She doesn’t need to see him to know he’s there. She can hear the distinctive sound of his footsteps. Ugly sounds. Sounds only he makes. Step, slide. Step, slide. The way it sounds as his feet find the fine particles of dirt on the smooth cement floor. Like nails on a chalkboard. Step, screech. Step, screech.
Huddled in the corner of a filthy warehouse, surrounded by empty pallets, her hoodie doubles as a cloak of invisibility. Eyes unwilling to close even though she wants nothing more than to block him from her sight. Her hunter, who is surprisingly light. His meticulously combed golden hair, flawless pale skin, dressed in a stunning white suit. He is burned into her eyes, into her memories, forever.
Darkness is supposed to be ominous, where evil lives and hate is bred. But the dark keeps her hidden. Keeps her safe. If she hadn’t dressed head to toe in her black costume, if it weren’t night, if shadows weren’t blanketing her, shielding her from the monster, she’d be dead already.
No. Darkness isn’t bad.
His words echo in her head like a throbbing headache.
“Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Step, slide. “I just want to play.” Step, screech. Light reflects off his perfect white teeth, off the thick, sharp blade in his fist. Shrinking back as tight against the wall as possible, she wishes desperately for the possibility to melt into the brick. It scratches against her back where the bare skin is exposed between her jeans and jacket. She barely feels it.
He’s standing in front of her, tall and lean. More like a model than a murderer, but she knows better now. She can smell the sickening sweet stench of cigars. Her eyes focus on the speckles of crimson that dot his sleeve and she knows it is blood. Knows it belongs to her. Squeezing her fists, she feels the burn in her forearm.
He takes a step forward. Step, slide. Eyes scrunching shut, she holds her breath. Fear shakes her tightened limbs.
Step, screech. Step, screech. Her eyes pop open and dart from side to side. The monster is gone. Instead of relief, she is consumed with unbearable panic. Where is he? Is he hiding? Waiting?
Terror makes it hard to breath. Moving could be a mistake. It could expose her, but as her eyes glide to the open doorway, the hope of freedom screams her name. It’s the only means of escape. Deciding it isn’t that far, as her fingers grip the mortar between the bricks, she pulls herself up. Turns her head to the left, eyes searching. Then to the right. Breaths panting out as sweat trickles down the back of her neck. Dirty blond hair clings to her skin. She lifts her foot to step over the crate blocking her path and freezes. Her senses are dulled and heightened at the same time. Not feeling the cold or the dampness of the night. Not noticing the blood running down her slender arm and dripping from battered fingertips. The gash in her arm scarcely hurts. But the smell. The sticky thickness of cigar smoke, old and stale, sends warnings to some more alert sense. A sob nearly escapes her throat. She chokes it down. Her eyes search again, bulging in the sockets. Raking across the cluttered warehouse. They move up, then down.
Where are you, you bastard?
Inhaling deeply, she tries to focus. I can do this. I made it this far. I will not let him win. Another deep breath. She tries to listen, to hear any sound above the hammering heartbeat in her ears. Her body’s noises are much too loud. Can he hear them?
“Oh, come on Kitten,” he says. “Let’s not be like this.” His voice is shockingly close, words smooth, crisp. It’s an angel’s voice on the lips of a devil. She gasps, startled. Hands grip her throat before she has time to react. Their eyes lock, his a beautiful icy blue full of malice. Her trembling hands grip his wrists, dirt crusted nails digging in.
“Please,” she tries to beg, but it’s an unintelligible rasp. White dots fill her vision, swimming in front of her like happy little fireflies. Her lungs beg for air. She begins to thrash. Hitting him, punching him, kicking him. She uses all her strength, but he doesn’t even flinch. Instead, he smiles. This enrages her more than anything else he’s done. More than the attack itself. But he’s so much stronger. She stops fighting. Blinks her eyes several times, struggling to see past the tiny stars that blur in front of her. His smile fades, morphs into something ugly and satisfied. He enjoys this. He’s proud. He’s disgusting.
Her hands release his wrists, dropping to her sides. It’s so loud, the ringing in her ears. It is incredibly hard to keep her eyes open. She’s gone much too long without air.
One of his hands leaves her throat. Hope bursts into her chest. He’s letting me go. She’s barely formed the thought when his hand reappears with the knife, the tip stained with blood. My blood, she reminds herself. She thrashes against him once again, her limbs flailing helplessly. He laughs softly. It’s like music.
“I think you are my favorite.” His tone soothing as his lips touch her forehead, each cheek, her lips. They’re so cold. She shivers and tries to squirm away. He presses his lips harder against hers. Tears rush from her frightened green eyes, soak her shirt, spill on the floor. “My Keely. My beautiful.” He pushes his forehead to hers and sighs. Inhales deeply, smelling her hair. “I love you.”
The knife flashes. There’s a sound like fabric ripping. Only, there’s another sound beneath it. Something wet. Similar to slurping the bottom of a cup with a straw. Her mouth tastes of metal. She doesn’t understand. My neck feels warm. My shirt is what? Damp?
His hand relinquishes its grip on her throat. Keely collapses to the floor. Step, slide. Step, slide. Step, slide. His footsteps fade into the night. She tries to suck in air. Just one breath, that’s all she needs. There is a horrible gurgling noise. She chokes. Tries to breathe again. Chokes more. Blood spurts from her mouth, splashing onto her face, into her eyes. My whole body feels wet. No, cold. No, numb.
Numb is nice. There is no pain in numbness. There is no fear.
Though Keely knows it’s useless, her lungs relentlessly struggle to find air. Each rise of her stomach only chokes her more as she drowns slowly in her own blood. Darkness plays with the edges of her sight. She rolls to her side. Rolls again to her stomach. Reaches forward, grasping for anything. Her fingertips touch the cool cement. She tries to pull herself. Her only thought is to get through the door. Too weak, she goes nowhere. Tries again, leaving smears of blood on the floor. Lays her cheek to it. Thoughts switching. Muddy thoughts. Hazy, muffled thoughts of her parents. Of friends. Of her dog, Lively. She says a silent prayer for God to protect them. Mouths goodbye. A final tear falls, sliding across her nose, dropping to the floor, mixing into the pool of red. The darkness closes in as everything goes black.
© Cheryl McIntyre