“As the violet mist ascends out of the twilight valley, the pale man’s knowing eyes gaze omniscient through narrowed slits. Eyes that have borne witness to the bloodshed of the ages and the inner peace of godliness. From his covert vantage point he sees all; how the doctrines of true faith and compulsion have been scribed in blood. He speaks with the phantoms that bestride the centuries; the ghastly imps of the perverted and the corrupt, spreading their sickness through the ages, the pitiless killer, who awaits his moment to step out of the nameless crowds of obscurity and rise into incorruptible, irrefutable history…”
A chill runs through me as the night reaches it’s blackest point. That means it’s 4am. The coldest, darkest time of the night. I inhale a lungful of cold air, and exhale softly, watching the vapour dissipate into the air, tinted by the light of the sulphur street lamps.
“Remain on busy, well-lit streets. Do not take short-cuts, keep to the path that everybody would expect you to walk.”
I dip my head as I head towards the tunnel under the bypass, glancing at my watch to confirm that it is indeed 4am. The subtle change in air pressure, the dimming of the light and the sharp drop in temperature that occurs at this time makes the environment feel particularly hostile. It is this same sharp change in the air that causes the elderly and infirm to die in their sleep. In the tunnel itself, the change is unnoticeable, even comforting.
“Always look like you know exactly where you are going. Walk at a brisk pace, with your head raised high”
I emerge from the tunnel and the cold air hits me harshly. It feels even colder than before, and it takes me a moment for my eyes to adjust from the light of the tunnel to the darkness of the street.
The neighbourhood watch meetings are getting longer, and the Sergeant is becoming more imperative in his safety sermons. Hard to blame him, a woman was gang raped here just three weeks ago by some degenerate sociopaths, and yet, I couldn’t help but think he had other things on his mind.
“Do not walk alone if you can avoid it.”
These streets are as empty as Prypiat by night. Old Velling had been a popular spot for soldiers and sailors to settle after the war, but over the years, it had begun to rot. Madness pervades this town like a plague, and the root causes are numerous and unfathomable.
I am tired of walking. I need to rest my legs for a moment, and savour the cleansing bitterness of the cold night air. I walk over to a bollard in the centre of the road and sit on it. Sliding the tin out of my pocket, I slip a cigarillo out, put it into my mouth and light it with my Zippo. I was breaking every one of the Sergeant’s rules; partly out of a sense of juvenile rebellion – To me, they were about as useful as a glass of water to a man trapped in a burning building. They didn’t mean anything, they were just there to make it seem as though they were making progress against an invisible enemy; A Hostis publicus they couldn’t even comprehend.
“Keep cash, headphones, mobile phones, watches, jewellery and other items out of sight, so as not to attract attackers.”
I draw deeply on my cigarillo. This night would end soon, and I’d sleep through to noon. It had been an uneventful night so far, and I eagerly anticipate turning in to bed, but nothing could beat a cigarillo in the cold night air. Well, maybe one thing.
From a distance, the sound of soft but determined footsteps can be heard coming from further up the road. The streets are not so empty after all. I look to see two hooded men approach from the end of the road. One of them is significantly taller than the other, and is smoking a cigarette. He holds it in a manner that obscures the lit end, in the same way that entrenched soldiers used to smoke, to avoid detection from snipers and other perils.
The taller one casts his cigarette to the floor, and picks up the pace a little, keeping his head low to obscure his face. I can see from their awkward gait that they are heading my way, but do not want me to realise. As they get closer, their movements are less subtle, and by the time they are within spitting distance, this disguise is dropped altogether.
“Got a spare fag for me have you?” the taller one says holding his hand up towards my face and rubbing his index finger and thumb together expectantly.
I flinch away from him, almost toppling off the bollard. He is taller than me, possibly 6ft5, with short spiky hair and a pale, pockmarked face that has clearly been through the nastier stages of puberty. His accomplice is a shorter, rounder man, who –in sharp contrast to his friend- barely looks like he went through puberty at all.
“Yeah, no worries.” I say ruffling through my pockets to find my cigarillo tin.
Finding it, I slide it out and open it, pluck two out and hand one to the taller man, who snatches it from my hand, grinning wickedly.
I face the shorter man, who is also grinning at me, baring his teeth like an animal.
“Do you need one too?” I say, holding out the cigarillo to him.
He takes it from my hand and examines it carefully, before putting it in his mouth. “Nice one.” He says in mock-gratitude.
“What the fuck is this?” the taller one asks, holding the cigarillo up to his face and scrutinising it derisively.
“It’s a hand-rolled Nicaraguan Cigarillo” I state, “Dark Spider is the brand name, they come in packs of forty” I continue “They’re not cheap, so-”
“-You smoke any gange with these?” the taller man interrupts.
I look at him, vaguely irate about being cut off mid-sentence.
“Never tried it.” I say, taking a sharp inhale, “But you’re welcome to give it a go.”
“You got a light?” The shorter one asks abruptly, tapping my arm lightly.
I slide my Zippo out of my pocket and hand it to him. Flicking it open, he sparks it and lights the cigarillo hastily, then hands it to the taller one, who examines it carefully.
“Aren’t you supposed to use matches with cigars?” He asks.
“They’re not cigars” I state, “But yes, I believe you are”.
He looks at me with an apathetic stare, “It’s a nice Zippo this is,” He says, tucking it into his pocket and sliding the cigarillo behind his ear, “Don’t mind if I keep it do you?”
“If confronted, do not fight back, hand over any money or items to avoid further aggression.”
I look at him dejectedly.
“What?” I ask.
“Nice one” He grins, winking at his baby-faced accomplice.
“What else have you got?”
I take the cigarillo out of my mouth and grip it in between my thumb and forefinger.
“What do you mean?” I ask, looking at them anxiously and shuffling about on the bollard.
The tall one reaches behind his back and pulls a knife out from his belt.
“This is what I mean, faggot.” He says brandishing the knife, and waving it in my face.
The shorter one moves behind the bollard and shoves me off it forcefully. I drop forward but manage to keep my footing.
“Do not carry weapons, nor attempt to use them, they will only increase your chances of being injured with a weapon.”
“What do you want from me?” I ask nervously, looking up at my assailant.
“That depends on what you’ve got” He sniggers, “Check his pockets” he says to the shorter one, who roughly reaches into my pockets and pulls out my wallet and my cigarillo tin.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask desperately.
The tall one shoves me back against the bollard with his free hand, pressing himself against me, he raises the knife up to my chin.
“Keep your fucking mouth shut or I’ll carve it open.”
I swallow nervously.
“What else have you got?” He growls in my face.
Gripping my cigarillo tightly, I swiftly move my hand up towards his face, grinding the burning end into his eye. I grip his knife-hand tightly with my free hand as he squeals in pain. He thrashes about desperately trying to escape my grasp. Dropping the cigarillo, I flip my assailant around so that he is facing away from me, and twist his arm up behind his back, loosening his grip on the knife. Yanking him backwards, I wrap my forearm around his neck and tear the knife from his hand, pressing the length of the blade firmly against his neck.
The short one turns to flee.
“Stay where you are!” I bark.
Cautiously, he turns to face me, his head and shoulders sloping submissively.
“Make one move and I’ll cut his jugular vein.”
He looks at me in awe, his eyes wide in terror.
“Now” I say casually, “Do I have your attention?”
The taller one shuffles about anxiously, I press the blade harder against his throat every time he does so, and eventually he relents and remains still.
“I’m…” the short one stutters nervously, “I’m sorry”.
“I’m sorry that you’re sorry” I laugh, “We’re all sorry, a sorry state, a sorry country, a world of remorse and regret”
The taller man whimpers in fear.
“Put my cigarillos and my wallet back in my pocket.”
The short man stands frozen,
“Now.” I spit.
At once he moves towards me, slipping the wallet back into my pocket, along with my cigarillos.
I release my captive’s arm quickly, pushing the blade harder against his oesophagus. Reaching into his pocket, I pull out his wallet, turn it upside down and shake it out, as coins roll around on the floor and notes float off down the road.
“Turn out your wallet and empty it onto the ground” I instruct the shorter man.
He quickly pulls his wallet out of his pocket and opens it, turning it out, he shakes the contents out onto the ground.
“Why are you doing this?” He asks, looking up at me in horror.
“Why are you?” I ask in return, “I am the great educator, and I am here to teach you a lesson.” I say gripping my captive tightly and reaching into his pocket for my Zippo. I flick the cap open and spark it, holding the flame in front of my captive’s face. “It is a lesson about life and it’s only certainty.” I grin wickedly, “It is a lesson of winners and losers, of victims and victors.”
The short man breaks eye contact with me briefly, looking instead into the eyes of his friend.
“It is of virtue and evil, and the better angels that mediate such imposters.” I continue, snapping the Zippo shut and slipping it back into my pocket, “But most of all, it is a lesson in terror and dread.”
The shorter man looks at me again with wild eyes.
“What do you-” He swallows heavily, “What do you mean?”
I grin wickedly at him.
“What I mean is that to the victor belong the spoils” I say, tightening my grip on the knife, “And to the victims, a sinner’s wage.”
The short man, his eyes locked with mine, begins to tremble.
In one swift movement, I run the blade across my captive’s throat, severing the jugular vein entirely, then kick him forwards. The shorter man turns to run as his friend’s body is aggressively thrown to the floor. Thick dark blood spatters across the ground on which he once stood.
I cast the knife to the floor and pursue him. He is fast but unsteady. His legs spur him to run as fast as he can, but they do not know which direction to take him in. In seconds, I am close enough to pounce on his back, which sends him crashing to the floor. I flip him over onto his back, gripping him by the hair and pinning his arms down to the floor.
He screams, howling into the night.
“Scream!” I shout in his face, as I reach for the hunting knife sitting in the sheath attached to my torso.
“Scream louder!” I laugh, as I pull the knife out and point it at his eyes.
“Open your eyes” I growl. He keeps them tightly shut.
With my hand still gripping his hair, I raise his head slightly off the ground, then slam it back into the tarmac.
“I said open your fucking eyes!” I shout in his face.
Still, he keep his eyelids stubbornly closed.
“If you don’t believe this lie is true.” I say, raising the knife about his face, “Ask the blind man, he saw it too.”
I plunge the knife into his right eye. His screams rise into a crescendo of pain as I twist the tip of the blade around in the socket, mutilating his retina. I then lift the knife out, and drive it into his left eye to complete the task.
I walk away from the scene with a smile on my face, revisiting the bollard to pick up what was left of my cigarillo. I can lower my mask for a few moments, and exhibit myself to my imaginary night-time audience for the nightmare I truly am. But soon I will have to let tonight’s events disappear down into the vacuous crack in my psyche, and let it all be swallowed up. It won’t be long before they find the body and the blind witness, and soon this whole area will be a sea of detectives, forensic tents and yellow tape -and photographers-. Yes, it’s in the public’s interest that they see all of this. Adults fear death like children fear the dark, and I am the great shadow of that oldest and strongest emotion, a harbinger of untold atrocity.
And I will pardon nobody.
(c) JC Axe 2014.