Curiosity – Short Story

“Have you ever killed a man?”
The question sat in the air between the two men on either side of the Plexiglas pane that separated them. The man that posed the question held onto the sturdy telephone headset. He adjusted himself on the steel chair beneath him.
 
The reporter on the other side of the glass stared at the prisoner. The convicted murderer.
 
“I figured you haven’t. You write a lot about people who do but you’ve never actually done it yourself. How can you truly understand what was going through my mind if you’ve never been in my shoes?” The man in orange asked.
The reporter tapped his pen on his notebook. He tried to formulate an answer. Nothing came to him. He was normally the one who asked questions.
 
“I guess that’s why I’m here.” The reporter replied.
The prisoner smirked.
“So you wanna know why I killed that man.” Prisoner 5281 sat back in his chair.
 
The reporter didn’t respond.
 
“I should start from the beginning then, huh?”
 
“If that’s where you want to start.” The reporter adjusted himself to take notes.
 
“Alright.” The prisoner rubbed his forehead. He squinted at the reporter.
 
“My father. He used to take me out to the woods behind my grandmother’s every year to hunt. We’d pack up our rifles, hike out to a clearing in the trees, and then wait. It always felt like an eternity,” his eyes glassed over as he relived the memories in his head. “We’d wait for a buck to show up. And sure enough, one would always come around. But you never immediately shot him. Even if you had the clearest shot in the world, you’d wait.”
 
The reporter cocked his head to question “Why?”
 
“My father taught me to take that moment and study the buck. Learn his movements so you could anticipate the next. I always used that moment for admiration, though. Thinking about the fact that this animal woke up today without once considering that he wouldn’t be waking up again. That’s the same thing I did to Felix.”
 
“You admired him?”
 
“I did. I was on the subway and saw him on his last morning. I decided to skip work and follow him. I wanted to study him. Anticipate his next moves. But I also wanted to see what it was like not knowing today was your last.”
 
“But why him?”
 
“That’s funny. He asked the same thing. When he was laying on the ground looking up at me. All he could manage to ask was ‘why?’” He zoned out as he thought back.
 
“And?” The reporter pushed.
 
“I told him I did it for the same reason that he kept asking ‘why.’”
 
“What?”
 
“When your readers flock to your article to read about me. They’re reading about me for the same reason I killed Felix: Curiosity. Curiosity is what killed Felix. I always wondered what it would be like to take a man’s life. To feel his dying breath leave his body. To watch the light fade from his eyes. I was curious about it all…”
 
The reporter stopped taking notes. He caught his jaw from dropping.
 
“You killed a man for no reason other than to see what it would be like?”
 
“You drove all the way out to the middle of nowhere to sit with a man on death row to see what it was like to kill another man?” The prisoner replied.
 
“Yeah, but I won’t be spending my last days behind bars…” The reporter quickly replied, taking offense to the prisoner’s comment.
“True. But you’ll never actually know what it feels like. You’ll know what it felt like for other men to take a life. You’ll keep asking more guys like me, never satisfying that itch,” He leaned forward in his chair, “It is truly enlightening, killing a man. Even if I’m stuck behind these bars, I know that I experienced life in the rawest form. You should try it sometime. You’ll sleep better than you ever had before,” He said as he smiled, “How many men can say they answered the questions that keep them up at night?” He leaned back in his chair again, glancing up at the clock. A guard knocked at the door on the prisoner’s side.
 
“Well, Jonathan. It’s time for me to go. But I think I’ll be seeing you around. I’m sure you’ll be curious to know more.” The prisoner hung the phone back on its receiver. He stood and locked eyes with the reporter. The guard stepped into the room and secured shackles on the prisoner’s wrists and ankles.
 
After the guard pulled the prisoner out of the room, Jonathan looked down to read his notes. He stared at the last word on the page. The word that would keep him coming back for more. The word that led to a man’s death.
Curiosity.
Chicken

Chicken

The gravel made a rough grinding sound as the heavy black tire crunched its way along the dirt parking lot. The car came to a stop outside the biker bar. The establishment was old and beat up. The wood siding had seen better days. But, the line of motorcycles out front kept the bar in business even when nobody else would visit the old joint anymore. Today, Derrick was here for a visit. He was here to see a man about a girl.

He brought the muscle car to a halt. The solid steel slid open. A heavy leather boot hit the dirt. Then, a sunglass laden face emerged from the vehicle. He slammed the door shut with a satisfying K-thunk. Before leaving his car, Derrick made a stop by the trunk. He reached in and pulled out one item. A Louisville slugger. Shutting the trunk, he turned to the bar and walked swiftly. He rocked the bat back and forth to relearn its balance.

Derrick watched as a pulled-down blind was released behind the front window, the peephole that was being held open by a finger sprang back into its rightful position. The front door to the bar opened.

A large, bald man, easily twice the size of Derrick stepped out. His leather biker vest clued Derrick into his affiliation.

“You better turn around and go back where you came…”

Slam

The bouncer never had a chance to finish his sentence. His instantly-bruised face slammed into the doorframe and his massive body slumped to the ground.

As Derrick continued his march forward, he heard a ruckus stirring up inside the bar. He took a step inside and saw a dozen men scrambling to ready themselves for a fight. Derrick allowed his eyes to adjust to the dark, hazy environment inside the bar. A neon light in the back flickered and slowed his eye’s progress.

“I’m looking for Birch. Anybody know where I can find him?” Derrick said with a firm voice. The bar was silent. Everybody anticipating an attack. A smaller man closer to the bar noticeably shifted his eyes. He looked towards the man that stood closest to the jukebox. Birch. Derrick pointed the tip of his slugger towards him.

“I warned you not to touch Maeve again,” Derrick said.

He took a step forward towards Birch. In his peripheral vision, he caught a glimpse of a punch being thrown his way. Derrick pulled the bottom of his bat back. The knob connected with the attacker’s nose. Before the fist ever reached Derrick, the man crumpled into a bloody mess on the floor. The next attacker came from Derrick’s flank as well. This time a beer bottle was being swung at his head. Derrick twisted the bat upright, as if he was bunting, and let the bat take the brunt of the bottle. The glass shattered and beer covered Derrick’s chest. But the failed attack gave Derrick the moment he needed to jam the Louisville Slugger into the man’s throat. A guttural gurgle emanated from the biker’s mouth as he clutched at his throat for air.

Derrick pulled the bat away from the man’s throat and swung it into the chest of an approaching attacker. The hit forced all the air from the man’s lungs. His arms dropped to his stomach, allowing a clear shot to the man’s head. Another target down.

A jab landed into Derrick’s back. Instinctively, he spun around bringing the full force of his momentum through his bat and into the surprise-puncher’s face.

A beer bottle flew past his head. Derrick swung his bat through a table of bottles. The glass shards flew into another biker’s face. He screamed out in agony.

As he continued to hold the bat in his left hand, Derrick grabbed a bottle off a nearby table by the neck and threw it at the skinny man behind the bar that was rushing for a shotgun located under the counter. The bottle impacted his left temple and the bartender fell behind the counter.

With half the room cleared within seconds, Derrick was feeling better about his odds of winning the fight.

Another three bikers ended up in a pile on the floor after Derrick shifted the bat between man-one’s knee, man-two’s chest, man-three’s head, then man-two’s head, and finally bringing the bat down onto man-one’s head.

There was a pause in the fight.

Derrick turned towards two smaller men that were standing between him and the doorway. They glanced at each other and back to Derrick. One of them began to reach for a heavy glass on the table.

“Really?” Derrick asked.

The man froze his hand before grabbing the glass.

Pulling the slugger up into a batter’s position, Derrick took a step forward.

The man pulled his frail hand away from the glass.

As Derrick took another step towards them, the two men made the ultimate decision of flight rather than fight.

Derrick relaxed and turned his attention to the corner of the bar that was next to the jukebox. Huddled on an old cloth couch was the man named Birch. A decorative sign above his head read ‘Chicken’.

How fitting, Derrick thought.

“Just you and me now, Birch,” Derrick said as his boots stomped toward the huddled man. A whimper came from the couch.

“Please, man. I didn’t mean to…” Birch began.

“Didn’t mean to?” Derrick asked, anger in his question.

Birch turned his hidden face to Derrick. Fear was the only expression on his face that was hidden behind raised hands. Derrick now stood over him. A light on the wall to his right lit up face like a kid prepping to tell a story by holding a flashlight beneath his chin. The shadows cast by the light stretched upward and hid his eyes. Even when hidden, Birch could still see the rage contained within Derrick’s eyes.

“I guess I didn’t mean to do this either,” Derrick said as he brought the bat down onto Birch.