Eric is a silent man.
He never speaks to anyone, not even when it’s essential. He simply shows, but he never tells. His lips are glued as if they are never meant for uttered words. His mind is sealed to anyone who wants access to his thoughts.
Eric is an enigma.
His everyday routine is composed of the simplest things—going to his cubicle without looking at anyone, writing his articles without asking for anyone’s help, and then going home without saying goodbye. He doesn’t even eat lunch. Everyone can see him typing in his computer even when the lights are dimmed for breaks.
Whenever he’s alone, he seems more relaxed. His shoulders are visibly less stiff and his eyes look softer. It’s as if he finds solace in the dark and in the quiet. That he finds shadows more comforting than the ones who own them.
Eric doesn’t mingle.
He remains emotionally isolated from the rest of the company employees. He doesn’t say a word to anyone other than his boss. They had all wondered once how he was able to pass the series of interviews by the human resource staff, but the staff members themselves remain tightlipped about his employment process.
Everyone is curious, but their curiosity remains unanswered.
Silence. It’s something that is often associated with Eric. But instead of chasing them away, it makes them more drawn to discovering who he is. They all want a piece of him. A piece of anything him just because they have nothing. Nothing always pushes human nature’s curiosity to the edge. Pandora’s box is not just a legend—it’s a personification of anything human.
They all leave Eric alone, but they don’t give him peace. They talk about him. They goad him. They push him. They tempt him. They are like little demons that surround him with their traitorous presence.
None of them succeeds. Because Eric answers them with silence. Whenever they try to coax a word or a reaction out of him, or go the desperate route by trying to catch him off-guard—they fail. It’s as if he has eyes behind his head. All they ever get from him is a nod. Always just a nod.
And sometimes a stare.
The employees—they all prefer the nod. The stare, they try to stay away from.
The nod is a simple acknowledgment that never lingers; it only lasts for a fleeting moment. But the stare is something that seems to last forever. Anyone who gets the stare has never recovered.
Probably except for Zabel.
Zabel is fascinated by Eric. The moment she caught sight of him during that first day of her interview, she knew he was someone special. Probably not the usual special, but something else entirely. There is something in him that makes her want to get to know him since the beginning. A pull she cannot explain. A pull that’s been driving her crazy, threatening to engulf her whole. She can never take her eyes off Eric, even though he never even looks her way. And she feels like it’s fate. No. She knows it’s fate. It’s destiny. Or whatever people call that twisted turn in life.
Zabel isn’t supposed to be employed in this company. She never even wants to be in real estate. She wants a job in a fashion magazine where she knows she belongs. But the call for her supposed last interview didn’t come. Instead, a call from this company’s HR had gotten through to her.
From among all the employees during that day, she caught sight of him first.
Yes, this is destiny.
Zabel doesn’t avert her gaze when Eric turns around and finds her staring at him again. She is the only one who can look at him straight in the eyes without flinching.
Eric stares. Zabel stares back.
He ends the eye-to-eye first, turning his chair around to return to his work. But it’s not without a silent retaliation. His stare makes Zabel feel that it’s not the end. That it’s never the end.
A shiver of desire pulsates all throughout her body, sending little bouts of electricity to every nook that thirsts for him.
Eric has such sad eyes. And it’s Zabel’s dream to replace that sadness with happiness.
“You have such sad eyes, my love.”
“Yes, you do. Your beautiful smile couldn’t even mask the fact that you have such sad eyes.”
She would then poke at his lone dimple, a gesture that always made him shiver with unexplainable contentment. He would catch her finger and he would place a kiss on it, his pillow soft lips lingering on her silk-like skin.
“But my heart is happy,” he would utter softly while staring at her with those sad eyes.
“I know,” she would always whisper back as she stood on her toes to reach him. “I know.”
And Eric would smile even though his eyes always refused to stop frowning.
They talk about Eric’s love and Zabel always listens.
“They said she died in a mental hospital,” says one bloke from the Marketing Team. “Got all loopy in the head, mate.”
“Well, if he’s my boyfriend, I will be loopy in the head too,” says another gossipmonger from Sales. “I mean seriously, he’s gorgeous as fuck, but he’s also weird as fuck. Imagine having sex and staring at those eyes who look at you as if he’s about to die? Sorry, guys, I actually sort of pity that poor girl.”
But Eric has beautiful eyes, Zabel inwardly thinks.
“That’s not true, assholes,” says one from the Sales Services Department. He leans in, making the others mimic his posture. “It was said that he killed her.”
It’s met by scoffs and snorts.
“Pfft. You’re a dickhead who listens to nonsense hearsays,” says one. “Do you think he’ll be here if he has such records? Did you remember Anthony before? The one that was supposed to replace Sheila? The company didn’t accept him just because he has a record in his previous company. Well, unless this is some sort of Belko experiment thing and they all want us to die.”
“But it’s true!” the man says. “No, he didn’t kill him herself. But he was there, he was—”
His voice is cut by the sound of water pouring in a glass. They all turn their head to see Eric standing by the water dispenser, filling his tumbler with water. He isn’t looking at them, but the stiffness in his shoulders tells them he heard what they’ve been talking about.
No one speaks. Not even Zabel. But while the others are busy sucking in their breaths for something that is invisibly suffocating them, Zabel’s eyes are busy roaming Eric’s fine form.
The tension in the room intensifies when Eric turns his head to stare at each and every one of them. But he doesn’t say anything. He simply turns around and silently leaves the pantry, leaving a huge cloud of uncertainty in the room.
Still, a collective sigh of relief can be heard after a few moments of tense silence.
Eric remains an enigma.
She used to ask such strange questions.
“When I die…will you come die with me?”
He loved answering them. He would often tease her first, staring at the moon or whatever it was that he could distract himself with before he gave in to her. She would often get tired of waiting for his words and would finally hit him in the arms.
“No. If you die, my love… I will make sure I live.”
He would often see the hurt in her eyes at some of his answers, but he would still stay serious if it meant confusing her. He had always loved to witnessed the contradicting expressions on her face—the seriousness in her eyes and the bright smile on her mouth.
“So you will not die with me?”
She would often reiterate the question that usually tested his love for her.
“I will not die with you.”
He would continue to tease her some more until that tiny pout that he loved so much appeared on her lovely face. He would pull her to her arms by then and he would finally respond to her question with all the seriousness he could muster.
“Dying after your death will be too easy. Paradise has never been perfect for us—we need to have a piece of hell to make sense. So I will continue to live, my love, so I can feel the agony of losing you.”
He would often punctuate his words with fleeting kisses. He had always wanted to make her feel the sincerity of his words through the silent passion of his actions.
She on the other hand would always listen to his explanations without interrupting him, as if his voice was a well-crafted literature only she could make sense of.
“The thought of breathing without you destroys the very essence of me. I live to exist beside you. Only beside you.”
He would always kiss the tip of her nose, sealing his promise. Then she would smile. She would finally smile.
“Do you promise?” She would always ask. Every conversation between them served as an oath of invisible bond that sealed their fates together.
He never hesitated.
She would pull him down towards her for a kiss. A supposed ending to a story that spoke of nothing but love.
But it had always been just a beginning. A prelude for a shadow that would continue to ominously linger.
Zabel sees him coming out of the men’s room on her way to the ladies’.
Her heart stops just at the sight of the young man. His presence has always been an ambrosia for her. He is a piece of that forbidden food that’s only intended for the mouths of the worthy, of the honored.
She watches as Eric walks towards her, his eyes never leaving the floor. It’s a habit of his. He never looks at anyone in the eyes if there is no need for it.
Zabel feels a touch of excitement. They are alone. Is he finally going to make a move? Her colleagues say she never has a chance. But they are underestimating her gut feel—she is not stupid. She can sometimes feel his eyes on her. Those eyes caress her body with quiet intensity, burning her without fire, freezing her without ice.
He likes her. She knows he likes her. He has to like her. Zabel has been waiting for him to make a move so they can consume this burning desire together until they collapse in the ashes of their longing and need.
As if he hears her thoughts, he looks up and finally meets her eyes.
Zabel forgets to breathe. She can feel the instant energy that flickers between them the moment his gaze lands on hers. She forces herself to smile at him, waiting for him to return her expression with the littlest of recognition.
But it never comes. Eric averts his gaze and passes by her as if she is a mere dent in the wall. She stays still as she feels the gush of air that comes with his stride, which forces her to face the reality that’s never in her favor. It’s like an on and off switch within her—she sees what she thinks she sees, but there are specks of doubts that often splatter on her usually steady confidence.
She will not have this. Not this time. Zabel abruptly turns around to call him.
Eric continues to move forward in even strides as if he doesn’t hear her. His steps are calm, but purposeful.
“Eric! I said wait!”
And Eric stops. But he doesn’t turn around. Zabel walks towards him, her knees buckling a little, until she is standing right behind him. She hesitates for a bit before she lifts her hand to touch his back. Halfway to her destination, she thinks better of it and retracts her hands.
“Eric…” she says softly. “Why…why can’t you forget about Cate?” she whispers. Because she knows it’s Cate. It has always been Cate. She doesn’t know the woman, but the way people keep talking about her, it’s clear that she occupies or at least used to occupy a huge part of Eric’s life.
Zabel doesn’t have the time to contemplate more on it as the consequence of her question abruptly hits her.
It happens in a flash. She finds herself cornered by two pairs of strong arms, her breath being knocked out of her as she feels the pain caused by being slammed on the wall hard.
Eric is attacking her.
The pain she feels ebbs away as she starts to realize the situation. She’s enclosed in the warmth of his hands. She could smell his sweet breath as the warm air coming from his delectable mouth touches her lips.
This is to her advantage.
In a surge of longing and suppressed desire, Zabel leans forward in an attempt to snatch those angry, puffy lips into a kiss, but she finds herself being slammed against the wall again. This time, she finds herself moaning in pain, as her body hits the concrete harder than the previous onslaught.
Zabel looks up and finds Eric’s usually lonely eyes burning with incredible fire that cannot simply be doused by water or ice.
“Don’t you fucking dare talk about Cate,” he whispers calmly in her ears. “You don’t have the fucking right to even say her name.”
Zabel freezes. Did he just—
But before she can even contemplate what just happened, Eric is already walking away from her.
Zabel watches the distance grow between the two of them, her mind still catching up with what happened. She tries to call his name, but she doesn’t even have the strength to open her mouth.
She slides down the floor as she feels her knees weakening at the thought of what just happened. She stays seated on the floor in a helpless heap until she finally has the strength to stand again. The act Eric just pulled triggered different types of reactions from her.
She feels scared. For the first time since she met him, she finally sees something else in his eyes. It’s so strong that she thinks she could have died with the intensity of his gaze.
And there is desire.
She forces herself to stand up and go to the restroom. She hastily reaches one cubicle and enters it clumsily. She locks herself in and sits at the bowl. She hurriedly removes her underwear and stares at it.
Zabel’s lace underwear is wet.
She lifts it towards her nose and smells it, her eyes closing at the scent coming from her own pleasure. She has always loved the smell of post-coital bliss.
She tucks her wet underwear inside the matching brassiere and snatches the bidet spray beside the toilet bowl. She spreads her legs and positions the spray right above her hot mound dripping with pleasure. She pushes the handle down and closes her eyes at the sudden wave of satisfaction that pulsates through her.
She is loud. But the employees keep working.
Her name was Cate.
The very first time Eric met her, he fell and never recovered. He had been immediately paralyzed by the intensity of what he felt for her.
She was a stranger, a stranger that just passed by him without a warning. But he had turned. He had turned his head to meet the eyes of the stranger.
And then they’re strangers no more.
Cate and Eric. They happened so fast. He was swept by the strong currents of feelings that he never even felt the need to look for a stray anchor. He had allowed himself to be pulled away from his safe place if it meant that he would get to drown in these overwhelming emotions caused by only her.
Perfection. That’s how everyone thought of him and Cate. That’s how he thought of them too. They were the perfect balance of what’s right and what’s wrong. The hint of life between breathing and of dying.
He was Cate’s life. He was Cate’s death.
Cate was his hope. Cate was his downfall.
Zabel’s heart is happy.
She watches him from the corner of her eyes, her gaze taking in Eric’s full form. He is walking at least a meter away from her, and she can see the perfect shape of that bum.
But he’s not walking any faster. Eric simply matches her gait, his sad eyes staring in front. She can see his fists clenching nervously, and her heart drums inside her chest.
He likes her and this is the proof. He has never talked to anyone before, but after that incident in the hallway leading to the restroom, things between them changes. It’s not how she expects, but she can only be grateful for the sudden turn in her fate.
Eric stops ignoring her.
He starts returning her shy greetings with shy ones of his own. He seems to be staring more now that even their colleagues notice the sudden warmness towards her. He also seems to find ways so he can touch her—he bumps into her a lot these days. And he is everywhere she is—at the photocopying room, in the pantry, and even by the elevators.
Zabel has always known it. No matter what the others say, the guy has already moved on from his first love. He is just waiting for the right woman who will let him move on.
And it’s Zabel.
Zabel’s musings are interrupted by the vibration in her pocket. She considers taking it, but chooses to ignore it in the end. She knows it’s her parents, asking her why she suddenly cancels on their once-a-month dinner.
Of course she will cancel! Dinner with her parents happen all the time, but this is a one-time opportunity that she will never ever regret of taking.
This is for her heart. Her heart that’s been thirsting for this man ever since she first saw him.
This is for her heart. She keeps repeating like a mantra.
“Eric, you promised.”
He nodded. He promised her death in life. And he would do it.
For her. For him. And for this fucked up abstract thing called life.
“Sing to me, Eric.” It had been one of her last requests. So he did. He had sung to her that one song that never failed to make her happy.
“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock…”
Cate hums with him. The nursery rhyme that her mother used to sing to her had always enveloped her in a blanket of unexplainable comfort.
“When I die, sing this to me.” It was one of her very last whispers.
And Eric had sworn that he would.
The film opens into a forest.
Zabel cannot tell whether it was night or it was day. There were small beams of light that escaped from the cluster of leaves above, littering the floor with scattered makeshift dusts, marking the dimness with small bursts of what seemed like hope. But she is not sure if those shots of light came from the moon or from the sun with how meager they are.
There is nothing but silence. But it’s not serene. It is the type of stillness that brings a different kind of silent noise.
Zabel flinches as the camera wanders around the forest floor, or if it could even be called a floor. The roots of giant trees that are thick as a man’s body cover the ground like a herd of dead snakes. She can’t see anything other than the roots interlacing with each other akin to snakes coiling around tree barks.
The camera changes angles. The view lifts, focusing on a root of a tree, then on a thick rough branch, until it finally settles on top of a tree. Whoever is holding the camera, he is very adept at climbing trees. The climb is so smooth as if the bearer is simply climbing stairs.
Then there is silence again. Zabel waits in anticipation.
She doesn’t notice the eyes boring on her every curve, hiding behind the shadows, watching her as she watches the film.
Zabel feels it first before she hears it.
A moan. A sound that speaks of both pain and desire.
She leans in ever so slowly towards the screen to listen more clearly.
There it is again. Yes. It’s definitely a moan. And then… a rustle. It’s accompanied by a rustle of leaves.
Zabel feels her blood boiling. And for no particular reason.
The camera starts moving, doing a slow 360, as it spirals down with its focus.
And then it stills. Zabel blinks as the camera focuses on silhouettes moving against the silence.
There are two—two clothed bodies gyrating against each other as the invisible heat conquers them both. They both seem to be lost in the moment, their bodies moving in an uneven rhythm as if their own passion is trying to kill them with the flame of its dangerous fire.
Zabel doesn’t need to fully see the face of the man to know that it’s Eric.
Her chest constricts with a familiar pang of pain and jealousy, but not anger.
Her eyes move first towards the woman to make sense of her face. The woman whose mound of heat is slowly rubbing against his own heat. The woman whose head is thrown back as Eric peppers her neck with blazing, wet kisses.
It must be Cate. This must be Cate. With the way Eric loses himself into her, it can only be Cate.
Zabel knows she should be allowing jealousy to flow through her, but at this moment, her curiosity is stronger. And that huge part of man’s human nature is winning over any personal feelings she has right now.
So Zabel continues to watch.
The quiet eyes behind Zabel continue to watch her.
Cate pushes Eric away, initiating a groan of protest as his lips detach from the crevice of her smooth neck.
Cate giggles as she stands from his lap. She whispers something that suspiciously sounds like, “patience”, and walks a few meters away from him.
Zabel watches as Cate faces Eric, and her too in the process.
And now she knows. Even with all the bitterness she wants to spew right now, she knows that she can never compare. That she will never compare.
Cate is beautiful in every sense of the word. If she has one word to describe Cate, it would be perfection. She hasn’t seen someone as beautiful as her. She moves like a deity of beauty—sensual, seductive, and flawless. But her presence is akin to a deity of war—demanding and fierce.
The said woman slowly removes the tie enclosing her luscious hair into a neat bond. Her brown locks cascade down to her shoulders, flowing like the sultry waves of the ocean. Her eyes never leave Eric as she slowly unbuttons her blouse, revealing that trail between her mounds of flesh.
Zabel watches as the camera circles around Cate until it’s focusing on Eric.
His eyes are burning with an unspoken passion only Cate can elicit from him. His eyes are alive, fierce, dominating.
Zabel has never seen Eric’s eyes this alive before. Never. This kind of look in his eyes speak of something deep and feral, something passionate and calm. It’s a paradox in itself, but the meaning is not lost to anyone who will see it.
The thin material covering the smooth flesh falls down to the forest floor, exposing Cate’s perky breasts and perfect shoulders. The shots of light from a source filter through her, showering her with tainted beams that made her look as if she’s being showered in fairy dusts.
Cate looks ethereal.
Eric watches with hooded eyes as she removes the rest of her clothing. His gaze follows the trail of her clothes and the skin touched deliberately by her sensual hands.
He doesn’t see Cate watching him. Because he is too busy watching her gestures.
Cate slowly walks towards him, her hips moving sensually in a hypnotizing dance of desire. The spell works on Eric. His eyes continue to burn that Zabel who is watching feels like those pools will breathe out fire.
“Fuck me, Eric,” she quietly demands as she stands in front of him totally bare. There is no trace of a smile on her lips anymore. “Fuck me… asshole. Fuck me until I fucking cannot feel my heart anymore.”
Eric doesn’t move. He simply watches her.
And then Cate hits him hard on both cheeks. The sound of flesh cruelly hitting another flesh reverberates in the background. Before Zabel could blink, she is witnessing a scene that she will never forget. A mating ritual that cannot be described by a worthless web of words.
This is animalistic. This is desire. This is raw. This is love. This is anger.
This is pain.
Zabel screams with them. Cries with them. Falls with them. She finds herself burning with them with a different kind of fiery coldness that needs no words.
The screen fades into black.
The screen opens into the forest once again. But this time, there is a shift in the atmosphere that Zabel cannot explain. It seems peaceful, but somehow unnerving. The unexplainable twist in her gut tells her this pose of serenity is the climax to the story she’s witnessing.
The camera begins to slowly pan from a trunk of a tree until it focuses on Eric and Cate. Cate is once again standing in front of him with Eric looking up at her.
But Eric is… Eric is crying. Zabel’s heart aches at the sight of the silent tears flowing down his cheeks. Why is he crying?
“Watch me, Eric,” Cate suddenly says, the camera panning to her face instead. There is a maddening smile on her face. It is still beautiful, yes. But it’s also mocking, taunting.
Eric doesn’t utter either a word or a sound, but he obediently watches as Cate slowly walks away from him, the camera following her slow, deliberate movement.
The camera focuses on her dainty legs, on her small steps, until she finally stands in front of a large boulder. The camera shows Cate’s legs climbing the boulder swiftly and without difficulty. And then it shows her feet turning. She is now facing Eric.
The camera slowly climbs up, tracing her glistening naked body with its artificial lens until it finally focuses on Cate’s face.
Cate’s smile is still there, but her gaze is somewhere else. Probably on Eric who’s behind the camera or whoever is holding the camera.
“Eric… I love you,” Cate whispers. “I love you so much.”
There is no response. But Zabel can hear fast breathing in the background. She knows it’s Eric. It can only be him. The one behind the lens has been quiet since this started.
“Watch me, Eric,” Cate says, her voice a peaceful cruel melody that sounds like an ode to Hades.
Zabel’s eyes widens. No. She wouldn’t—
“Watch me, Eric. Watch me as I end my suffering so you can begin yours.”
Zabel’s breath leaves her. She watches as the camera pans away from Cate, revealing the full picture.
Cate is standing on a huge boulder, a thick noose hanging from a thick branch just beside Cate. The beautiful and haunted woman slowly reaches for the noose, looping it around her neck. The almost-golden color of the rope seems to be in contrast with her pale skin.
Cate caresses the rope as if it’s her lover. For some reason, Zabel thinks that the rope around her neck looks good on her even though it’s about to end her life. It embraces her slender neck that reminds her of a queen that took her own life.
Cleopatra is beautiful in death.
There is a brief rustle in the background, but the camera doesn’t leave Cate’s face. However, her sudden laugh echoes in the forest walls.
“You are sick, Eric. You are so sick in the head.”
The camera finally leaves Cate’s face and focuses on Eric.
He is still naked. And his aching flesh and desire is hard against his stomach. Now it’s clear to Zabel what Cate means with her words. Eric is truly sick in the head if he gets aroused at such a sight.
The camera’s focus returns to Cate.
“Watch me, Eric. It’s time,” Cate says softly, the smile leaving her face again as if it hasn’t been there in the first place. She angles her head until she’s facing the camera.
Zabel jumps in surprise. Cate from the screen is now staring at her, her smile manic and beautiful. Cate stares at her for what seemed like a long time while Zabel cannot even move a muscle.
“Watch me die,” Cate finally whispers on the screen as if she is directly addressing Zabel. As if she has known all along that she is watching. But before Zabel can react, Cate jumps from the boulder.
Cate’s body twitches as the noose starts to cut her breath slowly. Hurried moans fill the background as Eric’s desire seems to flow through him like a sinister wave of vengeful fear.
Then Cate finally stills as Eric reaches his orgasm.
The film starts to fade with the camera lens focused on Cate’s pale feet that swing back and forth like a pendulum.
Eric’s face cannot be seen in the background, but his voice can still be heard. It’s getting louder. And louder. And louder. Like a sonata made solely to mark the end of a story.
“Rock a bye baby. On the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.”
It’s probably the most haunting sound of pain Zabel has ever heard. The sound of a wounded animal shot to the heart without regret by a cruel hunter.
Eric cries as he sings every word to the seemingly innocent nursery rhyme. The sound of raw pain—helpless pain that will forever remain uncomforted.
The screen turns black. Zabel doesn’t notice that she is clutching at her heart.
This. This is Eric’s pain.
“Did you enjoy it?”
Zabel jumps at the sound of the voice that suddenly breaks the silence in the room. She abruptly stands up, her hands trembling on the defensive as she faces the owner of the deep voice.
“I… I’m… I’m sorry!” she says hurriedly as she tries to explain what had happened. “I… it was… it was there and… I’m really sorry! I thought it was a movie!”
Eric stares at her. “It’s a movie.”
“I know! I didn’t—” Zabel stops as she stares at Eric. “W-what?”
“It’s a movie that has no ending.”
He walks towards the VCR player and presses stop. “Cate wants it that way. She wants me to keep chasing for the ending. She told me I don’t deserve an ending.”
A sigh. “I don’t deserve clarity. Ending is clarity. Because where she’s going, Cate will never have her ending either.”
Zabel remains quiet. She doesn’t have a clear response to that.
“Do you know what she said?” Zabel shakes her head, but Eric doesn’t see it. “She said—”
He turns towards her and smiles, surprising Zabel at the almost kind expression his face is wearing.
“She said that we both deserve to rot in hell. But since she deserves it more, she should go first.”
Zabel feels the fear starting to spread in her body. Eric sounds so casual as if talking about this is not affecting him. As if talking about being burnt in hell is an everyday occurrence.
“I… I don’t understand. Why—”
Eric’s smile never falters. “Why did Cate decide to die?” he asks.
Zabel finds herself nodding.
“Because she doesn’t deserve to live.”
“—and yet… heaven doesn’t deserve her soul,” Eric continues, cutting her words off. “So Cate… Cate decides to go to hell and she wants to bring me with her. But… not now. Not until I know how it feels to die while breathing.”
“Of course you don’t,” Eric says. “And you will never.” He merely shakes his head as he slowly takes a step towards her. Zabel automatically takes a step back.
Eric’s smile widens. If this is a truly casual conversation, she would have gladly drowned on it. It’s the first time he smiles at her like that. It’s a genuine smile. She would have been happy.
But she isn’t. Zabel, for the first time, is scared of Eric. She is finally and truly scared of him. Her eyes leave his and dart around the room, clearly looking for a way to escape.
“Are you afraid of me now?” he asks, now sounding amused. “I didn’t kill Cate, you know. You watched it. She killed herself. She made me watch her kill herself. She wants me to die as she dies. She is one cruel bitch that really deserves to rot in hell. But oh how I love her!” He laughs, taking in another step towards her. Zabel takes another step back.
“Er…Eric…” she softly calls, her tone telling him she is trying to be calm. “Eric… I… Eric I need to go home. I… my parents are waiting for me… I…”
“Are you using this excuse now? Your parents are not important to you. You chose me over them.”
And another. And another. Until he is finally standing in front of her trembling form.
Zabel finally looks up and meets his eyes. Eric has such lonely eyes and now she knows why.
She starts to pray in silence. Zabel doesn’t believe in God like her parents, but at this moment, she wants to. The feeling of helplessness suddenly pushes her to believe in the existence of one merciful high power up there.
“Okay,” Zabel whispers as she closes her eyes, surrendering to the battle that she hasn’t even started fighting. She is partly at fault with this. Her obsession with him is possibly one of the reasons why they end up in this situation. She has to pay for her part in this.
Zabel stops her internal struggles as she feels Eric’s breath on her face. She slowly relaxes her body until she is no longer standing stiff in front of him.
“Make it quick,” she calmly begs in total surrender. “Just make it quick.”
Eric doesn’t answer, but instead grants the woman her last wish.
She doesn’t feel the pain of death. Just like how she wants.
Eric mournfully stares at the canvas he just painted. He could have made it last, but the clock is ticking.
It looks beautiful. A work of art with the smell of untimely death.
Just like Cate, he thinks as he stands up to admire his handiwork. A magnum opus that can only be created by the ones who know pain. The ones who always smell blood even in sleep. The ones who saw death, who still sees it even though it has long since passed away with the wind.
She is his everything. Cate will always be his everything.
Eric turns his head and meets the eyes in the shadow, the blood dripping from his face and his hands like a mark of something sinister growing within him.
All he ever receives is a nod. And that is the only thing he ever wants. Approval.
Eric smiles. He turns his face away from the shadow and sits on the floor, cross-legged. His eyes wander back on the mutilated body of his colleague whose name he cannot even remember.
She is beautiful in death, her naked body hanging from the ceiling and her blood dripping on his once clean floor.
She needs to die, that is the first thing Eric thought when she first mentioned the name of his forbidden, cursed desire. She needs to die because she is trying to take him away from Cate.
Cate whose death he will always remember.
But now, he is free again. He has gotten rid of the suffocating block to his freedom. Freedom to feel the animalistic pain caused by Cate’s death just as she wanted to.
He will never disappoint Cate. He will always make her happy even if he will never be.
Eric glances on the shadow once again before he reaches out a bloody finger and presses the play button on the VCR. He is unmindful of the blood dripping from the corpse hanging from the ceiling and onto his head.
The screen is black. And then it turns white, slowly showing the familiar forest.
Where Cate has decided to end her life so he could begin his death.
Eric starts to hum.
“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock…”
The shadow that watches Eric remains silent.