It was the way her teeth looked when she spoke. Horrible rotten squares of brown-stained enamel protruding from her gums. I watched them each time she began to fabricate other events into her life: thousand dollar-shopping sprees in New York, collections of red-soled shoes, and three-Michelin-star meals. I had enough reason to believe that none of those stories held any truth—that the engorged ring on her finger was nothing more than glass—but it was her teeth that constantly reminded me that she had no value. She was the type of person who spoke at every opportunity she had; if the majority of the conversation had not been about her it was far from over. It was her eyelashes as well. They protruded well away from her face, as if spiders had nested in her eyes, their long black legs inverted into a curl that batted against her eyelids every time she blinked.
I hated her hair, too; the color reminded me of a muddled chemical reaction that had gone wrong—a halo of failure. She was a blonde before she had met me, before she had become enamored with my voluminous brown waves. She dyed her limp locks in hopes that they resembled mine. I looked down to where she lie sprawled on the floor; my red galoshes gently rested on the tips of her hair—their color almost identical to the streaks of blood running down from her scalp, glistening like highlights in the fluorescent light. She had on the boots that I hated—the ones she wore on rainy days. They were the rubber kind, brown with a black rim, and with the letters MK on the side.
I looked at her again and sighed. Even in death she managed to completely consume the air of a room—disgusting.
I could have called an ambulance—it would have been the right thing to do—but something stopped me. My phone became heavy in my hand as I remembered the ways she intruded on my life; memories of her imitating the way I dressed and acted, her constant need to upstage me in front of our friends, and the way she forgot I existed whenever anyone of the opposite sex was present. Instead of dialing numbers, I set my phone on countertop beside me.
For the first time since entering the small room I noticed the Erlenmeyer flask under the fume hood and the brown glass bottle that lay shattered on the floor opposite of her pale lifeless body. I stepped over her, donned a fresh pair of pink nitrile gloves, and picked up the flask; its contents a clear liquid and a small white stir bar—an oversized magnetic tic-tac that spun along the bottom of the flask to ensure homology. I looked back down at the shards of glass threatening to puncture the premium rubber of my boots; she must have dropped the chloroform.
“You always fuck up the procedures, you know? This is why you’re dead, because you’re fucking irrelevant.”
I refused to look down at her when I spoke. She was repugnant and I wouldn’t allow her my gaze for a moment longer. I busied myself with cleaning the mess she had made weighing compounds and failing to complete the procedure. Leave it to her to be the first person in campus history to knock herself unconscious during an experiment. The fact that she hit her head on the counter, cracking her skull on the way down, was merely bad luck.
I could feel her dead eyes watching me as I worked—what a whore. She could never keep anyone’s attention, either. She always threw herself at guys she knew she’d never have. Tugging down the front of her shirt and leaning in close to them, making every sexual insinuation that her stunted brain could imagine—it never worked. Not that I could blame those guys. I wouldn’t want to go near those teeth either.
With skill and accuracy that she could only have envied, I began the experiment she had ruined, working up the clear liquid in the glass flask with white powder mixtures of chemicals so pure they rivaled the price of cocaine. I set the flask atop the magnetic stirrer, turning it up so the stir bar beating against the glass flask was the only sound in the room.
“I’m a such genius, you know. Maybe you’d have been able to appreciate that if you weren’t so busy trying to steal my life. You were always so fucking jealous of me. Everyone could tell. The only thing more imitation than your clearance rack red tag wardrobe was your personality. It was cute, at first. Maybe a little flattering, until you became a fucking psychopath. What kind of a person would act like that? Who the hell would be that fucking psychotic?”
I picked up my phone to snap a picture of the perfect reaction I had taking place, then set a timer for the required thirty minutes before I could inject the next compound into the mixture. I ran my gloved fingertip over the touchscreen of my phone and Taylor Swift’s album Reputation echoed throughout the empty lab. I had nothing left to do for the time being, so I reached into my bag and found the bottle of nail polish I had purposely brought along this morning. Peeling off the pink gloves and tossing them aside, I delicately began applying layers of Ferris Wheel by Ciaté.
I hummed in tune with the noise bleeding from the speaker on my phone, the occasional line slipped through my lips in time with Taylor’s: It makes me hate you so much, I hate you so much….you’ve ruined my life…I can’t say anything to your face, cause look at your face—and I’m so furious, at you for making me feel this way.
The beating of the stir bar grew from a soft tap to a knock against the glass. I paused mid-brushstroke to inspect the sound that was far louder than it had reason to be. My left eyebrow arched in suspicion and my eyes darted between the corpse and flask.
A pool of blood surrounded her corpse—for a moment my sanity abandoned me, and I watched her chest, anticipating a rise and fall. The room was still, the stir bar spun in the center of its flask without touching the edges, yet the beating continued. It could only be coming from her.
I imagined her stifled heart; clogged chambers, valves choking on stagnant blood, cardiomyocytes still contracted from their last depolarization. I could hear the beating over Taylor Swift preaching how doing something bad could feel so good, was the most fun she ever had, that she’d do it over and over if she could. The heart was mocking me.
The sound felt like her disfigured acrylic nails—which swallowed the top of her thick fingers—were crawling underneath my skin, anchoring themselves in my vertebrae, sending chills up my spine. With each passing minute it grew louder. The speakers of my phone failed to project the words of “Don’t Blame Me” above the beating. I hated her.
“You’re fucking pathetic. I hope you know that!”
I shouted at her corpse with no regard to the shred of rationality that my rage hadn’t yet stripped me of.
“I hope you know no one ever fucking liked you, either. Not a single person could stand the way you spoke; the way your sentences trailed off when you held someone’s attention, waiting for them to beg you to continue. We hated the way you intruded on a conversation that wasn’t about you, claiming any ailment and illness you could, hopelessly grasping at the possibility that someone would ever care when we would rather see you dead. I hope you’re happy—because now we can finally all be happy. You should’ve done this freshman year and saved us all—saved me—three years of misery.”
I watched her motionless chest; the heart was beating in sync with the drumbeat echoing behind Taylor’s words: I don’t like your little games…. the role you made play of the fool, no I don’t like you. I don’t like your perfect crime, how you laugh when you lie… no I don’t like you. I opened a drawer to my left and pulled out a silver scalpel.
Taylor Swift repeatedly sang the words look what you made me do as I knelt down, my jeans soaking up the tepid blood mixed with dust and dirt coating the floor. I held the scalpel in a fist and ran the dull blade across her pale skin creating the distinction between her round chin and swollen neck that her poorly constructed jawline had never been able to provide.
Red pearls of blood, almost as large as the freshwater necklace she claimed to have, became a stream that ran down her cold skin joining the puddle on the floor.
I took the scalpel and ran it down the front of her, the buttons on her floral polyester blouse easily popped off, giving me the satisfaction of cracking stiff knuckles. I dug the blade into her skin as I sung along as Taylor repeated the words: look what you made me do.
My palms were clammy, stained with her thin red blood causing the bent metal scalpel to slip between my hands. I discarded the useless tool; reaching my fingers into the punctures of her freckled flesh, I pulled and peeled away at the layers of skin and tissue. The beating got louder as I started snapping the bones that protected her heart from my hands.
The speakers of my phone still loyally projecting Taylor’s words: The world moves on another day another drama—drama, but not for me, not for me all I think about is karma. I wouldn’t stop until the brown organ was in my hands and I could wrap my fist around it—suffocating the noise. I could hear the door open behind me, someone calling my name—begging me to stop. The words of “Look What You Made Me Do” still leaking from the speakers on my phone. But none of that mattered, none of that could stop me when I was so close.