Usually, after a few hours, I would feel fine enough with what I had done to dry my eyes and walk out into the outside world the next morning as if I hadn’t killed a person the day before, but it was different this time. I couldn’t sleep. I laid down in bed and stared at the off-white walls of my bedroom as I listened to my alarm go off at six-thirty in the morning. I think it was after an hour that I reached out and made the sound stop, but aside from that, I didn’t bother to get out of bed.
I wasn’t mentally stable enough to suck it all in. There was no way I could have gone to work and look at my colleagues in the eyes. There was no way I could have smiled and waved at Haruto when we met up for a walk at the bus stop.
I just couldn’t.
Mustering up the willpower, I had emailed work and told them that I wasn’t feeling well. After that, I laid back in bed and remained there. Wide-eyed and still.
Three days passed.
I knew that it might cost me my job. I had just gotten it, but I was too tired to care. Too horrified and disgusted with myself to do anything but curl up under the covers and punish myself with deprecating thoughts like I was doing today, on day four.
You’re going to eat Haruto. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. He’s going to hate you if he knew what you were.
I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the voices in my head, but the thoughts kept swimming in the depths of my mind, making me shiver and dry heave.
My eyes peeled open when I heard a knock, but I assumed it was for the other apartment since the walls here were thin. I laid still in my room, hearing the knock again. The light from the windows was becoming dim since the sun was setting and I had been too demotivated to get up to flip the switch of the bedroom’s fluorescent light. The knocking stopped, and I was about to close my eyes when I heard it again.
“Wern!” A voice followed the knocking now, and squirmed under my blanket, wondering if I had just imagined it—if I had just dreamed his voice up in my head.
“Wern, it’s Haruto, are you in there?” The voice was starting to sound desperate. “Are you alright?”
I wanted to say something, but my throat was dry.
Is it really him? I wondered, finding the will to sit up for the first time in days. I climbed out of bed, wobbling a bit, forgetting how to stand for a moment.
“I’m coming,” I said, walking out of my bedroom as if I hadn’t been holed up in there for days. When I got to the door, I looked out through the peeping hole, half expecting no one to be on the other side as a confirmation that I was losing my mind and had just imagined that Haruto was here, caring about my well being.
I blinked, surprised when I did find Haruto on the other end. My breathing hiked, and I opened the door, hoping that I didn’t smell bad or looked as emotionally exhausted as I truly was.
Haruto didn’t say anything once I opened the door, he just stepped into the apartment and closed the door behind himself before staring at me. We stared at each other in silence for some time. In that period, I watched everything from concern, anger, and relief flash through his dark eyes.
“You weren’t answering my calls or reading my texts.”
I blinked, remembering that I had dropped my phone under the bed and hadn’t bothered looking at it after messaging my workplace and saying that I was sick. It was probably sitting on the sofa, holding on to God knows how many missed calls and texts.
“I’m sorry.” I sounded small because that was how I felt at that moment. Tiny.
Haruto let out a sigh, stepping forward and closing the distance between us before reaching out to hold my face and pressing his forehead to mine. “I called the pound because I was desperate. They told me you were sick, and I managed to get them to give me your address,” he said, explaining himself. I didn’t care how he had gotten here. I was just glad that he was here. Glad that he was holding me. Glad that he didn’t seem to hate me.
“Wern?” Haruto said in a small voice, making me take in a deep breath when I noticed that I was crying.
“It’s the headache,” I lied. “It hurts.”
Haruto nodded, letting go of my face before taking one of my hands in his. He ushered me to the living room attached to my kitchenette before sitting me down and walking over to the stove. Two of the ghosts that lived in the spot in the kitchen where I had killed them stared at Haruto with keen interest. It was like they were expecting me to eat him at any moment, but that didn’t happen.
“You don’t have anything here...” he said, opening the cabinets and finding nothing. Of course, I didn’t eat human food.
“I was going to go shopping but I didn’t feel well,” I continued my lie, so used to making excuses for myself around humans that it was in many ways a second nature.
“I could go out and get you something to eat—”
“I’m not hungry,” I said. My voice must have been stiff, and I might have sounded a bit annoyed because Haruto blinked, a bit taken aback. His lips parted but nothing came out.
“Is there anything you want?” he asked after a while of both of us just looking at each other.
“A bath,” I said after a while, suddenly feeling disgusted with myself. I wasn’t sure if it was because I had been in the same clothes for four days and had soiled my bed with sweat and tears, or if it was because I was still horrified at myself for eating that homeless mother.
“I can do that,” Haruto said with a warm smile, turning his back to me as he went about boiling hot water. He must have known apartments this rundown didn’t offer temperature options in pumps.
When I was made to go to the bathroom, Haruto changed my bedsheets and set a pair of shorts for me. I wandered into my bedroom feeling a bit out of place. All I could see was Haruto moving around as if he had always lived here. All I could see was shreds of Haruto’s memories on every surface he had touched and moved through.
This is not the time. I told myself, realizing that this was the first time I had thought about food since he had been there.
“Oh, you’re back,” Haruto said when he looked up from my pillows he was fluffing. “I made your bed.”
I stared at him for a bit before looking down at the door. There was a little puddle of a memory where I could see Haruto as a teenager in an empty room, crying his heart out. I looked away from it, letting my eyes travel back to the man who was now giving me a worried smile.
“Thank you.” I found my voice. Wandering over to the bed before taking a seat on it in my towel beside Haruto. I picked the pair of shorts Haruto had set out, doing about the motions of putting them on. Haruto has his head bent forward. He was trying to look at my face, but I was intentionally avoiding my gaze.
“Wern, I was thinking of staying over tonight,” he announced when I was done getting dressed. “We can share your bed. I’ll just strip down to my underwear. I don’t think any of your clothes can fit me,” he said, watching me for a reaction.
“O-okay.” I wasn’t sure why I said that. What if we shared a bed and I woke up and he was gone because I consumed him?
“That’s settled then,” he said, reaching out to touch my face with so much affection in his eyes that I almost started crying again. He was looking at me as if I was delicate. As if I wasn’t a serial killer. There was a flicker of something in Haruto’s eyes. Hesitance? Yes, that. What did he want to do?
It didn’t take long to get an answer. He leaned forward, pressing our foreheads and noses together as he took deep breaths. He looks at me as if expecting me to object now, but I did no such thing, and then it happened.
Haruto kissed me.
His mouth was warm and sweet.
So many of the memory shreds on his face were getting into my mouth. I was eating—but not eating. It was like sticking a spoon full of food that was still on the stove in your mouth to see if it tasted right.
I suddenly became scared, afraid that I would do something I regretted, so I broke the kiss, letting go of Haruto’s warmth and softness. He didn’t seem to notice that I was stunned. He simply smiled at me, stroking my arm with his fingers before getting up and taking off his shirt and trousers.
When he was done taking off his clothes, I was already buried under the covers. He joined me on the twin bed. It was a tight fit, but he made it work by pressing up against my back as he hugged me. His breath was fanning my neck. His memories were rattling like bones as his fine hair tickled the skin of my exposed back.
Haruto was asleep soon after, and I remained awake all night. I didn’t get a wink of sleep, but it had been the most rested I had ever been when we got up the next morning.