How Far Away the Stars – Part 1


This was written some time ago.  I loved writing it and the storyteller is one character I hope to keep inside my head.  It’s long, around 15,000 words in total, so I’ll post it in parts.  Comments are most welcome.

How Far Away the Stars

“How far away the stars seem, and how far is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart.”

–        William Butler Yeats

 It is easy to count the stars when you have so little time left.  At least it is now, now that I can see them.  When they first asked what I wanted on my last night, they laughed at my response.  You can’t count the stars they said.  Don’t try to be funny, Marguerite; one night isn’t enough to count the stars.  What is it you really want?

It was then I told them what they’d wanted to hear for the past twenty-five years.  “Let me talk,” I said, “let me tell you what I did.”  Their eyes lit up, and I heard mutterings of words and acronyms I hadn’t heard since a lifetime ago: profilers, officers, police…

They’ve always wanted to know exactly what it was.  It fascinates them; the idea that this little old woman took so many lives, unbeknownst to them, before handing herself in to the police.   I’m not your typical murderer, you see.  It wasn’t about getting away with it; it was about getting rid of them.  Even the planning of the first killing was magical, and by the third it was second nature; something I seemed to have been born for.  A natural born killer maybe, if such a thing exists alongside humanity.

By the afternoon of my request, two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were there.  It must have been a slow day in the world of serial killers to warrant such speed for a woman who had been on death row for a quarter of a century already, but no doubt the authorities didn’t want me to change my mind and take my secrets with that last kiss of an injection.  One of the guards, Susie, took me to a place in the prison I hadn’t been before, which was strange considering I’ve been in this place since before she was born.

Susie was one of my favourites; she was too big for her bones, and her skin wrinkled like a too-ripe nectarine, but she always smiled, was always polite and never judged.  We like that here; someone who lets what we’ve done wash over their heads as if it never happened.  For here is a different life to the one we had previously, a life spent in a constant state of waiting for death.  Some of us have had to deal with the ghosts that torment us, while other lament on their lost freedom.  I did neither of these.  I’d chosen to be in this place, and in the time I’d been here, I’d learnt many things I would have done so elsewhere.

Once Susie asked me why I’d done it, then clarified her question by saying she meant why I’d handed myself in.  I didn’t answer, for that was nobody’s business but my own, and instead Susie kept talking, her motive for asking not noisiness, but personal.  Since she was six, her papa had crept into her bedroom each night, and I needn’t say more than that because you can guess why.  His bedtime stories gave her nightmares, and now Susie had moved out and he had remarried.  But he had another daughter, Amie, who was five.

And that’d made Susie’s nightmares start again.


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