“You Will Be Punished By Your Anger” by Cecilia Fulton
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
Laure always believed she would die young, a murder victim. At 40, she had assumed time for the killing had run out. Yet here she was, kneeling on gravel in the middle of the night, about to die in the high-altitude plains of Ladakh. Somewhere in the middle of her distress was a cold seed of pride: she’d been right all along.
Her tied hands clutched each other as though one were a mother and one a child. Ryan, her husband—hiking stick in one hand, knife in the other—circled around her. It had taken five years of marriage, four years of failed pregnancies, and three days of trekking out of Leh, the colorfully-flagged, broken city in the mountains of northern India, for Ryan to break their bond. And not just break it—Jesus Christ—ravage it. He would make the killing look local—knife to cut her throat, hiking stick for sexual assault. “You won’t feel that, I’ll wait ‘til you’re gone,” he promised.
Laure twisted to curl her neck away from the knife but there was no protection to be found in the thin windbreaker. Fruitless half-thoughts of escape blew through her mind. Her back trembled like an animal. Dissolve me into the darkness, she prayed. There seemed to be something waiting and watching out there, and it couldn’t be worse than her husband.
“Laure,” he crouched in front, “I finally understand. I make life and you kill it. All those babies . . .” Up again. Circling. Quiet. Laure remembered the feeling of the last fetus, when it dropped out of her at 11 weeks. Dangling, the blood, the undoable end. She hadn’t felt anything but love for any of them.
Ryan leaned down, raised her chin with the thumb of the hand that held the knife. Her face was wet and wordlessly hoping. “There will be a full investigation by the Leh P.D.,” he reported with mock solemnity, then up again. “They’ll be scared shitless. I’ll get the embassy involved. Some poor asshole will get burned alive or whatever they do here. Anyone on the team that you didn’t like? Pick your killer.”
The team: Kiren, the cook, always walking ahead; Phausok, who installed her portable shower and turned his head away when he operated it; Gulam, not much she knew about him, the one who crouched to build the fires early in the morning. Where were they? Their tent was just downhill, but she was hidden behind the master tent. Laure opened her mouth to scream but only swallowed mucus and tears in a deep sob.
Cold wind. Even in the pitch-dark night, Laure could feel the vastness of the valley. Pyramids of gravel rising high above them, encircling them with dry, dead rock. Grit sticking to her wet face, breezes of burnt firewood and dry grass. Somewhere behind the mountains flowed the Indus, and only a half-day’s walk away there were towns—poor but full of beating hearts. Women sleeping with babies, men sitting outside in the night, and everyone powdery-dirty with dust. This trip had been intended to breed gratitude. But the locals were the lucky ones.
She tried to draw some comfort from her innocence but ran out of time. Ryan drew his hand through her hair, stopping at her nape. He cut the blade back and forth against her neck. Flashing, blinding fear. Laure lost herself in a cry for her mother and the deep burn of her torn skin.
Ryan yelled, “You’re the one who wanted this trip. The renewal. You didn’t deserve it. Peace comes from within, Buddha said.” He wiped his eyes and got ready again. “All you’ve got in there is toxic.”
Laure coughed with sobs and pain and blood. Did he realize, Laure wondered from the back, back, deep surviving last remaining parts of her mind, how much more there was to cut? He pushed her head to the side to look at the wound. “Fuck me,” he said. Yes, he did. Would he really keep going?
“Fuck you, American.” A voice, but nothing she could see. “Buddha says this, Buddha says that, you always get it wrong, use it wrong time.” Footsteps on gravel. A loud blow and crunch, the clink of the fallen knife. Arms pulling her up. Gulam.
“I want to tell him what Buddha said about anger. But already done. Already punished. Now we make you live, otherwise police will make me die.”
CECILIA FULTON works as a prosecutor in the northeastern US. A busy mother of three, she has only recently begun tapping into her dark imagination.
Posted: Nov 9, 2015
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