Negative Assets is a student-produced literary magazine based out of southern California.

"Give ‘Im Enough Rope" by Gordon Robertson

Three days on the rope and Jonathan already had a fat milky blister on his left hand. It was in the groove between thumb and forefinger, and it hurt like fuck. He wanted to burst it himself, but he didn’t have the nails. He winced. Every left hand-hold stole a gasp of air from his mouth and sent a sharp scissor-stab of pain down through his left side. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take. The first two days after finding the rope--stiff and upright between two empty warehouses on the abandoned industrial estate he used to walk the dogs through, back when they were still alive--had been relatively easy. The thick knots placed at regular intervals for the hands and feet to hold on to obviously helped. He couldn’t imagine attempting the climb without them. It’d be like trying to negotiate rapids without a paddle. But this morning he’d woken to a dull throbbing in his hand and had recognized it for what it was. He’d briefly tried some single-hand climbing but it just made things worse. He was using up energy and fluids he badly needed. Who knew how long he was going to be up here for? He was in no way an experienced climber, but he at least had some amount of common sense.

Jonathan grunted. Common sense. Really? How sensible was it for a grown man to climb a suspicious, unattended rope in the middle of nowhere, with no clear indication as to where that rope led? How sensible was it to think everything would be okay once he reached the top? Was he even convinced there was a top? He glanced up, but the clouds that had hung over him these past three days hadn’t moved, and he couldn’t see a fucking thing. He was climbing blind.

Climbing the rope at least gave Jonathan a chance to think. And he had a lot to think about. Gloria, for one. He’d never known anyone who could keep an argument going longer than Gloria. It didn’t even have to be about anything in particular. It could be something as ordinary and mundane as which restaurant to go to for dinner, or what TV program to watch, or whether or not to have sex. It didn’t matter. If it had two sides to it, Gloria would argue one of them, sometimes both.

She certainly hadn’t listed her ability to argue on her profile. Nor had she been entirely truthful in other areas. Jonathan had been new to online dating and had assumed she would look exactly like her profile picture. That wasn’t the case. She was at least ten years older than she’d claimed, and over two stone heavier than she’d been in her photo. She’d clearly lived, and not well. But they’d spent two pleasant enough weeks in each other’s company before he’d murdered her. In the end, it was more the arguing than the looks that pushed Jonathan over the edge. He slit her throat while out driving one night, and tossed her naked body into a quarry.

Resting a moment on the rope, Jonathan realized the reason he was still thinking about Gloria wasn’t because of some child-like sense of guilt or remorse, it was because of her glasses case. He couldn’t recall what he’d done with it, or if he’d done anything with it at all. He’d burned all her clothes and wiped down the surfaces of the car, inside and out, but he had no idea what had happened to her glasses case. It worried him because he remembered handing it to her before she got in the car. If it wasn’t on her, or in or near the car, she must have lost it, which meant if the police happened to find it, they’d also find a couple of fat thumb-prints on it. And only one of those would be Gloria’s.

He’d been more careful the second time. Janice had reminded him of a girl he’d went out with when he worked on the bins, not long after leaving school. Helen? Hannah? Something like that. He’d taken Helen/Hannah out for a meal--somewhere fancy to impress her--and she’d asked him what he did for a living. Jonathan had just sat there, squirming, and too terrified to answer. But she’d wormed it out of him and had been totally fine with it. Janice had been a bit like that. Easy to talk to. Tolerant. But only up to a point. When he said he’d killed before and was worried he might be tempted to do so again, she’d freaked and ran for the door. Jonathan had felled her from behind with a golf trophy he’d won as a teenager and she’d dropped to the floor with a scream and a thud. He’d hit her twice more in the face with the jagged-edged trophy and then, satisfied she’d stopped breathing, had dragged her into the bathroom to clean her up.

For the rest of the story, purchase a copy of Issue #2 of Negative Assets: Punk Lit Zine.

"The Lights," by Harmony Hertzog