It felt like his body was falling apart.
Meng Fu slowly raised his head to the dark sky overhead. The dark clouds spread out, vaguely revealing the moon with its faint halo.
Dark skies like these were a bad omen.
Meng Fu dragged his heavy steps to the door. “Xiao Yi, I’m back.”
Looking up, his hands stalled for a moment. Gu Ze was sitting on the sofa, looking at him with a blank expression. Meng Fu changed into his slippers and hung his jacket over the chair, voice indifferent. “Please wait for a moment, I have to cook some noodles for my brother.”
“Meng-Meng, you’re back!” When the commercials began to play on TV, Meng Yi finally came back to his senses. There was a childlike innocence in his eyes.
“You can keep watching TV. Xiao Yi, I’ll make you a bowl of noodles.”
Meng Yi shook his head. “I’m not hungry. This big brother bought me something to eat.” Meng Yi pointed a finger at Gu Ze sitting beside him and said, “Big Brother, I saw you coming to see Meng-Meng a few times but I still don’t know Big Brother’s name yet.”
“Leave that aside, Xiao Yi.” Meng Fu stopped him. “It’s bedtime, go back to your room.”
“But I’m not done watching TV yet.” Meng Yi said, sounding a little aggrieved. “Look, Meng-Meng, the commercial is over,” Meng Yi said, excited as he pointed at the program playing on the TV.
Gu Ze stared silently at Meng Fu, eyes almost looking as if he wanted to kill this man before him with a thousand cuts. With a deep voice, he said, “Go shower.”
His heart thumped.
It felt like his words could cut through his skin, causing unbearable pain yet only relieving him from this existence of suffering at the thousandth cut.
“Xiao Yi, go back to your room. I’ll bring a yummy cake back for you tomorrow.” Meng Fu tried to compromise with Meng Yi.
“Okay.” For cake, Meng Yi went back to his room reluctantly. But as if he thought of something, he turned around again when he reached the door. “What did Big Brother bring just now? It was so yummy, I want Meng-Meng to buy it for me in the future too.”
“It’s chocolate. My wife’s favorite.”
“Oh! Meng-Meng, can you buy that for me next time too?”
Of all things, it had to be his wife’s favorite. Every step, every detail, and every moment, this man was constantly reminding him that he killed his wife, that he deserved to feel guilty, deserved to be tortured, and deserved to be in pain.
“Alright, I’ll buy it for you next time,” he answered.
It wasn’t until he was sure that Meng Yi was in his room and had turned off the lights did he head into the shower.
He was tired after a long day and he still had to deal with this guy during the night. Such endless days even made him feel nostalgic about prison life. He didn’t have freedom then, but at least it didn’t bear down on him like now.
“Meng Fu, how long are you going to be in there?” A knock came at the door before Gu Ze’s deep voice trailed in.
Fearing that the man would suddenly open the door and see him in this state, he answered, “I’ll be right out.”
Meng Fu put on a bathrobe and opened the door. Dim light illuminated Gu Ze’s cold profile. The man was resting on the side of his bed, playing a mobile game. There wasn’t the slightest hint of lust present in his appearance.
If he didn’t like men, then why would he torment him like this?
Well, of course. Perhaps this was the only way to dissolve the hatred in his heart, even if just a little.
After all, it was his fault for hitting his wife with his car, and it was his fault for causing Gu Ze to lose both his wife and his unborn child at the same time. He deserved to be tormented.
Standing dumbly at the door, he glanced at the unmoving Gu Ze before quickly darting his eyes away. Lowering his head, he awaited Gu Ze’s instructions.
Like a lamb waiting for slaughter, he was left to this man’s disposal.
“Strip. Not like you’re wearing anything under that anyway.” Gu Ze was still playing those little time-wasters on his phone and didn’t even raise his head, but there was nothing but mockery in his voice. “Or what, do you need me to do that for you as well?”
With his head down, he removed his bathrobe without hesitation and stood barefoot on the ground. He had no idea what to do next. His skin was exposed to the air, but the man on the bed wasn’t done with his games yet, and neither did he give any further instructions.
He couldn’t just tell him to put down his phone and get this over with, because he still bore the slightest bit of hope in his heart that this man might lose the mood to torment him if he played just a bit longer on his phone. He was too tired—he just wanted to rest.
He stayed up too late studying last night and there were more customers than usual in the restaurant today. He spent the whole day carrying plates and refilling glasses without even getting any time to rest. Overtime work went on until ten at night before he was able to head home, just to be greeted by this visitor who came every once in a while.
Sleepiness was eating away at him. He just wanted to lie down on that bed and sleep, not think about anything, and not do anything. Even while standing there wearing nothing, he just wanted to shut his eyes and rest for a moment, but he was afraid that the man would suddenly call out to him.
That man was finally done with his game. Dragging his heavy feet over, he got on his knees in bed; an extremely embarrassing position to be in, but he was too sleepy to feel embarrassed.
With his face buried in the pillow, he figured he would have at least a few seconds to shut his eyes and rest. Thank god he had those few seconds.
But it was simply too short.
Meng Fu lay limp on the bed, never making a single sound throughout the ordeal.
It’s over. Great.
As the pain subsided, sleepiness swept over him. Shutting his eyes, he completely forgot about the man who was currently putting his pants back on by the bed.
His mind was dizzy, but someone suddenly pushed him over, then there was pain under his jaw. Meng Fu opened his eyes in a daze only to find Gu Ze looking at him with incomparable hatred in his eyes, hands locked around his throat like an iron vice.
“How can you still sleep?!” Gu Ze barked with sharp rebuttal, words laced with spikes. “I thought you’d be so ashamed you could die, but I underestimated how shameless you are. How can you still live so peacefully after murdering someone? How can you still sleep after getting raped by a man? Who are you trying to fool with that meek look of yours?”
“I…I’m sorry.” He endured the pain, guilt eating away at him inside.
“If you’re sorry then why don’t you kill yourself? Write a suicide note too so the police don’t misunderstand. Make sure you write about how guilty you are about Manyu and my son as well.”
“Just kill yourself.”
This was the one line he heard the most from Gu Ze these past seven years. When he visited him in prison, when he was released, the very first time he raped him…he repeated that to him over and over again.
He still had an underage and handicapped little brother to take care of. He couldn’t kill himself.
If he couldn’t, then he just had to endure it.
“I don’t want to die.”
“Right, of course you don’t.” Gu Ze increased the force of his grip. “How can a scum of the earth like you want to die? You’re still holding on even though your life is shittier than a dog’s.”
All his sleepiness was gone.
He was silent. Gu Ze wouldn’t actually strangle him to death. Nobody would actually want to go to prison. In fact, he could have sued Gu Ze for rape so that he could go hang out in a damning place like prison too. But he didn’t, because he wronged him.
Seconds went by quietly.
Tick tock, tick tock.
The hand around his neck loosened, then the door let out a loud bang.
Meng Fu laid in bed, no longer feeling sleepy. A long while passed before he stood up and rubbed his waist. Then, he slowly headed into the bathroom.
Water flowed down in a splash, washing away the white traces Gu Ze had left behind.
There was no meaning to staying alive.
If he could have any other choice…
Time flowed quietly, the long torture blurring the pain in his body, numbing the pain in his heart. All the marks on his body were washed away in the shower.
Then, an idea sprouted. Death could be easy too.
Putting his bathrobe back on, he picked up his phone hesitantly and dialed Gu Ze’s number. “If I kill myself, will you take care of my brother?”
“And why should I take care of the brother of my enemy? Are you trying to strike a deal with me? Is your life really that fucked that you can’t even find a single relative to take care of him?” When he heard the anxiety from the voice on the other end, Gu Ze did not forget to add, “You should have killed yourself earlier if your life was so pathetic.”
The coldness of his words seeped right down into the marrow of his bones.
“Mr. Gu, I no longer have any relatives that will take in Xiao Yi. Who would be willing to take in the brother of a murderer?” He laughed self-deprecatingly and said, “My brother’s actually a very pure and kind child. I can give you the money to take care of him, it’s enough as long as you can guarantee he grows up safe and sound. But I’ll have to sign a contract with you and have it notarized by a firm. I wouldn’t want Xiao Yi to be out on the streets once I die. If you can agree to that, I’ll kill myself.”
His hands were shaking and so were his lips, but it was an involuntary reaction.
He was making a vow to end his own life and he didn’t even know if he could bring himself to do it.
“Fine.” A simple sullen response. But the next words that came from Gu Ze’s mouth were practically forced out between gritted teeth. “Don’t disappoint me, Meng Fu.”
As he held the knife and placed it over his wrist, he found himself to be surprisingly calm, as if he was merely doing something trivial.
He ran the tip of the knife back and forth across his wrist, but he couldn’t find an artery even after searching for a while. Whatever, as long as he cut deep enough, anyone would die if their blood ran dry.
The water ran continuously in the bathtub and gradually overflowed, filling the small bathroom with a large expanse of red, and then the stench of death.
Meng Fu could feel his consciousness start to blur.
The world of the living collapsed before him, and the world of the dead welcomed him.