Fiction

The Words


How shall I kill him, when I see him again? How shall I add his life-force to the already blood-steeped soil of this ancient place? How… shall… he… die?

Sitting at a table outside one of the restaurants on the first floor of King’s Cross station concourse, Jonathon lifted a forkful of pasta into his mouth as he looked at the words he’d just typed on his laptop. He didn’t know what the food tasted like, it was simply fuel; his mind was on the script he was writing. This soliloquy was the biggest speech of the play – the turning point for the main character – so it had to be a belter. Jonathon needed inspiration, atmosphere and authenticity, and his favourite place for those was the station.

Something about King’s Cross had always fascinated him: every day it was a seething mass of possibilities in the comings and goings, the chance meetings, the tiny, telling movements and the life-changing journeys. Millions – billions – of stories waiting to be told. With this play, he would tell at least one of them.

He re-read the words.

How shall I kill him, when I see him again? How shall I add his life-force to the already blood-steeped soil of this ancient place? How… shall… he… die?

Oh, that’s good, he thought; I like that. Blood-steeped… a bit archaic, maybe, but a good actor could bring it to life.

How shall he join those who have died here before, in battle and Fleet, in plague and civil strife, in digging and conquering the ground for sewers and railways…

Jonathon paused.

Do we need that? We’ve done the Romans and the Iceni and people drowning in the River Fleet in the first act; do we need it again?

He deleted the sentence.

No – the audience already knows the place has seen its fair share of death. That’s not the point of this speech. The point of this speech is: How… shall… he… die?

He sighed and scooped more pasta into his mouth.

Of course…

He put his fingers to the keyboard again.

Shall I poison the meal that he eats or the coffee that he drinks?

He leaned on his elbows on the table and looked at his meal.

Tricky… you’d need access to the food and drink, and this character’s not going to be working in any kitchens waiting for a bloke who might never turn up. No, this’ll be a chance meeting – one the victim doesn’t expect – so it’s got to be something you can do on the spot.

Could always distract him whilst he’s eating, I suppose, and put poison in his food, but that’s got to be really slick if the audience is going to believe it. I mean, who doesn’t pay attention to their food long enough for someone to poison it?

Jonathon sat back and absent mindedly turned his head to one side, peering down at the people watching the departure boards that hung in front of the station’s restored brickwork – the commuters, day-trippers and meeting-makers who were ready to rush like lemmings when their platform number appeared on the screens.

Shall I fell him with one blow, my hand grasping a brick discarded from these venerable walls?

He wrinkled his nose.

Hmmm. Would you describe King’s Cross as venerable? Certainly grand, since the restoration and the new roof, but venerable? It looks too modern now, with its gleaming glass-sided staircases and steel handrails.

His gaze rested on the steps which led down to the ground floor. What would it feel like to fall down those?

Shall I stop his foot at the top of the stairs so he tumbles, landing over and over on each metal corner until his head meets the stone of the platform?

Yes, that might work. Need a good actor for that though. Or some ingenious staging.

He breathed heavily down his nose.

Stop self-editing, Jonathon, and focus. All your character needs to do at the moment is fantasise about ways of killing someone. You can sort out the feasibility of each method later.

He looked through the empty space opposite him. At another table, a young man had put his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders; she was holding her scarf up to her mouth to cover her laughter as he leaned close to her, whispering in her ear to make her laugh even more.

Jonathon grinned and took another forkful of food.

You beauty, King’s Cross. You never let me down.

The keyboard clicked rapidly under his fingers.

Shall I drape my scarf around his neck and twist it tighter, laughing as he scrabbles to tear the fabric, the imprint of his own fingers bruising his throat?

Shall I whisper one terrible word in his ear to lodge in his mind, to awaken a conscience which neither drink nor drug can drown?

Oh, very Shakespearean.

Shall I press the muzzle to his chest or forehead and make him watch me pull the trigger, smiling as I brace myself for the recoil?

Shall I push his head repeatedly against some angled ironwork, splintering the nasal bone and the frontal bone until shards of his facial skeleton embed in his sickened brain?

Wow, I like that. Shows the rage built up inside the character.

He re-read his words again, revelling at the richness of the language pouring out of him.

Shall I inject him with a paralysing drug which shuts down his body cell by cell, limb by limb, leaving him in a living death, physically incapable but mentally aware?

He interlaced his fingers, put his hands on top of his head and closed his eyes as he thought about this.

Does such a drug exist? Does that matter? For the purposes of the play it can exist.

He opened his eyes, his hands still on his head.

Shall I crush him under wheels, snapping his spine and compressing his innards until they rupture?

What?

Jonathon’s hands slowly parted and floated down to the table as individual letters flitted across the screen to become words.

Or shall I do what he did to me?

Where did that come from? I never wrote that…

Shall I slide the thin blade in precisely and cover the scream with a kiss?

Cold sweat drenched him, the pistons of his heart suddenly forced into overdrive. He looked around maniacally to see who was using a laptop. Somebody must be. Somebody must be controlling his keyboard.

How shall I kill him, when I see him again?

Jonathon desperately wanted to close the screen but was powerless to lift his leaden hands from the table.

How… shall… he… die?

His mouth fell open and his breathing was ragged as he stared wide-eyed at the words springing up in front of him.

Which method shall I use?

He shook his head slowly but could not tear his gaze from the words.

Which of your methods shall I use?

The words.

Jonathon?

The words.

How… shall… he… DIE?

‘No…’ he murmured. ‘No… no… no…’

No. I cannot use any of these methods of yours because I do not have the power to move these things: to sprinkle poison, to heft a brick, to cause a fall; I can pull neither scarf nor trigger; I can push neither bone against ironwork nor syringe into flesh; I can drive no vehicle, slide no blade. I have no voice to utter one terrible word.

For I am but the unresting soul of myself as I was; the only echo of a life cut short.

No, I cannot kill him your way, so I shall kill him my way. I shall simply sit opposite him and he will know me as the one whose life he took, and he will be paralysed with fear. Adrenalin will prompt a reaction in his heart, causing its muscles to contract ever more strongly. The pain of the attack will course through his body and as his consciousness gives way to death, Hell will take him, and I shall be free.

Jonathon wrenched his hands from the table and slammed his laptop shut, not realising someone had slid into the seat across from him.

When he looked up, he recognised the face.

Picture source: Matt Buck