by Libby Cudmore
[EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS STORY WON THE 2014 STONESLIDE SNAP CONTEST.]
Smother me with a pillow in my sleep, Reese says.
Reese’s blinds are broken and his apartment is too cold. We’re out of beer and it’s twenty past midnight and we’re trying to figure out how we’d kill each other if such an occasion arose. It’s not a suicide pact, just a way to determine the depth of our friendship. Murder is so personal; you don’t know how much someone really loves you until they’ve admitted how they would end your life.
Murdering Reese would involve something sweet, something more gentle than leaving him flailing for his last breaths. Antifreeze, I say. In your Diet Coke. You’ll hardly notice the taste. It wouldn’t be just any toxin—arsenic or cyanide or rat poison to leave him weak and in pain in the last few moments before he died, cramped and curled on the bathroom floor. I love him too much for his imaginary death to be anything other than quick.
I’d fill your bedroom with carbon monoxide, Reese says to me. Painless.
I’m touched. He wants for me the same thing I want for him, a peaceful end to the brutalities of life. If that isn’t friendship at its absolute core, I don’t know what is.
Catch, draped across the recliner like a broken statue, says he’d make love to me and then shoot me with a throw-pillow silenced pistol while I slept. Violent, bloody and quick. A crime of passion, an explosion of lust, because no other time after would ever be as perfect as that first touch we’d never taken.
I’d strangle you, I tell him, rising from the couch. With the striped tie you wear when we go for cocktails. While I kiss the last breath of life out of you. I straddle him in the chair and put my knee on his chest, my cool hands trembling on his collarbone. I feel him get hard against my thigh. Sex and death: two unspeakable subjects, our last will and testament, a touch of sweetness before the void. I lean in just close enough to where he might believe I am going to kiss him. I want to, badly. But if I kiss him here, I might go ahead and strangle him.
Love in your twenties is an ugly, bitter thing. It doesn’t make sense. But I love these two men enough to kill them if the need ever arose. There is no love so deep as the kind that can say goodbye.
Reese and Catch exchange glances across the room. Pistols at dawn, they say in unison. It’s the only real way. Catch aims and fires an imaginary gun. Reese blocks the bullet with a DVD cover and fires back. Catch falls dead and slack between my legs. After a moment, he opens his eyes. We gather our coats. There’s nothing left to say.
Catch drives me home. He walks me inside, kisses my cheek. He puts his leather gloves around my throat, his eyes tender, his mouth curled with sinister sweetness. I hold his gaze. He squeezes just enough to tell me that he loves me.