by Rebecca Uhlman

Conor is gone from me, and no matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t get into his head.

After catching a glimpse of him in a pub two weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I returned in hopes that he might as well. I was dragged along by the desire for him to know my pain.

I perched on a bar stool in that dim, dusty pub, a glass in my hand. The amber liquid inside ran down my throat the way I imagine electricity runs through a wire — fiery and raw and strong. I shivered and took another sip to calm my nerves. It must have been the excitement that set me on edge. The promise of confrontation.

I picked at a loose string on the seam of my pants, pulling until the black fabric gathered and the thread went taut. With one quick jerk of my hand, it tore away. Obnoxious scarlet tile greeted its wavering descent.

Conor was nowhere in sight, so I fidgeted anxiously. My eyes darted around the pub, taking in smudged windows and chipping paint. I scanned the newspaper clippings that hung on the far wall. New Pub Opens on Barrack Street, boasted one faded headline. Garda Síochána Releases Info on Recent Killings, read a central clipping, held up by three gleaming tacks. My grip tightened on an empty glass. Those words swimming and slurring in my vision, I braced one hand on the bar and refocused my thoughts.

Without warning, a strange feeling began to creep through my veins. I felt Conor’s presence. His strong hands seemed to hover over my shoulders, waiting to touch me, scorching the surrounding air. He was eerily close. Tangible.

In a blur of rapid movement, I spun in my stool so that I could face his ghost, that silent shouting thing, and pull it from me thread by thread as if I were unhinging my own shadow — but that shivering apparition spun with me, staying behind. I clawed at my jacket. My skin seemed to be stretched too tightly over my shoulders, cramping muscles and fracturing bones — all while Conor scraped furiously at the edges of my mind.

The room wavered; his figure appeared in the doorway. Outlined by hazy streetlights, that brush of orange hair seemed to glow. Every muscle in my body tensed. Those glaring eyes, that clear, pale skin, it all reminded me of the past. Suddenly I was staring and staring and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the profile of his young face. He glanced around; does he see me?

I needed to speak to him. My feet took me across the tile and blindly towards his figure, eyes cast down. If I didn’t look him in the eye, maybe I wouldn’t have to remember the searing passion he ignited in my chest all those years ago. My gaze slithered up his neck, hovering over the lips I used to kiss, dancing over ruddy freckled cheeks — eyes lingering anywhere but on his own. I watched him cross his arms and stiffen.

“Conor,” I whispered. “I need to talk to you.”

“I can’t. I…I’m done with this.” His familiar voice awoke a longing in me that I had forgotten about.

I clutched at his sleeve, my gaze flitting about his face but never making eye contact. “I love you. Nothing from my past could have rendered me incapable of loving you. Doesn’t that mean anything?”

“Look,” he started, voice weary. “You’re…you’re unstable, and you need help.”

I laughed. He really dared to assume things about me? Was it so impossible to believe that the only thing blurring my emotions was wasted love? I could feel frustration bubbling up in my body, red-hot and steaming from every one of my pores — he wouldn’t listen.

I was trapped, helpless to do anything to make him come back.

“Mark,” he began, “ever since that case, you’ve been unpredictable, aggressive. You need to resign from the Garda. Let yourself heal. You saw things that day that no man should ever have to see.”

His words dredged up memories in me — flashing sirens, muffled shouting, pools of scarlet. The visions were as red as the tile beneath my feet. I felt the cold weight of my gun in hand — I heard the click of the striker, my finger pressing firm on the trigger, the final deafening crack — I tasted bright copper and salt — I saw the limp sneer on the face of the man whose body thumped onto grass. The gross images of his victims throbbed in my brain. Mutilated, skinned, raw red bodies with eyes carved from their bleeding sockets, with dead dripping mouths pinned into animalistic grins, with tortured bodies flayed like the half-eaten corpses of unlucky prey —


There was one, still alive. The body was intact in the barest sense of the word — drooling and spitting, slumped on the ground in a shapeless mess of wet crimson. Its swollen eyelids twitched at me, its lips formed a voiceless plea for help — God, someone finish it, just take away its suffering — when it’s dead, I won’t have to see the raw red fear in those bloodshot eyes —

“Mark, listen to me. You need to get help.”

Conor’s warm hand on my arm reminded me of his presence.

As I watched a tear slip down his cheek, I found that I was no longer angry. All the rage that I had bottled up in my chest seemed to liquefy in that moment, loosening until it became a blue, blue shade of sorrow.

“Don’t cry over me,” I said, but his silent tears only fell faster.

The sadness then gave way to a growing sense of control. He was still mine, after all, so I could fix this. I had caused his pain. Perhaps it was only right for me to take it away in the end.

He didn’t say anything as I pulled him close. My hand strayed to my belt, fingers closing on the cold grip of my gun. It was firm and sure in my hands as I brought it quietly to his chest.

“I’m sorry I made you cry,” I whispered, and pulled the trigger.

The click of the striker. The press of my finger. The final deafening crack.

I felt a little numb as he coughed in my arms. Too weak for any expression to form, his jaw went slack and his eyelids fluttered. I watched the blood as it pooled on the floor. It was red. Scarlet, and I was swimming in it, watching him drop to the ground and dissolve away.

The scrambling of feet, shattering of glasses, and shouts from the pub behind me blurred together. All that mattered was Conor’s face. It was relaxed; those beautiful eyes no longer bled tears.

“Goodbye, darling,” I murmured. “You won’t be in pain again.”

Rebecca Uhlman is a junior in high school. She enjoys creative writing, reading, and photography. She would love to be a novelist one day.