Cleansing. Short Story.

He slid the door open, smiling to himself. He had left it unlocked earlier and no one had bothered to check. The door opened smoothly and with only a whisper of sound. He stepped inside and gently closed it again. Wouldn’t do for an errant breeze to notify someone in the house. He walked slowly through the house, he already knew his destination, there was no rush, no fear. His heart kept its steady rhythm. Good. Every few steps he would pause and listen for the sounds of someone awake, but the house stayed silent. Before he entered the sitting room he unslung his bag from his shoulders and opened the flap, then he removed what he would need.

He stood in the doorway, looking at the lump on the sofa. Just as he had expected Thomas was sleeping on the couch again tonight. He could hear the steady sounds of breathing, deep and even. Thomas had said before that he always slept well on the couch with a sly grin and a wink. Beth always thought it was such a punishment for him. He approached the couch carefully, then he gently held the cloth in front of Thomas’ nose. Thomas turned his head slightly and twitched. He brought the cloth down onto Thomas mouth and nose, Thomas woke, eyes flying open a deep gasp pulling in air. The struggle had barely begun when Thomas’ limbs went limp and he fell unconscious.

He worked quickly, tying Thomas up took only a moment or two, once that was done he covered Thomas’ mouth and eyes so he could neither see nor speak. Everything was going so well. When he was finished he looked at his handy work. Everything seemed fine. One down, one to go.

He climbed the stairs slowly, stepping on the edges of the stairs to avoid the creaks. He paused when he reached the landing, listening again. It was silent here, upstairs as well as down. He moved along the hallway, the lights from outside gave just enough illumination for him to make his way through the house. He had been here many, many times before, but there was always the worry that they had moved something or bought some new piece of furniture.

He stopped outside the door, it was open just a crack. Perfect. He knew the handle could sometimes make a faint, high pitched whine when it was opened. He pushed it open and stepped inside. She was asleep on the bed, spread across it to use as much space as possible. He had always a faint notion that Beth was selfish, but he had no real proof of it until now. She probably kicked Thomas out of their room after fights just so she could have the bed. Of course she tried to come across as caring and giving, but he knew that was a lie. Both of them were liars living fake lives. He smiled, that wouldn’t be the case for much longer. He’d make them reveal themselves for what they were.

He stood at the edge of the bed, staring down at her. Her hair was splayed around her head, her mouth slightly open. Part of him wished she would wake up so he could see the anger, then terror in her eyes. He held the cloth gently, then he did as before, he placed it in front of her nose, when she moved, he clamped it tightly to her face. Her struggles, like her husbands, were brief. She put up more of a fight than Thomas. She managed to raise one had to weakly push him away, Thomas could barley raise his arm. She was stronger than he thought, a fighter. He liked that. It didn’t take him long to tie her up, he picked up her body, it was lighter than he expected, and carried her down the stairs, moving carefully so as not to drop her or trip.

He dumped her body unceremoniously onto the couch beside her husbands. Thomas was starting to wake up a little. He reached into his bag and brought out the next part of the plan. He uncovered Thomas’ mouth and poured the water in, then quickly sealed it. Still drowsy, Thomas spluttered, coughed and swallowed. He uncovered Thomas’ mouth and turned Thomas onto his stomach, just in case. While he waited for Beth to regain some consciousness, he prepared the room.

He dragged in two of the heavy dining room chairs and put them across from one another, he closed over the curtains and blinds, then he turned on some lamps. Not enough to cause suspicion to those outside, but enough so that everyone could see each other clearly enough. When Beth stared to make noises, he poured some of the water into her mouth. She spat out the first mouthful, but he filled her mouth again, then held her nose and mouth shut. After a short and weak struggle, she swallowed. He patted her on the head, “good girl.”

He sat on the couch as he waited for them to wake, it really was quite comfortable. As he sat he realised that, despite coming here almost daily for months, he had never actually sat on any of their furniture, or even used their bathrooms. He had been given a drink once. Once in the entire time he had been here. Huh. Of course he must have known that subconsciously. That was why he chose them. They were selfish. Cruel. Though there were plenty of examples of that too, ones that didn’t include him. He had been present for many of their fights. It had been uncomfortable and awkward at first, but he began to look forward to them, anticipate them and relish them when they occurred. Sometimes the fights occurred in his presence, other times he could hear them screaming from across the house. Those had been the best, he could stop what he was doing and just revel in it. When they were there they ignored him, and he in turn pretended to ignore them.

Thomas was the first one to wake. He had really thought it would be Beth. Though she was smaller and she did get a good dose. He stood from the couch, prying himself from its comfortable depths, and then he covered Thomas’ mouth. Couldn’t have the fun start with only one of the guests present. Thomas had been tied to the chair, quite securely and tightly, his head tied back he could not look across the room. The only thing he could look at was Beth. He patted Thomas on the head, then sat down again. Beth woke about ten minutes later. During this time he had looked at Thomas, studying him. It was the first chance he had had to do so without fear of being caught. He watched as a bead of sweat formed along Thomas’ temple and slowly rolled down his face, as small pricks of sweat appeared on his forehead, as the muscles in his arms and legs bulged as he tested his bounds.

When Beth woke he stood again and covered her mouth too. He waited a few minutes for their minds to clear, then he clapped his hands together and stepped in between them.

“Good. Everyone is awake. Finally. Now I’m going to remove your mouth coverings in a moment. I don’t want you to scream. Besides no one being able to hear you, it hurts the ears. So, are we all in agreement? No screaming? Nod your heads if you agree. Oh wait, you can’t. Blink twice for yes.” He looked at Beth, who blinked twice, then at Thomas who did the same.
“Excellent. I’m pleased that both of you seem to be able to listen calmly. For once.”

He carefully uncovered their mouths and braced himself. No screams came. “Good. Very good.”

“Jake? Why are you doing this?”
“Oh, many reasons. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to kill you or anything. Think of this as an impromptu therapy session. You two have a lot of demons to excise and for that to happen, you both need to have a good, calm chat. You’re both feeling calm right? Surprisingly so? It’s a pleasant side effect of what I gave you earlier. You may not remember that bit. Neither of you were very conscious at the time.”

“This is crazy Jake, untie us.”
“I’d love to, I really would, but then nothing would get solved. Here’s the plan, We’re going to have our talk, then I’ll leave. In the morning someone will find you and you will be released. If you like you can talk to the police. I’ll be long gone. Don’t you worry about that and I won’t be coming back, so don’t worry about that either. Before we start, I want to say a few things myself. I have watched you both for months now, screaming at each other, tearing into one another. The things you said, and in front of company. It was all quite shocking. Fascinating, yes, but shocking. I have come up with a few…creative solutions to open the lines for communication. First, Beth, I’m going to start with you dear. I think one of your many, many problems, is that you are far, far too vain for your own good. So I’m going to solve that problem now.”
Jake covered their mouths again, “don’t worry, this won’t hurt physically, but it might emotionally. I figure this will be nicer. Once I’m done you can have your say. Ok?” He had honestly expected much more yelling. Perhaps they were still a bit out of it. He reached into his bag and brought out a large pair of scissors and moved towards Beth. She whimpered and tried to move away from him. He stood behind her, then he grabbed a chunk of her hair and started to cut. When he was done most of her hair lay in pools on the floor, he had placed some of it surreptitiously put into his pocket. “Phase one of our make over is complete. Now onto phase two.”

It didn’t take him long to run up the stairs and return with some of her make up, she always kept it neatly arranged. Jake used the eye shadow first, grinding his gloved finger into the dark powder then rubbing it against her eyes, then he grabbed the blush and did the same to her cheeks. Finally, it was time for the lipstick. “We’re almost done, ok? Just stay still a little longer.” He uncovered her mouth, she took a deep breath, Jake slapped her across the face quickly. “No. Screaming.” She let the air out in choking little gasps. We’re almost done, don’t worry. And stop crying, you’re messing it up.” Tears had steadily dribbled down her cheeks, cutting paths through the make up. He took the lipstick and pressed it hard against her lips, applying it in thick, ugly lines.

Jake stood back and looked at her, “Hmm. Yes. I like it. What do you think Thomas? Be honest.”
Jake looked at Thomas, then back at Beth, “hmm. Maybe in this case honesty would not be the best policy.” He grabbed the small mirror and held it up so Beth could see her reflection, she sobbed again, she said something, but Jake couldn’t make it out beneath the crying. He shook his head, then shrugged. He turned to Thomas. “Now, it’s your turn. Both of you are angry, angry people, but that has already been taken care of. You’re not as vain as Beth here. No, it took me a while to decide what your problem was. You, Thomas, just don’t seem very concerned with other peoples feelings. So, to help you with that, we’re going to show you exactly how Beth feels.”

Jake stepped closer to Thomas and applied the make up on him. Grinding it roughly into his face. “There. See? Now you understand how she feels because you’ve gone through it too! This should help you become more empathetic to other people. Putting yourself in their shoes, you know?”

Jake covered both of their mouths again, he stepped back and stood between them, “So, now that we’ve broken down some barriers, made you both more honest, vulnerable people, it’s time to properly start. However, as I know both of you, I know your both going to do a poor job. So I think you need incentive. Every time I think one of you is lying, the other loses something and you won’t know what that something is until it’s being cut off. So who knows what it could be, your pyjamas, underwear, body parts. So I’d advise you tell the truth.”

Jake was sitting on the couch, gloves covered in blood. It had been a long two hours, but he had dragged the truth out of them. Both were naked, both were missing smaller parts. Nothing too important. An ear here, the tip of a nose there, a pinkie. Jake hadn’t needed to start on anything larger. He was a little disappointed in that, if he was honest with himself. Still he had to make do. They were both covered in streaks of blood, both panting heavily, their mouths were covered again, and snot ran from their noses.

“Ok guys, well, the end of the night is approaching. I’m sure you’re both glad to know, and we’re all pleased that you’re both better people now. You’ve shared with each other, deep secrets, old betrayals, and not only that, you’ve experienced something unique, something that I’m sure brought you closer together. United and all that. Don’t you both feel so much better?”

He paused for a moment, waiting for a response, nothing.

“Huh. Well, I’ve one last lesson to impart before I leave. You both really need to learn how important it is to tell the truth, how devastating lies can truly be. To teach you that lesson, I told you a lie earlier.” He picked up the knife, “I’m sure by now you’ve guessed what that lie was. So. Which one of you wants to go first?”


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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