Eric listened to the clacking of keys on the computer. Each minute made him more anxious. The nervousness coiled up in his stomach and twisted something deep inside him. He wanted to get up and interrupt Jessica, but he knew that doing that would only set her back. He tried to focus on other things, but each pause in the cadence piqued his attention. He wondered if Jessica had finished writing for the night or if something worse had happened, that she had hit that familiar wall known as writer’s block. He tried to wait patiently, but it eventually became too much.
Eric sat up from the couch and stretched. He had been on that couch for hours waiting for her to finish writing for the day. He snuffed out the fifth cigarette he had had that day in the already overloaded ashtray. He slowly moved over to her and asked, “How’s it coming along?”
Jessica blew out a sigh that told him everything he needed to know in that moment. It was not going well. The computer screen confirmed that for him. She had been at the computer for most of Saturday and she had barely written more than a paragraph. She would write a paragraph, pause to read it to herself, and then delete it. She would inch through, but nothing was satisfactory to her.
When Jessica started writing months ago and asked for his opinion, he had just humored her and thumbed through the pages of her manuscript that she had printed out, not really reading them. He offered her platitudes and over-generalized advice to keep her from realizing that he wasn’t actually reading them, but something changed about a month ago. He couldn’t even begin to explain what turn of phrase or play on words first caught his attention, but once it had him, it didn’t let go. He plowed through fifty pages in a single day. He had to find out what happened next.
It became a process for them, Eric would pick her up from work each day and fish to see if she had come up with anything new for the story while they were apart. They would eat dinner and discuss ideas for the plot. It quickly became all that they ever talked about. They stopped visiting with their friends and going out entirely other than to pick up food and go to their respective jobs. Every night he would wait for her to finish so he could hungrily tear through the new plot developments and character progressions she had come up with.
At first progress was quick, Jessica was about one hundred pages into the novel and it always seemed like she had new ideas and things for characters to say. It wasn’t until two weeks ago that her progress began to slow. She was suddenly more reserved about her ideas and the ones she did pitch to him seemed pretty generic. The sudden influx of five pages a day trickled down to three, then to one, and now he was lucky if she could even finish a paragraph in one sitting. With nothing else to talk about, they stopped talking altogether.
It didn’t take an insightful person to see that they were not good as a couple. Jessica was not really his type anymore and Eric knew that anything he gave her was skin-deep. She had a tendency to needle him with comments and he tended to overlook her feelings when they were weighed against his. Even their love making was a perfunctory and romance-less process. It was once comfortable, but now it was only worn-out. They had started dating after college and either never really found the motivation to break it off. With these conditions, their toxic relationship persevered and shambled on. Jessica poked holes in him and Eric neglected her emotions.
He tried his best to sound convincing, “Keep writing. You just have to plow through.”
“I’m tired, can’t we just go to bed?”
A spark of frustration flared up inside him. They had gone to bed without any real progress for a few days now and that was something he didn’t want to become a habit. He wanted her to finish it and give the novel a satisfying conclusion for all the characters.
“Keep going. We can go to bed once you’re finished with that chapter, I want to see how this section ends.”
“I’m just not feeling in the mood to write right now. Let’s take a break.”
A night ago, Eric had a dream about tying her to the chair in front of the computer for a few days. He would leave her arms free of course, he still wanted her to be able to type. He would simply use up a few rolls of duct tape around her torso and legs to keep her planted in the chair. He imagined how easy it would be to call work and tell them that they were taking a vacation to visit an imaginary sick relative. He could gag her if the need arose. He would keep her tied up until she finished writing. He would have to throw out the clothes she soiled in the process and tear up the carpeting, but the story would finally be finished. Instead of waiting months, she could finish it in a few days. He would feed her, he wasn’t cruel. On second thought, maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe that was the incentive she needed to keep going.
His focus was broken by Jessica. “Hey, you listening? Don’t tell me you’ve gone all 'Rain Man' on me. We got all of Sunday so let’s call it for the night and start fresh tomorrow.”
Eric clenched his teeth. She knew that his brother was autistic, now she was just trying to press his buttons. He wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of hitting her again. The last time he did, she looked at him with a twisted and triumphant look plastered on her face. He apologized profusely but she still kept that sick smirk. She knew she had won the argument by making him strike her. She had hobbled him by making him act like his father, someone he never wanted to be. He would not give her that satisfaction twice. He calmed himself down before answering:
“You can’t force me to keep typing.”
The epiphany was sudden and settled on Eric like a five hundred pound weight. Judging by Jessica’s reaction, she had just had the same realization. She tried to move around him but he blocked her path. She tried to push through him but he planted his feet. Her anger exploded and she shouted at him. Both Eric and the neighbors were used to that by now. They fought more and more each day. It was commonplace; it was a sad accepted fact by their neighbors. They kept to themselves and expected the shouting to die out. What happened next was not expected.
Jessica clawed out and caught Eric off-guard. She raked her nails down his face and drew blood. She used his shock to quickly slip by him and run towards the bedroom. He recovered quickly and caught her around the waist before she could lock herself in. He pulled her back into the living room and threw her against a nearby wall. She tried to get up but he pinned her down.
In the truest expression of their relationship she snarled at him, “Did your father teach you how to do that? Of course he did, your whole family is fucked to the core. First he squirts a retard into your mother and then he makes an even bigger failure with you. At least he could make a kid. You’re probably the reason why we couldn’t conceive in the first place. You’re the reason why the therapist advised me to start writing to keep my mind off the miscarri-”
In the most honest moment of their relationship, Eric shut her up. He pulled a nearby letter opener off the table and drove it into her chest. The moment took them both by surprise, but he recovered first. Lost in that instant, he muffled her mouth with his left hand and began repeatedly stabbing her in the chest. He kept going until the realization of what he was doing brought him back from the darkness, but it was too late.
Eric scrambled off of her and dropped the letter opener onto the rug. Looking over her, he noticed that he had stabbed her over half-a-dozen times in his rage. He felt bile rise up into his throat, but he swallowed it back down. Jessica gasped weakly through the broken ribs and lacerated lungs, any strength she had was stripped from her during the attack.
Eric stroked the side of her face and in his desperation asked her, “How does the story end?”
Jessica coughed up a small burble of blood in an attempt at a wry laugh. “It doesn’t; it’ll never end. I could write for years and never finish it. It’s fitting for us. We only tread water in this relationship. We’re terrible for each other and we both know it. We’ve been dragging each other down for a long time now-” Eric shut her up again.
Once Eric was certain she was dead, he stood up. He left the edge of the letter opener in the hollow of her throat. He quickly moved across the room and returned to the computer. He only had a little bit of time. If he was lucky, his neighbors would assume it was another one of their squabbles and not investigate. Her work would be much harder to convince. He could tell them they were taking a few days off to visit a fabricated family member, but they would eventually get suspicious. He had a week at tops before they started asking questions he couldn’t answer. He sat at the computer and looked at the screen. Maybe he could finish the story himself, he began typing.
A few hours later he noticed that the sun had risen. The blood from his hands stuck on the keys after they dried, but he continued typing. He became aware of the smell a few hours after that. Jessica had evacuated when she died, but he didn’t have the time to try and clean up the mess. He only had a few days at best before someone was sent to investigate. He kept typing. The dull sensation of pain that began in his lower back slowly snaked its way up his torso. It hurt to stay sitting, but he couldn’t stop; he kept typing. Words clumsily spilled onto the screen and lay there heart-wrenchingly like a stillborn child. He kept typing.
Days passed, but he didn’t stop. The telephone rang, but he ignored it. He knew nothing good would come from answering it. He kept typing. The seat of the chair was soaked with sweat and a few other things he didn’t want to think about. Thinking about them distracted him. He kept typing. The smell now was unbearable and the pain radiated along his body like someone was constantly tearing into him with their nails. He kept typing. He looked up when he heard a knock on the door. He looked back down and continued typing. The knocks grew louder and were now accompanied by shouting. He kept typing. He heard the police throwing themselves against the door, but he kept typing. The door protested with a groan, but it would eventually relent. He kept typing.
Written by EmpyrealInvective