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By Bradley Darewood All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror

The Killer 10

Mike stirred the chicken in the skillet. It had been decomposing in the refrigerator for over a week but if he just cooked it long enough it should kill all of the bacteria. Right?

"Do I look fat?" Mike mused to his roommate, pinching his abs self-consciously.

Joe looked at his friend flatly. "Do you even own a penis?"

"I'm seeing Alicia--"


"Wait, how did you--"

"I hear all your phone conversations."

"That's creepy, dude."

"Trust me, if I could get a lobotomy to make the voices stop, I would. You're on the phone in the fucking living room. And the kitchen. And in the goddamn bathroom."

"She likes to talk--"

"Six times a day." Joe pitched his voice in his best whiny falsetto, "Oh baby, you're too beautiful for that job. Fuck the office work. They're lucky to have you."

"You wouldn't understand. Long distance relationships are hard."

"She's cheating on you."


"I said she's cheating on you."

"You haven't even met her."

"High-maintenance girls always cheat. They're never satisfied. It's like a psychological defense so they can tell themselves you deserved to be cheated on when they're boning some jackass they met at the grocery store."

"I'm not taking relationship advice from a loser with no girlfriend."

"Trust me, I'd be single till the end of time if it meant I never had to be in a relationship with your girlfriend. I'm traumatized just overhearing it on the phone."

"Luckily, I could give a shit about your opinion. In fifteen minutes, I'm going to be on the road and on the way to see my boo."

"Your boo?" Joe made a face at the word. "Wait-- in fifteen minutes? It's almost 10 PM, and it’s an eight-hour drive to LA."

Mike slid the chicken off of the skillet and onto his plate. "This is the only three-day weekend I've had since I moved here, and she wants me there right away." He shoveled a forkful of chicken into his mouth.

"Jesus," Joe rolled his eyes as he walked out of the kitchen in disgust. "You're not taking the 10 freeway, are you?" he called from the living room.

"What do you mean?" Mike followed his roommate in curiosity, plate in hand. "Of course I'm taking the 10. The 8 takes two hours longer."

"Jesus. At night? Aren't you afraid of the Killer 10?"

"The what?"

Joe looked at his friend incredulously. "The serial killer. Do you live in a cave?"

"That sounds like a swimsuit calendar, not the name for a serial killer." Mike took another bite of chicken.

"There's twelve months in a calendar not ten, dipshit. He's named 'the Killer 10' after the freeway. The I-10."

"That's a lot of ground for a serial killer to cover."

"At rest stops, gas stations, anywhere dark and secluded off of the 10, he bludgeons his victims to death, cuts out their tongue, then cuts their ears off and puts them in their mouth."


"Fuck if I know, he's a serial killer. Don't ask why. He's crazy. When he's done, he scrawls a number in his victim's blood, on a building or asphalt or wherever."

"A number?"

"A tally. The last one was number eleven."

"I was thinking he'd stop at ten…."

"This is serious, Mike. I'm urging you as a friend. Take the 8."

"I like to think of you less as a friend and more like a jackass I live with who has no idea what he's talking about. If this serial killer you invented was real, I would have seen something on the news."

Joe guffawed. "Who the hell watches the news anymore? Everyone's talking about it on Facebook."

Mike raised an eyebrow.  "Betty White's funeral has been trending on Facebook more times than I can count. The first time I believed it and almost cried."

Joe winced. "Betty White? You really don't own a penis."

"I'm not making a decision based upon 'news' you got from status updates sandwiched between cat memes." Mike stuffed the last bit of chicken into his mouth and set his plate on the living room coffee table. It really didn't taste rotten at all with enough ketchup. He grabbed his duffel bag off the couch.

"You're just going to leave that there?" Joe said, motioning at the plate.

"I'll wash it when I get back."

"In three days?"

Mike smiled at his roommate's irritation as he let himself out the door.

His hair stood on end as the night's chill ran its invisible fingers over his skin.  The streetlight outside their house had long been broken, as was the light inside his car. Darkness was as thick as soup, the moon hidden behind clouds crisscrossed by the gnarled silhouettes of dead trees. Shadows upon shadows gave the street an eerie depth.

A low grumble faintly registered in Mike's ears, but he paid it no mind. Popping the back door of his car open, he tossed his bag in without a second thought. He shuddered. He would definitely need to use the heater tonight.

The roads were empty as he found his way to the 10 freeway. Not a soul in sight. Even for late at night, the freeway was oddly empty. Maybe Joe had been telling the truth and there really was a serial killer. Mike shrugged. Less traffic wasn't a bad thing.

It wasn't long before Mike found himself missing the traffic. He was driving alone. For hours. Nothing but black existed beyond the halo of his headlights. Empty monotonous darkness. Mike shook his head, catching himself-- had he just blacked out? He was still in his lane at least. This was going to be a long drive. A low grumble whispered in his ears once again. If he was going to survive this ride, he was really going to need some coffee. The lights of Phoenix appeared in the distance. Had he already driven two hours?

Phoenix. What a shithole. Did he really want coffee from Phoenix? A gas station French Vanilla cappuccino would probably mean oily dregs in heated vats that got cleaned once a year, refilled by a crusty old woman who didn't wash her hands. Mike cringed. Phoenix.

His eyes rolled into the back of his head once again; this time he nearly swerved off the road. He was going to need coffee fast. The grumble returned, slightly louder than before.

Mike made his way to the nearest exit. A stretch and coffee. That was exactly what he needed.

His headlights revealed concrete, dirt and chain-link fences-- the lifeless Phoenix landscape Mike reviled. Where the hell was a gas station?

The grumble was getting louder. Mike's eyes lit up in alarm. That noise had come from his stomach. Oh god. The chicken!

Coffee faded from his mind as the all-consuming urge to shit took over.

Fuck! Where the fuck is a gas station! He cursed himself for cooking rotten meat. He was such an idiot! Oh god, it hurts.

A gas station appeared on the left side of the street, on the other side of a median. Damn!  With a rapid jerk of the wheel, he whipped across the road, grinding the bottom of his car with a loud scrape in the process.

Accelerator to the floor, he tore into the gas station and screeched to a halt beside the entrance to the QwikieMart. Leaping out of his car, he rushed to the doors. With a loud bang, they resisted his attempt to pull them open. He tried again. The doors were locked shut.

Peering inside, past the candy bars and coffee, he could see the restroom sign, teasing him with the false promise of release. To the right was a counter with a woman behind it, looking extremely displeased. She rolled her eyes motioning to the window.

Mike hobbled over, using every ounce of his will to clench his anus. He put his face to the steel mesh hole in the bulletproof glass. "Thank god you're here, I really need to--"

"Just a minute," she held up her left hand as her right hand finished a text message on her phone. "Okay, go ahead."

"I just really need to use the restroom. I think I'm going to die."

She looked at him flatly, as if disgusted he had the audacity to ask to use the toilet. "M-mn."

"M-mn?" Mike asked in confusion.


"Please, I'm begging you."

"Beg away. The restrooms are closed to the public."

"There's a sign, I can see it from right here."

"There's another sign on the bathroom door. It says 'CLOSED'."

"Please, I'll buy something… or I can just give you some money or something."

"Are you trying to bribe me, asshole? Who do I look like to you? I ain't opening that door for no one."

"I swear I'm not a robber. I'm not a serial killer. I just really need to shit."

"We don't let people use the toilets when there isn't a serial killer on the lose. No. Public. Restrooms." The woman pulled a firearm out from under the counter.

"Jesus!" Mike begged, "Please! I'll do anything you want, just let me use the toilet."

The woman hefted her gun. "Get out of here before I call the police."

Phoenix. Police state of paranoid assholes with guns. The city made the national news on a regular basis for abuses committed by its police.

Mike wobbled to his car, his stomach feeling like it might explode. How was he going to bend? "Jesus, I hate this city," he murmured.

Peeling off as fast as he could go, Mike found his way back to the freeway. He pressed his left foot against the floor of the car as hard as it would go, his face contorted in an agonized wince. He clutched his seat belt in his mouth, biting it and screaming at the same time. His stomach grumbled again, like a volcano threatening to explode.

With a violent turn of the steering wheel, he pulled off into the next exit. He barely remembered pulling into the gas station and parking; the agony in his stomach obliterated all other thought.

"I… I need to use the restroom," he gasped into the bulletproof window.

"I'm really sorry," the man on the other side said. "We don't have a public restroom here."

"For fuck's sake, is there any public restroom in all of Phoenix?"

"The police told us not to let people in the bathrooms. Too many drug addicts. And terrorists."

"You're worried that a terrorist is going to take a shit. In Phoenix. Why the fuck would a terrorist come to Ari-fucking-zona to take a shit?"

"I don't know. Terrorists is crazy. You never know where they want to shit."

Mike closed his eyes and put his hand over his face in agonized frustration.

"Look," the attendant continued, "there's a Mexican restaurant across the street that's open late. They've got a restroom if you buy some tacos."

Mike didn't even wait to say thanks. In a strange combination of a wobble and a sprint, he rushed in the direction of the Mexican restaurant. He couldn't risk trying to sit in the car again. If he bent like that, he'd soil himself for sure.

As he approached the restaurant, his heart began to sink. The place was completely empty. It had to be closed. He shook the locked door with all his strength, tears rolling from his eyes. "Please! For the love of god!" he shouted to no one in particular.

His body couldn't take any more. There was no way this was going to end well. He didn’t think he could even make it to his car. Mike wobble-sprinted his way to the back of the restaurant.

His stomach grumbled again, Mother Nature's guttural call.

Jesusfuck! Oh god, Jesusfuck! Is that a new word? If it's not, it should be. I think I invented a new word. Mike made a mental note to look up "Jesusfuck" in the urban dictionary when he got to Alicia's house.

Thoughts of the urban dictionary vanished as the deadly storm brewing in his stomach churned once again. It was coming. It was coming now.

Mike ripped the shoe off of his right foot and pulled his right leg up through his pants and underpants.  The bundle hung wrapped around his left leg as Mike dropped into a squat.

In a moment it was over. His clothes gripped in one hand, his other hand gripping his hair, he hovered over a pile of shit as his bladder emptied itself. He moaned, then panted in relief. He could feel the urine seeping into his right sock, but he didn't care. "Thank god," he whispered to himself.

A disturbing thought interrupted his moment of Zen. How was he going to wipe? Looking around, Mike saw nothing but concrete and dirt. "Fuck."

Easing the clothes off of his leg, he eyed the bundle sadly. He was going to have to sacrifice his favorite pair of underwear. The pair he always wore to impress Alicia.

With a determined face he wadded up his underwear and began to clean himself. "Fuck you, Phoenix," Mike murmured.

Suddenly, he froze in mid-wipe.

A shadow moved.

Mike's mind filled with horrific thoughts of being bludgeoned to death pants-less and in his own feces. Something crept closer, the sound of its wheezing breath loud, deep and unnerving.

He looked around frantically for something to defend himself with. He had nothing but his soiled underpants. The dark figure approached.

An unkempt man with a ratty beard and crazed eyes crept out of the darkness. The man's chest heaved rapidly as he breathed at a breakneck pace. He reached into his oversized coat. Mike whimpered. He cringed, turning his face away.

"S-sorry. I-I just… I had a napkin."

Mike opened his eyes. The stranger was gripping his frizzy, unwashed hair with one hand, while offering a napkin with the other. He motioned to Mike's underwear, brown with his own feces.

"Uh, thanks, I think I got it handled."

"S-sorry. I-I didn't mean to scare you." The homeless man backed away, retreating like a beaten dog, embarrassed that he'd interrupted Mike's shit.

"No, it's okay. That army jacket. Are you a vet?"

The man didn't say anything. He clutched his jacket till his hands went white.

"Why… why are you out here?" Mike continued.

"I've seen… things. The things I've seen. Horrible. Horrible things."

"In the war?"


"Where then?"

"Not… not in the war."

Mike shrugged; he wasn't going to get an answer. Clearly, the man was traumatized. He looked down. Perhaps it was his exposed genitals that had made the homeless guy uncomfortable. Mike slid his pants back on and dug into his pocket. All he had was a twenty. "Fuck it. Here." He held out the bill.

"I didn't ask for your money."

"Take it. Buy a forty. Wipe your ass with it. I don't care. Let's just say I have a new appreciation for what it's like to be stuck out here surrounded by assholes with no place to shit. At least I get to drive my way out of here. You're stuck."

The homeless man reached his hand out and took the bill, looking away shyly. He held it close, gingerly, like a girl who had just been given a stuffed bear and a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day.

"Look, I know that's pretty much nothing. But I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what happened to you. For whatever it was that you saw."

A darkness touched the homeless man's eyes. "I'll see it again."

"I don't underst--"



"NHUH!"  Spittle spewed out of the indigent's mouth.  Thick snot dripped from his nose.  "NHUUUUH!" His eyes rolled back into his head.

Mike jumped back involuntarily.

"I see it! I can see it! There are no birds. Just me. Tweet! Tweet-tweet!"

"Holy fuck, you're scaring the shit out of me."

"You're not scared yet. Not yet." The man picked at his hair, like a tweaker with a nervous twitch. "I see it. I see it before it happens. I see it all." He slapped his hand against this head, as if trying to bang the images out of his ears.

"Are you… having a seizure?"  Mike took another step back, unsure of what to do.

"Jesusfuck!" the homeless man shouted.

Jesusfuck? I must have said it out loud. He must have heard me say Jesusfuck. Mike wrung his hands.

"Jesusfuck! Three times! Jesusfuck!"

Mike opened his mouth to say something, but his thoughts seemed caught in his mouth.

"The first time, pain. The second time, fear! Jesusfuck! JESUSFUCK! The third time!" The homeless man punched his temple, thick white globs hanging from his nose, froth dripping out the side of his mouth.

"And… the third time?" Mike asked, unable to resist.

"The third time!  The third time! The third time!"


"The third time… dread."

The homeless man stood silent for a moment. Mike watched, unable to move.

The man gripped his hair tight in his hand, and looked Mike straight in the face with those eyes rolled back in his head. "Tweet-tweet! Tweet-tweet! I am not a bird. I AM NOT A BIRD!!!" he shrieked.

Suddenly he stiffened, then crumpled to his knees like a lifeless doll. He knelt there for a moment, his head hung low, breathing.

"Th… thank you for the twenty," he said softly.

"I, uh…. You're welcome. I gotta… uh, go."

"Just… try to get back to Alicia. Try."

Mike's blood ran cold. How did he know her name? Mike must have mentioned her and just forgot. He must have.

Mike made his way back to his car. He hadn't found coffee, but his adrenaline was pumping.

Speeding on the freeway, he was relieved to see the lights of Phoenix disappear behind him. That had to be the creepiest homeless man he'd ever met in his life. That was actually the only homeless man Mike had ever met, but he felt confident that, had he met any others, they would have been less creepy.

A blue sign appeared in the darkness.


They need a sign like that when entering Phoenix, Mike mused.

He attempted to take his mind off of Phoenix and the creepy homeless man by turning on the radio. The harsh sound of static filled his car. He pushed a button and the radio searched for signal, cycling thorough numbers until it landed, at last, on a working station.

Christian rock. Mike winced. At least it wasn't country music. Actually, it was kind of catchy. "Keep on, keep on. You're not alone!" He sang along in the car. Until the music stopped and the radio announcer, a woman with a thick twang, came on.

"Now that's such a nice song about turnin' the other cheek, but when Jesus said all that, it was in a time before there was terrorists. I can guarantee that if Jesus were born again today, he'd be a proud member of the NRA. Let me--"

Mike turned off the radio, wincing once again. He had a headache. He had forgotten why he always kept the radio off on these trips. There was no quicker way to remind himself why he was an atheist than to listen to Christian radio.

The quiet of the drive was interrupted by a low grumble. Oh no.

His eyes scanned desperately for some sign of an exit.


Thank god. A rest stop. No gas station attendants with guns. Just toilets.

Mike pushed the accelerator as far down as it would go. He couldn't spare any more underwear to use as toilet paper-- if he even made it out of the car. He could feel his insides tremble as his stomach rumbled once again. He had to make it to that rest stop!

The world exploded in agony, and he clenched his jaw in strain. Could he burst a blood vessel this way? His eyes scanned the side of the road for another sign.


Fifteen miles? He'd only driven ten miles! It felt like an hour had passed! What the fuck! Mike gripped the steering wheel so hard he feared it might break, and shrieked into the air.

"Count. I need to count," he told himself.  "Like counting sheep. I'll count the seconds of each minute until I get there."

Fifteen miles, fifteen minutes. Well, at this speed, more like ten minutes.

"One. Two. THREE!" Mike shouted as every muscle in his body clenched, trying to hold the diseased chicken in his intestines. "F-f-fooooouuuuurrrr! OH GOD!" Mike's face twisted until the road blurred, but the car stayed in its lane. "Five! Five-Five-FIVE!" He punched the dashboard in an attempt to distract himself from his pain. He rocked back and forth in his seat. How many seconds are there in ten minutes? "Six! Seven! Oh fuck, SEVEN!" Six hundred. Fuck. Me. SIX HUNDRED. "Eight! Motherfucking eight!"

The empty road stared impassively back at him. Mike screamed the numbers, calling upon every reserve of strength he had. "What? You want a piece of me, you piece of shit freeway? Nine! That's right! Nine!" Sweat dripped down Mike's flushed face. If he bit his lip any harder, he'd draw blood. 

"Ten." The Killer 10.

"Eleven." Eleven victims.

"FUCK COUNTING!" Mike punched the dashboard again, with a cry of rage.  "For the love of god let me exit!"


How had that happened? The counting worked! He was almost there.

Five more miles. Five more miles. He could do this.

Four! Four more miles!

Mike's tears of pain turned to tears of joy. He might not shit his pants after all!


Euphoria sunk into Mike's very bones as he sped his car down the exit ramp to the unlit rest area. He parked his car between a Jetta and a beat-up old truck.  The only cars he'd seen all night. He didn't pay them much mind-- he was focused on one thing and one thing only: the toilet.

Mike felt like an athlete finishing a marathon. Fuck runners. My sphincter could probably compete in the Olympics after all this. He sprinted to his finish line: the Men's Room. Swinging the door open, he was met with impenetrable blackness and the smell of piss and shit. Mike stumbled through the darkness as fast as he could wobble. Of course the lights would be out. Just my luck.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet. It sounded like some sort of strange, nasal birdcall. A bird must be trapped in the bathroom.

A loud grumble shook his stomach once again. There was no time to grab his phone. He had to find the toilet now.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

Mike felt his way to the nearest stall, tearing the door open and reaching for the wall. He grabbed a support bar. Good. He was in the handicapped bathroom. Those were his favorite toilets. They were the most spacious.

"Ew." Mike winced. The floor was wet and sticky.

He didn't have the luxury of hesitating. Forcing his pants down, he threw his ass in the direction of the toilet just in time to launch a burning stream of high-velocity shit into the toilet bowl. Gross. The toilet seat was sticky and wet too. And it was warm. The piss must be fresh. Mike shuddered.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet. What a weird sounding bird. It was so close. Maybe even in the stall with him.

His bowels released, Mike sighed in relief. He reached into his pocket for his phone. He would need a light to find the toilet paper. He flicked the light on.

A face! Inches to his right was a girl crouched over something. Her face was red with a coat of fresh, glistening blood. A bloody finger to her lips. "Shh!"

Mike let out a high-pitched shriek and leapt off the toilet, his dick flopping in the chilly air. His phone tumbled to the ground with an unpleasant crack. "Jesusfuck!"

His pants still at his ankles, he dropped to the ground. The sticky wet ground. Slick. Slick with… blood. Like the toilet. He had been sitting on blood. He had seen something behind the girl, on the wall of the stall…  Oh god. It had been a number… Twelve, scrawled in blood. Oh. God.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

Shaking, his hands and knees wet with blood, he felt along the floor for his phone. He felt… something slimy. A slug? He reached next to it and found his phone. The screen felt cracked. Fuck. He pushed the button on the side of the phone, and a spider web of shattered glass lit up. That hadn't been a slug. In the puddle of blood before him was a severed tongue.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

Mike's eyes lifted slowly. A girl, drenched in blood crouched over a man.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

His face… what was left of his face, was unrecognizable. Blood oozed from the side of his torn mouth, his teeth scattered around him. His nose… where was his nose? Bashed in, perhaps. His jaw hung, dislocated, twisted into an unnatural shape. His ears had been cut off and stuffed into his mouth.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

The man's chest heaved up and down, hyperventilating, his mangled, tongue-less face making the only sound it could: Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

That was not a bird.

"Holy fuck," Mike breathed.

The girl pointed at his phone in alarm.

"I'm not getting any reception out here. Besides, I think it's broken."

"No," the girl hissed in an alarmed whisper, "turn it off! He'll see!" She pointed at his exposed manhood. "And for Christ’s sake pull your pants up."

"Who's 'he'?" Mike pulled his trousers up, slipping his phone into his pocket.

"Him," her voice trembled. "Oh god, he's going to kill us all."

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

"Please tell me you have a gun," she whispered in desperation. "We have to kill him."

"No, I don't."

"You're kidding."

"I'm not from Arizona."

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

Suddenly he felt a bloody hand over his mouth. "He's coming," he heard her whisper in his ear. He could taste the blood on her hand, feel the blood from the toilet sticking to the back of his legs. His heart pounded like a drum about to explode.

The door to the restroom creaked open, and the sound of sluggish footsteps filled the room. There was the clank of something metal. Something metal in his hand.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

The footsteps approached, then stopped just in front of the stall door.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

The locked stall creaked as the killer leaned softly against it. A ragged breath escaped his lips. Something in his hands was dripping… with blood?

What the hell is he doing? Mike wondered. He wanted to stand, but his legs were shaking. The girl's hand was over his mouth, but Mike didn't dare breathe.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

On the other side of the door, the killer's breath seemed to catch, and an agonized moan escaped his lips. Shuddered, rapid breaths escaped the killer's heaving lungs. Was he… crying? Sadness turned to rage, and the killer let out a shriek. Something metal struck the wall. Debris rained on the sticky bathroom floor.

Mike jumped involuntarily. His lungs ached from holding his breath.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

The moaning whimper returned, but the killer turned away from the door. He slowly shuffled out of the bathroom.

Mike released his breath, then immediately inhaled, his lungs thirsty for air. "Holy shit," he gasped. If he hadn't just used the toilet, he would without question want to piss himself in fear. "We just… we just need to get to my car. We'll get out of here without him seeing us."

"Your car won't start."

"How do you know?"

"Because that's the first thing he does. He cuts the wires to your car. That's what he did to me. What he did to… him."

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

"We're fucked. Oh god, we're fucked." Mike gripped his hair with his hands.

"I have a baseball bat. In my car."

"And… how is that going to start my car?"

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

"You have to kill him. You have to take the bat and kill him."

"I can't! I don't even know how to play baseball! I do… back squats… and bench press…. These muscles are just for show!"

Thwack! The girl slapped Mike across the face. She had a solid slap for a girl that size. Her hand left a sticky trail, the other man's blood smeared across his face. "Pull it together. If you don't, we are both going to die!"

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

"Okay," Mike took a deep breath.

"Are you ready?"


Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

"Do you want to end up like him?" He couldn't see her, but he knew she was motioning to the mangled man on the stall floor.

Mike didn't think he could do this, but it was now or never. He stood, his legs shaking uncontrollably. He opened the stall door and felt his way across the dark bathroom. The girl followed, gripping his left hand tightly.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

He found the restroom door. Gently pressing it forward, he peeked through the crack. He could see the killer, seven hundred feet away. The murderer stood facing the beat-up truck, its hood popped. His head was shaved, and his bloodstained wife-beater revealed the rippling muscles of his back. He stood a hulking six-foot-two. In his hand was a giant monkey wrench, perhaps a foot long, red with fresh blood.

"How are we going to get to the car? He's right there!" Mike hissed.

"We can get closer, hide by the vending machines. When he moves away from the cars, we make a run for my trunk." She pressed her keys in his hand.

Mike's heart was in his throat as he left the bathrooms. He hadn't been on a treadmill in ages. Oh god, we're going to die.

The killer seemed absorbed with the truck, tinkering around under the hood as Mike and the girl slid carefully out of the Men's Room. A second building would provide shelter, if they could get to it. Mike crept forward on his shaking legs, trying to quell the panic inside. Soon, they were hidden from view once again. Sliding around the back of the second building brought them to the vending machines. Their low hum grew louder as Mike and his companion approached them. He looked at the girl, her face glowing in the neon light of the machines. He could feel them vibrate as he pressed against them, peeking around ever so slowly. The killer was right there, less than 30 feet away.

The muscle-bound behemoth set his blood-coated wrench on the ground as he reached into the hood.

The girl nudged Mike, mouthing the word "now."

Mike shook his head in horror.

The girl nudged again.

The muscular man pulled himself out from under the hood. Whatever opportunity had been was lost. Wiping his hands on his pants, the man walked to the back of the truck.

The girl shoved Mike forward.

Mike could barely hear the sound of the killer rummaging through the back of his truck over the pounding of his heart. After what seemed like an eternity, they were crouched on the far side of the girl's car. She motioned toward the trunk. But Mike's eyes were in the opposite direction. The bloody wrench lay unattended on the sidewalk at the front of the nearby truck.

Before he could stop himself, Mike leapt forward.

The killer froze, perking his ears, then raced to the front of the truck. The hulking shadow approached, but with a cry Mike dove onto the ground. He grabbed the wrench, his body scraping against concrete.

The killer lifted his arm to strike, but Mike swept the wrench with all his strength, snapping the killer's forearm with a loud crack. The bald man howled in agony, clutching his arm. Mike took a second swipe to the man's face, teeth spraying onto the ground.

Blood flowed from the man's broken lips. "Ghuh-hu-huh…" he moaned.

He didn't… he didn't have a tongue. Was that why he cut his victims' tongues out? Because he didn't have a tongue of his own? Mike winced at the hideous monster before him. A hulking mute creature, driven to madness.  The savage monstrosity fell to his knees, a defeated look on his face. Like he wanted to die.

"Kill him!" the girl shrieked from behind him.

"He's not… he's not fighting!"

"Quick! Before he changes his mind!"

Mike swung the wrench into the man's face, and it hit with a sickening crunch. Mike did it again and again, as hard and fast as he could. Bone cracked and blood splattered as Mike demolished the man's face. The killer fell to the ground, but Mike didn't stop, shrieking as he bludgeoned his victim to death.

Chest heaving for breath, Mike looked at his handiwork in disgust. What was left of the man's face was unrecognizable. Blood oozed from the side of his torn mouth, his teeth scattered around him. His nose… where was his nose? Bashed in, perhaps. His jaw hung, dislocated, twisted into an unnatural shape. But the man was still alive, in agony, breathing rapidly.

Heet. Heet. Heet. Heet.

The girl pushed past Mike and knelt over the killer.

"I wouldn't--"

She pulled a pocketknife out of her pocket, and began to saw off the man's ears.

"What… what are you doing?"

Ignoring Mike, she stuffed the ears in the man's motionless mouth. "It never takes much," she said casually. She plunged the knife into his midsection, cutting enough of a space to reach her hand in, soaking it with blood. "When men are afraid, violence always follows." On the sidewalk beside the man, she scrawled the number thirteen with the dead man's innards.


"You're… the Killer 10," Mike said, backing away in horror. The bloody wrench fell to the ground with a clatter.

"No." The girl offered a wicked smile. "You are."

"The Killer 10" will appear in Gifts from the Dark: A Dread Anthology alongside other great works of horror in Fall of 2015.
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