Love at Death's Door

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Final Chapter

There was a feeling in the air, something that existed firmly between overwhelming dread and electric excitement. The upcoming confrontation between Tatiana, Edward, and their captor, the Haysfield Butcher, was fast approaching, and like a twisted, high stakes casino game, the result would be everything or nothing. Life or death.

Tatiana and Edward used nearly every second of their five-minute curfew to pilfer as much plunder as possible. In the rooms along the hall leading to their destination, Edward procured a crowbar and a bloodstained kitchen knife, while Tatiana opted for a small but weighty hammer. Now that she lacked her right hand, the woman needed a weapon that could be effectively wielded with the clumsy imprecision of a non-dominant grip. After securing their weapons, the pair made their way to the end of the hall. The only thing that stood between them and their potential freedom was a pair of large, double doors.

“Are you ready?” Edward asked, nervously.

“As I’ll ever be. Like I said, let’s go kill this bastard.”

With Tatiana’s strong words resounding in their minds, the duo pushed open the tall, metal doors and entered inside. The room that greeted them was larger than they expected and filled with aging machinery. Shockingly, in contrast to the halls outside the room that were lit only by a series of dim, red lights, this room was fully illuminated.

“I don’t get it,” Tatiana started. “Did they never cut the power to this place?”

“They should have. Either this guy has his own generators hidden somewhere, or he has friends in high places looking the other way.”

“Not sure I like those implications. Aside from that, why would he turn the lights on in here, anyway?”

“Because I’m sick of chasing you rats around in the dark!” the Butcher answered, seemingly appearing from nowhere. “Besides, my viewers made it very clear to me that they want to see every gory detail of your deaths.”

The Butcher’s booming voice startled the pair, and for the first time since sustaining his injury, he stood across from them, allowing them to observe him. He still wore his burlap mask, but under the bright lights, his bloodshot glare was clearly visible. Just as Tatiana had taunted, his deep, bleeding wound had been hastily patched up with thick pieces of duct tape. Finally, in his left hand, he tightly gripped a long, bloody machete—the same machete that Edward had plunged into his body.

“Of course they do,” said Tatiana, finally responding to the murderer. “But they’re gonna have to settle for watching you die instead. Don’t worry though, I promise to make it plenty entertaining for them.”

The Butcher laughed briefly, a fit of coughing ending his enjoyment as quickly as it began. The killer growled at the thought of showing his prey any level of weakness as he clutched his covered wound.

“You’re welcome for that, by the way,” Edward bragged, his eyes glued to his handiwork.

“Ah, yes. The more forgettable of the two. I’ve been fantasizing so much about watching the life slowly leave that wench’s eyes that I nearly forgot about you.”

“Don’t pretend you’d ever forget about me,” said Edward. “Must’ve been hell pulling that machete out of you. Let me guess, you’re going to kill me with it as revenge?”

“No, I’m going to kill you with this.”

Before the man or woman ever noticed what was happening, a deafening bang echoed throughout the large room. Tatiana jolted at the unexpected noise and blinked rapidly. When her eyes ceased their movement, they locked onto an object in the Butcher’s right hand. Its form was unmistakable.

It was a handgun.

A sickening thud coincided with Tatiana’s realization, instantly drawing her attention. On the floor beside her was Edward Smith. The man was wide-eyed, flat on his back with a hole in his shirt from which a pool of crimson grew ever larger.

“Edward!” cried Tatiana. The woman dropped the hammer and fell to her knees at Edward’s side. Tears were welling up in his brown eyes that appeared to be fixated on an invisible target.

“There it is!” the Butcher cheered, deep, pained laughter bookending his words. “There’s the fear I wanted to see out of you! How does it feel to know it was all pointless?”

“Edward, please stay with me!” Tatiana pleaded, ignoring the taunts of the Butcher.

“Look at his eyes closely, Tatiana,” said the Butcher. “I’ve seen that stare many times. It even makes my heart flutter a bit. What do you suppose they’re looking at when they stare like that? Maybe you have the answer?”

Edward’s eyes rolled back as his eyelids gave out, finally shutting. His head fell aside, and his body went limp, prompting the woman to grab a clump of her hair tightly between her fingers. Her ears were still ringing from both the sound of the gunshot and her own screams and she could feel her heartrate spiking higher the more she looked at his lifeless form.

“He’s dead. I killed him, Tatiana. I killed him right in front of you and you didn’t do a damn thing about it. You stood there, childishly mocking me, not noticing the gun I held behind my back the entire time.”

Tatiana’s lips quivered and her eyes twitched, threatening a torrent of tears, but fast building rage forged a dam that denied their release. The Butcher’s taunts, penetrated her mind slowly, festering more and more until the woman yanked the hammer up into her grasp and leapt to her feet, releasing a throat scarring roar.

“I’m going to fucking kill you!”

“That’s it, that’s what I wanted to see! Now, come at me. Come at me and die like the little bitch you are!”

Consumed by a fierce, primal rage, Tatiana charged manically at the Butcher. The alarming difference in stature did not appear to matter to the woman who was wild-eyed, screaming so loud it disoriented the masked man ever so slightly. As she quickly reached his perimeter, he swung the machete, stumbling back a bit in an attempt to widen the reach of his attack. Tatiana ducked the swing easily and speared the Butcher right where he was most vulnerable—his wound. The force of her spear made him drop the machete and forced him off his feet and onto the floor.

Wasting no time, Tatiana mounted the Butcher and made several attempts to bury the hammer into his skull. Agitated and agonizing through pain far more excruciating than he wanted to admit, the Butcher dodged each swing just barely and responded with an uppercut that knocked the woman loopy and sent her flying off him. He whimpered in anguish and pulled himself up and onto his dazed prey. With a fierce battle cry of his own, the murderer grabbed hold of Tatiana’s throat with his left hand, squeezing with all the force he could manage.

Reveling in the woman’s desperate flailing and choking, the Butcher shouted, “that’s right, choke! I couldn’t feel any more alive right now, and that look on your face tells me you’ve never felt so close to death. Oh, the fucking irony!”

Tatiana slapped helplessly at the Butcher’s grasp, but it was pointless. Perhaps through pure survival instinct alone, her oxygen deprived brain delivered to her an idea. As her legs thrashed around uncontrollably, the woman moved her left arm across her body and under the Butcher’s heavy form, and with all the intensity she could muster in her less-than-ideal position, she jabbed at the man’s duct tape covered wound. He howled and instantly released his grip to reflexively grab at his sensitive injury. Tatiana immediately began coughing as she struggled to regain her breath.

“I’ve had it with you!” the Butcher yelled. In a single, swift movement, he shoved the barrel of the handgun into the side of Tatiana’s temple. “Die!”

The man squeezed the trigger as hard as he possibly could, awaiting the loud noise that was sure to follow and sickly anticipating the sight of Tatiana’s brains splattered under her skull. The sound that played to his ears was not a thunderous pop, however. Instead, he found himself squeezing over and over to the disappointing tune of repetitive silence. His gun had jammed.

“Huh?” the Butcher whined in confusion before a sharp pain shot up through his body. The woman beneath him had viciously slammed his testicles with her shin. Involuntarily, he rolled off her and clutched his pearls tightly.

Tatiana kicked the gun across the room and stumbled over to a set of metal stairs. She was still coughing and trying to catch her breath. Knowing he wouldn’t stay down long; she ascended the staircase to put some distance between herself and the killer. She hated to feel like she was running from the man she so desperately wanted to kill, but she knew that she couldn’t fight unless she bought herself enough time to recover.

“Fucking bitch!” the Butcher cried out in agony. As the woman predicted, he got back to his feet and began limping up the stairs behind her.

Tatiana made her way to a bridge that helped form “H” shape between the walkways the stairs led to. She paused to take a few breaths that, at last, restored her composure. The Butcher stood across the bridge from her, sucking air though his burlap mask.

“I changed my mind,” the Butcher said. “That cancer of yours isn’t going to have the chance to eat you alive, because when I catch you, I’m going to do it myself!”

Fed up with running, Tatiana ran towards the Butcher—a move he appeared not to expect. The brunette hurled her body at his with all her might, pushing him back against the guardrail. He resisted her much lower weight easily at first but struggled when she began tearing at his wound once more. The killer secured himself by wrapping his right arm around the guard rail and started delivering desperate elbows into the woman’s back. She cried out in pain with each strike but kept digging at the man’s wound and pushing with all her bodyweight to push him over the rail.

Tatiana felt her knees buckling beneath her. She wouldn’t be able to keep up her assault much longer, and she knew the moment she dropped she was dead. This moment was her last chance to kill the Butcher, and she wished now more than ever that she still had the assistance of her other hand.

Suddenly, a loud mechanical whirring arrested the attention of both Tatiana and the Butcher. Both looked below them and found a large machine with what looked like a massive funnel jutting out of its top humming directly below them. The two immediately identified it as a meat grinder.

At the controls of the device was Edward who was slumped over the panel, pale and clammy but staring right up at Tatiana with a determined expression.

“Push him in, Tati! Remember the hug?!” Edward shouted.

Tatiana was both stunned and overjoyed at the sight of the blonde, but she stifled her excitement, knowing now exactly what she needed to do.

Swiftly, Tatiana shot her hand up and dug her thumb into the Butcher’s eye, stunning him. She then quickly dropped her hand down to her left side and retrieved the dagger that Edward had passed to her earlier. Without a second thought, she buried the knife in the Butcher’s hastily covered gash as he wailed in misery.

“Eat this, bitch.”

With a mighty shove from Tatiana, the Butcher careened over the guardrail and into the grinder. A flurry of blood and chunks of meat gushed and bounced around inside the funnel before exiting the machine in a viscous slurry of fleshy strips.

At long last, the Haysfield Butcher was dead.

Tatiana spat over the guardrail and took a moment to bask in her victory. Then, without needing a second thought, Tatiana hobbled down the stairs and directly to Edward Smith.

Edward shut off the loud device and said, “you did it, Tatiana! You kicked the shi—”

“You’re alive,” Tatiana interrupted the blonde, wrapping her arm around him and finally erupting into tears.

“O-oh, yeah, I think I just passed out from shock or something. It hurts like hell, but I think I’ll manage.”

“Just hold me,” Tatiana requested. Edward happily obliged.

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