True Story

I read somewhere that the best way to tell if you’re writing something good is that you don’t want to write it. Being uncomfortable means you’re sharing something real, making yourself vulnerable. And as any good gossip knows, the best stories are the ones people don’t want you to know. So here we go, the story I don’t want to tell you.

I killed two people.

The first one was an accident. She was a prostitute, another first of mine. I wanted to try something I saw on the internet, couldn’t imagine bringing it up with someone who knew my name. It went wrong. She didn’t even know, it was so quick.

I hid on the other side of the bed, from her body. I would have run but she was between me and the door. I couldn’t go that close, couldn’t step over her, so I sat on the floor and cried. It wasn’t the sort of crying that makes you feel better afterwards. Each tear was a drop of hope, of safety, of other people’s love, everything that made life bearable leaking out of me.

And then her pimp came. It seems weird, calling him a pimp. He didn’t look like one. He just looked like a guy you’d pass on the street. He didn’t even care. He just gave me a new price. What I’d done, that costs extra. And then he told me to leave, and I did.

I hid in my bedroom for six days, but the police never came. My life afterwards was exactly the same as it had been before. I wasn’t.

It was all I could think about. Horrifying but enticing, like picking a scab. I hadn’t liked it, it hadn’t awakened something inside me, but a part of me couldn’t get past the fact that it was an accident. Someone was dead at my hand, but I’d never got to feel the sensations of murder. It seemed like a waste. Like when you drop a plate and you think damn, the plate’s gone anyway, I wish I could have enjoyed smashing it.

So I started looking. I didn’t even realise what I was doing at first. But I was paying attention to people, to strangers. Trying to read who they were, who would miss them. I started following people, just to see the kinds of places they went, to see if they’d notice me behind them.

I didn’t want it to be another woman, another prostitute. I didn’t want my second murder to contribute to the statistical oppression of vulnerable people. That probably sounds pretty stupid, considering.

I was buying rubber gloves when I realised why. It wasn’t the gloves, or the rope, or any of the tools I’d picked out just in case that snapped me out of my fugue. It was the other things, the cake, the bananas, the frozen pizza, so that the checkout woman wouldn’t guess what I was going to do.

He was an old man. He had money, but no friends, no family. I was confident I could overpower him, that by the time anyone noticed it would be impossible to trace it back to me. I made sure he’d lived the life he chose, even if it hadn’t made him happy. He’d worked for big oil, so it almost felt like a good deed. Until he looked at me. Not scared, not angry, but like I was confirming everything he’d come to believe about the world. He didn’t have a microwave, so I had to cook the pizza in his oven.

Afterwards, I didn’t hide. I went straight back to my life so that nobody would notice anything. My heart beat like I was jogging, for a week. Every time the doorbell rang I knew it was the police, but it never was. And then they found the body, and I was sure it was all over. But they never came for me. I got away with it. My life went on.

I never had the urge to do it again. It was enough to know what it was like. To know that I knew something that nobody else ever would. To know I had met death.

I’m thinking of going to Hawaii for my next holiday.


The creative writing teacher looked up from the page, and Arnold smiled expectantly.

‘Well?’ said Arnold.

‘You know this was a non fiction exercise?’

‘It’s all true!’ said Arnold proudly. ‘I didn’t want to write it, so I did!’

‘And you know I only do this part time? During the day I’m a police detective.’

‘That must give you so much inspiration,’ said Arnold, slightly jealous.

‘And there’s no such thing as teacher student confidentiality.’

‘I don’t know why there would be.’

‘Then there’s only one thing left to say.’

‘Was it okay?’

The teacher watched his student for a moment, evaluating. ‘Top marks. Head of the class again!’


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