2306: We Always Think There Is Going To Be More Time

Posted: February 25, 2013 by Kelly in stories, the world

It’s the silence that gets to him. It seems to stretch outward from his apartment, into the long hallway. All the doors are closed, except for his own. The stark white LED-light in the hallway shows a picture of splintered wood, a door kicked inwards. But more than that it’s the silence that is louder than the whirring of the building’s climate control, louder than the mumbling of traffic on the streets below. It’s the silence that tells him he’s too late.

He moves towards the door, his footsteps quiet from years of practise, years of coldblooded murder at his hands. He is unarmed, but no less deadly for it. His movements feel sluggish, as if he’s wading through water. The air feels stifling, too thick to breathe. He almost wants to turn around, walk out of the building and forget about what he’s seeing now. Forget who should be waiting for him in the apartment. Forget the last year of his life. He doesn’t. His footsteps carry him further down the hallway, towards his front door. Even though he knows that whatever he finds inside, it will destroy him.

The door opposite to his cracks open, and the old lady living there peers out at him. Her hair is pulled back in a severe bun. Her skin is leathery, worn from years and years of strife. When she sees him, her face crumples. She inclines her head at him and shuffles back into her apartment, leaving her door ajar. It’s an invitation she knows he won’t take, because she knows him. Everyone in the goddamn world knows him, and yet no one does. No one. Not anymore.

Chang Kun Wei stands in front of his home, staring at the splintered remains of his door and his life, and it’s quiet even with the ambient noise from Shanghai below filtering through the thick walls. Inside the apartment it’s quiet and for a moment he imagines it’s Death standing inside his door, waiting with bated breath for him to step forward. Wishful thinking. It will be so much worse than Death.

Behind him the old woman whimpers as he steps inside, over the broken wreckage of the door. The corridor is cast in the same stark white light as the hallway, but his livingroom is doused in purple and blue, illuminated by the neon advertisements outside. Colors flicker in rapid succession. His viewscreen is on, but muted. It shows a romantic soap opera that she had liked to watch sometimes, because it didn’t remind her of anything real. His crystal coffee table is broken, the shards grinding into the soles of his feet as he walks through them. He doesn’t feel it. Chairs are overturned. There’s a smear of blood on the wall, trailing towards their kitchen. It’s still too quiet.

He follows the trail of blood because he has to know, even though he already does. The silence tells him enough, but he has to see. The kitchen is a mess. Blood is pooled on the tile floor, far more than just from one person. The kitchen drawer where she keeps her gun lies on the floor, and there are plasma burns on the wall. He presses two fingers to them, but finds them cold. An hour must have passed, at least.

There’s a trail leading from one of the puddles of blood, as if someone was dragged out the other end of the kitchen. He wonders for a second if that was one of them, or if that was her. He shivers, feeling a chill settle deep into his bones. Had she still been fighting here? Or had they overwhelmed her? He counts five of them. Five sets of footprints, five smudges of elbows and hands on the wall. They hadn’t underestimated her.

The trail of blood leads into their bedroom. His knees feel weak for a moment, and he steadies himself against the wall. His fingers slip. There’s another smudge of blood there, not quite congealed yet. “Ayane,” he whispers, his voice trembling more than it has ever done. He pushes himself off the wall, forcing himself to go forward even though he already knows what he’s going to find. “Ayane!” He repeats, his voice louder. He is greeted by more silence, and he knows. He had known when he stepped into the hallway outside his house.

The door to their bedroom is open, a pleasant yellow light pouring out into the corridor. He steps inside, reckless now. His eyes are drawn to the writing on the wall above their bed. The letters are dark, smudged. It has to be blood. ‘OCU WHORE’, it reads, next to the clan signs that he recognises from his youth. His own flesh and blood. ‘OCU TRAITOR’, another sign reads. He had known, of course. Ayane had told him, early on, just as he’d told her about his past with the clans, the gangs and the murders. There had been no secrets between them.

His eyes flit from the scrawled insults on the wall to the broken mirror of her vanity table, the bloody knife on the floor, the way the curtains are drawn and the way the neon advertisements outside throw hints of color onto them, almost too weak to be seen over the yellow light of the bedside lamp. He looks everywhere but at the woman on the bed, because if he looks at her it will be real. He presses his eyes closed, his fists clenched at his sides as he inches forward, until his legs hit the edge of the mattress, and he can go no further.

He leans forward, pressing his hands to the cool sheets for a moment before crawling onto the bed, his eyes still shut. “Ayane,” he whispers again, slowly reaching forward until his fingers touch her cold skin. A shudder passes through him, but he holds his fingers there, against her until the cold is no longer jarring. He opens his eyes and looks at the way his skin contrasts with the paleness of her thigh, where his fingers are pressed above one of the thousand bruises littering her body.

Once he’s laid eyes on her he can’t look away, his eyes flitting from bruise to bruise, cataloguing the ways they’ve broken her. Her clothing is torn, and he has no illusions left. He knows his uncle, knows how the clan operates, and he knows an example when he sees one. Ayane is lying in a pool of her own blood, her eyes staring upwards at nothing. He caresses her cheek, and she doesn’t turn her head towards his hand the way she had always done. The way she had done just hours before.

“You’re going to be late.” She had said, her arms crossed over each other in an attempt to look severe, which failed because she had been dressed in nothing but a silk robe, her hair still messy. “Worth it,” he had said, and pulled her against him for another kiss. She grumbled against his lips, but her hands had moved under his suit jacket anyway, pulling him closer. He could feel her smile against him. “Go on,” she said, “be respectable.” He had smirked at her, and pulled her towards the front door with him.

“Are you going to be a good little housewife while I’m gone?” He had joked. “You know I expect to find something nice on the table when I get back.” He pulled at the sash of her robe, slipping his hands underneath it against her bare skin.

She giggled, trailing one of her feet up his leg. “Are you talking about dinner, or…” She had paused, looking up at him coyly in a way that fooled no one, and he hadn’t been able to stop himself, pressing close to her against the open door and capturing her mouth in a kiss. “Or.” He had whispered against her lips.

His arms had wrapped  around her waist and he had been seconds away from pulling her back inside, when he had heard a squawk behind him. He had glanced back, and his elderly neighbor had been standing in her doorway, looking scandalized.

Against him, Ayane had giggled like a schoolgirl, trying to fasten her robe again without exposing herself any further. He had helped her, and given her a last, long kiss before she pushed him out the door. “We’ll have more time for that later.” She had watched him as he walked down the hallway, and smiled at him as the elevator door closed. “See you soon,” she had mouthed, and blown a kiss at him.

He presses his lips against hers now, feeling only cool skin. Her mouth doesn’t twist in a smile, her breath doesn’t tickle his skin and her hands don’t move against him to pull him closer or caress him. “Ayane,” he whispers, drawing a hand over her face to close her eyes. His fingers trail over her face, brushing softly over the bruises left behind by her murderers. When the police arrive less than ten minutes later they find him sitting on their bed, with his back against the wall that’s covered in her blood. Ayane’s head is in his lap, and he brushes his fingers through her hair.

There’s a silence inside of him, loud over the sound of boots rushing through the hallway, of police and OCU officers shouting at each other, of the sound of someone retching in the hallway at the sight of Ayane’s broken body. It fills him when they finally take her away, when they lead him first into his neighbors apartment and later into the police station. It’s a void that he tries to fill with the blood of his own kin, the blood of killers like himself. It doesn’t go away until he’s bleeding out on the rocks of some island, when he hears the rush of the ocean and sees Ayane’s face smiling down at him.

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