All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller, Horror

Dan by Ahron Ballati

I don’t want to say I knew that Dan was going to try and kill me, but I had a feeling. Not an “Oh my God, this person is a killer” type feeling. Just a gut feeling he might try something, you know? Like some part of me, deep down, never questioned it, and wasn’t bothered by it either. Maybe it was my spirit, or soul or something, I don’t know.

We hadn’t left off on good terms. High School was a few years back at this point, but it wasn’t like we even got along then. Sure, we were friends when we were kids, but high school hit, and the guy was just a fucking psycho all the time. He threw a full pop can at my head for something I can’t even remember. Then we were enemies for a while. Then he just straight up disappeared. Magically reappeared for graduation. I bumped into him every so often. I hadn’t been friendly with Dan in a long time. It made his attempts to be friendly with me pretty strange. He was always inviting me to go camping over Facebook or come drink at his place with him.

“Dan, I don’t drink.”

“Haha, sorry, I always somehow forget that.”

Sure you do.

I don’t know why I accepted his invitation to come to dinner. Like I said, I knew something was up. Maybe I was too polite to say no. I think I had a hunch, though. I was a real dick to him in the past.  I think some part of me, subconsciously or something, wanted to give him the chance to kill me. I think some part of me thought I owed him the chance to take my life. Fuck, why not, you know? Do you really want to live forever?

So, I said yes, and figured I just play it by ear. I mean, isn’t that the reason you catch up with old friends? To see if they fucking murder you? Long time no see, I’ve gotten really into chopping off heads and using them as lampshades. Hhmm, what’s that? Oh yeah! Yeah, the wife is really good too.

All day, he kept pushing me to drink. He texted me “Hey buddy, what kind of beer should I get for tonight.

“Haha Dan, dude, I don’t drink! How do you always forget this man?”

“Fuck, no clue man. You sure though?”

Just shit like that. I think it would have pissed me off if I didn’t already have a feeling about what was going on. I could see someone else snapping over it, but me…I guess I just already knew. It was kind of like hearing about the passing of a super elderly relative. Yeah, kind of upsetting, but what else did you expect, you know?

Anyway, day of. I get off work, it’s around 8:30. It’s summer so the sun’s still up but not for too much longer. We live on the west coast so the forest fires around this time of year block out the sun a little bit, gives it this dark red filter as it sets. Some people find it beautiful, I personally find it menacing. But when I walked outside to that pissed off fireball, it just felt right. It fit the setting. A prophetic message. Abandon all hope all ye who enter here. Tonight, an encounter with death. The mugginess on my face as I lit a cigarette was perfect. It was a shitty day, let’s end it with a shitty night.

Dan lived around the corner from me, realistically less than two minutes away. I stopped by my place before I went over just to clean myself up a bit. Jeans, black long sleeve shirt that read

“2004 Western Canadian Weightlifting Championship.” I looked in the mirror before I left. I wanted to see if I looked tough. I’m not sure why it mattered. Maybe I would scare him a little? Throw him off a bit. Shaved head, patchy beard. Come and get me, fucker.

Would I fuck with me?

Probably. I lack any real sense of self preservation.

I get in the Camry, drive for a couple minutes to Dan’s apartment, he’s waiting in the lobby for me. He opens the door with a big “Hey, buddy!” Gets up in my personal space and squeezes the shit out of me with the tightest hug. Then he seems embarrassed, like I would think he wasn’t cool for being happy to see me. I give him my best smile. “Good to see you, friend.” He looks good. Nearly a foot on me, honestly. And like 50 pounds less. Short blonde hair, blue eyes. Dutch, I think. Maybe Belgian? Whatever the one with the clogs is.

We walk into the elevator. He says to me “I’m really sorry about all that shit years ago, dude. I was a really messed up guy back then.” I can’t help but laugh. I like it. He’s so on the nose. He doesn’t try to pretend nothing happened, or ease into it. He just nosedives into the awkward.

“No worries, friend. It’s been forever since then.”

We walk through the door of his apartment, and I’m a little surprised by it, honestly. It’s so charming. He’s got records on the walls. Led zeppelin 1, Black Sabbath’s “Master Of Reality,” Metallica’s “Kill em all,” all kinds of cool shit. Band posters too, Jimi Hendrix watched over his kitchen table. Super clean, cleaner than my apartment. He’s got a bar on the wall, well stocked, for a young man. Probably nothing compared to those real bona-fide winos though.

“You want a dri- Oh! Check this out!” Dan walked over to his T.V. “This is my set up dude.” It was something. His T.V. stand must’ve held hundreds of movies, and the big speakers kicked ass. He had a Playstation 2 under the T.V. I chuckled looking at it.

“Old school, I dig it.”

“Hey, this- Dude. This is choice, okay? You know how much I make? I make 25 bucks an hour. I can get a new console if I wanted to. I like the Playstation 2.”

He walked back over to the bar. “Want a drink?”

I gave him a polite laugh. “Dan, how many times I got to tell you? I don’t drink.”

He threw his hands in the air. “Fuck! I’m so sorry! Look I- Look. I have ADD. I been medicated for a while, but I don’t take my pills on weekends. Makes me a bit scatterbrained.”

“All good, buddy.” I looked out on the balcony and saw an ashtray. “Mind if I smoke?”

“Oh yes! I mean- like no, I don’t mind!”

We sat outside. I liked him, I think. He was twitchy. He had this habit of starting other sentences before he was finished. It made him kind of adorable, like this big enthusiastic child. The small talk is almost non-existent. He jumps into talking about high school. “I’m sorry.” He says. “It was a fucked up time for me.”

He tells me all about it all. His fucked up parents trying to get him into a group home. Him lashing out and attacking their front door with an axe. Couch surfing, juvie, meeting Haley. “She’s my rock man. I love her so much.” Once he found out he had ADD, he straightened himself out. Got medicated and moved in with his girl. “I can’t express how sorry I am about everything.” He won’t stop apologizing.

“Honestly, I should be apologizing to you. I was a real dick to you when I was a kid.” I mean it too. Daniel was a handful, but I knew better than to treat him that way. His parents were fucks. I hated his step dad. His mom had to try and convince everyone about how fucked up the kid was. Daniel didn’t do himself any favors with the lashing out, but he didn’t know much better.

When I apologize to him, he looks down. Nods and smiles back up at me. “I have a pretty good memory Dan. I know I should’ve been better to you.”

He cooks us steaks on the BBQ on the balcony. Really nice cuts, I think. He’s wasting them on me, honestly. I have no real taste for finer things. But I’m not doing to turn down a good meal. We talked about Haley, mostly. The girl he loved. Straightened him out completely. Had him wrapped around her little finger. It was sweet. It was good to see the kid so happy.

We started to watch some old action movie, something we did as kids. I remember we used to watch Pulp Fiction on repeat. I think I probably still have most the words memorized. Half way through, he says to me “Want to see my knives?”

“Fuck yeah I do.”

“Awesome. I never get to show anyone these!”

He rushes to his bedroom and comes back with an arm full of knives. He’s got a thing for horror movies, he always has. He’s got replicas of cleavers and stilettos. It’s honestly impressive. I used to love knives.

“Never mind these though, check this out.” He hands this knife, and my God, it might actually be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s got this jet-black handle, smoothest thing I’ve ever touched. Razor sharp blade. The weight feels so good in my hand.

“Buck 120 General. Same knife used by Ghostface in the scream movies.”

“Dan, this is a gorgeous knife.”

“Isn’t it?”

I show my bewilderment. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s just got this kick-ass to it, I can’t explain it.

“You want it?”

I spin the knife in my hand, so the handle points at Dan.
“I can’t take this.”

“Sure you can. I have another one with a wood finish. That one’s all yours.”

Who am I to turn down a good knife?

His girl’s coming home at midnight, so I have to get going. We’re making small talk as I’m putting on my shoes. “You need me to walk you out?”

“I think I know the way.”

We sort of just look at each other. Maybe mutual pride in the face of everything else. It’s been so long, and we’re both so fucked up, but here we are. And it’s nice. Maybe it’s something spiritual that you can only have with people you grow up with. I’m not sure. But it’s there.

So, when I step into him, and drive that blade right through his fucking head, I’m not happy about it. But what could I do? I knew he was going to kill me. Well, maybe didn’t know. But I had a feeling.

I wash the knife off in the sink. I’ve got ten minutes till his girl’s home. I deactivate his Facebook account over his phone. No connection to me. I glance at him on the ground, blood and flesh and lifelessness. I don’t really feel anything, maybe some disappointment. You really didn’t think this was coming at all? Isn’t this the reason you catch up with old friends?


Ahron Balatti

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4 thoughts on “Dan by Ahron Ballati”

  1. Oh wow, was not expecting that ending. I mean the whole beginning set it up well enough for it to make sense but I felt that he was bonding. I guess it was manipulation on his part. One of the hallmarks of being a sociopath.

    Great story man!


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