It was safe to say Opal was having a bad day. She'd had raging migraines on and off for about a week and all she wanted to do was sleep. But she couldn't sleep when there was housework to do: scrubbing and cleaning and cooking, laundry, dusting, bleaching, and probably a dozen other things she'd forgotten.
For a man who didn't even know how to switch on the vacuum cleaner, Uncle Ron certainly had high standards when it came to the state of his apartment, and for a woman who certainly knew how to switch on the vacuum cleaner, Aunt Sue did so with alarming irregularity. And so it all fell to Opal who, as her Aunt and Uncle regularly pointed out, owed them anyway. She had, after all, ruined their lives by being born to drug-addicted parents and consequentially being dumped on Ron and Sue by CPS. Or something like that.
So Opal cooked and cleaned and worked evenings and weekends at the grocery store around the corner. Opal's store discount was the only reason her Aunt and Uncle hadn't thrown her out the day she turned eighteen. Being informed of that fact had been the closest thing Opal had gotten to birthday wishes this year.
Opal sighed. She was going to need more bleach if she wanted to fully remove the blood stains from the hideous, textured wallpaper. The rug was a lost cause, she'd decided.
She shook out her aching arm, wondering if scrubber's elbow was a thing, and went to see if there was another bottle of the good stuff under the kitchen sink.
Sometimes she thought she should change her name to Cinder-fucking-ella. Not that she got much in the way of fucking these days. Maybe she'd have more free time now? She could start dating. Bring guys back to this crappy apartment and tell them not to mind the blood stains.
She chuckled to herself at the though as she grabbed the spare bottle of bleach, stepping over the body of her aunt, lying prone on the kitchen floor. She thanked God her aunt had forced Uncle Ron to use his most recent tax return to replace the peeling linoleum with honest-to-God tiles. It would make the clean-up much easier.
These walls though… maybe she could peel the wallpaper off? She could give the whole apartment a fresh coat of paint, really spruce the place up. Opal sat herself on the sofa, abandoning her scrubbing for now. If she stretched out her legs, she could rest them on her uncle's rather generous stomach. He looked quite ridiculous, stretched out, pale and twisted, on the red-soaked rug.
Opal contemplated one of the few patches of rug still retaining its original colour. She remembered lying on it to do her homework as a child; driving toy cars over the thread-bare humps and bumps; picking and pulling at threads, getting a good lecture and a sharp slap for her trouble. She'd always hated that fucking rug.
Oh well, out with the old, in with the new. She should try to be positive.
Look at the silver lining attached to the corpses of her only remaining family.
She rubbed her eyes, noticing that her hands came away speckled with flecks of red. Oh. Had she not washed her face since? She looked down at herself and was startled to realize that her entire shirt was stained red, crusting where the blood had dried. Her bare legs, clad only in her ratty sleeping shorts were also speckled copiously with red. She looked like she'd showered in hell.
Opal went to step over her uncle, planning to take a shower before getting back to cleaning, but stopped as her foot sunk into the blood-saturated rug. She felt it squelch beneath her toes, as rivulets of liquid spread onto the wooden floors.
Opal sat back down on the sofa, deciding that she didn't really need to shower right now anyway. Besides, there was rarely any hot water. She watched as the blood formed living veins on the scuffed floor and absently hoped that it wouldn't drip through the floorboards to the apartment below. Poor Mrs. Emory had just put in new cream carpets and Opal would feel terrible if they got stained.
Opal felt the booming in her head return as she stared blankly at the floor. Heaving an empty sigh, she reached over to flick off the switch on the lamp sat next to the sofa, plunging the room into darkness, despite the opened curtains. She hadn't realized it was so late. Opal curled up, hugging her knees to herself and buried her face deeply into the cushions of the sofa. She inhaled deeply, until the musty smell of the sofa began to overwhelm the heady scent of bleach and copper, drifting into an uneasy sleep.
Opal woke to a sharp rapping on the apartment door. "Mr. Raskino? Mr. Raskino!"
A weak, early light was filtering through the open window and Opal blinked at it owlishly.
It was the landlord, she realized. They didn't usually have problems with him, as Uncle Ron always paid the rent on time and the family was generally quiet and respectful. Opal wondered what was wrong, slowly unfolding herself from the sofa, cracking her aching body, and cautiously approaching the door.
"What's wrong Mr. Gargiullo?" She asked through the locked door.
"Opal, is your uncle in? Open the door," he demanded. Opal complied, slowly proceeding through the five locks her aunt had insisted Uncle Ron install last year, after the Wozniaks down the hall had been burgled.
She slowly opened the door, peering curiously at the agitated Mr. Gargiullo, clad in his striped pajamas. He flinched back at the sight of her.
Oh. Yes. She hadn't showered. Also, she'd murdered her entire family.
Opal distantly considered that opening the door probably hadn't been a good idea, but couldn't bring herself to feel actual dismay. She couldn't feel much of anything to be honest.
"Opal? Are you hurt? What happened? Where are your aunt and uncle?" Mr. Gargiullo gabbled, his normally deep voice unusually high. He grabbed her by the shoulders, peering up and down, as though trying to find the source of her bleeding.
Opal was surprised the neighbours hadn't woken yet and suddenly felt guilty. The Almasis had three-month old twins; the poor couple were in a constant state of near-exhaustion. She didn't want to deny them what little sleep they were able to get.
"Come inside, Mr. Gargiullo," she ushered him in, quickly pulling the door shut behind him. The poor man, bewildered and obviously still half in the sleep he'd been dragged from, followed her wordlessly.
"Opal. You are hurt. I must call an ambulance." Opal noted that his Italian accent became particularly strong when he was distressed. It was quite charming.
"Opal. Do you hear me? Where is your phone?"
He stepped around her, suddenly stopping, letting out a noise somewhere between a whine and bark as his eyes fell on the pale body of her uncle. He seemed to waver for a moment, almost as if he would fall over. Opal gently took his arm and guided him to Uncle Ron's arm chair. Mr. Gargiullo sank into it wordlessly.
"Opal?" He sounded like a different man. "Opal, was there a break-in? Where is your aunt? You're hurt. I must call an ambulance." He moved to get up, but stopped as his body convulsed, emptying last night's dinners onto his quilted slippers.
"There, there, Mr. Gargiullo," Opal comforted, patting him on the arm. "Get it all out." She tried not to be annoyed as the vomit was added to her cleaning list. Some people just had weak stomachs, she told herself.
"Would you like a glass of water Mr. Gargiullo?" She asked, trying to be helpful.
Her fingers ran absently over the soapstone statuette sat on the side table next to the armchair. Uncle Ron had bought it back from a trip to Canada years ago; it was a beautiful grey colour, carved into the shape of a magnificent, proud bear. Opal had always loved the smooth feel of it, sneaking touches whenever Aunt Sue wasn't home to slap her hands away.
It was chipped now, half the head caved in and an entire leg missing; the grey had been stained a deep red.
"Opal…" Mr. Gargiullo looked up at her, his voice raw and scratchy. She stared into his eyes. They were a nice hazel, she mused.
"Opal, what have you done?"
Crazy. God. Why. Blood. Why?
He spoke without moving his mouth, as people sometimes did when they looked at Opal. The words rang in her head uncomfortably, like the vibrations of a bell.
Opal lifted the bear off the table, feeling the smooth weight in her hand. "Say hello to Mrs. Gargiullo for me, won't you?"
She smashed the bear into the back of his head, feeling more than hearing the brutal crack of his skull. She hit him a few times more for good measure, though it wasn't really necessary. She'd had always had a strong arm. All that scrubbing.
Mr. Gargiullo's lifeless body slumped in the arm chair, blood seeping into the upholstery, dying the yellow chintz a rather beautiful wine-red.
The smell in the apartment was almost overwhelming at this point and Opal's headache had returned at full-force, the rattling feeling in her brain setting her teeth on edge. A little fresh air would help, she decided, making sure to avoid the soaked rug as she stepped past her uncle to open the window.
She gulped in the fresh air, admiring the red-ish sunrise staining the sky. Such a pretty colour. It was poetic, really. The sun gave life to the earth, just as blood had given life to Mr. Gargiullo.
One day the sun would explode, swallowing the earth whole. The circle of life. Death. Something like that.
Opal wasn't sure how long she sat at the window before the banging on the door began again.
"GCPD. OPEN UP." The voice was clearly agitated, yelling quite loudly. Opal hoped the Almasis were already up; they really did need their sleep.
"GCPD. OPEN UP. We have reports of blood leaking into the apartment below. I need you to open up RIGHT NOW." The banging on the door kept getting louder. Opal wondered if the door might break. The construction standards in this building weren't particularly high.
Mr. Gargiullo must have the spare keys, she realized. They would have to break the door down to get in.
Opal slid down to sit on the floor beneath the window, stretching out her legs and running her feet over the sodden rug. Patches of blood had started to dry, rusty coloured and flaky, but other patches were still thoroughly soaked. Opal put her hands over her ears, humming loudly to drown out the banging.
The crash of the door breaking in was almost deafening. The doorframe splintering away from the wall, at the force of the metal garbage can they'd used as a battering ram. Four police officers stormed into the room, guns drawn.
Opal raised her head to look at them, slowly holding out her hands to show she wasn't armed.
The officers looked, alarmed, at the bodies. Two quickly moved towards the bedrooms, backs against the wall; another moved towards the kitchen.
"Is there anyone else here?" the remaining cop asked her brusquely, eyes roaming the room.
Opal shook her head. "No."
"Another body in here," one of the cops called out.
"Clear," one yelled.
"Fuck," another yelled.
The cop who had remained, her cop, moved closer to her, gun still raised. "Stand up."
She did and waited while his eyes roamed her bloody figure. The other three cops had returned to the living room, one on his radio, barking out a series of orders. "Fuck" one of them said.
Opal caught his eyes and the vibrations in her head returned. Fuck. God. Sick. Why?
Her cop kept his gun trained on her, while the other, not radio-cop or eyes-cop, moved forward cautiously with a set of cuffs in his hand.
"Turn around," other-cop barked at her. Opal complied, facing the window again and smiling at the feeling of the sun on her face. Other-cop slammed her harshly into the wall next to the window, fastening the cuffs far too tightly around her wrists, repeating the lines she knew almost by-heart. Was this real-life or had she slipped into the TV set?
Some of the neighbours were in the hallway as she was dragged out. Mrs. Almasi peaked around her door, a baby in each arm.
Mrs. Emory was standing by the elevator, rosary in hand, pale as a corpse.
"Sorry about your carpet," Opal told her, as radio-cop shoved her into the elevator.
"Good-bye home," she whispered to herself as the doors closed.
Opal had never been to jail. She'd never even been to the Principal's office.
She'd never been one to cause trouble. She cleaned her room, did her (many, many) chores, listened to the teacher, handed in her homework on time; she always said her pleases and thank-yous and never arrived late if she could help it.
Any discontent or anger, any cruel thoughts, any mean jokes, they were all kept locked away in her head where she alone could enjoy them.
She was a nice girl.
And yet here she was, locked in a jail-cell. They'd stripped her of her blood-stained clothing, placing it in a bag labelled evidence. She was currently wearing a loose, vaguely itchy, beige shirt and pants; they looked a bit like scrubs and Opal though, if the material-quality was better, they might have been quite comfortable. But it wasn't better and she was itchy, which was making her quite irritable.
She'd been checked over by a medical examiner on arrival, who'd washed the worst of the blood off her skin after taking photos of the splattering. He'd refused to give her a pain-killer for her headache though, and at this point Opal just wanted to sleep for a thousand years. That wasn't really possible when you were locked in a cell with five other criminals, though.
'Other criminals.' It was a strange thing to think. She was a criminal now.
A woman sitting on the other side of the cell was dressed in thigh-high boots and a flimsy skin-tight dress. Opal was a little annoyed that she was the only one forced to wear this beige monstrosity.
The woman noticed Opal staring and turned to wink at her. "What you in for sweet cheeks?"
"Murder." Opal replied.
The woman's eyes widened slightly and she looked Opal up and down, as though seeing her in a new light. "Uh huh," she murmured, turning away to look out of the bars, avoiding Opal's eyes.
Opal shrugged. She wasn't in the mood to talk anyway.
Looking around further, she caught one of the cops watching her through the bars. He was young, she though, barely older than her. Opal caught his eyes and stared.
Fucking crazy bitch. Murdered family. Sick. Freak. Crazy.
She growled. "Fuck off, I can fucking hear you! Leave me alone!"
The cop flinched and turned away from her.
She turned back to see her cell-mates staring at her. She gave them a wild look. "Fuck you all too. I'm not crazy! I'M NOT!"
It turned out she was crazy. Or at least in the eyes of the State she was.
They'd deemed her not guilty by way of insanity. Opal had rolled with it. The meds they had her on were ever-changing and left her feeling either blank and empty or so full of rushing, screaming blood that she wanted to rip her skin open to let it out. She wasn't in much of a state to dispute her sanity, or lack thereof.
They threw words out like confetti: schizoaffective, borderline, trauma, depersonalization, paranoia. A never-ending list of ever-changing diagnoses and half-diagnoses. It never seemed to occur to anyone that she just wasn't crazy.
And it was all because she sometimes heard people's thoughts. How was that any different to prophets who heard God speaking? The only difference was, rather than wisdom and guidance, she got mundane babble and vicious insults. And it was always one or the other, if not both.
If she met someone with an original though, Opal thought she might just cry from happiness.
And yeah, maybe the murders she hadn't been able to provide a motive for had something to do with the "crazy" thing. But people acted like she was the first person in the world to have a bad day; the first person to make a mistake.
What was the point of being good your whole life if it didn't balance out the occasional bad act?
But here she was, on her way to Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. And now the Criminally-Not-So-Insane, apparently.
Technically, having been found not guilty, Opal had a chance of release. If she could convince the powers that be that she'd been cured and posed no danger to society, she could be a free woman. Technically.
In reality, everyone knew there was only way out of Arkham Asylum: in a body-bag. And if everything she'd heard about Arkham was true, that body-bag might be her only salvation.