Fiction Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

An infectious smile. A mischievous grin. Kind, gracious eyes. 

The man who passed by seemed to possess all the wonderful things, that silently spoke of his undeniable charisma. I couldn’t help it as my head turned and followed, when he held open the large brass door for me to exit while he entered. Another guest. I watched, through the windows, as he approached the hotel reception. It became clear my estimation of his character was not confined to imagination. The young receptionist gazed upwardly, with the same eyes of enchantment that must have mirrored my own just moments earlier. Handing him a beautiful brass key off the highest shelf, she offered her name and must have yearned to know his. The way she bashfully adjusted the hem of her collar, it seemed he’d given it, along with other playful remarks. I envied her. 

The man, having accepted the key, approached the elevator. I watched as the arrow swung along its meter, landing on the highest floor with an inaudible ding. Imagining the suite that awaited him and its fine furnishings, I walked along a sidewalk of dusty cobblestone. I felt it suitable. The world had a way of fitting people where they belonged. 

I wandered off, past an avenue of little boutiques and cafes. Before I’d realized, the sun hung low in the late afternoon and most of these establishments had looked ready to close. It was the quaint way of business in these historic resort towns. Soon the shop owners would be off to enjoy the evening, to meet at pubs and bars which contrastingly would have just begun opening their doors. From the centuries-old architecture to the residents themselves, I felt as if I’d stepped into not really a town but an elaborate antiquarian display. 

The town of Neve Zohar. I sat along the sidewalk, and wondered again what I had hoped to achieve, traveling by boat then plane and then boat again, to reach this enclave of inns and fine hotels bordering the shores of the Dead Sea. I’d arrived in poor spirits, but submerged in its mineral waters, I’d be rejuvenated. Maybe reborn. Metamorphosed. 

I turned from the main avenue and meandered through meager alleys and passageways until I came upon an arcade. It consisted of a respectable tailor, skillful barber, and fine jeweler. The glittering storefronts shone brightly as if to attract a certain clientele, like the handsome gentleman I’d observed earlier. Oh! And there he was. 

I stood at the window.

The tailor measured the man up and down. He had planned to refashion his blazer--it was new and needed adjustment. He took his length, width, in-seam, out-seam, that seam and other seam--I don’t know, I am not a tailor. But anyways one could tell the tailor took exceptional pride in this particular commission. A man with his customer’s dashing charms could not be seen walking the streets in poor taste. Having apparently finished his business, the man came to the exit. I panicked. It would seem awkward if I were there simply staring from the window. And so I held the door open as he approached, pretending to have business there myself. He gave me a somewhat quizzical look, but dismissed his suspicions and lent me again his gracious smile. Oh, how that smile takes one’s breath away! I returned it as best I could, but I’m sure I made a poor imitation.

Now having stood at the entrance of his shop, the tailor greeted me.

“Oh, can I help you?”

He seemed kind enough, but it was of the hour where I’m sure he’d begun thinking of dinner and rest. I looked nervously around the shop. I asked the tailor if he possessed anything that could be worn by me that evening.

A little later, I found myself returned to the main avenues. I did not feel myself. I laughed a little giddily in my new blazer jacket. It was a stroke of luck for the tailor to possess such the perfect piece, and I couldn’t believe how well it had fit. Swept up in my ecstasy, I had paid an (expensive) visit to the barber next door and then the jeweler. With a spring in my step, I passed by the hotel again where I’d first bumped into that handsome gentleman. I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection from the large windows. 

I let out a gasp.

The blazer matched the broadness of my shoulders with both elegance and comfort. The sleeves and hemming fit perfectly the length and width of my torso. The rich waves of my hair had been finely coiffed. The timepiece on my wrist spoke unpresumingly of class and taste. I decided to enter the hotel.

I took a look around the lobby. The chandelier that hung in the main foyer, the plushness of tufted leather sofas, and the intricate threadings of the embroidered carpet and tapestries--I felt I belonged. My gaze fell on the pretty receptionist who had spoken to the man from earlier. I wondered what differences existed between him and I. So I stood in front of a large mirror placed against the wall. Oh, I had nailed the looks. But now, it became just a matter of confidence. I approached the young lady. 

“Good evening.” I greeted her in a charming voice--low, raspy, but audibly projected. I leaned the length of my frame against the counter to naturally close the distance between us. I placed my gaze gently on her beaming eyes, and flashed her an effortless smile. 

“Oh, it’s you. I almost didn’t recognize you.” She played with her hair, with the same bashfulness as from earlier this afternoon. I had done it! Who knew a make-over to one’s appearance would have such an effect? To one’s confidence and then consequently to those around you!

“I had a question. Is your bar open late tonight? I’m meeting with an acquaintance, but unfortunately she won’t be free until a later hour.”

“Yes, I believe until at least midnight--perhaps past that depending on the barkeep’s preference. What time will you be meeting your acquaintance?” 

At the word “she”, the pretty girl before me seemed a tinge dejected. It was the reaction I’d wanted.

“Hmm. I suppose that depends. At what time may I pick you up later tonight? I’ll happily come by as soon as they release you from your station here.” I smiled coyly as her cheeks flushed with red, realizing the intentions behind my words. 

We agreed to meet at half past nine, at the bar here in the hotel.

It was only six, so I retreated to my room. I had explored the town all throughout the day and my feet had grown weary. I stole a glance at the bottle of champagne that had been wrapped in ribbon, placed in an ice box atop the dresser. I drew a bath and soaked myself in the steaming water.


Three men in a tub,

And who do you think they be…”

I hiccupped. The warmth in my belly had brought me into high spirits. The champagne bottle lay on the tile to my side. Truthfully, I’m rather poor with my drink. But the quality of the bubbly surprised me--it came as a complement of the hotel and I soon found myself tempted to finish it. The bathroom echoed spaciously with my song, and an elegant mirror faced opposite of me. As I bathed in the luxurious length of the copper tub and sipped delicious champagne, I pondered my own appearance. Against the fogged interface, I could make out only fuzzy outlines of my reflection.

If someone were to look upon me now, would I appear like that gentleman? As someone elegantly strung out in his leisure? I hiccuped again, laughed, and thought not. 


…the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker,

And all of them out to sea.”

I lullabied myself quietly to sleep. 


I appeared in the doorway. I had paid meticulous attention to the details of my appearance before descending from my room and I entered the lounge with confidence. I scanned the lavish darkness of the plush seatings and lacquered finishings. The atmosphere was intimately lively--not overcrowded. I’d arrived early to ensure my punctuality, and selected a comfortable booth situated privately in the corner. I’d wait here until my companion arrived. 

I turned to the center of the room and, at the bar, he was there. Atop a stool, he possessed even a posh manner of sitting. The gentleman made small talk with the bartender. He lacked a lady companion, but did not seem depressed or at all unnatural. Rather, he seemed genuinely engaged with what the old man had to say. Old fellows like him had wonderful stories to tell. And on some nights, this type of conversation could be more inviting than any flirtatious engagement. 

In a way I could not describe, there was something lovely about the gentleman. His presence peaceful, at ease. I, who had a tendency to apologize for my existence and consequently to overthink the slightest kindnesses from others and by symmetry also their abrasions, longed to know the secret to his calm. His perfection.

I approached him. I eyed an empty seat to his side, and dragged the stool out to sit. I nodded at him and the bartender in greeting, but just as I sat, they shook hands and bade each other farewell. It seemed they’d just concluded their conversation. The gentleman gave me a brief look of recognition, then smiled and waved me goodbye. Sadly, I returned his wave. It was a shame we’d barely missed each other. It seemed whenever I came, he had to go.


At 9:30, my date had arrived. I ordered us drinks. Sometime later, we agreed to take our conversation to my room. We slept together. Moonlight filtered through the window onto the bed sheets. It illuminated her sleeping face and gentle breaths. Quietly, I dressed myself and closed the door carefully behind me. Though past midnight, sleep eluded me and I wished to know the reflection of my face in the sea.

The hotel sat upon a hill of rocky formations by the seaside which formed a natural embankment. A minute’s climb down a winding staircase along this cliffside, and the jagged formations gave way to the smooth sands of the beach. The summer air tonight lingered somewhere between pleasantly warm and comfortably cool. It kissed my skin and tempted me towards the lulling encroachments and recessions of the shoreline. Removing my shoes, I stepped foot into that gooey interface between continents and the sea. I strolled for a while under the moonlight, leaving behind fleeting impressions that were washed away as soon as you no longer turned back to face them. 

In the distance, I spotted a dock that housed an array of vessels bobbing silently up and down. The lamplights along the pier, illuminated like fairy orbs in the night, called to me. I walked to the farthest edge of the pier, approaching as closely as I could, to the largest of them all. The great orb hung low above the horizon--tonight the moon shone in its full. There was no one else here. The air was silent, except for the quiet crashing of waves far beneath my feet. Standing at the precipice, I turned my gaze downwards. 

And I saw him.

His rippled reflection looked so similar to mine. At times, the ripples blurred them together. Other times, pulled them back apart.

He spoke first. The breathiness of his words reached the hairs on my neck.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

I trembled. I had not heard him approach! He had crept up the entire distance of the pier unnoticed. He encroached impossibly close, to the point where he stood at the borderline of not behind, but into me. Standing at the precipice, if he leaned forward a hair’s breadth more, the both of us would descend into the dark waters below. I could not turn to face him, for he did not yield any space for me to do so.

I spoke to him through our reflections.

“I’ve longed to meet you.”

I could not think of other words to say, as a terror grew in my heart. The gentleman I’d so admired. Nothing of the gracious smile remained in his eyes. 

“As have I.”

He said it wickedly as I felt the thrust of a sharp pain into my back. The cruel twist of steel engulfed my entire being in a fiery agony. I gasped and let out a terrible cry, and I tumbled into the sinister waters that awaited me in the darkness below. I sank thousands of feet beneath the surface, reaching my hands in futility to the moon above.


I stabbed the bastard through his back. I twisted the blade all about his guts and innards to inflict the maximum degree of pain onto this villain! I first suspected his lurking presence as a sixth sense, rather than any type of logic. And sure enough, everywhere I went, he appeared! He appeared with that hideous smile of his. In a way I cannot describe, that smile drove a terror through my heart that shook my entire being. Crooked, leering, and terrible. And so I pretended to smile in return--to act as if I did not already suspect. But in all matters of truth, I had already devised a scheme to counter the machinations this devil had in planning. I followed the unsuspecting fool as he wandered carelessly to this remote place, as if inviting me to carry out the deed.

I stared at his limp body before me. I thought of tossing him away here beneath the pier, but no--the body would be discovered too easily so close to shore. Fortunately I had secured a small fishing vessel in case of this event. I dragged the bastard along the pier and tossed him over its starboard. Due to my miscalculation, his foul blood smeared all along the wooden planks, but there were many long hours before dawn--I would have to return here and devise some way to remove the evidence.

But now, no one would see or discover. Overhead, dark clouds had begun to obscure even the light of the moon. The air grew chill and unpleasant. No--there’d be no one to intrude upon us tonight. 

I undid the knots of the dock lines and set us out to sea.


Three men in a tub,

And who do you think they be?”

I towed us for nearly an hour. The shore line was many thousands of yards away now. The dock lights were not even specs in the distance. Here was far enough.

I gazed upon the bastard once more, and felt a burst of glee well up inside me. He would smile at me no more. I began to laugh as one does at times of great accomplishment. I laughed beautifully and freely, for no one--not even the moon--would be here to see.

I thought it wise to dismember his corpse further, to further decrease its likelihood of discovery.  


Three men in a tub,

And who do you think they be?

The butcher, the butcher, the butcher!”

I thought myself rather a song master as I tossed the last of the remains overboard. I was free at last. Free from those pitiful, longing eyes. Following and staring like some sad, lost puppy, I could tell he had that look of one depraved of all human dignity. One without the strength to even properly live--I did him a favor.

Overhead, the clouds had grown darker still. The air grew electric and chilled. I thought it better to return to shore as soon as possible--I felt the ominous presence of a storm. I rushed to the helm. I switched the ignition, but it only sputtered uselessly. Shit! I kicked the stupid thing as I feared the worst. Rain began to pour profusely, as I heard the first crackles of thunder and saw the wicked streaks of electricity fragment the darkness. The waves grew turbulent, the small vessel began to rock violently. I tried the engine desperately again, but a powerful wave rammed us from above and threw me against the side of the boat. 

I struggled to my feet, frantically scanning the horizon for any sign of passing ship or saving grace. But there was none! I was alone out at sea, facing a perilous fate. 

And then I saw him. 

Hundreds of him. Lurking in the rolling swells of the waves, wrapped in their darkness, his innumerable arms and severed hands reaching frantically from beneath the surface. They grasped and grabbed onto the sides of the ship, clutching onto any hold, climbing over the sides on board. They came for me and I shrieked! I beat at them, kicked, gnawed, and bit at them. But they held me there and pinned me down. At that moment, over the ship’s stern, he arose. 

His eyes. His pitiful eyes. They stared. They stared knowingly.

At my deception.

At my facade.

At my weakness.

He saw the pitiful, crooked heart in my chest as it beat in cowardice.

As his menacing figure stood over me, a bolt of lightning struck the wooden frame of the ship. As it burst into flames, the clouds parted as the sun showed its first cracks beckoning dawn.

He approached me. There was nothing I could do. His shadowy being engulfed me. It invaded through every orifice and pore of my skin.

I was reduced to oblivion.


They wheeled me in a tiny cart, out of a whinnying carriage and through a hall that glared blindingly bright. I awoke in a bed of white linens and blank walls. Outside a little window to my left, the sun shone as in morning. Against the glare of the transparent interface, I could make out a reflection. Of whose, I wasn’t sure.

November 12, 2022 04:21

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01:49 Nov 17, 2022

Very captivating, and a relentless cadence. The descriptions of the people and settings were convincing. It did seem like the voice of the killer started out as distinct, but began to resemble the victim. If you're wanting input, I would only say perhaps the two voices could be a bit more distinctive. And I would love to have known just a little about why he was "a bastard." Really nice work, thanks for sharing.


Andrew Andrews
19:10 Nov 21, 2022

Thank you for your comments. An interesting point I'd like to mention, is that the "victim" and the "killer" are in fact two personalities within the same person--I imagined my character as experiencing a combination of bipolarism and dissociative personality disorder. At least as I've experienced it, the feelings of "torn-ness" that occur in between episodes of mania and depression often leave me feeling like two different people. I may have failed to portray this intention convincingly, but I intended to illustrate the feeling of frustrati...


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