“The devil asked me how I knew my way around the walls of hell. I told him I did not need a map for the darkness I know so well.”
There’s nothing like it.
Nothing comes close to the soothing, hypnotic wails of a grown man who knows these will be the last sounds he ever makes. His cries are a soft symphony set on repeat in the back of my mind, even as he stands in front of me, mouth agape, eyes squeezed shut, head thrown back. With each new scream, the tendons in his neck bulge beneath a mesmerizing cascade of red. With each new scream, the outside world quiets a little more, my grip around the knife loosens, and my shallow breaths ease into an even rhythm.
Soon, his cries morph into choked whimpers. I’m so relaxed my eyes grow heavy, but I refuse to let them close and miss even a second of the scene playing out before me. The scene I orchestrated with little more than my bare hands.
They said go to therapy. No one ever specified what kind.
My lips quirk. The knife’s handle is thick and damp in my hands. The scent of blood and pain fills my nostrils, along with a high I know will fade all too soon, as it always does.
It’s not until the silence—the only sound comparable to the heavenly screams I just savored like a fine wine—returns to my ears that I remember my audience. I let the weapon slip from my fingertips. It hits the ground with a clatter as I lean against the concrete wall behind me. Kicking a leg out, I cross it over my other ankle and suck in one final, intoxicating breath.
I can’t take my eyes off the sight. Or maybe I can, but I don’t want to. It’s too perfect—the way his head’s angled a little too far to the right. The slight, red stump on the left side of his face—all that remains of his ear. The streams of crimson intertwining as they leak down his body, tiny drops staining the ceramic tiles with my mark.
Fuck, that’s good. Some might even call it artistic. I tilt my head, absorbing the terror still etched into the tight lines of his face. His hair is a little grayer than I’d hoped it’d be by the time I got to him, but it only adds a certain charm I have to admire.
Huh . . . She always thought she made epic pieces of art. If this isn’t epic, I don’t know what the hell is.
“Wanna take a picture?” Griff’s gruff voice snaps my head to the right. His bulky shoulders are broad enough to fill the entire doorway he stands in.
He’s being snide, of course, but I almost smile while I consider it. It is a shame to see years of meticulous preparation disappear as quickly as they do. But, no. I don’t need a trophy. What I need is my goddamn sanity—something I’m not quite sure I’ve ever had, and I certainly will never gain as long as this lifeless piece of shit is clouding my view.
And just like that, the familiar, dark claws of bitterness tear their way into my chest and eat away the high.
Frederick Ferguson. Fifty-six years old. Elementary school bus driver. Two ex-wives, one grown child he hasn’t seen or spoken to in eleven years.
I make a mental slash across his name on my list. Took longer than usual to get this one, but that’s only because my hands were otherwise occupied with numbers five and thirteen.
Staring at the body sagging against the column it’s tied to, I kick off the wall. “Burn him.”
I don’t exit the room until smoke blankets the air. Ash and dust, death and murder. Some drink it down like a poison until it kills them, leaving nothing more than a shell without a soul. Others, like me, are the poison. When you have no soul, there’s no threat of losing it. With no threat, there’s nothing to fear.
And without fear . . . you’re limitless.