On August 5th Hank heard the voice. At the time, he was washing his hands after pulling his wife’s wedding ring out of the garbage disposal. Initially he wasn’t sure if he’d heard anything at all, the sound only a faint whisper, almost inaudible over the sound of running water. When he turned off the faucet to dry his hands he heard it loud and clear.
“It wasn’t an accident.”
Startled, Hank looked through the bathroom doorway. The thin, throaty voice certainly couldn’t have belonged to Angela.
Hank shook his head. He finished drying his hands and paused at the door, then glanced back in the bathroom, eyeing it, expecting to see the source of the voice. When nothing happened, he snorted lightly to himself, and turned off the light.
Dinner was leftover spaghetti from the night before. He’d never liked leftovers, and Angela knew it, but still she didn’t bother cooking something new. During the first five years of their marriage things like this never happened.
“Decided not to make something else tonight?” Hank asked as he dug into his food.
“Just didn’t have time.” She looked up at Hank and shrugged before returning to her food.
Hank felt a small spark of anger in the back of his mind, but didn’t let it get the better of him. “What’d you do all day?”
“Oh, just a little bit of everything I suppose. I won’t bore you with the details.”
Apparently everything doesn’t include cooking dinner, Hank thought, and almost said, but caution made him stop.
“Planning anything for dinner tomorrow night?”
“If I can find the time.”
Hank gripped his fork tighter as he lowered his head to hide the scowl. If he spoke again he might ask her what she did all day while he worked. He might ask if it was too much to expect a decent meal when he got home, but Hank didn’t want to be that man. His father had been that man, and those weren’t footsteps he felt like following.
While brushing his teeth he heard the voice again.
“You know what she’s doing all day,” the voice said, and Hank could do nothing but stare at the sink in puzzlement. There was no denying where the voice was coming from, not that he understood, and his amazement at the mere existence of the voice prevented him from really hearing its words.
“What?” He asked, unable to help himself as he stared at the sink, and as soon as he spoke he craned his head back to look out the bathroom door, just in case Angela was around. He could hear her downstairs locking up the doors for the night.
“You know why she doesn’t have time to make you dinner.”
“Who are you?” The voice didn’t respond. He almost asked again, but the sound of Angela’s footsteps made him stop.
She smiled at him as he walked into the bedroom. Hank did his best to smile back. Everything was fine and he hadn’t heard something talking to him from the bathroom sink.
He stared at the bathroom door as Angela went in. Perhaps he’d hear the voice talking to her, but no, it was all in his head, and everything the voice said was a lie.
Angela was tired that night; she wasn’t in the mood. That’s what she told Hank when he tried to bring her closer to him. As she pulled away he almost pulled her back. The mere thought made Hank recoil. That was another trait of his father’s he didn’t want.
The next day was hot, just as the day before it had been, and the day after would be.
Sweat trickled down Hank’s face, his shirt plastered to his body as he worked. He had ten more trees to plant before the day was over; hard enough work made harder by the heat wave.
As he worked, slamming his shovel down into the dirt, he thought about Angela in the back of his mind and the voice he’d heard. He tried not to, but couldn’t help it. Because of this, he didn’t notice right away when the liquid began bubbling up in the hole he was digging. With each strike of the shovel the liquid came faster, until the hole was half filled, and Hank realized what had happened.
He frowned and pulled his shovel back, confused when he saw the red reflecting off of it in the sunlight. Half of the shovel was dripping, his eyes drawn towards the hole, still filling with a thick red substance. Before he could lean forward for a closer inspection, a face floated to the surface, Angela’s face, her eyes blankly staring up at the sky.
And then it was gone. The hole contained nothing but dirt. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, writing it off to the effect of the heat, and started digging again.
During his lunch break the voice spoke to him again.
He stood in the bathroom of a local diner, alone. No sooner had he walked in than he heard it, not just coming from one sink, but seemingly from all four of them at once, echoing in the small room.
“You know she’s fucking someone right now, don’t you?”
Hank stood in the doorway to the bathroom, unable to move, listening as the voice repeated itself, over and over again. It started talking again as soon as it was finished, the echo of the bathroom removing any pause between the words. The statement was never ending, each sentence blending into the next.
As difficult as it was to do, Hank ignored it, and walked into a stall to take a piss. The voice didn’t stop as he went to the bathroom, and from the toilet he could see bubbles floating up, the voice speaking from below the water as well.
The second he flushed the voice was gone, the bathroom completely silent, but Hank didn’t respond or pause as he moved to the sink to wash his hands.
Before he could turn on the water the voice spoke just one word.
Hank stared into the mirror, but it wasn’t his reflection he saw. The mirror was a window into his bedroom. He didn’t know who the guy was, but he could see Angela’s face clearly as she screamed in joy.
She’s overacting her part, Hank thought to himself as he watched his wife have sex with a stranger. He told himself he didn’t believe any of it. Part of his mind did believe, and that part struggled to take charge. It told him what he had to do, and there was no surprise that the voice sounded just like his father’s.
The image in the mirror changed. What he saw in the mirror was a sight he hadn’t seen in years. His father was in that image, holding his mother down, both of his hands wrapped tightly around her throat, and Hank just knew tonight would be the night his old man went too far and his mother went away.
“You know what you have to do,” the voice said.
He stared at his own reflection and the dark skin beneath his eyes. He still had four more hours before he could rest, and Hank didn’t know if he’d be able to get through it.
He washed his hands and left the bathroom, unable to get the image of Angela and the stranger out of his mind. Part of him said he didn’t care, the whole thing a product of his imagination, but that other side of him said otherwise. It told him to look at the signs and accept reality. It told him what a fool he was for trusting a girl like her. It told him what he needed to do.
Hank saw the image of Angela’s face floating up out of the blood, and he shuddered.
Angela bought pizza on her way home from the store that night, or so she told Hank. She wasn’t home when he got there, and even from the doorway he could hear the voice coming from the kitchen sink, laughing.
She read a magazine as she ate, avoiding eye contact, probably aware Hank was staring at her. He tried not to, but his gaze rose from his plate to her face. She told him the traffic had been too terrible for her to make it home in time to prepare a dinner.
“She doesn’t want to look you in the eyes, Hank,” the voice called out, and Hank’s face grew pale at the sound of it, positive Angela would look up and ask him who was talking, but she didn’t. She didn’t move at all, in fact, still reading her magazine, ignoring him.
“She’s guilty, Hank, and you know what you need to do.”
Angela muttered something under her breath and shook her head lightly, granting Hank the opportunity he wanted to speak-anything to distract him from the voice.
“Everything okay?” He asked with a smile, one he had trouble maintaining.
Angela only glanced up at him briefly, little more than a flicker of the eyes, and said, “I’m fine.” And that was it.
Hank wanted to say more. He wanted to ask where she’d been all day and who the man was she fucked, but he didn’t. He lowered his head back to his dinner and picked up another slice.
They didn’t talk much that night. All of him wanted to believe she hadn’t done anything, but her lack of conversation and lack of eye contact said it all. And as the night progressed, Hank grew annoyed, and did little to hide it.
Normally he went out of his way to mask his emotions, but tonight he didn’t care, responding in grunts to the few idle comments Angela made while they watched TV.
She went up to the bedroom first while Hank lingered. From the kitchen he could still hear the voice talking, telling him what he needed to do, but Hank didn’t listen. Even if he did think she was cheating on him, he still wouldn’t do what the voice told him to.
“You’ve had a rough day,” the voice cooed as Hank turned off the TV for the night. “A wife should give her man a little pleasure after such a day, if she isn’t too tired from giving it to everyone else.”
It wasn’t that he was in the mood, because with how tired he was, sex was the last thing on his mind, but still the idea lingered.
Angela was already in bed, reading, when Hank stopped in the doorway. “You in the mood?” He asked; did his best to lighten his expression.
When she looked up at him he knew. There was a hint of fear in those eyes, he was sure of it, before she said no.
At first he didn’t move. Still standing in the doorway, he stared at her, any love in his expression now thoroughly gone. She held his gaze for only the first ten seconds, and then her eyes fell away towards her book. A guilty conscience stopped her from looking at him, he knew. For thirty more seconds he stared before heading into the bathroom. The voice told him to bend her over the bed. It told him to make her scream. It told him things Hank’s mind couldn’t even imagine.
He lay awake for two hours that night, Angela next to him, separated on her side of the bed. She slept soundly, her guilty conscience not enough to keep her awake, apparently. And the entire time Hank lay there, he listened to what the voice had to say. When he finally did fade away into sleep, the words followed him into his dreams.
The sun beat down on him hard the next day. His job for the day was laying down sod for an office building. The building stood on the corner of one of the busier intersections in Tacit Falls, and over the course of the day he witnessed three accidents.
After one of them both men got out of the car and started fighting. Hank and three of his men helped pull the two guys apart. Neither man was playing around. Both were going for blood, and Hank knew if he hadn’t pulled them apart, one would’ve killed the other. Both kept screaming, their faces red, profanities Hank had never heard spilling out of their mouths.
The voice made it worse. During the fight he could hear it drifting up to him through the sewers, telling him to let the men go. Telling him to let them kill each other like they wanted to. He was going insane, and he didn’t know what to do about it.
Due to the lack of workers they toiled through lunch, and through it all Hank endured. Deep down he felt the rage boiling. By the end of the day he felt as hungry for blood as the two men from the wreck, but years of practiced self control kept him at bay.
He found Angela in the kitchen. Hank stood in the doorway, staring at her back, and then looked at the empty kitchen table. He was ten minutes later than normal, yet he smelled no food cooking and saw no plates set out. Even if he hadn’t missed his lunch break he would’ve been angry, but this was just a little more than he could take, and the words spilling from the drain, filling the air, didn’t help ease his temper.
“What’s for dinner?” Hank asked, his voice little more than a growl. Sweat still trickled down his face and neck, shirt plastered to his body, stomach rumbling.
She didn’t turn to face him as she spoke. Didn’t even give him the respect to tell him to his face she hadn’t prepared something. He barely heard the words, just a faint mumble spoken under her breath. The voice suggested that her mouth was probably just a little too tired. It suggested what she might charge per person.
Hank started across the room towards her, his voice growing deeper and louder as he approached. “What was that?” He asked.
He stopped a few feet away from her, both of his hands balled into fists, held tightly at his sides.
“Please don’t yell.” He heard her say, and that only made it worse.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have to if you actually did something around here for once.” He screamed, face crimson, veins pulsing on his neck. There were so many things he wanted to do, things he’d watched his father do, and things he swore he’d never even think.
“Don’t hurt me.”
The words struck home, but not in the way Angela had intended, Hank was quite sure. Never before in his life had he even yelled at her. She knew about his father and what he thought of the man. She knew he thought men who beat their wives were the lowest of the low, and here she stood, after fucking other men behind his back, accusing him of being what he hated most.
For such an insult she deserved to get hit. She deserved to get raped, because that was the only way he could get it from his own wife, wasn’t it? The voice told him all this and more, and for the first time Hank was really listening.
He took two steps forward and paused, aware Angela was shaking, her back still to him, and that was good. He wanted her to be afraid and know what was about to happen. A part of him wanted to strike her in the back of the head, but no, she had to see the look in his eyes right before he did it, so he reached out instead.
The second his hand touched her shoulder, such violence waiting in his finger tips, reason returned. His mind recoiled from the act he was about to commit, and all the anger faded. Unfortunately, it was too late for that.
Angela turned around right as his fingers touched her and brought the steak knife up into his gut. He felt the blade tear through his skin into his stomach, and felt as she pulled it out and stabbed again.
The jagged blade ripped through the bottom of his right lung, and then his intestines, over and over again. The whole time Angela was crying, tears streaming down her face as she stabbed, no hate or anger in her expression, just fear. Hank had seen that expression before on his mother’s face so many nights during his childhood.
Hank stumbled back, tried to use a chair for support, and then toppled to the ground. He stared up into Angela’s face, long hair obscuring most of it, but what he saw were eyes red from hours of crying.
He tried to speak but had no voice, not that it mattered. There was nothing either of them could say to take this back.
As his vision blurred and his strength left him, he took a small bit of comfort knowing he hadn’t done it. He hadn’t hit her, ever, and never would. A smile touched his mouth as his eyes closed, Angela’s tear stained face the last thing he’d ever see.
The knife fell from her fingers as Angela dropped to her knees before Hank’s corpse. Blood slowly pooled around his body as she buried her face in her hands and cried.
From behind her a thin, throaty voice could be heard from the kitchen sink.
“I told you he was going to hurt you. I told you he was just like his father,” the voice said.
Angela took comfort in these words; aware she’d done what she had to do. She had stopped him before he could kill her. She was safe now.
She was safe.