Yesterday was a bad day. As days go, it couldn’t have been much worse — although it had started pretty well. I try to write journal entries when something of note has happened in my life. Not like “I bought a new TV” or even “I got fired” — it’s not a diary. It’s a coping mechanism; my way of bringing order to the chaos. As it happens, it’s not very full.
You’re reading the entry for last night - which was without a doubt the most terrifying night of my life. Up to this point, anyway; I’ve no idea what will happen between me writing this and you reading it. When I finish writing I’m going to hide this journal, for obvious reasons. Well, I suppose they’ll be obvious when you finish reading.
Like I said, the day started well, but let’s fast forward to the night — because it definitely wasn’t the night I’d planned.
I’ll start with me hiding in the closet. I was in the spare room (Ruth’s spare room, not mine — I was at her place) and I wasn’t alone in the house. I was listening to footsteps stalking down the hallway from her room. Except it wasn’t Ruth — I knew that for a fact because the last time I’d seen her, she’d been lying face down on the bedroom floor with a kitchen knife sticking out of her neck. Her pajamas had been sliced open, revealing gaping wounds across her back. The blood pooling on the floor had looked like an oil slick in the moonlight.
The spare room was dark, but a dim shaft of light fell across my hiding place. It was one of those old art deco closets that constantly smell like mothballs. I presumed it was mothballs anyway, I’ve never actually used them myself. The pale light peeped through a crack as I peered out.
I remembered I was still naked. Naked and completely unprotected. More footsteps in the hallway now, creeping closer. Whoever he was (I assumed it was a man), he was taking his time. The psycho was probably enjoying it; relishing the hunt. The floorboards just outside the bedroom door creaked.
Ruth’s blood still glistened on my hands, from where I’d held her tenderly for the final time. I rubbed them against my thighs but blood is awful stuff. It just smears and gets stickier, and when it dries it’s just as bad. Awful stuff.
The bedroom door opened with a groan and I shrank in fear. I watch plenty of horror films and I’m always the first person to shout at the screen:
“Don’t get in the closet, it’s the first place he’ll look!”
“Grab a weapon!”
“Just get out of the house!”
Or my personal favourite: “Just attack them — they won’t be expecting it!”
I figure knife wielding maniacs stalking dark hallways don’t expect you to jump out at them. I’m pretty sure it would scare the shit out of anyone! But trust me, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, without a weapon and without clothes (somehow that makes it worse) I dare you to confront an unknown psycho. Nope, I did what you’d do; I withered inside myself and watched that bedroom door edge slowly open.
He stepped into the room, a brute of a man. I’m no short-ass, a shade under six foot, but this guy must have been a good five or six inches taller. And twice as wide, if it wasn’t a trick of the light. He’d still look big on a football pitch. His face was in shadow but it didn’t make a difference, I’m sure I didn’t know him. He wore some kind of combat pants and a dark t-shirt. Not much protection but I’d have given anything to be wearing something like that. He took another step forward and the moonlight glinted off a long blade. I held my breath as I recognised one of Ruth’s kitchen knives.
His face flashed into the moonlight briefly, but not long enough for me to get a good look. Only the eyes, burning fiercely like a madman’s, were visible in that second. He raised the knife and twirled it slowly in the moonlight, casting eerie flashes about the room. Suddenly he seemed to make his mind up about something and spun round, pounding out of the room and across the hallway.
My thoughts turned to Ruth’s coffee table downstairs - or more specifically, the front page of the newspaper sat on it. The headline flashed through my mind. Serial Killer stalks the bay. I hadn’t read the article; I didn’t need to, it had been all over the news for the last couple of days. National news too, you must have heard of it. And whilst every self-respecting horror nerd knows that two grisly murders does not make a serial killer, what the media didn’t yet know — and probably wouldn’t find out for a while since the phone was dead (don’t worry, I tested it) — was that this was the third night and now Ruth lay lifeless on her bedroom floor. That brought the total up to the required number. All killed in exactly the same way; house broken into in the early hours of the morning, attacked as they slept. Throat cut from ear to ear, stabbed in the back so deeply the spine was severed. The eyes… missing.
No one expects a serial killer in their town. Maybe if you live down the coast in San Fran or LA, but not round here, not really. To tell the truth there have been a few, but you’d have to Google them. If you did you’d also discover that most serial killers lure their victims somewhere — their car, their house, the deep dark woods — and to do that they have to gain your confidence first. Either that or they’re the other kind of serial killer; the kind that takes you by surprise. Running up behind you as you’re strolling through said woods, or walking alone down that dark alley. Like most morbid kids, I’d read up on this stuff and knew that technically this was spree killing so far, but let’s not split hairs; “serial killer” is so much more evocative. I also know that, unlike the movies, rare is the serial killer that silently breaks into your house to murder you in your bed whilst you’re sleeping. And that’s exactly what made it so terrifying, such big news — and why everyone was talking about it.
At this point I know what you’re thinking; if you’re reading this then I must have written it down in my journal, therefore things must have turned out ok for me. I’ll let you in on a secret — I’m not writing this from beyond the grave. But I digress…
A bang sounded from somewhere close by. I had no intention of ending up like Ruth. I knew I needed to get out of there.
I didn’t know her place very well. It was the top house on a street of three, but next door were on vacation and the other end was being renovated. A few cabins in the woods surrounding the block but essentially it was just me and him. It was pitch black, but I knew there were three bedrooms and a bathroom on this floor. I pictured the layout in my head. This room was at the end of the house, overlooking the side yard. Ruth’s bedroom and current resting place was next door. After that was a bathroom, and at the far side was another bedroom. A staircase led up to an attic, and another down to ground level. It seemed like the attic would take me further from safety, plus he could be up there, so I thought downstairs was a better option. This was my only chance to get out.
I eased open the door and gingerly stepped down onto the carpet. No-one slashed my ankle so I pushed my head out. From here I could see out of the bedroom and straight down the hall. There was no-one in sight.
There was a crash from one of the other rooms and I pulled my leg back in. I thought it came from the other spare bedroom. Another crash, like someone tipping over furniture or boxes or something. Looking for me.
I stepped out again. I couldn’t be sure where the ape-man was, but I knew it was my only chance to escape and I had to take it. I refocused my eyes in the darkness as I crept to the bedroom door. There was something on the landing. A dog? But Ruth didn’t have one. I prepared to run, but it didn’t move. I realised I’d been holding my breath and let out a sigh — it was my own crumpled jeans. I dashed out in a crouch, sweeping them up into my arms as another smash echoed around the house; he was in the attic. I didn’t have much time, he could be out any second and here was I, naked on the landing. I tiptoed down the stairs, the soft, deep carpet masking my steps. I swept up other items of clothing as I went, discarded in my earlier excitement.
I reached the bottom and glanced about. It was lighter down here; none of the drapes were closed. A warm breeze blew through the house, reminding me of my nakedness. I walked further into the lounge and looked to the open doorway which I knew led to the kitchen.
Pounding feet upstairs froze me to the spot, but thankfully they carried on into the end bedroom — the room I’d been hiding in not a minute before. A terrifying scream of rage followed by the splintering of wood could only mean he’d tipped the closet over. He roared and thrashed around the room, presumably taking his anger out on the furniture.
I knew I could leave via the patio doors but it was risky, so I used the racket to mask my movements and ran to the kitchen. I dropped my clothes to the floor. I hadn’t been wearing underwear — don’t ask — so just threw my jeans on. Only one sock. I put it on anyway, making a mental note to find the other. I could still smell the chilli Ruth had cooked earlier. Plates and cutlery were stacked next to the sink and empty beer bottles stood on the counter, surrounded by broken taco fragments. Bizarre reminders of normality, as if the house didn’t care that there was a serial killer on the loose. I pulled my shirt over my head, and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so vulnerable. Which was good, because the footsteps were pounding again. He knew I wasn’t in any of the upstairs rooms so there was only one place he could be headed next. I fastened the buckle of my belt just as he reached the top of the stairs.
He paused, presumably pondering his next move. I didn’t wait to find out. I tried the back door. Locked, and I had no idea where Ruth kept the key. I looked out the window to the lawn beyond. I’d never wanted to be outside so much in my life, the garden represented safety. I patted my jeans and felt the reassuring presence of my car keys. I’d parked down the street earlier that night, but at least it meant that when I did get out I had a means of escape.
An ominous creak came from the stairs. I moved silently back to the kitchen doorway and poked my head round. It was one of those staircases that are open to the side, leading straight into the living room. A dirty boot appeared from above. It hovered for a moment and then descended with a soft groan from the woodwork. A big heavy boot, but not a workman’s boots. Combat boots. It was followed by another as the man did his best to creep down the stairs. I briefly wondered whether I should I make a dash for the front door, but it was probably locked and I’d be left in the open. I slid up off the floor and onto the kitchen counter, backing up behind the kitchen door. I pushed myself against the wall and pulled the door right open so it rested against the cabinet. I figured he’d be dissuaded from looking behind. Not the most original hiding place but in the circumstances it would have to do.
A shuffling on the carpet signalled his arrival in the living room. The sounds dragged closer, agonisingly slowly, until finally he stood in the kitchen doorway. A nightmarish shadow fell across the tiles, long legs and wide body bending up across the kitchen door just like in a horror film. I held my breath.
He didn’t. I could hear him rasping on the other side of the door, just a sliver of plywood separating us. I willed my heart to stop in case the rapid beating gave me away. The familiar knife appeared round the door and a faint red smear streaked the wood. What an idiot I was. Twice in a row I’d forgotten rule number one of horror— grab a weapon. The knife block stood on the counter at the other end of the kitchen, well out of reach.
He whispered something. I can’t remember exactly what it was; something like “I’ll cut your fucking eyes out.” I couldn’t be sure, he muttered it so quietly in that deep hoarse voice, but that was the gist of it.
He lurched into the kitchen. I pressed my back hard into the wall, tucking my knees right up under my chin and tilting my head down. If I couldn’t see him, he wouldn’t see me — childrens’ logic. I could just about glimpse the back of his head now, long hair falling lankly across huge shoulders. The man really was a gorilla; there was no way I’d win in a straight fight, and on top of that he had a big fucking knife. He took another step forward, seeming to sniff the air like a dog. The shape seemed subhuman and ferine - an animal. I looked down. The knife glinted mere inches from my feet.
I realised I was fucked. He’d walked too far into the kitchen and any second now he’d turn to leave and see me cowering behind the door. I made a snap decision, and one that probably saved my life. I’m normally a coward but it was time to act.
I straightened my leg and thrust out my foot in one fluid motion, angling it upwards with the heel outstretched. I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but it was perfect. My heel struck him right at the base of his enormous skull, in that pit where your spine goes up into your brain. It hit just before my leg was fully outstretched, meaning I still had energy left to keep going, driving him forward across the kitchen. He flew at the door, reaching his arms out to steady himself. Unfortunately for him Ruth’s back door was glazed and his hands disappeared through with a deafening smash. I jumped down off the counter and looked for the knife but couldn’t see it. He staggered and swayed as if his body was deciding whether to lose consciousness. Taking the opportunity, I aimed a kick up into his belly and he slumped with a growl. As he did he dragged his arms down and back inside, smashing the glass further and slicing into the flesh of his forearms. He pushed against the door and tried to turn, thrashing wildly behind him. I knew better than to get within range of those arms; they were thicker than my legs. I backed away, feeling for the doorway behind me. He was already recovering so I needed to get out of the house — before I lost what little advantage I had. I turned and ran straight to the front door. Obviously it was locked. I looked for the key but it wasn’t immediately visible. There was a shout from the kitchen. I can’t recall what he said but let’s just say he was assuring me that he certainly meant to kill me. I didn’t have time to mess about looking for keys, so I ran into the dining room. The thin drapes over the patio doors billowed inwards, revealing a carpet littered with broken glass. I’d rather have gone out the front but this would have to do.
I dived for the door, squeezing through the gap. I sliced myself in the rush, but at least I was out and into the summer night air. I’d never been so happy to be outside. The lack of walls was liberating — I knew I could run in almost any direction if I needed to. I stood for a moment to get my breath back, planning my next move. The sweet scent of honeysuckle and eucalyptus mingled with the salty breeze drifting inland and for a fleeting moment I forgot where I was. I wiggled my toes on grass that was already damp with morning dew, which snapped me back to reality and reminded me that my feet were still bare. At the end of the garden a low fence separated me from the pine covered hillside. Normally I’d be able to lose someone in there but not in the dark and without my sneakers; I’d probably break a toe or slice my foot open before I got ten feet. I looked back at the house. The shape by the door had moved; the kitchen was empty. The only evidence of his presence were thin trickles of blood on the doorframe, glistening black against the white painted wood. I needed to move fast.
I felt again for my car keys and sprinted for the corner of the house. I poked my head out and then ran to the next corner. I looked round and down the street that ran past the houses with their short front yards. The Dodge was parked at the junction a good 500 feet or so away. I hadn't run that far for nearly twenty years but I was willing to try. I realised I was delaying, and went for it.
My feet slapped on the asphalt as I ran across the front of the house. As I approached the front door an alarm triggered in my mind. Something was amiss, but it didn't fully register so I kept going. Too late I realised that where the front door should have been was black space. My momentum carried me on.
He launched out of the open doorway.
I managed to glimpse huge lips, bent into a furious snarl, before he slammed into me. We crashed to the ground, rolling across the sidewalk and into the weeds. He landed on top of me but I managed to get a knee up and he came down hard onto it, driving the wind from his belly. He was far more powerful than me but I could tell he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Maybe he’d lost a lot of blood? I swung my right arm up and hooked my fist into his jaw, rocking him sideways. I tried to throw up my left arm but for some reason it refused to move. Getting to the car was no longer an option; I needed to finish this.
I swung again with my right fist and his nose exploded against my knuckles. He sat up, pulling both hands to his face. Blood streamed from between his fingers, mingling with the blood from his torn wrists before dripping onto my chest. I tried to move but he sat heavily on me, pushing his whole weight down. I strained to push him off, but again my left arm refused to move. I turned my head and gasped in shock. The kitchen knife — the same knife that had taken Ruth’s life — was embedded deeply in my shoulder. He must have had it in his hand when he’d lunged.
He dropped his hands away from his face and grinned. The smears of blood made him look even more maniacal, if that were possible. His teeth glowed as he snarled down at me. It sounds cheesy, but I knew I was staring at my killer. He reached down, encircling my throat with his fat fingers, and squeezed. I struggled but he was just too big, too heavy. Even with his injuries he was twice as strong as I was.
I've never lost consciousness before but I came close. His teeth stopped glowing and my vision dimmed as if turned down by a dial. My world gained a fuzzy black border which crept inwards until all I could see was that savage grin. I could feel myself sliding away; little sparks exploding behind my eyes told me I had just seconds to live.
I reached across my chest and gripped the handle of the kitchen knife still embedded in my shoulder. He didn't care, I was no longer a threat. In one movement I slid the knife out of my shoulder, pulled it down to my stomach, and thrust upwards. I twisted my hand and the effect was instantaneous.
He roared in agony and rolled off me, clutching between his legs as if that would reattach things. I rolled on top of him and brought the knife in hard against his neck. The blackness receded and my vision returned. I sat on top of him catching my breath as he spluttered, losing his. Blood gurgled out from between his lips. I yanked the knife out of his neck and watched his life pump out through the weeds and across the blacktop.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply for what seemed like ages, but was probably only seconds. When I opened them the sky seemed brighter. In the last few minutes night had lost out to the dawn. Birds had started to wake and the trees were already full of song. The air was thick with that warm damp smell of a summer morning.
I struggled to my feet and looked down at the figure spread out on the dirt. His huge beastly frame matched his enormous head, completely covered in blood. I had absolutely no idea who he was.
Which was odd, because I’d been watching Ruth’s house most of the day.
That’s how I pick them — I make sure they live alone. I choose a nice remote house with no neighbours to hear them scream. I figure he was Ruth’s boyfriend; he must have been in the bathroom when I’d stuck her. I realised this was actually a good thing — I’d taken on this guy and won. Maybe I don’t need to stick to lone women any more. Maybe tonight I’ll branch out to whole families.
But first I needed to find my other sock.
And then collect the guy’s eyes, like I did with Ruth and the others. I didn't want the police to be able to see me.
The sky brightened over the trees. Yesterday was a bad day, but I have a feeling today is going to be better.