killing orpheus

joshua chamberlain
9 min readMay 16, 2019


He tells me to smile, but I don’t. I’m too busy trying to figure out how to kill him.

“Tell me a story,” I say as I lean against the headboard and light a cigarette. He stands, buttoning his shirt. The sheets are still warm and we’re both breathing heavy.

“Not tonight.” He doesn’t even turn around. I consider asking again, but I’m not in the mood to play mind games with him. “Fine,” is all I say as he stares in the mirror and struggles with his tie.

“Are we still on for tomorrow night?” he asks, again without looking at me.

“Sure.” I’m not interested.

“Alright, then. I’m outta here. I’ll see you tomorrow, babe.” He comes over and kisses me on the cheek. “I love you.”

I don’t move. “I know.”

He smiles and leaves. I don’t care.

- — -

He calls me early the next morning. Too early.

“Hey, babe,” he says. The smirk on his face jumps through the phone. “You get my surprise?”

I tell him no as I go downstairs and notice an envelope that’s been slipped through mail slot on the front door. I open it and find passes to Friday night’s awards dinner. A dinner that’s in his honor. I fake excitement and he seems pleased. I hang up the phone and try to go back to bed, but I can’t make myself sleep. I’m too distracted, too annoyed, too sick of him.

- — -

Dinner. I sit across from him and pick at my food as he tells me how much progress he’s made today, how much he enjoys what he’s writing. Something something postmodernism, something something identity. My steak is undercooked. My wine glass is almost empty. He keeps talking and I pretend to listen.

“What do you think?” he asks once he’s finished. I can tell he’s insecure.

“It’s really good.”

“No, it’s not…” He looks at the floor. He’s fishing for compliments.

“No, really. I like it. It’s great.”

“You’re just saying that. You don’t understand. You’re not a writer.”

He throws my praise back in my face and takes a sip of his drink. I stare at him for a moment, but he doesn’t meet my gaze. He’s too focused on being a misunderstood.

- — -

He insists on coming back to my place later that night, despite the lack of invitation. We sit on the couch and he puts on a movie, some blockbuster without a plot. I sit in silence as he reclines on the leather couch and asks for a drink. I’m too tired to protest, so I fetch a glass and fill it with Scotch. He takes the glass and drinks.

I sit on the opposite end of couch, as far away as the intimacy will allow. The opening credits haven’t even ended before his hand is running up my leg. I don’t move, but he keeps going. He’s determined. His fingers finally make their way to the ends of my dress. I scoot forward, ready to get this over with. He pulls me close and begins kissing me. The Scotch is heavy on his breath.

He pushes me down on the couch and lifts my dress. He digs his way into me and I tremble. Not from excitement or from pleasure. Simply because I can’t stand what’s happening. He takes what he wants. I fake it, just so it will end quickly.

When it’s over, he sits up and dives back in to what’s happening on the television. I sit and stare at the floor.

Neither of us says a word.

- — -

Friday night comes and he picks me up for the awards dinner. It’s being hosted at the nicest hotel in town, but I don’t care. I don’t want to go. At this point, I have no idea why I’m still pretending. I guess just for the chance to finish him.

We drive to the hotel in silence.

“Please, please, please, let me get what I want this time…” the band on the radio sings. I look at him. He stares straight ahead and smiles. I look back at the road lit in front of us and see where we’re headed.

It’s in that moment that I decide how to end it.

- — -

We’re ushered into the main ballroom. The crowd is massive. Men in tuxedos and women in evening dresses. Tables draped in crimson tablecloths are scattered around the room.

He shakes a few hands and has fake conversations with people. He doesn’t introduce me to anyone, leaving me stuck to his shoulder, the accessory he fails to acknowledge. We take a seat at a table near the front. The waiter brings us drinks from the bar and I have to fight the urge to drown myself in the vodka tonic in front of me.

He sits and laughs with the people seated around us. No one notices me.

The food is brought out and his voice echoes through the room. He laughs the loudest at his own jokes, but everyone around us buys in. They love him, but it’s because they can’t see through him. I can.

I eat and drink while wondering what I ever saw in him.

People finish dinner and more drinks are served. A woman finally leaves the table beside ours and stands at the podium.

“I think we all know why we’re here tonight,” she starts.

There’s a smile on her face as she reads off his accomplishments. Valedictorian at some Ivy League school, Masters in English composition from some other Ivy League school, numerous books and short stories, and so on. Meaningless conversation filler I’ve heard time and time again. He’s floating in his seat next to me, his face washed with pride and excitement.

The woman at the podium finally gets to the point. “It is my pleasure to present this year’s National Book Award to…”

He stands before she’s even finished saying his name. The people around me stand as the applause thunder through the room. I finish my vodka tonic. He rushes to the podium and pulls his speech from his pocket. I don’t know how long I can handle this.

“Thank you,” he starts. “It’s an honor…”

I stand and go to the bar at the back of the room. He doesn’t notice. He’s too wrapped up in the moment. I order another vodka tonic and turn to watch.

“But most of all, I want to thank my muse, the woman whose inspiration allows me to do what I do…” He gestures to me, and people begin to applaud. I piece together a smile and wave. His face is glowing as the applause die down and he starts spitting out bullshit about writing and how important it is. I drink and hum that song from the radio to myself.

Please, please, please, let me get what I want this time…

- — -​

He wants to go back to his place, but he’s to drunk to drive and I pretend I can’t drive stick. We leave the car with the valet and take a cab. We reach his front door and he’s drunk enough to have difficulty making it up the front stairs. I check his pockets for his keys and he attempts to pin me and kiss me. It’s only after we’ve made it inside and I’ve turned on the hall lights that he succeeds. His breath is a wash of Scotch. Again. I push him away. He stares at me for a moment before saying anything.

“C’mon, babe. This is a big night for me. I deserve it.” He sounds different now that he’s won an award for his words. He’s even more condescending and pretentious, like every syllable that passes his tongue is worth carving in a stone tablet. I want to smack him, both for his words and actions, but it’s not part of the plan.

“Whatever you say, hon.” I smile and lean to kiss him slowly. He’s softer now, less aggressive, but he still tastes rancid. I kiss him only as long as I know I need to, and then pull away. He opens his eyes and I know he wants more. “Tell you what. Give a me a few minutes, then come upstairs.” His face lights up and I know he’s hooked.

“Alright, babe.” He kisses my hand and I have to force myself not to pull away. Instead, I breathe deeply and he fights back the urge to pin me against the wall once more. I drop my arm and pick up my handbag as he tries to kiss my neck from behind. I turn and tell him he has to wait. I can feel his eyes and his desire burn holes in my back as I climb the stairs. I know I don’t have much time, so I hurry.

I go to the bedroom first, where I take off my dress. I like it too much to have it caught in this mess. The lingerie I’m wearing is his favorite, another weapon at my disposal. He’s already made it clear that he wants me, but it doesn’t hurt to have the extra ammunition.

I open my handbag and pull out a razor. It’s small. I reach behind me and place it behind the clasp of my bra with precision. He’s never been able to unclasp my bra before, so I know he’s not going to happen upon it by accident. The metal is cold against my skin. I stand and hurry to the bathroom, careful not to hurt myself as I move. I turn on the faucets to the massive bathtub. Hot water cascades from the faucets and I take my place on the marble ledge surrounding the tub. It’s about this time that I hear him coming up the stairs.

He checks the bedroom before noticing the light in the bathroom. I smile at him as he enters, a grin spreading across his face.

“Aw, baby…” He crosses the bathroom and I stand to meet him. He kisses me and I kiss back. His breath is toxic, but I fake romance once more. His hands trickle down my back and I reach to unbutton his shirt. He sheds his clothes and we keep kissing and tearing at each other’s skin. He’s turned on, but I’m stone cold. I’m too focused, too anxious.

When he’s naked, I coax him into the bathtub. He happily agrees as he climbs in and sinks into the hot water and lets out a sigh. I pull off my heels and stockings, followed by my panties. He smiles as I climb in and straddle him, I lean forward to kiss him and his hands are dancing on my hips. We stay like this for a few minutes, letting the steam from the water ignite us.

He pulls away. “C’mon babe….” I nod and reach behind me to unclasp my bra. He leans back places his hands behind his head in that sick way he does, like he’s here to watch and not to participate.

That’s when I do it.

I pull the paper-thin razor from its place beneath my bra and slide it along each of his wrists before he knows what’s happening. A red line blossoms on his arms and he bleeds. He doesn’t know what to make of it. He looks surprised. The water in the tub starts to turn red. I don’t move.


I don’t answer. I don’t even bother to meet his gaze.

He tries grabs his arms at first, trying to hold the blood inside, but it’s spilling out of him and clouding the water. I drop the razor and climb out of the tub and turn around. He starts to get weaker as he wastes the few minutes he has left attempting to keep the blood from falling out of his open veins. He turns and looks at me, but I’m watching the clouds of blood in the water. He eventually lays his head back and closes his eyes.

I wrap a towel around me and walk back down to the bedroom where I left my clothes. I dress, walk downstairs and leave, that whistling that song from the radio.

Please, please, please, let me get what I want this time.

I’m not worried. They’ll just say he was another writer who couldn’t handle the pressure, couldn’t handle the muse. They’ll say he did it to himself. And I’ll move on to the next one.



joshua chamberlain

joshua chamberlain is a writer and artist based in los angeles.