I grab my mimosa and return the gesture. “Here’s to the crazies.”
The glasses clink just as the front door is forced in.
Warnings: graphic gore, death, serial killer short story
A big, damned hero
Once upon a time, there were these serial killers. They dominated the news. They dominated people’s dreams. Affectionately, by the caffeine crazed, sensation hazed media, the group—for no one alone could do all this, no one alone could leave such a long trail of bodies—was called the Bodysnatchers.
The method of killing was kept secret. By now, the state and news was good at keeping things hidden. And, really, last thing they wanted was this killing spree to multiply due to copycats. The media reported on the Bodysnatchers, but never showed any photographic proof. Consequently, much of the public is beginning to believe they did not exist.
I am sitting in the living room with my friend Tammy. Her family is about. Some came through to say hello. Others continue chatting in the other rooms. Somewhere is a pile of presents, all signed for Tammy’s soon-to-be niece Charice. “Close to Clarice,” I remark after the third unknown relative has come through and then promptly left. It was a comment I had been itching to make, but felt inappropriate in front of anyone other than my friend. “You know, like in Silence of the Lambs and with these Bodysnatchers…”
I trail off. Tammy huffs, leaning back into the couch. “I thought you were one of those tin foil hat guys who thought they didn’t exist. It was a state cover up or something.”
I shrug. Sure I had mentioned my disbelief, but who could not. It was like mentioning the moon was made of cheese or storks brought our children. A fairytale is told because reality is not much better.
“Anyway,” Tammy continues, taking a sip of her third mimosa. My first one sits on the coffee table between us untouched. “They only attack small groups, of like two or three. We have at least ten people here.”
“This was last minute, the baby shower moving here. Originally it was just going to be you, me, and your mom.” I hold up clearly three fingers, smiling deviously.
Tammy snorts. “You thought about this way too much!” she declares and toasts with her glass. It sloshes onto her fingers. Drops fall onto the white carpet. Tammy smiles. “Why I became such good friends with a crazy person, I’ll never know. But here’s to us.”
I grab my mimosa and return the gesture. “Here’s to the crazies.”
The glasses clink just as the front door is forced in.
It happened rather fast. One minute Tammy was tipsy and anointing our new friendship, the next was deafening silence. All the door did was open, but no one else was meant to come. No one else had been invited. It seemed as if the new arrivals understood this, paid their respects by waiting, and then entered the house.
I knew what was happening. I knew it in my soul. Tammy did as well, but she remained sat on the couch. I grabbed her, running to the back of the house where I knew the laundry room was. There were no windows. We could put the machine in front of the door. There, we could hide.
“My mom, my sister,” Tammy cries. There is a rise in volume. Panicked whispers and terrified inaction. We grab people as we pass, trying to be quiet but urgent. There is only one scream, the whole time, and it is silenced by a thump. Axes drip bloody, leaving a trail across the white carpet and the pile of presents.
The Bodysnatchers begin their work, the artists carving while the others look for cornered prey.
In the small space of the laundry room, we try to be quiet. There are five of us in here. We know at least one person is dead. Tammy is hugging her knees, head tucked into her arms. Her sister is with us, holding her stomach and watching the door with abject horror. An uncle and aunt are here, as well. They hold each other as if that very embrace might save them.
I was able to dislodge a length of pipe. The washing machine was pushed against the door, but was not nearly as heavy as we expected. Someone who was determined could easily gain entry. I look across the terrified faces. Most I only met in the last hour. Tammy in just the last month. We met at a coffee shop, both finding out we were fans of the same author while we stood in line. These relationships were so new. In most cases, I would be prepared to let them burn away like tinder.
But, now, seeing this raw fear, we share a special bond. It goes deeper than pleasantries and book recommendations. My palms are sweaty. The pipe is frozen in my grip.
“The washing machine won’t hold them out,” I say, shoulder leaning against our last defense. The wood is not reinforced. I know that. If you kick right by the knob, it will buckle and shatter. The lock is a cursory measure. The washing machine a decent try but still pathetic.
A short scream. Another thump.
Everyone cringes. I, on the other hand, feel my blood boil. My whole body is itching. I need to get out. I need to see. Maybe, it is really just curiosity just leading me out. Maybe this has nothing to do with wanting to protect them.
My hands stop sweating.
“I’m going to go out,” I say truthfully. The second part, I am unsure of the veracity. “I will clear it out…clear them out if I can. Don’t come out unless I say so.”
No one argues. Tammy looks like she might say, don’t do that, but she immediately looks to her pregnant sister. She grips the washing machine and her uncle joins her. With a grind that I am certain the Bodysnatchers hear, they remove the washing machine. I undo the lock and walk out, closing the door softly behind me.
Down this hallway is the living room. I can see the blood already spilling into the walkway. It smells of iron and metal and urine. I tread softly, keeping to the running carpet to avoid upsetting the wood. There is no fear in me. My adrenaline is too high for there to be fear. Curiosity just pulls me forward like a dog on a lead.
Because this, this no one other than the Bodysnatchers have seen.
I immediately understand why they are called the Bodysnatchers once I can see in. Three people are carved up by now. One is already skinned, bare body hung from the ceiling with expert knots of steel cable. The second is beyond help, skin slowly coming off under careful work, death making it heavy so that it must be held up by the other artists. They are all covered in blood and vomit. They work meticulously.
The third is already dead—unfit for this art form and simply slashed until unresponsive.
I am about to step in, ask them why, but someone grabs me. I am pulled the short distance across the hall into the kitchen. I spin around to see who grabbed me and it is Tammy’s mother. Her face is ghostly white. Her eyes are unusually wide. She makes the shushing gesture towards me. Quiet.
Why? I want to ask. It’s over for all of us. It was well over before this even began. We can’t win. What they are doing is too precise. They must have accounted for this, even if the extra people had surprised me.
I am honestly in awe of them.
Tammy’s mother begins to leads me towards the dining room, and towards the door to the backyard, when one of the Bodysnatchers comes around the corner. He is not one of the artists. No, they were lither, tall—almost as if they walked from a painting themselves. This man looks more as if he came from a Forbes magazine but failed to wear a suit this particular day. He smiles.
Tammy’s mother throws her fist out. He catches it. Then he gets her in a hold with his arm across her throat. She fights him, hoarsely calling my name. I feel frozen, as if my blood is sludge and my muscles clay. Then she bites his forearm and he howls. He refuses to let go, but looks at me.
“Jesus Christ, aren’t you going to help Kris?!”
I should, I think absently. Normally I am gone by now—I leave at the first break in after baiting the place—but this time I hadn’t. What was so different? Why was this time so different? Tammy’s mother looks at me pleadingly. I look towards the pipe in my hand.
Then I look at the Bodysnatcher. “Fuck you,” I say simply and bring the pipe hard into the side of his head. He lets the mother go and I continue to bring the pipe into his skull. Once it is soft enough, I stick the edge into it and feel satisfaction in forcing his brain matter through his ears. I always thought he was an ass. He was the other baiter and always said how much better he was than me. I got too friendly, too memorable. But the artists always tended to like my bait the most.
Pretty. Young. So lively.
Tammy’s mother is crying, hugging herself. “Thank you,” she says hoarsely. “I-I don’t know what he was going on about,” she says as the tears and sobs keep coming. But so do the lies. I see them in her eyes as she watches the bloodied pipe in my hand and not me. “I know you’re not the type.”
I smile, slow and delirious. “Is that so?” Taking a breath through my nose, smelling blood, I find my calm. I find my thoughts. “I’m sorry,” I say as a final supplication, maybe looking for redemption. Tammy’s mother watches me warily.
I pull the gun that I knew he had always carried. He was the danger, I had complained, because he showed up armed. I never did. I knew what to do without fear of failure and that…that thought was beginning to make me feel sick.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Tammy’s mother pleads.
I cock the gun. “I know, I could leave you for the artists. Consider this mercy. And, frankly, it’s the only way I can be free;
“they trapped me here…
(lies! Lies! Lies!)
“and I want out…
(lies? lies? lies?)
“ I’m sorry.”
The gunshot is loud. It grabs the artists’ attention. I retake up the pipe and put the gun down.
I want to enjoy this.
I don’t remember meeting them. I don’t even know if we ever formally met. I do remember Taylor, when I saw her at the coffee shop and she smiled so widely she upset her plastic framed glasses. She bought me a coffee, intentionally putting the wrong name on the cup. Kris. It was not my real name. It was never meant to be my real name. Just like Taylor is not hers.
All we are to each other are fakes. Some cheap reproduction of a person. I am a fake of political science major who ended up working in PR. Sean is a fake of a man who had dreams of being a partner but went into accounting instead. Taylor wanted to be a fashion designer, which she is, for a small boutique that barely makes rent. We are just people stitched and sewn together by failures and success. In fact, I am unsure if people is the right word.
We are the Bodysnatchers. And I think I might just want mine back.
I down Thomas and Andy quickly. I overpower them while they are immersed in their work. It is like a slip and slide of guts and blood. The pipe finds their heads, after many errors, and then stops finding it after many more swings. I myself get a nasty gash across my chest. The knife is so sharp, I hardly feel it, but my blood is warming my shirt. It feels like satisfaction. It feels like freedom.
I take up Andy’s prized knife from his gloved hand.
Taylor had run off. I find her quick enough in the kitchen, over Sean’s dead body. She has the gun I had left behind in her hand. “You’re going to shoot me?” I ask. I am now covered in as much blood as her. But, oh, I have so much less on my hands. They, after all, the artists, were the real killers.
She shakes her head, short blond hair bouncing. She lowers the gun.
It’s an act. It’s an act for me to stop because I hear the bullet before I see her pull the trigger, but I am already low—lower than her aim. I hit her around the middle, knife going in, but she twists quickly, and throws me off. The gun comes close to my face as I fall back into the counter, knife fallen between us. The smoke tickles my nose like a lover’s kiss.
Taylor is theatric. I know this about her. With a body, she is different, but here, with a gun, she is theatric. I know that she will wait to set up the shot. I know she will wait until the perfect cinematic moment is thrown at her feet. I refuse to give it to her.
Another lunge. Another fight for the gun. This time I successfully get it away, but in turn get hit hard. I fall onto the counter, head hitting granite and the world disappears momentarily. When it resolves, Taylor has a scalpel.
I hunt the drawer nearest me, pulling the only thing handy—a beater. Battery operated, I note with surprising clarity, just before Taylor makes the first move.
I quickly learn beating Taylor’s eye is a good deterrent against her stabbing me. She screams, blood pouring, mixed with yellow-white fluid, from her eye socket. Her howl is inhuman. Her pain is excrutiating. I think of enjoying this, but then something lights in her, the same thing which lights in all animals fighting for survival.
I run as her fight instinct takes over.
She chases me out of the house, screaming primally after me. My head is woozy. My chest hurts. I can hear sirens. Sirens.
I turn to see Taylor barreling at me. I set my feet and I fight.
Soon after, we collapse to the ground, me throwing my fist into her face as she tears at my throat with her finger nails. Eventually she is able to twist, gaining the upperhand, and I hit the pavement. No, my head hits the pavement, and that’s lights out for me. But before it can go completely dark, there is blue and red.
And Taylor, one eyed and leering.
I wake up in a hospital bed. My throat is bandaged. My head is bandaged. My chest has staples running across it. Beside me, Tammy is asleep. There are also flowers.
So many flowers.
Tammy stirs awake. She smiles at me sleepily. “You’re awake,” she says groggily and reaches out to grab my hand. It’s bandaged as well.
“Did I kill them all?” I ask, terrified to see handcuffs. Maybe they didn’t put them on me because I was so injured, but now that I was awake, I would have to answer for what I’ve done and so often failed to do.
But Tammy assuages my fears. “Yes, you’re a hero!” she says in her usual cheery manner.
I feel no better.
If anything, I feel worse.
At least, while they were alive, there were worse monsters than me. Now I am the last of my breed. I thought killing them would bring me redemption, but that’s not why I did it, is it? No. I did it for the same reason I do not confess right then and there to Tammy.
I got away with it.
No longer a bodysnatcher, but a big damned hero.