Untitled Short Story

“From the BBC news centre at 12. Three people were found dead today in the North London Area, after what sources believe was a potential targeted attac-” Before the announcer can finish, Sam switches the radio off and it crackles out, submerging everything into stillness, save his quivering bursts of breath. It was well into the early hours of morning and Anthony hadn’t been spotted in over nine hours, he hadn’t been home in over fifteen. Sam often tried not to count the hours in meticulous fashion, Anthony didn’t like it, said it made him paranoid, uneasy. Well if you hadn’t heard from your boyfriend in nearly a day wouldn’t you worry too? Besides, it’s not the longest he’s been gone for. A memory resurfaces for a moment, hazy phonecalls, sterile hospital rooms and mind-numbingly long conversations with the police that he didn’t especially care for. Sam freezes for a moment and every single bone in his body feels locked into place, as if he was wired to the ground or part of the newly bought furniture. The lock snaps as Sam then begins to shake uncontrollably, unable to determine the cause on rage or exhaustion. What if Anthony is one of those bodies lying out there in the street? What if blood is pouring from his skull into the sewer from the cold cracks in the pavement? What if he had made a testimony, a dying wish, or an apology, a plea to Sam, saying “Christ you were right! Why did I choose to ignore your concerns, why did I sacrifice every star in the sky to be noble?” Sam clutches at his chest as his breathing quickens and a lone tear flickers down his cheek. It inscribes a soaring pain against his soft pale skin and triggers Sam to wail so loudly, one could mistake him for a feral animal. At that moment the familiar clink of the fire escape grabs Sam’s attention and turns toward the window opening out to the city. He always admired the view, despite Anthony’s interjections. The wooden frame held the night as tightly as a photographic snapshot, the gleaming lights from the collective towers of the city forever made it feel like sunset, no matter what day or time it was. Beautiful was a lazy adjective to describe it. Sam is suddenly aware of how bitterly cold it is and he is pulled away from the photographic submersion.
 Hackney, 12:04am, it’s a Sunday. Propelled by a spontaneous surge of forward momentum, Sam reaches out to the window to close it and close himself off for the night. He grabs the panel, stiff and tainted with age, and is taken aback when he is greeted by an irksome, crooked grin that no bad costume could hide. “Hey monkey!” chirps Anthony, as if he’s strolling in from a day at the office, bringing home the bacon. His expression reeks of pride and completely ignores the solemn look on Sam’s face as he slides through the window and helps himself to a week-old bottle of whisky. The drinking had only started recently. ‘Monkey’ was Anthony’s favourite sobriquet for Sam in the early days of their relationship. “Don’t you dare ‘monkey’ me” Sam spits. “I’m guessing you know something about these three bodies found dead this evening? News fucking-flash Anthony, three people are DEAD and I’m still choosing to argue with you.” Anthony finishes the bottle in record timing and flickers his eyes open before turning to Sam, as if being woke from a dream and still caught between the realm of fantasy and reality. The mind is present yet the body lingers. Anthony still remains unsure of which he is in as the alcohol takes effect, swirling through his veins and creating an expansion of colours in his mind. Despite the bitter cold of the night, he is sweating, and chooses to perch at the foot of the bed. “Oh… I get it Sam, you think it’s me don’t you? Yes well done Mr Holmes, I became distracted due to my unfathomable boredom on the tube and thought to myself ‘I’ll happily bump off three people’ after I finish tracking down the bigots that murder people like us and drop you a text in-between all of that.”
The sarcasm in his voice smells as bad as the stale whisky on his breath. He begins to undress, throwing his clunky boots toward the door, when he lifts his jumper the moonlight positions itself on his back – putting him in the spotlight. His arched back is ablaze with purple and blue but mixed with the stark pale moonlight, Sam begins painting in his mind. The colour palette is extraordinary. Still arching his back, Anthony winces as Sam gently rests his palm on the biggest imprint he can see, his hand delicately searches for more across the vast canvass of Anthony’s bare back, it’s as smooth and as cold as pure marble – ready to be sculpted. Sam places the softest kiss on his tainted skin and leaves him to finish undressing. “Why…do you continue to do this to yourself Ant? Lord knows I’m aware of your hatred for the…those people. We both said it would have to end months ago and yet you continue to sneak off every night and pursue this vigilante bullshit? It’s been over a year and like an idiot I’m still here, stitching your scars, cleaning your wounds and even conversing with the police to cover your tracks. I can’t…” Sam trails off. Every other night results in the same formulaic routine, Sam confronts Anthony, Anthony argues back, demanding that justice has yet to be served and he won’t rest until it’s done. Gone are the days when they could legitimately discuss a foreseeable future, Sam wanted to settle down, maybe have kids. Marriage wasn't desirable, but he wavered now and then. All those thoughts fizzled at the moment Anthony slipped into the night. He flees into the urban night, causing panic and commotion while Sam paces back and forth against the window. He can’t even paint any more, it becomes too distracting. Anthony, Sam realises, is more or less cheating on me. He despises our idyllic (if turbulent at times) life and would rather put himself on the chopping block every night, thriving off the kind of idiotic violence Hackney is more than used to. Sam conjures up the possibility of whether it would be worse if Anthony was seeing someone else. Suppose it could even give him inspiration for a new painting. The last one was a flop anyway and ended up in the skip. Is that even normal? Would Sam really rather Anthony undercut every value in their relationship in favour of getting himself beat to a pulp by homophobic bigots? Even Batman had to throw in the towel at some point.  
“Sam, I’ve told you time and time again, I am doing this community a service. We should not stand by and let our kind be cast aside like they are – we need to be the voice of those who cannot speak!” Anthony exclaims as he punches the air before stumbling over his jeans. “We? WE? OUR KIND?! Do you fucking hear yourself Ant, there’s no we in this. We’re not Martians, we’re not animals, we are just flawed human beings. I want to simply live Ant. What happened to that boy was terrible and unlawful I know, we've unnecessarily brought him up countless times, but what do you think you’re really doing by playing Superhero in London? This isn't a film for Christ’s sake Ant, you think dressing up and putting people in the hospital is justice?” Sam’s voice has risen so high someone shuffles upstairs, causing the floor to creak. Anthony has fallen back into his catatonic state, not before sighing and rolling his eyes. He’s beyond caring what Sam thinks and he’s heard this white noise time after time. Why should tonight be any different? The room is filled with a silence so long and so large Sam feels every second pass by, the ticking of the clock tapping into his skull as gracefully as rain tapping against the window. It tap-tap-taps for a while before descending to drizzle. Even though it’s April, one could mistake it for snow. Sam sighs and watches Anthony drift into sleep. It takes exactly seventeen seconds. He then presses his left palm to his forehead and begins to lean forward, embracing his knees close to his chest. Everything is blocked out and blanketed with darkness. This was sanctuary, and it had become a regular recluse. Here Sam felt like the artist he once was, free of the commitments and the restraints of Anthony. He didn't have to spend hours cleaning blood out of his hair or from the window ledge. He didn't have to beg Anthony to stay when he was halfway out of the window. He didn't have to cry whenever another body had been found, praying that it wasn't Ant. In the darkness, another memory resurfaces. Anthony is reading an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’. That used to be his favourite; reading by candlelight until Sam fell asleep still clutching Anthony’s hand. Back when he was known as the dashing bookseller, the academic, the charmer. Sam’s eyes burst open and are reminded of the impending darkness. Anthony the rogue is the only persona Sam knows. He tilts his head and finds the moonlight still shining on Anthony while he sleeps. “I don’t know what you expect of me any more” whispers Sam. “Then where do we go from here?” Anthony asks in a sleepy mumble. Sam avoids giving an answer because he has no answer to give. He instead has to leave, to get out of the tempestuous storm before he succumbs to its wrath. Sam steadies himself on the nearest chair and throws a handful of belongings into an old rucksack. It takes him forty five seconds. Sam takes a moment to look at Anthony while sleeping, blissfully unware of the chaos and destruction he has caused, struggling to see the man he once loved. Sam quickens his pace as he lifts the latch of the front door and quietly closes it behind him. He takes sixty six steps and never looks back. It takes him one hundred and eighty nine seconds.  


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