Cigarette smoke floated into the lofty ceiling of the old Queen Anne house like clouds into a clear Autumn sky. Two tricenarian men sat together, facing one another, one resting in an oxblood Chesterfield wingback and the other perched on a black wool ottoman, his grey-blue suit and staring eyes and thin build making him look like a blue heron out of its wet environ — uncomfortable and ready for flight. The other man was strong, and good-looking by any standard, his coal-black hair oiled and combed back from his handsome forehead. His curls fell in waves about his ears and blood-red Naru collar. “Tell me why you killed him,” he said as he lit his Calabash pipe. A rich apple aroma soon filled the room, overriding the harsh cigarette smell.
The skinny man did not shift his eyes away from those of the gentleman sitting with him, but a dread suddenly clouded them like the darkening of a body of water when something unknown appears below its surface. “He could see me,” he said as he lit another cigarette, the one he was smoking still between his shaking fingers. “He knew I wasn’t thankful. I had to be rid of him. I had to...He was in every dream I had, every nightmare, every face I saw, everywhere, all the time...”
“Please! My back hurts! Is there not another chair in this godforsaken place? This stool is for feet and children, and nothing else!”
“Please. Be my guest,” said the handsome man as he gestured with his left hand about the room, inviting his visitor to look for a more comfortable seat.
The thin man stood to weakened legs. Only his over-large feet and well-cobbled shoes kept him from pitching forward. He turned to his right, scanning the spacious yet sparsely furnished room. “Nothing,” he said, defeated. He sat back down on the ottoman. “This will have to do, I guess. For now, at least.” He gave his host a quick glance of blame. The man in front of him smiled.
“Derrida was a nihilist, wasn’t he?” asked the man on the ottoman. He fidgeted. He didn’t like people who smiled.
“Many say he was a nihilist, yes,” replied the man in the chair. “Why do you bring up Jacques Derrida?”
“You had better things to do than to spend time with me, Yohanan? Would you have begun writing another novel? Penned a poem? Would you have read some Hemingway? You still like Hemingway, don’t you?”
“What I would have done had you not come today should not be a question, dear Imago. You should know better than to ask me that. We have been friends for many years. You know my love of the moment, of freedom breaking the confines of time constraints. So, you killed him because he could see your lack of thankfulness?”
“Yes! Yes, yes! Is that what you want to hear?”
“And you couldn’t change? You would rather murder a man than change your own personality? Were you really so disturbed that he saw something unnatural in you? Something that mortified you? Were you so disturbed that you were driven to murder?”
“Are you ashamed to know me now, Yohanan?”
“Not ashamed, no. Saddened, yes. Yes, I am very sad to know that you have come to this frame of mind.”
“Don’t you think that as my host you should take this scratchy wool ottoman as your seat and give me the leather chair you sit in? The more comfortable chair in the room?”
“I think no such thing. You asked to come into my home so that I might hear your confession. Why do you seek to make me feel guilty in my own abode?”
“I think you know why. The answer is found in my sickness; a sickness so terrible that I would kill a man only because he could see right through me. I killed a man because in his presence, I had no secrets.”
“Then you confess to being cold? To being so self-centered that unless a person coddles you, they are worthless in your presence?”
“I confess. Yes. I am cold and in pain. My back hurts me, my head throbs, and this gnawing and clawing in my belly is like fire and ice somehow working together to eat my guts and my liver and my kidneys and my heart! I want to weep, yet I can’t weep. I want to scream and claw at the sky and vomit out all of my pain! Instead, I can only take my weaker friends and throw things at them. Empty wine bottles, rocks, offal... Sometimes with insane piratical shouts I lift and throw them across the room!”
Yohanan gazed into the fiery, shifting eyes of Imago. His face and body were calm.
“My word...you! Now you are looking at me like he did!” Imago jumped from the ottoman, the muscles of his chest and shoulders tightening in the abnormal way of any creature filled with disease and confusion. His suit, cut for a larger man, was slack on him and therefore of no use to his frail physique.
“Will you now murder me, old friend, understanding that I can also see you as you really are?”
Imago leapt at Yohanan, his long fingers grasping with boiling hatred the neck of his gentle host. He then squeezed with a strength far beyond his physical capability; with a potency like that of the wild man from Gadara.
As a sheep held by his shearer, Yohanan smiled, closed his eyes, and waited.
* * * *
“But he — had to die: he looked with eyes which beheld everything, — he beheld men's depths and dregs, all his hidden ignominy and ugliness.
His pity knew no modesty: he crept into my dirtiest corners. This most prying, over-intrusive, over-pitiful one had to die.
He ever beheld me: on such a witness I would have revenge — or not live myself.
The God who beheld everything, and also man: that God had to die! Man cannot endure it that such a witness should live.”
Thus spake the ugliest man.
~ Nietzsche, from Thus Spake Zarathustra
- - -
Want to learn more about this author? Look Skadi meic Beorh up on the Contributors page, where you can see everything that each individual writer has contributed, visit their personal webpages, and more!