This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

Hidden behind a lamppost I spy Paul accosting two young women. I have been following him since dawn and this is already the tenth time. The pattern is always the same: he puts his hand on their shoulder, at first they look at him dismissively, some swat his hand away. Then he opens his notebook and reads aloud for five minutes. Gradually the women's faces light up, most of them have big smiles, the first one approached this morning even chuckled. When he closes his book, they give him an air kiss, some of them put a real smack on his cheek. 

This tenth time, it goes no differently. Two blondes, one with pink, the other with purple braids, listen intently. They smile at Paul in sync with shining eyes as if they had heard their baby say mama for the first time. He gets a smooch from each of them. When they are gone, he takes something out of his pocket and throws it on the ground. Three seagulls swoop down on it.

What does Paul do? 

That's exactly what I want to know. That's why I'm chasing him and I'm hiding behind a lamppost like a cliché detective, wearing black sunglasses, gray long coat and dark green hat. Too bad I couldn't hear what he's reading.

Why I don't ask him?

That's a pretty story. 

Paul approaches a redheaded female of about twenty-five in black leather pants over black leather pumps. Over her slender shoulders hangs a red long coat. She looks like Suzanne.

Paul and I haven't talked since that little incident with Suzanne. Well, little incident, of course I knew that he and Suzanne promised to marry each other in kindergarten and that they had never kissed others. How could I not know? Paul was my best mate and he talked about nothing else: Suzanne here, Suzanne there. I think that's why Suzanne broke into my dreams, why she became my obsession, why I had to score her per se. It was that Suzanne became the grand prize I coveted to win.

The red-haired smiles, strokes Paul's arm, and glues her red-painted lips to his cheek. Painting the lips red, Suzanne also does.

I had anticipated that Paul would not be cheerful. I expected him to call me a rotten cod, a filthy baboon, to scream that I'm a scumbag for taking away his childhood sweetheart, that I'm stealing other peoples' material. That he would punch me in the kisser. Or something like that. 

He did none of that. 

"These are my last words to you," he said calmly, "after this, I'll never speak to you again." He focused on the spot between my eyes above my nose. "You pressed the button..."

I will never forget those eyes: his irises reflected the ice of Antarctica. As if he knew how everything would go.

"The game is on," he said and walked away with an icy smile as if an evil old magician notices that his latest formula for turning steel into gold has failed.

Paul and redhead chat longer than he chatted with the other women. She points to the lamppost behind which I am hiding. That must be coincidental. My disguise is foolproof. She points presumably in the direction of her favorite café where he invites her to talk more, to get to know each other better. That's where it happened with me and Suzanne too, at her favorite café.

Suzanne immediately moved in with me, she didn't want to stay with Paul a moment longer. The exact same words he had said to her. "The game is on." With the exact same icy wizard smile.

The first few days we didn't pay much attention to it, we barely got out of bed. Suzanne was a ferocious beast and she roared and screamed several times a day. She had never enjoyed herself so much, she said with a look that begged it never to stop. 

It did stop.

Three seagulls circle my lamppost. Without thinking, I clap my hands hoping they'll fly away. I hate those bloody creatures. They fly away and I realize my mistake. Did Paul see me?

Day three, the Nespresso ran out, so Suzanne got new ones at the convenience store.

"I didn't realize it at first," she said as she came back into the bedroom, shaking and pale as a ghost. I had never seen her so white. It's already spring, even in winter it's not cold enough to turn ice white. It's not Antarctica here.

"Normally they do ga ga kyowkyow!" I marveled at how well she could imitate a seagull. She flapped her red long coat as if the coat gave her wings. Suzanne Gull. What's in a name. I swung open the comforter and beckoned her over. I wanted fire from my beast. She shook her head.

"They were yelling go go, i know, i know, i know, cheater," she whispered. "Endlessly..." She cried. She no longer crawled into my bed. Not in the same way anymore.

Over the next few days, more nasty things happened. 

The cashier at the convenience store scolded her for wretched traitor, the neighbor for sleazebag and snakebug, and the garbage men threw much more obscene words at her, they never used to do. She was sure Paul turned everyone and everything against her. Even the cat meowed that she was a hoover. She shivered and wept nonstop. This fuss was destroying her.

That's why she asked me to shadow Paul. I had to, otherwise she would kill herself, she swore. And Suzanne made me promise not to say anything to Paul.

That's why I can't ask him.

Paul and the woman hook into each other's arms and walk in my direction. I panic. I shuffle aside and crouch behind a trash can. Paul has a devilish smile on his lips. Did he see me?

"I'll show you heaven later," Paul says sultryly, the chick giggles the way Suzanne giggled. "I can't wait to inaugurate your apartment. Life is a celebration."

They walk past my trash can. He throws his notebook into it.

I wait until they are out of sight, crawl out of my hiding place and fish his notebook out of the trash can. 

"Life is not a game," I read. "People like to think of life as a game because there are rules and regularly winners parade by and losers hide behind trash cans."

The seagulls are back and skim over my head. "Go go, i know, i know, i know, cheater," they squawk.

"You can look at life as an opportunity to develop in all sorts of areas. Then it becomes a chain of fun because you can develop yourself at any time of the day, without winners and losers because everyone is a winner." 

Paul the philosopher?

I put the booklet in my coat pocket and run home. Suzanne needs to read this.

"Suzanne, I found something," I call out in the living room. It remains silent.

"Suzanne, he's not angry, it's not a game," I call out on the stairs. The steps creak.

The bed is empty. In the bathroom, the bathtub overflows with blood red water. The kitchen knife lies on the floor in a pool of blood.

I pick it up, look at Suzanne's wrists. Her forehead is cold as Antarctica. A seagull lands on the balcony, taps on the window and calls, "Go go, i know, i know, i know, cheater!"

I crawl into the tub by Suzanne's body, without taking off my clothes. Paul's notebook pricks my back.

I cut deeply twice, feel no pain and wait.

The seagull flies away.

Another game?

June 10, 2022 19:43

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Seán McNicholl
22:56 Jun 10, 2022

Tony, this was haunting and chilling! Loved the personification of the seagulls. Basing it from the perspective of the paranoid instigator was great, it led me to feel initially that Paul was the ‘bad guy’ in all this, whenever he had taken the moral high ground. And the lovers internal shame led to their demise. Well done!


Tony Coppo
12:44 Jun 11, 2022

Hey Seán, thanks for reading and your nice comment! Appreciated!


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Graham Kinross
19:05 Dec 29, 2023

Well that’s creepy as hell. Edgar Alan Poe would be proud, or Alfred Hitchcock. The birds are a particularly supernatural touch.


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