The Collector

You’ve gotta have a reason to get up in the morning, otherwise there’s no point in living.

Me, I’m a collector. A collector of rarities. I figure it’s the sort of hobby most people would get into gradually, but hey, not me. My interest came in a flash of inspiration, right as I was about to pull the trigger of the shotgun in my mouth. It was the only thing I was living for. It’d been two years since I’d seen another uninfected. As far as I knew, I was the only goddamn person left in the world that hadn’t turned into a walker. They were eating each other for sustenance, or simply fading away. It took a surprisingly long time.

I kept their parts in jars.

The thrill I got from the danger made it worth it. Some times I’d lure a single one away and then take what I wanted after dispatching it, others I’d pick one in a group off from afar, usually with the rifle, then barrel in guns blazing on the others, slice off a piece and run. Smash-and-grab.

But those thrills were nothing compared to the ones from finding rarities. I got a rush of excitement, a surge of pure joy when I discovered my first on the inexplicably undecayed back of a man: a beautiful giant Oriental tattoo of tigers hunting in the jungle. I think he must have been a biker before, or some kind of criminal. Others followed: a nearly perfect, almost normal-looking human ear from a young girl; a glass eye from a fat salesman-looking type; a hand with six fingers; a double belly-button; and the list went on. Soon my cellar was lined with jars filled of pickled oddities. I was becoming a regular sideshow purveyor and had never felt happier, despite having no one to share it with.

It happened when I was out in the badlands, far outside the city. The engine made strange noises as I drove there in the Jeep; I worried that I might have to find a new one soon.

The Eagle remained unfired at my side. I felled the lone walker I found with the hatchet instead, and the adrenaline coursing through my veins afterward felt amazing. He’d almost bit me. One of these days I was going to get infected, I just knew it. But my adrenaline rush soon fell flat in disappointment when the body turned up nothing of interest. I kicked the rotting corpse aside, then kicked it again in frustration.

When I got back to the Jeep, there was a man in sunglasses and a slouch hat leaning against it. He was grinning widely and his teeth shone in the bright light of the afternoon.

“Hello,” he said, and raised a strange-looking gun.

That’s the last thing I remember before I woke up. It’s very dark down here but my eyes have adjusted. I can see there are others too, chained up like I am.

It seems I’m not the only uninfected after all. Nor the only collector.

Prying Eyes

Have you ever had the feeling someone is watching you? Where the air seems just a little bit different, and you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up?

Michael had gone away for the weekend, on business, he said. He wasn’t going to be back until Sunday night. I’d just finished a relaxing hot shower, my hair up in a towel and my still-wet body hugged in the warm folds of my bathrobe, and put on a pot of tea and the television. With him gone I thought it would be good to opportunity to just stay in and relax and have some time to myself.

That’s when I felt the eyes watching. When I got the overwhelming sensation of not being alone. Of someone was looking in. The drapes fluttered in the cold wind of the night and I knew someone was there. I could feel it.

“Who’s there?” I called out, but no one answered.

Trying to remain calm, I went to the closet and got out a flashlight. I held it in my shaking hand called out again:

“I know you’re out there! Show yourself!”

There was no response.

I turned on the flashlight, and I saw the voyeur leering down at me from the tree in the yard. It was Michael. Vacantly his eyes stared in through the window, so very white. Beneath them a rope tight around his neck and beneath that jagged bloody letters carved into the flesh of his chest:

I SEE YOU

Terror at Make Out Point

Jenny kissed Tom in the truck passionately, and their heated passion filled the cramped space, steaming up the windows. She made little noises as they kissed, until finally Tom started to put his hand up her shirt and she pulled back, falling back against the passenger door.

“What are you doing?” she protested, staring at him in the darkness.
“Aww, come on,” Tom said. “Don’t be a prude.”
“Tom!”
“What? Do you really think we came up here just to look at the moon?” She glowered at him. “Fine, be that way. Might as well not just sit here in silence.”

Tom lit a cigarette and turned on the radio. There was the sound of a man talking, hurriedly but trying to maintain a calm tone and sound matter-of-fact:

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important announcement. Police have just learned that a patient has escaped from the institution for the criminally insane on Black Briar Hill and is heading down the mountain toward the city. The fugitive is described as 6 foot 3, with long black hair, and should be considered extremely dangerous. The police commissioner is advising everyone to stay, lock doors and windows, and be on the lookout for any suspicious characters in their neighborhood.”

And then the broadcast was over, and The Eagles were in the truck with the two high-schoolers, singing about the hotel you could check out of any time you’d like but never leave.

“Oh my God!” cried Jenny, flicking one of her long curly blonde locks at Tom. “That’s terrifying! That’s not far from here, just a ways up the mountain. We should get out of here Tommy! Just to be safe! I’m so scared!”

“s’okay baby.” Tom blew smoke from his Malboro into the cab. “I’ll protect you.” He pitched the cigarette out the window and leaned in to kiss the innocent young girl.

The two necked passionately, as the smouldering cigarette lit the scrub brush it had landed in. The flames spread, engulfing all the vegetation on the hill. Just as Tom started to round second base Jenny pushed him aside and looked out the windshield to see the inferno spreading before them.

“Oh my god, Tom! Look! What did you do? What did you do!?”

The teenagers jumped out of the truck, slamming the doors behind them, not knowing why.

“What do we do, Tom, what do we do?” Jenny screamed.
“Shut up!” Tom said, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. “Just shut up!”

The fire raged on beneath the light of the nearly-full moon. The two turned to look down the hill into the raging blaze, and saw within it a dark shape emerging, flames leaping off of it; the dark figure of a man with long black hair and holding something down at his side, something bouncing against his knee as he climbed the burning slope.

It was a human head.

They turned and ran, and the burning man followed.

Patience

“Hello?”

The front door was ajar, just enough for me not to notice from the driveway. I pushed it open and entered the house.

“Hello! Anne! You home? Michael! Honey?”

I set my briefcase down next to the closet and kicked off my shoes. The house was deserted, and quiet, far too much so. Even the air felt empty.

“Hello…? Where are you guys?”

I walked in to the living room. On the coffee table, sitting on the glass waiting with expectation, was a crisp white envelope adorned with cursive writing. I picked it up and read my name in the bold sweeping strokes of a calligraphy pen: Adrian Fillmore.

Inside was a plain white sheet of paper with a letter written in flowing script matching that on the envelope:

Adrian,

I have your son. Whether he is returned to you in one piece or a hundred is something only I will know. Your wife is chained to the water heater in the basement. I apologize but I had to give her a rather nasty bump on the head to keep her from screaming. I wouldn’t have wanted her to alert the neighbors and she was scaring Michael.

What terrifies people, Adrian? What truly strikes fear into their hearts? This is what I wish to know. But you don’t feel fear like other people do, do you? The situations that grip others in abject terror don’t rattle you. You only become more calm, more collected and cool-headed, and this is why you excel at what you do. I know because I’ve been watching you. I know the tell-tale signs of a psychopath when I see them because it takes one to know one; the difference between you and I is that I’ve always known what I am and have accepted it.

So what is it that scares you, then? Not this, I know. I have your son, and you’re surely angry with me as you read this, for taking something that belongs to you, but I know you’re not afraid. You’re viewing this coolly, impassively, as another problem to be solved and you’re already piecing together in your mind what to do.

No, Adrian, I know what frightens you, because I know what drives you. I know how you think because you think like me. We are just so impatient. So driven. Always thinking about what will happen next.

Well today, Adrian, you don’t get to know what happens next. And you don’t get to know when.

Only that I’m coming for you too, and all you can do is wait.

Sincerely,
DMK

Nothing to Lose

The engine revs and I feel the blood race in my veins. I will hold nothing back; I have nothing to hold back anymore. Full throttle. Let’s drive this hunk of metal full-tilt into a brick wall. I don’t give a shit. Nothing to lose.

I push my foot to the floor and the engine roars and we peel off down the dark, secluded highway amongst the rocky hills. nothing to lose Nothing to lose NOTHING TO LOSE NOTHING TO LOSE the slowly rising needle of the speedometer screams at me.

I reach over to the passenger seat and pull the strip of duct tape back. She screams. The lights of the night fly by with incredible speed, and the terror in her eyes only make the blood in my veins race faster.

As we cross the bridge, 600ft above the freezing waters of the cove, I pull the handle on the passenger side door and kick it open, nearly losing control and sending the us plummeting into the rail and over the side of the bridge but I don’t care.

“GOODBYE BEAUTIFUL!” I laugh. I kick her hard with my boot and she flies out the door and hits the steel of the guardrail like a ragdoll, flipping over it, up into the air and then out over the waters of the bay where she’ll fall to her death. I laugh.

I grab the gun from the glovebox and hold it up to my face and push my foot down on the accelerator hard. In my mind I see the house burning, the kids inside; her running out back door screaming, sweater alight; and the wispy black oaks of the neighborhood awash in lights of red and blue.

Nothing to lose, the speedometer coos from the dashboard. I turn the wheel, and pull the trigger.

The Artist

Great artists are never appreciated in their time.

Van Gogh was the very portrait of the troubled, starving artist. Would he ever have become famous had he not gone insane, cut off his own ear, and eventually brought about his own demise? Monet was never accepted during his life but is now the father of Impressionism. Poe was an itinerant alcoholic who died, broke and alone, in a deserted alley, never appreciated for the master he was. Kafka was a tortured soul who never succeeded as a writer, his genius only appreciated many years after his death.

Great artists are never appreciated in their time. But I am different. I will be.

The others – the hacks, the copycats, the imitators – they try. But they do not understand art. They don’t appreciate it for the ineffable thing that it is. They don’t elevate it, don’t revere it, don’t worship it with the awe I do.

It’s not about the individual pieces, but about how they come together to form the whole. It’s about balance. How all the small touches, the little flourishes and dashes of colour, come together to comprise one glorious work.

My strokes are gentle; curving, loving even. My precision, bordering on fastidiousness, unmatched. I see it all coming together beautifully. It’s at that crucial point now, that beautiful point between being a blank canvas and becoming the immortal creation of my hand: uplifted, exalted, perfect.

Just a few more days. Hours and hours of love and care and labour and my latest masterpiece will be complete. I never tire in my quest to become the greatest artist that has ever lived. I will be appreciated. Respected. Lauded with the praise I deserve.

I set down the blade for a moment to examine my work.

“Please,” she sobs, tears running down her face and mixing with the congealing blood. “Stop. Please….”

Welcome to Crazyland

No one knows how it started; no one know why. A virus? Biological agent? Collective global psychosis? Or maybe one day half the world just woke up and said fuck it, I’m taking what’s mine.

Very soon two classes emerged. The Brawlers, the ones on top, and The Runners, most everyone else. Me, I’m a Runner. I’m no murderer.

I’ve had my fair share of scrapes. I’ve seen them roaming the streets during the day, weapons in hand. Watched them empty assault rifles and shotguns into men’s chests, sometimes for food or resources, sometimes just for the sick pleasure of it. I watched them beat the life out of a group of innocent women and children with aluminum baseball bats and crowbars; so brutal and merciless, so wanton, so bloodthirsty for no purpose or reason at all.

Sometimes they hunt in packs (never more than 3, as far as I’ve seen), but most often they hunt and kill alone. But always their identities are hidden. Balaclavas. Welding hoods. Animal masks. Motorcycle helmets. They never show their faces. And most frighteningly of all, they never speak. They are not an organized body, there is no ruler or order among them, but still somehow these rules, these common characteristics, emerged without ever being spoken and agreed upon.

All we can do is run. Run, and hide. But sooner a later a man has enough. Has enough of hiding in abandoned, decaying buildings between blood-soaked walls. Enough of eating scraps and what vermin he can catch. Enough of running. Sooner or later a man fights back.

I killed one of them the other day. I buried a fire ax deep into his chest and watched until his twitching limbs ceased their jerking. After the adrenaline faded, after my panting breath returned to normal, a strange feeling washed over me, one of elation.

Yesterday I found an old goalie mask in what used to be a sporting goods store. As I pulled it down over my face, suddenly I didn’t feel like talking anymore. Silence seemed a welcome natural state, one of which I’d been unaware of my whole life. No more talk. Just action. Just doing.

The Professional

“Inspector?”
“Yes?” I said, looking up from the paperwork on my desk.
“This came for you.” Jeanine was holding a large box. She handed it to me as I stood up.
“Oof! It’s heavy.” I said, setting it down on the desk. She left.

There wasn’t a packing slip, just a white envelope on which someone had scrawled my name. I opened it to find a letter on plain white paper, typed, complete with the station’s address and my full name and title in the heading.

Chief Inspector Rivers,

Find enclosed the head, lungs and liver of David L. Greenwood, of 324 Avenue des Pines Ouest. I have loathed David for as long as I have known him, and observed with disdain the foolishness, impetuousness and disregard for others with which he lived his life. That is why I killed him.

You will also find enclosed the murder weapon of said deceased individual, an unregistered Smith & Wesson Model 36, which with my gloved hand I pulled the trigger.

Though I have been informed by certified mental health professionals that I am incapable of feeling empathy, I felt it of importance to say the following for your sake: it is my hope that your department is able to locate and apprehend me in a timely manner, despite my assiduousness in taking every precaution to ensure they do not. This is because following this there will be 46 additional letters of a similar nature – I have compiled a list, Inspector Rivers, and on it your name is the 48th.

It is up to you to figure out why.

Sincerely,
DMK