The man stared at the screen in front of him, empty in the court’s precedent. But after the sound of three piercing, ringing knocks, the judge spoke, and his words initiated the typing.
This court is now in session.
He typed, and the words appeared. He did his job as the judge continued.
Calling the case of the people versus Edward Decman. Mr. Decman has been charged with the murder of Sarah Tolve in the first degree.
He just typed.
The bus pulled up in front of him when it was supposed to, and he got on as soon as it was stopped. He had headphones on to mute the sound of the city around him. With his head leaned against the bus window and his eyes closed, as felt right when listening to music, he was taken home submissively.
When he was up in his apartment, he felt the wear of the whole day on his shoulders. But with a light drink before bed, he slept. Leaving his bed the next morning was a strain but the bus left at the same time it did the day before, and he was on it.
The court began with three knocks once again, and he continued typing all the words that were spoken.
He had been a court reporter for many years now, and this meant that the man was well acquainted with the fact that to write words, you had to be aware of the messages they carried. You sensed every word as much as he who said it.
He was familiar with this, but it was different, more difficult this time. He didn’t want them, yet the meanings and implications wrung around inside his head and it could not be helped. But his fingers kept recording, the words just wouldn’t stop, and he was getting sicker and sicker of what he wrote every second. The words he typed were insects that crawled around inside his head.
As the bus moved into its stop, the man found himself craving a drink more than he had in a very long time. He got on and sat down in a subconscious drone of routine. The sun was lowering sooner than he felt it should and when he got home, it took more than one glass for relaxation to settle.
But that was just how it was; some days were harder than others.
The knocking signaled the start of the day again and the man’s head was heavy with a dull pain.
He looked around the room and wondered if everyone or anyone else felt what he felt.
His eyes stopped on the figure behind the wooden table across from him. And it was the first time he took notice of Edward Decman’s stature, his tall and skinny form peering at his hands folded neatly on the table in front of him.
He jerked back to stare at the stenograph screen in his lap. But this made nothing better. His head was splitting.
His teeth rattled inside his skull as the glass of the window shook against it. He couldn’t close his eyes and shut it all out with his headphones this time. His mind raced.
The day had nearly been enough to send him over the edge. The little girl. People used her name in the room upwards from fifty times, and he wrote it. But she was dead… and they kept saying Sarah, Sarah Tolve. He didn’t want to write it after five times, after ten, but he had to. Pieces, they kept saying. The pieces of her they found; ears, teeth, fingers. It was all grotesque. And they just kept saying it.
He raised his headphones’ volume, but his thoughts only mutated.
His sister had taken a different path in life. Singing, as the others in her band made music. He was well familiar with the effect music had on people’s lives.
His head painfully rattling against the window, he enviously thought, she makes them remember there’s a good side.
He badly needed a drink when he got home. He saw in his head that the pages were full and yet kept on filling and filling and he couldn’t stop seeing it, so he drank.
Drinking. Drowning out. Drowning out.
It just kept going. They talked. And he typed.
Why the hell am I here? Are these old bastards gonna forget the filthy shit that’s coming out of their
They heard none of this, for it was thought, and lost. But their words were imprinted and left to stay.
He grimaced and thought, Well if they ever think about forgetting, don’t worry. I’ll be here to let them know how the world is.
There was a new development in the court today. A camera that someone brought out from somewhere.
Decman sat, unbreathing. The stream of words flinging through the air only thickened with the camera’s arrival, and the man’s heart froze.
I’m not writing that, he thought.
I’m not, fucking, writing that shit.
The man struggled against each syllable, but he typed it all.
And everything was dreadful.
He didn’t leave the courtroom as soon as the session was over that evening. Instead, he watched as Decman rose and left the room, opening the doors from the hall.
After today’s events, the evidence from witnesses, the repetition of the girl’s name and now of the camera, and mentions of fingerprints… It seemed unlikely that Decman would ever do so again in quite the same way.
The man peered on as Decman walked down the corridor.
And the man followed him.
He made a slow trip to the freezer after his door creaked and shut behind him. Staring inside at the white light for a moment, he wondered what his sister was playing right then.
He grabbed all the bottles that were left in the freezer and didn’t wait until he was in his armchair to feel the slosh of the liquid in his throat.
As it began to rain, he gazed into the darkening city outside his window.
When the first crack of lightning briefly lit the sky, he reached for the paper he had picked up on his long walk back home.
There was only all the same as there ever was in the papers; a train accident, a shooting at a breakfast cafe, the updates on what the top dogs in government thought about the other, slightly lower dogs in government. He kept reading for the friction between the paper and his fingers more so than for the stories described in the infinite tiny black letters.
He put the paper down.
Rain splashed against the window and he took another drink.
When he threw the paper onto the coffee table in front of him and lowered the bottle in his hand, now emptied, his fading gaze suddenly stopped on a photograph just now made visible from behind the folded front pages. The photograph peered out from the bottom right corner of the back page, showing people standing and smiling – in a lawn? – a fence behind them – one younger – sitting on the grass. The girl smiled at a yellow Labrador which gazed up at her from her lap.
The man leaned over to hold the paper up to his eyes and surveyed the words under the photograph.
When he was done, he leaned back again and listened to the sound of the rain.…
Then he put his bottle down carefully, and the paper down more carefully, stood, walked to the kitchen, and concealed a blade in his coat pocket before he left.
The buildings loomed higher than ever as the elevator descended. The streets were empty at the dark of the hour and rain echoed infinitely as he stepped onto the pavement and lifted his umbrella. Damp air filled his lungs and he felt lighter.
Only a few steps later, he began a deep hum to the sound from the headphones over his ears.
When he arrived at the house, there was little light around save from a lamp post a few dozen meters down the walkway.
At first, the man was unsure of himself. He looked at his shoes on the ground and up to the light a few houses down from here. But only a few moments passed before there was a sound.
A rattling alerted the man to a presence behind the door. He swiftly moved behind the other side of a car parked on the street, and the door opened. A figure emerging from the house jangled a key into his coat pocket and opened an umbrella as he stepped down from the door.
Unaware he was being watched and carefully considered, Decman began down the sidewalk. He didn’t notice the shadow following behind him quietly, quietly…
The man stabbed him and Decman slumped to the ground.
So simply, and it was over.
For a long moment, the man stood and watched as Decman quietly struggled. Fullness in his eyes only returned when a distant roll of thunder awoke him, to realize that Decman, bleeding, had turned over to look up at him.
They faced each other.
And then Decman spoke.
You want a confession.
He smiled for the wrong reason for people to smile.
I did it. Yeah I did it. I chopped her up into those little pieces. So bad her family wouldn’t have recognized her if she wasn’t dead in her own bed. Her bitch dog tried to stop me but I did it.
The blood seeping across the street thickened steadily.
But, you know, I did all that only after I used her f-
Shut the fuck up, the man interrupted but then found his tongue caught in the back of his throat. He couldn’t think of what else he wanted to say. The infinite things he wanted to say.
Shut up, Edward.
There was only the sound of rain.
They’ll have you for this. You’ll face the same thing I did. You stupid jackass. And it’s funny… I don’t think you’re really fucked up. Not like me.
Does that surprise you? That I know what I am? ‘Cause I guess most of us… what? looneys? Don’t know we have a problem. But listen to me say it, listen. I’m fucked up!
He laughed again…
Well, of course you know.
…and the man was sick to his stomach.
I mean… I put photos of a dead little girl online for christ’s sake!
They waited in the blanket of rain as it seemed to begin easing off of the earth.
Then the man spoke.
We’re all a little fucked up, Eddie. But I’m not going to watch while you tell the world that that’s the biggest side of me. You’re not inside my head, Eddie. I choose what’s in my head. And let me tell you. It sure as FUCK! ISN’T going to be YOU!
He unplugged his headphones and the music faintly lingered within the sound of rain on the ground.
He held the phone to Decman’s temple.
This, you hear this? This is music, Eddie. It’s good, you know. I’d say damn near beautiful…
A light turned on in a building window behind him.
Look, Eddie. The world, and the people!
He gestured to the lights as more and more began turning on across the sides of buildings.
Look at the colors out here!
And the stars lighting the sky…
Damn near beautiful.
He set his eyes on the corpse and his pool of blood on the street.
Why are you here?