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What Remains

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The words that tumbled from your lips made Hugo Stiglitz stop dead in his tracks. In his life he had always thought of himself as cruel. Heartless. Ruthless.

If you took away the blood-thirst, what would remain of him? Shadows of himself, perhaps. Skin, some bones, a broken wrist on a snowy night, perhaps. If you took the knife from his hands, what would remain of him? A night of broken glass, a scream in the darkness, his first attempt at fighting back.

Broken, useless.

“You’re really attractive like this,” you repeated, eyes fixed on the slight tremor of his left pinky finger, a thin white line crossing the back of his hand. A scalpel, perhaps. It was too thin and perfect to be anything else. Precise.

Hugo’s fingers went lax. The knife clattered to the floor. The grotesque vision he had of himself hunched over the fire, trying hard to wipe the dry blood off the blade, disappeared. For the first time in his life, he saw himself as he was.

Just a man.

He made a noise as though he were choking, and you knelt in front of him, touched the fresh cut on his cheek. Hugo’s breathing slowed down, and he closed his eyes.

Around you, the snow fell. And it was quiet.