October 22, 2013

Smile for the Camera

Crickets buzzed amidst the tall, late-summer grass, calling out to the flickering pinpricks in the dark canopy above. It was a pleasant night, the air perfumed with pine and honeysuckle and that first, faintly spiced hint of leaves about to don their autumn costume. Ryan, sitting on his friend Ian’s deck with eyes closed and head tilted back, breathed in that air deeply and slowly let it back out. Tomorrow was Saturday, so there was no need to look at watches or set alarm clocks. There was only the great expanse of carefree weekend ahead, and the cold bottle of beer in his hand.

Ian reached into the cooler that sat between them, snatched another bottle from the icy water and deftly twisted the cap off, flinging it carelessly over the rail and into the void below. After a long swallow he shifted in his seat, turning his head slightly towards Ryan.

“Hey, you ever heard about how, like, way back in the day they used to believe that people’s eyes recorded the last thing they saw?” he asked. “When they died, I mean.”

“Um… no,” replied Ryan with a chuckle. The beers were starting to work their magic, lending fuzzy mirth to all things uttered. “Sounds pretty stupid, though.”

“It’s true. Like, they took a picture of one of the dead whores’ eyes during the Jack the Ripper murders, to try to find the killer.” Another sip. “I saw it on some documentary Rachel was watching.”

“Huh. No shit.” Ryan poured another couple ounces down his throat. “Where’s Rachel, anyway?” he asked, his tone casual.

“Eh, out having a girls’ night. Probably plastered on raspberry cosmos by now.” He took a long drag on his bottle, draining it in several large swallows. “Hey, I’m gonna grab another glass of water. Gotta hydrate every few drinks, y’know. Want me to refill yours?”

“Sure, prob’ly should,” Ryan said, handing Ian the empty water glass he’d placed at his feet. “Have to drive home eventually.”

Ian nodded and stood up, heading inside to the kitchen. Ryan finished off his bottled and dropped it into the empties bin. Sitting there on the darkened porch, lit only by the soft glow from the kitchen window, the drone of the various night creatures was insistently lulling, urging closed eyes and untroubled dreams. The rustling clinks and running water from the kitchen only added to the spell, and Ryan felt his head droop towards his chest.

“Here ya go,” came Ian’s voice as he prodded Ryan’s shoulder, handing him a glass full of ice water. Ryan, shaking his head to try to clear the gathering fog, took it gratefully and chugged it down. Noting an odd, coppery hint to the water, he peered down at the drink.

It peered back at him.

With a strangled cry he dropped the glass and awkwardly scrambled back, flipping over his chair. Among the shards and melting ice, the blue iris of a ragged eye gazed balefully towards him. Ian continued to sit, calmly observing. Ryan lay on the deck, horrified, unable to give voice to what was happening. His limbs felt leaden; his tongue refused to form the words his mind screamed out.

“Are you feeling a little sluggish?” He grinned. “Probably that stuff I slipped in your first glass of water. You won’t be screwing Rachel behind my back anymore. When I choked her blue this afternoon, right after you left from today’s little secret fuck buddy session—yup, I know all about it—so, when I crushed her goddamn windpipe after you left, I made sure to smile nice and wide. If you look real hard at that eyeball, I’ll bet you can see it.” Ian drew a long knife out from under his seat and stood up, eying with amusement Ryan’s feeble attempts to fight off the effects of the drugs.

“See? Here I am, smiling again. You take a good look at me now. I want this portrait to come out perfect.”

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