Second Death, Part Three

The conclusion should be coming soon.

~

My wife and I had been married for three years. We were deeply in love, and had been for even longer than our marriage; we had been dating for five years before then.
Love doesn’t prevent arguments, though. Some people think that arguments can strengthen a relationship in the long run, and I think I might agree with that.
But things never work out how they’re supposed to. Rachel and I had an argument, just about something little. It was stupid. But we stormed off our separate ways, and I found myself at the only bar nearby, a dirty little dive called Nathan’s Pub. I don’t know why I went there. Over three years without a drink. That was the agreement; she didn’t let us get married until I was clean. Maybe I just wanted to piss her off further by rebelling against that covenant.
The bar was mostly empty. Two bartenders, though it was quiet enough that only one was actually working, and three or four people scattered throughout.
I asked for a beer. I was being stupid, but I wasn’t quite stupid enough to go right into the liquor at the start. I didn’t want it to hit my stomach too hard.
That beer was good. That beer was really fucking good. I asked for another just a few minutes after he had served me the first. Halfway through that one, I asked for a tumbler of whiskey. The bartender raised an eyebrow at the quick stream of orders, but didn’t say anything.
A tingle ran down my spine as I felt the alcohol reach my bloodstream. For a moment there I was disgusted with regret, but I quickly got over it.
An hour later, I was far drunker than I had intended to get. But I decided I was done at the bar, and made my way home, steps wavering on the pavement as I walked.
I stepped in the door, and it seemed as though she had calmed down in the meantime. She came up to me with an apologetic face, and started to hug me, but noticed before long that something was different with me. My eyes had a slight nystagmus, flicking back and forth against my will, and I’m sure she could smell the alcohol coming out of my pores and breath. She stepped away with a horrified look.
“You’ve been drinking,” she said.
“Yup,” I said, trying to be smug, though I’m certain it didn’t work.
She closed her eyes and sighed. “Why, Joseph, why? Three years clean, and you just wasted it all tonight.”
“Listen, Beth, it’s your fucking fault. You had to bring all of this up, and stress me out. You told me to get out of the house. Don’t blame me.”
“Don’t blame you? Are you kidding me?” she gritted her teeth and stepped back, a fiery glare in her eyes. She looked as though she was about to say something more, then fell silent for a moment, eyes downward, thinking, before speaking again. “We’re not going to talk about this now. You won’t even remember it if we did.”
I stepped forward. I shouldn’t have. I stepped forward, but it wasn’t just a normal step, it was a powerful step, a step of aggression, a step over a line I shouldn’t have crossed.
I wasn’t going to take this. This was my house. This was my money. I could damn well do what I damn well please to do. A flush of rage-heat rushed through me and added to the intoxication. There was one moment of clarity in it, though, and that one moment haunts me. I knew, in that moment, what was going to happen. I wished, in that moment, to stop myself. I knew it was my last chance to turn back.
But I didn’t. I didn’t want to turn back – that wasn’t me, was it? I cannot bear the hope that that was truly me. It’s a myth that alcohol turns people into senseless monsters with no control; it’s held that it just exposes their true desires.
But I hold onto that myth. I hold onto it because I know that it has to be true. I can’t let it be a myth.S
I stepped forward, stepped over that line – that line that gave me one instant of understanding – and grabbed her. I didn’t know why.
I threw her onto the ground. “You stay there, bitch,” I growled. “You belong there. This is my house. You’re mine.”
The tip of her nose was pink, and I saw that the edges around her eyes were as well. Her eyes glistened with the precursor to tears, an expression of sad horror on her face. But that didn’t stop me. I walked past her, over her, stepping on her chest and face as I went. She almost screamed, but subsided into tears. I strode into the kitchen without looking back at her.
I was hungry, oddly enough. Usually at times like that, you don’t notice hunger, but I did. I took out a knife – I used a chef’s knife, stupidly – and cut off a hunk of bread. I dug out some butter and tried to spread it onto the bread, but it was too cold and just rolled off and landed on the ground. I swore, bent over, and picked it up. While leaning over, I looked up and saw that Beth had rolled over and was trying to sneak away.
I threw the butter into the sink and walked up to her, bread in one hand and knife in the other. I kicked her over to her other side and stomped onto her neck.
“I said, ‘you stay there, bitch’.” I sat on her stomach, kneeling with one leg on either side. “I guess I’ll have to pin you down.”
I grabbed one of her hands  and held it down, palm-upward, and thrust the knife through the center of it and into the floorboards beneath.
She screamed, then. She screamed. I can hardly bear to say it, but I smiled. “Now you can begin to understand my pain, my pain of living with you. The pain you cause me by being as micromanaging and controlling as you are, making my every decision. But I said ‘begin to understand’. There’s a lot more.”
I pulled the knife out of the floor and her hand and cut off her shirt. I thrust the knife parallel to her body through the base of her breast and cut through until it was barely holding on, and repeated the process on the other side.
I pulled her pants down slightly and began carving through the skin above her intestines. I made my cuts deliberately and carefully, my hands surprisingly steady given the circumstances, slicing up and down.
I finished, the word “mine” now a bright red wound on her abdomen. The skin was peeling back, having lost its surface tension, and her insides were beginning to take up the space.
“You. Are. Mine. I’m not yours.”
She was quiet during this, which I was surprised by until I looked up and saw that she had fainted. I stood up, threw the knife down so it stuck into the wood, picked up my blood-splattered bread with my blood-covered hand, and began eating it again.
I walked over to sit on the couch and turned on the television. This bread was good, and one of my favorite shows was on. The wood was becoming red dyed behind me, but I wasn’t aware. I didn’t remember. I wondered where my Beth was, and figured she had gone to bed early.
I went to bed at some point, though I can’t remember when. The morning after I woke up with a killer of a headache and a pit of nausea and a lack of memories. I didn’t hear breakfast cooking, which was odd, since Beth almost always was working on it by the time I woke up.
I walked down the stairs, turned, and saw her body. It had already begun to decay and a smell filled the downstairs. I vomited, then vomited again. The physical nausea was somewhat fixed by this, but my mental revulsion was only getting started.
I remembered it. I remembered it all. I screamed. I cried. It was like… I honestly don’t know what to compare it to. I doubt anything can top it. Imagine realizing that you strangled your dog, realizing that you crushed your cat’s head, realizing that you microwaved your snake. Then multiply all of those by infinity, and you might get a sense of what I felt.
I called the police. I reported myself. I couldn’t do anything else. I didn’t want to run from this, I wanted to run from myself. I wanted to kill myself.
I considered it. I did more than consider it. I drew a hot bath and procured some razor blades. But one thing stopped me. The memory of her. The memories of times we had shared together were the only happy portion of my life, and they were the one thing that made me wish to live; I wouldn’t be able to remember her if I was dead.
I was found guilty, of course. Somehow, though, whether they saw that I had no intention or desire to kill her, or perhaps that I was given a very good attorney, I was only given twelve years of prison, which was lowered to ten for good behavior.
I kept to myself, didn’t get in trouble, and was mostly ignored in prison. But before long, something began to happen. Beth would return to me. Her spirit would visit me at random times – though usually at night – and haunt me.
You can’t imagine the psychological torture that a haunting creates. You begin to never feel truly alone. That may not sound bad, at first, but imagine having every moment of your life be watched by someone else, commented on by someone else, controlled by someone else.
I finished my ten years and returned to the real world. I couldn’t bring myself to live in my old house even if it was an option. I instead moved into a small apartment a few miles from downtown.
When I was in prison, it almost made sense to me that she was haunting me, like it was part of my punishment. To be haunted, in prison, by the person I had killed that had brought me here. But once I was back in the real world, it lost that meaning, it didn’t seem to have a place. And thus, I came to find myself at an exorcist’s.

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