Monday, March 25, 2013


A Bloodscape Original Short Story

After spending upwards of 50 long hours at the office each week, the tension that weighs down on my shoulders is extremely difficult to release. Reclining in my favorite chair at day's end, or even while laying on my overpriced Swedish mattress, the skin on my back feels like a rubber band that's about to snap. Skin as tense and leathery as a corpse's. Believe me. Work is a funny thing: it provides me with the income to pay for life's endless expenses, it gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning, and yet my job is one of the greatest sources of stress in my life. I work as an Accounting Manager at Steele Financial. In our department of 70-something people, 16 of them work directly under me. There are another three supervisors above me in my department alone, but at least I have the luxury of delegating any pressing tasks to my subordinates. Ah, management; it's little more than telling people what to do and expressing concern when a deadline comes dangerously close to being overdue. Moving around numbers and preparing financial statements isn't exactly my dream job, but I enjoy following the process. Debit this here, credit that there. Credit this here, debit that there. Aside from rare occasions that require a little extra time and thought, the process stays the same. Day in and day out. It's comforting to repeat the same process each day. Adhering to routines has kept me out of trouble throughout my life: never been fired, arrested, or seriously injured. Still, the predictability and monotony of my vocation causes my toes to curl and my teeth to clench.

Any job, regardless of how much you like it, leaves you drained and irritable at the end of the day. Life, under the most ideal circumstances, is stressful. Up until about three years ago, my weeknight dinners consisted of painkillers, muscle relaxers, and/or anti-anxiety pills. Even if my job wasn't a contributor to my stress, my back would still be stiff. My shoulders would still arch upward, incapable of relaxing. Since sophomore year of high school, a single desire has driven me to chew my nails down to the fingertips. When the other boys in my high school class hit puberty, their hormones drove them to hump anything that wasn't nailed down (hell, I've seen plenty of adolescent boys hump things that were nailed down too. Nothing is safe). Other kids my age were looking for warm bodies, but my thoughts were of the opposite. For whatever reason, my hormones didn't fill me with the wild sexual urges everyone else got. Must be some kind of a genetic defect. Instead, something in the deepest recesses of my body nags me to engage in an activity that society has always taught me was "wrong." It beckons to me, like a craving. Goosebumps cover every inch of my skin, and sensations of heat cause tiny droplets to bead on my forehead. Cold sweat trickles down the back of my neck. Sometimes my salivary glands go into overdrive. My heart beats with such intensity and ferocity that it feels like it's trying to break through my ribcage. Waking up in the morning, the thought is at the forefront of my mind. Throughout the day, the urge continues to badger me until I feel lightheaded.

In the beginning, relaxation techniques such as reading, taking hot baths, and drinking chamomile tea helped. To my own surprise, cooking at home became one of my favorite diversions. Though I still do all those things, they're not enough to suppress the yearning for good. Before long, the twisting sensation in my bowels made me feel faint and irritated, as if neglecting the instinct was causing me to self-destruct. Thinking about it, even for a moment, made my palms clammy and sticky. Each day in class, sweat would stream down the sides of my t-shirt as if my armpits were running faucets. I knew that it was necessary to find distractions for myself, otherwise the next person within reach would be leaving campus in a plastic bag.
If I sit down to build a model airplane, my mind won't be fixated on strangling my lab partner. If I fold a couple dozen cranes out of tie-dyed origami paper, I won't daydream about eviscerating my guidance counselor. Idle hands are the devil's playground.

Hobbies and other distractions helped for a while, but the urge only grew more intense over the years. In college, as many of my peers fooled around with drugs, I experimented with chemicals to either reduce the urges or drown them out completely. While the craving never really went away, marijuana helped to distract me from it. Certain strains would sedate me enough to keep me locked on my sofa at home, but occasionally there would be varieties which somewhat exacerbated the problem. Learning the differences between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica made me confident that two or three doobies a day would keep the dark thoughts at bay. Give me a bottle of medical grade Purple Kush, some Zig Zags, a couch, and a bag of Cheetos, then you may rest assured that this handsome fellow will not be out cruising for a victim tonight. When my college internship at Steele Financial segued into a full-time accounting position, the pressures of maintaining my composure in a professional work setting began to stir the dormant beast inside of me. With the help of some college buddies who were pharmacists (of sorts), mood-management solutions in the form of Oxycontin and Xanax became a part of my nightly ritual. On more than one occasion, my friends and I took the two-hour drive to the Mexican border and walked into Tijuana to stock up on pastillas from la farmacias. It’s fantastic; you just walk into one of the many pharmacies, ask for la Xanax or la Oxycontin, then hand over 20 American dollars and collect your prize. After each enjoying three of the best tacos you will ever eat for $1 and knocking back a bucket of Coronas, we walk back into the States with our pockets full of Mexican pharmaceuticals.

“Do you have anything to declare?”
“Nope.” And they believe it. Young people come to Tijuana to drink, not to shop.

Three years back, I was promoted to manager at Steele. Being a respected financial institution, the promotion was contingent on a drug test, so I had no choice but to stop smoking and popping pills. For weeks, I sat at my workstation and awaited the day my boss would set a plastic cup on my desk for me to take a piss in. Maybe a white armored truck would pull up in front of the building, and a fleet of armed nurses in gas masks would run in and handcuff my hands behind my back as I try to squeeze out a drop of urine. After the promotion, another two months passed without any mention of a drug screening. Had they forgotten? Was the drug test policy something I made up in my head? It wasn't clear whether or not it was safe to continue using, so I made the decision to stay clean. An occasional beer or scotch is OK to take the edge off, but no more weed or chemicals for me.

The urges returned, and going out for a jog wasn't doing anything to quell the cravings. Headaches were more painful than ever; my brain was an expanding balloon pressing against the walls of my skull. Clinical strength antiperspirants did absolutely nothing to prevent my underarms from gushing water like broken pipes. On top of my everyday stresses— and now, drug withdrawal— the hidden infatuation resonated deep within me and frayed my spine like a rope that was bearing too much weight. The sensations kept me debilitated, in an ongoing state of pain. Racing thoughts led to sleepless nights; my dry, bloodshot eyes could barely focus on anything the next day. Skin on my back and shoulders felt more rigid and leathery than ever. Enough was enough: ten years after it first began, I decided to give in to the urge. Only one time.

One Wednesday evening, after about a week of planning and purchasing supplies, I was ready to carry out my secret desire for the first time. The target needed to be a stranger so that police couldn't connect me to the crime (the majority of murders, as you know, are carried out by someone that the victim knows personally). In preparation, I packed a backpack containing:
  • A pair of black leather gloves
  • A black hooded sweatshirt
  • A ski mask from the sporting goods store down the street
  • A pair of nylon stockings
  • A fistful of zip ties that I stole from the IT department
  • A ball gag, from a sleazy sex shop
  • A Taser gun I took from my uncle's house
  • My favorite kitchen knife (as seen on TV)
In addition to those items, I packed a change of pants, a clean jacket, and an extra pair of shoes in a grocery bag. After loading everything into the trunk of my car, I drove downtown.
A drunk leaving a bar at last call sounded liked an easy target, so the venue was some shithole dive off the 101 with a dimly-lit parking lot. Place was called Los Palla-something. The grungy sign above the door looked as if it had never been washed, and the same could certainly be said about the metal front door which felt greasy to the touch. This particular bar seemed well-suited to my purposes because it wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t slow enough for me to stand out in. Upon scouting this place out sometime the week before, I identified two scrubby-looking men in trucker hats who sat at the bar until they couldn't walk straight. Judging by their familiarity with the bartender (who knew them both by name) the assumption was made that these gentlemen must be the regulars.

I went inside and ordered a beer, just to make sure that the regulars were there drinking at the bar. They were. Both were clearly drunk, but not quite belligerent yet. With plenty of time to spare before last call, I left the bar to go waste some time. A Tommy Burger down the street made for a satisfying dinner. Kind of a shame though, considering all the ingredients for chili cheeseburgers were in my fridge at home. Following recipes and preparing meals for myself is much more fulfilling than going out for fast food, but sometimes you have to do what's convenient.

After dinner, I went to a nearby movie theater to catch a flick. The title of the film escapes me... it was one of those dumb slasher films where a guy in a mask chases eight teenagers around a house. I think it was a sequel to another shitty 'teen scream' from a few years before. The dialogue was just embarrassing; campy lines like, "hey, I love you, girl," and, "you scared the bejeezus out of me!" One of the more memorable scenes in the movie involved a blonde girl sitting at a vanity, so entranced with the way her hair, makeup, and clothing looked particularly good that evening. Even while her friends downstairs are running for their lives, she's too busy adoring her own face to notice. As the camera angle reveals that the killer is standing behind her, she finishes touching up her mascara and says, "perfect," just before a computer-animated knife bursts through the front of her neck and spatters cherry-red blood all over the mirror. Scenes like this one made my leg twitch in anticipation. Before the night is over, I will know how it really feels to be the man in the mask.

The movie ended around midnight, and I returned to my car. Removing the backpack and grocery bag from the trunk of my BMW, all the supplies were placed in the passenger seat next to me. My heart began to beat faster, and the inside of my throat felt dry and lumpy as if it had been stuffed with cotton. Pulling the hoodie over my head, I slipped the gloves over my clammy hands and put the ball gag, stocking, and zip ties in the sweater pockets.

As last call approached, I wrapped the Taser in my ski mask and knelt behind a dumpster which one of the drunkards had parked his car next to. Waiting patiently, I held my breath as the two patrons stumbled out of the bar. The men sloppily bid each other a good night and went off in opposite directions. With the mask now concealing my face, I laid still, Taser in hand, as the target approached his rust-ridden El Camino. When he was within reach of the car door, I peeked from behind the dumpster and fired the Taser at his back. His body went rigid, collapsing forward onto his car and sliding down to the dusty asphalt. Crouching as low as possible, I put the gag in his mouth and closed the buckle to secure it to his head. I zip-tied his hands together, and then did the same to his convulsing legs while his shoes involuntarily bounced off the pavement. As I was stretching the stocking over his head, the Taser timed out. Evidently, it takes me longer than 30 seconds to tie up a high-voltage alcoholic. Fortunately, the barbs were still firmly implanted in my victim, so squeezing the trigger again sent another debilitating wave of electricity through his body. After several embarrassing attempts to carry the man, I managed to load him into the trunk of my BMW and remove the Taser bolts from the skin of his back. Suddenly a gym membership seems like a great investment.

Behind the wheel of the car, I took off the ski mask but kept the gloves on. Taking a deep breath, I wiped the sweat off my neck and forehead with the mask, then pulled out of the unlit parking lot. There were practically no cars on the freeway at that hour. With the radio off, the only sound that could be heard was the consistent treading of 4 rubber tires rolling along the concrete pathways. Every few minutes, the silence would be broken by the intermittent thumping of my guest in the trunk. Yellow-tinged street lamps illuminated the green traffic signs like the gentle glow of a candle. Pairs of red brake lights ahead of me and white headlights in the opposite lane floated tranquilly along the dim highway like Chinese lanterns. I can't recall a time when the freeway was this peaceful.

Several exits later, I pulled my car over in a secluded corner of Griffith Park. The world was so dark and quiet. I'll never forget that moment; it was beautiful. So serene. Having removed the knife from the bag next to me, I popped the trunk and stepped out of the car. Smiling down at Roberto— I call the guy Roberto because I never bothered to learn his real name— I dragged him out of the trunk and across the dry grass, setting him behind a large bush about 20 yards off the road. In the distance, the dull glow of downtown's skyscrapers provided the only source of light. Roberto squirmed, but he was too drunk and worn down for his movements to have any effect. The silence of the surrounding night was deafening. Inside my head, behind my ears, the only sound that could be heard was my own heart pounding. Loud thumping noises echoed in my skull, getting faster with each passing second. This is the moment I've been waiting for. This is what's kept me awake for so many years. A decade of resisting an inherent craving, a decade of distraction and self-sedation has led up to this moment. On my knees now, I braced the handle of the knife in my gloved fists. Only a week ago, I used that same knife to chop vegetables for an Alton Brown recipe. Raising the beloved kitchen utensil above my head, I took a slow, deep breath. Exhaling, I plunged the blade straight down into the boozer's chest.

Despite aiming for his heart, the knife stuck about half an inch above where his right nipple should be. As he thrashed about, I pulled the stocking off his head (which was only there to prevent loose hairs from getting all over my trunk) and gazed into his panicked eyes. Though I savored the moment, it still wasn't clear if the one stab would be enough to end Roberto. My gloved hand gripped the rubbery texture of the knife handle and pulled it out. Looking down at the soft rubber grip in my hand, I glanced back to see the shining steel blade sill tightly lodged into the wriggling drunk's torso. The slender piece of silver metal stood tall like a flagpole, spraying tiny drops of crimson as the man continued to flail as much as his bound appendages permitted. On the upside, the cumbersome rubber ball in Roberto's mouth muffled his screams quite effectively. With anxiety setting in, I pressed my right shin just below his throat and used both hands to pry the broken, speckled blade out of the deep wound in his pectoral muscle. As the cold metal slid out, warm blood spurted from the gash and spilled all over Roberto's dirty white t-shirt. Dead grass beneath him grew wet and sticky in the darkness. Not wanting to leave without being absolutely certain that he won't live to describe my face, I slid the flimsy rubber handgrip back onto the kitchen knife and readied myself for the next blow. With my left knee pinning down his chest, I gently pressed the tip of the knife to the side of his throat and applied pressure until just the point sank into his flesh. A single maroon marble blossomed where the steel pierced his skin. After scoring his windpipe, I leaned back and watched expectantly as the red line across his Adam's apple split open and gushed hot, tequila-soaked blood. Roberto's eyeballs rolled back into his head, and an earnest sense of relief washed over me. It was all over. The tension in my back and shoulders melted and dripped off my body. The night's cool wind felt soothing against my skin, particularly the parts which were beaded with sweat. With every breath, I could actually feel the cold oxygen filtering through my lungs and into my bloodstream. Incessant screaming in my head, for the first time, fell completely silent. Stabbing pains in my bowels disappeared, feeling as if my guts had been knotted for years and then suddenly untied. Even in the low light, watching the fluid ooze from his lifeless body was far more satisfying than I could have imagined. In that moment, I was more relaxed than I had ever felt in my life.

Subsequent to wiping the blade off on the stocking, I removed the ball gag from Roberto's mouth and bid him a good night before parting ways. After putting the tools away and removing the gloves and hoodie, I changed into the clean pants, shoes, and jacket. The feeling of peace stayed with me for the duration of the drive home, and I had the best sleep of my life that night. The next day, though I fully expected to be dragging from my late night of mayhem, my body felt completely rested. It was actually a very productive day at work; I was on fire. Some of my co-workers even noticed how rested I appeared, to which my response was, "Yeah, I got a new pillow!"

My relaxed state from that first kill lasted for about a month. At the time, a future hunt wasn't something that I had consciously considered, but I did know that it would happen again. And again. Knowing that my cutlery wasn't built with my intentions in mind, I set out to find a blade that was. The main problem with my last weapon was that it wasn't strong enough to be withdrawn from a torso, so my ideal weapon would be built to tear through tough flesh. Researching hunting knives led me to combat knives, as in knives that are specifically designed with humans in mind (often produced for the military). Among combat knife enthusiasts, there is something of a debate regarding "blood grooves." Some knife manufacturers refer to a valley in the sides of a blade as blood grooves, triggering the question of, "what is a blood groove for?" Plenty of war veterans will swear up and down that the manufacturer of their military-issued knives put the blood groove there to help bleed out their enemies faster. Furthermore, some of these veterans and war buffs say that the blood groove prevents suction, making it easier to withdraw the blade after thrusting it into someone. Skeptics say that "blood groove" is merely a marketing buzzword, a misleading moniker for what should be called a "fuller." Running lengthwise down the center of a sword, the purpose of a fuller is to add rigidity to a blade; instead of one spine, a fullered blade has two. Unable to understand why a fuller wouldn't help to bleed out a target, the knife I ultimately purchased featured a pronounced blood groove. To suit my purposes, I bought a 12-inch leather-handled dagger with a non-reflective black powder coating. Equipped with a sharp spike pommel at the tip designed to make indentation fractures in a human skull and dual serrations near the base of the blade for tearing open wounds, this knife is practically made for me. A reviewer online said he used the same dagger during his time in the Marines and specifically stated:

Make no mistake, this knife is not good for ANYTHING but killing. It has a thick, flattened diamond cross section, and while it is extremely sharp, the geometry prevents it from cutting well. It's made to do one thing: stab deeply into another human being and rip them wide open. I only had to use it for its intended purpose once, but wow it sure does that well.

Can't argue with that.

Four or five payment periods passed before I made plans to hunt down my next victim. I began taking "excursions" every couple of months. The routine typically went as follows:
  1. Rent a car
  2. Drive out to some podunk town in the middle of nowhere
  3. Pop into a dive bar to get a head count
  4. Order a drink, if the mood strikes me
  5. Exit the bar
  6. Position myself to disarm the last customer who leaves
  7. Transport the target to a secluded location and slaughter him

In order to prevent getting caught, I established some ground rules:

Rule One: Use different methods to disarm and kill each victim. Avoid repetition.
If hunting were that easy, a Taser and a knife would probably be my go-to weapons. The problem is that cops are always checking for patterns among homicide victims, so it would take them longer to find me if they didn't suspect my murders are connected. The only aspects which stayed the same were the use of a stocking to keep damning evidence out of the car, and my use of a ball gag to muffle any screams for help, but those items never stay at the crime scene. If zip ties or ropes were used, I would cut them off and put them in my supply bag before leaving the scene. In adherence to my first rule, some of my victims were subjected to brutal overkill in an attempt to convince the police that those victims were slain by someone they knew personally.

Rule Two: Only kill the drunkest, most lonely patron of the seediest-looking bar in town.
It was sometimes tempting to wait around and kill the bartender or hostess, but bar staff is more likely to have friends or family that would report them as missing. The goal was to go after bottomfeeders who would be presumed to be face-down in a storm drain somewhere.

Rule Three: Only drive rental cars, using a different make and model each time.
Should there be any eyewitnesses to an abduction, their description of the vehicle won't be connected to me. Even if they were to take a photo of the license plate number, the only information the rental agency would have is the phony name I used (and possibly surveillance footage of me picking up the car in a fake beard & sunglasses).

Rule Four: Never stay in a hotel.
Hunting is not only high risk/ high reward, it's incredibly wearying and labor-intensive. It would be fantastic to crash at a motel after dumping a body, but the danger in getting a room is that checking in leaves evidence. Giving a fake name and paying in cash are options, but any witnesses who see and report the rental car would lead police right to my motel room. The best chance to leave as little evidence as possible is to drive out to a small town— which could take 2 to 4 hours each way— take care of business, then head right back home. While the sport gives me a rush in one sense, it also relaxes me to the point of feeling sleepy. In dire situations, I would stop at a convenience store to buy an energy shot, but always wear a hat to hide my face from security cameras.

One night, while channel surfing at home, a TV show about a serial killer caught my attention. The lead character, a Miami forensic investigator named Dexter Morgan, murders criminals in order to satisfy a deep-seated urge to kill that he has had since childhood. Clearly, this character is someone I can relate to eerily well. During his childhood, the character's father noticed his tendency towards psychopathic behavior and taught him a code of only killing to serve a purpose. His dad teaches him to never harm innocent people, otherwise, "it's just murder." Even years after his death, Dexter follows his father's code of only killing vicious criminals. He claims that he controls the cravings and doesn't let the cravings control him.

I call bullshit.

Assuming this character has the same intrinsic craving as me, and his entrails sting each day with the burning desire to snuff someone out, there is no— and I mean NO— possible way that he could stand the internal torment long enough to perform a full investigation on every one of his prospective victims. My innards constantly ache as if someone bashed them up with a mallet and stuffed them back inside of me. Pressure on on my temples makes them swell like a metal clamp is tightening around my skull, and the top part of my head burns as if a white-hot cleaver is scalding a line between my eyes. If he lives through this hell every day, and he knows that the only thing that can ease that pain is to take someone's life, he would know that the situation has nothing to do with morals, crime, or justice. Do you think I fucking care if my targets are "innocent" or not? That's not for me to decide; I'll execute who I please and let your god sort them out. My kills don't have anything to do with the victims, they're for me. Some people go fishing, some people dance, and some people play basketball; I hunt. Really though, it's not so much a hobby as it is an addiction.

I hunted well into the next fiscal year, traveling to all sorts of sad-looking towns across California (and even a couple of places in Nevada). Constant journeying across the Golden State became exhausting and irritating. Every city between Los Angeles and San Francisco is worthless. Well, Monterey is actually nice. And parts of Santa Cruz aren't bad. Let me rephrase, then: every town in the "Great Central Valley" region— like Bakersfield or Fresno— is shit. Still, police never came to my house to question me, and the news reports never said anything about a killing spree across California, so the Central Valley has indeed been "great" to me.

Knowing that my procedure was effective, I continued the same routine until one instance suddenly changed everything. Recognizing an opportunity, the decision was made to pick up a homeless man one night instead of doing the usual bar stakeout thing. Spotting the lone vagrant wrapped in a sleeping bag behind a liquor store, I figured there was little harm in deviating slightly from my usual process to pursue a different type of easy target. Pulling over in a dark alley on the other side of the store, I approached the man with a metal baseball bat in my hands. After knocking him out and taking him to a barren desert somewhere outside of Victorville, I hacked the transient to pulp with a machete. As the 17-inch blade tore through his flesh, blood splashed my face. Warm liquid dripping down the side of my nose and cheek felt therapeutic, easing the underlying muscles the way a hot tub loosens up your tendons. I could taste the saltiness in my mouth. Engulfed in the moment, without thinking, I licked it off my lips. There was something satiating about it, and it wasn't just the briny, metallic flavor. Running my fingers down the side of the dripping steel sword, I slid my scarlet-coated digits into my mouth and massaged my tongue. The sport of homicide was already rewarding in itself, and imbibing the salty cruor of this victim was the single most profound moment of my life. The feeling was almost sexual, or spiritual (I'm guessing). No drug or life experience can compare to the sensation. It's the combination of the ultimate high, the ultimate orgasm, and godlike transcendence. I'm not the superstitious type, but the effect of drinking blood is practically supernatural; the surge of self-assuredness makes me stride like the most powerful man in the world. Confident. Focused. Full of energy. You feel unstoppable. By day, I'm no discernibly different than anyone else; by cover of night, the Earth is my private garden, and people are merely fruit to be picked. Consuming plasma has nothing to do with being young forever or restoring life force: blood is concentrated power in liquid form. The elixir of omnipotence.

Hunting had already taken over my life, and my appetite for more blood only made my original craving stronger and more frequent. Following the same general rules, I took a road trip every few weeks and brought a stainless steel mug to drink out of. Using my dagger as a tap, I would sometimes jab it into a target's abdomen and sip directly from the groove in my knife. Regardless of whether or not the fuller was designed to bleed people out, it does the job well. Despite careful handling, however, tapping blood tended to be a messy activity; it only took one more victim for me to realize that it would be a good idea to start wearing clothes that can be disposed of. Thrift stores never appealed to me before, but visiting them to shop for clothes became more of a necessity. After shopping one day, I stopped to get my hair cut. Next to me, a barber accidentally dripped some hair dye on his customer's shirt. Surprised when the stylist sprayed both sides of the stain with hairspray and successfully removed it, the man told me that this old barber's trick also works on blood. Not that I would save clothes with obvious blood stains; it's just a household tip worth sharing. Instead, any tarnished clothing was gathered into a black garbage bag and disposed of in dumpsters behind random restaurants in the area. The juice is better when it's fresh from the source; bottling up fluid for later use crossed my mind periodically, but I always shot the idea down since it involves storing DNA evidence in my home, and also because spillage in the car is too great of a risk.

Since the episode with the homeless man, Steele's 2nd and 3rd financial quarters had come and gone. Now fully engrossed in blood-hunting, it shocked me how quickly the time had passed. Days that used to drag on, where every pore of my physique ached at the office, where racing thoughts kept me from sleeping most every night, now just flew by. As long as I got out of town every few weeks, my world was full of enlightenment. Nirvana. My body felt brand new each day, and stresses of work were faced with a new sense of flow. I felt like a goddamn zen master. Buddha reincarnated. Part of me wonders how productive and collected I may have been had I started hunting and drinking years ago. Part of me wonders if this vice is really any worse than the old ones. My body was as weightless as a cloud, yet the physical nature of blood-hunting became habit-forming in itself. Becoming somewhat unsatisfied with the amount of hours and labor it took to procure a generally modest dose (it takes a total of 5 to 9 hours to drive out to the middle of nowhere and back, just for a taste), my focus turned to acquiring more blood by any means necessary. If I were to achieve this goal, the fluid would probably need to be warmed up in a microwave, which is certainly not my preference, but it's not terribly different from heating up a frozen entree or going out for fast food. Sometimes you have to do what's convenient. My options were to commit a high-profile mass murder, or steal from medical facilities. Believing tubes of vital fluid to be anonymous, storing them at my place is less of a risk than bringing home the lifejuices of people I've killed. The idea of wasting several targets at the same time was still thrilling to me, but it would be less conspicuous to somehow steal blood from a hospital. Just last week, the answer came to me at work when a subordinate hung up a flyer:

This Christmas, give the gift of life:

Saturday, December 22
10am to 1pm
East Los Angeles Church of God in Christ


Saturday morning, I disguised myself by wearing a fake mustache and goatee I got from the local costume shop, along with a black hairpiece and brown contact lenses to help mask my green eyes. Dressed in my "Sunday best," (which is basically the same getup I wear to work every day), I packed my leather shoulder bag with supplies and stepped outside to catch my taxi. Arriving with 40 minutes remaining until the bloodmobile left, I took my place in line behind four other donors. In queue, daydreams of hijacking the bloodmobile kept me entertained. What an exciting prospect it would be to knock out the driver and speed off in the mobile lab with all the goodies on board. I actually began to reconsider my initial plan in favor of this one, but the idea was not logistically sound; within minutes, the mission would probably escalate into another classic high-speed chase. The eyes of every man, woman, and child in the greater Los Angeles area would be glued to their TV sets as reporters in helicopters narrate the scene from high above. Ultimately, like the overwhelming majority of police chases, the city will look on as LAPD blows out my tires with a spike strip and surrounds my stopped vehicle from every angle. Fuck that. It's in my best interest to be as discreet as possible.

Sitting in a patient's chair aboard the small bus, I watched as the nurse tied a rubber tourniquet around my arm. Navy blue text embroidered on her scrubs revealed her name as "Cybill," which I only remember because she was the first Cybill I've ever met. Outside the driver's side window, a stocky female coworker hollered that she was going to take down the signs and pack up. Just as the nurse turned around with a needle in her hand, I pointed my Taser at her and asked her to sit down in the chair across from me. Keeping the weapon aimed at her chest, I removed my gloves from the bag and slipped them on. Using some zip ties, I bound her hands behind the chair. She fidgeted in discomfort as a wad of gauze inside her mouth was being taped shut, but pressing the cold iron of the Taser barbs into Nurse Cybill's neck served as an effective reminder of what would happen should she cause me any difficulties.
Barely a moment after tying the nurse to the chair, the other co-worker returned. Carelessly, she opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat, her hands and eyes preoccupied with a stack of clipboards, manila folders, and paper. Sliding the main door of the van shut, I pointed the Taser at the woman in the driver's seat and told her to drive exactly where I tell her to go unless she wants to join her coworker in the back. Seeing Cybill secured in the chair next to me, she made no attempt to defy me and simply responded, "Where to?"

As the bloodmobile merged onto the freeway, I removed the tourniquet from my arm and asked the driver where the goods are stored. She explained that the donations are kept in locked cabinets onboard. Slipping off the lanyard of keys from around the nurse's neck, I unlocked the cabinet door and began packing vials of hemoglobin into my shoulder bag. The total amount of blood was considerably less than expected, but the 30-something tubes would be enough to satisfy my craving for another month or two. Each sample had a printed label with the donor's name and blood type, which all needed to be disposed of immediately. Simultaneously peeling off stickers while keeping an eye on the pink-faced lady behind the wheel, I finished stacking the rows of plastic tubes in my leather pack. Arriving at our destination a half-hour later— a Walmart parking lot outside of Inglewood— I asked the driver to slowly walk to back of the vehicle and sit down in the empty seat. Trembling as she unbuckled her seatbelt and made her way to the back of the custom-made van, she lowered her pudgy behind into the chair next to Nurse Cybill. As I zip-tied her hands and feet, her eyes began to well up. While taping her gauze-stuffed mouth shut, a single tear rolled down her cheek and dripped onto my hand. With a grin, I thanked her for her cooperation, and pulled a black garbage bag over her head. Stretching out a long strand of silver duct tape, I looked on as the lady squirmed in her chair, dreading what might happen next. Now standing behind the stocky woman, I caught Cybill's eyes widen in terror before I wrapped a few layers of duct tape around her colleague's plastic-coated neck. Muffled shrieks escaped from both women as I dressed the nurse in a matching black mask and silver necklace.

Watching with my back pressed against the rear of the van, the two medical workers thrashed in their chairs as they struggled to breathe. Having strangled a victim once before, I knew it wasn't my usual preference when taking a life. This was my only chance to savor the moment, but watching them suffocate didn't give me the same satisfaction as cutting, or even bludgeoning victims. It took all of my willpower to resist draining their blood, but the risk of getting it all over my clothes in broad daylight was enough to motivate me to get the hell out of there. Executing targets would have been preferable to merely killing witnesses, but that's what the situation called for. The driver's body went limp, and Nurse Cybill's followed suit after another 40 seconds. Removing my hairpiece, contact lenses, and facial hair, I shoved them into my bag and left through the sliding door. After exiting the parking lot, my last memory was waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk so I could get to the bus stop. My mind regained consciousness as two paramedics were strapping me into a gurney and loading me into an ambulance. Unable to move my head, I overheard a woman in the background saying she called 911 after witnessing an SUV mow me down in the crosswalk. Apparently the car ran a red light.

So that brings us here, Hollywood Medical Center, where I lay before you with two fractured ribs, a broken arm, and a broken leg. Before last weekend, I've never needed to go to the hospital for any reason. Ever. Wouldn't you know it, they told me a few days ago that I have an extremely rare and destructive blood disease. Judging by how far it's progressed, I'm certain I caught it from that homeless man. Have you heard of sickle-cell anemia? Well, they said what I've got is like a mutation of that, and it's far more deadly. Little red ninja stars in my capillaries are blocking up passageways, preventing blood cells from going where they're supposed to. They give me less than 6 months to live.

So there you have it, officer. There's your confession. Hold that tape recorder closer to my face and I'll say it nice and clear to make your job easy: I, Jacob Dorian, hereby confess to carjacking, robbery, assault, abduction, and more instances of first-degree murder than I can count... and I'm a fucking accountant. So now what? Where do we go from here? Are you going to handcuff me to the bed? You'll be lucky to get me in court within a year, and my carcass would have already been used for research and tossed aside by then. There's no use in me lying to you because my death has already been marked on the calendar for this year. I have nothing left to lose.

Now, could I trouble you to pass me that leather bag under your chair?

© Copyright 2013 Ramsey Doudar. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

WOW, is my initial reaction. As I read it, I was drawn to how the narrator described something so gruesome and disturbing to me in a way that was beautiful and eloquent. I appreciated the sporadic humor and how you integrated it in a way that completely made sense and fit into the character's demeanor. I found the ending to be nothing of what I expected, so the element of surprise was definitely there. Personally and honestly, I thought the vampire-esque twist and the abrupt ending were components that did not match the rest of the story that flowed very well; they almost seemed to be written by another person, if that makes sense. Granted, I only read it once and might have very well missed many important features and implications made in the story, but that was all my response to reading it the one time.

Ramsey said...

Thank you for the comment, I really appreciate it!

Yes, the last act of the story definitely has a tonal shift. The reasons why are because the narrator becomes bitter as he reflects on his mistakes; without him realizing it at the time, his addiction overrides his calculated nature. The more he gives into the addiction, the more turbulent it becomes.

Perhaps I shouldn't have made the ending so abrupt (it's the major "criticism" I've been getting), but I liked the idea that the only reason the narrator was caught was due to a freak accident that he had no control over. Such is life; after so much planning, it's always some unforeseen outside factor that derails everything.
There are also a couple of lines that hint at the ending ;)

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'll definitely have to read it again, particularly after reading your response to my comments. I really like how you said "his addiction overrides his calculated nature," and how his increased capitulation to his addiction causes more turbulence...very well said!

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