January 2nd, 2023
THE VENGEANCE OF BLOOD
by ADAM BRECKENRIDGE
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The woman’s flesh was so soft, so youthful. How could you not want to plunge a knife into it?
He followed her from a distance, keeping to the shadows as best he could. There were few people out this evening, so he had only to worry about her spotting him and not so much about the eyes of others. It gave him ample time to study her. She wore high heels and a floral dress that clung close to her figure. Her hair was done up in a bun, and she walked with such confidence, that she seemed fearless. It was rare to see women walking alone late at night like this. It was as if she wanted someone like him to target her. All the same for her, he thought, not that he cared for her life. It was only her death that he was interested in, and he had never wanted to kill anyone so badly.
The only thing about her appearance that perturbed him was a strange tattoo of three wavy lines printed in bright red on the back of her right arm. It was a maddening distraction from the perfection of her skin. Why on earth would a woman so flawless blemish herself? He felt like he was justified in killing her for that alone and, though it wasn’t his usual method, he planned to cut the tattoo off of her after he was done and destroy it.
She came to the doorway of a walk up. It seemed she’d reached home. This was when he could feel the tolling of the minutes, the giddy creeping towards her demise. That she did not know she was about to die, that this mundane routine of opening the door were some of the last minutes she would ever know, made it all the sweeter for him.
Watching her unlock the door made it clear he wouldn’t be able to get through without a key. He had to make his move now. He crept up behind her, and just as she was closing the door he put a knife to her throat and a hand over her mouth. She started and tried to shout but his hand absorbed it. He could feel her body tensing but the quiver of fear he usually felt at this point wasn’t there. She really had far more courage than was good for her.
“Don’t say a word,” he whispered, “not if you want to live. Take me to your place.”
Give them hope. He loved to do that. Always give them hope… until the last minute.
She nodded, then led him up a flight of stairs. He was astounded at how calm she was. Perhaps she really believed he would let her live. They came to a T-junction hallway. Empty. She moved to the left and unlocked the second door on the right. When they were inside he whispered, “if you scream you’re dead.”
She nodded. He removed his hand from her mouth and shoved her through the door before locking it behind them. She was looking at him with…was that contempt?
“You’re going to regret this,” she said, keeping her voice low.
“I haven’t regretted a single one of my victims yet,” he said, approaching her, frustrated. She wasn’t acting like his other victims. Her poise and the glimmer in her eyes made him realize he had better make this quicker than he cared for. He wouldn’t be able to draw out the torment as he normally loved to but something about.
“My blood will—,”
He plunged the dagger into her throat, stopping her mid-sentence.
Blood poured from her neck, down her dress and pooled on the floor. She fell to her knees, then toppled over, eyes staring up at him. Her death was now inevitable, and for him this was the orgasmic moment, when he could see the life draining from his victim’s eyes, filled with the knowledge that this was it for them, that they would never again draw breath, never again see their loved ones, that countless years had been taken from them with the flick of a blade. He breathed for this, thumped his heart for this, lived for this. The pain of their death was the ecstasy of his life.
But there was no such pain in her eyes. She continued to stare at him with her level anger even as her blood pooled around her, even as the life went from her eyes. Still, she died as all the others did. No amount of anger or defiance could stop the inevitability of death.
Yet, he was disappointed. He thought this would be one of his most glorious kills, but there was something about the whole thing that felt wrong. He felt dirty. He needed to wash his hands. He stepped over her body, avoiding the pooling blood, and went to the sink. It was dangerous to use her sink but as long as he was careful he should not leave any prints. He worked at his fingers, becoming lost in the rhythm of the cleansing. He did not see that the woman’s blood was moving, coagulating. The blood rose up and took human form.
It stood behind him in a wavering impersonation of the woman on the floor. Though the blood had no pupils, it had the impression of eyes, and when he turned around, he saw, above all else, that level glare that had so unsettled him. When faced with such an impossible sight, it is perhaps inevitable that he would focus his attention on something so small.
He grabbed his knife and took a swipe at the form but the blade came away coated in blood. Then the form hit him in the jaw with the weight of bricks. There was nothing watery about the punch. It was harder even than flesh, harder than bone. He staggered against the countertop. His face was throbbing, his jaw broken.
The thing’s hands grabbed the sides of his head. Only now did he understand that these were his final moments, that he would never draw breath again, never see his family again, decades of life gone in a moment. Did his eyes have the imminence of death in them? He felt the terror pounding in his chest and radiating through him. He didn’t want to show fear but couldn’t control it.
He felt his neck snap. Then, he ceased to perceive anything.
The blood pooled to the floor and retreated back into the woman, flowing back through the gash in her neck, which sealed shut with the last drop that passed through it.
The woman stood up, felt at her neck where the knife had pierced her and where now a dull, throbbing pain was receding. She looked down at the man who had killed her, his head twisted around backwards, the horror of death burned into his face. On the back of her arm, the tattoo glowed red and four waving lines could be seen there.
Adam Breckenridge is an Overseas Traveling Faculty member of the University of Maryland Global Campus where he travels the world teaching US military stationed overseas and is currently based in Japan. He has thirty-three story publications to his name and has most recently appeared in the Fantastic Other, and Lucent Dreaming and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
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Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.