Author: FeatherJunkie PM
I wasn't murdered, but he's still mad at me. One-shot, mild implied slashRated: Fiction T - English - Suspense - Words: 2,689 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 1 - Published: 02-08-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2773257
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While the dream dissolves I lie as still as I can, trying to remember what it was that woke me up. It's dark, not even a moon out. And cold. Normally I sleep through this part of the night when the covers aren't heavy enough and my feet feel frozen. Now that I'm awake, I'll pull the covers over my head and shiver for an hour.
Then I hear it again and I stop thinking about the cold. Down the hall, a door slams, loud and sharp.
It slams again, again, again.
For several long, silent moments I'm paralyzed, not even breathing. I think, They stopped shooting and I think, Did I lock the door I can't remember if I locked it I don't think I did and I think, Someone out there is shooting people
and the next moment I am whipping the covers from my body and I am out of bed.
My door is locked. It always is. But I'm paranoid. I double-check the lock. Listen for a sound.
It's quiet because they're dead.
Outside my door a low voice says something and another voice answers. Seconds tick by and there are more voices. Louder ones. Their words are quick, chopped, an octave higher than their normal pitches.
I open my door a crack and close it when I see other people moving through the hallway. My pants are draped over the back of a chair and I put them on. My cell phone is still in my pocket. I turn it on and dial a number, but set it on my desk without calling. It's not like he'll answer. He hasn't answered my calls all week.
Maybe he's not mad anymore, I think, but then I think, Yeah. I wish.
Out in the hall, a congregation of half-dressed bodies and unshaven faces loiter halfway out of their rooms, prepared to jump back into safety without having to fumble with keys.
"What happened?" someone asks. "Who's shooting? Has anyone called the cops?"
"Which room was it?"
"He's still in there. Don't group together. That'll just make it easier for him to shoot everyone when he comes out."
Everyone has something to say and no one wants to listen to anyone else. People armed with cell phones call their friends first and then punch in nine-one-one.
I think about him and wonder if he's looking for me. Probably not. Probably thinks I'm shot and dead. Probably glad, too. But then I realize that I'm not really angry anymore and I kind of hope he is looking for me.
People are piecing together which room the shooting came from. They group in a wide semicircle around the door, shifting and restless. No one wants to be on the front line, the closest target when the killer jumps out.
Someone near me screams and leaps apart from them.
The group is silenced for a second and then it splits, some people making a dash for the stairwell, some clinging to their friends and a few loners standing where they can peer at the spectacle from a brief distance.
I take a step or two toward the curious ones and look past them. I see the door and the patch of the carpet below it that's turned a different color than the rest of the carpet.
A dark stain seeps outward from under the door. I try to make sense of the confusion circulating in murmurs and gasps through the crowd, but all I hear is the same word repeated over and over. Blood.
Blood. It's blood.
The stain is alive, the way it crawls through the carpet toward our toes.
It's not that I'm afraid of blood. But as the stain inches closer, I can smell it, pungent and fresh, and I step backward onto people's bare feet and dig my elbows into ribs and arms and hope I don't get sick. I've never been afraid of blood before. But this is different.
The wail of a siren arrives in the parking lot outside and I decide it's time to leave. But instead of going back into my room I sprint down the hall, not toward the stairwell but in the other direction toward the elevators.
People are already pressing to the elevator doors, waiting for them to reopen. I see him then.
He's not pressing against the elevator or running away or doing much of anything except standing and looking around at faces and holding his cell phone to his ear. His left hand covers the other ear as he struggles to hear someone who isn't picking up.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees me and whips around to face me, eyes wide and mouth hanging open a bit. His arms drop and he stuffs his phone in his pocket.
"Don't worry," I tell him, "I'm not dead."
The startled relief is replaced with a scowl. He's still angry. He walks away from me and I follow him into the next hallway. His room isn't in this wing but he wants to get away from me so he opens the first door he sees- the door to the laundry room.
The laundry room has a swinging door that whines when he pushes it open and groans as it falls closed behind me. Washing machines line one wall and dryers line another. All of them sit silent.
"Why are you following me?" he asks.
"What, are you going to do some laundry now?"
I thought we were alone, but a sound comes from the other end of the room and I nearly jump out of my skin.
A blonde girl is sitting on the floor in the gap between the wall and the row of dryers. She twists around the corner of the row to examine us.
"Josh?" she says.
"No," I say, and he shakes his head.
"Damn. Who're you?" Her face disappears. She's not waving a gun at us, so I walk down the row of dryers and he does too, slower.
Her fingernails move so fast on the buttons of her cell phone they sound like little legs skittering across a linoleum floor. She's only wearing panties, ankle socks, and a white tank top with a neckline that dips to reveal the swell of her breasts. "Have you seen him? Do you know Josh?"
We shake our heads but she doesn't look away from her phone. "I've been trying to call him but he won't answer and it's pissing me off. Do you know who the guy was? Do you know who was in there?"
"He's dead you know. The shooter. He shot five times and like, that was it. Did you hear it? Four bullets and then one for himself." She sounds absolutely confident in her theory about a shooting that happened less than ten minutes ago. "Do you know what room it was?"
I stood right in front of it, only a door between me and the shooter, but I was too focused on the blood soaking through the carpet to notice the room number. I replay the scene in my mind, except this time I open the door and the body flops out and stares up at me with blank eyes and gushes blood onto my legs.
My stomach turns.
She holds her phone to her ear and listens. "He better pick up. If his phone is turned off I'm going to be so pissed, I'm not even kidding."
He sits down with his back against the wall, a few feet away from the girl, and I sit between them. He shoots me a glare.
"Why don't you go back to your room?" he says.
"Why don't you?"
"What if he starts shooting again?"
"His room isn't anywhere near yours."
"He won't shoot anymore, he's dead," the girl tells him. "And if he's not dead the cops will take him out. But he is dead."
"How do you know? There's no way you can know that."
I say, "His room is just down the hall from mine. There was blood leaking out from under his door."
"Really?" she says. "That's so gross. I told you he's dead. Otherwise he wouldn't wake everyone up and leave a huge mess." She growls and drops her phone, not on the floor but gently into her lap. "Oh my God, I'm going to kill Josh. I mean I'm not going to kill him, but you know."
On the other side of me, he's flicking pieces of lint on the floor. They float a few inches away from his fingers before settling.
"You tired?" I say.
He doesn't answer. He traces the dust, looks at his fingers and wipes them together, and pulls his knees up to his chest. I notice his jacket is zipped up as high as it will go and it makes me realize how cold I am. I wish I'd thought to grab my own jacket.
"So now you're not talking to me?"
"What the hell do you want me to say? I didn't ask you to come in here with me."
"Christ," I say. "Are you really going to act like that? You're such a-"
"Hey, guys, can you be quiet for just a sec?" Her phone is back at her ear and she's leaning forward, brow creased. "Josh? Hello? Can you hear me?" Pause. "Stop yelling! God!"
The guy Josh keeps yelling, but I can't make out what he's saying.
"Where are you? What? I'm in the laundry room." She licks her lips, listens, and then frowns. "The laundry room. Josh? Did you hear me? I said I'm-"
After a minute she hangs up on him and folds her arms under her breasts, which peer out even more from under the tank top. I wonder if she's cold, since she isn't wearing much, but her skin doesn't even have goose bumps. "Ugh."
"I already told you I'm sorry. I really am sorry. How many times do I have to say it for you to believe me?"
"Fuck off," he says.
The girl asks, "Did you come in here just to sit by me and argue?"
"We're not arguing," I say.
"I'm not the one arguing," he says. "It's him. He won't leave me the hell alone."
"I'm just trying to talk to you like a normal person-"
"Right, like a normal person would follow me around all the time just to tell me the same stupid shit."
She says, "Um, am I in the way? Should I go somewhere else?"
"No," we say at the same time.
"Okay, okay, fine." She yawns and picks up her phone and starts texting again.
"I mean you know it was an accident, right? Tell me you at least believe that."
He doesn't say anything.
"Because I would never do that. I mean, I wouldn't have. If you'd have just said something to me in the first place, I wouldn't even have considered it."
"I know," he says.
"But you're still mad."
"Any idea when you're going to stop being mad at me?" I say. "A rough estimate, maybe?"
"I haven't made any plans."
"That's not fair."
"I don't give a shit."
"So you two are cool now?" she says.
As soon as he says it, something heavy claps in the hallway. It's just a door slamming, but the girl and I jump. She accidentally whacks her elbow against the dryer and hisses and clutches it, swearing, and then she throws him a look. "Did you even hear that?"
He shrugs and puts his head down on his knees like he's tired. His hair is in tangles; he must've been asleep too before the shots went off. I see the patch of smooth skin between the ends of his hair and his shirt collar and make myself look away.
"Why are you scared?" I ask her. "You're the one who keeps saying the guy's dead."
"Well, it sounded like a gunshot."
The laundry room door whines as it's opened and she glances up hopefully. "Anyone in here?" someone calls.
The three of us go silent. We duck our heads even though the dryers already block us from view, and hold our breaths. The door groans closed and we relax.
"Why are we hiding?" I ask.
"I think they're sending everyone back to their rooms. To get us out of the way."
"I guess we should go," he says.
"Josh didn't even call me back. God, he's so stupid."
I say, "You're going?"
"Yeah." He stands up. "See you."
I stand up too and face him. "Hey, wait."
"What?" A look of annoyance crosses his face and when I see it, I don't feel like talking to him anymore.
"Never mind. See you."
He hesitates, as if expecting me to say something else, but I don't and he turns his back on me and walks out.
"You should've stopped him," she says, pinching the neckline of her tank top and pulling it all the way up over her breasts. It sinks back to where it was.
I look down at her. "What? Why?"
She shrugs. "He looked like he wanted you to."
"Christ, I don't know what he wants anymore."
"Why don't you just go after him?"
I look at the door and sigh. "Nah."
"I'm going back to my room," I say. "Good night."
"Night." She's busy texting.
I leave her sitting there and head back to my room.
The hall is swarming with policemen who direct people back to their rooms when they venture out for another glimpse at the crime scene. Radios issue static between distorted voices. The smell of blood tinges the air, strong enough to taste. I clamp my mouth shut and try not to inhale.
The door to the room has been opened. I'm not close enough to see anything more than a wall of darkness, but that's fine with me.
One of the cops notices me and pounces. "Young man, please return to your room."
He's standing right in front of my door.
I turn and walk straight back toward the elevators. I'm shivering a little because I'm so cold and I'm really wishing I'd put on a jacket.
As it turns out, I don't have to walk very far.
We stop short of bumping into each other in front of the elevators where the three halls meet. He just stands there for a minute and I stand too and feel awkward. I hate feeling awkward around him, I hate it so much and I think about apologizing again. But he doesn't want to hear it. So I don't.
He says, "Did they get him?"
I say, "I don't know," and then I say, "I think so."
The beeping and static noise of the police scanners is loud even from here. To our right, the elevator doors open and a group of people hurry out.
They are wearing gloves.
"Okay," he says.
He puts his hands in the pockets of his jacket, looks at the floor, then looks back at me. I smile a little bit because I don't feel good at all and he doesn't smile back, but he doesn't frown either. When he turns and walks back to his room, I go with him, and he lets me.