A Simple Divinity by Graham Cruikshanks
The house was quiet as he made his way, slowly through the unfamiliar living room. His carefully selected shoes making almost no sound on the carpet. The darkness surrounded him, betrayed only by the small constellation of "standby" lights from the room's electronic equipment and the digital clock on the outdated video machine, which flashed 2:07.
The thoughts of killing were fresh in his mind. They exhilarated him, keeping his breath short and his senses alert. It required all his control to retain the composure that had made tonight successful - had made all the nights successful.
He moved slowly, but with calculated purpose, listening, waiting, moving again, almost anticipating the signs of detection that he knew would never come.
No-one had seen him enter. No-one would see him leave. Her house had presented no serious obstacle. Simple locks, no security system, it had taken him less than thirty seconds to get inside - a skill he had retained from that revolting summer, working in his uncle's locksmiths so many years ago. He marvelled at how such a simple understanding then, had afforded him so much now.
He still gripped the steel blade in his gloved hand. He liked the weight of it, the way it cradled in his palm. He felt strong. He knew it would need to go back into the special sheath beneath his jacket when he got outside, but for now he'd keep holding it, for a bit longer. In the other fist was a handful of blond hair. Her hair - his trophy from tonight's exploits. He raised it to his face and slowly breathed the scent of her. Freshly cut hair always smelt different. He knew that within days, the smells from her bed, her perfume, her body, would be gone and his trophy would become, like the others, a simple reminder of his malevolent visit. But, for now, he relished in what more it could offer. Reminding him of the living her that he had seen on the street three weeks before.
It had been easy this time. Selecting someone pretty was always easy. There she had been, walking along the promenade - summer dress, blond, shoulder-length hair, smiling at the ice-cream vendor as she stopped to buy a cone. He knew she was right almost immediately and over the next few weeks he had made sure that the selection was more than suitable. She lived alone, no boyfriend or host of clingy friends - she seemed for the most part to keep to herself. A few phone-calls, a shopping trip at lunch-time with some friends from her job at the bank, nothing that would make his task overly complicated.
Over the years, he had come to identify the suitable ones. He had struggled at first, frustrating himself with the laborious surveillance process, only to find an unfortunate lover or yapping lapdog. Now, however, he was far more astute, easily profiling the ones that had enough independence, but not the insecurity to need an overly cautious approach to home security.
He had also become accustomed to the careful observation process - shadowing just out of sight, casually observing habits, routines and schedules. Undistinguished, he was there, keeping his distance, just another anonymous face in the background of their lives, friendly even, but for the large part inconsequential. He learned about the lives of his unsuspecting quarry in minute detail, becoming accustomed and even energised by their daily monotony, quietly planning, scheming, preparing.
It had to be perfect. Every detail, laid-out with clinical precision. This was part of the thrill, part of what made all the risk worthwhile. The planning was so intertwined in the act itself that he often could not determine the boundaries between. His belief was pure and having complete control through every level of his extraordinary process, a quintessential imperative. He knew that without the crucial preparation he was leaving things to chance and his purpose demanded greater dedication than any chance of failure at the hands of amateur groundwork. No-doubt his methodology and fastidious set-up was driven, by some innate sense of self-preservation - he certainly never wanted to be confined to a ‘behind-bar' environment, where his greater purpose was prevented from flourishing in all its tremendous splendour. But this had never been his true motivation. It was a far more deeply routed belief, in a drastically more significant impulse that had become his driving force. The basic desire to wield the most absolute of influence - it was the true authority, the real supremacy. The ability to hold sway over something so significant was indeed to be all-powerful. The desire for this power was the lifeblood that coursed within his veins, the air that filled his lungs and the thrust that fuelled his very essence. It was why he was here tonight. Why he had stood in other living rooms, on so many other nights before this one. And why each time, his preparation was flawless.
With his research complete, he knew that it was time and tonight presented itself as the obvious choice. At least once a week, she and a few colleagues would stop for pizza at Dino's on Roxton Street, just a short walk from the bank. It was never a late evening - just a couple of hours, a few drinks and then home, usually straight to bed, often demoting her clothing to the back of a chair, as opposed to the closet. And, with the addition of the few margaritas, she'd be asleep quickly. He wouldn't have to wait too long.
He sat at the Dino's bar for a while, had a beer and waited for his order-to-go. Anonymously, out of earshot, he observed, not learning anything he didn't already know, but simply endorsing his understanding of her now familiar routine. He'd then returned to his car, taken a few bites of the pizza, but as his anticipation grew, the adrenalin satiated his hunger and the box was relegated to the back seat. He'd be hungry later. He was always hungry afterward and Dino did make a great pizza.
A fine drizzle had begun to sprinkle the windscreen of his car as he waited. The droplets combining with the fine film of dust, reducing his vision of the outside world and secluding him in a patient vigil of exciting anticipation.
Suddenly, the jovial atmosphere from Dino's interrupted the quiet, spilling briefly into the street as the doors opened and she emerged from the warm interior. He recalled how she stood with her friends on the wet sidewalk. She'd pulled her summer jacket over her shoulders, shielding herself from the night-time chill and seemed suddenly distant from the friendly environment within. She climbed into the first waiting taxi and with a short wave to the others, disappeared around the corner.
Confident that things were in motion, he waited until the second taxi departed and the street was deserted once again. He started his car, let the wipers slide through the grime on the windscreen and pointed the vehicle in the direction of her home.
He'd taken his time. There was no need to rush and he knew which way he needed to go. He reached her place shortly after she did and a slow drive past her house was enough to confirm that she had indeed arrived home and was inside.
He parked the car a few blocks away. The area he had chosen was inconspicuous - a small parking lot, that serviced the local Starbucks and a few other convenience outlets in her neighbourhood. There were always a few cars there for the night and tonight had been no exception.
He retrieved what he needed from the trunk of his car and the walk to her house took him no more than a few minutes. This close to the final act, the façade of the casual stroll had taken a fair degree of self control, but this was a discipline to which he had become accustomed. His pace quickened only once he had reached her front lawn and, upon checking that the street was still deserted, moved swiftly into the shadows down the side of her house. Within seconds he was past the garbage cans, through the side gate which was latched but never locked and into the small path that lead to her kitchen door. Here, in the gloom of the alley, he put his back to the wall and concentrated on returning his breathing to normal. There had been no signs of detection. The streets uttered nothing more than their customary murmurings - a dog barking a few houses away, the clatter of a garbage can being reluctantly tugged across a lawn and the soft, periodic hiss of a car on the wet streets. Slowly, he slid down the wall into a sitting position and here, with his eyes closed, shifting all his focus to what he could hear, he waited. As time passed the neighbourhood gradually put itself to bed and the familiar sounds of people going about their lives were replaced by the softer, more dulcet tones of the late night.
Quiet, still and almost trans-like he had remained, until finally he knew it was time. He then lifted himself from his position, shook the cold and stiffness from his legs and purposefully slipped his fingers into the surgical gloves. The house was dark and silent as he approached the kitchen door and, with little more than the soft scratch and click of his metal tools, he released the lock and let himself inside.
As he shut the door, the ambient sound from the night was extinguished, leaving the utter quiet of a sleeping home. He pulled the small pen-light from his jacket, switched it on and slowly made his way toward the other side of the house, where he knew he would find her sleeping. The soft carpet in the hallway dulled the sound of his cautious footsteps as he crept silently toward her bedroom door. The door was slightly ajar. The pen-light was extinguished as he pushed the door swiftly open, just wide enough for him to step through. Inside the room he stood, stationary for a moment, as he listened intently for her to show any conscious signs of his threatening proximity. There had been none and with three further steps, he was standing over her as she slept.
He marvelled again at her perfection. Even sleeping she was beautiful and the soft restful breathing had made him all the more satisfied that he had chosen well. As he stood there, the full extent of the evening's exhilaration welled up within him. This was only further heightened as he slowly, but with purpose, withdrew the 12-inch blade from beneath his jacket.
The thoughts of killing flooded his mind. They blurred his vision and consumed his senses, so much so that he almost had to remind himself to breathe - the ease of taking a life, the power and awe that such an act represented. He stared down at her peaceful breathing, knife raised over her - poised - his head pounding with climactic intensity. Then, as his moment arrived, with the thoughts of killing dominating every part of him, he lowered the knife, carefully removed a lock of hair from her sleeping form, turned and left the room.
As with all the others before, the thoughts of killing had remained thoughts and he was exulted by the awesome power that this represented. To choose to give life when it was in your hands to take away - this was true power. The thought of it almost choked him and as the tears streamed down his face, he knew that he was supreme. She lived as a result of his desire. Because he deemed it to be, she would wake and face a new day. And, as he moved back through the house, he was enveloped by a sense of calm, basking in his simple divinity and in the knowledge that once again, his world made sense.