Ten Seconds to Kill

Submitted for Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt


Dec 27, 2020

Suspense Drama

cw: death, blood, murder

A lot of things can happen in ten seconds, like folding a shirt, picking a lock, or even killing someone.

Finally, I would have revenge for my family’s death. It had taken me twenty-seven seconds to pick the padlock on the outer door (it had been particularly finicky) and thirty-two to find HIM. Of course HE was locked in his study without a single lantern lit. HE always pretended that he wasn’t scared of anything, while in reality HE's scared of everything. I once saw him jump at his own shadow around the corner--very bad for my family’s type of profession. 

HE had been my entire life last year, until he ran. Left me and my entire family for dead instead of being the bigger person and standing with us. Now that I thought about it, him running made a lot of sense. He had never been fully in--per say--he had just been on the edge. The simple balance between staying with me or running off with the first pretty girl HE saw. 

Then HE left us to die and people don’t leave their families. HE doesn’t get to leave me behind in a burning building and get away with it. 

I should have left him, broken up with him, but he always knew the right thing to say to make my heart melt just enough to let him stay. Even my brothers told me that he was a no good, lying, cheating man, but for some reason I never listened. I thought they had been trying to block me from my dream. I should have listened to them, but it's too late to go back. 

And now? 

I kill those who need to pay. I destroy them. Rip down their careers that had been built by pain and suffering of those around them and it’s quite enjoyable actually. 

HE had to know this had been a long time coming. I had bided my time and it was finally here, it would all be over in a minute. 

10. My hands were slick with sweat under my gloves as I entered the room. “Who are you?” HE growled, scrambling for something under his desk, but couldn’t quite reach it. HE looked worse than the last time I saw him in person. HE was wearing one of those suits that are tailor made, but he still quite fit into it. It showed, the last three buttons couldn’t stretch around his stomach far enough.

Official looking papers were stacked on his desk, but when I had snuck in here this morning and leafed through some of them. They turned out to be completely fake, they were gibberish at it’s finest. 

My breaths were shallow as I slid along the wall at the back of the study. ‘In and out. In and out.’ I tried to remind myself. ‘This isn’t your first kill and it won’t be your last.’

9. I crept forward in the shadows, trying to remember as much of my training as possible. I would avenge my family and they would be proud. 

“Why are you here?” HIS voice was hoarse in his throat, HE was scared. HE should be. I didn’t respond, if I gave up where I was now I would lose my nerve.  

In my head I said, ‘I am here because you killed my family, now I will kill you.’ 

8. I glided through the shadows as if I was made of them. HE didn’t have the wits to turn on the light, the only thing that was keeping HIM from being completely in the dark was the moonlit window to his right. It is a full moon tonight. The moon of balance and release, I would finally have my closure and on New Year’s Eve of all nights. It was the perfect time to cut off loose ends. I was growing more confident, I would get this done and it would all be over. 


The word repeated again and again like a broken record in my head. This tortuous journey of climbing to the top of the predatory food chain wouldn’t be for nothing. The blood, sweat, and tears I had shed would be for everything I had ever worked for. The work I had done was for justice that HE would never serve, for my brothers who never got to live the lives they wanted to, and for my parents who taught me everything I knew. 

HE would be over soon enough.

7. I shifted the dagger from hand to hand, trying to get a feel for which hand had a better grip. HIS bookshelves were full of old tomes that I doubt HE had ever read, HE just used them to show off his newfound wealth. I dragged my knife lightly against my glove to test its sharpness. The old wool gave easily to the blade, the frayed strands ripping apart. HE wasn’t worth my full persona, HE was barely worth this masked person standing in the shadows. 

HE was still trying to find me in the darkness, but he could barely see, let alone move from his seat. 

6. HE attempted to speak again, but I gently placed a finger on his lips. “Shhh…” I crooned, enjoying the feel of his rapid breaths against my fingers. He might have tried to say something else, but a soft jab with my dagger to the back of the ribs shut him up quickly. For a short while, at least.

5. “Are you here to kill me?” He breathed out. Even with a knife to his back, he was still talking. I laughed quietly, he always had been a thick one. 

4. I took my finger off his mouth and touched my mask, making sure it was secure before I jumped out the window. I leaned forward, my lips almost touching his ear. “Yes,” 

3. HE gasped, finally realizing who I was. I smirked, bringing the knife away from his ribs to his neck. His many chins wobbled, the year hadn’t been good to him, yet I didn’t feel anything for him anymore. He left me for dead last year, he deserved this. 

2. I can do this. It’s a simple motion, just slice across the correct arteries and he would die within minutes. 

I released the breath I had been holding and placed my dagger in just the right spot.

My hand finally stopped trembling as I ripped the knife across his throat. 

1. “Happy New Year, traitor,” I said, blood pouring from his wound, spilling onto his white button up shirt and dark blue blazer. I didn’t turn back as I smashed through the clear glass window into the cold, freeing night air. 

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Sierra Tkacik
12:48 Jan 07, 2021

This was such a good story! I love how to managed to give enough backstory for us to know what's going on without making too much of a part seem like just exposition. I really felt the main character's rage, witch only heightened my curiosity for the full background between the two characters. I would suggest maybe next time not using all caps for emphasis and using italics instead, but if that's your stylistic choice, go for it.


Alex Carmen
13:53 Jan 07, 2021

Ok, thank you so much for your feedback!


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