As I left my house this morning, I felt oddly invigorated, like nothing could stand in my way. I bounced down the stairs and headed up the street to catch the bus. My morning routine was right on schedule. Until this very moment that will change my existence forever.I get to the bus stop and look around at the other patrons waiting to board the bus. No one is returning my gaze, but that’s hardly unusual so early in the morning. As I step towards the bus door, a lady in a black leather jacket steps directly in front of me. Before I can say more than “oh,” I’m bumping into her. She has a sneer on her face as she turns around, like she’s ready to tell me off for bumping her, even though she’s the one who is trying to jump the line. Her look changes to confusion, and she peers first left then right before turning back to the bus. 

“Excuse me,” I mumble, not wanting to draw attention to myself but also not quite able to believe that she was being so rude. She isn’t looking back at me with daggers in her eyes, so she must not have heard me. We board the bus and begin the commute. I can’t find a seat so I stand, which I don’t mind doing. It means less juggling to get my backpack back on when we get to my stop. As my stop gets closer, the bus gets more crowded. Finally, the bus pulls into my stop. I walk down the stairs, grateful to be out of the sardine can. As I’m pausing to catch my breath, someone walks straight into my back. 

“Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stopped right in front of the door,” I say as I’m turning around to face the person. He is looking around in confusion. He doesn’t acknowledge my apology, or even presence. He shakes his head as though to center himself and moves away. I stare after him, wondering what is going on this morning. It takes me a moment to realize I need to continue on my way to work, rather than gawking after some random man. 

I walk into my office building and hear my coworkers whispering. I can’t hear exactly what they’re saying but I catch a few words. Sad. So young. Seven. I’m already late clocking in from the weirdness after getting off the bus so I don’t stop to ask them what’s going on; I just go to my desk and sit down to start the daily grind of data entry. 

My keyboard isn’t working. It’s not typing anything when I press the keys. My whole work day is probably going to be pointless now. IT takes forever to process things like this. I make my way to Harold’s office to put in the service request. We are the only department that has to turn in handwritten requests to a supervisor. Harold claims it will “boost our sense of community.” I find it to be a serious time suck. Of course, Harold isn’t in his office, and there are no more request forms in the basket. Nothing to do about it but check back in a few minutes and hope Harold has come back. As I walk back towards my desk, I hear Janette tell someone, I can’t see who they are, around the doorway, “... never no call, no shows. He is hardly ever even out of the office, let alone to not call in. I wonder if he knew one of the victims.”

The person around the doorway makes a noise of agreement, and I continue on to my desk. They must be talking about the recent murders. The police haven’t officially connected the deaths, but everyone is thinking serial killer. It’s the clumsy disposal that’s tipping the scales. Almost as if the guy is getting nervous. The media attention isn’t really helping either. 

I think back to the news story yesterday evening. The newscaster has said the killer was becoming increasingly violent and taking less time between victims. She claimed to have spoken with an expert who could see signs that the killer was beginning to lose control. That was unlikely. Being nervous didn’t necessarily mean losing control. The killer had taken another person that very evening. 

I bring my attention back to the present and crane my neck to see into Harold’s office. He’s still not there. Maybe he’s who Janette was talking about not calling in. He wasn’t the killer's type, so it was a safe bet on her part to think he might have known one of the victims, rather than thinking he was a victim himself. The killer wasn’t picky on gender or skin color but they had to be young and fit. The apparent randomness of the victims was the main reason the police were hesitant to label this a serial case. 

I could continue to sit here at work and get nothing done because of my keyboard malfunction and no Harold to put in for the repair. Or I could use leave and go home. I’ll have to put in the slip tomorrow since that also has to go through Harold. Gathering my things takes only a moment then I’m walking towards the door. No one stops me or looks up as I pass. I wonder idly if they will even notice I’m gone. As I push through the office door, I see Harold walking in. I duck behind a man in a suit, hoping to avoid Harold’s notice. I already have plans for my unscheduled day off and if he sees me, he’ll insist on fixing my keyboard instead. He doesn’t call out to me, so I’m in the clear. That’s excellent; my plans are infinitely more exciting than data entry. 

The bus ride home is entirely uneventful, which is unsurprising given it’s now the middle of the morning and most people are at work or school. I walk past a car with the radio on some news program. It seems that our local serial killer is getting some national attention. The reporter is saying how many bodies there are now, and how the murders are getting closer together. They admonish the local police for not calling in special assistance sooner. 

I feel for the cops though, it would have been hard to connect the first few to each other. A white man, an Asian woman, a black woman, and an Indian man with nothing in common beyond being young, fit, and found dead in the last month. If only the police knew that all of them were open to drinking with a stranger if that stranger was buying rounds. 

The news story ends with the reporter urging people to be cautious and alert. It’s sensible advice. I cross paths with a few more people, none of whom spare me a glance. People now days are so wrapped up in their phones and whatnot, myself included. I almost walk right past my house because I’m so engrossed in reading a post on Facebook about how a dog saved some lady’s life. It scared off an attacker attempting to abduct her. The attacker went on the kidnap another lady on the next street over. I seriously consider using my unexpected day off to go to the shelter and get a dog. One can never be too careful, plus there’s a serial killer out there. I chuckle as I walk up my driveway. Paranoia has never been my strong suit, and besides my plans for the day don’t include a dog. As I approach my front door, I notice it’s open. I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave it that way this morning. I briefly consider that most people would call the cops if they came home to their front door open. I’ve never been one to be overly cautious, so I creep up to the door and look inside instead. 

There’s blood in the entryway. I most definitely did not leave *that *this morning. What is going on here? I move into the entryway, stepping carefully around the blood. Following the blood trail leads me to the basement stairs. I turn back to look at the front door and see a bloody handprint on the handle. It seems like someone left in a hurry. 

I head down the stairs, slowly, carefully, quietly. When I reach the bottom, my eyes have trouble understanding what I’m looking at. It’s me. I’m lying on the floor in a dark puddle. Something has happened to my eyes and face. I can see the garden fork sticking out of my neck. But that can’t be right. The gardening tools should be neatly stored away on the shelves. My eyes move past the body to the cage. 

It’s empty. It shouldn’t be. I just brought the girl here last night. She should have been in there waiting for me to come home. How had she gotten out? Where is she now? My mind brings me back to the bloody handprint on the door handle. She escaped! 

The events of this morning before work come crashing back to my mind. I can see her clearly in my memory, cowering in the cage. Begging. They always beg. They always tell me how they have a family and pets and things to live for. 

But wait. No. This one wasn’t begging. This one looked defiant, even in her nakedness. She was daring me to come for her with her eyes. 

I hesitated, but this is my craft, my calling. I knew she would not prevail. After all, I have practice dispatching young, fit people. I moved towards the cage and unlocked the gate. She involuntarily shifted away, almost imperceptibly, but still I saw it. It gave me satisfaction, knowing she will only know terror and myself as she dies. 

I reached for her, meaning only to scare her. I do so enjoy toying with them. She lunged for me, slashing out with something sharp, something she shouldn’t have. She caught me across the face and tore back to strike again. I managed to slap her but miss the weapon. I overbalanced as I try to swing again. As I fell, I caught a glimpse of the box of garden tools spilled across the floor. It seemed as though she’d been able to stretch out and knock it down. She took advantage of my lapse in focus by lashing out again. This time it jabbed right into my eyes. I experienced instant, blinding pain and instant, literal blindness. I staggered to my knees, cursing her and the implement of my torture. She did not hesitate then. She plunged the sharp spikes into my neck. I heard her pounding footsteps on the stairs. She left me, bleeding on the floor. 

Coming back to the scene in front of me, I stare down at my body, knowing that soon the police will come. Soon they will be in this room, with its cage. Soon they will see my body. Soon they will find the proof. Soon they will know - they no longer have a serial killer problem. 

November 01, 2019 14:51

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

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