by Lisa T. Zhito

     They say there's no such thing as the perfect crime. But I know better.

     Oh yes, I know better. I saw it happen, right before my eyes. I saw the Evil One take my Light, my Heart, my Love. I saw it rip her from this world, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

     That preening, baneful thing wove its plan, smirking all the while, knowing and enjoying its cruelty. And all the while, I could only watch its scheme unfold, unable to shout a warning, trapped in my useless body - this thick, clumsy tongue that could form no words, these crooked, arthritic legs that could not stop the inevitable. I could ring no alarm, I could only muster a feeble good-bye.

     She was my World, my Everything. How could she be anything else? She saved me, descending into the stink and funk of my life, like a savior-angel! She entered my damp concrete cell, bringing with her a perfume of fresh air and sunshine, an aroma of hope that breathed from her very pores. She took pity on me, her soft hand stroking my hair in this black place that was only death and filth.

     Why me? Of all the worthy souls in that wretched hell, why was I the chosen one? "Take me with you," I wanted to beg, too afraid to hope, and yet more afraid not to. So many fallen comrades here, who knew what became of them? I was terrified, to be sure.

     She understood - of course! A conversation, an exchange of money, some papers signed. I was free!

     I loved her with all my soul. Years went by, our happiness gilding each passing day. Slowly we ventured out into the world together, taking quiet walks in the rain, picnics in the park. Each day was sunshine, green grass, blue sky. We were happy, weren't we? Weren't we?

     But the likes of me could never be enough for her. When she welcomed the Man into her world, I saw for the first time the prejudice of love.  Ours was just fraternity, I saw; it was him she needed, him she craved - even as I needed and craved her. He fulfilled her in a way I never could.  They were alike, those two, kindred souls, a matched set.   He gave her what I could not, shared things I dared not.

     So this was how it would be. My angel loved him, so I could not hate him. I accepted my fate. I forgave her fickleness, even as I saw a future that was now blanched, withered. Our walks became less frequent, the picnics a murky memory. When the man sailed into our lives, I was forgotten.

     Still, it would have been enough just to see her radiance each day, to smell her being. It would have been enough just to rest my head on her lap, even for just a moment.

     But he did not come alone! Oh, how I lament the weeks that followed, for the wretchedness that came into our world! I may not hate the Man, but it is he I blame for what happened. He may not have committed the hideous crime with his own hands, but he brought evil into our house, and it is this darkness which overpowered my angel-light.

     I didn't trust the Creature from the day it slinked into our world. Its aloof demeanor, its hissing, lisping speech, the glaring hatred each time my Love and the man waltzed out into the sun. Who knew such depravity could exist in the world?

     Each day the interloper and I were left alone, glaring at each other. I felt its seething rage as the hours sagged from longing to loneliness. I saw its accusing stare as my love and the Man dashed by, hurrying for the door, not even a quick smile for us as they embraced the sunshine.

     Yes, we were forgotten - we had that in common. But there would be no fellowship here, no camaraderie, no solace. Love had abandoned us both, but the wicked Creature sought no comfort from me. I was resigned to our fate; it sought revenge.

     I saw the seditious plotting behind those shifty green eyes, that pompous smirk on its face, a coldness that I could not fathom. As understanding gelled into an icy fear, I began to panic. I trembled, my bowels froze, my bladder released, I became, in all ways, helpless.

     Patient, unknowing, my love cleaned up my messes, kindness in her eyes. "Ah Duncan," she clucked, "you are getting old!"

     Oh, the naiveté of the good! When the vile Creature mined the stairwell, leaving booby traps in discreet but dangerous locations, she passed it off as playfulness. When it pushed a heavy vase off a table, barely missing her head, she called it clumsy. Oh, contemptible fates that suffered me to watch it all, powerless!

     Its final act of sabotage would prove fatal. An armload of laundry, a steep stairway, a well-timed curl of feline body. Down my angel fell, her neck snapped in an instant, her radiance forever snuffed. I howled in pain and anger! I would not leave her side, they had to carry me away.

     And now here we are, my protector gone, my future uncertain. I am old and weak, my life is nearly over anyway. What will become of me? I barely think the question when someone speaks it aloud:

     "What about Duncan?" they ask.

      The man's tear-stained face looks at me, helpless and in pain. His love is gone, the burden of my existence is too much to bear. I am the feather that causes the house of cards to collapse into chaos.

      "I don't know, I don't know," he shakes his head, looking at me, searching for my -- our -- angel. But all that remains is me.

     "The dog is old and incontinent," comes his voice. "We'll have to put him down. It's better that way."

     The Evil One aims its Cheshire-cat smile at me, as it nestles into the man's lap.

     My soul shivers.


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