You can’t see me here, in the dark, can you, George? I can see you though. I can see every little move you make. Everything you do. The world is a small place for you at the moment. Your world is there in that small patch of light, stretching from your front porch out across your lawn to the street. You’ll walk out, away from the safety of your house, pretending that you aren’t daunted by the encroaching dark and all the horrors it contains. You’ll pretend you aren’t scared of me, George.
I’m here though, waiting as you make your way forward, rubbish bag in hand. You’re moving slowly now, I can see how old you’ve gotten. How old and frail you now look. Your greying hair is getting wispy and you wear a few too many layers under that flannel shirt. Old age is breaking through your barriers; the cold is creeping in too. Well don’t you worry George, you won’t have to suffer for too much longer. Tonight your fears will be put to rest.
You might wonder about me when you see me. Who is this figure dressed in black? Why does he hide his face under a hood? Is it the Reaper? You might wonder. No, I’m not Him but I’ll help you make His acquaintance. I’ll meet you with a baseball bat rather than a scythe but I’ll chop you down all the same.
There, you’ve reached the edge of your dominion, you’ve reached the edge of your pool of light. Now you will have to face me. Now we say hello.
“Hey George”, I whisper, still hidden in the shadows. George starts. I can see the fear in his eyes.
“Over here.” I let him know where I am. He squints into the darkness. His eyes haven’t adjusted yet, not like mine. He hesitates but remembers the man he used to be. Be bold, be bold, but not too bold. He takes a step into the dark. He is mine now. He is in my world.
He sees me. Is there recognition in his dulling eyes? Does he remember Johnny? Does he remember that little weirdo? I step up to him and punch up into his soft gut, up into his diaphragm. The wind is knocked out of him. He’s on his knees and I slip behind him hiking the bat up under his chin. His breath smells of whisky. I’ve lifted him up and we are moving now, his feet dancing as he is dragged. There is no voice in him for a shout, a scream or a pleading whimper.
I have planned this moment; I know how it will go. Old George falls to his knees as I release him. He crumples as I lean my weight onto his back, pushing down with my boot until his cheek is pressed onto the cold asphalt of the road. The duct tape is ready; strips of it are dangling from the bed of my truck. The first strip I grab is short; I tape his mouth shut. The second is longer and goes round and round his hands. I tape them behind his back, twisting his shoulders back and up until I know that he is in pain. There is too much a man can do with his hands in front of him. Only an idiot takes those kinds of risks. The final strip of tape binds his feet together and up to his hands. He is still, immobilised. Gaining dominion over another man is easy to do, it’s just that most people never even try.
George tries to struggle as I heave him into the flatbed of my trunk. Even without his ties he is no match for me. Hours spent in the gym have left me strong. Expensive steroids have made me super-human. I strap him down, just like I would a dead deer. Just like with my deer – who spill so much blood when I slit their throats – I have a plastic tarpaulin stretched out, in case he bleeds.
The back rail of the flatbed squeaks as I push it up and latch it into place. I look around; it wasn’t loud enough for anyone to take notice. The capture took less than two minutes and we barely made any sound. Around me in the dark cul-de-sac most windows remain unlit. I see the house I used to live in; all its windows are dark. Only George’s squat brick house gives off any light. I see, up on the second story, a bedside lamp is on. My Connie must still be up. I wonder what she’s doing. She must feel safe in her warm bed, under her sweet pink covers. My sweet girl, my vision of light. She doesn’t know I have her father tied up in the back of my truck. She won’t know he’s gone until the morning. I purse my lips and send a kiss up to the window before getting into the driver’s seat and starting the engine.
It hadn’t been so easy, all those years ago, when I killed George’s dog. I was a lot smaller back then of course. It was just after I’d first met Connie. It was the first thing I ever did kill and so I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready for the struggle the great mutt would put up or how much blood the damn thing seemed to have in it. Eventually though I was able to get a few good hits in with my shovel and watch as its paws slowly stopped twitching. Then I took the hunting knife my Dad had given me and felt as the warm flesh gave way to it. It was so satisfying.
I relax as I drive out of the suburbs. Everything has gone so smoothly; I’m in complete control. Now I can enjoy the long drive out to the forest. I’ve always loved driving – I get such a sense of liberation out on the open road. The summer night is soft and there’s still plenty to look forward to. I reach over onto the seat beside me, rustling around until I find a tape. I push it into cassette player. Bruce Springsteen starts to sing.
…Don’t run back inside, darling, you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright
Oh, and that’s alright with me…
My right arm is hanging out the open window. I lift my hand up in salute and allow the wind to take it, just like I did when I was young. I imagine that my hand is me flying, free; alternately being buffeted up by the roaring air then swooping down again.
I’m glad that the drive is long. I want George to have the time to think. Who knows, maybe he has found some glimmer of hope for himself. Maybe he’s holding onto the thought that this could all be some practical joke gone too far and that at the end will be a couple of his old friends and some beers. Just the start to some wild night. That would be good; to see his face as he realises that no, this really is sinister, this really is the culmination of all his greatest fears. As he realises that I hold his fate in my hands.
There aren’t any lights out here. I can only see the shadows that my headlights project onto the trees. That doesn’t matter, I know the way. I have no reason to be afraid. I’m the monster in these woods. It isn’t the first time I’ve driven down this road.
I veer abruptly left onto a hidden dirt track. The ride becomes bumpy but I can still faintly hear the sounds of George struggling in the back. I’m nearly there. Tree branches lash out, their arms causing deep thuds and screeches as they drag their way across the truck. Finally I see my destination. I slow down to a halt and switch off the music. The floodlights illuminate a deep grove.
My heavy boots crunch down onto a layer of dead leaves as I swing myself down from my seat. There are no sounds except the sounds of the forest and George’s muffled shouts. My high-powered flashlight hums as I circle the truck, imagining how my prey is feeling. I wait while the pressure builds up, until I can’t take it anymore, and I step up onto the front right tire, launching myself up into the truck bed. I see George’s pupils shrink as I shine the flashlight directly into his wide screaming eyes. His terror is complete. I jump up and down on the rusted metal of the flatbed, feeling the entire vehicle shift under my weight. I spread my hand and holler for the whole forest to hear. When I know I’ve made my point I turn back to George, lying there. He’s shaking in fright but still trying to kick his legs out, fighting against his bonds. I lean over until I’m just next to his ear.
“Don’t struggle,” I whisper, my voice still husky from yelling. “There’s no-one out here to hear you. We’re alone now, George. No fucking woodsman out here. Hell, George, no one will even know that you’re not passed out at home in front of the TV until long after this is over. ”
I stand up and stare at him. He’s stopped moving. A dark patch is slowly growing at the crotch of his jeans.
“Pussy.” I turn in disgust and jump out of the truck. It’s hard to imagine that that’s the man responsible for fathering my brave little Connie. From the ground I unlatch the back rail of the truck-bed. I grab hold of my shovel and head out to prepare the grove, stopping only to turn the truck radio back on.
Behind me George starts thrashing desperately against his ties.
The thick black soil shifts easily under my shovel as I dig under a bright silver moon. I love the strong, sweet smell of dirt and decaying leaves as I dig. This isn’t a chore, not for me, it’s all part of the process.
When I’m done with the grave I turn back to the truck. It sits there, dark and ominous behind the headlights; a beast waiting for its master. As I near I realise that something is wrong. A piece of tape is lying free next to the back tire. George isn’t there. I turn the music off and hear a crashing in the woods out to my left. I start running, the shovel still in my hand. I’ve been sloppy. I should have broken both his kneecaps when I had the chance. I know that. Why hadn’t I taken even such a simple precaution? I’m in the forest now. I feel a sharp pain as a branch claws across my face. I keep running. At least he isn’t hard to track, even in the darkness.
I find George wheezing behind a big oak. The moonlight illuminates his features: he’s trapped; a small animal watching the predator approach. A strip of tape is hanging off his cheek; his hands are still tied behind him. He seems so small. So useless. I slow my pace, feeling the swelling of my cheek; there’s blood on my hand, dark and oozing, as I pull my hand away.
“Well good fucking job!”
He cowers against the tree, unable to move. As I reach him I bring the shovel across his knees. He screams in pain as bone cracks and his legs give way. He falls to the ground. I step forward, grabbing an arm with one hand and looping the other underneath a thigh. I pull him up onto my shoulders and slowly trudge back to the grove with George, yelling, slumped over my back.
There is a soft thud as his now battered body hits the soft earth. George lies there, shaking and whimpering. I leave him, shattered, bound by his agony, and go retrieve my baseball bat. He’s only managed to crawl a few feet by the time I get back, digging a deep groove into the soft dirt. It’s a simple thing to grab hold of his ankles and pull him back to the grave. He lets out a long, primordial wail.
“Why… why are you doing this?” he whispers after a while. I kneel down and get my face, now covered in a thin film of sweat, up close to his. He still manages to pull his face back slightly, a final attempt to evade his end; I see that he’s been crying.
“Don’t you recognise me, George? Why don’t you tell me why I’m doing this?” I ask.
Recognition dawns in his eyes.
“…Johnny?” He asks, quavering.
“You’re Johnny?” He asks again. I can see the cogs begin to spin. He is no longer frozen but finding some last reserves of courage: “You’re that…that weirdo… that weirdo that used to hang around our house? Yea… that’s right. You’re that creep, that little fucking creep that used to, to scare, scare my Connie. You’re the little fucking… little weirdo!” I’m surprised. I didn’t realise the old man had it in him.
“I didn’t scare her, George.” I explain, “And she wasn’t your little girl, she was mine. She loved me. You were the monster, George. You were the one who terrified her. Do you even remember what you did? You drunk. I know what you did to her.”
“I never did anything to her! Please, please, I beg you!” He seems sincere. Maybe he wasn’t lying, I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t rape his little girl. It doesn’t really matter.
“No, no. I’m here to do a job, so listen up. See this bat? This bat here?” I wave it at him. Not threateningly, just to make sure he gets my point.
“This bat amplifies my already considerable strength. This bat means that I am now in a position of dominance. It means that I have power over you. This bat means you shut the fuck up and listen to me! OK? This bat means I get to decide exactly when you die.” He understands.
“Please…please..no.” He snivels. So pathetic. Beneath me, really.
“You’re making me do this, George.”
I swing the bat; it connects with his arms as he tries to shield himself. The next blow hits him in the ribs. He screams. I hit him. Over and over. He’s like a freshly caught fish fighting for life, jumping this way and that.
When I’ve seen enough pain, when I’m ready for the release, I swing again, as hard as I can. The blow connects with the back of his skull. Crack. I swing one last time. He’s still moving, jerking across the ground, but I know that he’s already dead. There’s blood splattered across my bat, my clothes. It’s on my face, mingling with my sweat. The blood seeps out of him, flowing readily. More blood than you would imagine one small, frail body could hold. I sigh in utter satisfaction. A single dead leaf floats to my boot, borne on his deep red tide.
After I’m done, after I’ve pushed him into his shallow grave and filled it up and patted it down with dark soil, I strip down, out of all my clothes. At my feet the grave where George lies buried looks fresh and conspicuous. I find a big, old rotting oak branch at the edge of the grove and drag it over. I’ll know to look for the branch if I ever want to know the exact spot. Not that I will, not for George. I’ve put other markers up around the grove; other branches sticking out of the ground at odd angles, cairns of stone, innocuous marks on a few trees.
As I look around I spot a small boulder in the shape of a heart. I remember her, she was special. She reminded me of Connie, really. Young and sweet with long flowing blonde hair that tumbled out in a halo around her head as the last spark of life left her body. I had her once before throttling her and then again after. It had been such a wonderful evening.
I gather up my clothes and turn back to the truck. One last look around. It’s getting light now; the forest is beautiful in the morning. I throw my clothes in a plastic bag in the back and jump into the driver’s seat before sliding into a pair of jeans I always keep in the glove compartment.
I’ll drive back the way I came. By the time I get to the cul-de-sac Connie should just be waking up. I’ll, make sure that she understands what I did, what I did for her. Then I’ll have her.
Under my breath, I start to sing:
“…Don’t run back inside, darling, you know just what I’m here for…”