This is an attempt at a much darker fiction, totally unrelated to the novel.
The sulfur coated match head connects with the side of the box, igniting a brilliant light that, for a moment, brings the furniture in the room to life. The faint whisper of my cigarette crackling from the first drag is something that I've never heard before. Prior to tonight, this has just been another step in a series of motions and gestures I would make in an attempt to look cool in a room full of noisy strangers I try so dearly to impress. The match is dropped to the floor and quickly forgotten. It has become just another object that is lost in the darkness of my surroundings that I am caring less and less about.
Even though the room is absent of any light, the cigarette still finds its way to my lips. With every drag I take, the amber tip glows just enough to let me see something in the mirror on the wall. It’s my face… or what I can only assume is my face. The expressionless and skeletal shapes I see are a far cry from how I normally look. When the sun is up or when people are present, I’m full of charisma and life. You’ll laugh at my jokes, you’ll listen to my stories, you’ll hang on every one of my carefully crafted words, and when I begin to lose interest, you’ll ask to see me again and give me a folded up paper or fresh napkin with your number on it. I’m the type of person you’d pass by on the street and smile at, because the smile you’d see on my face is infectious. A virus of cheer. But the sun is down now and the people are gone, so the allure has faded and the cheer has retreated. All that’s left now is the virus.
I am a virus.
My pupils begin to dilate and I can see objects on the floor that I need to step over, as I have decided to open the window. I need to let in the smell of fresh air and the sound of passing late night traffic. My arms and chest tighten when I push myself from the edge of the cheap motel bed, reviving the soreness I was feeling hours earlier, when I had just finished.
Arms hanging to my sides, cigarette hanging from my mouth, I step over my shoes and feel a squish. The coldness assures me that it’s just a toppled bottle of water… or maybe beer. I had too much to drink tonight, I could feel myself losing control. I was very loose when we walked out of the bar, so much that I almost lost my footing the moment I set foot on the gravel parking lot. I dispise that feeling.
I push the drapes to the side and pull the ground-level window open. A rush of cool Oklahoma air blows past me and I take a deep breath, absorbing the fresh smell of 5am. The sky on the horizon is getting lighter now, dawn will be coming soon. The dark two-lane highway at the end of the motel parking lot isn’t as lonely as it was when she led me into her room, the truckers have begun to drive by on their morning shifts. Every so often one glances at the motel, only to see me standing in a window, looking back.
The virus lights another cigarette.
I take a long drag and keep it down so the smoke burns my lungs, an attempt to feel some kind of pain. I secretly hope holding it in shortens my life a little more than usual, I hope I won’t have to do this for much longer. I don’t want to do what I do, but I can’t help it. I know I’m a person of interest, and this is what I have to do to keep under their radar. What a sullen way to live.
With the cigarette still hanging from the corner of my mouth, I begin to collect my things. A sock here, my watch there. A used condom is still lying on the bed, next to her skirt. Staying as quiet as possible, I walk into the bathroom and flush it, along with some of my tissues that were on the nightstand. Her room key is still on the desk, right where she left it. I put it in my pocket and take everything I've collected to my car and open the trunk, depositing my clothes and withdrawing the can. I flick the amber from the end of my cigarette and put the butt in my pocket. Looking around me, I make sure no one is up and watching me walk back into the room.
The virus removes the cap from the can.
I walk into the bathroom and start pouring the can’s contents onto the sink, the floor and into the tub, making sure the shower curtain is not forgotten. I leave a trail from there and make my way into the rest of the motel room, covering every spot I may have left my mark. When I’m finished, I go back to the window and close everything back up, checking once again to see if I'm the only one awake. I am.
I wipe off the room key with my shirt and put it back onto the now drenched desk. Using what little of the can’s contents I have left, I begin a trail to the door. Before I open it, I look back and inspect my progress, noticing the wet spot I stepped on minutes ago. I smile to myself when I realize that it wasn’t beer or water after all, it’s urine. Her urine. A lot of it. She really had to pee.
I open the door and check outside once again. No one is around, no one is awake, and no one is approaching on the road. I wipe the doorknob clean, then make a trail to my car, cap off the can, and quietly deposit it back into my trunk. Getting into the driver’s seat of my car, I light one more cigarette and drop the still lit match onto the ground next to me, setting the liquid I poured out ablaze. I watch the flames crawl into the room and spread out, engulfing everything. The desk, the bed, the walls, the floor, the urine, and her body.
I start my car, pull out onto the road and accelerate as quickly as I can, glancing in the rearview mirror to watch the orange glow erase everything I had done. Everything the virus had done. I take another long drag of my cigarette and hold it in. The orange glow disappears behind the horizon, letting every thought about tonight disappear with it, except for one thing.
The expression in her eyes as she was losing consciousness is something that will stay with me for a while, it intrigued me. It wasn't the look of fear, sadness, or even anger. It was disbelief. She looked right at me and couldn't believe the sight of what was happening to her, the blood everywhere… or the unyielding, vacant look I had on my face. It was the look of a monster.