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Blindness

June 22, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It’s true what they say – that when a person goes blind their other senses heighten in order to compensate. Knowing that, and thinking back on everything that happened to me, I still can’t come to a rational conclusion of how these events unfolded around me without my knowledge. Granted, I couldn’t actually see any of it happening, but I never suspected anything of this magnitude when judging solely on the minor oddities that I had experienced.

Sure, every once in a while I would hear noises, but my house was old and seemed to have a mind of its own. All of its pops and creaks had become just as familiar to me as navigating its interior without the benefit of sight. Even when things began to turn more bizarre, I always found a way to rationalize them away. Looking back, I ask myself, “How could I have been so…well, for lack of a better word, blind?”

My mother had tried to convince me not to move into the house alone. “Sarah, a young blind woman shouldn’t be living all by herself,” she’d said. But I wanted to – needed to. I needed to prove to myself that I was strong enough to do it. Besides that, as a twenty four year old, I didn’t want to live with my parents forever. And I sure didn’t want to wait around for a nice man to marry and move in with. That may never happen.

Having lost my sight at an early age due to a freak accident with industrial strength cleaning chemicals, I knew all too well the nuances of learning to create a mental map of my surroundings.

When I first moved into the old house I used my cane exclusively. I waved it back and forth in front of me with every step I took. I knew roughly where all of the furniture was since I was the one that directed the movers on where to put everything. I employed the cane for nearly a week, using its tip to develop a mental image of the layout. The learning process was slow and clumsy at first, but I eventually got to the point that I was able to shed my cane after several days and began walking cautiously with my arms extended. I progressed further and became familiar enough with the territory that by the end of the first month I was able to walk freely without the use of my cane, or arms or any other aid.

I became quite adept at moving throughout the house freely. Not only that, but the house was located in a somewhat urban area which made it convenient to walk to any place I had the need. The grocery was only three blocks away. There was a department store across the street from that, and a bank and coffee shop just a bit further on. I got used to listening to the flow of traffic and timing the lights in my head so I would know when the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signals were lit. Occasionally a kind stranger would offer to take my hand and lead me across. I would thank them and we would part ways once we were safely on the next sidewalk.

In those days I was working from home making phone calls to patients that had recently been discharged from the hospital. In essence, I was being paid by the hospital to administer surveys that were then used to improve their services. The hospital was kind enough to provide me with a laptop computer that contained several different voice-command software applications. I spent my days transcribing the recorded phone calls by speaking the customers’ answers into a microphone, and having the data fields automatically populate accordingly in the program.

The first odd event that I remember was on one particular day when I got up from my work desk for a lunch break. As I was headed into the kitchen, I kicked an object in the middle of the living room floor. I heard it slide a short distance on the carpet. I knew that I hadn’t left anything in the way of my path as I had just been through there not even an hour ago, and there was nothing on the floor.

I knelt down and patted around until I located the object. A book. By feeling its Braille title I recognized it as a book on national parks that I kept on my coffee table, some five feet away. I didn’t remember knocking the book off of the table. I stood there perplexed. The longer I thought about it though, the less frightening it became to me. I convinced myself that I must have simply forgotten about knocking the book to the floor, and I must have stepped over it or next to it during my other passes through the room. I returned the book to its place on the table and went about making my lunch.

That night, while lying in bed, I heard a sound that came from the kitchen. It was almost entirely masked by the usual sounds of the pops and creaks from the house settling, but I definitely heard it – faint as it was. It was a very light humming noise. So light, in fact, that an average person without enhanced hearing may not have heard it at all from this distance. I slowly got out of bed, listening intently, the sound increasing as I made my way down the hallway and through the living room.

As soon as I passed through the threshold into the kitchen I knew what the sound was. It was the compressor motor on the refrigerator, and it was substantially louder than usual. I approached the appliance and found that its door was standing wide open. I eased it shut and the hum returned to a normal volume.

“What on earth? Did I leave this open?” I questioned myself in a whisper. Maybe it didn’t close all the way the last time I swung it shut, I thought. I returned to bed, but had trouble finding sleep. My mind wandered and questioned how I could have overlooked the fallen book and the open fridge door when they’d first happened.

The next morning, I decided to go have breakfast at Espresso Express, the little coffee shop up the road. They served excellent coffee, and you could also get a ham & cheese croissant melt that was to die for. That alone was worth the effort of showering, dressing, and leaving the safety of the house to be plunged into a buzz of whizzing traffic, honking horns, and people clamoring on the sidewalks.

On that morning a gentle stranger helped guide me across the intersection just ahead of the coffee shop. I said, “Thank you!” as they released my arm, but there was no response. He or she was lost in the shuffle of people on cell phones, their conversations momentarily audible to me as they passed in front of and behind me. The tinny sound of a bicycle bell alarmed me, and I felt the breeze left behind when the rider whipped past. I entered the coffee shop to a much more serene environment and enjoyed my favorite breakfast at a seat near the plate glass window, bathed in the sunlight that washed in on me.

That afternoon I took a break from making phone calls to use the bathroom. As I was seated on the toilet, I heard something next to me. It was as if something had brushed against the sink – an ever so subtle sound. My heart rate rose and my brow furrowed as I strained to listen closer. All I could hear was my pulse throbbing in my ears. Suddenly a wall clock in the living room chimed four ‘o clock, startling me to the point that I jumped slightly while still seated there. I regained my composure, washed up and returned to the computer to transcribe the data from my phone surveys.

I closed the laptop and went to make dinner at 6:30. Over the years, I had learned to be extra careful when dealing with the hot oven and burners. Once I had accidentally set a plastic plate directly onto a burner that was still hot, resulting in a cloud of noxious fumes that lasted for days – long after I’d finished cleaning up the mess. I was lucky that it had burned itself out and the damage wasn’t any worse. After that close call, I bought a small fire extinguisher to keep on the countertop next to the oven.

On this particular night, I made my dinner without any risk of fire. However, the undertaking wasn’t completely without incident. As I proceeded to make dinner I discovered that the canned goods I needed for the recipe were missing from the cupboard. I have always kept my canned goods in very specific places on the shelves so that I would always know what was what without the benefit of being able to see the labels. I don’t remember using up the items I needed that night, but apparently I already had. So, I opted to make a casserole instead.

I sat at the dinner table enjoying the simple meal I had made. The television was playing in the background, filling me in on all of the day’s news headlines. I finished the first portion on my plate and reached to dip into the casserole dish once more. I scraped the inside of the dish, the sounds of metal on ceramic echoing throughout the kitchen. It was empty.

“I can’t believe it! I couldn’t have already eaten it all!” I said incredulously. I had thought for sure that I’d prepared a bigger portion than that, and I didn’t remember emptying the dish fully onto my plate. Thoughts ran through my head in an attempt to reason out the matter: Had it baked up to be less than I’d anticipated? Had I spilled some on the table while dishing it onto my plate?

In search of the missing food, I placed the palm of my hand on the tabletop and moved it steadily over the area within my reach. As I was doing so there was a distinct movement in front of me. I gasped and my heart rate immediately quickened. I felt the blood pulsing through my neck. This sound was not as subtle as the others I’d been hearing. It was obvious – a sudden motion of something moving across from me. I continued listening, but all I could hear was the much-too-chipper weather man on TV giving the forecast.

Suddenly I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I was no longer alone at the kitchen table. “Is someone there?” I called out, hoping there was no reply.

Silence.

I felt a shift in the air pressure as if something moved behind me followed by the creak of a floorboard. I froze. Something brushed against the back of my hair, gentle as a feather. I recoiled and let out a squeal.

I shot up out of my chair, made my way to the corner of the kitchen and turned to face the interior of the room. “Who’s there?” I demanded. No answer. By this time I was breathing heavily, practically hyperventilating. My chest and throat radiated heat as my heart raced inside, giving me the sensation of acute indigestion. I thought I might vomit.

I slowly made my way to the doorway leading into the living room. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity listening for something, anything that would explain the circumstance. Eventually I moved on and worked my way into the hallway bathroom. I locked the door behind me.

It took over an hour and a half for me to calm down. While in the locked bathroom, I wrestled with my thoughts. I reasoned with myself. I didn’t want to admit that my mother was right, but maybe I shouldn’t be living alone. It appeared to be taking its toll on me. On the other hand, all of these things could be logically explained, I told myself. If I wasn’t blind, I’d have seen whatever it was that caused the noises and it would be so obvious. I’d laugh about how ridiculous it was to be scared of it, I’m sure. At least that’s what I tried to convince myself.

What finally brought me out of the bathroom was the ringing of the telephone. I admit it startled me at first, but only because it had been so quiet for the last two hours. I cautiously opened the door and entered the hallway. My phone was in the living room. I approached it quickly and answered.

“Hello?”

“Hey Sarah, it’s Jill.”

Thank God, it was just my friend Jill. “Hi Jill, how’s it going?”

“Oh, I’m doing good. I saw you at Espresso Express today,” she said in a playful tone, which I didn’t understand initially.

“You did?”

“Mmm hmm. I saw you in the window when I walked by on the sidewalk.” Still in a playful tone.

“Well, why didn’t you come in and say, ‘hi’?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Disturb me? Why would you be disturbing me?”

“Because, silly, I assumed you were on a date. Who’s the lucky guy that was sitting with you?”

My mouth slacked open. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t form words.

“Sarah?” Jill asked, “Are you okay?”

I dropped the phone. I could still hear Jill’s muffled voice even though the speaker was face down on the carpet. I frantically made my way around the house, arms flailing in front of me.

“Who are you?” I yelled into the house. “What do you want?”

I was terrified, but also angry. I felt violated. I didn’t necessarily want to encounter whatever it was, but I couldn’t go on hiding in my own house any longer. I spent hours searching every square inch of the property and found nothing. I finally went to bed after I was able to calm down, but I did not fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning.

A light rustling sound woke me not long after I fell asleep, still in the dark hours of early morning. I wasn’t sure at first if it was real or if I had dreamed the noise. As I was about to get up, I noticed that the sheets next to me were pulled back. I stretched out my right arm into the empty space beside me. It felt warm as if someone had been lying there with me. The events of the previous day flooded back into my memory. My sightless eyes welled up with tears as I began to question my own sanity. Frustrated, I bolted up and out of the bed. I threw on some old clothes and headed toward the front door with the intention of fleeing the house, unsure exactly where I was going to go – maybe Jill’s place. She lived fairly close.

I wanted to take my cane with me as I always did whenever I went outdoors. I searched the house frantically, unable to remember where I’d left it. I almost always left it propped against the wall by the front door, but it wasn’t there. I made my way along all of the perimeter walls, feeling desperately for the cane.

When I neared the kitchen I still had not found my walking aid, but I made a discovery of a much more startling nature – a barely detectable vertical crevice in the wall I had not known about previously. I used all my fingers to follow the crease up the wall, across the top, and down the other side. It was a doorway designed to fit perfectly flush within the wall. I leaned my weight inward against the panel and felt a slight give on its right side. I worked my fingers into the crevice on that side the best I could, eventually prying the panel free. It swung open to the left. I gasped in shock and my pulse quickened. A hidden room right in the center of my house.

How I wish that I would have had sight at that moment. I faced a completely unexplored territory inside my own house with the possibility that someone else was in there with me.

I entered slowly, arms extended. “Is someone in here?” I whispered, afraid to ask the question. There was no response. I stepped forward. To my right I discovered a flat surface – a tabletop. I ran my hands along its surface. On top of the table I was able to make out several unopened cans of food. No doubt these were the missing canned goods I’d been looking for. The table also contained silverware and a can opener that disappeared weeks ago.

My heart rate increased even more and my palms began to sweat. I worked my way forward until I came to a wall that I knew bordered the living room. I found a hole the size of a quarter at eye level. Sweat began to form on my brow as well. I found another similar hole on the next adjacent wall. This wall bordered the bathroom. Tears started to well up in my eyes. I was able to find two more holes on the two remaining walls bordering the kitchen and the bedroom.

I dropped to my knees in absolute horror and disbelief. How long had this person been watching me? How could I have not known? My hands were on the floor in front of me and I felt something soft. I investigated further with my fingertips. It was some sort of comforter or sleeping bag. At one end was a fluffy pillow.

At this point not only was I terrified beyond description, I was also furious. How dare someone spy on me covertly from within my own walls! I knew I had to run out of the house and get to safety immediately, with or without my cane. I decided I would go to Jill’s house and we’d call the police from there.

I made my way to where I remembered the hidden door to be, my arms sweeping the area ahead of me in a panic. Instead of the open door, my hands found the warm torso of a human, a male, standing silently in the doorway. He grabbed both my arms and pulled me out of the hidden room and into the house.

We struggled in the kitchen. I kicked at him and screamed as loud as I could into his ears. I was able to get one arm free and I used it to grasp for the fire extinguisher that I knew would be by the oven. He attempted to pull me away, but my fingers reached its nozzle. I swung it at him, feeling the metal cylinder connect with the back of his skull. He released my other arm and I pulled the trigger in his direction, enveloping him in a cloud of white foam.

I ran into the utility room off of the kitchen where I knew my only advantage existed – the fuse box. I found the box and tripped every lever I could find, eliminating all power from the house. If this perverted psycho wanted to kill me, he’d have to do it on an equal playing field – in the dark.

The intruder had not followed me into the utility room. The fire extinguisher must have dazed him. I remembered the toolbox I kept in that room, and I quickly retrieved the longest screwdriver I could find. I stood in the corner and listened carefully. If he was still conscious, he would not be able to move around in the pitch darkness without creating a noise. I would surely detect his movements.

I held the screwdriver against my chest, gripping its handle tightly with both hands. I felt my wildly beating heart against the side of my fist. After an eternity, I moved forward a bit. I may have knocked him out, or even killed him. I had to make sure.

I left the utility room and entered the kitchen. There was still no sound from anywhere in the house. I passed into the living room and headed toward the front door. Halfway through the room I could feel his presence. Something in the air around me had shifted. Without warning there was breath on the back of my neck followed by a deep whisper directly in my ear, “The showers were my favorite.”

I screamed and swung around, stabbing the screwdriver into empty air. I ran for the door. It was merely a few feet away, but I couldn’t reach it due to the resistance I met when the voyeuristic brute’s arms wrapped around my waist. He wrestled me to the floor and straddled me. I tightened my grip on the tool and plunged it as hard as I could into his side.

I shudder to think about it when I recount the feeling of the steel shaft separating two of his ribs. It was horrid, and I was only able to stomach it knowing that if I hadn’t acted, my life would have ended then.

The man winced in pain and let out a deep, growling grunt. He fell backward and rolled off of me. I turned over onto my chest and pushed up off of the floor, then crawled over to the couch and used it to get back onto my feet. I still held the screwdriver, a warm trickle of blood seeping onto my knuckle.

I could tell that the intruder was writhing around on the floor near the doorway. I would have to exit through the back door. From the opposite end of the living room, I entered the sun room where the door was located. I wasn’t as familiar with this entry point, causing me to fumble around with the deadbolt and screen door locks for longer than I would have liked.

I knew there were concrete stairs there leading to a flat patio. How many steps? Four? Five? I couldn’t remember. I proceeded slowly. The last thing I needed was to fall and twist my ankle. After navigating the steps, I came to the end of the patio, which emptied into a narrow alleyway between the shotgun-style houses behind mine.

My steps were slow and cautious. My hands told me there was a brick wall to my right, and a brick wall about five feet to my left. The sides of the two houses. I was entering unfamiliar territory without the benefit of my cane. My breathing was frantic and the tears continued to fill my useless eyes. I kicked something and nearly fell over. It felt plastic – a child’s toy maybe. I was moving much too fast compared to my level of comfort with the surroundings. But I had no choice as footsteps were approaching behind me.

I picked up the pace, waving the screwdriver out in front to buffer my impending collision with any obstacles. Ten more feet of forward progress and the screwdriver alerted me, with metallic clanging, to the presence of a chain link fence connecting the two houses.

I stopped and cried out, my voice breaking up through my tears, “No.” I turned around, my back to the fence. I began swinging the screwdriver violently.

“Leave me alone!” I screamed.

More hyperventilating.

More tears.

The man approached slowly, and then stopped just a few feet away from me. I got the feeling he could see what he was doing. Either there was an electric light in this alley or the dawn had already crested enough that ample ambient light was available. I didn’t know which one was the case because I had no idea what time it was.

Knowing I was about to die, I just wanted answers. “How long?” I managed to ask. “How long have you been in there?” My voice was angrier than I’d expected.

“Since before you lived there,” he replied calmly, his voice deep. “I got lucky with you – a blind girl. With the others I couldn’t come out in the open when they were home. I couldn’t sit and eat their dinner with them. I couldn’t stand over them while they worked at their computers. I couldn’t go to the coffee shop with them.” There was a pause as he moved even closer. “I couldn’t stand next to them in the bathroom.”

I cried uncontrollably in a whirlwind of emotions. I had never before felt so violated, so angry, and so terrified all at the same time. There was sudden movement again in front of me.

“Don’t touch me!” I demanded as I held up the screwdriver. I don’t know exactly how it happened. I don’t know if he didn’t see the tool or just didn’t care, knowing that he was caught. But as he lunged forward, he managed to impale himself on the screwdriver and pin me up against the fence. My hands were still gripping the handle, but it was so deep inside him that his shirt was touching my fist.

His breathing became gurgled, and his last words to me were, “I couldn’t snuggle next to them in bed either.”

We collapsed together as one unit. The fence tore at my back as we slid down onto the ground. His dead weight nearly crushed me, but I managed to push him off and crawl away. I crawled all the way back to my house, in through the back door and into the living room to my phone. I sobbed hysterically as I keyed in the digits 9-1-1 and fell to the floor.

Credit: moonlit_cove

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At the roots of the roses

June 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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When I was young, I was told my mother committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. Her body wasn’t found, as the river she landed in led to the sea and many bodies of the people that went missing in it weren’t ever recovered.
My mental health was understandably not the best, as I was only seventeen and even though I wasn’t the perfect child and would often have fallouts with my mother, I loved her despite my recklessness. Looking back I understand that she had a few demons, but no one could really have thought it would lead her to do something like that.
Since I was a child I’ve had a love for flowers, and especially roses, which was what helped me get back to a normal life again. A few miles from the city we lived in was a farm that grew roses. I dropped out of college to take a job working with producing and selling the roses that grew there. The place was quite the only thing the city had to brag about, as it was often said to have some of the best roses in the state. I for one absolutely adored them. There were huge fields with only roses for hundreds of meters, and most of them had a wonderful pink colour. The farm grew different colours, red and yellow as well as pink, but I liked the pink ones most and they were also the ones that sold the most.
Anyhow, I want to describe my first day working there. I’d applied to the job with the help of my psychologist, who had gone out of her ways to help me on the way to happiness. I still appreciate her efforts greatly. We were both so glad when the company got back to me and agreeing to give me the job. I took my bike and cycled out there as fast as I could, and I remember how tired my legs felt. I got there early which seemed to be appreciated by my new boss. He smiled at me and for the first time in months I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, which was a great contrast to the emptiness that had resided within me previously. I was so happy about getting to work there I barely even noticed that he touched the pendant of my necklace that I’d been wearing. My mother had made matching pendants for us when I was a kid, and since she’d gone I had been wearing mine all the time. I didn’t even take it off when I slept or bathed. The necklace felt like the only thing left of my mother that I owned. My mother’s necklace had gone with her; otherwise I’m sure I would’ve been wearing hers instead. I was a bit taken aback by his course of action, yet I tried not to think about it too much, and I soon forgot about it. My co-workers were all nice, and I soon made friends with a guy named Nick. He was 25 and had worked on the farm since he was 23, mostly because it paid the rent. He used to be quite the comedian and his dream was to become a chef and own a restaurant. When I asked him why he didn’t choose to apply to a job in a restaurant or café downtown, he would shrug it off. I stopped asking him as the question clearly made him uncomfortable.

After some time I learned that my boss was not the owner of the company, it was a lady named Alexandra. She looked much younger than she was, and the rose farm had been in her family since the early 20th century. Nick told me everything he knew – it was Alexandra’s great grandfather that had started the business, and whatever he’d done to make the roses so perfect was a secret he’d guarded with his life. That was exactly what his children and grandchildren had done after him, as they all kept their mouths tightly shut about the issue.
Alexandra was a very beautiful woman; she had pale skin and icy blue eyes. Her brown hair was always in a tight bun, and every time any of us workers met with her she would wear dark clothing. Everything about her gave a sense of respect, and we were all nervous when she came to observe our work. Nick and I were both sure that Alexandra and our boss, Mr Verne, were in a relationship because they seemed to be so close. Nowadays I really couldn’t care less. I’m just happy that they’re both dead.

It was in the early summer that things… where the truth was uncovered. The truth that had been hidden in the ground for generations, and that had kept getting fed more and more.
Not many people think about it, but roses often get entangled with each other out on the fields and it’s not always easy to notice because the fields are so large. My co-workers and I had gone out to check to be sure this hadn’t happened so that when we harvested the roses, we wouldn’t have to throw any of them away because they’d grown all over each other.
I was walking in a pretty slow pace, my eyes moving around as I looked over the roses. They had just started blooming ´and their scent was heavy and completely surrounded me. Nick was further away; I could only see him as a figure in the distance to my right. The sun had started moving toward the horizon, and I wanted to try and get back before it got dark. It was significantly colder, and I shivered in my work clothes. When I think back, I can’t remember hearing any other sounds than my own footsteps and breathing, which was a bit unnerving. A bit further away I suddenly spotted a big bushy mess of entangled stems, leaves and flowers. I hurried my pace up a bit and got some of the tools I’d brought with me out.
The thorns were sharp and hurt a bit even through the gloves I had on my hands, yet I started cutting the stems as I’d grown to be quite good at. I was careful not to harm the roses or the stems that led to the flowers. I had gotten through about half of the bush when I spotted something odd in the ground. Close to where I had my knee, something white was sticking up through the ground. Only a small bit of it was visible, but big enough to notice. It didn’t look like a rock, and my curiosity got the better of me. I put my tools down and backed up a little so that I could start digging the thing up. I put my fingers in the ground as close to it as I could, and began to shove the earth to the sides. The object was a bit rounded, and as soon as I could I started to pull it out of the ground. I eventually pulled it out and was completely dumbfounded. I didn’t realised what it was at first, but when I understood I felt sick. I had pulled a big bone out of the earth. I immediately signalled Nick and begged him to come over to my location. It felt like ages until he came, and I showed him the bone.
“It’s probably from an animal”, he said. I wasn’t convinced. So we started digging more, and it soon became apparent to us that it wasn’t just any kind of animal. Nick pulled out a human skull. As soon as he saw what it was, he immediately dropped it with fear in his eyes. I felt tears welling up in mine, and I watched as Nick started to rip the roses out, pulling the roots out as well. Out of the ground came many other bones. They were of different sizes and colours, and Nick hastily moved out to pull even more of the plants, from different locations around us, out. We found bones in most of the places. Terrified, we hurried back. I was behind Nick and I struggled to keep the pace. The landscape around us was bathed in the light of the sunset. The roses were in every direction and I feared to even look at the ground. Because of that I nearly tripped many times. I was terrified of getting left behind, and I was sure I would if I didn’t keep up.
When we came back we called the police and I tried to describe the situation. I was panicking, and Nick had to take over. After that we alerted all our co-workers, and we tried to find Alexandra and Mr Verne, but they weren’t in their offices. When the police showed up we were taken back into the city for questioning as the police searched for Alexandra and her accomplice.
Later that night we were informed that they had become the prime suspects of huge amounts of murders. It wasn’t exactly that way, because after confessing Alexandra also told police how the murders and placements of the bodies dated back decades. Her great grandfather had started the business; his idea had been to give the flowers the bodies of hundreds of people, and many years later she had sworn to keep it going. The farm had been his life, she said. Her pretty words hadn’t helped her or Mr Verne from the death sentence however. Their executions were two of the quickest in America back then, it took only about a year and a half before they were condemned with lethal injection. Alexandra’s last meal was a glass of water with a pink rose from her own farm floating on top. Mr Verne was much less dramatic than the mastermind.

But what keeps me up at night the most isn’t any of this, or how my old friend, Nick, looks nowadays. Not the torn man he has become. No, the thought that scares me, the fact that is my worst fear, is what the police gave me after they closed the case.

It was a necklace with a hand-made pendant, the exact same as the one I had around my neck. A pendant I’d seen so many times before.

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Car Crash

May 31, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Car Crash

I was once friends with this girl called Megan. She was a little strange. People said she was weird but I liked her. After a while, once she got to know me better, she started to open up to me. Megan didn’t learn to drive for a very long time after everyone else. She was always very hesitant to even get into a car. It wasn’t until quite a while later into our friendship that she explained to me the reason behind this. But when she did I fully understood. When Megan was ten years old, there was this terrible storm. Her father was on his way home from work and his car broke down. He wasn’t very far from their house so he rang home and Megan’s mother decided to take her own car and go out and collect him. This left Megan at home to look after her little sister, Suzy. Megan couldn’t believe her eyes only 20 minute later when she saw the flaming wreck of her mother’s car on a news bullet-in. The storm had gotten much worse and her mother had lost control, leaving Megan and Suzy orphans.

Their aunt Tessa took them in after that, and it was ten years later on a night much like that one that had claimed her parents that she found herself reluctantly driving her younger sister home. She was driving around a bend when she saw that a tree had fallen across the road. She braked immediately but it was too late. After the initial impact and several barrel rolls, Megan was drifting in and out of consciousness and she looked to see if her sister was ok. She wasn’t in the seat next to her. She looked around and was just in time to see two dark figures leading her sister away from the wreck. She could only feel vaguely confused and then she passed out again. When she woke up next she was in a hospital bed. She asked about her sister, and the doctor sat down and explained that Suzy had died immediately on impact. For years, Megan became obsessed with the idea that it was her parents’ spirits that she had seen on that night, leading her sister away into the afterlife. In her grief, what she had seen weighed heavily on her mind, driving her further and further away from sanity over time.

It was three years later on the night that her sister had dies that there was another storm and Megan was beside herself with the memories. She drove out into storm with no destination in mind. She just drove for hours and hours until eventually she grew tired and her eyes grew heavy and she started to doze. The car drifted off the road and she crashed through the dense trees on the roadside. She lost consciousness briefly and when she came round she realised that she had bumped her head but she was ok. She started to cry, having realised she wouldn’t be seeing her parents that night after all. But then she saw a flicker in the rear view mirror over her head. She turned to see two dark figures walking towards her, and for a brief moment she was filled with hope and with happiness. But that moment was shattered when the tail light of her car illuminated the faces of the two figures. It wasn’t her parents. It wasn’t even human. They both had grotesque faces, long sharp teeth, coming out of jagged lips and faintly glowing eyes. Megan screamed out in terror and the creatures froze. She didn’t hesitate. She wrenched the twisted car door open and she ran. She kept running, she didn’t stop. She didn’t look back until she came to a house. She was soaking wet and delirious, and exhausted. Nobody ever believed Megan when she told them what she had seen. They all told her it was just a result of the bump on the head. But Megan believes it, and I believe it. And if you had heard her speak about that night the way she did to me, you would believe it too.

Credit: The Cold Chills YouTube Team

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Case File: Smiler Man

May 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was sitting on some particularly comfortable hallway chairs in this very bare waiting room. The only thing that occupied the room beside me was this clearly fake plant. I had been asked to wait while this particularly clean yet short and stocky man prepared a room for us. After a relatively long wait time the official, who had the appearance of Barney Rubble, came to lead me to where I was going to be spending the next couple hours or so. I followed the cartoon double down a long hallway riddled with doors adorned various official’s names. It was my first time being invited to such a fancy government building with such bland attributes.

He opened a door to a rather comfortable looking room. He had me sit on one of the colder looking chairs on one side of the table. It looked like a generic interrogation room minus the one-sided mirror. I planted myself down completely uninterested in reliving the events that brought me here in the first place.

“Thank you for joining me Detective Buchanan.” Soon enough he sat himself down just across from me whilst placing down a recording device.

“I wasn’t one with much of a choice after such an elaborate invitation.” He was parked outside the hospital I was discharged from and informed me I needed to be at a certain address at a certain time for ‘debriefing’.

“Enough with the sarcasm Detective, I would like you to speak clearly and in great detail about every event of your case.” From the rumble of his serious tone, I decided it was probably against my best interest to continue with my attitude.

“To be honest, this was probably one of the wildest cases I was ever on. Granted, I went in with all my digits, then came out missing one with a severe need for a therapist.” I exhaled, relaxing back into the cold office chair that was provided for me. The man sitting across from me leaned in ready to listen.

“Start wherever is most convenient.”

*****

“Good morning, Jarred.” I waved to my entirely too blonde partner. “Did you lose a bet or something?”

“My son went blonde and got bullied, so I decided to dye my hair, too.” He laughed.

“Fair enough.” I shrugged, “So what’s on today’s agenda?”

“New case. There’s been a disturbance downtown in the apartments by Main and 59th. Get on it.” The short, and slightly pudgy, chief of our office informed us.

“I call shotgun.” I chuckled slightly tossing my keys to my partner.

“Dagnabbit.” He frowned as he followed me out the door and to my car.

It didn’t take us long before we arrived at the crime scene. Upon arrival, we parked nearby and did our usual greetings to the cops who were posted at the scene. They filled us in on what they knew and we went on our way inside. When we entered the apartment it was pretty apparent there was a struggle, no signs of forced entry, however. Whoever came in here was let in opposed to breaking in. There were small puddles of blood across the living room and partially down the hall. As we moved farther down the hall the blood increased in volume. The trail lead to the bathroom and the source of its embodiment. Across the floor laid a relatively aged man in a pool of his own cooled and clotted crimson life. The majority of his body was still in tacked however there were parts of him that were forcefully removed; typical sick psychopath work in my eyes.

“Our victim is 43-year-old Kevin Harper. He is a clearly single man given the conduct of the apartment in addition to the lack of feminine products or a roommate. It was a co-worker that called when he didn’t show up for work. He has been dead for approximately seventy-four hours. Someone tried cleaning him up a bit but stopped midway.” A relatively young looking black man informed us before pulling Jarred off to the side.

Jarred stepped aside to talk to medical examiner better known as Arthur Davis. He had a grim look on his face as he looked back at me, I had a funny feeling I wasn’t going to like this case. He wandered over with half a smile and a lowered voice.

“So, Artie here informed me that the body parts were not severed by any normal means.” He sighed slightly.

“I hope you’re not implying what I think you are.” I felt my stomach churn ever so slightly.

“It also looks like we have pieces unaccounted for. Hank my friend,” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “We can talk to the chief about giving this case up…”

“It’s a cannibal case isn’t it.” I felt the churn worsen and my gut tightens up. He only nodded in response as I held back the urge to retch. After I composed myself I looked him right in the eyes.

“I’d rather not be a laughing stock, besides, the best way to face your fears is by beating it.” I shrugged off his hand.

“Yeah but fears and vomit inducing topics are totally different.” He laughed. I was always thankful of Jarred, he’s had my back since I was first transferred over to the precinct.

“My issues aside, any news on evidence left behind?” I veered away from the body to look at some of the broken furniture just outside the bathroom.

“We have some hair and a strange set of fingerprints but we won’t know anything until we get this to the lab,” Artie smiled waving his hand slightly.

“Thanks, Artie.” My partner interjected before I was able to retort with a smartass remark.

While we waited for the lab results, my partner and I decided it would be a good idea to look more into Mr. Harper. Jarred when to go talk to his coworker while I made a request in with a friend in the precinct. She did some digging for me but came up with virtually nothing. He had an ex-wife and a son who moved to the west coast five years back and had kept a steady office job since the divorce. By the time my partner came back I really had nothing to help lead us anywhere, he regrettably had the same issue.

A few days into the investigation we heard back from the lab only identifying the victims prints, hair, and blood. There was one other set of prints but those were nowhere in our system.

Flustered with my draw to nowhere, I decided to hit the bar with Jarred and a few other coworkers. I proceeded to drink the cases troubles away with some hearty laughter and strong beer. We enjoyed ourselves for a few hours before I got a call from Daphnie wondering where I was at. I laughed into the phone and assured I was on my way. I called a taxi not too long after and made my way home.

*****

“Alcohol is the most commonly used depressant these days.” The agent scoffed.

“Hey, I am not getting any younger. One or two nights out with the guys is all good in my defense. I try not to make a habit out of it. Saw a guy once, drunk himself right into the unemployment line.” I crossed my arms.

“I suppose Daphnie wouldn’t let you do anything like that, now would she?”

I felt myself fall into a bit of a guilt trip, “Yeah, my daughter acts like a parent half the time.”

“She sounds like she has a head on her shoulders, now onward Mr. Buchanan.”

“Just when I thought we were opening up to each other you put that wall right back up. So hurtful Special Agent, so hurtful.” I took a deep breath.

“I was two weeks into that dead end when I got a call that there was another attack much like the one from the first scene. I had hopped into my car first thing and went straight over to the hospital.”

*****

I entered the hospital bumping into a rather pretty fair skinned nurse on my way to the elevator. She looked tired and worried despite her nice soft glow. Just as I was going to ask if she was alright, she scurried off murmuring something about an appointment. I shrugged off the opportunity and stepped into the small metal box. I pressed the fifth floor and up I went.

I entered the hall seeing a cop stationed outside the room where the victim was staying. I saw a fairly old male, clearly he still had some spring in his step but I couldn’t see him keeping up with the cop next to him. His hair was thinned and grey in between his dim brown locks. His skin wrinkled with years of disgust and stress. His body was short, squashed even, but had a good amount of pudge clearly from his lack of interest in fitness. His bandaged hand twitched slightly as it rested on his bed sheets. Some of the blood still seeped from the bandages wrapping his arm and from a patch on his face.

I stood in front of my bed and watched as his gaze met mine.

“Good afternoon.”

“Ain’t nothing good ’bout this afternoon.” He hissed back.

“Poor opener.” I chuckled dryly, “My name is Hank Buchanan, I am the detective in charge of finding the person who did this to you.”

“Now’s the part where you ask them questions….well, get to it.” He prodded.

“So I was informed you were assaulted by a rather suspicious party?” I opened my notebook readily to take some quick notes. This was the first solid lead I managed to get my hands on in quite some time so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

“He was a freak! A freak I tell you!” he stammered violently between breaths.

“Sir I need you calm down, please. I want to know what he looked like.”

“H-he had six fingers on each hand.” He lifted his hands as he spoke, “His skin was mixed with these dark brown and white patches all over like a cow. H-he was skinny, unnaturally so…” The man placed his hands back on the bed sheets.

“Anything else? Eye colour? Hair? Any other markings?”

His eyes darted up at me filled with anger I was all too familiar with. “His f-face.”

“Something about his face?”

“Long stitching, it outlined the break between the black skin and white skin on his face. There was just enough space on his forehead to see that it wasn’t a full circle b-but more of a…a smile if you will. Not an expression as much as an outline.”

I saw his gaze lower and the feeling of uneasiness rise. I moved on to asking about the place where he was attacked and if anyone else was there when it happened. He refused to speak to me any further in regards to the man, I at least had something to go on. I gave a call to my partner back at the office and informed him to start a local search for blotchy men with six fingers. At first, he laughed at me, honestly getting a call like that I probably would have done the same thing. After I repeated it a bit more sternly he stopped laughing. We hung up shortly after so I could pick my daughter up from cheerleading practice.

It wasn’t until morning the next day when Jarred got a chance to sit down with me to inform me I hit yet another dead end. There was only one person ever registered with a sixth finger and he went missing twenty-six years ago. He had no known relatives and lived in a foster home that had burned down just a couple years after he went missing. All of the records for the home were gone several bodies were discovered in the building. It was a cold arson case with no known survivors. Honestly, at that point, I needed a miracle.

A few days after I hit my dead end I decided to call it a night. I had spent the last seventy something hours of my life trying to come up with a way to track this cannibal with no luck. I figured a good night’s sleep and a meal with the kids would be a good little break. I managed to beat them both home to bake some chicken and make some steamed vegetables. It was cute the two of them looked so surprised to see me. The little one, Abby, came and gave me a hug when she saw me in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but laugh. Being in my field and them not having their mother makes family dinners hard sometimes.

It wasn’t long before we got a chance to sit down and eat together. My eldest , Daph, often asked me about work. She has shown an interest in getting into my kind of field, so sometimes I tell her what’s going on. She was like my at home helper.

“So what are you working on this time?” She scooped some of her greens onto her fork and ate them.

“I have an interesting case, it isn’t very appropriate for little ears like Abby, so I am not going into detail.” I pointed my fork at her, Abbigale was in the seventh grade so I wasn’t too comfortable with her learning about the dead bodies I deal with.

“Ugh, can you censor it or something! I haven’t seen you in like forever.” She protested pushing some of the food around on her plate.

I gave a deep sigh, “Okay, I can censor it a little. There is a bad guy kidnapping people and then poof they all disappear forever. There was one guy who he left behind and the guy managed to explain the culprit to me but…” I scratched my head.

“You hit a dead end. “ She finished for me.

“Daddy why do people steal other people?” Abby asked, taking a good bite of her chicken.

“If I only knew kiddo, maybe it would help me stop them.” I laughed.

“Sound’s like the guy’s done.” Daphnie shoved another forkful into her mouth.

I paused for a moment and looked at her, she stared at me like I didn’t catch on. For a second, I was confused but that had me thinking. If he had done such a good job with his other victims, having countless times to practice, why did that one man get away? He didn’t look very strong nor did he have any signs of fighting back. It was as if the man that had been kidnapping and attacking people wanted to get caught. But why?

“I wouldn’t know why though, people are crazy. Emotions are crazy. My English teacher told me life is unpredictable and people can go from wanting one thing to another on the turn of a dime.” She shrugged while picking up her glass of water to have a nice long drink.

“Maybe he was sorry for what he did.” Abby added, “I know I would be sorry if I hurt someone.”

Abby was so cute. If all of the criminals in the world acted like her, I think I’d be out of a job. Adorable seventh graders aside, Daphnie really had me thinking. After we had finished eating dinner I cleaned the dishes and tucked my girls into bed. Once I was sure they were asleep I took out my work and set up in the living room. I had brewed a nice cup of coffee and re-reviewed everything I had come across thus far.

Just about all the victims were near the same age. The most that had ever been left behind from the victims were fingers, toes, ears; basically the small parts. Some were cleanly taken off, others were not so lucky. They were all taken in the same five block radius not too far away from the hospital. The only known surviving victim described a man that had been missing for twenty-six years. During all that time there is a possibility that this was not his starting point, and that he presumably had some help. Most likely from someone that knew how to clean up a mess. Everything before hand only left a trail and a hint that the victim was even taken. This last victim threw everything off, not only was he intact ,for the most part, but he was left at the scene. Unfortunately, unless the victim recovers some other memory or a new lead falls out of the sky, I can’t move onto any set of individuals in the hospital.

I groaned leaning back on my couch. The only thing I could really do after this was give Johan Kingston a call and see if he’d be willing to help out any more. Until then I packed up my case and went to bed. I decided it would be a good idea to visit my friend Dr. Peter Totschlag, being a forensic psychologist, he may be able to give me a hand.

During my lunch, I gave him a call to see if he was free. To my surprise. he was and he happily agreed to give me a hand on the case. I met with him at his office after I picked us up come 6 from this cubbyhole joint he fancied.

“Oh, a case, and you actually brought me food? You must be stuck.” he laughed brushing some of his stray brown hair from his forehead.

“Drastic times call for drastic measures, Pete.” I pulled up a seat and handed him his food, as we ate, I managed to fill him in on everything and show him a few images from the crime scenes. Then I told him about the last scene and victim.

“Yeah, that is totally weird.” he slurped up the last of his soda, “Doesn’t sound like the other stuff at all.”

“You wouldn’t believe who got me to look at it this way.” I chuckled.

“Daphnie will be a great detective one day.” He looked at me and pushed some of the photos around. “I have ordered it from cleanest to messiest. Take a look at each of the scenes. Here, all the way on the left, it’s got the tightest job while the far right shows clearly there was no second person.”

“So there were two at the scene.”

“Yes and no. Some of them show there were both, others only one. You said some pieces were prettier than others right?”

I nodded.

“Those were the ones that had two people physically working. As time went on, it does give off the feeling that they were getting tired of doing it.” He picked up the photos of the last scene, “It shows that the killer may have been reluctant to let his assistant help. There could have been a concern that arose or even the killer was just done with her. ”

“Her?”

“Yup, no older male killer would be this caring about another man. Due to the type of crimes and the nature of this killer, there would be a female party or a younger male, I lean toward a female because of this idea of a romantic bridge the killer can construct. He clearly shows some level of acknowledgement of her and as time went on it kinda looks like he gave a damn.”

“Any suggestions of the line of work?”

He let out a rough laugh, “After all this talk of cleanliness you are really going to ask that?”

“I have an idea where she may work, to be honest.”

“Oh?” he leaned back in his chair. “Were you leaning toward hospital?”

“Bingo. All of the abductions were ten minutes from the hospital, if anyone would have the time to step away and come back from a break it would be someone from there.”

“It does make sense I would sug-” My phone cut him off with a loud ring.

“Sorry.” I picked it up and to my surprise, it looked like Jarred was giving me a call, “It’s my partner, one moment.”

I removed myself from the room, he was calling to let me know that the victim had returned to the station and wanted to speak to me. I quickly rushed inside to pick up my file and gave Pete a farewell and whisked myself back to the station. By the time I got back to the station, Johan was already waiting with my partner. Once he had spotted me, he stood using a cane probably provided by the hospital. He grabbed ahold of my arm shaking slightly.

“I heard her Detective.”

“Heard who?” I questioned sitting him down in his chair.

“The woman.” He stammered.

“Mr. Kingston, I am going to have to ask you to articulate what you are saying. I do not want to play the pronoun game with you.” I spoke firmly.

“When I was in the hospital I heard a voice, it was a woman’s voice it sounded like the one I heard before I was attacked by that monster.”

“And she was in the area you were staying at? Did you get any glimpse of her face?”

He shook his head.

“If I could get you somewhere where you could hear her voice, do you think you could point her out?”

“I believe I could.”

I gave a small smile, “Jarred get our warrant.”

It took some time but we managed to get all the women who worked on the floor where Johan was staying. A couple dozen nurses, a few doctors, and one janitor later, we had our line up ready to go.Mr. Kingston was more than happy to sit in, though, there was a mix of fear and rage on his face. I double checked with him to make sure he wanted to do this. He only looked at me for a moment and asked when we could begin. We set up each group accordingly as well as numbered each woman so we could keep track of everyone he thought was the voice from before. After two or three hours, we managed to bring it down to one line of six women. Jarred took care of most of the paperwork while a few other officers dealt with witness statements and escorting the previous ladies out.

“Do you want to take a break, Johan?” I questioned leaning towards the glass to examine the line of women.

“I will take a break once I point out who it was.” He poked back, I gave a small smirk.

We went through the routine one last time and he was able to narrow it down to two women. One was a nurse by the name of Mabelyn Peterson; the other, a janitor named Margaret Coleman. Both women had a very close speech pattern and vocal tones so I could see why he couldn’t point one out over the other. I thanked both him and the ladies for their time, and sent them on their way so we could begin our investigation on the women.

I returned to the office with the new information and sifted through all the clues again… not that there were many to go through. Both women worked at the hospital. While it was likely that the nurse had the medical expertise, that didn’t necessarily rule out the janitor. I must have gone over the evidence four or five times, and each time, I hit the same dead end. I had to get a warrant for the ladies’ records. In the meantime, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to call them in for an interrogation.

I filed for the search warrant and found Jarred. “Looks like we’re going fishing,” I said.

“Catch and release?” Jarred asked, eyes wide with excitement. He enjoyed interrogating suspects.

“Catch and release… for now,” I replied. “All the evidence adds up to these two suspects, but we need something more conclusive.”

“You did remember to let the Chief know, right?”

“As far as you know,” I told him. “Hey, you’re the interrogator this time, you have no reason to look a gift-horse in the mouth.”

Jarred decided to shut his trap after that…

A few hours later, I stood behind the two-way glass, watching Jarred play with Margaret. I could see that he went with the “We Know All” technique of interrogation. The tactic wasn’t doing any good, though; either she was really good at playing dumb, or she really didn’t know what was going on. I considered going in to interrogate Mabelyn, but there were a few problems. For starters, her record was squeaky clean; nothing I could use to intimidate her. That meant we had almost no tactic to use, and going in with a bunch of questions can always be misconstrued by the defense as coercing a confession… which means the case gets thrown out. I’ve always been a little hesitant during interrogations; that’s why I usually let Jarred handle it. In the meantime, however, I did peek in on Mabelyn through the glass, and something about her… it just got to me. She had this peaceful, serene look on her face, as if she didn’t have a care in the world… which was weird, considering that she was sitting in an interrogation room. Even people who are completely innocent will show some level of apprehension. Not one look of nervousness betrayed her features. She was just not right. I mentally scolded myself for letting my biases get in the way.

Jarred came out of the interrogation room. “If we didn’t have so much evidence against her, I’d say she was completely innocent,” he replied, with a puzzled look on his face. “I still have to question the nurse, but that’s just a formality right now. If I was the janitor, I’d plead insanity.”

As he walked away perusing the folder, I went to see the Chief about the status of those warrants, though I probably should have told him about this whole ordeal sooner. I knew he was going to ream me a new one yet again.

As soon as I set foot into the Chief’s office, I knew my partner had ratted me out. “We’ll talk about your lack of communication skills later,” he said, clearly annoyed, but used to me keeping him out of the loop.

“Yeah, well… speaking of communication,” I awkwardly transitioned, “Got any word on those warrants?”

Chief shook his head. “You know how the judge is about warrants,” he replied. “If I had known what you did behind my back, for the fiftieth time, I would’ve told you to hold off, or do more legwork, or something.”

“Great,” I murmured. “Best news on this case, yet.”

As I left the office, I heard Chief yell out, “Next time, be sure you keep me in the damned loop!”

Any investigator, regardless of organization or position, will tell you that busywork is the worst. It’s that stuff you do between hitting a brick wall in a case, and finding that one clue that ties it all together; that’s what I got stuck doing. I grabbed some coffee and went back to my desk. I worked on the board where we laid out all the different clues and tried to tie them together. I went back to my desk and listened to the recordings. I looked back through all of the evidence we gathered – even the stuff we originally thought was useless to the case- and got more coffee. All the evidence still said Margaret was the perp, but Mabelyn’s interview and her attitude before the interrogation, were so…off. In such an investigation, it’s always been my experience that innocent people don’t act so nervous, or so calm; only guilty people hit either of those extremes. Fidgeting, losing eye-contact, stuttering, problems working through timelines… on the other hand, staying completely still, glaring, a stone-faced expression, speech that sounds rehearsed, timelines that fit together too well… each extreme indicates something different, and you can just guess which extreme fits Mabelyn’s performance. Worst of all, there were the subtle cues, the microexpressions, which seemed to show that she had a feeling of serendipity; almost like you’d see in a woman who was covering for someone she loved. Going back through Johan’s story, it was clear that this was a two-person team. It made sense… but then again, the evidence was completely against it. It was like a criminologist had gone through the evidence, and Mabelyn’s record, and sterilized both.

We still had nothing clear enough to hold either of them. At least I could take my suspicions to the Chief and explain to him why I was against what the evidence had to say. First, however, I had to get a more authoritative voice on the subject, and I knew just who to consult…
Harrison was a friend of mine since college. He had been my Criminology professor, before the F.B.I. decided to call him up, and I joined the local P.D. He worked for the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, profiling psychos for a living. These days, he’s a child psychologist. I hadn’t seen him in forever – between work and family, I had zero time – but this was as good of a time as any.

I pulled up to his house/office, located just five minutes from the police station, with my notes at the ready. It was a beautiful, old Victorian; must have cost him a fortune, especially in the Historic District. I buzzed the intercom at his door and looked at the camera. “Come on, Harry,” I murmured.

“So impatient,” Harrison’s voice spoke from the intercom. “You’re lucky I’m not busy with a client.”

The door buzzed. I took that as my cue to walk in.

Harrison had an affinity for taxidermy and masks. I knew he wouldn’t have any of those decorations in his office, considering his clientele, but I wasn’t surprised to see a few tastefully mounted heads in the parlor, and several masks lining the hallway going upstairs. Many were colorful and garish, ranging from kabuki masks to a few cheap masks he had gotten from his Mardi-Gras vacation, but there were a couple that stood out. These were old, wooden masks, which looked like the kind they featured in old movies about Voodoo and zombies.

Harrison met me at the door to his office. “Admiring the decor?” he asked, with a slight smirk on his face. He seemed to have aged pretty well, for a man in his fifties. The grey streaks in his hair made him look distinguished, and he had just a few lightly-etched smile lines on his face. I patted him on the shoulder as I shook his hand. “Particularly those Voodoo masks,” I replied. “Think you have the time to help with a particularly tough case?”

Harrison’s face suddenly hardened. “I had hoped we could converse under more pleasant circumstances,” he said, in that passive-aggressive way of his. He had quit the B.A.U. during a case involving the ritual murder and cannibalization of ten young children. That was five years ago, and the look in his eyes still screamed that he wished he’d gotten that one profile right. In spite of all the other profiles he had gotten almost perfect, that one case both ended his career busting the worst criminals in America, and took a piece of his soul.

“Harry, you know I wouldn’t bother you with this unless it was important,” I tried to reassure him. “You’re the most experienced person I know when it comes to this sort of case. I’d hate to sound like this is some kind of story or something, but lives are, literally, on the line.”

Harrison rolled his eyes at my choice of words. “Alright,” he conceded, “Let’s have a look…”

A few minutes later, Harrison and I were both pouring over my notes. He shook his head. “My professional opinion?” He said. “I think this Mabelyn Petersen is your accomplice. She’s smart, dedicated, and shows signs of sociopathy.”

“So, why does she work for somebody else?” I asked. “I thought psychopaths were-”

“Times have changed, Hank,” Harrison replied, cutting me off. “Take a look at the newest issue of ‘Psychology Today’, and you’ll see that there is a technical difference between psychopathy and sociopathy. For one thing, psychopathy is generally believed to be hereditary, due to an underdevelopment of loci of the brain that control emotional and ethical development; sociopaths are made by a variety of childhood trauma. Furthermore, while psychopaths are meticulous in their actions, and detached from emotional states, sociopaths can form emotional attachments, even going to obsessive extremes; the only thing that doesn’t fit is, sociopaths are generally disorganized and erratic while psychopaths are accurate and detail-oriented.”

“So, what are you saying?” I asked. “Is she a sociopath, or not?”

“I believe she has formed an emotional attachment to a sociopath,” Harrison deduced, putting down the notes and moving towards the window. “She, herself, is not a sociopath; she’s found a way to rationalize her role as the sociopath’s accomplice. He may have manipulated her into falling in love with him, which would cause a strong emotional attachment so strong, she might be willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy.”

“Why a cannibal, though?” I asked.

Harrison stroked his clean-shaven chin. “I’m reminded of a case that, believe it or not, was featured on ‘Maury’,” he said. “There were two young boys who were severely abused and neglected by their parents. They had been forced into a diet of dog food to survive. A couple of years later, the Department of Children and Families took the boys out of the home, but for an entire month, they had to be slowly weaned off of the dog food and reconditioned to eat a normal diet. Their systems had become so accustomed to dog food, it was impossible for them to stomach too much of a typical human diet at any one time. It caused them to vomit whatever they ate.”

Looking back, it seems like an oddly specific thing to say, but at the time, I thought nothing of it. I did, however, take Harrison’s statement back with me. Chief would have a lot to complain about, but it would be worth it…

I decided to look in on the interrogation of Mabelyn again. This time, I could see that my smooth-talking partner was really laying on the charm. This was another technique in which you make a personal connection to the suspect. Make them like you, make them trust you, make them identify with you, and they might just be talked into opening up more; maybe, even relying on you to save them, which, of course, requires that you tell them the truth about everything. The only problem was, Mabelyn was really good at playing dumb… or maybe, she really was that dumb. Then again, how would a nurse, with all that medical training, be stupid?

Chief called me into the office shortly after I returned from taking a glance at Margaret in the interrogation room. Just outside his office there were two cleanly dressed men, they had the aura of ‘I’m higher up so back the fuck off’. He sat me down and gave out a rough sigh.

“Hank, I know you saw the two men outside.” He waved his hand in their direction, “I’ve been informed the kidnapping case we have you on will be given to those two.”

“Wait…wait, what? Why now? I am so close to finding this guy!” I protested. He gave another sigh as he picked up his coffee.

“I am not doing this because I want to Hank, they came to me about what you are working on. I was just picked to let you know. Please leave all your information with them and take the night off, you look like you haven’t slept in ages.” He took a sip of his coffee.

“I will have a new assignment on your desk when you come in tomorrow.”

Angrily, I stood and left his office. I walked over to my desk and packed everything into a manila folder for the two fantastic parties taking the case I’d been slaving over. Once everything was packed away, I happily handed over my work and left to go find some drive-through on the way home.

I sat in my car completely flustered with the case being taken from me. I had been so close to finally getting to the light at the end of the tunnel, then BAM, a cave in. I sighed deeply before taking a bite of a burrito I picked up to suffice as my dinner. I know Abby would get mad but I stayed out a little later to cool off. I had a sick feeling the killer would try to go after someone tonight so I had to at least listen for anything that could remotely fit the M.O. About mid-burrito, I overheard the radio call out a disturbance call for one of the houses in the neighborhood I was close to. I picked up my walkie and confirmed I’d go check it out since I wasn’t too far off. I set my food back in the bag and drove off to the address, just because my case was taken doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to give it one more go. It wasn’t until I stopped outside I noticed it was the nurse’s house. Her car was still in the driveway running but all the lights in the front of the house were off. I stopped my car and made my way to the door. I lightly grabbed the knob to test if it was open or not; once I confirmed it was unlocked I slowly opened the door.

I made my way into the house firearm drawn. I stopped dead in my tracks spotting the vitiligo cannibal eating in the dining room. Blood dripped onto the floor from the nurses freshly mangled body. With a short gag, he stopped what he was doing. His head turned to me part of her flesh being sucked into his mouth. My gun was drawn and aimed right at him. To be honest I was shaking for a moment, as I watched him chew I felt myself become queasy. Right before me was the nurse I had spoken to not more than four hours before, gutted on her own kitchen table.

“I think you forgot to say ‘freeze’ good sir.” A quick gulp and he had emptied his mouth and smiled, “You look positively green would you like a bucket?”

His voice was deep and crisply filled with joy to see me. He straightened himself out patting out the bloodied apron. “Pardon my table manners.” Laughter soon followed as his head and eyes scanned the room. My gun was still pointed at him. I was able to keep myself from throwing up for the second time in the last few minutes.

*****

I groaned a bit changing positions in the chair I was sitting on. The suited man across from me looked displeased with my sudden pauses and verbal complaints regarding my seating arrangement. Honestly I was just stalling, I don’t know if he saw it, but I was particularly uneasy about the next part.

“A homicide detective with a weak stomach? That’s a bit ironic, now isn’t it.” He looked amused for a moment while I frowned.

“I can handle anything else, but the idea of a person eating another person gets me a little sick okay.” I grumbled in response.

“Continue Detective.” He urged.

“I am, I am. These chairs are not very guest friendly, now are they.” I kept moving about my seat.

“Detective.”

“Okay…Basically, he asked me to listen to his story.” I exhaled. “He took a seat on a really comfortable, cushioned chair, and asked if I could listen to his story before I arrested him.”

“And you did that?” He spoke in disbelief and partial annoyance.

“I was stalling for backup on the verge of throwing up my snack. Now can I continue? Or are you going to pull up a nice seat and ask more questions?” I may or may not have growled at him just a bit with my side comment.

“What did he say to you?”

“Well…”

*****

He sat back next to the body, my gun still pointed right at him. I only nodded in response to his question. He threw me an eerie smile, pulling at some of the stitching at the corners of his mouth.

“I was twelve….or somewhere around that age. Honestly, with the place where I was stuck at, I lost most of what little memories of my childhood I had. I was a foster kid. No mom, no dad just a bunch of other kids. It’s vague but I do remember a level of acceptance from all of them.” He stared at the ground while he pushed himself onto his feet as if he were dazed, lost in his own thoughts. “Then I was taken.”

“You’re missing person poster is still sitting on my desk. Who took you?”

“No clue, all I know is that his name is…or rather was..Jack.” His gaze connected with mine. “I took his name shortly after eating him.”

“S…so you ate the man who kidnapped you? At twelve?”

“Don’t misunderstand, I was not twelve when I ate the man that ruined me. Have you ever had everything you know, everyone you see, just…disappear? It makes you lonely. It drives you crazy. Now on top of that, you add on being trapped in a basement with a man named ‘Jack’ force feeding you humans after days and days of starvation. What do you think that does to a child? The torture of a man pinching and clamping the skin on your face until there’s nothing but a flap of skin much like when you become overweight and the rest of you hangs there once the fat is gone. I remember him taking the scissors out one day, he sharpened them and grabbed at the flap. He started on my forehead and cut his way down to the corners of my mouth. There was nothing to numb that pain but after what he would put me through, I don’t think I ever remember screaming. I just remember the blood and stitching he did to make my face whole again. He stretched out this white part here, it’s so tight over my nose and eyes.”

He lightly touched the center of his face then drug his fingers down to touch some of the stitching he had on his top lip. “He called me ‘Smiler’ from that day on. I don’t even know why he did it to me but hey, life’s a bitch now isn’t it.”

“And her?” I moved my head slightly directing it at the ever cooling body on the table.

“Ah yes…the Peach, she was a rather nice partner. I met her after trying to move back into society. As you can see.” he opened his arms wide as if he were showing himself off to me “I am not exactly appealing to society these days. So, I decided to just go back to the way that man made me; a monstrosity. She, however, thought she could reverse what he did to me. I told her it was a terrible idea to let a cannibal in the house.”

“How’d she persuade you…not to do what you just did to her sooner?”

“She promised me a good meal and a place to stay, come now you know the only way to a man’s heart is his stomach. In my particular case, I go through the chest cavity.” He laughed a little, “To tell you the truth, she reminded me of someone I once knew, but I came to realize I was living a make believe life. You just conveniently got to me today.”

*****

“I was honestly rather engaged with his story…so much so that I hadn’t really realized he was getting closer until he had enough range to knock my gun out of my hand. Then we got into a good fight for a couple moment. He bit off my finger when we both landed on the floor.” I lifted my hand showing him my sudden love for the number nine. “After that, I managed to grab my gun and caught him right between the eyes.”

There was silence between us, as if he was expecting me to say more.

“Is that all detective?”

“Yes, sir.” I nodded leaning onto the table to give my back a break from the chair. “Is there supposed to be anything else?”

“I suppose not.” He sighed leaning forward for the device. Click. The recorder was turned off. He overlapped his fingers between his knuckles and rested them on the table between us. There was an awkward silence left between us before I cleared my throat.

“So Agent…?”

“Special Agent Jackson.”

“So Agent Jack, why take such an interest in this case anyway? It was just another twisted man gone off his rocker.” I lightly patted the table. The man across from me removed the sunglasses shielding his eyes and stared at me.

“Detective Buchanan, I would heavily advise you to forget any of this ever happened.”

“Huh?” that caught me off guard, I spent months putting that case together just to get it taken then told to pretend it didn’t happen.

“You have two daughters at home correct?”

“Yes sir, I do.”

“Abbigale and Daphnie wouldn’t want to live their lives without their parent.” He replaced the glasses on his face and stood to open the door for me. “Have a good afternoon Detective.”

I gathered myself and made my way out of the room, back down the hall I went, and out the front doors. I took a few steps down the front marble stairs and pulled out a cigarette and a lighter from my jacket pockets. I stared back at the building as I lit it then went on my merry way. It was at that moment, that what that Smiler guy told me about made complete sense.

*****

“This is the part of my tale that you keep to yourself, Hank. This type of information could endanger you and anyone else you hold dear.” Smiler sat right on top of me lifting the gun, placing it in my good hand and putting the barrel between his eyes.

“What is it?” I stammered, the pulsing of my missing finger ringing with pain.

“I want you to describe me as a terrible and twisted man, throw smiles and taunting. I shed no tears in front of you and Peach’s face must be riddled with fear. They will find out and want to know everything you know about me, please lie to them with every fiber in your body. I…I was not random. I was not alone. They wore suits. They broke us and they are making more.”

Credit: Tobi
Credit Link: http://chibi-works.deviantart.com/

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Thump!

April 29, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I have no idea whether or not this story will be seen as “creepy” by anyone reading it, but I can honestly say these events will stay with me until I die.

Living in England, I grew up on a healthy diet of ghost stories, myths and legends. The county I live in has many of it’s own supernatural stories, ranging from witchcraft, faceless monks and grey ladies to the supposed ghost of Boris Karloff! My story involves none of these.

Before I start, I want to say that I won’t be using names of places or “people” as I don’t want to exploit and/or cause trouble for anyone, myself included. Any ages or dates will be swapped out for false ones.

It begins innocent enough, a drink with an old friend. It was early December 2012 and I wanted to celebrate my birthday with a friend I’ve had since childhood. She was going to be moving to Spain that week, which meant she would be gone by my actual birthday at the end of the month.

I had intended on leaving her place quite early so I could catch a bus home. I didn’t know the area too well and I didn’t want to be out in the dark. Up until that night, I had always relied on her giving me lifts back and forth, so I never took time to really take notice of the neighbourhood.

I ended up not leaving until around midnight but in my somewhat drunken haze, I had managed to convince myself, and my friend, that taking a bus back home was still a good idea. The problem was, I had missed the last bus hours ago. Never the less, I put my coat on, stumbled out the door with some general directions to the nearest bus stop and I promised to return should I run into any trouble.

Now, sober me has no problem admitting to being scared of the dark and sober me probably would have seen spending the night at my friend’s place as a viable and probably the better option. But I was drunk and while under the influence, I tend to display out of character bravery and an unusual level of stupidity. I had set my mind to do something, I was going to do it.

Finding my way to the bus stop was going to be easy as it was at the bottom of a street who’s name was the same as my last name. As I turned into the street, I felt safe enough as it was a well-lit residential road that was packed with blocks of flats and council houses down one side and a primary school on the other.

It was quite a short road and I could just about make out the bus stop at the end under a street lamp. I was singing something, I don’t remember what, but a short distance from the school gate, I was stopped in my tracks when I heard what I thought was a scream.

You know when you hear something and you remain silent for what seems like ages, straining your ears for the slightest sound to figure out where it’s coming from? That’s what I was doing right then. For a short time, I heard no sound other than the general ambiance and a few cars at the bottom of the street and I thought about carrying on.

Just as I had plucked up enough courage to start walking again, from the direction of the primary school, I heard crying and a series of strange thumping sounds. Thump! Over and over! It was like nothing I had ever heard before, or since. I mean, obviously I know what a thump sounds like but these were different. I can’t explain how!

When I thought what ever it was had finally finished, I heard another, more choked scream followed soon after by one last thump. My blood felt like it had turned to ice and my brain started to “whoosh” after straining my ears for so long.

I thought “fuck this!” and I turned back around, ran as fast as my legs would go to the top of the street and back to my friend’s house. What ever it was that had just happened, I was NOT waiting around to find out!

I got to her door and though every bone in my body was urging me to bang on the door and scream, I slowed my breath as much as I could and knocked calmly. “I knew you would come back!” my friend yelled as she yanked the door open. “I think I missed the last bus” I replied quietly. I went right to the sofa, took off my shoes, lay down, coat still on and I slept, heavily. To this day, I don’t know why I never said anything.

When I woke up, I wasn’t hungover like you’d expect. I felt fine and I had slept really well. I was still a little shaken from the scare but sober me piped up and put the whole incident down to drunken hallucinations and my fear of the dark.

I wanted to go home right away but my friend didn’t want to drive until she was sure the alcohol was out of her system and I did NOT want to catch a bloody bus! She dropped me off home around 6 that evening and for the next couple of weeks, life kinda just carried on. She left for Spain, Christmas and my birthday came and went and I hoped to celebrate the New Year with my family.

On the morning of New Years Eve, I got a call from my Mum, confirming our plans. “Dad says you can have a few drinks and he’ll be the designated driver” she almost sang over the phone. It was then, after trying to forget, the screams and scary thumps weedled their way back into my head. I told her I wasn’t going to touch a drop!

After the call ended, I started to think about everything that had happened that night. What if I had heard someone being attacked? What if I had just run off when I could have helped? I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get past it as I had hoped. That’s when I realised that I could look up any possible incidents on the internet, duh!

I typed the date, area and “attacks” into the search engine and to my horror, something came up. I clicked on the link and was taken to a news report about the murder of a young woman. I was kinda relieved when I saw that even though it was a story about a murder from that date, it was 6 years before.

I was about to quit the page when I saw a name. It was the name of the primary school I was about to pass that night. I read on and I started to feel sick.

“Police have re-opened the investigation into the death of _____ ____ who was murdered in __________ back in ____. _____ was 22 when she was sexually assaulted and murdered behind _____ Primary School, in the early hours of _____. She was found partially-clothed later that morning by a caretaker. The crime is thought to be linked to a series of rapes that happened in the area around the time of the murder and locals now fear the assailant may be someone close”

I carried on reading and found out that she had taken the same street, the street with my name, on her way to the same bus stop after visiting a friend from the same road mine lived in. She never made it past the school.

The post mortem determined her cause of death as asphyxiation. The back of her skull was crushed and so was her spine. She had been stamped on.

By now, I was in tears. I still half believed the whole affair to be a drunken dream but in the end, I couldn’t deny the dates, times and places lined up perfectly. Even those horrible screams and thumps started to make sense.

The part that scared me the most? The reason it was back in the news as recently as a few months before. The guy who had spent the last 6 years in prison had just been cleared of the crime. In the time he was locked up, a few sporadic rapes and the disappearance of another young woman have happened in the area. No arrests have been made in connection with any of them and the real killer of _____ ____ has never been caught.

I can’t help but think that the events from 6 years before were somehow playing out again that night. Like a recording. Maybe if had I attempted to carry on to the bus stop, I would never had made it past the school either.

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Knock-off

April 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I once knew a guy who looked almost exactly like me. He had the same curly brown hair, only slightly darker. He had the same crooked nose, only a bit smaller. Even our eyes were similar; both almond-shaped, but his irises were a slightly lighter shade of brown.

He didn’t just look like me either. We acted similarly; talked similarly; walked similarly; the list goes on. We only had slight variations in almost every aspect of our being. It was scary, at first. But soon, that fear developed into anger.

I absolutely hated that lousy, good-for-nothing faker.

Thomas Blake was his name. I met him in my junior year of high school; he transferred toward the beginning of the school year, since apparently his father was with the army and thus had to move around often. And yes – my mother was in the army as well, and this was the third high school I had attended thus far. It was his fourth. That was a recurring theme with the variations between Thomas and I: he always seemed one step further. Not ahead, just further.

When he was first introduced to the class, everybody made a huge deal about how similar we looked. Even the teacher was confused for a moment, thinking I was pulling some kind of prank. However, when they noticed me sitting in my seat at the back of the class as usual, eyes shifted between the two of us in astonishment as whispers were exchanged. In a similar state of surprise, my gaze was firmly fixed on Thomas, meeting his. Unlike me, however, he didn’t appear surprised at all. He just looked at me with a slight smile as he went to take the seat the teacher pointed out for him. Said teacher always had a bit of a sense of humor – so of course, since Thomas needed a ‘Study Buddy’ to get him caught up on the class’s lesson content, I was the man for the job.

During lunch break, people swarmed us.

“Are you two related?” one person asked.

“Are you like, long lost twins or something?” another hypothesized.

My school had a fair amount of silly people among its student body, so all sorts of theories were thrown around. Maybe we were clones who’d escaped from a secret laboratory and gotten separated. Maybe we were the twin product of a steamy military love affair between his father and my mother, who then decided to split the two of us before leaving each other. Maybe we were even the same person from two different timelines that had somehow intersected – the theories just kept getting more convoluted as the class had a field day with it.

Now, I didn’t hate Thomas from the very start. In fact, we were something akin to friends at first. Our various similarities made that easy for us, plus the fact that everyone else was already calling us ‘The twins’ a few hours after we’d met. Since I was his study buddy, the two of us spent a fair amount of time together, and I soon introduced him to my little clique of friends. That was when he began to creep me out a little.

My four friends and I were sitting at a lunch table eating as usual when he walked up.

“Hey, mind if I join you?” He pointed to one of us before shifting his finger to another. “And you?” Yet again, he shifted his finger, and repeated the question until he pointed to me. He paused for a moment, then went, “And me?”

Everybody except for me laughed at the odd little greeting. I just looked up at him with a half-assed grin like I was attempting to find it funny, but blatantly failing. What caught me off-guard was that, apart from that last bit, this was exactly how I’d first approached a group of kids in one of my last schools – word for word.

Of course, we invited him to sit with us, and I tried to shake off the feeling of unease that the event had left me with. I was able to forget about it for a while, but it wasn’t long before it returned.

Sure enough, as the days went on, he continued acting like me. He said things I would’ve said and did things I would’ve done. Not that he did this all the time; the variations between us made it so that it was relatively infrequent. However, it happened often enough for me to take notice and begin to get freaked out by it. Surely it wasn’t normal for someone this similar to me to suddenly appear in my life – the odds were astronomical. But no matter how I tried to rationalize the impossibility of the fact, it never made it any less true.

Although Thomas hung out with my group a lot those first few weeks, he soon began to hang out with other people as well. Our school was relatively small, so it was something all of us naturally did. Most people were at least acquainted with each other, whether in a good or bad way. However, people usually stuck to their particular groups of friends, having only one or two closer associates from other groups. There were a minority of people who had no particular clique, and instead had friends in many different cliques, or just fit in well with everyone – chameleons, we called them. I myself was somewhat of a chameleon, and had many friends from other groups, but I had a specific group that I liked to hang with the most, composed of my four closest friends. Thomas, however, was different.

When he began to hang out with other people and get along quite nicely with them, my friends and I determined he would probably end up becoming a chameleon too, if only partly. But we were surprised to find that he became something more. Something our school had rarely ever seen, and something that I personally hadn’t seen very often either: universally popular.

Now, being universally popular wasn’t some kind of superpower or anything, but it was quite an achievement nonetheless. I don’t know exactly how he did it, but Thomas was essentially a friend to everyone in the school. He had even befriended the loner and unpopular kids, who had initially hated him out of spite.

‘He just has this charisma,’ some said.

‘He’s a really nice guy, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t like him,’ said others.

To them it seemed perfectly natural to like a guy like Thomas. But it didn’t make sense to me, because I had long since picked up on our similarities. If we were so similar, why was he so popular while I wasn’t?

Jealousy began to boil within me. What did he have that I didn’t? I just couldn’t understand it. But as I observed him and spent time with him, I realized I had been so focused on the similarities between us I had failed to notice the variations. They ended up making all the difference.

Thomas was more confident. He was slightly more handsome, had higher grades, and had a bit of an accent since he had lived in England for a time. Whatever we had in common, his variation was almost always better. That was when jealousy gave way to hatred. Not of Thomas, however; of myself. For a while, I hated myself for not being as good as Thomas. The feeling of insecurity ate away at me for over two months, causing my grades to drop and my health to go down as I spent most of my time isolated.

Friends tried to comfort me to no avail. My family tried to get me to see a psychiatrist or a therapist, but I refused. I looked to the internet for help with what I had come to believe was probably some form of depression, but despite all the good and bad advice, none of it seemed to change anything. Imagine my surprise, then, when all that it took to solve my problem was a trip to the dollar store.

I had gone there with my father to buy something or other. As my dad looked for it, I got bored and wandered off to the toy section, where I gazed absent-mindedly at the cheap crap that passed for toys here. If you’ve ever been to a dollar store, you know that the merchandise they sell isn’t exactly top-notch, and the kids’ items are no exception. Countless rip-offs of famous toys littered the section: Roboformers, Action Rangers, Barbara Girls, that kind of near-copyright infringement thing. As I looked at them, I began to realize the case wasn’t so different for my own situation. The Roboformers were almost exactly like Transformers, but there were a few minor differences to keep some small-time Chinese company from getting sued. And that’s exactly what Thomas was. He was just a cheap rip-off version of me.

It wasn’t evident at first. I mean, Thomas was better than me, wasn’t he? When I re-evaluated him with this in mind, however, I found him to be quite different. His confidence was obnoxious, bordering on outright overconfidence. His grades were only higher than mine because I and many others had helped him study. His English accent was only faint, and most likely somewhat forced. No matter how I looked at it, he was just nothing but a faker. And so, my hatred shifted from me onto him.

With the problem of my insecurity gone, I returned to school and gradually returned to normal. I felt much better knowing that I was the original, and he was just a bad imitation masquerading as something better. I could easily fake who I was and become like him as well, but I wasn’t that pathetic – I would stay true to who I was.

Still, the problem wasn’t entirely gone.

Thomas and I still talked fairly often, and the more I saw him around, the more annoyed I got. It got to the point where simply hearing him speak would immediately flip my mood, regardless of what it was before. I knew that I couldn’t keep being friendly for long, so I gradually tried to drift away from him, even if it meant staying away from a few of my other friends as well. It didn’t work. Even when I didn’t approach him, he approached me. Whenever I would try to leave him, he would flash that small smile that looked sickeningly similar to mine and try to convince me to stay.

I hated him. I hated him so much that words could not even describe it. Everything he did only served to fuel the fire within me. Whenever I got the chance, I began to daydream about calling him out on his fakery and beating him up as a suitable punishment. These daydreams soon evolved into hypothetical plans of increasing complexity, as I mulled over ways to get him expelled from school and out of my life forever.

Then, my mom made an unprecedented announcement: we were leaving. Her work required her to be stationed in New York, so I couldn’t stay in my school. At first, I rejoiced – finally, Thomas Blake would be out of my life forever! A couple of months passed and the week of the move came, so I said my goodbyes to all of my friends and acquaintances – and unfortunately, Thomas – before leaving my school. But I didn’t feel as good as I thought I would.

Initially I believed that getting away from Thomas was what I needed, but he just stayed on my mind. I was confused; why couldn’t I stop hating him, even after I’d never have to see him again? He was irrelevant now, after all. I could just leave him behind and start a new life somewhere else, where I was the only me.

But no. I soon realized that no matter where I was on this planet, I simply could not condone a cheap rip-off of myself still existing out there, acting like he was better than me. Even if I never had to see him again, I’d know he still existed, and that would eat away at me forever. There was only one way I could solve the problem. I had to stop him from existing.

But could I really go through with killing him? Coming up with a plan wasn’t too hard, since I knew where he lived as well as the layout of his house. As much as my hatred compelled me, however, fear of the potential consequences halted me.

In the end, I didn’t even need to take the initiative. About a week before the scheduled time for the move, I got a call from none other than my would-be doppelganger.

“Hey Travis, wanna hang out?” Thomas asked nonchalantly. “I know you’re leaving soon, so I was thinking we should go somewhere one last time. I asked James and Sarah, but neither of them are available, so I guess it’s just us.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the opportunity. Maybe if I could get him all alone and make sure nobody found his body for a while, it could work. I was moving away soon anyway. “Alright, where’d you wanna go?”

“How ‘bout we head to the mall?” Thomas suggested. “There’s some stuff I need to pick up there anyway.”

“Alright,” I replied, “how’s tomorrow?”

And with that, the deal was sealed.

That night, I went out to set things up for my grand plan.

The following day I met Thomas at the mall just like we arranged, my mom’s switchblade stuffed into my pocket for later use. All I needed to do was lead him to some secluded part of town on our way back home; I knew the town’s layout better than he did, so I could just tell him I knew a shortcut. I kept telling myself it’d be easy, but my heart raced the entire time we were at the mall. We acted all buddy-buddy as we usually did, despite the fact that I was just itching to jab my knife into his stomach every second of the day. There he was, right in front of me – that stinking copycat, talking and acting just like me even though he wasn’t. Yet I couldn’t do anything. Not until that evening.

The time eventually came, and the two of us decided to walk back to my house. I told him of the supposed shortcut, and I led him to a relatively small park by the river that ran through the town. I had been thorough in my preparations: the previous night, I’d buried a weight and a rope in a thicket of trees nearby, so that I could eventually tie him up and throw him into the river after killing him. There were some rowboats tied to the docks a little ways away from the park, so I could simply steal one of those, row a little further up the river, and dump the body. Lastly, actually killing him wouldn’t be a problem either – I’d received a little hand-to-hand combat training from my mom, so I knew the quickest and most effective ways to end a life.

As the cool autumn breeze stung our faces, we walked up into the park. I expected Thomas to be surprised and presume we had gotten lost or something, but he did nothing. He just stopped at the riverbank and stared into the river.

“Heh, I always did like rivers,” Thomas spoke out, as I stood behind him. Slowly, cautiously, I withdrew my switchblade.

“You never know what’s underneath that ever-flowing surface of theirs,” he continued. “What someone could have… hidden.”

I wasn’t going to wait any longer – I held the knife backhand and went for a stab, aiming for his jugular. I was surprised, however, when he ducked right on time, and it was only then that I noticed a shiny object in his hand: another knife.

Thomas immediately tried to slash me, but I jumped back in time to avoid him. He stood up straight, his face somewhat obscured by shadow as the sun set behind him. Yet, I was sure I could make out a slight smile on his expression.

“I’m really hoping you were smart enough to come prepared for this,” he said, taking a step forward as he got into an attacking position. “I mean, I know you’re not as intelligent as I am, but surely even a knock-off like you has watched enough movies to know how to plan a murder.”

In retrospect, I think I should have felt surprise, or at least fear that my plan had gone awry. However, the only emotion I could register was anger – my hatred flared as I listened to his words.

“You think I’m the knock-off here?!” I exclaimed, gripping my switchblade tighter and preparing for his attack. “Sorry to break it to you, but you’re the only faker. And I can’t let you prance around thinking you’re better than me any longer.”

Thomas scoffed. “Of course. That’s the only way you can justify your existence, isn’t it? Accusing me of being the rip-off, thinking you’re the improved, original version. But you’re wrong,” he boasted. “I am the original. I am me, and you are just a lowly, imperfect copy trying to be me. Maybe, if you were a complete clone, I could condone it – but the fact that a piece of trash like you, who is inferior in every way, is out there; that’s something I can’t allow.”

He stepped forward, taking a jab at me with his knife – I swiped it to the left with mine before taking the opening and sidestepping to the right, slashing once again at his throat. He tried to jump back, but my knife still managed to cut deep into his shoulder. Blood spat out onto my clothes, and Thomas roared as it continued to leak down his arm.

“Fuck!” he exclaimed as he gripped his shoulder with his free hand. His smile had deteriorated into a look of disgust and anger as he eyed me. Meanwhile, I had gained some confidence. With his right shoulder damaged, it would be more painful to swing his knife – I had gained the advantage.

“You fucking trash, how dare you?!” Thomas growled. I gave a slight smile.

“Isn’t it obvious? Because you’re nothing but a second-rate imitation. I’m the real one here,” I informed him. “It stands to reason that a piece of shit like you wouldn’t even be able to touch me.”

Yes. I could see it now. Why was I even angry in the first place? This pathetic copy with delusions of grandeur couldn’t touch me: his better counterpart.

“Yeah, keep talking, I’ve heard it all before,” Thomas spat. “But surely even you see it. You’re just worse than me in every way. Unlike you, I proved myself! I’ve gotten rid of trash like you before, and I’m not afraid to do it again.”

I scoffed; he was just talking nonsense now, probably trying in vain to convince himself that he was real. Deciding to go on the attack this time, I reached down and grabbed a handful of the rocks lying on the riverbank. I threw all of them at Thomas, and he instinctively used his arm to shield his eyes – that was when I lunged, aiming for his right arm in order to incapacitate him.

I wasn’t fast enough, and he was able to parry my slash before quickly grabbing my wrist with his free hand. Holding it in place, he lifted his knife up, but as it came down to strike my trapped arm, I grabbed his wrist just in time. With the two of us now locked this way, we began to push each other back and forth, struggling to hold our footing on the rocks beneath us.

“You’ll see,” Thomas grunted as he pushed. “I am… the original. I waited this long… so I could prove it again.”

He pushed against me, knocking me onto the ground. He was now on top of me, and pushing his knife ever closer to my chest. But still, for some reason, I felt no fear. I had nothing to worry about from him, I knew it. Thomas, however, looked far more agitated than when we had begun this little duel.

“Only the original… survives,” he said through bared teeth as he struggled against me. “I knew you’d delude yourself… into thinking you could win. I wanted… to see you fail. To see the look in your eyes… when I kill you… and you see that I’m—“

His final words were cut short as my blade pierced his chest, and his eyes widened in utter shock. I guessed this must be that look he was talking about. Indeed, it was quite an amusing sight – the look of a worthless imitator finally being put in his place. I liked it very much.

Luckily, the hand he had been holding my knife back with was still covered in blood from his shoulder injury, which had caused it to slip and my knife to be the first one in. I could feel the strength leaving his body as I pushed him off of me and sat up. I looked over to his convulsing form on the ground; that expression never leaving his face as he slowly struggled to look at the knife that had pierced his heart. Taking it out would only make more of a bloody mess, so I left it where it was.

I smirked triumphantly as I waited for the life to fade from his eyes. Blood sputtered from his mouth as he tried to speak, but failed. The last words he would ever hear were but the simple truth: “You never even stood a chance, you cheap knock-off.”

The rest of the procedure went smoothly. Under the cover of darkness, I brought the body over to the boat before retrieving my weight and rope from the thicket of trees. My jacket had been bloodied during the fight, so I removed it and buried it in the hole. My face and hair were a little bloody as well, but that was easily taken care of with a quick rinse in the river water. With the knife also thrown into the water with the body, all that was left was the bloodstain he’d left on the rocks, which was cleaned up quickly by the tide.

Seeing the blood get washed away, it occurred to me that Thomas had probably gone there intentionally to make sure that when he killed me, he wouldn’t have to bother cleaning up the blood himself. It seemed he had planned my murder by counting on me to plan his, which made me wonder how he knew. He said he’d proven himself before, but I had no idea what that meant at the time. I didn’t wonder about it for very long either, as I was too caught up in my victory to care much.

The last few days passed like the breeze. The police came to question me about the disappearance of Thomas a couple of days after he’d been reported missing, since I was the last person he’d been seen with. I just told them that the last time I saw him was when he and I went separate ways to get to our houses, and this answer seemed to satisfy them. They probably assumed he had run away or something, like most missing kids. It didn’t really matter, because two days later, I was out of there and off to New York. Only then did I feel truly successful; uncaught and untouched, I was now indisputably the one and only Travis Burke.

That summer was probably one of the best of my life. With my identity now to myself, I felt far better than I ever had before, and it showed. I began attending a youth group at my new local church and made friends with the people there. It was surprisingly easy; far less awkward than it had been before. Of particular interest was one girl, Leslie, who would later even become my girlfriend after I worked up the nerve to ask her out. The people from the youth group quickly introduced me to their other friends, and it wasn’t long before I was well acquainted with everyone in most of their social circles. Things were going better than they ever had before.

The entire time, though, a lot of the people kept saying something odd. “I swear I’ve seen your face somewhere before,” they would always tell me upon meeting me. It troubled me, because I thought news of Thomas Blake’s disappearance might have gotten widespread enough to reach the next state over. Of course, this wasn’t the case. In hindsight, I probably should’ve known what the real cause was.

And so, I stand here today. As I enter my new classroom today at the beginning of my senior year, my eyes scan the roomful of students. I take in the faces of those I don’t recognize, making a mental note to talk to them later. Then I look over the ones I do know from last summer, and my eyes rest on one particular young man, who’s looking back at me with a surprised expression.

I glossed over him earlier, having recognized him all too well despite never having met him. He has slightly lighter brown, curly hair; a slightly larger crooked nose; and even almond-shaped eyes, with a darker tint to the iris’s chocolate brown. It isn’t long before the rest of the class notices, and eyes begin to shift between the two of us as whispers are exchanged.

I’m less surprised about this than I think I should be, really. Realizing what Thomas must have been talking about the day I killed him, I can’t help but smile slightly. It doesn’t matter what he said, though. Unlike him, I am the original, and I know it. I couldn’t be killed by Thomas, and I certainly can’t be beaten by this guy either.

He’s just another knock-off that I’ll have to put in his place.

Credit: Mark Lannin

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