This story contains sensitive content

One person murders others.

Clank, clank.

If you would spend as much time with your family as you do in this stupid shed then I wouldn't constantly be raving. We have neighbors. It’s past midnight, quit your hammering and come to bed. Do you like eating your dinner cold? Christ…”

Clank, clank.

Tom, you can’t leave this weekend. Your break doesn’t start till the third. When did this happen? Why wasn’t I informed? Well, you can’t go and that's final. I’m warning you if you leave out that door your contract will be terminated. Fine, good riddance, asshole.

Clank, clank.

You disappear for two, or three days in a row and I never hear from you. I’m scared. Please stop whatever this is. You’re not yourself. Please let me help. Whatever it is we can get through it together.

He stopped to check the edges. The tiny shed boiled while the forge turned flakey steel glowing red. The last five months were frantic. The man knew he would get just one chance to make things right. Ridges below his eyes betrayed his lack of sleep. Friends, family, and colleagues asked him on several occasions if he had fallen ill with heart problems, or cancer. He did suffer greatly. He was once a mountain of muscle, strong as an ox. Only through manual labor did Tom manage to slow down the life-threatening decay. He’d lost twenty pounds. What was left Tom shaped into knots and ropes of steel. At first, he visited all sorts of specialists and did bloodwork, scans, and everything. No one could find what caused his sickness. A year passed and the man learned to cope. A package his wife received in the mail lit the flame in his soul which drove him to do the unthinkable.

It was Christmas. A package with small puppets nailed to a log stood atop the dining room table when Tom came home from work. His wife and kids sat down and talked about their day while the salmon was baking away in the oven. When he questioned her about the strange ornament his wife shrugged. She said it must be a gift from one of their relatives. No details of who sent it, his son found it. It was customary during the holidays to send out gifts to family members scattered all over the country. Not a day went by without one or two packages being dropped off on their porch. 

The gift resembled a mother, father, and two children crafted out of potatoes and toothpicks, dressed in tiny winter clothes. After dinner, Tom enjoyed a few glasses of whisky alone with his thoughts. His family was gathered in front of the tv. Toying with his potato self he accidentally broke the top hat off. Inside he found a lock of hair. Tom frowned as he studied it. He came to the chilling conclusion that it was his hair stuffed inside the hat. Like a feral cat, he tore through the other effigies. None had hair as he had. Tom’s stomach turned as panic struck him like never before. 

Since that Christmas night, he connected the puppet with his undiagnosed disease. It drove him mad searching for answers. Tom swore he would find whoever was responsible. A quick search online led him to precious information. It matched his symptoms exactly right down to the gift he received. Something sparked inside Tom as he read page upon page. His fear turned to anger, and his passive attitude toward his affliction turned into a burning desire to conquer and triumph. He suspected a woman from his past, what felt like decades ago. Tom cut his hair at many barbers but he remembered one specific event that tied all loose ends. One night after their love-making she ran her slim fingers through his hair, talking about their future and how their babies will inherit his lustrous curls. Tom remembered her constant struggle with drugs, and the strange habits she picked up. She hung out at night in graveyards with all sorts of seedy people, talking nonsense about devil worship and other things Tom found disturbing. He broke all ties to her and carried on with his life. 

Neither cold nor the black of the night could stop him. With prickling skin, he smashed the door of the abandoned building, the gathering place of those who sought to ruin him. His hammer struck true, tearing flesh and bone. A mist of blood rose when Tom was done with another. What was once a face resembled a bowl which overflowed. Up, up the stairs, he went hacking away with his long knife, chopping people to bits with mighty blows. Tom’s visor cracked as the bat connected with his helmet. Caught between a rock and a hard place the vulnerable skull of his enemy caved in. Feeling lightheaded after headbutting the other into oblivion Tom relinquished his helmet. Protecting his vitals was his coat of plates. In every one of those tiny steel sheets, Tom hammered his unyielding rage. Cuts and thrust from kitchen knives left nothing but a dent. How terrible it must have been to have one’s hand splint down the middle from top to elbow; to fall to your knees bearing witness to those around you who scream mercy to the henchman. 

Tom towered over her, draped in red. Pictures of him, his old clothes, and other objects from his past life were on display. Candles, jars, and symbols littered the altar. Before he slew the woman who sought to slowly poison him with spells Tom glanced at the destruction that lay around him. The source of his misery kneeled before him, begging and promising. Deep within he felt strings being pulled. Once again fire rose and blood boiled as Tom broke free from his chains. The savagery with which he struck drained Tom of all his anger. As he drove away Tom watched the flames lay waste to the retched place. He was free, he was cured. 

January 23, 2023 21:02

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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