Crime Fiction by Sam Ernste
Marie, don’t forget me. Can’t you see me, Marie? It’s Oliver.
Have you forgotten me already? Did you forget that I will always be here for you, no matter what? How could you forget everything I’ve ever done for you? All I wanted was your happiness, Marie. You have unchained me, even without meaning to. You have set me free, allowing the voice within me to speak at last.
Don’t you know I worship you? You are my only. You must forgive me for everything I did. I know you will. When I tell you about my new art, you will.
I love you and I always will, Marie.
Marie stood awkwardly in the corner. She had always observed people before she made any interaction, unlike me, who never did. The hustle and bustle of the cafeteria made her nervous. She was the only person who seemed to know I existed. Yet, that fact gave me no comfort. She acknowledged me and would speak to me as a friend, but she was far too oblivious to the world to notice anything more. I knew her mind was going a hundred miles an hour within her own world. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if she liked it that way.
One of her only friends finally entered. Felix waved over at her without a thought, and she hesitated. I knew even back then. She was unfamiliar with that world; struggled with the idea of it. Yet, she could never tell him. Felix was oblivious to what was going on in her head, but I think most people were anyway. From what I had seen, she had difficulty with social situations; it couldn’t be his fault. It was this inability to effectively communicate with others that led her to what I called the unending single life.
Since she was the only one who talked to me, I focused my time on her: she meant the world to me. After all, we were so much alike.
As I was about to leave my corner to talk to her, she left the wall and went to Felix. At that, I sighed. One of these days I would lose her completely. That’s how life went. Marie was oblivious to what I thought, and Felix was oblivious to what she thought. It was nothing more than an endless cycle. It may seem dramatic, but that was high school. Her so-called puritan attire and supposed lack of interest in the field meant that boys believed they had no chance with her. I never had the heart to tell her about the rumors spread about her, but part of me thought she deserved to know. Then again, maybe she’d never notice.
Their other friend, Nick, wandered over, telling them about every failed ask-out he had attempted with his crush, Jillian. Though I had no interest in hearing any of their conversation, I wanted to know what Marie was doing. Her awkwardness made her acutely aware of how similar her situation was to Nick’s. Once they moved on from that conversation, they started discussing when their next role-playing game session was going to be. Marie seemed to light up and I couldn’t help but smile. This was where she was most at home.
When the bell rang, I met up with her as we walked to class together. She seemed almost distant. She would never tell anyone, as it was her nature to keep things to herself, but I knew everything. She didn’t have to say the words to tell me. I knew she never would, but one day, I hoped she would.
“Hey, Oliver,” she said, her mind elsewhere as always, but I didn’t mind. At least she talked to me. My own parents wouldn’t even talk to me unless I was in trouble. My siblings were never around either, so the idea of someone talking to me was important. My father left when I was young, so the appearance of my mother’s new incubus only made it worse.
“Whatcha doing after school today?”
She shrugged. “Same as usual. Homework, dinner, and game night.” We turned down the hall, and though she didn’t look at me, I knew she acknowledged me. “What about you? Got any big plans?”
I laughed. “Well, I’m going to watch TV until my mother gets home. Then, I’m going to lock myself in my room to listen to music. Basically, the same as every other night. Do you think…?”
“Oliver, no,” Marie sighed. “We’re too far into the campaign to let you in. Besides, Felix and Nick don’t know you exist.”
Again, another slap in the face. She may not have meant it to be insulting, but it always was. No one knew I existed, except Marie. She knew, but due to her difficulties with any form of communication, I didn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault. Yet, I watched with longing as she seemed to float away. She was in her class, and I was in mine; yet I still didn’t understand how the teachers never recognized my presence when they graded my assignments. I once tested to see if they would notice I was there during attendance. When they called my name, I didn’t say present; despite looking right at me, they marked me absent.
Looking back at Marie, I felt joy. It was a strange emotion; one I had never experienced in my life. She may not have seen what this was as friendship, but I did. I was alone; she may have been alone, but she didn’t have the same life experiences I had. I remember the only time I ever entered her house; we were maybe ten at the time. Her parents weren’t fighting, and her sisters were active in the house. It was lively, and everyone got along reasonably enough; of course, fights did occur, but they were nothing like what happened at my home.
I wanted to make her happy. I wanted her to feel the happiness she couldn’t feel because of her mind. So, I decided to be bold. After all, I’d do anything to see life behind her eyes. She was depressed, I could tell. Yet, it wasn’t a deep depression that she could never get out of; it was a depression involving her view of the world. I wasn’t entirely how she saw it, but from glimpses of her life, I could tell it was a lot darker than what most of our classmates saw in their worlds. In a way, I couldn’t help but agree. Then again, her view was on the outside world; mine was from life. Yet she didn’t know any of it.
During class, I scribbled out the note that would ruin me. The things I felt for Marie were what I put down, but I didn’t write it to give to her. I wanted to ensure her happiness, so I addressed it to Felix.
With the note stuffed in my pocket, I waited. I knew most of my classmates’ schedules, and though I rarely cared about them, I would use it to better navigate and avoid them. Today, I allowed myself to be pushed around for the first time. There was Jack, John, Cara, Isaac. Every classmate I had never spoken to in my life; every classmate who would never even take a second glance at me. It was a strange feeling, but I wanted to do it for Marie.
Then, Felix and Nick came down the hall. They were bouncing ideas off each other as they went along. Neither of them noticed me as they began to pass by. Though it was normal, I noticed someone run up behind them. Her short hair contrasted against Marie’s in both color and style. She was everything Marie was not. I knew who she was just passing by. This was Charlotte; to me, she was nothing more than another classmate who never took a second glance at me.
Reaching them, she pecked Felix’s cheek and asked him about what they were doing tonight. My hand froze halfway through the air. Marie didn’t know. She was nothing more than a friend to him.
“It’s game night. But I’ll let you join our next campaign if you want.”
She smiled at that. “That’s not really my thing, but it’s so sweet of you to offer.” She then kissed his cheek. “So, who else is going to be there?”
“Nick, and do you know Marie Fontaine?”
Her face contorted to a look I had never seen before. “You mean that weird girl who sits in the back of Government?”
“Hey!” Nick shouted. “She’s not weird, she’s just socially awkward.”
Their conversation died as they walked away from me. Backing away, I tossed the note away. He didn’t need to know. He had no need to. Yet, I was boiling inside. For Marie’s sake, this was a betrayal. Not only of trust, but of everything else. She didn’t deserve this. She deserved better.
As the classroom doors closed around me, I was still there. I stared at the spot where they met. Charlotte ruined everything. Marie would never care for me, and I had learned to live with that. If she knew about Charlotte, she would move on, no matter how unhappy she would be. But I twitched. Marie was far too passive and socially awkward to even say a word about it. I, on the other hand, was unnoticeable. Unlike her, I had no reputation or life to destroy. Marie deserved justice. And I began that night.
On my bedroom wall, I had so many drawings. Some unrealistic things, like aliens and monsters. Others were filled with images of death, both of animals and my classmates or my negligent mother’s incubus I dreamed of mutilating; sights I had always seen flash before my eyes and in my dreams. In the middle of my collection, two portraits stood. One was drawn years ago by memory. The other I drew last week while watching them at lunch. They are Marie.
Entering my room, the minute my mother arrived, I locked it behind me. Better to not allow the she-devil and her incubus in. Growing up, I remember the horrifying screams of my siblings. I was ignored; no one remembered I existed unless I made my presence known. They usually didn’t notice me when I was asleep.
I had no bed growing up. It wasn’t until my siblings left home that I got one. The desk was left by them too. There wasn’t anything there that was mine. Hand-me-downs littered the closet: clothes that either didn’t fit or had been forgotten. I was used to it; it didn’t bother me.
Taking out the lunch I had stolen from school, I ate my dinner as I laid out the plan. In my closet, I found my brother’s old faux leather jacket. It was a bit too large, but I didn’t care anymore. I put oil from the kitchen in my hair and painted my face with the paint from my mother’s paint set. Putting on the black gloves, I felt ready.
Leaving my room, I saw my mother staring at the kitchen table. She looked up and seemed taken aback. “Oh, it’s you.” she said, returning to her thoughts. “I forgot you lived here, boy.” Her words only fueled my anger. Passing her, I entered the bathroom and grabbed a pipe.
It was time. I was going to avenge Marie.
On Monday, I was walking to school when I saw Marie jogging towards me. Today, she seemed to only glow brighter, but she seemed sad. Something was off. The reason seemed blank as we walked.
“Did you hear?” Marie asked. When I gave her a look of confusion, her face looked very pale: “Do you know our classmate, Charlotte?” She had no idea who Charlotte was in her little world, but I let it pass as I nodded. “They say her father beat her to death with a pipe on Friday night. He apparently pulled her out of the shower and proceeded to beat her in the kitchen. He keeps saying he’s innocent, but he was found at the crime scene with the weapon in his hands standing over her. There are no other suspects.”
Changing my face, I pretended to feel sad and dismissed my beautiful art from my mind to make it believable. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Well, school’s going to be out on Wednesday for the funeral. Everyone’s required to attend.” Marie said this as she stared at the ground. She felt empty, I could tell. A moment later, she left my side and joined up with Nick.By now, she must’ve noticed Felix was gone. I watched as Nick told her the truth. Her eyes widened as she learned about Charlotte.
I know the funeral was packed. Other than that, I can’t say much. It was family and all of school. Charlotte’s mother was hysterical as her relatives held her back. A few times, she kept running to the casket that held her butchered daughter and began screaming, begging God to take her instead. I felt nothing upon seeing this. My emotions were gone; I put them aside the second I picked up that pipe.
Without thinking about it, I sketched my artwork from that night from memory during the reception. The mess that followed, though I laid out her sticky body in a beautiful way. It had to be beautiful for it to be complete. It was pleasing, though the final additions that had to be completed fast. I left the pipe there; it had no fingerprints since I wore gloves, so I wasn’t worried. Her father taking the blame, however, wasn’t planned.
I followed Marie after the funeral to Felix’s house. His mother let her in, warning her that Felix, as he had done with Nick, may not even speak to her. Marie knew she had to visit. And I knew I had to watch.
Though I couldn’t see much, I stood on the other side of window and listened. I peeked over to see Marie sit at his desk chair while Felix sat on his bed with his eyes closed. He didn’t answer when she spoke to him, but he did open his eyes. His eyes followed her as she spoke quietly about school. I have no idea what she said, but they were at least comforting. It was almost ten minutes before he spoke.
“Why did it have to be her?”
Marie sighed. “That’s how life is. I don’t understand it, but it’s unfair. Dreadful things happen to good people.” Looking at him, she began to cry. “Charlotte will be remembered. She is loved and she is true to she is.”
“Thank you, Marie.” he said softly. As Marie turned to leave, he began to weep, which made her turn. He looked at her and got up. Surprise overtook me when he kissed her; Marie responded for a moment, but she tore away. He didn’t speak but only sat down again, as if forgetting. I felt a bang within me: it was betrayal. But why would I feel betrayed if I did the deed for her?
“Give it time,” she said. “Your grief made you forget who I was, and I forgive you for that. But now I must go.”
Felix didn’t go to school that week. As the days flew by, Marie began dropping her grades as the horrible thought entered her mind. Her embarrassment was widespread when a teacher called her out for a failed math test that she would’ve passed if it hadn’t been for my actions. Mr. Trevors spoke her name with harshness and ridiculed her, causing her to flee. Upon discovering what had happened from Marie herself, I uncovered my plot. It was time to act again. Once school let out that day, I followed Trevors home. Once I knew where he lived, I came back that night, dressed in the paint and jacket that murdered Charlotte.
“Oliver! Oliver!” Marie made a run for it as she crossed the street and nearly got hit by a truck. She seemed too distracted to care as the driver screamed profanities at her.
“Oliver,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “Did you hear?” She breathed deeply.
Looking at her, I felt confused. “What happened?”
“Mr. Trevors is dead! School is cancelled for a week.”
“What? What happened to him?” I cried, doing everything to sound deeply surprised.
She shrugged. “Apparently, he died in his sleep. I don’t know much else,” she said, not noticing my grin of satisfaction as I remembered suffocating him.
Life seemed to go on after that. Though for about a month, I felt about the same as always, I missed that thrilling rush. I wanted something, but I only killed them for Marie. It was for her. Yet, I couldn’t help but want more. I wasn’t satisfied. Despite knowing that the police believed Charlotte and Mr. Trevor’s deaths may have been connected, I ignored that and did what I pleased. That night, I put on the paint and the jacket and found a beautiful weapon that caused the most damage.
There he was: my mother’s incubus. He sat lazily in a chair while my mother was shopping for their dinner. Neither of them ever knew that I was home. His face lit up in surprise the moment he saw me. I was the only one of my siblings he didn’t hurt, and it was only because he forgot I was there, every day. Now they were gone.
An hour later, I smiled with satisfaction. My mother came home shortly after I finished making my first piece beautiful. Later, I made her beautiful, too. It was good. I wanted more, but I knew it would be obvious. So, instead, I made myself dinner and ate while admiring my artwork. The beautiful angles I placed them in. The blood red only highlighted the beauty that now existed in their faces. Without a thought, I ate and drew the beautiful lines I saw before me.
Then I called Marie.
“Oliver, how did you get my number?”
Looking back at my artwork, I shrugged. She couldn’t see it, but I still felt like I needed to. I just ate as I looked at my mother and the incubus. They looked so much better. “I have my ways.” My voice was very calm and composed. Yet inside I was thrilled. The tormentor of my siblings was dead. My neglectful mother was now gone. I was free. “My mother and her boyfriend are dead, Marie.”
For a moment, there was silence on the other line. “What?”
“They’re dead. The living room’s a mess.”
I could hear Nick and Felix on the other end asking her what was going on, and I knew where she was: it was game night. “He says his mom and her boyfriend are dead, but he sounds kind of empty for someone who just found their mother dead.” One of them said something briefly before she turned back to me: “Call the police, Oliver! Why are you calling me?!”
At that, I hung up and got up. I knew she was going to call the police so what did it matter if I did? I was going to get caught anyway. I might as well finish it.
The steps to the basement of Nick’s house weren’t that far down. They led to the room where they sat around playing. Yet, I knew Marie and Felix waited for Nick to come back from the bathroom. He never would. I finished him off before I made my way to the door; next would be Felix, and if she didn’t cooperate, Marie. And I knew she would. If she didn’t, I would finish it for both of us.
Entering the basement, both stared at me with horror and confusion. I must have been a mess; I didn’t know for sure. Locking the door behind me, I watched them. She didn’t speak, but Felix did. Instead of answering, I lunged.
Marie screamed as I made a mess of the room. Though I knew Felix was still breathing, I let him be. My art looked so much better. He would pass, and I didn’t need to make my art look any worse than it could. I had to deal with someone else then. He was nothing more than an obstacle in my way. He wasn’t going to survive, so what did I care?
Dropping to my knees, I looked up at her. The girl who was standing in terror and barely able to contain herself any longer. “Marie,” I said. She began to breathe heavily and looked around her for an exit. I wiped the paint off my face and let her look at me.
It took a moment before she realized who it was. “Oliver?” she asked, sounding astounded. She held her breath. “Is that really you?”
“Yes,” Deep inside, I felt empty as I spoke to her with pleading eyes. “I did this for you, Marie. This was all for you. Charlotte, Mr. Trevors, Nick, and Felix. All of them for you.” I said it looking up at her as she slowly backed into the wall. “My mother and her little incubus were nothing more than casualties.”
“Why?” Marie sobbed. “Why would you do this for me?”
My voice spoke the words I never thought I’d say. The words I had hidden inside of me when I decided to let her go: I told her the truth. That was all that mattered. In the corner, I heard Felix gasp. He watched as life was slowly leaving him. It was when I looked over at him that Marie shocked me. She hit me with one of the folding chairs as hard as she could. I dropped my knife as I gripped my head in pain. She had betrayed me.
Racing towards her, I was ready to rip her apart for her betrayal. Groaning, I caught her arm, but she screamed as she stabbed my side. She missed any vital organs, but I puked my own blood. I started to lose consciousness when she helped Felix up.
Waking up, a relaxing state overcame me. One of the medics had stuck a needle in my arm as they strapped me down. Out of the corner of my eye, Marie sat next to Felix as a nurse patched him up before he would go to the hospital. Right before they put him on the stretcher, Marie placed her head on his shoulder and cried. As did he.
As they tied me onto the stretcher and rolled me into the ambulance, I laughed uncontrollably. Even after I underwent weeks at the hospital, I wickedly laughed through everything, refusing to answer the inspector’s questions. Only when Marie came to see me did I stare at her in silence, refusing to laugh. I couldn’t laugh at her, even when I noticed Felix in the next room, fidgeting uncontrollably as she sat across from me. Yet, her face made me mute, even long after her visit. One day, I would see her again, even as the months passed.
My time was done. For the first time, someone else noticed me. Unlike what I thought, I found a way to win. It wasn’t the way I imagined it, but in the end, people knew I existed, and I savored every second.
Remember this always: I love you, Marie.
Bio: Sam Ernste was born in Pennsylvania in 2002. Currently, Sam attends Bridgewater College as a professional writing and music double-major. Other works include “The Book of Damniato: The Watcher”.
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