It’s your first day at a law firm since you moved here and surprisingly enough, you’re not nervous at all. In fact, you’ve been longing for this day to come ever since you’ve moved here. You left your old life behind — your friends, house, and that job that you loved so much — but it was more than that. Everyone thought you had moved because you wanted to get out of the small town you lived in and experience life at a real law firm in the city. You told them it was because even as a little girl, you’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to be a high end lawyer working in the Big Apple. That was only partly a lie. You have always dreamed of working in New York. But not like this. Never in your life would you have imagined yourself running away from a serial killer.
The clock on your wall reads “6:27 AM”. You don’t need to report to work until 8, so you decide to walk the few blocks down the road to get to the little cafe you saw on your way here. It’s small, but cozy in a way that reminds you of home. You take a glance at the room surrounding you and notice how different it is here. Despite the early hours, people take up a large amount of space in the cafe, where they are working on computers, engaged in phone calls, or scribbling down ideas on sheets of notebook paper. You look beyond the glass windows separating the cafe from the world outside and see people hurrying to their next locations. At this time back home, you would be lucky to see a few neighbors walking around town and they would definitely be in no rush to get from place to place.
You smile, thinking about the memories that made up your whole life up to this point. But that moment of content is soon replaced by fear as you remember the reason why you had to leave. You’re brought back to reality when the barista at the counter tells you that it’s your turn to order; you ask for a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip muffin to go and make your way back to your apartment.
Coffee puddles across your doormat as the brown paper cup tumbles down the gray concrete stairwell. You stare at the stack of letters shoved halfway under the corner of your door. Peeking out at the top of the stack is an unmistakable, bright red envelope with your initials written on the front. This has to be some sort of mistake. How could he have found you? You moved to a different state to throw him off his tracks; the police said he wouldn’t be able to find you here. Yet if that were the case, how could you still be staring at this horrid letter?
After grabbing your keys and fumbling as you open the door, you pull your phone out of your bag and dial the numbers to your new job, telling them how you got sick and aren’t able to come in today. They tell you that it’s fine, but you’re not so sure about that.
Now inside of your apartment, you bend down to reach the letter, your hand hovering just above the envelope — just enough so that you can almost feel the thin fibers of shredded wood underneath your fingertips. Hesitantly, you lower your hand, grabbing the crimson letter with one hand and placing the rest of the papers on the counter by the door.
. . .
Hello Ms. Kennedy,
Thought you could run away from me, did you? You know, I always thought you were a clever girl, being a lawyer and all. But let me tell you, I was so disappointed to figure out you had left that gauche old town. Stupid girl.
. . .
At the bottom of the page were drops of red, matching the color of the envelope. You peer inside of letter casing and gasp, dropping the papers on the floor. He had always sent you things with your letters. The first time, it was a tuft of smoothed brown hair, bunched together with a single clear elastic band. After that, it started to get more blood curdling— and that was when you decided to get the police involved. A jagged tooth, an earlobe, a chunk of bloodied skin, a carpal bone. Just thinking back to those letters makes you shiver, trembling as if all the heat and air around you were being sucked away.
Each time he gave you one of his “gifts” (as he called them), you would bring each piece to the police. And each time, the next day they would tell you how they each belonged to a different person who had gone missing a few days prior. You didn’t insert yourself into the investigation at first. You couldn’t after they told you how these poor people were being tortured to death. But, you stayed in the shadows for too long, and each terrifying item you received started to feel more and more like your fault. You pushed to see the board of victims in their office, feeling as though you had to get this sort of closure. But they hesitated, said that it was fragile information and they didn’t want to cause panic. Even so, you had to see them, and as you burst into the room, you gaped at the sight before you, realizing why they had been so uncertain to let you in. The pictures of each victim hung across the board, all 8 of them. And they all looked like you.
You collect your thoughts as reality comes rushing back to you. You stare at the shattered glass flashing in front of your feet, hundreds of tiny reflections staring back at you with the same look of horror in each of their eyes. Each time, he would give you a gift showing each of his victims — each piece more daunting than the one before it. And this time, the gift inside of the envelope was a mirror.
“I’ve been waiting for you to come back to me Ms. Kennedy,” a voice from behind you mumbles. Cold sweat drips down your back as your eyes dart around the room, in search for anything that you could use to defend yourself.
“I’ve invited myself in. I hope you don’t mind.” You can hear the smirk in his hoarse voice as it nears. You rack your brain for ideas to get you out of this situation, but you draw a blank. Nothing comes to mind — you’re going to die in here, your own home.
“Why don’t you turn around and look at me Ms. Kennedy?” Slowly, you turn your body, so that you are now facing the man in front of you. A normal looking middle aged man stares back at you. Everything about this man looks ordinary, except for the cynical expression that he shows on his face. His face is contorted so much that his eyes bulge out of his head, wrinkles masking the skin above his eyebrows. His mouth is curved upwards in a murderous grin as he takes in the sight before him. You.
“Don’t you remember me?” he questions, “Don’t you remember the way you murdered my brother?” he spits out. His face twists up in fury, but you don’t understand what he’s saying. Murder? You have a clean criminal record — you haven’t even gotten a speeding ticket, much less murdered anyone.
“My brother was a good man,” his voice quivers, almost as if he’s about to cry before regaining his composure. “He was just a little confused, that’s all,” he stares you in the eyes, his gaze hardening. “But you people just had to take him away from me! You said he was a monster! You got him killed!”
Your mind flicks back to a brief memory you had at a court case. Frank Murphy. He was convicted of abducting and murdering 4 children. He received the death penalty 2 years ago. When the letters started.
“He was all I had and you went and took that away from me,” his eyes filled with a mix of tears and a look of vengeance, “and now it’s finally your turn to suffer.” You glance down. Your phone was on the ground a few feet away from you — you must have dropped it when you opened the letter. Frank’s brother paces back and forth, hands pulling at his hair as he continues talking about his brother. His back turns and you lunge down to your phone, fingers fumbling to dial 911.
His eyes snap over to you and he storms across the room, kicking you in the stomach and sliding the phone across the floor.
“You think you can get away from me this time?” he spits in your face and grabs you by the collar of your shirt. “I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since that court case where you killed my brother.” His face is so close to yours that you can smell his putrid breath; it makes you want to gag. He punches and kicks you, torturing you as you lay helpless, writhing in pain on the floor. Minutes go by as he taunts you and your vision begins to fade. He grabs a knife from your kitchen counter and stands over you, smiling.
“Goodbye Ms. Kennedy,” he hisses, pulling back the knife as he prepares to plunge it into your heart.
Suddenly, your door bursts open, which is followed by a lashing of noise. People in dark uniforms hurry into your apartment as Frank’s brother gets pulled away from you. Spots blur your vision, and the last thing you see is the outline of a paramedic’s face as everything around you goes black.
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Nice! I loved this interpretation of a very humdrum seeming prompt. I was riveted as the tension built. I think as a reader, I would like to see a bit more of a hook in the beginning- show rather than tell me that it's your first day, but that might be a stylistic approach. I appreciate the last line of that first paragraph, because it came out of nowhere(!). I was very intrigued by the use of the second person, as it added to this creepy sense of being watched. I began wondering if it was the serial killer speaking. Maybe it's Frank's brot...
OH! Also, as an aside-- your title really caught my eye. Spot on!
Thank you so much for reading and for your feedback! I agree that writing is more complex and engaging when being shown rather than told, and I am working towards improving that part of my writing :) Thank you for your kind words, I'm glad you liked my story!
Hi Joanne! Wow! That was really intense and incredibly well written! I got chills while reading it...literal chills. The descriptive language was on point! Nice job displaying the eerie mood throughout the story too! I did the same prompt, but I like the way you interpreted it!! Excellent job!! :)