War

The darkness pressed his face as cold air brushed against his exposed arms. He stepped forward tentatively—he didn’t want to trigger whatever was lurking just beyond his vision. Or perhaps it was sleeping. He couldn’t tell.

Bling!

Suddenly, out of no where, light was everywhere. Bright, white, blinding. Jason doubled over—he’d never thought lightness could hurt. As he crouched in pain, his grip tightened around Lyfe, his custom-designed handgun. Whatever was out there, he would get it. He would get it and thrash it, and get out of this hell alive. Couldn’t afford to lose this battle.

He raised his head from his navel, and—bam! A big blurry blob knocked the wind out of him. Searing pain shot up his head as blood flow scattered. Hitting the ground hard, he rasped for breath while peering for a glimpse of his attacker. It was Marcus. Marcus, his friend. Marcus, his partner. The same Marcus who who’d spent all his childhood weekends playing soccer with him, had almost cracked his skull open.

Towering over six feet, with shoulders as wide as a guitar, and muscles that bulged from its sockets, Marcus waited for Jason to stand. Jason took his time. He knew Marcus. Knew that he never liked killing dead rats. Regaining his breath, Jason stood up—there was no use stalling the inevitable. It had to end, and it had to end today.

“How dare you?” He spat at Marcus. Marcus wasn’t rattled—years of practice had taught him never to let personal emotions get in the way of getting the job done. And his job was clear—kill Jason and get the others one by one.

“Spare the chit chat.” He growled and attacked. Thrusting his fist at Jason’s unprotected ribs, he drilled his way deep, cracking a few as we did. Despite a seasoned fighter, Jason stood foolishly, his weapon still in his limp hand. But his mind raced, and he retaliated even before he’d recovered from the hit.

Swinging his arm at nothing in particular, he pulled the trigger hoping to hole Marcus in the shoulder.

The bullet never made contact.

Before he knew what happened, a grand fire erupted around him, searing his skin, tearing away at the tiny fragments of torn cloth wrapped around his calves. His brain paralysed the body, and he stood helpless as the fire enveloped his shoulders, as if assuring everything would soon be over.

Marcus was still standing, unmoved from his stance. The fire danced about him without a single graze. Jason took a great shuddering breath, and preparing to fight his way back, looked up at Marcus’s black eyes boring into his.

And it happened. A tiny piece of metal pierced Jason’s chest, crookedly making its way to his heart. In less than two seconds, the world went black.

Beep!

Game Over. The mechanical voice rang through the living room.

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Ceremonial feelings

The whole world was gearing up. It was, after all, their Royal wedding. Excitement bubbled on every surface of the streets, for murmurs of rumours had spread like wildfire already. Babbling crowds lingered, in vegetable markets and liquor stores, wondering, guessing the colour of the dresses, the types of flowers, the length of the veil, and—the designer who made all possible.

The family’s feverish mirth was only too obvious, and even the bride was getting along fine.

But he struggled.

Millions of eyes would observe him throughout the ceremony. The pastor had never been more nervous in his life.

Beauty in yellow

She cruised along the highway, a yellow streak shining through the chilly wintry mist. As I waited at the curb for a cab, she soared, teasing my emotions. A mild breeze swept up in her wake, caressing my cheek as I gaped after her. I watched transfixed as she turned, and past me in one swift motion. I yearned to face her. I pined for her to halt so I could examine her. I craved to stroke her hood, to run my fingers along her curves, to sing her elegance.

Speeding up, the yellow beetle vanished out of sight. Pity.

The director

“Why can’t you ever get my words right?”

Jonathon’s director, Mark, was yelled again. Jonathon had wanted to write his own dialogues — he always does, and directors often appreciate it. Mark, however, didn’t.

Mark was a good director but a terrible writer. Although he’d written an impeccable screenplay, he’d fluffed the dialogues. As Jonathon read his script, he felt repeating himself senseless. Mark was adamant.

By show day, Jonathon had decided he’d never work with Mark again. When curtains rose, he just did his job. He cut the fluff out, and performed what became the best play of Mark’s career.

Of Murder in Non-Fiction

There are two types of readers of murder: one who read fiction and non-fiction and know what they’re reading. The other is those who read non-fiction and complain it’s not as good as fiction.

I don’t care about the latter, but I don’t see how they don’t see the difference between the two genres. For instance, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is non-fiction, and it doesn’t read like fiction. For the adrenaline junkie, it’s no page-turner. For readers who expect an Agatha-Christie like unravelling, non-fiction murders are a bore.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Just a few weeks ago, a close friend recommended In Cold Blood to me. She enjoyed it said I too would. Well, since she knows me and my preferences, I decided to heed her suggestion. However, when I asked around to borrow the book, one voracious reader told me not to waste my time over In Cold Blood. It’s a slow and dull read, she offered.

I was surprised to hear such conflicting views from two well-read people. I read the book nevertheless. That’s when I realised the true difference between murder-fiction and murder-non-fiction.

For one, the intended audience in non-fiction is not the same as in fiction. While almost any reader can appreciate the thrill of chasing an evasive fictitious serial killer, not everyone can understand the subtleties of outlining an actual murderer’s mind. Truman Capote, in the book, isn’t addressing the impatient ones who want to finish the book and lable it “Read” on Goodreads. He, instead, addresses those curious to know the way the mind works. The author speaks of Dick and Perry’s childhood, of Perry’s troubled family and abusive upbringing, of his dreaming of a giant bird, and of his attitude towards his partner in crime. None of these details matter in fiction because no one would care. In non-fiction, however, knowing Perry’s reluctance to swimming because he’s embarrassed by the way his legs appear, makes him relatable—it makes him human. And that’s the kind of depth that no fiction goes into. For someone looking for short bursts of exciting crime, a non-fiction like In Cold Blood is just plain boring.

This is my first non-fiction murder novel. And so it struck me how different the author’s tone is than in fiction. Capote doesn’t try to lure the reader with mysterious adjectives and goosebumps-inducing alleyways. Instead, he sticks to the facts—the cold facts that chill the bone one page at a time. For instance, there’s no element of surprise in In Cold Blood. I had gone less than fifty pages into the book, and I knew the killers, their appearance, and their uncanny ability to smile as they killed—so to speak. That’s how non-fiction works; the author has little to nothing to fold in a heart-stopping moment into the plot. The whole world knew the victims, the killers, and the history of the investigation—even before Capote began writing the book. It’s no surprise that there’s no surprise in the story. Nevertheless, the book reads like a true work of art. The crime was slick, chilling, and brutal. And Capote does nothing to make it sound any less.

Come to think of it, when reading a non-fiction murder story like In Cold Blood, a reader shouldn’t expect anything. The purpose of non-fiction is in itself different from fiction. While fiction has a perfect beginning, a crescendo, a plot twist, and the climax, non-fiction serves a larger purpose: understanding. Non-fiction readers don’t look for the climax, because the book opens with it. Instead, they look to look into the lives of the murderers, the routines of the victims, what they ate the day they were killed, who Nancy helped bake a cake, which part she played in the school play, how much she loved riding the horse with her friend. The non-fiction reader looks for life in murder. They find reality in hostility, and they seek to read the killers’ intentions. Because non-fiction murder isn’t just revenge, it’s the result of an entire lifetime of bottled emotions—boiling down to a moment of unsteadiness. And that’s what a reader hopes to discover.

It’s not just the reader, though. Even the author of non-fiction murder has a purpose that varies from fiction. Writing about murders takes more than time and patience. It’s takes more than writing itself. Capote would’ve spent a lot of time researching the facts, but he also would’ve spent years trying to uncover the mystery of human psychology. I can imagine how it must be for a writer to flip through gruesome photos and statistics. The purpose, again, isn’t to write the most spine-tingling novel. It’s more than that—it’s to bring to life, and show the world, the soul of a human who happened to take a wrong path.

I enjoyed every bit of In Cold Blood. If you haven’t read it already, you should. Be warned, though: if you’re the fiction lover who is reluctant to spend time (even as long as a month) on a single book, then don’t bother. But this is one wonderful book. Capote’s sharp writing would drive through your chest, and you’ll yearn to know more about the men—who could well be your neighbours—who also murdered a family in cold blood.