The Girl with the Death Mask

I walked along the sand, scarcely feeling the scorching heat of the sun beat down upon my neck, upon my unprotected skin. I passed the cactus patch at the edge of the pueblo and wandered out deeper into the desert.

Far in the distance, I saw a shape, a tiny moving shape, low to the ground. As I came closer I saw it was a tiny person, and I could see their face was unnaturally white, even from the considerable distance I was away.

Coming closer I saw it was a little girl. The little girl was wearing a mask; a white mask, that of a skull, of death – the kind that the revelers wore during Dia de los Muertos. She was playing in the dirt and hunched over something.

“¿Qué estás haciendo, niña? Why do you play in the dirt?”

She stopped and stood up and looked back at me, wordless and resolute. I saw now that thing she had been hunched over and paying so much attention to was a human head, the severed head of a person, old and rotted and turning green.

She stared at me, emotionless through the disguise of the mask, with those cold, cold eyes. Her silence was evil and full of dire portent.

I stared at the shriveled face, and the little girl beside it, a demon, and my blood ran cold in my veins. She slowly began to walk toward me, her black eyes affixed upon mine, never breaking her stare from behind that bleached white mask.

I awoke in my bed from the night terror, to the sound of my own voice calling out into the dry emptiness of the bedroom. Far off on the horizon the sun was rising and casting the golden rays of morning through the hole in the stone wall that was the window. I rose, still shaking, and walked over to the basin, and splashed water on my face. My tired eyes looked back at me in the mirror.

What a strange dream. It was The Day of the Dead, and I had awoken with only fear and the knowing that something terrible was going to happen today.

The dream was a sign of ill omen. The girl in the skull mask had visited me so many nights these past few weeks leading up to this day. But what did it mean? Because each time it was only upon waking that I realized I recognized the shriveled head she hovered over, the object of her interest in the dry, unforgiving heat of the desert. The face of the severed rotting head was one I knew all too well – it was mine.

Blackout

I awoke to a pounding headache, guttermouth, and the stench of stale beer. God, what happened last night? I hadn’t felt this bad since… well, last weekend.

I threw the comforter to the floor. The headboard was broken. The lamp from the bedside table was on the floor, the bulb shattered into a million pieces. My jeans lay inside-out in a heap in the corner, belt still in the loops.

And then I saw them. Black stilettos kicked off by the door: one upright, the other on its side, a fallen soldier of fashion.

Oh my god! That model! Or was she an actress? Christ, she’d been more than a 10, she was a goddamn 11. Had I really? Did I? Never in my life had I gone home with a woman that hot, let alone when blackout drunk.

But where was she? Had she slipped out already and left her shoes behind? It didn’t matter. I didn’t care. Ugh, I ran my hand down the side of my face. I had only one problem right now and that was dealing with this massive hangover. Water, I need water.

I shuffled into the kitchen, feeling like death, and froze. There she – Tiffany, her name had been Tiffany – lay, naked on the tile of the kitchen floor in a puddle of blood, the chef’s knife from the block deep in her back amidst a forest of red stab wounds.

Collapsing against the wall, I slid down to the floor. I realized now I had bigger problem.

I Am The Wolfman

I am the wolfman.

The full moon rises to its apex in the night sky and I feel its power overtake me, consume me, engulf me, making me change. My human mind is overtaken by that of the animal. As my bones crack and grow and my skeleton reshapes itself, I feel the monster inside taking over. Taking control. The coarse dark hair of the wolf sprouts from my skin and grows longer and thicker. The pain is excruiciating as the bones in my face crack and sever, then elongate, and my human visage stretches out into a snout. My muscles thicken and stretch. My body contorts into a hunched form. The nails on my fingers and toes sprout into long claws.

I feel the carnal instinct inside overtake me completely. The full moon instills the want to gorge on human flesh. The craving to eat. The need to hunt.

I am the wolfman.

I run from the alley into the street and spot prey: a woman, walking alone beneath the faint orange umbrella of streetlamp light.

“What the hell? Hey, stay back! I’ve got mace!” In seconds I am upon her. I pounce and slash at her face with my razor-sharp claws. She collapses beneath my lupine muscle and I plunge my teeth into her neck. Oh, the kill! The wolfman feeds!

“Somebody! Help! Get this psycho off me! Help! Help!”

I am uncontrollable. I am savage. Enraptured in the glory of the kill, I am in a frenzy. I bite her again and again and she screams out. Then slowly her cries become weaker as the strength leaves her. I tear into her with my yellow fangs and devour her flesh. My nose is wet now with her warm blood. I drag my kill into the darkness of the alleyway to feast.

Hunched over her lifeless body in the gloom, I hear another sound from behind me. A shrill sound. Sirens. Suddenly light floods the alleyway. A car stopping. Doors slamming.

“Sir, put your hands in the air and step away. We have drawn our weapons and will not hesitate to fire.”

I turn and am illuminated. The blood in my mouth runs down my canine jaw. Crouching over my kill, I ready myself to pounce. I growl.

“Sir, put your hands in the air and get down on the ground. We will not hesitate…”

My growl rises and I spring. Explosions. Hot stabbing trails of pain tearing through me. I let out a howl, one long last high-pitched howl, the aroooooooooo of the victorious hunting wolf. I fall backwards to the ground and the last sight I see is the beautiful full moon hanging in the sky.

I am the wolfman.

Prey

I find them where humanity pools. Nomads, far from home. Hookers. Drug addicts. Girls on the run from their family, their abusive alcoholic fathers or controlling mothers, not many years ago merely scared teenagers.

I give them what they need. I give them what they want to hear, and they come to me like a moth to the flame. It’s so easy. Ply them with drink and wait until it feels just right, until I can see the snare closing around their neck. They’re all flirtatious smiles and gestures because they found a stranger who makes them feel strangely warm inside, but they don’t know what I know – that they’re animals walking into my trap.

It’s awfully dark to walk home alone along the side of the road isn’t it? Come on, let me give you a ride, you’ll freeze to death out here. Reluctance melted by warm smile and good looks. Why don’t you come out back with me to my truck? I want to show the old 8-track player and we can listen to The Eagles. Resistance dissipated by that final shot of tequila we had. How about we go back to the hotel? I’ve got a bowl to smoke and more whiskey to drink. Trepidation gives way to acceptance and hedonistic desire.

They think they have a choice, but I know I’m in control all along. This is something I know in my mind but they never do – on some subconscious level they must be aware, but they never realize it.

This one is different. This one excites me even before then end, before the screaming and the crying, before her body turning cold as its warmth escapes into the night air. She kisses me hard and I can feel the fire inside her. She’s straddling me in the driver’s seat and I can feel it, feel its warmth burning with the one down below, the one she’s rubbing up against me beneath her black skirt.

I get harder when I think about what comes next, about the wrench at arm’s length in the backseat, and the sound it will make when it connects with her skull, that fleshly crack unlike anything else. I get harder when I think about her crying for mercy, huddled in a heap after she’s crawled into the backseat. About her begging me to stop, stop, please stop, when I’m completely in control, and I won’t.

She hikes up her skirt as she rubs against me, and I fumble with my belt and pants. Then I am inside her. Her blond hair is all around me and she’s so warm, and she’s making those little sounds.

I thrust into her and think about the wrench. So soon now, until just the right moment.

And then I hear a metallic click, and there is a sharp pain in my neck. I put a hand to my throat and feel the wet warmth of my blood gushing out. Pain, as she grabs the blade from my neck and stabs it into my chest over and over. I arch my back and I’m plunging deeper inside her as she’s plunging it into me. Finally I slump in the seat and the warmth of her is heavy upon me.

She brushes her long blond hair back from her face with a blood-soaked hand, and smiles wickedly at me in the dark. I can see the white of her teeth in the near blackness. She laughs.

“Silly boy, I’m not that kind of girl….”

I’ll Be Dead Soon

When I came home, there was blood on the sheets.

Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit. Not again. No, not again.

But the bed was empty. Emily wasn’t there. I ran back out of the bedroom and saw that the sliding glass door to the balcony hung open – the curtains around it were slowly swaying in the wind. I hurried out into the blinding light of day.

Emily sat on the concrete of the balcony floor, her back leaned against the grey brick of the wall. Her legs were pulled up against her in the fetal position and her face was pressed into her knees, buried beneath her disheveled black locks. She was crying.

“Honey….” I said, softly, and crouched down.

She looked up at me. Her pale skin was reddened and her cheeks were coated with streaks of hot tears running her black mascara. There was sadness in her eyes, and shame.

“I’m sorry baby, I’m sorry,” she started to say, but her words quickly rose and turned into crying again.

I slid down against the wall next to her and put my arm around her. She buried her face in my shoulder, and wept. Over and over again she kept repeating: I’m sorry baby, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, baby, I’m sorry…

I tried to comfort her, knowing that it would do little. It would be a long night.

I gazed out from our balcony on the 23rd floor, into the rows of cold uncaring skyscrapers of downtown. As Emily wept, I felt her slowly rubbing her hand against her forearm, over and over. I looked down at her long fingers as they smeared her blood back and forth, the same blood that was on the bedsheets, the same that covered her fingers, and had flowed from the shallow cuts she made.

She’d said before it would be the last time.


“Come on honey,” I said the next day. “Let’s go get a hot chocolate.”

In all the chaos and emotion that was living with Emily, I tried very hard to find the few things – those precious few, bright things – that stood out for her, that I could do to try to lift her spirits. There weren’t many. There wasn’t much that could bring her from her low, dark place closer to what could be considered to feeling normal, or even just sad. The white hot chocolate at the cafe down the street was one of those few things. Sometimes. “Come on babe, it’ll be fun.”

I heard her stir in the other room, and throw the duvet from the bed. Then the sound of her slowly pulling on clothes.

“Yeah, fun….” Her distant words were hollow, slow and empty.

Em came out of the bedroom. She had thrown on her black tank top and jeans, the only clothes she’d worn these past few weeks. She stared down at the floor outside the doorway. “Baby, I just don’t feel like it. What’s the point?”

The last couple months had been especially bad. I’d never seen her like this before in all the years that we’d been through. And she hadn’t cut herself before, not since she was in high school.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I said again. Sometimes it required a lot of effort. A lot of gentle but persistent encouragement to get her going. But it was worth it. Those times I could lift her spirits just a little, it was worth it.

“Alright,” she said, listless.

The barista at the cafe was cheerfully oblivious to the cloud of despair around the love of my life. All smiles and happy words and can I help you? and the contrast between her cheeriness and Em’s gloom couldn’t have been starker.

We sat at one of the little red circular tables. Emily set her hot chocolate down in front her and stared into its steaming depths. She was silent. I sipped my coffee and felt like screaming. I felt like flipping the table and spilling our hot drinks all over the floor of the cafe. I felt like getting up from the chair and taking her in my arms and shaking her back and forth and shouting I love you and you’re beautiful and smart and funny. I know you are. I know you can be, because I’ve seen you be. You know me better than anyone ever will and I love you more than anything in the universe and that’s all that really matters. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just snap out of this? I love you! I love you and I just want you to be happy but I don’t KNOW WHAT TO DO!

Emily sipped her white hot chocolate silently. She didn’t look up.


That was a week ago, when she cut herself again. After that, things only worsened. She just lay in bed in the apartment all day, most days she didn’t even bother getting up or getting dressed. I tried to talk to her but she was just so withdrawn.

When I came home from work this evening the sliding door to the balcony was open again. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. I stepped outside but Em wasn’t out there. I went into the bedroom but she wasn’t there either – the bed was bare, the duvet thrown in a heap on the floor, and her clothes weren’t in a pile on the floor next to it like they normally were. As I went back out into the kitchen, I began to think that perhaps she was feeling better and had just gone out and left the door open – she had always been very forgetful.

It was then I found her note on the counter, and as I read it, I began to cry.

My Dearest Michael,

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for all of this. For all the tears, all the pain, all the drama, all the blood. I love you so very much and I know that you never deserved any of it. It’s all my fault. I fucked everything up. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy, but I know now that I’ll never be able to make you happy if can never be happy myself.

Life is just so hard. It’s so hard to get up in the morning and face another day when deep down I know that everything is pointless. It’s so hard to pull myself from bed and go outside when I’m always so tired. It’s impossible for me to keep going on when I feel so dead and empty inside and I can never do anything right.

I’m so glad we spent this time together. Even though I know this life is just a meaningless dream, I’m glad I shared this dream with someone like you. I know that you were always just trying to help. But there are some things in life that can never be fixed, and I’m one of them. I am, and always have been, broken.

I’m ready to wake up. I’m tired of this rotting feeling inside and this empty hole in my chest that only grows larger with each passing day. I’m ready to wake up from this dark dream.

I’ll be dead soon. Maybe one day you’ll learn the truth of it all and follow me. But until then I just want you to know this is not your fault. It’s no one’s fault but my own.

I’ve always been a fuck-up. I’m sorry.

Goodbye,
Em

Beside the sliding door to the balcony, the curtains fluttered softly in the cool summer breeze, and danced in gentle beams of warm sunlight.

I knew where Emily was.

Dead Animals in the Backyard

“Awww… poor thing,” Jenni said, looking down at the dead bird. It had been chewed up by some kind of animal.
“It’s okay honey,” I said. “I’ll bury it in the garden.” And she hugged me.

But that was just the first one we’d find. The weeks went by and that dead bird was followed by another a week later, and a bloody squirrel with no head after that.

“Must be a wolf back there,” I said the following week, when we found a dead fox. “At least, I hope there is.”
“Why?” Jenni said, sipping her coffee.
“Well either that or we have a future serial killer growing up in our neighbourhood.”
“Maybe we should call the police?”
“Hmmm, well I think I’ll just fence off the yard first.”

But the fence didn’t stop the steady flow of dead animals appearing in the backyard, and over time they got larger. One morning there was half a dead cat, and later an eviscerated dog, a golden retriever.

I eventually did end up calling the police, but not because of the dead animals in the yard. I called the police because one morning I woke up alone, and lying in a heap in the backyard, covered in mud and gutted, was Jenni.

When I found her dead I was afraid of who or what was doing this. But now I don’t know what to be afraid of. Because this morning I threw up in the sink, and in the mass of bloody vomit I found her engagement ring.

You Always Remember Your Second

“Oh, you’re so mean!” she said laughing, as we strode out of the bar and into the cool night air.

She was tipsy now, not drunk, but all the giggly headiness that consecutive glasses of champagne bring on. I knew where we were going. I knew what the outcome of this night would be. Just like it had been before.

She lit a cigarette and blew smoke as we walked. “I live around here, you know,” she said. I know. “But I’m not sure I want to invite you up to my apartment…. it’s kind of messy.” She giggled again.

I laughed. “Oh my god, I knew it. You’re a slob, aren’t you?” I grinned roguishly and let her take my arm. “Now I’m definitely not coming up to your apartment.”

She was under my spell now. I could feel it. We walked through the sliding glass doors to the condo’s lobby and they parted magically for us like The Red Sea.

She pulled me onto the elevator and we kissed passionately. All I could hear was the sound of the doors closing and the blood rushing in my ears and the screams of the girl before her. She pulled me out onto the sixth floor and down the hallway.

“Gee, I’m not sure I should let you into my apartment,” she said, turning the key in the lock. The door swung open. “You’re not some kind of serial killer are you?” She laughed and fell against the closet.

I kissed her hard. The screams were louder in my head now. Not yet. I smiled. But soon.

Worse Than Death

“Please, please,” the girl wept. “Don’t do this! I don’t want to die!”

Her captor tightened the leather straps around her wrists, then laid out a plastic roll of surgical tools on the table next to the dentist’s chair.

“Then don’t worry!” he said cheerfully, picking up a scalpel. A wicked smile spread across his face. “I assure you I’m going to keep you very much alive…”

The scalpel glinted evilly in the harsh fluorescent light.

Hide & Seek

One day, I’ll find you.

Those five words, the last he spoke to me the day they put him away, are burned into my memory forever. After what he tried to do to me, after the things I saw him do to the other girls, I knew I had to escape. The will to survive was strong, and the desire to put this man – no, this sick, twisted monster – away stronger still. He got careless and my will persevered. I escaped, and made sure he’d never do to any other girls what he did to them, and what he had planned to do to me.

Many refuse to watch an execution given the option. It’s disturbing. Morbid. I have no problem admitting I wanted to watch the bastard fry. He deserved to die and I wanted to see it.

“Any last words?” The executioner’s hand hovered over the lever.

He stared directly at me through the one-way mirror. He knew I was watching. He knew I was there.

One day I’ll find you. Those five words, the last he spoke to me before the lever fell and his body convulsed from the current running through it.

That was months ago and the words still haunt me. I put the book down on my bedside table and turn off the light. In the night I awaken in fear, a tightness clutching my heart and cold dampness coating my skin. The hairs on my skin stand on end. The bedroom is filled with the odor of burnt flesh. I hear the loud thump of his footsteps down hall.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are….”