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Crime Fiction

Knock knock.

Ah, it’s night time. I must be hearing things.

Knock knock, knock knock.

Why is the sound more desperate than before? I climb down from the bed and rub my tired eyes. Light pours in through the glass panes, shining and twinkling like stars. I tread gently to the window, the soft carpet soothing my feet.

When my hands come in contact with the door handle, I flinch. The metal is cold and unwelcoming. Squinting my eyes, I unlock my window and open it wide. I am immediately assaulted by strong, gushing wind that almost pushes me back.

“Hey! Who are you? Why are you knocking on my window? Show yourself!” I hiss. I’m sure no assassin would come, since it will be useless to try and kill me. Still, just in case, I fiddle with the hidden dagger.

A figure emerges from the shadows, aqua hair fluttering in the wind. That hair color… I feel my heart burning. Is it…? The man walks towards me, his large frame looming over me.

“B-brother?” I manage to choke out. I quickly discard my dagger.

My nose is sour and tears are welling up in my eyes. I don’t want to cry – I know Josh will laugh at me if he sees it. “Crybaby,” he would say, “Don’t start crying. Are your tear ducts leaking?” He used to taunt.

The man in front of me raises his lips and reaches out his gloved hand. Out of habit, I lean my head forward and anticipate his next actions. Yes, he is patting my head – like before.

I think someone is cutting onions. Otherwise, how can my tears fall so quickly like this?

“Josh… Is it really you?” My voice comes out as a whisper.

“Crybaby. I’m back.” His deep voice is just like before. “You didn’t believe I actually died, did you?”

Did I? I wanted to believe he was alive, but the soldiers had found his mangled body – the stench of iron from the corpse still lingering in my mind.

I start sobbing, my hands stretch out and wrap around Josh’s waist. I hug him like I’ll never let him go. His hand pats my head, the warmth emanating from him is convincing enough. He’s real.

I feel a drop of liquid fall on the top of my head. No way!

“Are you crying, brother?” I hug him tighter and burrow my head in his chest.

“How could I?” Josh scoffs, yet I sense a slight tremor in his voice. “Crying is the only thing my beloved sister can do – I wouldn’t try to copy her. Ever. My… m-my eyes are just sweating,” he says lamely.

I laugh through my tears, I want to chide him for using such a lame excuse, but I guess I’ll let him off just for today. After all, he brought me a great present today. Himself.

The air around us is as cold as ice, the wind biting and harsh. But my heart is warm, and I am holding the dearest person in my arms. It’s driving away all the coldness, bitterness, and roughness of this world. I’m content with this.

Wait. “You should come in, Josh! What if you catch a cold?” I let go of him and usher him inside, making sure to close the window again. Josh has seated himself by the hearth in the kitchen, his handsome face illuminated by the warm glow of the fire.

I have tons of questions I want to ask him. Wasn’t he dead? What happened that year? But these questions can wait.

“I’ll get you a cup of hot chocolate,” I say, “Wait here.”

As I hover around the cupboards looking for a clean mug, I observe Josh from the corner of my eye. He has grown a lot. He’s taller than before. Bigger, too. His crimson eyes are staring coldly at the dancing flames. His eyes used to be really gentle. What happened for him to have such a frosty look?

I prepare the hot chocolate, making sure the drink is not too hot or cold. It’s too bad I don’t have marshmallows. Josh likes his drink with those soft, cloud-like candies. I hand him the mug but he doesn’t drink.

“What’s wrong? I checked the temperature already,” I tell him.

Josh’s cold eyes sweep around the room and land on me. I think I didn’t notice it before, but there’s something strange with him. He isn’t saying anything. Instead, he purses his lips and frowns.

“Josh?”

Instinctively I reach for my dagger, but I change my mind. How can I suspect my own brother? Ridiculous. I roll my eyes.

“Elena,” Josh growls, “Come here.”

My blood turns cold. He usually calls me ‘Lena’, ‘sister’, or ‘crybaby’. Ever since our parents died, no one has called me Elena before. My stomach does a somersault.

“Josh, come on,” I laugh nervously. “Don’t act so cold like that. I thought you missed me over the years…”

“Of course I missed you… I’ve been thinking of you all day and night. There is no moment in time in which I have stopped thinking about you.” He is smiling, but I don’t see mirth in his eyes.

Should I test him?

I can always apologize later if he really is my brother. If this man is a fake, perhaps those people have sent him here to kill me…

“Josh, do you remember that time when we stole Mrs. Rose’s glasses?”

I sit on a sofa opposite him, observing him noiselessly. He turns to me and I feel his piercing gaze.

“What about her glasses, Elena?” he drawls.

“We buried it underneath the tree, remember? Mrs. Rose was furious,” I picture Mrs. Rose’s plump face turn red and let out a small chuckle. Oh the good times…

“Yes, she knew we were the ones who took her glasses, but she had no idea that we actually buried it. You remember what happened next, right? The dog from next door came and dug it out. It took her glasses and started chewing it,” Josh is smiling now. His eyes are wistful, lost in the memory of ancient days.

I remember that dog. It wasn’t particularly bright, but my neighbor really cherished it. I had to admit, it was really cute and fluffy. I glance at my brother, who is twiddling his thumbs while gazing at the fireplace. He remembers. He’s really my brother. I should stop doubting him now.

“Elena,” Josh’s voice is like ice. I send him a questioning glance, but he stands up and heads to the kitchen table.

“You’re not going to drink it?” I murmur, disappointed. I really should have bought marshmallows.

Josh doesn’t reply. He leaves the mug on the table and advances towards me, closing the distance between us. He stretches his right arm and pats my head – but strangely, I don’t feel warm like before. I want to back away, but my feet are rooted to the ground. Goosebumps cover my arms and my hair stands on end.

“Oh Elena, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten? You think that hiding from me will help you?” Josh scoffs and sneers at me. I see the familiar gleam of cold metal and my heart drops.

A knife?

Josh is holding a knife… against my neck? This is not Josh.

“Who are you?” I whisper.

Slowly, the aqua hair turns into a darker shade of blue. The crimson eyes that looked gently at me transform into murky black orbs. My dagger. I need my dagger!

I pull out my dagger at lightning speed and thrust it into his chest. No, he’s gone – behind me! I want to turn around, but my vision gets blurry. I stagger and widen my eyes. I look down, only to see a blade covered in blood protruding from my chest. My breath comes out in gasps and wheezes.

“Finally… I’m sure you’ll die this time,” the assassin behind me is laughing.

Pain is enveloping my senses – I can’t think straight. How did this happen?

“You must be wondering. How could this be? Well, you’re so careless. Assassins don’t only use blades. We use poison too.” His voice is filled with mirth.

I clench my fists, feeling rage well up in my chest. Rage – directed at myself for being a fool, and at this dirty trick. The poison must’ve been odorless, otherwise, I would’ve noticed immediately.

“I can’t believe you actually thought I was your brother. The poison maker did say that this’ll make you see the person you’ve been longing for, but the effects are just, wow! You have to praise me too, Elena. If times were better, I think I'd make a good actor.” The man’s voice is drifting away. I struggle to lift my eyes open, but I can only fail.

“I’m slightly impressed, though. You still had the cheek to test me! Looks like you didn’t stay alive based on luck only. Good thing I read your brother’s diary before.”

I fall down to the floor, the soft carpet welcoming me into its embrace. I can’t feel the pain anymore, but my heart is hurting at the mention of Josh.

“What did you do to him?” I hissed, wincing as blood spills out from my wound.

“Oh my, I merely stabbed your brother a few times and he died. He wasn’t as strong as you, definitely,” his words send a chill down my spine, and my eyes fly open immediately.

“You beast!” I roar, my heart engulfed in flames.

I grab the dagger and with every ounce of strength I have left, I stab his leg. The man yelps in pain, but this is not enough. I stab him again and again, not caring as he grabs my hair and curses at me.

He manages to wrench the dagger from my hands and kicks me away. His eyes are angry, and he is panting heavily. I don’t care. I gaze at my blood – the blood that is staining my carpet red. My poor white carpet… it’s turning red. It will definitely leave a stain tomorrow.

The assassin just watches me. I’m dying. He knows this. I know it, too.

My consciousness is leaving me, and my last thoughts are simple.

“I really shouldn’t have opened that window…”  

June 11, 2021 03:42

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