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.’”
“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.