Monday, January 30, 2012

The Second Murder of the Day by Rick McQuiston

Ross took a step back from the still form splayed out at his feet. His head felt like someone had run a butcher knife through it, and his back was screaming something about paralysis at him. But still, he stood tall, nudging the pain aside as best he could. He had come too far to turn back now. He had crossed the threshold, passed the point of no return, took a giant step forward, whatever metaphor fit accordingly enough. A bad back and headache could not undo what he had done, nor could they help him deal with it.
The gleaming blade of the serrated kitchen knife Ross had used on the man at his feet was smeared with congealed blood. It trickled down the edge of the steel, eventually reaching the pointed tip, before falling to the floor and forming a tiny crimson puddle. It served as a stark reminder of his terrible accomplishments that day.
Ross looked down at the dead man. He felt a twinge of remorse for him; he hardly knew him. It was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The man just happened to be home when Ross decided to visit his house. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And here Ross was, standing in a stranger's kitchen with a drying corpse at his feet, a bloody knife in his hand, and a bad headache. And possibly worst of all, he didn’t know what to do next.

Was he destined to kill innocent strangers? Cursed to never know those he would butcher? Although perhaps that was a blessing: not knowing them. It was far easier to kill someone one doesn’t know.
The pressure in Ross’s his head began to increase, threatening to split his skull wide open. He rubbed his forehead in a vain attempt to quell the inner storm churning within him, but it hardly helped.
And then it happened: a break in the wall of his mind. Ross could feel the opening, almost as if it were a physical thing instead of mental. He could sense the gap widening, relieving some of the pressure, but leaving the gates open for anything to enter at its leisure.
And sure enough, something did enter. Something slippery, and cunning...and evil.
The malevolent force slid into the dark void of Ross’s mind, filling every crevice, every recess with its essence and desires. It wanted him to kill. It told him to sacrifice any who came within range. It needed blood, and death, and pain.
And Ross was under its control.
But for now the force told Ross, in its own convoluted way, that he could rest. It instructed him to leave the body where it was, wash the knife, and clean himself up. His work for the day was complete. He had met his quota, and the force was sated.
For now.

Tomorrow was another day, and there would be new requirements for him to fulfill. The force had entered his mind the previous day, and had him dispatch one person (an elderly woman whom he came across in a darkened parking lot), thus meeting his obligation for day one.
Now it was day two, and Ross had finished off the anonymous gentleman cooling on the floor of the kitchen. His earlier victim (a teenage boy hanging out behind a local strip center) had put up a valiant fight, but Ross had won in the end, neatly separating the poor kid’s head from his flailing body.
That one had been the first of the day.
And Mr. Anonymous was his second murder of the day.
Ross casually walked over to the kitchen sink and inserted the knife under the faucet. Cool water efficiently cleaned the blade, leaving a sparkling sheen on the metal.
Next, he meandered into the master bathroom, shedding the soiled clothes from his violent activities as he went. A bloodied pile of garments were left in his wake.
Once he was in the shower and feeling the refreshing flow of water cleansing his weary body, Ross took a few moments to reflect on the past two days. He felt at peace with himself in a way. Not that he condoned what he had done, but because he had managed to appease whatever it was that was making him do the terrible deeds. He did not know much about the force (or whatever it was), but he did know it was happy with what he had accomplished so far.

So far.
That simple two word phrase that was so profound to him. Profound because one thing about the force that he did know was its penchant for mathematics. It had told him so when it first entered his mind. It did everything in neat, organized fashion. Its whole existence was carefully laid out in cold equations. It calculated mathematically which planet to invade next, systematically crunching the numbers in a bizarre cosmos-destroying way until it set its lethal sites on Earth. And of the six billion inhabitants on the planet, chose Ross to expedite its plans.
Ross turned the water off, and cupped his face in his hands. Remorse crept into his thoughts, but he shoved it aside. He couldn’t afford to feel sorry for himself, or the people he had killed. He had bigger problems.
Like the sudden realization that the force, the dark power he was enslaved to, wanted him to continue with his grisly work the next day. It had told him so. And since it was the second day of his enslavement, that meant, obviously, that the next day would be the third. And that meant that the force would want its quota of sacrifices increased thusly.
Ross dabbed his face with a towel, and sauntered toward the master bedroom. He needed sleep. At the very least, he would have to kill three people the next day, four the day after that, and so on and so on. And he shuddered to think what would happen to him if the force wanted the number of its victims squared.

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