The 9th Victim: Eyes in the Dark

An excerpt from The 9th Victim: This short piece takes place during a major plot point.

The knife sprung back gently, like a compressed sponge releasing a small and slow stream of blood. It was if some part of him didn’t want to make the cut or the knife itself was resisting. He furrowed his brow, intrigued and brought the knife back again.

The edge pressed deep into the throat, sharp. He drew it across to make his signature cut spreading the skin thinly with precision. The stream turned into a river as the blood poured out over his fingers, warm and as thick as molasses.

He felt his lips stretch across his face tightening the muscles in his cheek. He was smiling.

And that’s when he saw them.

The whites of two wide-set eyes staring at him from across the woods.

Anger flooded his senses, a red brighter than the blood that coated his hand, the knife still pressed deep into his next masterpiece.

The eyes blinked once, the first to break contact.

Human eyes.

He was caught

The 9th Victim: Williams, an Introduction

An excerpt from the 9th Victim, Williams is a fictional town.

The town of Williams, like most coastal towns in Northern British Columbia, is one of devastating contradictions. With a permanent population of less than 2,000 people the tight knit community struggles to stay together amongst the fast money and violent culture that has taken over, fed by the huge transient population. Despite closures and dwindling jobs in all three of Williams’ main industries (fishing, logging, and mining) there is still a rampant tendency to live fast and let the money fly and the men come in droves to work, the more dangerous the job the better the payoff (and the better the party at the end).

But still there is beauty.

The stretches of coastal rainforest that have remained unscathed from logging offer a staggering wall of majestic greens and browns and the silence of the woods is at once sinister and oddly peaceful. Grizzlies and wolves are a common yet majestic danger and orca and humpback whales can be seen in the spring. Farther inland a maze of caves offers an otherworldly draw, their yawning mouths carved deep into the mountain face where underground springs and deep caverns seem to sink to the centre of the earth.

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The 9th Victim: The Body of Willie McKaig

An excerpt from The 9th Victim: the first body is found.

Referred to naively in police files as the first victim, the first body found was discovered in late January on a Wednesday. The body appeared like an apparition out of the fog to Donald Mercer. Donald had been searching the creek bed of McKenzie Creek Park just off the road in the early morning for cans and bottles, anything he could return for a refund. He ambled through the winter broom, his gloved hands melting the shaded frost as he ran his fingers tightly along the brush.

It was unseasonably warm for January and the leaves did not crunch around Donald’s feet as he stepped but rather sprang gently back up from the ground as though barely disturbed. Nature was not marking his path.

At first glance the body looked to be a pile of debris. Nothing more sinister than an unwanted sweatshirt thrown over a bag of illegally disposed trash and partially caught in the storm drain to wait in the stagnant, half frozen water.

Due to the angles Donald had thought there might be bottles in the bag.

He tentatively made his way deeper into the ravine, cautiously placing each foot on the slightly frozen soil, not wanting to slide into the dank marshy water. While halfway down Donald took a step, his left foot sinking into the soft mud up to his ankle. He swore loudly, wrenching his leg back up, the mud squelching and sticking to his leg, resisting his escape, holding him in place.

In his statement Donald described that moment, imitating the sound of the suction as his foot finally released from the mud and describing a prickle that suddenly ran across his neck as he got free. He said it was like a sixth sense trying to stop him from reaching that figure in the water, to save him from an unspeakable terror.

He says his hands started to tremble and he felt cold deep in his bones.

The fog was lifting, slowly burnt off by the rising sun and as he got closer the smell of rot hit his nose, faint but unmistakeable.

The body was of one Willie McKaig, a lifeless lump floating half frozen in the creek bed, cradled almost lovingly by the icy mud and brittle reeds. The face was half submerged but still easily identifiable and the body was bloated from days in the creek. Willie’s skin was mottled and distorted with shades of grey and purple that are never found in living tissue.

It looked like Willie had just fallen in and drowned. Drunk as usual.

There were no slide marks or sign of struggle in the foliage around the ravine to indicate he had slipped in, but Donald thought he may have toppled over the top of the storm drain from the road. Perhaps Willie had been resting on the railing.

Donald scrambled back up the hill his search for bottles forgotten, and walked straight to the police station a few blocks away. The mud was still settled in his left boot and it squished around his toes with each step.

Donald was calm when he arrived at the station, appearing detached at first, though very disturbed.

Yes, he was sure it was Willie McKaig. No, he did not touch the body. Yes, he had come to the police station right away. No, he had not seen Willie in days nor had he thought to look for him. No, it did not look like anything untoward had happened.

After the interview was over Donald threw up, the smell of rotted flesh mingling with dirty creek water still clinging to his nostrils and inescapable. He could almost taste it.

It wasn’t until the body was removed that anyone noticed the three thin yet precise cuts across Willie’s throat. The cuts first appeared like just another set of bloated wrinkles and upon closer inspection looked as if in some last ditch attempt to save himself Willie had grown gills extending on either side from his Adam’s apple to his ears.

That someone had murdered Willie McKaig was not a surprise.

Nobody had liked Willie, not even his four children and especially not his two ex-wives.

Willie was a long retired logger, forced to stop working after his left arm and right knee were shattered in a bar brawl. He was well known in Williams, having lived in the town for just shy of thirty years though the host of assault and battery charges under his belt and a reputation for theft made sure Willie was never considered a local by the community. Nobody wanted him.

He was a mean and vicious man and, though no one would say the words aloud, it was a relief to have him dead.

The popular theory was that Willie had pissed off one of the fishermen or transients at the bar where he was last seen on Saturday and finally picked a fight he couldn’t win. Nobody was coming forward and, in the spirit of honesty, no one was looking too hard.

It wasn’t until the second body was found a month later that any connections were made and that people started to care about Willie’s murder.

The fact that the only item missing from both victims’ wallets was their IDs, the way both bodies were so carefully disposed, and the exact same three cuts across the throat – two of which were made post mortem. The similarities were too close to be coincidence.

Williams had its first serial killer.

A Long Forgotten Fay

There is a creature, a Fay nightmare long forgotten by us regular folk, who only comes out at night and haunts the dirty streets of Dublin in the wee hours. No one has said his name in 300 years and no one has believed in him since the industrial revolution.

But he is still very much alive.

He sneaks down cobblestone alleys only venturing into the rural areas when desperate. He skulks in the shadows and appears to bend and shrink into the corners moving slowly, his every step deliberate. He can only ever be seen from the corner of your eye, disappearing when you look straight at him in a trick of light and magic that has allowed him to survive. He feasts on garbage, rotted food, and the occasional hapless drunk.

Hidden from view by a magic older than the written language the only sign that he is nearby is the smell of carrion as it drifts up on an evening breeze. Though you cannot see him your body can sense the danger causing your skin to prickle, your hairs to stand up in warning, and your feet to pick up pace.

This is how he chooses his victims. The more imagination you have the more likely you are to be caught for only when you believe in him can he be truly seen, his greatest survival mechanism becomes your worst nightmare.

His muscles bulge unnaturally and his skin is all sinew and rough leather. His bones protrude at odd angles, the elbows always curved and his neck bent forward at a disturbing angle. He is grizzled and worn with a stooped back but nothing about him looks weak. He radiates a terrifying strength despite his odd and haggard appearance.

If you are ever unlucky enough to truly see him he at first appears short, stooped in the corner by a trash can all sharp angles and low to the ground, but when he stands up tall cracking his bones and stretching he is nearly 6 feet.

He smiles when caught, his two rows of teeth gleaming in the light of a nearby streetlamp. They are stained the rust of blood red and half rotted but still sharp.

There is hatred in his hungry eyes, a deep loathing for mankind that instantly petrifies anyone who makes eye contact, forcing even the strongest man to become a deer caught in the headlights of a superior predator. Once powerful and now reduced to eating scraps he relishes any instance where he can eat a common man, silencing his victims by slicing out their tongues with his long fingernails and slowly picking their bones clean, sucking the marrow while his prey still lives and writhes in pain.

He may be long forgotten but he does not forget.

Instead he bides his time.

He will become known again.

Summer Nights

I love to walk along the water, reveling in the romantic atmosphere. It truly is magical with the lights over the water and the gentle lap of the waves making every stroll memorable. These are my favourite memories of the summer, the heat cooling off comfortably and the crowds broken off into smaller groups allowing for a false sense of intimacy.

The sensation of being alone and surrounded by people all at the same time. I live for these moments.

I love these moments.

The Sociopath

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

Sorrow. Anger. Elation.

I practice the faces in my mirror each morning, running through my repertoire.

Delight. Sympathy.

There are so many nuances, tweaks of the lips, slight narrowing or widening of the eyes. I practice hand gestures and body language too. It helps mask the disinterest in my gaze. No matter how often I practice if one knows to look deep into my eyes they will see the lack.

I have known for most of my life that I do not feel like others. The emotions are just not there.

I have no empathy.

This is why I practice.

Lucy

I do not look like a Lucy. I know this because everyone is always telling me “You do not look like a Lucy.” Even my parents, as if it’s somehow my fault they named me incorrectly. They could have gone with Lucille that might have worked. But no, they had to go with Lucy. I once considered legally changing my name to Lucille, or even becoming a Jolene or an Emily, but I’ve stubbornly held on to Lucy just out of spite.

I am not petite like the name would suggest. I stand tall and straight at 5’9 and I am definitely not thin, my diet of burgers and beer have thickened my waistline and fleshed out my cheeks and it is only the Zumba classes I take three times a week that stop me from becoming completely round. I do not have blonde locks and there are no strawberry tones in my hair. In fact, my hair is a rather dull ash brown with no sparkle or glimmer added and I always wear it pulled back in the same mid-length pony tail, never high enough to suggest any kind of perkiness and never so low as to appear lazy.

My features are not pretty or even unusual. They are just simple features, not even plain and simple as plain might at least be interesting. Eyes, a nose, and lips all nothing special. One summer I got freckles which sent me over the moon but it never happened again.

I don’t have an “easy manner” and I am absolutely horrid at telling jokes. I usually forget the punchline or invert the words and I always end up laughing hysterically to myself before even finishing telling the joke which inevitably leads to letdown. Apparently the joke is never as funny as I think it is.

And even worse than my joke telling talents are my small talk skills.

I loathe small talk and envy to the point of disdain people who are good at having conversations about nothing. In my first year of university I actually carried cue cards but rather than being the endearing visual I thought it would be they just made every situation stunningly awkward, especially since I usually dropped them.

The only friend I made at university was the only person who stopped to help me pick up the cue cards. We still talk on occasion, though she is married now which somehow makes us lesser friends. There is some kind of barrier between awkward single girls and their happily married friends, a mixture of pity and envy and swirling discomfort that just makes it impossible to stay close.

But back to the inappropriateness of my name. Lucy.

In high school, when I got a job and was finally able to buy my own clothes, I went through an uncomfortable gothic punk phase, uncomfortable both because of the leather pants and doc martens, and because of how terribly awkward I was at being “edgy”. I figured if I couldn’t be the perky Lucy everyone expected at least I could be rockabilly cool. I was desperate to be the next Betty Page or … I actually don’t know any of the names of famous pin up girls aside from Betty Page.

The phase didn’t last long though I often think of it fondly.

Still I am a happy woman despite my misleading name and my social ineptitude.

Tonight I am even going on a date with a man I met online, Jamie Wardman. Jamie works in IT for a company I have never heard of but immediately Googled. He is thirty three which makes me wonder why he is still single (though at thirty one I suppose I shouldn’t judge) but he has a nice smile and, judging by his profile pictures, likes to wear plaid.

I love a man in plaid.

It is our first date and we are meeting for dinner at a brew pub close to my home. The location was a complete coincidence as Jamie does not know where I live (I hope) and I wholeheartedly approve of the choice.

More than I love a man in plaid I love a man who can appreciate a good brew pub.

We have been talking for weeks and I am actually looking forward to the date quite a bit. I have even memorized some conversation pieces, nothing too heavy like religion or politics and nothing too broad like sports or the weather, but a few gems I picked up while doing quizzes on Buzzfeed. Cute facts I can throw out into the conversation (“Did you know that platypus are actually poisonous?”) to make myself seem both knowledgeable and worldly.

I even printed off our emails for study earlier today, going over and over what we’ve talked about and analyzing each punctuation mark for its significance (He said: “I am looking forward to our date!”, that has to be good).

In short I am so ready for this.

I arrive right on time never quite sure of the protocol on first dates. Is it best to arrive first and be already seated when he arrives? Or should I breeze in a few minutes late to exude a busy and not-too-eager air?

Jamie is there, seated at a table near the back. He looks nervous and is fidgeting a bit. I smile and wait for his eyes to fall on me, walking towards him.

Finally we make eye contact and he half stands before frowning slightly, not his lips mind you, just that slight furrowing of the brow when you are thinking hard. I make it to the table before he has to decide whether or not to stand up.

I stealthily wipe my hand on my coat as I fold it before reaching over to shake his hand. There is nothing worse than sweaty palms.

“Hi Jamie,” I say as I take a seat. There is already water in front of us and I wonder how long he has been here and am thankful that I did not try to arrive early. That would have been awkward, both of us arriving ages before the date even starts.

Jamie shifts in his seat bumping into the table as he does and causing the water to slosh in the glasses. He flushes a deep red and stammers a quiet apology. I feel myself smiling.

This is why he is single.

My heart sings, he is like me!

After a few stops and starts the conversation finally starts to flow and it is like our email conversations, polite and exuberant. Jamie loves my facts about platypus and he tells a charming anecdote about his attempt at home brewing a nice Berliner Weisse.

“I would love to try it one day”, I tell him while attempting a coy smile that my subconscious is sure looks like the Station Inspector’s smiles from the movie ‘Hugo’, ill-fitted and slightly disturbing. I tell my sub-conscious to can it.

He smiles back.

At the end of the date we slowly walk towards to door of the pub, he puts his hand on the small of my back then pulls it back, then puts it there again.

Finally when we are outside the pub he looks at me and smiles.

“You do notlook like a Lucy.” Jamie says and my smile begins to falter. “I am so glad.” He whispers, leaning in for a soft kiss.

For the first time in thirty one years I am thrilled to not look like a Lucy.

Spoiled Roses

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

He leans against his bicycle, chest tight, throat burning and closing off as the hot burn of tears stings his eyes. He is fighting for composure.

She was supposed to say yes. Yes, yes, unequivocally yes.

His eyes focus on the roses, now strewn across the sidewalk smashed and spoiled, ugly. The ring burns a hole in his pocket.

He has heard before that the hardening of the heart is a gradual thing but that will not be his experience. He feels it growing cold in his chest even as the hot tears finally escape to stream down his face.

photo 5

My Valentine

I loved you more than life until I didn’t anymore.

It stopped, snuffed out and dissipated like the smoke you used to blow in the air in your endless and endlessly annoying attempts at blowing smoke rings.

I loved the smell of pipe tobacco and rye whiskey until I didn’t anymore.

Now it is taking a thousand washes to get the smell out of my sheets and the pillows will have to be thrown out.

I loved the way you used to quote Shakespeare and ‘Seinfeld’ with equal amounts of irony and delight until I didn’t anymore.

These days my eye twitches in ire at the sound of the bard and I change the channel when that show comes on.

I loved the way your hand would hold mine, tightly and without entwining our fingers until I didn’t anymore.

Though my hands still flex involuntarily whenever I think of you, lonely though the rest of me is not.

I do not miss you (not much, anyway). I do not want to see you (except from a distance, maybe). I do not love you (I do not, I do not).

Not anymore.

Read Between the Lines: Happy Endings in Fiji

Chapter 3: Happy Endings in Fiji (dirty massage-parlour style? … occasionally)

Our experience with Fiji was bittersweet before it even began. Arriving in Nadi meant we had only eight days left before the end of FANZ. Eight days until our trip of a lifetime was over. Eight days that had to count.

Fiji’s addition to FANZ was truly an example of whim. We had been at the Travel CUTS office in Victoria, preparing to book our flights and “Experience” bus tours in Australia and New Zealand. We waited our turn patiently, our mother making friends with other customers while my sister and I flipped through the “Experience” brochures making last minute decisions.

We both came across the page at the same time, FIJI EXPERIENCE (all caps). We skimmed quickly and then did a second read through just to be sure, each so in tune with what the other was thinking after years of perfecting telepathy.

Julia, “I want to go to Fiji!”

Me, “I want to go to Fiji!”

We paused, vibrating with excitement, smiles spreading across our faces.

Together, “Let’s go to Fiji!”

It didn’t take much to convince my Mother who was just as excited about our trip as we were. Our travel agent joined us in smiling, the ch’ching mantra adopted by all commission-based salesmen obviously running through her head.

After the initial booking, and the subsequent and deserved disapproval of our father, my sister and I didn’t talk much about Fiji. As our 8 day afterthought it didn’t really factor into our planning. We knew that we were going and that the bus tour would take us around Viti Levu, starting and ending in Nadi. We knew that we had three free days that were unaccounted for in the tour and that we would have to figure out accommodation and activities, but we were not concerned. (Something that is so out of line with the obsessive planning of the rest of the trip.)

Still, Fiji is the type of place that just begs to be explored on a whim. Island time, my friends.