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Horror Suspense Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

What is the value of a human life? Henry often wondered this himself. Sometimes, it was all he thought about. A person is born, goes to school, gets into a career, and maybe even settles down and has a family. So many factors go into someone’s life that it is hard to quantify each variable. Yet, Henry constantly tried to answer the question.

“and that’s why you need to sort the shelves the way the company trained you. Do you understand, Henry?”

Henry blinked as his manager’s words brought him back to reality. He turned to face the red-faced man.

“Sure thing, I’ll get right on it.”

Apparently unsatisfied with his response, the sniff-necked manager left the aisle with a huff. He didn’t know what the manager was upset about this time, but that was his usual response when his boss was angry. Henry felt relieved when he was left alone. The store initially hired him as a cashier. He tried to do his best, but his people skills were sub-par. His boss didn’t take long to give Henry a new position. Now, he was in charge of stocking and sorting the shelves. 

It was a peaceful job except when customers asked him where certain products were. If he had to listen to another customer asking him where the sour cream was again…

Henry shook his head at the thought. That was one of the things about people that bugged him. They never even seemed to attempt to look for stuff themselves. It seemed they thought their time was more valuable than his own. 

During his first few days of employment, the other staff would ask him many questions. Hey, how’s it going? Did you catch the game last night? Why do you just stare off into space sometimes? Henry would always answer their questions the same way, “I can’t talk right now.” They seemed to catch on that he didn’t want to speak to them. His mind had more important subjects to think about. He only took this job because Henry thought he could think about life from a different perspective.

His real work had been stalling for some time now. Henry just felt like he needed some inspiration to propel him forward. That was what he hoped to achieve working at a grocery store. So far, all he had achieved was to get a piercing headache anytime he spoke to anyone. As he stocked the shelves, trying to remember how they had trained him, he yearned for something society said was wrong. He checked his wristwatch and saw it was four forty-five p.m., almost halfway done. Soon, Henry could pursue his real passion. 

Time went by in a blur for Henry. It was five, then six, then seven, and before he knew it, it was almost time for him to leave. He looked at the shelves and saw they were all in perfect order. All that would be left for him to do now was clock out and walk out the front door. Most people would then get into their cars and drive home to their families. Henry had no family, at least none that were still alive. That thought used to pain him when he was a kid, but thinking about it now, he felt nothing. He had gotten used to living alone. Besides, since he was alone, no one could disturb his work. 

Henry had been watching one of his co-workers for the past few weeks—a bright and full-of-life young female who would be attending a well-known college in the spring. If overheard gossip was to be believed, she had a promising future. She was, however, known to be promiscuous. Everyone at work knew about it, and every time her boyfriend would come to pick her up, Henry could feel the tension in the air. Some guys she had been intimate with even worked at the grocery store. Many of their co-workers would show disgust with the woman, but Henry didn’t have an opinion. He was more curious about it than anything. 

A woman who seemingly has a perfect life does something consistently to jeopardize everything; it fascinates him. That was why tonight he was not going to be going straight home. Henry already had everything planned in his mind. He just needed to wait, and patience was one of his strong suits, if nothing else. Henry walked to the back of the building and observed the woman, Ashley. She was going about her usual end-of-shift routine, seemingly without care.

Once Henry had clocked out, he pretended to be doing some paperwork. Essentially, he was just stalling for time until Ashley was finished talking to the other employees. As the minutes passed, Henry wondered what she could be talking about for so long. That was another thing that Henry had trouble understanding—small talk. What was the point of talking about subjects both sides knew the answers to but pretended they didn’t? It utterly baffled him; this was why his work was so necessary.

Soon, soon, soon, I will have another piece to the puzzle... I know I am so close to understanding... So close to knowing what makes a person a person… I just need more experiments, more time… 

Finally, he saw a woman with two blonde pigtails and wearing her uniform with modifications, revealing more of her body than was appropriate. Looking at her, even Henry could see why all the guys went for her. She was fit, perky, and seemed to be, on the outside, a ray of positive energy. However, he wasn’t interested in any of that because his interest in her came from a different place. 

“Okay, see you guys later!”

Ashley said this and waved goodbye to everyone she had been talking to. They waved at her and said an unsynchronised goodbye. After moments, Henry got up and put away the papers he had been pretending to read. He saw that no one was watching and left out the back door. His car was parked in the parking lot, and he got inside. Ashley was still in clear view as she walked down the sidewalk. With a turn of his key, his car came to life.

Henry knew the exact path she would take to get home. The key to any good plan is careful calculations, after all. He went the opposite way instead of driving behind her and potentially being seen by a co-worker. From his planning, he knew there was a spot where he could park his car and wait for her to walk by. Then, he would say he was having car trouble and ask to use her phone.

As he drove to the spot, his lips moved upward into a smile. During his actual work was the only time he felt any real emotions. For the time being, he couldn’t help the smile on his face, nor did he want to. However, once it was time to begin, he would be stoic and show nothing. 

The spot was empty, as Henry knew it would be. He carefully drove the car in and shut off the engine. Now, there was some time before she would arrive. It was perfect, allowing him to start the entry in his black book. 

Henry opened his glove box and felt around for it. His fingers touched a firm edge and the black book's distinctive leather texture. The answers to Henry’s questions were within its pages, and it was his life’s work. He felt like she could be the one to fit all the pieces together. Sighing as he opened the book, he knew he had thought those exact thoughts before.

No, no, she is different. I am confident she is the one. My work is almost complete. Then, I can rest. Yes, relax and enjoy life… Enjoy? What does that mean? Have I ever enjoyed anything? Yes, yes, my work brings me joy. 

Henry violently shook his head in an attempt to clear his thoughts. He checked his wristwatch and knew Ashley should be passing by any minute now. The car door creaked as Henry opened it, and the ground beneath his feet made a crunching noise as he exited the car. His senses were always heightened as when he was working. Then, he heard the distinctive sound of approaching footsteps.

“I know, right? You won’t believe what she said to me after that!”

Her voice echoed through the night sky, and the words' high-pitched tone hurt Henry’s head. He popped the hood of the car and grabbed his work bag. Pulling a rag out of it and dousing it in a potent knockout agent, he felt calm. Henry hid the rag in his pocket and bent over the engine, pretending to examine it.

When Ashely saw Henry, she jumped at first. Then, she saw who it was and seemed only to get more startled.

“Henry?”

Henry pretended not to notice her for a moment. Using his best acting skills, he looked up at her and put a surprised look on his face.

“Oh, hey Ashely. Yeah, my car just sort of crapped out. I’ve been trying to see what’s wrong with it, but I might be out of my league here.”

He could see her hesitate, and Henry thought she might just turn and run. Maybe her survival instincts were telling her to flee for her life. Ultimately, she seemed to take a breath and compose herself.

“Did you need any help?”

“You would help me? A strange man in a dark alley?”

She chuckled at that, and that confused Henry. He genuinely asked her that question, and she thought he was joking. Was it because they worked together, leading her to believe she knew him somehow? In the end, Henry didn’t know.

“Do you need help or not? I got to meet up with someone soon.”

“Of course, that would be great. Thank you. Can you just hold a light over here so I can see the engine better?”

“Sure.”

She opened her phone and turned on its flashlight. Ashley approached the car's hood and held the light high to expose the engine. 

“Let me just grab a wrench, one second.”

Henry went around to the back of the car and pulled the rag out of his pocket. That was when it happened, and it didn’t surprise Henry. His vision started to turn red, and his head began to tremble. His ears began to ring, and he had to hold onto the car as dizziness suddenly overtook him. The symptoms only got worse and worse until he blacked out.

When he came to, he was sitting in the front seat of his car with his black book in hand. He sifted through the book, remembering where he got it. It was at a yard sale, of all places, where he first saw the black book. The book seemed to call to him with its ornately designed cover. Immediately, he went over and picked it up. He remembered thinking that this book was what he had been missing his whole life. Henry gave the owner whatever insignificant amount of money they had wanted and left. 

That was the day his life had truly begun. Now, he had a passion for his work—his genuine work. Focusing on the present moment, he opened the book and read its most recent entry.

Participant # 264

Name: Ashely

Perky, Attractive, Promiscuous, Naïve, Trusting, Deceitful, Social…

…Performed fingernail removal on both hands. She screamed in agony for several minutes, surprisingly. Then, she became silent. After a few minutes of silence, I proceeded with a finger removal. This elicited intense emotions from the participant, which went on for several minutes. After I removed all the fingers and the screaming and pleading stopped, MORE WORK WAS REQUIRED. Starting from the wrist, I cut the skin and peeled it back all the way to the elbow. I took great care to ensure the patient didn’t black out from blood loss. The results of the experiments had to be seen on the patient’s face. This continued until there was no more skin on both her arms. At this point, the participant was slipping in and out of consciousness, and I knew it was time to end the experiment. I used an axe I bought from a camping store and, placing her head against the floor, decapitated her in two swings. It would have been one swing, but I lost my footing. It was very unprofessional, and I will take care to prevent this in the future.

…In conclusion, Ashely was an interesting subject, but not the one. She would not be the one to answer my questions—more experiments to follow.

Henry sighed after he finished reading. He closed the book and put it back in his glovebox. Looks like the book didn’t find what it was looking for. When Henry tried to remember his life before the black book, he couldn’t. If he tried to recall the memories, a great pain would follow. 

That doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am NOT that person anymore. MOVE ON! Wait a second. Maybe what I need is a fresh start. Just me and my book together. Yes, a new name and a new life. This town is getting old, and inspiration is lacking. YES, YES, YES!

He shook his head until the thoughts stopped, then rubbed his eyes. Henry checked his wristwatch and saw it was almost six a.m. They would soon be looking for participant #264, and the idea made Henry chuckle. There was no way they would ever find her; he had made sure of that. That didn’t matter to him, though. He needed to look toward the future, for he was one step closer to knowing the value of a person’s life.

September 11, 2023 13:10

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37 comments

Rudy Senecal
10:39 Sep 19, 2023

You know what this feels like to me? It almost feels like this could be the opening to an investigative thriller novel almost. When I got done with it I wanted to know what happens with Henry and who or if someone catches him. As well, the black book has an almost like Stephen King esk vibe to it. Like is it controlling him? Is it possessed? Or is Henry just out of his mind? Or a combination of all? That I found it really interesting. Overall great story, it set up a villain that had more complicated motivations that just "he's evil" and I r...

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Anthony Carello
11:00 Sep 19, 2023

Thanks you very much for commenting. Stephen King was one of my favorite authors growing up. It's always more interesting when the "bad guy" may have more layers than meets the eye. I'm glad you enjoyed my story!

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14:07 Nov 13, 2023

I need more. This story made me drop my jaw.

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Anthony Carello
18:35 Nov 13, 2023

Glad you enjoyed it!

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Frank Carello
17:21 Sep 23, 2023

I really enjoyed this story.

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Anthony Carello
18:15 Sep 23, 2023

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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Ken Cartisano
06:01 Sep 23, 2023

perfectly stable psycho

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Anthony Carello
12:44 Sep 23, 2023

Haha exactly.

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Chalice Davis
03:33 Sep 21, 2023

Oh my word! I knew that he was a psycho but wasn't sure where you were going to take it. Indeed it was very descriptive and truly terrifying. I really admire how you built up the tension. That's something I'm trying to improve upon lol.

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Anthony Carello
10:28 Sep 21, 2023

Thank you very much! For me I just use my imagination to sort of draw the scene. Then, for there it's easy enough to write it out. The story almost writes itself. Glad you enjoyed!

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Chalice Davis
23:45 Sep 21, 2023

That's a great way to look at it!

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Noah Aylward
03:22 Sep 21, 2023

Very tense. Sure I saw the ending coming, but the rising tension and suspense just keeps drawing the eyes down and down until at last you reach that grisly payoff.

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Anthony Carello
10:26 Sep 21, 2023

Glad you enjoyed! That's how I planned for it to be.

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03:40 Sep 20, 2023

in the end I was speechless...my heart beat was getting faster every time I got close to the end, it felt like I was reading an actual full story and I enjoyed every second of it!

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Anthony Carello
10:49 Sep 20, 2023

Wow, I'm glad you could enjoy it that much! Thanks for commenting.

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Midnight B.
00:43 Sep 20, 2023

At first, I thought your character had some lethal obsession with the character of Ashely until he started discussing the execution of his "experiments." That's when I immediately started to piece together the true intentions of Henry as the story unraveled. It left me spooked! My favorite part of the story is the black book entry. It's interesting how he references her as merely a participant number like she's a pawn in his murderous game. We are able to see that he truly has no remorse for his actions whatsoever. I will say that I wonder w...

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Anthony Carello
01:01 Sep 20, 2023

I'm glad you seemed to enjoy it! Stay tuned to my profile for the next Black Book story. I'd like the continue the saga and explain more aspects of the legend.

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Robert Egan
00:36 Sep 19, 2023

Man, what a great horror story! The first paragraph drew me in, and everything from Henry's severe disconnect to his methodical stalking of Ashley built up incredibly well to the chilling entry for participant #264. As some picky points, I was wondering about the "potent knockout agent" detail. Is a planner like Henry a pro at acquiring something like chloroform, or is he working with something dirtier, like fentanyl? Does he (or the book) worry about whether the chosen method will influence their findings for each participant? At what # e...

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Anthony Carello
00:55 Sep 19, 2023

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I really appreciate that you understood exactly where I was trying to take the story. This is the reason I love writing. As for your points about the extra details, this is the ultimately hard part for a writer. I prefer flow and story over details usually. I believe it's more fun when the imagination can be ignited. Just so you know, I plan to make a Black Book 2 at some point. Other than that, I really enjoy writing in the horror/ thriller genre.

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Mary Bendickson
18:56 Sep 18, 2023

Thanks for liking my monster mash. Yours was creepy-scary.😱

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Anthony Carello
20:12 Sep 18, 2023

Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed!

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J.W. Kimmel
14:53 Sep 18, 2023

Great story! Really liked how Henry blacks out and learns the results of his experiments from the book after the fact.

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Anthony Carello
15:04 Sep 18, 2023

Thanks for enjoying! I'm glad you appreciated that aspect of it. That was exactly the idea I was hoping to achieve. Like he is only learning about it for the first time, even though he was the one who performed the act.

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Matthew Higgs
06:27 Sep 18, 2023

I find your character interesting. I was trying to figure out what kind of mental health issue he has. I liked that he blacked out and took it to mean that he may have not been able to process what he had just done. I think your story embodies a comment I heard about a coworker a long time ago; "You have to look out for the quiet ones. They might explode any moment."

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Anthony Carello
10:32 Sep 18, 2023

Thank you for commenting! Glad you enjoyed.

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Michał Przywara
20:39 Sep 15, 2023

Yeah, right from the start Henry gave off a suspicious vibe, and as his musings progressed, I think we could see what his plans for Ashely were. What was an interesting twist though, was the book, and the seeing-red/blacking-out. It's like he's possessed. Maybe he's not a killer at all, and it's the book doing this through him entirely. The fact that trying to remember things before the book is painful, also indicates some sentient malice or control. And it's wild that it just ended up at a garage sale somehow - makes us wonder what happen...

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Anthony Carello
01:30 Sep 16, 2023

Haha I like that question! That's exactly what I was going for—the book is something greater than him, maybe ancient and powerful. I'm glad you understood the book having control part. Thanks for commenting!

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Jarrel Jefferson
03:13 Sep 15, 2023

What I like about this story is that the reader can tell from the beginning that Henry is planning to do something disturbing. So the anticipation of something bad happening builds and builds until the bad thing happens and has a lasting effect to it. There are some things that I think you could have changed or made more clear: -“With a turn of his key, his car came to life.” Dramatizing Henry turning in his car doesn’t doesn’t seem necessary. -I don’t understand why Ashley is startled to see Henry examining his car, which is a normal thi...

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Anthony Carello
10:56 Sep 15, 2023

Thanks for the feed back and glad you enjoyed it! As for the part where he says he blacks out, I was meaning for it to seem like the book takes control. Perhaps it came out differently than I intended.

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Ferris Shaw
06:41 Oct 31, 2023

I find it interesting that you intended, and many commenters perceived, the book to be a supernatural artifact that was influencing or controlling Henry. I didn't read it that way at all. I saw him as being a rather humdrum serial killer who is using a perfectly mundane notebook to keep records of his kills. In other words, diary entries are just his particular form of trophies, in preference to body parts or driver's licenses, for example. As for his blacking out and then waking up to read a now-completed entry, I read that as a psych...

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Anthony Carello
20:19 Oct 31, 2023

I try to write short stories with more than one possible ending, making the mind think a little. While I was writing this, the paranormal book idea was what I had in mind but I purposfully leave it vauge. For me, it's interesting to hear different people's perspectives. So, thanks for commenting!

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Nina H
01:14 Sep 12, 2023

The character of Henry was very believable and well-written. Everything he does or says makes sense in how you develop him. Very monsterous 😬

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Anthony Carello
10:26 Sep 12, 2023

Thank you very much! Glad you enjoyed!

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15:20 Sep 11, 2023

Good horror story, I was wondering if he let Ashley go at the end, but it seems he needs to follow the book's mission I think. A few possible edits I spotted... "face-faced man." not quite sure what this means. "They never even seemed to attempt to look for stuff themselves. It seemed they thought their time was more valuable than his own." Maybe take out some filler words like 'even' and 'seemed'. Something shorter like.. -> "They never looked for stuff themselves. Did they think their time was more valuable than his own?" "Many of ...

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Anthony Carello
17:01 Sep 11, 2023

Thanks for your feedback and edits! I'm still new at writing and am always learning. I hope you enjoyed!

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13:22 Sep 11, 2023

Wow. That's such a creepy story. Almost disturbing... In a good way.

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Anthony Carello
13:27 Sep 11, 2023

That's exactly what I was going for, hope you enjoyed.

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