Written by Addie Barnett
Art by Sophie Campbell
tw: murder, mentions of abuse
At what point do we become bad people? Is it when we are forced to do something that gives us no pleasure, but we do it anyway. Then we repeat the process simply for the adrenaline and we become so hooked we simply can’t let go. Are we born with the seed of malice rooted inside of us?
Is evil made or born?
These are the kinds of things I never thought I’d ask myself. I have always been an upstanding citizen, always abiding by the rule of law, even when it doesn’t do me any good. That was the way I was raised, and I never questioned it.
This all changed that day; the day I had to do something, or I thought I would crack. The irony is, I still took no pleasure in it. Maybe there really is something wrong with me.
I am pretty sure a person isn’t supposed to kill someone else, but, in my defense, he had it coming. When I saw Yusuf take our baby girl and put her in a corner after a tantrum, I felt I had chosen right. I thought I could trust him. But then he slapped her. The slap was so hard, her poor neck snapped to the right, and my baby started wailing.
And it wasn’t the first time he had done it either. I don’t trust the bad mouth of my always complaining neighbour, but Mr. Ahuja was telling the truth. And when even Mr. Ahuja, the man who comes to your apartment at 3 am and tells you that you are “a person with a loud walk”, you tend to listen. When someone has such a keen sense of observation (or a poor sleep schedule but this is a discussion for another time), you have to pay attention. So, that’s what I did.
I saw him hit Kiara three times in just as many days. And something in me snapped.
I don’t know how I got here. The path is bathed in blood, Even the trees, usually a beautiful shade of green, have turned crimson. I am clutching a hatchet in my right hand as if my life depended on it. I don’t know where I got it from.
“Yusuf.” I shout, knowing he is out there, hoping I would give up the chase.
We had gone camping, I remember. And he had hit my baby again.
“Yusuf.” I chirp, trudging up the bloody path. “I know you’re here. Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
Something crackles just in front of me, and I lift my hatchet, ready to strike. But it isn’t Yusuf; it’s a bird who decided that now would be the best time to scram. Smart bird, I smile to myself. Yusuf won’t be so lucky. Not after he has left bruises on my baby’s ribs.
“Yusuf.” My voice echoes off the trees and sends him scampering.
I can see him now, running for his life as if he hasn’t done anything wrong and doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. No, I think to myself. He knows exactly what he’s done. That’s why he’s running. I bolt after him, the weight of my hatchet slowing me down. I just need a clear shot—then I can throw it right between those broad shoulder blades of his.
It doesn’t take me long to catch up to him; we had both been athletes once, though Yusuf has been out of the game longer than I have. His injury is taking its toll even now, and I can see his limp coming out. A torn meniscus can do that even to the most accomplished runners. One moment you’re sprinting and the next…bam. You’re done.
In his desire to evade, he doesn’t notice that we are out of the woods and sprinting through an open plain. I skid to a halt, take aim, and watch the hatchet fly like a hunting airplane into enemy territory. Just before it sinks into his back, I realize that I am what society would call a bad person. A murderer. Normal people don’t react this way. They go to the police, the voice of my father hits me like a train. He loved watching the news and imparting judgment on every criminal they broadcasted while mother, thin-lipped, wondered how she had ended up marrying such an opinionated person. At least my father has never hit anyone, I muse as the hatchet slams into Yusuf and takes him down. He falls with a shriek and lays there unmoving for a few moments before he starts to squirm.
I take my time in getting there, wanting him to suffer as much as possible. The chase is over, but I still take no pleasure when I see him crawling on the ground, still trying to get away. I grab the hatchet and tug. Yusuf screams – a loud, guttural scream that reminds me more of the squealing of a piglet.
As I push the hatchet deeper, his movements grow weaker. He can’t even scream anymore. At some point, he loses consciousness, and his head falls into a puddle of blood. So much expended energy, and for what? To die like a dog. Worse than a dog.
I turn him on his side as far as the hatchet allows me to and slap him back to consciousness.
“Please.” He wheezes, pink foam gurgling out of his mouth.
“Why did you do it?” I have to know.
I slap him. “Why did you do it?”
Yusuf smiles. “Why would I tell you? You already killed me.”
“Why?” I slap him again as the foam pools on the grass, painting my boots pink. “Why, you motherfucker, why?”
“Because she couldn’t defend herself.” A deep laugh bubbled out of him, making his whole body convulse. “Because I knew it would hurt you more than her.”
His eyes roll in his sockets, so he doesn’t get to hear my last words. “I hope you rot in hell.”