Red – A Psychological Thriller


 I pull the hoodie over my head darting behind Phase One in the West Side Apartments. I vigorously alternate rubbing my hands together and then blowing little puffs of warmth into them. Phase One is much nicer than our apartments in Phase Two. They even have platinum cards that unlock the gym by the office. Our apartments don’t even come with a stackable washer and dryer, let alone other amenities. Staring at the two phases was like night and day. Each building on the West side of Phase one contains two units, compared to our four, and the parking is covered. It takes about five minutes to walk from Phase Two to Phase One.

My breath comes out ragged as I make my way up the final hill. I pause for a moment and stare out across the parking lot. The buildings in Phase Two look like poorly decorated gingerbread houses, each strung with mismatched, twinkling lights. Travis and mine are one of the top units furthest to the left. Nestled close to the woods it is the very last building in Phase Two and one of the few patios not blinking with festive lights. My hands are cold and sweaty as the gym comes into view. I cannot keep them from shaking, so instead I stuff them into my jacket pockets. The thin fabric will keep them restrained for now. Tonight is the night that I have been planning for three long weeks. I crouch behind Anna’s brand new Mercedes S-Class and watch as the thin figures run in place. The whir of cycles and treadmills can be heard through the glass.

The gym is packed tonight with beautiful, well manicured women─ but only one is worth my time. It doesn’t stop me from taking my time to marvel at their glistening, pale skin. It rivals the moon’s brilliance from the back alleys in Fox Hollow. I had stumbled across the neat patches of homes several months ago. I missed my normal stop that day, closing my eyes for what felt like five minutes. It was a pleasant mistake because from the moment I had stepped off of that bus, I knew that someday I would live in places like these. The stars were brighter and the air smelled of honeysuckle after a warm Summer rain. Call me crazy, but the hour bus ride and half an hour hike on foot is well worth it. I often envision myself sitting on one of the grand balconies, sipping Cognac and smoking cigars. Travis always makes fun of me for it, calling me old man. It doesn’t bother me─ not really. I’ll get out of this place someday. I know it.

Lately I’ve been at the library studying every medical book I can get my hands on─ especially anatomy books. Sometimes when Travis and I get lucky, we leech off of our neighbor’s wi-fi and I can search the medical terms and practices I don’t understand. I even started taking classes at the local community college. The hardest part will be med school. I’m not worried about passing the courses, it’s money that’s the real problem. I ask the lady at the front desk a lot of questions about raising funds or Pell grants. I’m sure at this point they’re tired of seeing me. The school advisor always seems to have a hair out of place with a smile that never reaches her eyes. She would look alright if she weren’t so overweight and took better care of her skin. Still she answers my questions without complaints and signs me up with as many fast-track courses that I have time for. I figure I can stick it out there for a while, get the basics, and then maybe go to the university downtown. At least I have a chance going this route instead of ‘working my way up.’ We all know that doesn’t work. You’re either born into wealth or you sell your soul to get it. No one gets to the top without stepping on others along the way. But going to school and then becoming a doctor? No one can take that from you but yourself. I would have to take out a ton of loans but by the end of it I could specialize in surgery and pay them off in less than ten years. Education doesn’t discern the poor from the rich. Genius can be born from the streets. You just got to talk to the right people. People like Anna’s father.

It isn’t just about her looks or who her daddy is, I can sense a kindred spirit in her. I knew I wanted her from the first time she handed me her luggage. I managed to snag a job at the Hilton carrying luggage for seventeen an hour. Not bad for someone like me. I would always end up working in the usual places─ retail, fast food, stuff like that. I had to borrow money from Travis to buy clothes for the interview, but I’ve paid him back since then. I always pay back. I’m going to have to buy more clothes soon, or my boss will catch on that I lied about where I live. You got to lie when you aren’t born into wealth. It’s just how it is. Fake it till you make it and all that shit.

Anna’s perfect, straight hair enthralls me. Each strand is meticulously arranged to frame her face and shoulders. It runs down to just above her waist and is a rich, chocolate brown. We had talked the entire week at the doctor’s retreat. I found out that her dad was one of the top neurologists in the U.S. and was hosting a lecture that week on the new findings of children with Autism. Anna really isn’t into that, she is into surgery like me. It takes vast amounts of patience, knowledge, and deft slicing skills with a scalpel. Her knowledge of the human body is more than spectacular─ it is a form of art. Somehow in the vast pool of human dredge, our bodies evolved from similar genes. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that she stood before me, barely twenty-three and almost through with her doctorates. We are the same, even in age, and I realize then, like now, that I need to show her my art. I’ve been practicing mostly on cadaver dummy’s at college and small to mid-size animals behind Fox Hollow. It’s peaceful, and most importantly, people don’t go out into the woods at night. I am careful to bring a change of clothes, shoes, and cleaning supplies. That worked for a little while, but lately, however, the need has evolved. I’ve found larger things─ softer things.

It is amazing how easy women will follow a good looking guy into the woods. Even some I barely know. I’ve become good at singling them out. The bars are the obvious choice, but those types quickly bore me. I like to find the odd ones that visit internet café’s or libraries. When I am able to get on the internet, it is easy to pick out lonely women. They always leap at the chance to meet up. One look at me is more than enough to convince them. And then off we go, hand in hand to their final resting place. Above all though, wealthy women are the most exciting. They assume that I target them for money, or because of who they are, and open their pocketbooks. The look they give me when I open them instead is breathtaking. I never touch any of them, not like that anyway. I have some decency in how I treat them. Honestly, it makes my skin crawl thinking of kissing their disgusting, eager mouths. Only Anna could get a rise out of me in that way. It’s strange how we could grow up in such vastly different situations, yet be so alike. Anna more than likely grew up in a privileged household complete with private schooling and never wanted for anything. Her parents, even if they were previously well off, probably encouraged or pushed her ─ not like my stain of a father. He died and left six kids to fend for ourselves. All because he needed to get his next fix.

I’ll never forgive him for what he did to Fey. To a druggy, Fey was an easy meal ticket. No one questioned a hooker’s age. In fact, they probably knew. Fey’s beaten and half-burned body was dumped behind the local Chinese buffet. She was fourteen. I was the only witness, and no one believes a nine-year-old boy, especially when it happened to be the senator’s limo. The man had noticed me standing there but didn’t have the balls to kill a kid, I guess. So he drove up and handed me a crisp, hundred dollar bill. To be fair he probably didn’t realize Fey was my sister. Though I doubt it would have made a difference. I held on to that money for seven long years and then stuffed it down his daughter’s throat after I plunged a knife into her left eye. I then dumped her half burned and beaten body behind that very same restaurant. I like to think that he remembered that place, maybe even remembered me, but he probably didn’t. A huge investigation had been opened for the senator’s precious baby. No investigation had ever opened for Fey. She was born from an immigrant family. Thankfully the other kids were legalized through the state and got into okay homes. One of my younger brothers even got into med school. I was too old for anyone to want me. No one wants a boy past the age of five or six─ no one, that is, except Mal. I never told Travis about him, probably never will. I try not to think too much about that anymore but sometimes it just boils up all red and I have to─ fix it. That’s why I need to get out of this place and work on my real passion. At least then I’ll get paid for what I do and help blend into society better. It cracks me up to think that some street kid like me is going to get paid to work on rich assholes.

I don’t want to think about that right now. I want to think about the silky smooth texture of Anna’s skin. I want to think about the look she will give me with her exquisite honey-colored eyes. I want to think about when her hand had brushed mine as she slipped a fifty into my pocket that last night at the hotel. Anna had given away more than she realized when we spoke. It didn’t take me long to figure out where she lived. I’ve been watching her ever since. She never misses a day of working out. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays she runs six miles. I only know this because I trail behind her. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays are gym days. And Sunday she rides her bike for several hours. During the day she attends school and in the afternoon she shadows Dr. Stein at Presbyterian Hospital. Every other Friday night she carries out a large, black duffel bag and is dressed for a night out. Her friends must meet her because I never see anyone visit Anna’s apartment─ not even her father. I always try to imagine what might be in that bag. Does she have an alternative lifestyle? Musician maybe? When Anna returns around three a.m., she is dressed in casual clothing, usually jeans and a t-shirt. I’m curious as to where she goes on these nights, and what, if not whom, she is doing. I’ve never seen her with a man or woman. Her driving is unpredictable. She drives the wrong way down one-way streets, and never manages to get into an accident. It’s almost as if she knows someone is following her. Travis’s Camry is no match. I’ve been very lucky to find Travis. He inherited a car from his aunt. I was shocked to learn that he didn’t want it. He prefers riding the bus, so I’ve been steadily paying off the car. I suspect that he has a phobia of driving. I offered him more money but all he wants is five grand. I’m down to less than two grand and then the car is mine.

I glance down at my watch─ it is almost time for Anna to get on the treadmill. I know I’m being pathetic, but you have never seen such beauty in motion. The things I wanted to do to every inch of her body. In heels Anna is nearly as tall as I am, but her bones are delicate. She can’t weigh more than a hundred and twenty pounds. I never thought about that before but tonight, it is important. My teeth chatter as I jump up and down. Next time I’m borrowing Travis’s coat. He doesn’t leave the apartment much anyway. There is a flash of yellow lights and I bolt across the parking lot to the vending machines. I barely round the corner before the guard comes into view. The golf cart slows to a crawl as the brakes screech in protest. Finally it comes to a halt and he pushes in the parking brake. I can feel him scrutinizing my every move as I dig for change. Please let me have the right pants on. I relax as my hand grasps a wad of ones and I pull it from the stash. It’s going to cut into my dinner fund for the week, but this takes precedence.

“Hey.” He says.

I freeze at his commanding rumble and turn. I pull the cowl from over my face and smile warmly. You have to disarm your opponent early before he catches on. I saunter toward him, wearing the fake grin. I’m good at making it reach my eyes. I’ve mastered it. My voice raises an octave and I take on a casual tone. I once read an article that people find higher voiced men to be non-threatening. “Evening officer,” I say. The guard likes this form of respect and smiles. His face and hands are weathered, no doubt from years of hard labor or service. He walks with a limp but tries to keep it hidden through controlled steps. If I had to guess, I’d say ex-military. He looks like a real hard-ass even when smiling. “Haven’t seen you around. New to the building?” he asks. He’s testing me. He’ll be looking for a change in speech or tone that will give away my intentions. This is his turf─ he’ll know the tenant list. There is no sense in lying. “Oh, no sir, I actually live in Phase two. Just came up to see my girlfriend. She’s in the gym working out right now.” I gesture toward the glass building. “She’s the curvy brunette on the far right.” The guard lets out a low whistle, as he turns back to me. “I’ve been eyeing that piece for a while now.” He admires her for a second too long and I want to rip out his throat. Then he turns back. “I’ve never seen you with her though.” He says. I can tell I’m making him uneasy. I bother him, but he can’t seem to guess why. I let out a chuckle and scratch the back of my head. “Well, technically, she’ll be upset if she sees me out here. If Daddy finds out we’re dating─ well, I think you can guess where I’m going with this.” I nod at the gym and smile, “most of the time we’ll go out to eat or she’ll come over to my place.” I lean in. “I just like to watch her run if you know what I mean.”

The guard leans over and laughs. “Ah, hell, is that why you were out there crouched behind the cars like some stalker?” Someone has spotted me. This is unacceptable. I burst out laughing with him and nodded my head. In my haste, I’d forgotten to fully scan the area tonight. There is no room for error and now my whole evening is compromised. Sooner or later the hard-ass is going to ask Anna about her boyfriend. Once he finds out the truth, there will be no stopping him. I just have to take my chances tonight and go through with the plan. The most the person probably saw was a guy with a hoodie standing behind Anna’s car. They would not have seen any defining features or giveaways. This is going to work. It has to. Shaking his head, the guard gets back into his golf cart. “I’d do the same if she were mine.” The beep from the engine sounds and the guard starts it up. “Don’t go around scaring my tenants anymore, alright?”

I put on my best guilty face and incline my head. “No problem, won’t happen again, I promise.” I wave as he leaves and returns to the soda machine. I need a plan. No doubt he will wait to see if I return to Phase two. I got off lucky. He forgot to ask what apartment I live in. I stare at the white letters that are scribbled across the red vending machine. Maybe they will give me an answer. The buzzing sound intensifies as my eyes scan the different options. I grin as I spot the one I want and suddenly an idea comes to mind. I know what to do. Sergeant Guard thinks I don’t see him behind the first building in Phase two. His bulky form is easy to make out against the delicate branches of the dogwood. A stench of recently put out black and mild cigarillo permeates the air. Mal’s favorite. The red tinges my vision, but I push it down. I’m too close, I can’t lose it now. I managed to make it up the stairs and into our apartment. So much for keeping our apartment a secret from the guard. I had my suspicions but ultimately knew that he would be waiting for me. Travis is curled up in his usual spot on the couch with his laptop as I open the door. His mop of brown hair is barely visible over the monitor. Like most eighteen-year-olds, the computer is his life. The only difference is Travis has a social anxiety disorder. I usually have to do most of his errands for him, so I know this will be hard.

I feel guilty for tricking the kid but this is the only way. I’m running out of time. In thirty minutes Anna will finish her workout. By now she has left the treadmill and moved on to weight lifting. I’m impressed by her leg presses. The muscles beneath her flesh must be lean and strong. My body reacts and I have to remember that I’m supposed to be in excruciating pain. Still, I think about how it will be a real treat to see them up close. I growl as Travis picks me up and then walks us over to the couch. I tell him I’ve been jumped by some punks in Phase two and he buys it. In less than ten minutes he’s off to pick up some meds from one of his online buds across town. I know the bus route. It will take him a little over two hours to return. That leaves me just enough time. I hand him the hoodie and tell him to bundle up, it’s cold outside. I smile as he pulls the hood over his face and walks out. I’ve chosen my double well, we have very similar body types and from the distance the guard would be standing, we would look identical. Five minutes and fifty-eight seconds later, I’m standing in front of the gym. I hope that she remembers me. It has been three weeks since we last spoke. The guard will get bored once he is convinced I really am waiting on the bus, and will leave. I pray he doesn’t speak with Travis thinking that it is me. These are risks that I have to take. Anna is looking at her wrist now and moves to grab her coat. There she is, right on time. Anna never disappoints. I walk over to the building and reach for my keys. I know she is right behind me so I pretend to be lost as I look at the numbers on the doors. I hate improvising but this will have to do. I take one final look and start heading back to the path. I’m surprised to find her watching me. She hasn’t said anything and I’m nervous she doesn’t remember. I try to walk past her but she steps in my path.

“David?” her tone sounds guarded. I have to watch what I say.

I look up, feigning surprise. “Yes?”

Anna is staring me down like all those rich people do when I walk through their neighborhood. I’ve had the cops called on me twice for just walking down the street. I’m tempted to grab her from under the stairs but someone walks out from their apartment to light a cigarette. He nods and waves at Anna giving her a winning smile. One of those pretty boy types with a nauseating arrogance that permeates the air. She smiles and waves but turns her back to him and pulls me to the side of the building. I catch the look he casts my way as his eyes skim my body. He’s sizing me up─ thinking, ‘what’s this guy got that I don’t?’ Doesn’t take a genius to know that he has the hots for her. I stick my hand in my pocket and run my thumb along the blade. It doesn’t really matter but I’m still irritated at his hungry gaze. By now, the red is making my head throb, I can’t last much longer. I need release. “What are you doing here?” Anna asks. Her eyes, normally soft and inviting, have changed to a crystallized amber. This is not how I wanted things to go. I need to make her believe my lie, it’s my last chance. I look to the ground and cough, trying to look flustered. “I, well, just moved in. I’ve been at my parent’s this past week so this is my first time seeing the place after I had movers deliver my stuff to the apartment.” I laugh, feeling like an idiot. “It’s really close to my school and also the university I plan on going to this next Fall.” I smile wide-eyed at her, “I had no idea that you live here,” I exclaim. I pull at my clothes and pretend to be embarrassed, “Please excuse my clothes, I wasn’t exactly expecting to run into someone I know.” She nods but remains quiet. I will try a different approach. “Is this building─” I pull out a crumpled piece of paper and act like I’m reading it, “22A?” She shakes her head. “No, this is 21A. 22A is on the other side of the complex near the gate.” My mouth forms an ‘o’ and I look over to where she mentioned. “Wow, I am way off. Now I just feel like an idiot.” She doesn’t look completely convinced but her shoulders have relaxed a degree. I’m debating my next course of action. If Anna doesn’t buy anything I say, she’ll never invite me in. I feel my face growing hot. I may have to try something else. I’m grasping at straws and realize that she won’t be as easy to convince as the others. My mind is running a million miles a minute, should I attempt to walk away─ maybe behave normally and then offer to take her out for a drink? Should I just quit while I’m ahead? My heart sinks at the thought of not being able to be with her tonight.

“Anyway─” I start, “it’s nice to─” “Do you want to hang out?” She says. Anna gestures up the stairs to her apartment. “You’ll have to forgive my hesitance, having a father like mine can cause problems. I’ve had to take out a restraining order a time or two.” My eyebrows go up and I say, “Really?” I genuinely mean it, I didn’t have a clue that she has experienced something like that. Suddenly I’m jealous not being the first one to see her most intimate moments. I cleared my throat, “Well anyway, I really appreciate your help─” “You should come inside.” She smiles over at me warmly. I turn toward the building as if hesitating from her invite. “It’s pretty late, I don’t want to bother you.” Anna’s smile is dazzling as she shakes her head, “really it’s no trouble. We can catch up over a cup of tea.” I follow her up the stairs as she takes out her keys. ” I can’t believe that you’re here! The universe really can be weird.” I laugh and nod my head. “It really can.” She waves me into her apartment and in just a few moments we are crossing the threshold. Anna prattles on about the weather outside as she hangs her coat on the wall. She offers to take my coat and I let her. My hand shakes as I run my fingers across the syringe in my pocket. I’m safe from the property guard for now, but that doesn’t worry me. What does is trying to get to Anna’s car with a hundred-and-twenty-pound duffel bag.

Her apartment is just as I pictured it─ Clean and white. Very minimalist. It has me so turned on that I want her now. I want to see the red spray across the crisp, white rug. I want to flay her honey skin on the deep walnut flooring. It’s taking everything in me not to pounce on her. Sooner or later she will have to turn her back and I will have my chance. She turns on the T.V. “Would you like any tea?” she asks. Yes, I do, I respond. Then Anna walks away. She leaves a trail of perfume. It’s flowery and fresh like the smell of linen. I slip off my shoes and stand. The stove is in the back of the u-shaped kitchen and her back is to me. My hand is shaking so hard that I almost drop the syringe on the floor. I nervously glance in her direction to make sure she isn’t walking out. Satisfied that she isn’t, I take out the syringe and make sure there isn’t any air trapped. I need this so bad. Just a few more feet and the red will go away. All the grunting men that stood over my naked, bent form will go away. The tiny razors and cigarillos carving into my flesh will go away. Mal will go away. I’m behind her when she turns and smiles. Seconds later there is a sharp pinch in my neck. I drop to the floor and the world fades to black.

I wake in an all-white room, the brick is gray and there are tarps lining the floor. The humming and beeping of the life monitoring machines drone on. My arms and legs are strapped down, but my head is free. She stands before me, my angel of death. Anna is adorned in a blue sash that is wrapped once around her thin neck and drapes on either side of her breasts. Her perfect breasts. Her nipples are so hard that I can see them poking through the fabric. It is tinged in various hues of red, some stains newer than others. Anna leans down so close that I can feel the heat radiating from her body. She blows softly against my ear then nips at it playfully. “I saw you watching me,” she whispers. My body shivers with delight as her velvety skin brushes against my arm. She rises up then pulls something from the table on my left. My eyes stretch as far as they can and I’m barely able to see the outline of a black bag. “I admit, I was hoping that you would have approached me sooner. I thought we had more of a connection.” She pouts as I watch her roll out a small black bag. Something shines against her chest and my heart races with anticipation. “I wanted to,” I respond, “I just needed to wait for the right time.” She seems to accept this and nods. “I understand.”

She saunters over, the scalpel steady in her hand. I can see more of her now. She’s wearing white leggings with a flowy, thin top. The straps on her blouse are so thin that they look like two strings on her shoulders. The top plunges down to her belly, the delicate fabric barely hiding her nipples. “Am I your first?” she asks. It takes me a moment to realize that she is asking about my other victims. I shake my head, “no.” This excites her. Her smile widens and she looks like a kid in a candy store. “I thought so. How many?” she asks. I think for a moment, calculating how many have died by my hands. “If I had to take a guess, somewhere around thirty.” Her eyes crinkle and she scrunches her nose. “I’ve never had someone so close that’s like me.” Anna looks down and bites her lip, “how did it make you feel?” Her eyes lock with mine and I answer without hesitation, “excited,” and then add, “like it is what I am meant to do.” Her pupils dilate, “like there is nothing else in the world that you exist for and it─ completes you” she murmurs finishing my sentence. My eyes trace her face and then move down to her lips. “Mmm-hmm” I know the answer but I ask anyway. “Am I yours?” She shakes her head, “no and yes.” I’m intrigued so I wait patiently. “You aren’t my first kill, but you are my first male kill.” For reasons unknown even to myself I feel special. She’s so perfect, I’m only sad that I’m not able to see what’s beneath her flesh. Anna pulls up a chair and leans toward me. She is keeping the scalpel close but she sets it on the table. “You’re disappointed.” I can’t stop staring at her eyes. The words fly from my mouth, “Not from you. You’re perfect.” Her smile is genuine and her eyes sparkle. “I could say the same about you. I hope you don’t mind but I have seen your work, you are as skilled as some surgeons I’ve shadowed under.” I’m floored at her words. I’ve never experienced love but I think I’m feeling something close to it. “How? When?” I ask. She offers a sly grin, “you aren’t the only person that knows how to stalk. The dummy cadavers never had a chance.” I instantly feel stupid. Of course she knows about me if she caught me watching her. My body responds and I hope that she doesn’t notice my erection. “Honestly, I hate to have to kill you, but I know you will try to kill me.” Her eyes become very intense, “I’m torn and I don’t want to─” “then don’t” I interrupt. “You know I can’t do that.” she says.

I refuse to sound desperate but I do try and change her mind, “what if we do this together? We could rid the world of so much filth.” Anna reaches over and caresses my face. Her words are tender, “what is your real name?” I’m stunned into silence, feeling very uncomfortable. I’ve never told anyone my real name─ my birth name. She can see that she’s struck a nerve, “I did a little research into your alias and nothing popped up. I would like to get to know you better, for what it’s worth.” I keep silent. “Here, let me tell you mine first. Anna isn’t my real name. I like it because my mother gave it to me as a nickname. It means grace, or beauty.” My eyes widen as I listen. We really did have so much in common. In any other circumstance, this could be a normal date night conversation. But we aren’t normal people. Her voice has an edge to it, she’s hiding her emotions but not as well as she thinks. “My father hasn’t really been around and if he is, let’s just say I make it a point not to be home.” I nod, “I understand that more than you know” I offer. She runs her fingers through my hair as she continues, “My real name is Anita. I was named after his mother.” Anna falls silent but continues to run her hands through my hair and then along my jawline. I close my eyes, allowing myself to enjoy this moment. There is clearly a lot more to her story but I’ll never get to find out.

This is a better ending than most people get. Far nicer than what I put my victims through. I suppose this is karma coming to bite me in the ass. Anna shifts a little and I’m tempted to open my eyes, but I don’t. She hasn’t spoken in some time and I know that she is waiting. I take a deep breath and then say it, “Alexander.” It’s so foreign coming from me. I’m not used to saying it out loud. “Defender of men.” This time my eyes open and I look up at her. “Is that what it means?” She cracks a smile and nods. “It’s Greek. You may be familiar with Alexander the Great. I remember learning about the etymology of the name in high school. He was one of the greatest commanders that ever lived.” She hesitates for a moment then asks, “family?” My stomach tightens and my lips press together. “Adopted.” I answer. Anna reads between the lines. I stiffen as she lifts my shirt. I avert my eyes not wanting her to see my dirty secret. I’m strapped down tight and at her mercy. I don’t want to be emotional in front of Anna but my body betrays me. I can feel myself shake uncontrollably. I expect her to recoil or be disgusted, I don’t want to see it in her face so I press my eyes together hoping that she chooses this time to kill me. Instead she traces the lines along my chest and abdomen. “Life hasn’t been kind to you,” she whispers. Her hands cup my face and she turns me to face her. “Look at me” she says. “Please,” I beg, “don’t make me do this. Just do it, I’m ready.” “I said, look at me.” Her voice takes on a commanding tone. I reluctantly do as I am told. She leans in so close that I can smell her shampoo mixed with her natural scent. My heart races. It is beating so hard that there is a dull roar in my ears. Her eyes have beautifully laced patterns of brown and gold. They are unlike anything that I have seen. “Never feel ashamed for what someone did to you.” Her lips are inches from mine. Anna hesitates, a look of confusion in her eyes. I bridge the gap between us and our lips find each other.

I have always wondered what this would feel like─ kissing someone like her. I have made out with a few girls but always felt nothing. I’m vaguely aware that this should be wrong, I should be sick to my stomach and feel violated. Instead my body feels electrified, I desperately want to be inside of her. As if reading my mind she opens her mouth letting me in. It’s driving me crazy not to run my hands along her body. She pulls away from me and I sigh in frustration. Anna walks over to the table, grabs a knife and in seconds she is standing over me. God damn it this sucks. It’s over, the moment has passed. Her chest heaves as she clutches the knife, her eyes are wild─ she is ready for the kill. Her hands shake violently and she can barely contain her excitement. What did I expect, some sort of love story? This was never going to end happy for me. It is just sooner than I anticipated. I am going to die now. Please don’t let this hurt long. Anna is still holding it at her side, looking my body up and down. She is probably deciding on where she wants to open me. She lunges and I squeeze my eyes shut. Fuck this is going to hurt. She cries out and there is a jab beneath my left leg. The knife has narrowly missed. She slides it down to one of the binds at my feet. My eyes widen as I feel her slice through it. She roughly grabs my arm and slices my right hand free. My left arm, stomach, and my right leg are still secure but she has freed a part of me. I stay very still, unsure of what to do. Is this─ a game?

In one smooth motion Anna straddles me. The knife is steady in her hand. Maybe it’s the thrill of the fight. She wants me to challenge her. I reach for her hand and she immediately slashes at it. A thin line of red appears and trickles down my arm. I put my arm back at my side. She aims the blade toward my abdomen. I feel the cool blade press against my flesh seconds before there’s a sharp sting across my belly. I cry out and suck in a breath of air, not expecting so much pain. Anna’s legs tighten around my body. I can feel her slowly losing control, eager to devour her prey as she squeezes the life from me like a python. Anna wants to enjoy the kill. She leans down and presses the knife against my throat. It bites further into my skin the lower she gets. I breathe through my teeth at the searing pain on my neck. It would be considered unbearable to most people. She’s twisting it into me like an acupuncture needle. But I’m not most people. The horrors that I have survived has prepared me for this my entire life. She doesn’t want to kill right now, she wants to play. My right arm coils around her and I grip the knife at my throat. The red is closing in, I can feel it taking over. She leans back and grins at the look in my eyes. Anna’s words ooze from her like honey, “there he is.”

She tries to snatch her hand away but my grip is stronger. I tear it from her grasp, slicing her hand in the process. Her eyes grow wide and then fascinated as she watches the blood spill from her palm. We sit in tense silence as she analyzes my body. She’s ready to pounce in whatever direction I go. The blood has slowed but a small pool of red has formed on the table. Her eyes stay locked with mine, they’re making me insane. “Tell me what you will do to me.” Anna’s words are low and seductive. My eyes travel the length of her chest to her petite waist and legs. Her blood is soaking the crisp white pants making a beautiful pattern as it drips to the table. “You should keep those pants when it’s done” I say. She grins, “I let you do that.” I nod and return the smile, “I know you did.” The knife feels solid in my hand yet cool and smooth like melting ice. My hand shakes as I look at the deep red spilling from the table─ my own blood has joined hers and they intertwine before falling to the ground. As if she is reading my mind Anna looks at our blood as well. It’s my chance. I make a quick jab at her side and slide the blade between her vital organs─ careful that it isn’t deadly but very painful. Just to prove a point. We are on equal ground. Her scream is mixed with surprise and rage that I got past her defense. Anna roars and pins my arm against the table. Her face is red but she is strong. Stronger than I realized. Her chest heaves but she doesn’t remove the knife from her side. She’s wearing it like a badge, a smile forming on her perfect face. She pins me with her knee and grabs a zip tie from the table. That small movement shifts the knife enough that blood drips down onto my stomach and arm. Without meaning to a sigh escapes my throat and I groan with anticipation. I want more. Anna chuckles as she tightly secures my wrist to the table. She’s tightened it so much that I know she wants me to yell. But I don’t give her that satisfaction.

She smooths her hair back into place and inspects the damage. The corner of her mouth draws up in a half smile and arches a brow at me. “You have very good aim. This isn’t a killing strike and you have made sure that it is in an extremely painful spot.” Anna reaches down and pulls the knife from her side. “Bravo.” She tears the clothing away and then cleans and dresses the wound like a pro. “I’ll have to stitch that in a bit, but for now─” her head dips down and I feel her breath on my ear. “What will I do with you?” Her arm stretches and I hear metal and glass clinking on the table. Anna sighs unable to locate what she wants and gets up. “You really did a number on me, didn’t you?” I keep my eyes trained on the concrete ceiling. I concentrate on my breathing, a technique I have used for years to calm myself down. I maintain my silence. She laughs and grabs something from the table. “I’m not angry, Xander. Just surprised is all.” I blink a few times hearing her nickname for me, unsure of how I should react. Everyone had always called me Alex for short, which I absolutely despise. Xander is quite nice. It’s lovely. “Do you like it? The name.” Unable to help myself I turn to look at her beautiful face and then nod. Though she has hidden it, I know she has something in her pocket. I can vaguely see the outline of it as she walks over to me. Anna pulls the chair to the table and lays her head on my chest. We have reached the end, no more games. “Tell me, please. Say it out loud” she whispers. My breath hitches as her flowery scent mingled with our blood washes over me. “God you are so beautiful” I whisper. Her hand finds my wound and she rakes her nails across it. “Tell me.” Her voice is raw, she needs this from me. My voice shakes as the words leave my mouth, “Anna, I lo─”

Before I can say it, her hand covers my mouth. “Shh.” She withdraws something from her pocket, shifts, and then there is a sharp pinch in my neck. The room is swimming before she removes her hand from my mouth. I’m going to die. She climbs on top of me and rests her body against mine. Her face is turned toward my ear and I can feel her breathing. Anna’s heart is beating so hard that I can feel it against my chest. We lie like this for a while until my breath becomes more shallow. The room is growing dark and soon it will fade away like me. I’m calm, I’m ready. I couldn’t ask for more. Suddenly she shifts and I know what she is doing. She wants to see the light fade from my eyes. It really is the best part. She cups my face and leans down, kissing me gently. I’m fighting to stay conscious, Anna is the last thing that I want to see. Even with tears she is as lovely as ever. She kisses me again and then cracks a smile, “don’t make me regret this.”

I’m thrown into the darkness. This time for good.

The wind is the first thing I feel against my face as I slowly start to wake. There are people shouting as I’m tossed roughly from the table to a gurney. I’m speeding down a long corridor before we burst through double doors. I don’t understand what is happening. Am I dead? The words coming from the people’s mouths around me are distorted and wrong. They sound so far away. I shake my head and then wince at the pain. I can’t make out what they are saying but one of them hold my head into place and fuss at me. I know that tone, it’s the one a mother uses when they scold their child. Something cold and sharp sticks my arm and then pushed further in. It’s taped down and I realize what it is─ an I.V. Anna’s words float back to me and I understand what she meant, ‘don’t make me regret this.’

I smile and feel my body sag into the hospital bed. The I.V. bag bounces against the metal pole as the nurse wheels me into a room with a blinding white light.

I won’t Anna.






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