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I hit the mute button and stand up from my comfy chair, stretching, and wander into the kitchen, eyeing the fridge. Swinging the metallic doors open, I cast my eyes over the shelves: cheese, expired. Milk, expired. Sauces and relishes, probably expired too.
Cider it is, I guess.
Walking a little awkwardly (my legs are still half asleep) back through to the TV, I sit back down, opening the cider and taking a sip before setting it down on the table beside me, missing the coasters entirely but not really caring. I returned half way through an infomercial for ceramic knives.
A youthful brunette woman stands in two thirds of a kitchen, slicing up a chunk of raw meat dripping with blood. The set is dimly lit, the outline of cupboards and counters barely visible in the background, but she’s standing in a spotlight, harsh shadows highlighting a set of ceramic knives with shining black blades and dull silver handles. Sliding the chopping board to one side, she picks up a stack of paper. At first, it appears to be blank, but at second glance I notice it’s a stack of documents of some kind. They don’t look like the standard fare for an infomercial. If anything, they looked like bank statements. I’ve seen this kind of infomercial before, and usually they slice through the edge of the paper, chopping off one of the corners. However, this woman sliced clean through the middle of the paper at an odd angle, not quite diagonal from corner to corner, and shoves them back off-camera, a little angrily. Her fury builds as she pulls the meat back on screen, discarding the black-bladed chef’s knife and pulling a cleaver from the block beside her. She hacks and chops viciously at the slab of what presumably used to be a cow, slowly beginning to smile. There’s a glint of madness in her eyes, something frenzied about her movements as she picks up a vegetable knife with her free hand, shredding the meat with both knives at once.
Slowly, her feeding frenzy dies down. Out of sheer curiosity, I reach for the remote, tapping the mute button. The woman talks about how the knives are sharper than steel and don’t blunt as easily, how they don’t shatter, and my mind wanders to the oh-so-familiar fact that I’m probably the only person on the planet who can’t skip these things, or at the very least fast forward them. Still, I guess I don’t really mind; it gives me time to grab a drink, maybe go to the bathroom, all without missing anything.
The infomercial ends, and a commercial for women’s clothing begins. Yawning, I go for the mute button again and make my way to the bathroom. Coming back, I catch the end of a commercial for hair dye, and the entirety of one for makeup:
A woman, also brunette, applies mascara in front of a mirror in a well-lit, almost harshly lit, close-up. Her hands are shaking, and black goo drips from the brush across her slightly tear-stained face. The camera zooms out as her grip on the brush tightens and a smile twists across her face. She hurls the brush at a mirror, her still shaking hands snatching at lipstick, roughly applying it to her lips as a deranged smile plays across them. She appears to be saying something, and I take it off mute to discover she’s talking in a distraught, high-pitched whisper, unintelligible apart from the occasional exclamation of ‘with her?’ and ‘how could he!’ and wordless exclamations of fury. The camera zooms out more, and she angrily sweeps several other cosmetic products off a counter in front of her and they clatter into the sink, smashing bottles as skin-coloured goo blends with powder and more mascara, dripping slowly and steadily into the sink as tears fall…
Once again, the commercial ends, a logo half-heartedly flashing up on screen. I take a sip of my cider, the harsh apple flavour biting my tongue, as the show starts back up. I settle in for a while.
About half an hour later with little else to do, I switch over to the +1 channel. These things are handy, I guess; that said, I’m still in the minority that watches them rather than recording a show or just watching it online. I reach the episode I was watching earlier, finishing the last of my cider as the next one starts. Setting it back on the table, I knock the remote to the floor.
It’s still there later when the adverts start up again half way through, the same set as before, and this time I hear everything.
A man, headed slowly but surely towards middle age but still retaining some of his youthful looks, steps into an expensive-looking jewellers. The camera shows a series of close-up panning shots of gold and silver and bronze and all manner of gemstones, resting on a mannequin’s hand set against a background of seemingly endless blue velvet. The voiceover gives the name of the store and the camera cuts back to the man from earlier, walking out of the store, bag in hand, and finally to him standing behind a woman a few years older than he, lingering briefly on his hands as he wraps a necklace, silver studded with emeralds, around the woman’s slender neck. Her hands, smooth and free of any jewellery, brush against his ring-adorned fingers. Most of the rings I recognised from earlier in the commercial, but one, sitting at the base of his ring finger, didn’t look familiar; it looked… cheaper, nice but not as nice as the rest, and much plainer. Lower quality gold, perhaps, and adorned with no gemstones. Throughout all this, soft classical music plays. The scene fades to ‘Your beloved deserves the best. Your beloved deserves G. Simmons.’
I yawn, check the time, and then down the last of my cider. I feel like getting another one, but I feel like that infomercial should be back on soon
My suspicions were confirmed as the infomercial did indeed begin anew, opening on a close-up of the knife set, their black ceramic blades shining from an off-camera spotlight their silver handles still looking remarkably dull, laid out on a counter. The chef’s knife I’d seen earlier was missing, and there was a conspicuous empty space where it should have been between a smaller knife and a cleaver. The set was rounded out by a vegetable knife (again, the one from earlier) and a peeler. The voiceover started up, a little skewed: it sounded like it was being read from a script by a woman, maybe 45 years old, clearly terrified out of her wits. She raced through the name of the knives, the company, and introduced the presenter, no doubt the woman I’d seen earlier. There was the sound of meat being sliced into, abruptly silenced as the microphone was cut off. After a few minutes, the brunette stepped into the same two thirds of a kitchen as before, wiping a ceramic chef’s knife on her apron, blade up so as not to slice through the white fabric. I’m not sure whether I imagined it, but just before she stepped behind the counter, I swear an ugly red blotch was visible where the knife had been for the merest fraction of a second.
Times like these, I wish I could pause.
‘Ebon Precision ceramic knives are among the toughest on the market. They can slice through steak after steak without losing their sharper-than-steel edge.’ She pulled a chopping board into shot, a huge chunk of meat, perhaps a leg, slowly dripping gore onto the sturdy wooden surface of the chopping board. She stabbed the knife into it, laughing faintly, eyes wide. ‘Of course, this isn’t steak, oh no; this is chicken.’ At the last word, she tore the knife out, sticking it into the bloody chunk of meat again and again before regaining her composure.
‘Of course, there’s more; our peelers are so sharp, they can’t just slice up vegetables,’ she said, peeling a carrot and holding it in a way that made me feel a little uncomfortable. ‘Oh no, you can skin meat with this. Here’s a chunk of pig.’ She reached off-camera again, pulling a dripping slice of pork, the pale skin still attached, into shot. She took the peeler to it with real gusto, thin blood seeping from the freshly ripped and shredded skin. ‘See how cleanly it tears through everything?’ she proclaimed. Lifting the freshly peeled meat off the blood-soaked chopping block and hurling it down, a smile flicked across her mask of anger as it hit the studio floor with a solid splat. She dragged the ‘chicken’, which was clearly red meat of some kind, back into shot.
‘And see how our exquisite chef’s knife chops and slices this cheating, pathetic chicken!?’ she screeched, sliding it off camera again and bringing the documents into shot.
‘See how it slices through these bank statements? The statements from our joint account? The account that pig used to buy her a necklace, our joint account?’ she ranted, eyes gleaming with madness as she ran the shining black knife through the paper, growing slightly calm as she did so. She shoved the paper-covered chopping block off-camera, scattering ripped up bank sheets. She grew angry once more as she brought the red meat back into shot, discarding the chef’s knife (which stuck into the slab of pork on the floor with a sickly squelch) and pulling out the cleaver. She mumbles to herself as she hacks it up, unintelligible words punctuated with laughter and exclamations of ‘how could he?’ and ‘ with that harpy!’ and faint screams. She pulled out the vegetable knife, hacking and tearing at the meat with renewed gleeful anger, until slowly her feeding frenzy dies down.
‘Ebon Precision knives are sharper than steel, and will never lose their edge. They’re the finest quality knives on the market, the ideal choice for slicing, for chopping, for peeling, and for dealing with whatever may come your way.’ Her eyes glinted maliciously with these last few words.
I wander through to the kitchen for a fresh bottle of cider, catching the end of a clothing commercial. A woman, looking slightly distraught, walks out of a cheap clothing store, her knuckles white as she tightly grips the dark blue handles of a bulging plastic bag, the logo turned to the camera. As the commercial for hair dye begins again, I’m disturbed from my morbid curiosity by a knock on the door.
I open it a fraction to see a blonde-haired woman standing on my doorstep silhouetted in the light from behind me against the bungalows across the street, makeup starting to run down her face, eyes brimming over with tears. Her clothing looks cheap, although that may just be from the lighting. Glancing around at the unfriendly assortment of buildings that unfortunately comprise my neighbourhood, she began to speak.
‘C-can I use your phone? Your lights were on, and m-my car…’ she gestured to a vehicle parked a little way down the street, a black hatchback. It didn’t look particularly old, but it had seen better days. Nodding, I open the door to let her in. I live in a bad neighbourhood; lucky for her she’s found one of maybe three houses on the block who would be willing to help. I lead her to the phone, lifting the handset for her (and thinking I must be one of the last few people to own a rotary dial phone), and turni–
I feel it before I see it, before I can react. Icy cold metal bites into my neck, and I stare down in horror to see a silver necklace, inlaid with emeralds and encrusted with blood that looked almost fresh. As if through a heavy fog, I heard the woman speak:
‘S-sorry, but I-I-I can’t afford to have any w-witnesses…’
Credit To – venort