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Richard’s hands shook slightly as he returned the blood-streaked hammer to the workbench. Unable to bring his eyes up to focus on his true task, he watched as a small clump of flesh slid down the side of the wooden handle, leaving a dark crimson trail in its wake. Even in the dimly lit work shed, he could see a cluster of short, dark hair protruding from the tiny piece of scalp. Richard tasted the sour hint of vomit at the back of his throat as he hesitantly lifted his gaze. Across the workbench, tightly bound in rope, sat a monster. Concealed in the near-perfect guise of a human, the monster stared up at Richard with such a sincere look of confusion and horror that Richard almost believed he had made a mistake; that this one actually was human. Richard studied the beaten, bloodied thing before him as it struggled at its bonds, letting out muffled sobs through the cloth gag. It fought to free its hand right hand from the heavy-duty nail that pinned it to the table while the left arm flailed about wildly; small splatters of blood spraying off the bloody, bandaged stump where its elbow once was. Even if it managed to get its hand free, Richard knew it could never break the ropes that tied it to the heavy, metal chair. Watching the frenzied, terrified thing, Richard almost changed his mind; almost decided he had made a mistake with this one. Almost. There were many more these days, thought Richard, all of them trying to fit in, trying to trick you into believing they were like the rest of us. Richard knew better. He found this one today, at a small carnival just outside of Dallas. It was not alone. Like so many before it, this one had a family, if one could call it a family. In hindsight Richard could see how others, those not gifted with his unique ability to see through their “masks,” could be fooled by these things. The infant, wrapped tightly in a faded pink blanket, giggled as she played with a colorful, dinosaur-shaped rattle. The woman had hugged and kissed the man in what seemed to be a genuinely affectionate manner. So many still roamed his hometown. They felt no such emotions as love or affection, Richard knew. They would torture and kill a human for no reason more than the sheer joy of it, and he knew that he was the only one who would punish them for their heinous crimes.
As he stared at the whimpering, bloody thing before him, Richard knew what must be done. The whimpers morphed into a squeal of pure terror as Richard picked the hammer up once again, and then shakily raised it over the pinned hand. Without thinking, with all of his might, Richard swung it down in a deadly arc, the sharp claw of the hammer becoming a dull-gray blur of motion. The monster jerked back abruptly, letting loose a bright-red spray, exposing tendons and the white of bone. The thing’s hand, still pinned by the large nails, moved less than an inch before the hammer’s claw reached it. Steel made its way through skin, flesh and bone in the blink of an eye. The thing screamed a horrible high-pitched yelp that even the tightly bound gag could not quiet. For long minutes, Richard waited as the screams slowly deteriorated into low moans of anguish. Richard bent down, his face coming close to the monster; his lips almost touching the thing’s ear. He could feel the evil radiating off of the thing’s skin in hot, sickening waves, but Richard held his ground. “Confess,” Richard whispered. “Admit what you are, what your family is, and you will all die quickly.” The thing looked up at him and slowly shook its head, tears streaming down its eyes. Richard turned away, choking back the vomit which so frequently came with close contact them. The second he began to turn away, he saw the flesh of the thing’s face ripple out of the corner of his eye, forming the visage of the demon he knew lurked within. Richard spun around; hoping to catch a glance of the true face of the beast, but it was gone, only the mask of a human remained. Richard was not fooled.
Richard lowered the hammer back to the blood-splattered table, turned and opened the shed door. He paused briefly, as his eyes adjusted to the bright summer sun. He glanced briefly at his tan house, immaculate lawn and white-picket fence. He had always found it amazing how he had done so well for himself while having such an important, time consuming task. He had yet to use a single sick day in his seven years teaching second grade at Jefferson Elementary. As Richard neared his white van, he heard a muted thumping noise coming from within. He rushed towards the van, fearing the neighbors might become suspicious and come investigating the strange noise. The last thing he needed right now was another visit from a nosy neighbor. Only last year a nosey neighbor had caused trouble for Richard. Early one school morning, before had even been able to make it out his front door, Rya MacKenzie ambushed him. She spat numerous, vaguely accusing questions at him. She asked about “weird noises” she had heard coming from Richard’s shed the night before. When she talked to Richard, she smiled and was oh so sickeningly polite, but he could see it in her eyes and hear it in the tone of her voice; she knew. When she asked to go inside the shed, Richard knew what must be done. It was the first and only time he had ever murdered a human, and it was perhaps the second painful thing he had ever had to do. Sacrifices must be made for mankind, he knew. That was the closest he had come to being discovered since the day he first destroyed a demon at the age of nineteen.
How they managed to switch his little sister with one of them remained a mystery to him, but on that late autumn night when he spilled his first blood, he swore to himself that he would make them all pay for what they had made him do to the thing that wore the face of his little sister. She had always seemed normal to him; a loving child who, although annoying at times, was a good kid. Not on that day. On that day, something was different about her; something sinister lurked behind those normally innocent eyes. Somehow they had taken his sister and he knew something must be done. Only seconds after he began his grisly task, he started to think himself insane as Rachel, whom he loved more than he could ever put to words, begged him to stop. The sight of her frightened, tear-streaked eyes made him pause, but only briefly. Something deep within Richard told him that he must do this. He had dissected her as best he could with his small pocket knife. He examined the steaming entrails in the chill, dark forest, looking for something that would prove to the rest of the world what he already knew. He had become lightheaded he frantically pulled mound after mound of viscera from the still twitching corpse. He was sure that it contained some secret that he must find; some proof that he was not insane. It did not. Richard, face and hands smeared with blood, shook violently as he knelt over the thing that resembled his beloved sister. There were many questions as to what had happened to his sister, but Richard knew, even then, that he could trust no one else with his dark secret. It would forever be a weight that he would bear alone.
He had lived happily after the passing of his sister, all signs of those things gone from his life for almost twelve years, until his fourth year teaching. The “child” was taken care of without incident. Less than a month later, Richard’s wife changed. There had been many rumors and numerous questionings from the police, but he had always been careful. In the end, the police had come to the conclusion that the murdered boy’s father had been having an affair with Richard’s wife, and after she had tried to break it off, the father had not only killed his own son, but his mistress as well. Richard had always remained amazed at what a few well-placed blood splatters and a handful of faked emails can do to turn the tide of a police investigation.
As Richard raced toward the van, he reprimanded himself for not soundproofing it as he had done with the shed. There were so many of those things out there these days that it was hard to find time for anything else. He knew that he had to get to the van quickly and silence the thing within or his work would likely end that day. If anyone heard the noises coming from within and came investigating, they would not understand. Richard threw open the van doors and saw the “woman” cowering in the dark depths of the cavernous vehicle. She stared up at him in shock and screamed; a scream distorted into a moan of terror and bewilderment through her broken jaw. As Richard neared her, she sank even further into the darkness, a small, dead “child” cradled in her arms. Richard grabbed her right arm and yanked her to her feet, the dead weight wrapped in pink cloth falling from her arms to the metal floor with a dull “thud.” Her look of horror intensified as she looked down at her child. Richard heard her moan something, possibly “Jessica” as she stared down at the unmoving lump of flesh on the floor. Richard had to drag the now silent woman the short distance back to the shed. Richard paused, mere feet from the shed as a shock of horror raced down his spine. The shed door stood open before him, and he could clearly see that the monster was gone. Before he had time to think, Richard was struck on the head from behind. The air reverberated with a sharp metallic “clang” as steel met skull. White-hot pain raked through Richard’s head as he fell to the ground. He felt strong hands grasp his shoulders as he drifted into unconsciousness. Slowly, the light came back to Richard’s world. He knew immediately where he was; the shed. Richard tried to stand up, to get to his feet, but his body would not comply. Richard lay on the floor for what seemed an eternity, trying to regain his senses, to get his muscles working again. With great effort, Richard lifted his right hand to his throbbing head. There suddenly came a sharp laugh from over Richard as a dark shadow moved. He heard a brief “whoosh,” then a searing pain shot through his head once again. As Richard lie on the cold floor, blood beginning to pool around him, he saw two dark figures looming over him. The smaller held a small, pink object cradled in its arm, the other holding what Richard recognized as his shovel. The laughing began again as the larger figure clumsily raised the shovel over its head, the weapon almost falling out of its grasp. Richard shook his head, trying to regain his senses, trying to get to his feet so that he could defend himself. He couldn’t move quickly enough; couldn’t avoid what was to come. The shovel came down. Blackness engulfed Richard.
CREDIT : Erik R Andresen
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