The lights flickered as the sound of thunder rattled the windows before going out, casting Edmund into darkness. The sound of wind and torrential rain lashed against the window as he fumbled for a lighter. He cursed the decision to quit smoking, a decision forced on him by his wife. He cursed his inability to stand up to his wife. He cursed his own weakness.
He was momentarily illuminated by a bolt of lightning. He needed to get moving. He made his way blindly to the kitchen, fumbled through the drawers, knowing that Kit kept a book of matches. It wasn’t much, but at least he could light a candle and finish his task by candlelight. He wanted to see the terror in their faces.
He found the matches and tore one out before closing the book. He struck the match and it caught fire. He had picked up a candle stick from off the dining room table, one that his wife called an ornamental piece, not meant to be lit, but that didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered in his rage. He had been a coward his whole life, his marriage to Kit included. That ended tonight.
The rumble of thunder shook the windows once more. The air crackled with electricity that had nothing to do with the storm outside. It was a nervous kind of energy that electrified him. Moments from now it would be done, he told himself. He just needed to be courageous a few minutes longer.
He lit the candle and a warm glow illuminated his gray face, which he caught sight of in the mirror. He looked twisted, demented, as though he was looking at the face of a demon instead of his own visage. The reflection terrified him for only a moment, then he chuckled. Maybe he would terrify his wife and her new lover. Edmund would no longer be considered a coward after tonight. Crazy? Maybe. Murderer? Absolutely.
He crept upstairs. The carpet muffled the sounds of his footsteps. There was not much light, but it was enough to see what needed to be done. After he was done, maybe it would be enough to catch the house of fire. He hoped it would be. There was no point in saving anything. He had no intention of surviving til morning himself.
Edmund reached the door and paused. This was the point of no return. He could still walk away. No one would have to know he was even here. He was supposed to be in Phoenix attending a conference. No one had to know that he never boarded the plane.
His hands trembled and the shadows danced against the walls. The flame flickered and was almost extinguished, but he steadied himself. He had left the matchbook on the counter in the kitchen. He did not want to walk away, not when he was this close to being done.
He steeled himself. He had made his decision. Enough was enough. He was done being laughed at. He refused to be mocked by his wife and her lovers any longer. He knew. He knew his children were not his own. Three children, and there was no way they were his. He and his wife rarely made love, and when they did, she insisted he wear a condom. She insisted in spite of claiming she was on birth control.
Therefore those children, he reasoned logically, couldn’t be his. He accepted it quietly, meekly, obediently, but he knew, just as his wife knew. He suspected everyone in town knew as well. He tolerated the constant looks of pity and knowing glances but enough was enough. Every man had his limit, and he had reached his, exceeded it, he believed. He had to act. “God forgive me,” he muttered under his breath. He himself no longer had the gift of forgiveness.
Naturally, once the house caught fire, the children would also perish, but they were not his. “Damn the bastards,” he growled, his lips contorting into a blood-thirsty sneer. He’d never have to hear the brats call him papa. He’d never have to rear another man’s love child again. He cackled manically with anticipation. His liberation was at hand.
Edmund turned the knob, but it was locked. Naturally, he thought. She had to lock the kids out to fuck whoever was in the room with here without being caught. She never locked the door when he was home. “What if the kids have a nightmare?”
He fumbled in his pocket for a key before deciding it wasn’t worth it. There was no point in prolonging the inevitable. He had to kick the door down. It wasn’t as though it would be hard. The door was just another hollow core door, just a two sheets of compressed fiber board with a honeycomb matrix made out of cardboard sandwiched between them. Rigid but flimsy. Even a relative weakling like him could easily break it down.
He gave the door a swift kick, and then another. It broke at the lock and he walked in. His wife sat up in bed, startled by the noise, as did her lover. They caught sight of him as another bolt of lightning illuminated the room.
“Edmund?” She shrieked, “is that you?”
“Edmund?” Her lover asked, sounding confused. “I thought he was supposed to be in Phoenix?”
“Honey, I’m home,” he sang softly, edging ever closer to the bed.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Kit said, her voice rising as panic settled in.
“What does it look like, dear?” He sneered, pulling out a handgun he had concealed in the small of his back. “I’m sure you’d love to explain it to me. You know I’m not a smart man, as you love to tell anyone how’d listen.”
“Listen here,” her lover said, slowly getting out of bed, his hands raised non-threateningly over his head. “Let’s talk this out, like reasonable men.”
Edmund watched as her lover inched closer, completely naked. He laughed as he caught sight of his naked body. For all his faults, at least he had more in that department.
“That’s right,” Kit’s lover said soothingly. “We can talk this out.”
A shot rang out. Kit screamed as her lover fell to the ground, his own pained screams echoing around the room. “Fuck! You shot me!”
His screams were less fearful and more angry, at least at first. As Edmund advanced, leveling the gun at his head, he began to whimper. “No, don’t do this. Please.”
“Please?” Edmund cackled. “Please? I find you in bed with my wife, making a fool out of me, and you have the nerve to beg?” He shot another round, and another, each time missing him, betting aiming close enough to cause the pathetic man to flinch.
“Honey, be reasonable,” Kit pleaded. “It’s not his fault.”
“I don’t blame him,” Edmund explained, firing a round towards his wife, hitting the headboard. Kit flinched as she was hit by falling splinters. “I blame you. You never respected me. You never treated me like an equal. You slept around. You fucked who many men? Whose children are sleeping downstairs? I want to know. I need to know, before I kill them, too.”
“Not my children,” she growled. She stepped out of bed. Like her lover, she was naked. Edmund felt a twinge of jealousy wash over him. Even in the pale light of the candle, she looked beautiful. Having three children did nothing to diminish her beauty. She was still thin, and tall. Maybe she wasn’t as toned as she used to be, but the sight of her breasts, her thighs, her hips, it was too much for him. He lowered his gun.
“That’s right,” she said softly, reaching for the weapon, “that’s right. You don’t have to do that.”
“Why?” he cried. “Why?”
“Why? Because you never cared, that’s why. You never touched me, you never kissed me. You never said you loved me. You preferred your work to me. You rather play on that computer of yours, typing away, living in a world of fantasy. You locked yourself away, writing, typing, editing. You never showed you loved me, so I took on lovers.”
“But,” Edmund whimpered, unable to say anything as he felt the gun being taken from his grasp.
“And those kids are yours,” she soothed. “I promise.”
“But I always wore a condom.”
“And they’re not always foolproof, and I wasn’t always careful with you. We can always test their DNA if you want.”
“I won’t let you make a fool of me,” he growled, the heat of his anger returning. “I can’t live watching everyone looking at me with those pitying eyes.”
“That’s all in your head. No one knows about my lovers. I’ve been careful. I love you, but I never thought you loved me. Come to bed, let me prove it to you.”
Edmund wavered. He had lost. He knew it. He stood helplessly as Kit undressed him. He felt aroused as she pressed herself against his naked flesh. “You know I always preferred you.”
“Are you going to stop cheating on me?” He asked pathetically.
“No,” she grinned. “I enjoy my lovers, but you can watch and join. You can have some others to play with too, if you want. There’s no reason we can’t come to some agreement.”
He considered it for a moment. Why not? Why shouldn’t he find lovers of his own. As embarrassed and angry as he felt, he had to admit the idea of his wife with other men turned him on. “Okay,” he said, as he was led to bed, Kit straddling him, her hands clasping his wrists above his head.
“You won’t regret this,” she purred. She kissed him and he felt a surge of electricity surge through him. He was lost in the moment, enjoying the sensation of having his wife dominating him.
The last thing he heard was his wife scream, “No!” He opened his eyes to see the faint outline of a gun leveled at his face, then a flash of light and piecing pain, and then nothing but the eternal night.