All for one (300-word story for Shortlist magazine’s 300th issue competition)

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“Every one of us is guilty,” the man with the glasses says. “Everyone in this room. Everyone except you.”

I feel the door close behind me. The lock engages.

Eyes curb-crawl up my body. One big Lump flexes his pecks in my direction. Suddenly all I can smell is stale smoke. I need a cigarette as much as I need to stop smoking.

“He deserved it though. We all know what he did. What he was. Who was going to be next? Your kid?”

The man with the glasses points accusingly at me. I don’t have any children.

“He came here of his own free will. He came here looking for Mikey. Only Mikey didn’t exist did he?”

I look around again and see doctors and school-teachers and mechanics. I see a priest. They hold my gaze. They hold it with pride. Lump takes his hands out of his pockets and crosses his arms.

“Are you going to arrest us? Because you’ll have to arrest all of us.”

On the floor I see screwdrivers and corkscrews and potato-peelers. The tips glisten black in the fading light.

Still, I’m silent. Still, I’m trying to put the pieces together. Still, the body lies, accusingly spread-eagle. I don’t even know his name. I doubt anyone does. Not his real name anyway.

“So? What happens next?” The man with the glasses’ voice echoes.

I reach for my sock. I unsheathe the butterfly knife my Dad gave me when I was 14. I step forward through the crowd to stare at the body one more time.

Someone coughs. I hear Lump shuffle again.

I plunge my knife into the prone body’s heart. I feel cool blood limply pulse out over my knuckles. I crane my neck around, holding the knife in place.

“Now we’re all guilty.”

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