The benefits of Atlas’ death were numerous; the only problem was that Atlas wasn’t dead.
Cilia had met Atlas in first-year Bio, and the two of them had bonded over their nerd-dom and the class’s collective dislike of the professor. Sophomore year, they had decided to live together in a dorm suite with two other girls, and that worked out just fine. They had similar sleep schedules, similar classes, and enough in common that they eventually ignored everyone else in their social group.
Now it was junior year, they were living off-campus, and they knew each other’s dirty habits much more intimately than either of them wished. They nauseated each other because they were similar people, and being similar people, they both wanted to preserve the friendship despite everything.
Yet Cilia raged internally. Living with someone and being friends with them were entirely different. The living together was much more vexing. Cilia had asked other people to be her roommate for senior year, but everyone else had friends, and they wanted to live with those friends. Cilia didn’t have friends.
She didn’t have friends because of Atlas. Atlas was always wanting to hang out with her, especially when she went to hang out with other people, and Atlas was way more socially awkward than Cilia had initially thought.
Cilia didn’t want to live with Atlas anymore. Atlas got home an hour or so before Cilia and used up all the hot water, so every shower Cilia took was cold. And Atlas drank Cilia’s milk, and ate her packed lunches for breakfast, and she had an irritating trend of forgetting to lock the door when Cilia was home by herself.
Plus, Atlas was allergic to cats, and Cilia wanted a cat, because Cilia didn’t have any friends.
Because of Atlas.
If Atlas was dead, Cilia could have a cat, and hot showers, and friends, and with friends she could find a new roommate to split the rent. It sounded luxurious.
The problem was that the specific individual one wanted to die wasn’t likely to, even though a few million people keeled over every day.
Cilia considered figuring out how to access the dark-web and hiring a hitman, but that would involve asking people for help with computers, and people would ask questions. Plus, hitmen would probably cost a ridiculous amount of money…
Cilia was sitting at her desk and drinking chamomile tea, which always made her sleepy, as advertised. The streetlight outside her window glowed orange through the dusty blinds, and she typed random phrases on her computer, to make herself feel like she was doing something useful.
Rules and schools are tools for fools.
The colorless green dreams sleep furiously.
She couldn’t hire a hitman; she was in enough debt already with the textbooks and the tuitions. Killing Atlas herself would be a lot cheaper, but people were messy…
The thing that made it necessary, the thing that drove her to such desperate measures, was realizing that Atlas dreamed of going to one particular graduate school, that she was applying to one particular program, with a particular specialization…
The same as Cilia.
Cilia felt sort of crazy at the thought of all that time… Six to eight more years… She knew Atlas would never leave her alone…
Then a fierce panic gripped her as her mind fabricated an image of her and Atlas becoming postdocs in the same lab, gaining tenure at the same university, falling for the same man and becoming polygamists—
Cilia typed the word ‘stabbing’ and then deleted it. Then ‘drowning,’ then ‘suffocation…’ Why were all of these so messy? Cilia hated dissections in biology lab. She hated the smell of formaldehyde and how rubbery the muscles were in the dead cats…
Why did it have to be dead cats? She loved cats.
Cilia looked up pictures of cats on her computer and scrolled through them. They were cute and she was sleepy. And Atlas would be gone soon, once Cilia figured out how to do it. None of that crazy stuff would have to happen. Cilia felt quiet, almost relaxed.
It’d be easier to steal some kind of chemical from Organic Lab, maybe something that knocked people out. Did chloroform actually knock people out? But that was messy too. Maybe a powder…
Then there was a tentative little knock on her door.
“Um, Atlas?” Atlas asked quietly.
“Cilia.” Cilia said, trying to sound like she was happy to see her. Swapping names was some stupid joke they made up as freshmen to prove they were friends. Sisters.
The thing was, Cilia liked Atlas, truly. She was just… always there.
“Um, I was thinking…” Atlas tiptoed slowly into the room.
Cilia didn’t like Atlas being in her room. Atlas was loud and Cilia wanted to go to sleep. She felt full of sand, all heavy and limp and full of blood. Like bloody sand…
“This, like this isn’t working.” Atlas’ voice floated into her ears. “Like, me and you.”
The hell is isn’t. Cilia agreed silently and closed her eyes. She didn’t have the energy to act like she cared what Atlas said.
“So I dusted all the cups with twice the appropriate dose,” Atlas was saying. Nothing Atlas said ever made any sense; it was annoying. “I didn’t know which one you would use so…”
There were still pictures of cats on her computer. Cilia could see them through her eyelids.
“I mean it’s not like you pay attention to anything.”
The cat was yellow with gigantic green eyes, eyes that covered its entire face.
I mean… Cilia heard Atlas’ voice echo through the dark. It’s just that the benefits of killing you are so numerous…