When I first wrote this story in college, I was pretty pleased with it. It's mostly a transcription of an audio tape left for the narrator's fiance, and that's how I originally "wrote" it. I had a little microcassette recorder (I've still got it around here somewhere) into which I spoke the whole thing into.
After reading it recently and making a couple minor changes, I found that the shine had dulled a bit for me. It's not as original as I had originally remembered it being. The antagonists are pretty much an amalgamation of the low men from Stephen King's short story "Low Men in Yellow Coats" from his book Hearts in Atlantis, the little bald doctor's from King's book Insomnia (whom I thought were said to be the same as the low men, but now I don't know where I read that), and the killers in Brian Michael Bendis' first Sam & Twitch story, "Udaku."
A big theme in a lot of my work seems to be love and what would be done to keep it. I fell in love with my wife when we were in high school, which was 13 years, one mortgage and three kids ago. I'd do anything for her, too.
So here's my first short story. Please let me know if you did or didn't like it. Be honest, I can take it. If you're a writer, especially one who delights in the short form, feel free to tear me a new one. It can only make me a better writer.
If you could only see the way see loves me, maybe you would understand
Why I feel this way about our love and what I must do
If you could only see how blue her eyes can be when she says…
…when she says she loves me
“If Could Only See” – Tonic
I’m recording this for you because I’m tired of the running. I’m tired of the hiding. And I’m tired of the fighting. I just want this to be over. I want you to get back to as much of a normal life as possible. I’ve given up, but that doesn’t mean you have to. It’ll all be over soon
I did everything I could. I can’t save myself, but I saved you, and that’s all that matters.
You died in my arms that night. You flat-lined. I was there; I saw it…but I wasn’t the only one. Your parents were sleeping in the waiting room. The chair I was in was uncomfortable. Something was always digging into my back, no matter how I sat, but I was by your side. Tearstains lined the sleeves of my shirt; snot was caked on the cuffs. After a while the tears just wouldn’t come, and I sat there, staring. I don’t know, maybe I was trying to will your body to get better.
There were times when I dozed off without realizing it. The steady blips of the heart monitor, the hum of machines, the soft shoes of the nurses passing by. They were my lullabies.
My enemy that night had the upper hand. It was the heart monitor that lulled me to sleep. It was the heart monitor that mocked me without the slightest hint of remorse. If it stopped, if the broken beats formed a continuous wail, if the peaks and valleys fell and filled and became one straight line…if it stopped…life stopped. Doctors didn’t have control, you didn’t have control, it did. And when I realized that, it knew, and I swear I saw the lead dip into a bit of a grin before it flattened and the blips changed to a scream.
It was almost like I was dreaming: your hand went limp, your chest fell. Your last breath tore a piece of my heart out, and I could see a change. It was your soul. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I wasn’t sure that I believed in souls or not. That would imply a God that I had just abandoned. A God that could take a person like you while leaving someone like me to suffer, that’s just evil. But they are real, and they’re beautiful.
Your soul floated above you, seeming to drain from every pore. I could see you in it: your beauty, your love, your hopes and dreams, all your emotions brought forth in a rainbow of colors. And slowly, while doctors were saying words I couldn’t understand, while your parents stood next to me and cried, while my entire world fell apart around me, your soul started to whither and die.
At that moment I saw everyone I ever knew and cursed them all. No one could help, not even God. But the person I hated most and cursed the loudest was myself. I felt impotent and useless.
The doctor called the time. I looked at my watch and noticed he was fast. As everyone left, I went to you to finally help. I reached out and grabbed your soul. A soul is something that isn’t tangible, it can’t be grabbed, but I wanted to so bad, and I think it new that. I held it in my hands, and I could hear you singing. It was beautiful, and knowing that I would never hear that again ground the pieces of my shattered heart. So I held on and could feel something being drained from me. I was giving your soul part of mine. And when it was healthy again, when it looked like a rainbow, when it looked like you, I let go, and it sank back into you. You gasped once, then again, and I smiled as the tears returned. I smiled and cried as I passed out next to you.
Your parents came in expecting to find me a basket case and their daughter, I don’t know, at peace, maybe? I don’t want to say dead; that’s too cold. But, I guess it’s true. Everybody had expected you to die, and you didn’t disappoint, but I wouldn’t let you go. I’m selfish, I’m just a selfish son-of-a-bitch. So you lived, and you recovered quickly, and you went back home, and I didn’t leave your side.
We were engaged as soon as you got out of the hospital. I wasn’t going to waste any time. I saw how short and fragile and how really unspecific life is. So we got engaged. We were going to be married and spend the rest of our lives together. Nothing could have been better.
And then I saw the first one of them.
Just kind of hanging around, watching. I don’t know, maybe making sure you were the right one. If they screwed up they’d just have more work to do. I really didn’t think anything strange was going on. Every now and then I’d see a guy in a trench coat, y’know, nice, khaki, London Fog-ish. And a cloth Fedora, kind of like Indiana Jones’ hat, except not leather. It went well with the trench coat he was wearing. But it wasn’t until I learned the truth that I realized how much they were around. But we lived every minute of those next few weeks.
And then the first one came after us. We ran back to your house, we ran quickly. He probably knew where you lived, but I guess they weren’t in too much of a hurry. But we ran and told your parents. It didn’t seem too bad, just some crazy guy. SNIFF SIGH, but, oh, we wouldn’t have even begun to imagine what would happen next. I went out, the first time I went anywhere without you since the accident, and this man, not the same one that was chasing us, somebody different, an old guy, I don’t know, I thought he was a crazy bum. Oh god, but he was anything but. And he told me what they were.
They were soul chasers.
That’s what he said, and now I believe him. He made me listen to him and I was horrified. These men, they set things right. They kill people who should already be dead, like you. I put your soul back, and they needed to take it and put it where it belonged. They were after you. It wasn’t an “us” thing, it was you they were after. But I promised you I wouldn’t let anything happen to you again.
Sigh, they don’t need to eat. Well, maybe it’s not so much a need thing; they just can’t. I guess it’s hard to eat when you have no mouth. That’s right, they have no mouths, no noses, they have no eyes, they have no ears, no lips, eh, I guess that would go with the whole no mouth thing. As far as I can tell…no hair…one of the ones I killed was bald…I don’t know. But I’d have to go with the no mouth thing…I’m sorry, the no hair thing.
Sitting outside your house, I had just gotten through with my enlightening conversation with the old man…and…I didn’t know what to do.
Completely featureless…sigh…no faces…and…I think the only people who notice that are the people they’re chasing. They seem to just blend with the crowds, with everybody else. I can go ahead and assume: no fingerprints, no identifying marks, nothing to make them stand out. Heh, you’d think the whole no-face-thing would make them stand out juuuussttt a bit. They always have the fedoras, hats, and they’re always wearing the trench coats. It’s like something out of a detective comic I read.
Sigh…when a soul leaves the body before its time, or it doesn’t leave when it’s time, that’s when they’re called. It’s their job. Technically I guess they’re angels, just doin’ God’s work. Or maybe they work for the opposition. Or maybe they’re grim reapers. Dammit if I don’t want anyone heavenly, anyone celestial to have you though.
I’ll do anything…anything. They’re not gonna hurt you, they’re not gonna get you. That’s why I did what I did. I took the one thing that could lead them to you. For that, I’m truly sorry. And I know, once they find me and kill me, that’s it. I will be a void, my life will be void, but you will still be here, and that’s all that matters. I’m nothing without you.
They’re the desert for my last meal. I’m sure somewhere it’s a delicacy. I don’t know if I should…chew ‘em…or just swallow ‘em…pop ‘em, suck ‘em down.
I’m not scared, not knowin’ what’ll happen. I don’t know if I’ll go where you’re supposed to go. I don’t know if you’ll live forever. I don’t know what’ll happen when you die. But I don’t care.
Some will say I did what I did because I was crazy. And…I might be. I don’t think so, though. I know what I’m doing. What I’m doing I’m doing out of love, not to hurt you, but I saved you, and there’s no turnin’ back now. I can’t undo what I’ve done, and I wouldn’t want to. I don’t know, maybe it was selfish. I didn’t want to go through the rest of my life without you, so I saved you. Now you’ve got to finish the rest of your life without me. Of course, you may not think that’s such a bad thing after what I did, but…
It’s said that the eyes are the doorways of the soul. It’s true, y’know. The person who said that, I don’t know if he saw these men and what they do, but I’ve closed your doorway. I don’t know if, I guess, your soul will live forever now. Your body may die, but your soul will live forever.
I hope I did right, ‘cause I did it out of love.
I’ve almost said all that I can, all that I know, then I’ll mail this tape to you. I hope you get it, and I hope you can forgive me…because I love you.
Je t'aime, mon ange…I love you…good bye.
Daniel stopped the tape. The envelope was already stamped and addressed; all he had to do was stick the tape in and seal it. That done, he picked up the envelope and a small brown sack next to him and walked around to the front of the building.
The sun was starting to set; between moving and scrounging for a last meal, the recording had taken all day. He looked at the sky. The clouds that blotted the sky earlier were dissipating, and the setting sun made them rich, colorful cotton balls.
“What a fitting scene to see before you die,” he thought.
He reached the mailbox, took a deep breath, and dropped the envelope in. It was too late now. Hell, it was way past too late. At least now she’ll know why things happened the way they did.
As he was walking away, off to somewhere peaceful where he could do his deed in private, he saw them. It was a they, this time, not a he. Tracked like a wounded animal, the pack closed in for the kill, and Daniel let them come.
The Faceless Men tore into him, searching for the misplaced soul.
“It worked,” he thought as he lay there dying. “If only they knew how wrong they were. If only they knew it was me looking through her windows.”
And he smiled, and he thought of his love, and his last breath left him, and it was over.