The following micro-fiction was written in response to a prompt at Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds.com. The story was born as a combination of that challenge (with a Depeche Mode song title as the title of the story) and a rewatching of Freddy Vs. Jason, a great slasher flick that put my mind on serial killers…and their victims.
Never Let Me Down Again
“You weren’t there,” Darlene whimpers.
“Sorry isn’t good enough. I almost died. Marissa and Gail…”
“I know, I know it’s not good enough, but what do you want me to say?” Jamal reaches for her, fingers brushing her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me.” She shrinks away from him, as if he’s tainted.
Jamal sighs and retracts his hand. “I wish I had been there, but I wasn’t. What else can I say but sorry?”
Darlene’s lips twist, her expression ugly. Tears escape her eyes and burn their way down her raw cheeks. She shakes her head and retreats a few steps, bumping gently into the kitchen counter. “It’s not the first time you’ve let me down.”
Jamal makes an exasperated sound, the sound he always makes when he thinks Darlene is being overly emotional. “That was a long time ago.”
“A year is not so long. Not to me.”
“Fine. Fine then, I let you down. Again. I’m a terrible husband. Is that what you want to hear?” His voice is growing loud, a growl behind his words.
Darlene’s customary response is cowardice. Dozens, maybe hundreds of times, she has shrunk back from him, she has capitulated to the volume of his voice and the ferocity of his accusations. He’s never hit her–he’s never had to.
But something has changed in Darlene. She’s a survivor now. She recalls with vivid clarity exactly what she did to the man who murdered her friends the night before: the smell of his blood, the pitch of his screams, the pressure of the hatchet against bone.
Behind her on the kitchen counter is a butcher block. She turns and selects a knife while Jamal goes on about how under-appreciated he is as a husband. When she whirls to face him, the knife gleaming in her hand, her eyes are full of fire.
“Darlene?” Jamal’s voice cracks.
“You’ll never let me down again,” she says. The words are cold and hard.