When he closed his eyes, he could still see the flames. Engulfing the room from ceiling to floor, they greedily devoured the gasoline spilled on the wooden planks, cutting off his every escape, licking hungrily at his clothes. He could feel the pain, unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. He could hear the scream of the sirens… or was that himself he heard screaming?
“Kaden!” The voice was urgent enough that it prompted Kaden to slowly lift his eyelids.
Across the tiny white table, he saw three images: one blurry, one clear, and one reflected in the one-way mirror beside the table. All were of the same, pale, little man wearing a suit jacket too big for him, and a worried expression. “You’re not… are you asleep?”
Kaden closed his right eye. His face ached, but the blurry image vanished, leaving only two. “I was getting there,” he grumbled. “Why, were you saying something important?”
Silas suppressed a sigh. “Yes, actually. We’re talking about your life here! You know that, right? If she dies… first-degree murder is worth a life sentence!”
Kaden lifted a hand in apathetic protest, as far as the chain would allow him to go. “It would be second-degree, for your information. Shouldn’t you know that? As my lawyer?”
“It’s only second-degree if I can prove it wasn’t premeditated.” Silas frowned, a pleading note creeping into his tone. “And the only way I can do that is if you start talking to me. You confessed to the police, can’t you talk to me?”
“Fine, I get it.” Kaden shut his other eye, veiling his world in peaceful darkness once again. “How’s Layla?”
“Critical condition.” Silas’ voice crackled in his bad right ear; he gave his head a shake in an attempt to clear it. “And worsening. Her burns are far worse than yours.”
“Good. I hope she’s suffering.” Kaden was surprised by the amount of venom that spilled from his lips.
“No. No, you don’t,” Silas said tiredly. “She’s your wife. You love her.”
His eyes snapped open, and Silas appeared again in triple. “She’s a nagging old hag who’s brain is so addled she can’t tell left from right half the time. You’d get fed up with it too, old friend.”
“I don’t understand,” Silas insisted. He leaned earnestly across the table, but Kade grimaced and pulled back. “I know that she’s… not quite right, but I also know for a fact that you love her anyway! You’ve loved her since our senior year in high school, Kaden, I can’t possibly
“Layla would wear down the nerves of a rock,” Kaden spit out. “I was angry with her, I set our room on fire, and screwed it up so badly that I got myself burned in the process. That’s all I have for you. It wasn’t premeditated, but it might as well have been. So, stop moaning about how I couldn’t possibly, and start doing the job I hired you to do!”
“I don’t believe you,” Silas said quietly. The stubbornness in those dark eyes made him want to scream in frustration. “You’re not a monster, Kaden.”
Kaden managed a grim smile, and then rapped the knuckles of his left hand against the reflective window beside them. “Take a look, Silas. What do you see?”
Silas turned his head, and Kaden did as well. Two faces stared back at him from the mirror: Silas and a creature of gut-wrenching horror. Silas only looked a little nervous, but the creature’s perverted features seemed to be actively melting. One side of its face was completely shriveled, the eye a mere glistening pinpoint buried under the wrinkles of charred flesh. Although it held no expression, the way its twisted mouth drooped from its face created an air of pure, chilling evil.
“It’s just us,” Silas replied. “It’s a one-way mirror, we can’t see who’s behind it.”
“Wrong,” Kaden said sharply. “That’s a monster. The kind who murders his wife in a fit of temper. Isn’t it repulsive? But its appearance is only fitting, don’t you think?” He turned back to Silas. “Personally, I don’t know how you can bear to stand in defense of such disgusting things. You couldn’t pay me enough to do it.”
Silas clenched his jaw, apparently having no response, but Kaden could see from the look of determination on his face that he hadn’t given up. Stupid of him, really, the evidence was glaringly obvious. What was he planning to do? Argue to the jury that the hideous monster sitting down there was actually an innocent cherub who could never, ever commit such a terrible crime? It was a ludicrous mental image. He’d be laughed out of the court.
“I’m… going to the hospital,” Silas announced finally, getting to his feet. “I’m going to visit Layla. I’ll be back next week. You… think about what I said, alright? All I want to do is make this a fair trial for you.”
“Give her my worst!” Kaden rasped at his back.
Silas shut the door gently behind him.
Kaden turned back towards the mirror. The creature silently met his gaze.
“Idiot,” he muttered. “What an idiot…” He trailed off, then, for the monster in the mirror had a disgusting habit of moving its lips round and round whenever he spoke, like one of those hideous, deep sea fish, and it was a little too disturbing when there was no one else in the room.
Twenty-four hours later, Kaden was more than a little surprised to find himself pulled straight out of his doctor’s hands and led back to the little white room.
“Hey, be careful! The doctor says I’m fragile.”
“Your lawyer is here. Said it was urgent,” was all that guard answered. Kaden glanced at him to see if there was any more information forthcoming, but the man seemed to be intentionally averting his eyes.
He was quick to leave when his job was complete, too: as soon as Kaden was secured to the table again, the guard pulled his hands back as if he’d touched something rotten, and exited the room at a speed that was as close to a run as politeness would allow.
“Pleasant fellow,” Kaden noted, watching him go. He waited for Silas’ tactful reply, but he was silent. Surprised, Kaden turned to see that his friend was white as a ghost.
“Alright,” Kaden said slowly. “What’s with this urgent matter, then?”
Silas carefully knotted his fingers together and placed his clasped hands atop the table. “I visited the hospital yesterday,” he told him. “Layla is… Layla is gone.”
Kaden’s mind went strangely foggy. “Ah.”
“It wasn’t too painful,” Silas murmured. “They gave her plenty of morphine, the doctor told me. Couldn’t feel a thing.”
Kaden was silent. His face felt numb, and he noticed vaguely that the number of Silases in front of him was steadily increasing.
“That’s alright.” The words fell flat from Kaden’s mouth.
“Kaden, she… I spoke to her. She asked to see me when she was still coherent, before she… before she passed.” The pity in Silas’ eyes was unbearable. “She told me everything. She confessed to setting the fire.”
Was it the burns causing his eyes to water like this, or something new? His gaze flickered down to the table.
“She confessed to trying to kill you.”
It was not the burns. The all too familiar pain of those was now nearly obsolete. It was a different sort of pain ripping through him now, a pain that no doctor could ever soothe.
“Kaden, why?” Silas asked bleakly. He sounded so lost, and Kaden hardly had the energy to explain. “What was the point?”
Kaden raised his head, tears blurring his already failing eyes. There were now too many Silases to count. “She was so delicate,” he said distantly. “Gentle, but too… too delicate. And she got confused so easily. She never meant to kill anyone, it was just that… well, we were both frustrated. But all those people questioning her, accusing her, the prison… she would never have survived it.” He paused. “Well, I suppose that doesn’t matter anymore.”
“You loved her,” Silas repeated quietly. “You wanted to protect her.”
Kaden looked away, back into the mirror. His reflection was not so monstrous now. The evident pain and the tears actually made for quite the pitiful sight. “Yeah. I was pretty convincing though, don’t you think?”
“I look the part, anyway.”
“I knew you weren’t a monster.”
Kaden shrugged. “Maybe. But she wasn’t either.”
WOW. This is amazing– I was not expecting that ending! Incredibly done, Iris!
Aww, glad you enjoyed it, thanks so much!
Kaden was willing to sacrifice himself to protect her. Very nice twist.
Nicely done. The twist was woven in seamlessly. Not easy to do. Really good work!