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Seven Types of Murder

Seven Types of Murder
by Leland Neville

Everlasting life beckons but William is otherwise engaged. His murder will not deliver him salvation. Timing is everything. The pathway to faith is buried beneath a thicket of distractions, but it is never truly inaccessible. Faith is a thing unto itself. The present is never continuous.

Every death is a murder. The seven types of murder are: jealousy, greed, passion, suicide, fear, supernatural, and compassion.

Since the Island was settled one hundred years ago no one has died of natural causes. No one has attained three score years and ten. William is 68 years old. His wife of two score years was murdered (compassion) ten years ago.

In the last ten years 76 percent of the murder victims on the Island died in a state of belief. During the preceding decade 88 percent of the murder victims died in a state of belief. Every supernatural victim perished in a state of belief. Not one of those murdered by fear died in a state of belief. No statistics existed before William began studying the dead twenty years ago.

William’s imminent murder has failed to animate his unsteady faith. Every year he experiences between 70 and 98 days of doubt. Eight years ago he increased his meditations but empty words and even ancient prayers continue to intrude. There is a 24 percent chance that William will be murdered in a state of non-belief. If this should befall there is a one hundred percent chance that he will find himself lost and alone inside the eternal miasma of spiritual doubt.

* * *

A woman, formal and solicitous, guides William through the dense scrubland. “James came here to pray. He would kneel on a cushion. His bones ached.”

William recognizes the murdered man. He was a few years younger than William.

“I’m Alison. James was my father.”

“I didn’t know he had a daughter.”

She kneels and touches James’ shoulder.

William too kneels and begins to examine the supine corpse. James’ eyes are closed and his unmarked hands are open, welcoming. There is a superficial cut across his throat. The blood loss is minimal.

William stands and again considers James’ face. It appears untroubled. “James experienced a supernatural death,” he declares. “Your father’s death was good. He entered the afterlife filled with grace.”

“I killed my father,” says Alison. “He said it was time. I placed the cushion over his face. He didn’t struggle.”

“But his throat displayed a cut, the unmistakable blood mark left by the creature.”

“The flesh wound was made sometimes after his death and before you arrived here with me.”

“Many people feel the presence of the creature. It knows when it is time. Those murdered by the creature have all died in a state of belief. The creature is accommodating.”

There is too much to consider. What if there are only six types of murder? What if the supernatural murders were all murders of compassion? What if the blood marks are postmortem cuts caused by microorganisms living in the soil? There is much about the Island that is unknowable. Do multiple creatures, unimaginable, agents of doubt, lurk in the scrubland? What if there are eight types of murder?

William shuts his eyes. Spiritual doubt and fear, familiar soul mates, encroach. Nothing has essentially changed. Everything has changed. William remembers that his chance of being murdered in a state of non-belief is 24 percent.

* * *

Seth follows Alison through the scrubland. They are about the same age, but he does not remember her from his earlier life on the Island.

She stops. “This is where your father died two weeks ago. I led William here so he could see James and determine his state of belief at the time of his murder.”

There is nothing to see. The Island is full of sameness.

“Your father collapsed. I tried to revive him. I don’t know if he died in a state of belief. He was buried three days ago. I can take you there if you wish.”

“Perhaps every death is not a murder.”

“Will you continue to live on the Mainland?”

“I’m a photographer there. My professional life is a series of distractions.”

“Distractions increase the odds of dying in a state of non-belief. Distractions are a source of perpetual fear.”

“It’s not that simple. Have you ever traveled to the Mainland?”

“I’ve always been here.”

“My father wanted me to send him photographs of dead Mainlanders. He needed proof that the Island is conducive to salvation. I am not my father.”

“Do you believe in everlasting life?”

“Mainlanders don’t talk or think about that.”

“Are you a Mainlander now?”

“Not yet. It takes time.”

Alison gently touches Seth’s hand. “Shall we leave? It’s not far.”

Seth shuts his eyes and attempts to rediscover the Mainland but can’t. The Mainland woman he loves is gone. His friends are gone. Maybe, like Alison, he’s been on this Island forever. All that is past possesses the present.

“Follow me on the pathway to the cemetery,” says Alison.

* * *

Leland Neville
lives and writes in upstate New York. He previously worked for a news magazine in Washington, D.C. and taught in both a high school and a prison. Some of his short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Space Squid, The Barcelona Review, FLAPPERHOUSE, and the Flatbush Review. Non-fiction has appeared in U.S. News & World Report and The New York Review of Science Fiction.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

It sounds a little selfish, but I’m inspired by my knack to surprise myself. My stories almost always flow in ways I never initially anticipated. There is a magical almost undefinable quality to writing that is addictive.