Tag Archives: murder

Fear of falling

In 1987, the world’s human population reached 5 billion and the last of the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō (Moho braccatus) died. According to the bird’s Wikipedia entry, “The last Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was male, and his song was recorded for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The male was recorded singing a mating call, to a female that would never come. He died in 1987.”

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Non-extinct birds in Washington Square, NYC

Back in those days when there was still wan hope for the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, I took a creative writing class for what I hoped would be an easy few credits on the road to a long-delayed undergraduate degree. A guy wrote a short story called “Fear of Falling,” about a man who managed to fall into holes in the ground. I don’t remember much about the story, but the writer impressed me. He was lean, wore John Lennon glasses, and always had a scarf on and some kind of tweedy long coat. He looked like I imagined someone starting out as a writer did, and he used his adjectives to great advantage.

The story receded from memory until recently and has resurfaced as a brand new fear. In these days, there are lots of things to fear, but, a month into the news blackout, I’m left to my imagination, a place darker than the combined output of all media, fake and real.

This is the dog’s fault. Several times a day, the dog must be released into the back yard so that she might pee, poop, sniff and chase things. I stand watch, plastic bag in hand. Recently, on a windy day, a branch fell from the old sugar maple, landing a few feet from me, but ever since, I’m convinced that this will happen:

On a brutally cold day, a branch falls, striking me and knocking me out. As my blood leaks out, I slowly freeze to death. The dog, heroic and well-meaning, but barely 40 pounds, tries to drag my dying body to the door and to get the attention of my family. Alas, she is too small and my body is discovered hours later, only moments after dying.

Now, whenever I leave the house, I scan the trees, looking for telltale signs of imminent branch failure, ever vigilant, ever fearful that something will fall on me. I also check for a Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, ’cause even though this isn’t Hawaii, you never know. You just don’t.

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The murderous sugar maple

The droning villain

“Perhaps, Susannah Fontaine-Williams, you are not cautious.” That’s not very insightful now, is it, she thought. “Perhaps it is unwise to follow a man you don’t know into a hidden place.” He eased the pressure on her throat enough to allow the carbon dioxide to escape her lungs and fresh air to enter. She wanted to cough but he had tightened the grip once more.

She looked into the one brown eye and one blue eye of her tormentor and swore that the brown used to be on the left, not the right as it now was. He smiled. “Is that better?” he said. “Does it hurt…your throat?” She couldn’t speak and she couldn’t nod her head so she just stared back at his eyes.

“The world,” Tassos continued, ‘is a corrupt place. He sighed, “I was not always this way. Like anyone, I would think of killing from time to time. It is natural to want to kill someone, is’t it?” She could only look into his unblinking eyes. SFW, fortunately, an accomplished swimmer (bronze medal, freestyle, 2006 Olympics) and everyday miler at the pool, had great wind. She could hold her breath for several minutes at a time.

She hadn’t noticed that her right hand was in her handbag now feebly fumbling over the many objects in storage. He hadn’t paid it any mind either. He paused to weigh the import of his own words, as if she would continue her TV show on an afterlife cable network and might have a life – or death – lesson to convey to her audience from her experience dying today.

“Do you want to know where I got the inspiration to kill?” She couldn’t speak and the lack of oxygen again made her woozy. “Of course you do! From watching your CSI. Very inspiring!” He let up on the pressure again allowing her another single breath. “Just pick someone you don’t know. Random is best. And always dispose of the body with care.

“Now, where was I? Yes, the world is corrupt. Everyone gets away with what they can. And there are too many…too many people doing too much evil. The human race – we are just animals with nice things. Do you need a breath?” He released his grip again. Stale air rushed out and fresh air replaced it. Her throat hurt.

“Where was I? Yes. I am like your Dexter. You know the show? Good. I weed out the evil. Anyone with privilege and means, we must assume has come about that privilege and means by doing something wrong, or through wrongdoing somewhere in their bloodline. You see now why this is happening to you, don’t you? I am just an instrument. I hope you appreciate that.”

A man in a stylish hat photographs one of the many wells on Delos.
A man in a stylish hat photographs one of the many wells on Delos.

He stopped talking but continued looking into her eyes. Her eyes were watering and her head ached. She was thirsty and her hand rested on the hilt of the pearl-handled ankh knife in her handbag. During his monologue she had been very carefully unhitching knife from sheath and felt confident she had bared the blade. “What do you say, one more breath and then we say goodbye?” he said.