Porphyria's Lover

Submitted into Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt

9 comments

Drama Mystery Sad

trigger warning: murder, violence, gore

 

They say I killed her.

They say I killed her, and hid the body. That I planned it for weeks - bought cleaning supplies, a plot in the graveyard that no one would notice. They say I'm a murderer, that I deserve to be hanged for what I did to that girl, an eye for an eye and a life for a life.

 

I might have killed her.

 

The MRI revealed significant brain damage. They weren't surprised - I was under the water for several minutes, lost consciousness for longer than they thought I could survive. Frankly, it's terrifying that they have the ability to even scan my brain, let alone tell me it's broken; nothing in my brain feels broken, my life feels normal. I've been married for two years, I'll turn 30 this year, and 2016 is a year I'm looking forward to. Except - of course - it isn't 2016. It's 2018. It's January 2018, and I can't remember the last two years.

 

What happened in those two years?

 

What did I do?

 

Can someone become a killer in two years?

 

Did I really kill her?

 

I asked my lawyer if she thought I did it, last week. She didn't tell me. She told me it was against her code of conduct, that her job was to prove I was innocent, not make her own judgement. She told me that I deserved to walk free, that there was no memory of the incident and who deserves to go to prison for something they have no recollection of? It would have been a good point, if only she could muster the strength to actually look at me while she said it.

 

Can someone become a killer in two years?

 

The cells are small, damp, musty. Any light that gets in no longer feels natural - a small, barred window looks out over the courtyard, which is itself protected by walls, further encased by two layers of barbed wire. Sunlight could get through the top of the window if it was ever sunny, but usually it's grey and overcast. Orange jumpsuits seem like tiny ants in the courtyard, each with their own story to tell and their own moral code. The orange makes me look sickly, pale, emphasising the yellow in my skin. My lips are chapped constantly, and the bags under my eyes are the most dismal shade of purple. A small shaving mirror sits above the sink in the corner of the brick room, reflecting - for my constant disgust - the husk of a man I have become. The doctors said my lungs would take a few weeks to recover, that I'd be coughing regularly, it might disrupt my sleep. They weren't wrong.

 

Did I really kill her?

 

The policeman told me I had a son. One and a half in February, he said, staying with his grandma until 'all this is settled'. I almost asked why he wasn't staying with his mum, my wife. The words formed on my tongue, then dissolved into another flood of tears. Betty. My love. My rock. My wife.

 

A son - one and a half, this February. How is it possible to forget my child? I remember Betty's early pregnancy: the morning sickness, the nausea, the time she made me walk to the shops to buy her mint leaves, which she chewed on when the cravings struck. But then - nothing. Suddenly, I'm in hospital, hands chained to the bed to stop me leaving.

 

A son! A son I raised for one and a half years, a son we loved together, a son made from me and Betty. They didn't tell me his name, but we decided years ago to name our son, if we had one, after my father. Zachary. Zachary. My perfect, perfect baby son. Could I really have killed her? His mother? My love? What could have happened, in those two years, that would drive me to it? All I know is I would have loved my son, more than the world, more than anything. Zachary.

 

What did I do?

 

I don't want to remember it, if I did it. Her perfect face, blue from lack of oxygen. Her red lips, purple and shaking. Her hair wrapped in a tight double loop, an ever tightening circle shrinking her neck to the size of a teacup. That's what they told me - a teacup. Strangled with her own hair, driven to the graveyard and buried. Next to the well. The well which I tried to drown myself in. Blue from lack of oxygen, shaking and purple in the back of the ambulance heading to the station, unable to respond, strands of her hair wrapped around my knuckles. The hair of my one true love, pulled from her with her murder. Oh, Betty - what did I do?

 

Her favourite poem was Porphyria's Lover. Who else would have known that, but me? Who else could have known the horrific irony of her death? Life mirroring art, as the life left her body.

 

Two paths are open to me. I can plead guilty, or I can plead not guilty. My lawyer said that if I plead guilty, and then she bargains down my sentence, I could only have to serve a few years. I'd never be able to see my son. On my permanent record, on my police record, I would be a murderer. I would have murdered my wife.

 

If I plead not guilty, she said, things might be harder. We can't argue that my body didn't do it, because they picked me up with her hair round my knuckles and her blood on my clothes. No, my body certainly did it. We could argue, though, that my mind didn't do it. I'm a different person, my mind is blank, I didn't kill her - someone else did. The old me. How can they prosecute someone for something they can't remember? All I want is to know what happened, why I did what they say I did, how is it fair for them to imprison me?

 

That's what she wants me to do.

She says that it's a version of the insanity defence. She might be able to get me off entirely, if I agree to intense psychiatric help. But then what happens, if in twenty years I start to remember? What happens if I serve no time, and I walk free, and my wife's murderer walks free?

 

These days I lie in my cell, and think of Zachary.

 

If I plead not guilty, then my wife's murderer walks free. My son's mother's killer walks free.

Two paths are open to me. She would know what I should choose.

May 24, 2021 15:07

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9 comments

Claudia Morgan
17:36 May 24, 2021

Wow. This was so powerful and amazing. I’m trying to think of critiques, but I honestly can’t. Well done for this immersive experience!

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Helen Ross
19:04 May 24, 2021

ahh thank you! especially because your critiques are usually so spot on that's a massive compliment <3

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Claudia Morgan
04:55 May 25, 2021

Aw, thanks! No problem, you are a great writer :)

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KED KED
20:56 May 26, 2021

Okay, I'm at a loss here. What a conundrum, seriously. Such a compelling thought, right? Are you guilty only by remembered actions? Who pays the cost of the act? The mind or the body? Glad I'm not on that jury... This was so well written from your character's perspective. Especially how he seems genuinely concerned over the concept, but not quite riddled with guilt. Everything about that seems interesting to me. God...strangled with her own hair, neck the size of a teacup?? How utterly horrifying. The imagery is haunting... S...

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Helen Ross
07:55 May 27, 2021

thank you so much!! I know nothing about the law so it was really interesting to write this without knowing the legal precedent, what might actually happen etc. the teacup thing is disgusting and honestly I had to skip over it every time I reread :o glad you liked it!

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Svara Narasiah
03:10 May 25, 2021

Very powerful and sad, good job!! It wasn’t too long or too short, and I really enjoyed it. Just one little tweak, though: You said he deserved to hang for what he had done—this makes it sound like he deserves to hang someone. Just say, “deserve to BE hanged” and this story will be 100% perfect. Great job!!

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Helen Ross
05:36 May 25, 2021

that's a great note, thank you!

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:39 Jun 03, 2021

If this isn't food for thought, I don't know what is. Very well done. I especially enjoyed the way you formatted this, with the big questions like "Did I really kill her?" singled out from the big blocky paragraphs. Good stuff! :D

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Helen Ross
21:12 Jun 04, 2021

thank you! I love a good single line here and there, thank you for noticing!

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