As gentle and harmless as we may appear to be, we all have a dark side. We’d be lying to say that we don’t have morbid thoughts from time to time. A professor up in Texas even claims that 91% of men and 84% of women have fantasized about killing someone. Not just a random murder, we apparently have a specific who and how in mind. But that’s alright too, the professor says, because most of us won’t go through with it anyway. It’s nothing but some innocent day dreaming over lunch time. Most common victims in these small episodes of mind drifting are ex-lovers, spouses, and the ex-lovers of spouses. Let’s just say they know how to push our buttons sometimes. But like I said, we probably won’t act on it. And we luckily don’t have to look over our own shoulders either, because the chances of our ex-lovers committing a lethal crime are negligible. 

The outnumbered few who are capable of murder most often don’t seem to make too much fuzz about it. They stab their neighbour 52 times after a dispute over property lines and peacefully fall asleep an hour later. They will wake up, stretch their legs, and wonder what to make for breakfast. Husbands have bludgeoned their wife of 15 years to death because of a life insurance, and chat about the latest soccer game over lunch the next day. When they return home from work, they dig a hole in the backyard and calmly explain to their three young children that mammie ain’t joining for dinner no more. Some mothers even killed their own children simply because they became an inconvenience. In court, they don’t raised as much as an eye-brow when they’re convicted to the electric chair. Emotions can’t trouble the soulless mind. 

Wife stabbers and child stranglers most often look and behave just the way we do. We can’t see evil in their eyes nor detect a lack of soul in their heart. Only after a mass shooting will people say that the gunmen looked a bit disturbed indeed, that he acted strangely in public. But truth is he didn’t. Most murderers hold normal jobs, play golf with their friends, and marry their high school sweetheart. They join their family on the couch and tell them halfway the movie that they’re gonna go outside for some fresh air. Only later will people find out why three teenagers in the neighbourhood mysteriously disappeared. Dark minds. Careless monsters. Mistakes of nature. We’ve seen it all on Netflix. True crime series teach us that murders are most often committed by people closest to us. In horror, we glance over our laptop and stare at our partner sleeping next to us. Could they? 

But before suspecting our lover, we must take a critical look at ourselves. Myself, I don’t think I could do it. I need as little as a pretty sunset, hungry child or rescued puppy to tear up. I’m a softy. Harmless. But yet again, I do watch the most gruesome crime series and murder mysteries on Netflix. FBI files, killer instinct, mind of a killer, women that kill, how to make a murderer, how to get away with murder: I’ve watched them all. My housemates used to lock their door at night after noticing my Netflix history. I could see the fear in their eyes when I came home. Don’t trust that innocent smile, she might just pull the kitchen knife. Don’t worry, I would comfort them, these series upset me a lot, I’m not like that. Yet I keep watching them, without shedding a tear. 

But I haven’t murdered anyone as of yet and I doubt I ever will. I cried for three days straight when my bunny died, how could I ever hurt a human being? I sooth myself into thinking that I watch crime series because these stories are so shocking to me, a reality so far from mine, detailing the lives of people so fundamentally different from me. I’m not like that, I’m sure. I couldn’t even look a murderer in the eye. Although I can’t be entirely sure of that. Maybe I did already, but never noticed. If so, this person either served his or her time, or got away with it. It’s a chilling thought, but it’s not uncommon for people to get away with murder. Apparently, about 5 out of 100.000 people get murdered, and a third of those murders remain unsolved. A journalist up in Los Angeles calculated that we meet about 26 new people a day, which means that we cross paths with a murderer about ten times in our lives. If you didn’t end up in a shallow grave in the woods yourself already, that is. 

Ten murderers in your lifetime, that’s quite a shocking lot. I might’ve stood next to one in the supermarket, given one direction to the nearest gas station, or even almost gone to one’s house under the false pretence that he was handing out rescue puppies. Having seen so many crime series on Netflix, I’m really starting to get worried. A friend inviting me for dinner, my mother telling me she wants to meet tomorrow, my boyfriend planning a weekend away... Would they? It’s most commonly someone in your close circle, I remind myself. “Great, dinner at six it is.” “Sure mum, I’ll see you tomorrow.” “Sounds wonderful honey, I love you too.” But I know better than that. I fall asleep with one eye open and one finger on the panic button. I’ve even sent emails to myself, stating that If I were ever to be found in a trash bag, cut up in multiple pieces, it was most likely done by so and so. I added names, their addresses, and even copies of their passports, to make life for the FBI detectives as easy as possible pro-mortem. 

I mustn’t become paranoid though… I don’t wanna accidently kill my boyfriend in self-defence when he pulls out a kitchen knife to make me a garden salad. Most women who claim self-defence shot their husband in the back, from a far distance, while he clearly was taking a run for it. Not me, I’m better than that. I’m a softy. I would never hurt someone. I’m just gonna have to learn how to read signals better, to distinguish a harmless garden-salad knife from a fatal trash-bag knife. And I must think logically. I haven’t signed a life-insurance for anyone and I’m not even married. And surely my friends wouldn’t invite for me dinner if they didn’t want me around no more? And why would my mum do me harm after going through the hassle of raising me for the last 30+ years? And ultimately, if a knife or bullet hits me from behind, there ain’t much I can do about it anyway. I’m just gonna have to take my chances. Being born is a gift, life is a gamble, and staying alive is mere luck. And that’s all there is to it.