on the frites!” she says, stepping over the chest of drawers which lays wrecked on the floor, on her way to the kitchen. “Would you listen to yourself? They’re called fries. Loser.”
“The dish is called steak frites. It’s from Europe. But, to understand things from another country takes kindness, compassion and empathy. Qualities you’re not famous for.” he fires back, side stepping past their ransacked cabinet.
In the kitchen, Tim veers left to get himself a glass of water from the sink. Denise heads right to the refrigerator. The scattered mess of their personal documents pulled from the drawers’ lies in the middle, unnoticed.
“You know, I didn’t grow up in a particularly nurturing household. So, I’m not sure what more you want from me.” she says, before downing a freshly poured glass of white wine.
“That’s an understatement and a half. You grew up in a home like the posh folks from the Purge movies. All happily clinking the crystal champagne flutes as they gut the gardener.”
“They may have been terrible parents. But at least they raised me to have a modicum of ambition. Not like your folks, who have all the ambition of a marshmallow on a stick when faced with fire.”
“Dad’s problem is glandular and you know it.” Tim turns and places his glass in the sink, hoping to appear as if this comment has gone personal enough to receive an apology, and therefore secure him the victory.
Denise remains silent. An apology was always a long-shot. But based on their previous arguments, any drop in the quantity or veracity of his response has been like handing her a crowbar with which to beat him. Yet, there’s silence.
“Put your hands behind your head, step away from the sink then slowly turn to face me.” a voice commands.
Tim complies and finds a hooded figure with a knife at Denise’s throat.
“Do what I say, and she won’t get hurt?”
The hooded figure is nervous. His movements are twitchy, and keeps checking around him in case some have-a-go hero lies hidden in the wings.
There’s silence, only for a beat, but it feels like a lifetime. Tim and Denise lock eyes. After 15 years of marriage, they instinctively know what the other is thinking. “You’ve left the fridge open. Again.” Tim points out.
“I knew you were going to say that.” Denise says, angered.
“It’s just you do this every time. Not only are you wasting money, my salad is going to wilt.”
“Does it look like I care about your bloody salad?”
“No. And you didn’t care about those cheesecakes I put in there the other week. I came down on Sunday morning, the doors wide open and they’re just a puddle of dairy. That was good money down the drain. I’m sick of it.”
“Cheese cakes! You’d mashed up a few biscuits and blobbed in some mascarpone. They were an abomination. You’re the Mengele of patisserie.”
“Shut up about the damn cheesecake and listen!” The intruder interrupts. “The money you owe Joe. He wants it. Now. And I ain’t leaving here until I have it. If that means I have to hurt you, I will. But it’s easier if you just do what I ask. That way, this is over quicker. Understand?”
Tim nods. There’s another beat. He turns to Denise again. “Notice how all your references relate to Nazis?” he asks. “They’re your Beatles, aren’t they?”
“I like how you refer to the Beatles, but you have more Spin Doctors’ records than you do anything else.”
“For a time in the 90s, the Spin Doctors were as big as the Beatles. Shows what you know.”
“Did you not understand what I said?” the intruder shouts, pressing the knife firmly to Denise’s windpipe. “If you don’t pay up, I’m going to hurt her.”
Tim sighs, as if inconvenienced. “Ok, ok. Just calm down.”
“I’ll be calm when I get my money. So, are you going to get it for me?”
Tim shrugs. “Probably not. But this notion you have about hurting her that intrigues me.”
“What?” the intruder says, double taking. The response, combined with the last few minutes of discussion, has him confused. “What did you say?”
“I said go ahead. You’ve seen what she’s like. She’s a nightmare.”
“I’m a nightmare?” Denise says, surprised. “You’re the reason why we have to leave an hour earlier than we need to whenever we go anywhere. Because we have to return about 5 times so you can be sure you’ve locked up properly.”
“Without wanting to appear too smug, you wouldn’t let me do that tonight and look at what’s happened.”
Frustrated, the intruder squeezes Denise’s arm, causing her to squeal, and presses the knife into the skin to draw a little blood. She flinches, but Tim remains stoic. “Just get me the money! Because I’ll do it. I’ll really do it.”
“Just shut up and do it then!” Tim says, losing patience. “I’ve had enough of people wittering on at me tonight. Honestly, you’d be doing me a favour.”
The intruder slashes Denise’s across the cheek. A wound just deep enough to hurt and close enough to the eye as to create panic, but not cause any real damage. That can come later.
“I’m not joking around.” he says, shaking Denise. “Now, go get my money.”
“Tim?” Denise says, trying to compose herself. “You see what this is?”
Tim looks and shrugs, unclear what she could have to say. “This is a man that has the balls to follow through on what he says.”
“I’ve told you, I will learn to snowboard. It’s just work’s been crazy busy.”
“For 2 years?”
The intruder knows the longer these things take, the more likely he is to run into the cops. And it’s been too long already. “Look, I don’t know what’s happening with you two, but you need to get me my money fast or I’m going to start carving her up.”
“Please go ahead. If you do, then maybe we can confirm if Tin Man actually has a heart.”
“Hopefully it won’t be like you trying to carve a Turkey.”
“If my Turkey carving has been on the thick side, it’s because you’ve removed every possible ounce of moisture from it.”
“Like you with my lady parts.”
Tim’s lip curls to formulate a response. But before it can take shape, the intruder plunges the knife into Denise’s side. The place just between the ribs where the flesh is thin, and the muscle used enough so that even the slight flinch causes pain.
Denise howls. Her knees give way beneath her, but the intruder makes a point of catching her before throwing her to the ground. He raises the knife and points it at Tim. “Get the money. Now.”
The amount of blood which spills in such a short time is shocking. Denise flaps like a wounded animal as her body struggles to adjust to the trauma. Her bloody hand prints cover the floor and kitchen surfaces like some macabre Jackson Pollock. But through heavy breaths, she pulls herself into a sitting position and says, “So, that’s what it’s like to have something bigger than 3 inches inside of me.”
“Look, I don’t know what freaky stuff you two are into, but if you don’t get me my money now, you will have to watch her slowly die.”
“Two things.” Tim says, “One: If I get you the money, I’m out of pocket. Two: Not only will I be out of pocket, but she’ll still be around to constantly remind me I’m out of pocket. So, I’m struggling to see how that’s a win.”
“This is messed up.” Shaking his head, the intruder goes to retreat. His instincts screaming at him to get the hell out of dodge. But, as he makes the first step, Denise lunges forward and grabs his leg.
“Where do you think you’re going?” she asks. “Please don’t tell me you’re not going to pussy-out like he would?”
Startled, the intruder shakes his leg, like he’s trying to dislodge an amorous dog.
“Just ignore her.” Tim says. “She does this all the time. Something happens to her. She tries to make it someone else’s problem. Don’t let it get to you.”
“I’d like to see you take this. A simple graze and you’re calling for Mummy.” Denise retorts, still clutching the intruder’s shaking leg like she’s riding a mechanical bull.
“Of course I could take it. He was giving us a warning. He clearly wasn’t trying to really hurt you. It’s just a flesh wound.”
“Go on then, Johnny Knoxville. Prove me wrong. Take a hit. Let’s see how you react to a flesh wound.”
“That’s crazy. We’ve got a madman in the room – no offence,” Tim says, waving apologetically at the intruder. “And your first thought is to get him stabbing the both of us.”
“No. My first thought was hoping he’d stab you. But we are where we are. So, gone on, prove me wrong.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“See what I said.” she says, addressing the intruder, who is still frantically trying to remove the bleeding lady from his leg. “He’s a pussy.”
“I see what you’re trying to do, and I’m not falling for this.”
“You can keep talking, but I’m not going to do it.” Tim says, trying to suppress any sign of annoyance he may be showing, and failing.
“You can keep talking, but that’s not going to stop you from being a pussy. Pussy.”
“This doesn’t mean you’ve won.” Tim says, pulling up his shirt. “But if it’ll shut you up, take your best shot.”
“What the hell are you doing now?” The intruder asks, flabbergasted.
“Oh, don’t get all sensitive on me. Do this and I’ll get you your money.”
The intruder stops and Denise slides down his leg. He turns to Tim, but pauses. “Really? You’re not messing about?”
“No. Just do it. Let’s get this over with.”
The intruder looks to Denise for validation. She just shrugs, but lets go of his leg, which he takes as confirmation. He ambles over, cleans the blade of his knife and moves his shoulders as if warming up. Then, after a few practice stabs, he swings the knife into Tim’s side.
Tim stifles a scream and has to steady himself. “See.” he says, struggling. “Walk in the park.”
“Rubbish.” Denise says, almost laughing. “Look at you. You want to call an ambulance, don’t you?”
“Hardly. This is how I always stand. You want to look at someone who’s not handling it, look in the mirror.”
“Honest question.” Denise begins, turning to the intruder. “Who do you think is handling it better? Him or me?”
“At this point, I don’t care. I just want my money and to get the hell out of here.”
“Come on, give us an answer. Once you tell me I’ll get that money.” Tim says, choosing Denise’s Queens Jubilee tea towel to hold against his bloody side.
The intruder senses trouble. But there’s something in their expectant looks which draws him in. “Well,” he says, taking a moment to think. “I guess I did go a bit deeper on her. Plus, she’s been like that for a while. So her.”
“Rubbish.” Tim shouts, aggrieved.
“I’m not saying she’s handling it well.” The intruder says, feeling the need to justify himself. “Just a bit better than you.”
“Not handling it well! Oh, you can do one too.” Denise responds.
“Good. Just get me my money and I’ll be out of your hair.”
“No.” Tim says, pouting. “Not after you’ve picked her.”
“What? You’re kidding me?” the intruder asks, but Tim crosses his arms and refuses to look at him.
“What do you know, anyway?” Tim says, over his shoulder. “You’re just an armchair pundit. You don’t know a cut when you’ve seen it.”
“Yeah.” Denise agrees, in an unexpected moment of unity, which startles them all. “What do you know? You’re just here as a threat. You didn’t want to do this. In fact, I don’t think you’ve done this before.”
“What are you talking about? I’m a gangster! It’s what I do.”
“You’re not a gangster. You’re just a debt collector with cutlery.” Denise says, pulling herself up to her feet.
“I think the blood loss is getting to you. Honestly, the things I’ve done to some people,” he says, making a wincing face. “I’m notorious. I am. Famed for my ruthless streak. That’s why Joe hired me, in fact. He wanted to make sure this really sends a message.”
“What message is that, then? If you don’t pay up after the 17th time of asking, you’ll give them a thick ear?”
“I wouldn’t expect you two to understand the intricacies of modern day gangster work, but it’s not just rock up and start cutting people. There’s nuance to it. You have to assess the situation. Choose the best course of action. Some people run, some fight back. You see these scars?” he says, lifting his shirt up to reveal a mass of old scars. “I think that speaks for itself.”
“So you’re well versed then?” Denise says. “Show us how a pro takes it.”
“What your average civilian doesn’t understand is that there’s a skill to hurting people. You don’t want to go too big too soon. If you go in all guns blazing you may nick an artery or something. Then they’re bleeding out before you get what you want. You start off doing something that is a bit painful, but looks really bad. That makes them panic.”
“A-ha. You see.” Tim says, elated. “He just said you start off with something that just looks bad. Therefore my wound is worse, and I win.”
“Look what you’ve done? Of all the things you could have said. You’re just as bad as him. Here, give me that thing.” Denise reaches over and plucks the knife from the unsuspecting intruder, and slams it into his side. “Take that and shut up. Maybe that’ll teach you to think about what you say first.”
The intruder stumbles. The wound inflicted is one of significance. “Hey! I aimed for flesh. You’ve gone deep. I think you’ve pierced something.” He says, concerned.
“Look at that. And you have the audacity to criticise my turkey carving.” Tim says.
“You want some?” Denise turns, pointing the knife at Tim.
“Go on then? Try your worst.”
Using the kitchen work surface, Denise drags herself across the kitchen towards Tim, hacking at thin air.
“You two are just… You can keep your money. Joe can do what he wants with you. This ain’t worth it.” The intruder says and goes to leave.
“I’ve already told you once.” Denise says, turning and flinging the knife into his back. As soon as he hits the floor, she’s on him and stabbing him. “You’re not leaving me with him.”
“Well. I’m just going to leave you guys to it.” Tim says, shuffling away.
“Oh no you’re not.” The intruder says. Pulling a small knife from his sock, he throws it with precision into the back of Tim’s thigh.
As Tim falls, he grabs the knife from his leg and aims his descent towards Denise so that her body takes the full force of the blade. “This is all your fault. I would have checked to see if that door was locked if you’d have let me.”
“Bollocks.” she replies, turning her attention away from the intruder to getting in a hit of her own. “If you’d have had some and stood up to him, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
The intruder comes too. He’s unsure how long he’s been out, but the floor is slick with blood and he’s weak. There’s a quiet calm. His body has accepted its fate and so has he. Lying there he thinks not of what’s been. Only what’s to come.
He watches as Tim rolls over and checks on Denise. He shakes her, and she eventually opens her eyes. Tim pulls himself up to be next to her and wipes the bloody hair from her face. She smiles, then says “Seriously though, who brings home salad.”
Text © Matt Williams
Matt is a writer from the UK. He mostly writes satirical and sci-fi short stories. Most of which can be found at his site.
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