Chronology of Winter: Memoir of Murder


Content: Short Story

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Author: Ralphael Prepetit

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His thoughts were fixated on the last words she had uttered in the moments before the terminal click of the phone. The words ‘it’s over’ playing over in his mind on an incessant loop. The morning coffee tasted flat, the brightness of the morning sun, muted. Waves of morning commuters moving past his body as if he were eroding soil. The escalator leading to the subway seemed desperately long, as if stretching into a dark underground abyss. He muttered to himself the analogy of his emotional momentum. Theodore Radcliff, known as ‘Teddy’ to his small cadre of friends, had a long history of disintegrated relationships, both romantic and otherwise. The common thread being his tendency towards abject obsessive behavior, a diagnosis given by his long time therapist, Dr. Eugene Phillips.

This latest unceremonious parting of the ways had left Teddy numb and contemplating self harm. His morning rush hour outing among the masses was not to clear his head, but rather to entertain thoughts of his premature demise. The warmth of his subway seat was becoming increasingly unsettling to him as he rode stop after stop along the east side route. His thoughts bounding between a myriad of faces encountered during each stop.   An elderly Mexican woman reminded him of Esmeralda Cruz, the nanny from his youth. The caucasian teenage girl, with luminous fair skin, a hard reminder of the child he might’ve had once upon a time. She would have been about that age, had she lived. Melissa Barnes had ended that pregnancy before informing him of it’s existence, and after she had ended the relationship. A traumatic event that had haunted him for the better part of two decades. Teddy identified this as the point of demarkation for his troubles.

Teddy pondered the act of throwing himself in front of a moving subway car, however the uncertainty of immediate death, likely gruesome injury, and the excruciating pain that he may have been made to suffer, was enough to terminate the thought as quickly as it had materialized. In fact, each successive idea seemed to have a potential drawback worst than the last. He was pretty sure that he wanted to die, however, he was positive that he didn’t want it to hurt. Teddy’s life played out before his eyes in chronological order, starting with his earliest childhood memories from the winter of 1976. His memories, many of them painful, and disarrayed, finally overwhelming him to the point of tears. This acute episode of depression ended suddenly at the 43rd street station. Things changed dramatically at the moment ‘she’ boarded the train. His heart skipped a beat. She glanced at him briefly while scanning the car for the nearest unoccupied space. Teddy was mesmerized.

Teddy felt warm blood cascade under the skin of his face. He tasted the salt from the sweat bead that had formed on his upper lip and trickled into the right corner of his mouth. When she took the empty seat beside him, Teddy almost lost consciousness. He felt fortunate that the fragrance of her perfume acted as a stimulant to prevent it. The mental fog of despair that had enveloped his consciousness all morning had given way to a strangely lucid sense of purpose. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, or accurately describe it, but he was feeling an emotional response to this woman that was unfamiliar in his life and experience.  He feared that she might feel the heat radiating from his body, causing him to nervously shift in his seat. She glanced over in his general direction but he convinced himself that it was benign. That was the moment Teddy made his decision.

The train stopped, the doors opened, and the next thing Teddy knew he was walking, trailing behind this woman, at a reasonable pace, and in clandestine fashion. Teddy wasn’t sure exactly why he was following this woman, he just felt an unrelenting compulsion to do so. He marveled at the elegance of her gait. Her chestnut hair seemed to flow as if manifested by the gods. Teddy decided to name her ‘Marina’ as he followed her into a nondescript coffee shop. He stood several people behind her in line, and he listened as she ordered a soy latte. Teddy began to construct a fictional characterization of Marina’s life. He imagined that she was an advertising executive, then changed his mind and decided that she was the wife of a wealthy industrialist who had decided to go downtown for a day of shopping. Teddy tried to imagine a pretext where it would be appropriate to meet her, and perhaps fall in love.

Falling in love was never a difficult concept for Teddy to grasp, his problem was the fact that it took two willing participants for it to work out. There were several opportunities over the years in which he had gotten very close. However, timing, and circumstance had managed to conspire in vexing those opportunities in one way or another. Now, Janet was gone just like all of the others before her. The anguish of which had long surpassed tolerable, and was quickly moving towards emotional debilitation. Teddy was frightened that his moral perspective was becoming skewed. The filter between what was right and wrong was thinning rapidly, giving way to his primal urges. The lines between amorous feelings, and frustrated violence were getting blurred, almost unrecognizable, and Teddy knew it. If only someone out there could understand him. Someone like Marina.

The bookstore was unusually crowded for a late tuesday morning, this revelation comforted Teddy as it made him far less conspicuous. Marina was perusing the Home Improvement section of the store, as Teddy maintained a two aisle distance from her doing his best to feign interest in the political history of 20th century Japan. He noticed  an impressive diamond ring on Marina’s left hand as she replaced a book on the shelf. A subdued rage began to creep up Teddy’s spine, through his neck, and into his head. His breathing became labored, his palms sweaty. He didn’t want to lose sight of Marina, but he needed to get some air, he needed to get outside. Immediately.

The wall outside of the bookstore made for a suitable crutch for Teddy as he struggled to maintain an outward appearance of stasis, while his internal faculties were going haywire. Teddy was losing it. He was jolted by the feel of cold steel as he slid his hand into his left jacket pocket. He remembered his 38. caliber revolver, although he had forgotten that he was armed with it. He had briefly forgotten about loading the gun in the moments following his morning phone call with Janet, however, he now remembered exactly why. Teddy lightly caressed the gun with his index finger as his thoughts jumped from homicidal, to suicidal, and then back again. Nothing about his life was making any sense anymore, and the pressured voices inside his head were building to a fever pitch.

Meanwhile, Marina still inside the bookstore is finishing up a book sale transaction completely unaware of the mentally unstable man just outside, struggling to maintain his sanity. She hasn’t the slightest idea that her life is in danger. By now Teddy has removed the gun from his pocket and placed it squarely to his temple. A concerned passerby stops to address Teddy. “Hey, buddy take it easy.” Teddy doesn’t seem to notice, hear, or care about the man now standing in front of him. The man takes a step closer to Teddy. “Hey man, put the gun down, you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to do this.”

The volume of rain has now increased to full shower. Marina walks out of the bookstore and right into the middle of Teddy’s chaos. The man notices Marina. “He lady, you might want to back up, and walk the hell away form here…” Those were his last words before Teddy’s gun discharged a bullet that struck him in the forehead. Teddy was filled with a conflicting sense of horror, and glee at the sight of the man falling to the ground. His ears now filled with the screams of witnesses, Teddy turns his gun taking aim at Marina, who is frozen with fear. Her knuckles white from her grip on the bag she is holding. Unable to utter a word, she is thinking of everything, and nothing all at once. Her eyes fixated on the barrel of the gun that is likely about to take her life.

Teddy’s gaze is blank yet focused on Marina’s face. His voice is cracked, weak, and child-like as he utters, “Do you love me?”.  Marina, in a paralyzed state, doesn’t utter a word, instead she manages a squeaky utterance. “Uh…” The hard rain, grey sky, and stopped traffic swirl around Teddy in a panoramic visage. Time stands still as rain drops pound the blood soaked sidewalk. Teddy felt his throat closing, his hands shaking. This was the reckoning, his entire life’s meanderings had led him to this exact moment in time.

A gun discharges with a sound analogous to a firework. Teddy’s eyes widen, then begin to roll back into his head as he falls to the cracked concrete street beneath him. A hole torn through his chest cavity, with blood starting to flow freely from the wound. Smoke billows from the barrel of a policeman’s gun. The officer standing to the right of the now fallen Teddy, who had ignored the commands to put his gun down, and step away. Marina hasn’t moved a millimeter but her gaze is fixated on the pools of blood forming on the sidewalk from the two shooting victims. She is transfixed at the blood running down the cracks of the sidewalk like a crimson river. Teddy, slipping away into the ether feels a sense of calm wash over his body. The long built pressure having been relieved suddenly. He manages to look up at Marina, and his lips crack ever so slightly in a vain attempt at a smile. With his last breath Teddy utters what will be his final words on this earth. “What’s your name?”