Red by Melissa Thayer

The gun was clean. Loaded. Double-checked. His knife, the one he had carried always, she held a moment before strapping it to her belt. There were five who must die today. Outside her blinded window, dawn was about to break over the minarets. The muezzin sing-songed beckonings to adhan.

The men who took him last night hadn’t seen her. His body would not get cold before she enacted her revenge. The first was Gadi. He was a whore-lover. The second was Azzam, he had a scar across his face from his penchant for bar fights. Zero was famously addicted to opium. Marid sold carpets at the bazaar. Jibril was a gambler. Despite the call the adhan, she knew the hypocrites wouldn’t be among the crowds.

She holstered the gun, wrapped her face in a red scarf, and took to the dark streets. They had no idea who they had awakened. First stop, Madame Khalidah’s. She slipped in past the incensed parlor, whispering her question to the madame on the whereabouts of Gadi. The carpeted stairs hushed her steps, down the hall, third door on the left. She eased the door open. He was sleeping naked on the couch with a sweaty whore. He awoke to the pressure of the barrel against his temple.

She would never feel her lover’s lips again.

Bang.

Before anyone knew what had happened, she had disappeared out the window, scaling the wall of the low building. She moved like a cat through the maze of streets and alleys to a bar. She didn’t know if it was the right bar, she was moving on pure intuition. She cocked the gun. She stepped through the arched doorway. Her instincts served her well. Azzam and Jibril sat in a corner, sharing the hookah and drinking. She glided along the wall to the dark corner. She caught them both in her green-eyed gaze.

The beautiful words he whispered to her at night would fade.

Bang.

The eagerness in his eyes, holding a sense of adventure and mischief was gone.

Bang.

The two men slumped over the table. As fast as she had moved in, she left. She adjusted her scarf. The air was already starting to get warm. The light was breaking. Oranges were skidding across the sky. An opium den lay two alleys over. She crept past awakening merchants and feral cats twirling themselves around posts. The opium den was dark, smokey, and filled with the remnants of last night’s orgy. Zero’s face was still imprinted fresh in her mind. There he was. Eyes glazed over, red with bags under them. He looked dazed as he stared at the barrel between his eyes.

Honest moments without walls were stolen and she was caged and alone again. The movements of her lover’s eyes and the occasional dimple from his smile were still.

Bang.

The den dwellers were too drugged to care that a corpse now slumped in their midst. The merchants in the bazaar began opening their tents. Marid’s carpet shop was still dark, but his figure was shadowed against the breaking day. Plush carpets were being hung out on display. She walked up to the one he was standing behind as he hung it to the rope above. From behind her red scarf, she looked at him. His eyes were black. He had been the one who had slit his throat. He didn’t have time to move before she did.

The children they would never have.

Slice.

His body dropped and she disappeared as the sunlight fell across the city. She returned to her lover, his body still slightly warm. She removed her scarf, resting the silk across his throat and face, and lay down beside him.

*Sin City native Melissa Thayer was born at a young age on a Sunday during a volcanic eruption and has been causing problems ever since. Since that eventful time, she has lived on both coasts and a little in between. She writes fiction that touches upon the timeless truths of the human condition in poignant and thought-provoking ways (at least that’s what someone either very nice or very well-paid said), and when not writing can be found generally poking fun at existence. She enjoys writing about people and connecting readers with her characters. She currently lives in Washington with her husband, daughter, and three cats. Having been accused of appearing too serious and serially chided to smile more, she would like to leave this disclaimer: “I don’t hate you, it’s just my resting face.” Her debut novel The Stories We Don’t Tell was published in 2014 through Booktrope and is available through the usual major retailers.

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