Love at Death's Door

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Chapter 8

What the hell do I do?

Edward clutched tightly at his head and stared at the woman who had been so unbelievably strong throughout the nightmare that was the past few hours. The way she dangled from the hook just looked so wrong. Her features were contorted in a fierce agony that flooded his mind with anxiety and secondhand guilt, and her screams made his knees buckle under the weight of crushing despair. Just a few hours ago, she, like him, had been chained to a wall against her will, but her defiant attitude made her seem anything but helpless. But now, her vulnerability terrified him.

Tatiana was right about Edward in many ways. He was a man who was born fortunate, never once having to worry about going hungry, not having clothes to wear, or being without the essentials. Moreover, he never wanted for anything vapid and material either. Anything he wanted was his. He wasn’t just well off in wealth, either. He was lucky enough to have friends and family that were in good health, all things considered. It was for this reason that death was a foreign concept to him for much of his life. Some people he knew or encountered mentioned the lack of a parent or other relative, but it always seemed so distant and unrelatable to him. Despite that, the very idea of death grew to be nearly a phobia for the blonde and seeing Tatiana in peril was trigging a primal fear that he was wholly unprepared to deal with.

“Edward, I’m stuck!”

“Oh, God... Tatiana!”

Edward tightened the clasp on his hair to a death grip and trembled violently. There was an innocence present in his voice and eyes that resembled a child. Tatiana had seen him fearful for hours now, but something about seeing a grown person reduced to such a state sent a pang of unease echoing through her heart. The nearing sound of the Butcher’s chainsaw abruptly snapped her out of her own state of panic.

“Edward, I need you to listen to me. Calm down, okay?” Tatiana’s voice shook as she tried to speak through immense pain.

“I-I have to get you off that hook,” Edward whimpered. “He’s coming! H-How do I get you off this thing?”

“You don’t,” Tatiana said, flatly.

“What?”

“Look at me, Edward, this thing is all the way through my hand. There’s no way you’re getting me off this thing before that lunatic gets in here and kills us both.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Edward!” Tatiana barked, eliciting a flinch from the frayed blonde. “Remember what I said before about taking the next opportunity you get to save yourself? This is that time.”

“Don’t even go there, I’m not going to leave you here!” Edward insisted.

He hadn’t fully realized it before, but Edward Smith had come to depend on Tatiana Clarke. The imperiled woman was just as much a victim as he was in the Butcher’s twisted designs, but over the course of the past few hours Tatiana had forced Edward to do more than just cry and attempt to bargain with his captor. In fact, if it wasn’t for Tatiana’s attitude in the first place the pair would have already been unceremoniously drowned. Tatiana not only secured Edward’s physical safety, but also his sanity. The thought of facing the nightmarish situation before him without the fiery woman by his side threatened to break his mind.

“God damn it, Edward! This is my last wish, okay?! Don’t let this be for nothing!” Tatiana cried.

Edward raked and ruffled his dark blonde hair. The look upon his sweat-covered face made it clear that the ensnared woman’s words were connecting and crumbling his resolve. Still, he paced indecisively before her dangling form.

“Edward, there’s nothing to think about. Please, go. Hide before he gets in here and kills you too. I want you to ruin this psycho’s sick little show and you can’t do that if you end up like me.”

“Damn it, Tatiana...” Edward sobbed, tears beginning to fall rapidly from his brown eyes. “Why couldn’t you have just fallen on me instead?”

Tatiana chuckled, but searing pain swiftly stifled her amusement. “I wish I would have. Now, get out of here.” She paused and forced a smile. “Goodbye, rich boy.”

Edward turned away, unable to bear the way the muscles twitched at the corners of Tatiana’s lips. He knew she wanted to scream more than anything but was giving her all to wear a brave face for his sake. Again, he marveled at her fortitude, but rather than give him the strength to give his own farewell, her overwhelming strength in the moment triggered that primal fear within him once more. He had never seen anyone die before, but he recognized immediately that turning around meant resigning his final image of the woman to silent desolation, and the very thought nearly broke him in half. She was a hero—his hero. And for the sake of her dignity and his sanity, he would let the last words between them be the backhanded nickname she had bestowed upon him. Without thinking twice about it, Edward ran away from Tatiana, exiting out of a single, rusted metal door at the rear of the room.

The second Tatiana could no longer see Edward’s back, she expelled a violent scream, releasing all of the pent-up agony that she had restrained. The loud screech of a metal door opening responded from far across the front of her body. She didn’t have to guess who was responsible—the running motor growing increasingly more audible gave it away.

For the first time since her disastrous fall, the distressed woman glanced around the room. She had captured glimpses, but the pain that pierced the palm of her hand had blinded her senses and paralyzed her capacity to process anything else. But now she saw it all, bodies, hanging from meat hooks all around her. They resembled slaughtered cattle a little too well, with many of their bodies being torn open straight down the center of their torsos. Their ribs were grossly exposed, and their organs sloppily commanded downward by gravity. The smell that the many splayed cadavers produced made her understand why Edward had previously ejected the contents of his stomach. She suffered a similar temptation, but nagging pain stalled her nausea.

What the hell is wrong with me? Tatiana wondered. Adrenaline induced by her painful injury had already hastened her heartbeat, but she felt her pulse quicken even further the more she absorbed her surroundings. What were the odds that she would land in such a perfect position, she thought. Wedged between two corpses on one of the only bare hooks in the room, it was disturbing how well she fit in with the rest of the scene. Little by little, a thought crept into her head. The people that dangled around her like deranged trophies were not unlike what she was soon to be. Even before the Butcher’s unwelcome intrusion into her life, her sickness was set render her no different than the unfortunate souls that filled the inside of the freezer. The thought of her inevitable death hadn’t unsettled her much before, but the emptiness that had highjacked the once lively eyes of the vacant shells around her filled her with an unexpected hollowness.

The slow thudding of heavy boots came ever closer, and Tatiana came to a frustrating realization. The front she had tried to present was crashing down around her, and even if she didn’t want to admit it, her body was doing it on her behalf. She was scared to die; she was scared of what would come after the flame of her life had been extinguished. She had been the one urging Edward to stay strong and keep moving, but, as she realized much too late for her own good, he had been the one keeping her from herself. He was her audience, the party of one that she performed her “fearless” charade for. Because he believed it, she believed it. Without him, there was no more folie à deux. Without him, she was left to the mercy of a reality as cold as the air that chilled her flesh. She cared; she always did.

“My, isn’t this a sight for my sore eyes?”

As the imposing sound of his boots and chainsaw had foreshadowed, the Butcher was upon Tatiana, looking up at her helpless figure. His burlap mask obscured his face, but she knew he was grinning from ear to ear under the face cover.

“I wondered what all the screaming was about, I never would have guessed this was the reason. Must be excruciating.”

“J-Just do it already and shut the hell up,” Tatiana hissed. A hellish combination of fear, pain, and cold and made her words stutter as they left her lips.

“Aw, why the rush? You don’t look busy, you’re just hanging around,” the Butcher said, pushing Tatiana’s body, an act that forced an agonized yell from the woman. “You know, I think I like you better like this. You’re less annoying, more ladylike.”

“Go to hell you piece of shit,” Tatiana growled. Tears were welling up in her eyes. Their origins were mixed, but anger was fast growing to be their primary motivator.

“If only words and pathetic stares could kill. But they don’t, these do.” The Butcher raised the chainsaw’s blades close to Tatiana’s neck and revved it several times. He chuckled at the way her eyes multiplied in size every time he brought it close.

“Your asshole viewers are probably getting bored, you know. So, either use that thing to kill me already or sit on it. Maybe we should make another poll and ask what they think? You know, viewer’s choice...”

“There she is!” The Butcher laughed. “That’s the you I wanted, the one I wanted to break.”

“Good luck with that.” Tatiana sneered.

The maniac scoffed and held the tool up to his victim’s face again. “I don’t need luck, I have this. By the way, where’s our other friend? Hiding like the coward he is?”

“I told him to leave. He’s long gone by now. Guess you and your viewers don’t get what you want after all.”

“Oh, really?” the Butcher said, sadistic amusement ringing in his tone. “I knew he wouldn’t lay down his life for you.”

“I didn’t want him to.”

“You’re going to wish you did. Because now it’s just you and me. And I promise you, I will get the reaction I want out of you.”

“Nope, I’m not giving you the satisfaction,” said Tatiana. The Butcher responded by pushing her again. Her body swung on the hook and she uttered another anguished yell.

“Really? Those screams are plenty satisfying to me,” The Butcher taunted. “By the way, what do you think of the little collection I’ve got here in my freezer? Scintillating, wouldn’t you say?”

Tatiana spat in the Butcher’s face and forced a rebellious laugh from her throat. “Better question, what do you think about that?”

“Oh, Tatiana. You’re letting me down.”

“That’s too bad.”

“It is, for you. You see, I believe in an eye for an eye. So, I suppose that I’ll just have to let you down, too.”

The Butcher revved his chainsaw twice, and before Tatiana’s eyes could make sense of his movements, the saw-wielding brute drove the rapidly spinning blades into the woman’s right wrist. Tatiana’s brain instantly caught fire with ferocious agony as her lungs and throat threatened to rupture from the intensity of the screams she released. Mercilessly, the Butcher continued to grind through his victim’s flesh and bone as a geyser of blood sprayed his clothes and splattered in every direction.

When the grisly act was over, the Butcher turned off his crimson stained power tool and admired his work. Tatiana’s right hand remained on the hook, severed from the rest of its owner who had hit the floor with a vicious thud. Her body convulsed as she grabbed at her forearm that now ended in a gushing, bloody stump. Jagged bone poked out from the barrenness where her hand should have been. Her high-pitched screams provoked laughter from the mutilator.

“Are you scared now?” The Butcher sadistically teased.

The delighted torturer attempted to kneel down; his intentions rooted in a desire to further punish his prey. But a fierce pain gripped his center mass, causing him to drop the chainsaw. Confused, he looked down at his body to find he had been run through, pierced clean through with what appeared to be a long machete. Blood began to spill from the wound and the Butcher spun to get a look at his assailant. Beneath him, a man stood, panting and wild-eyed. It was Edward Smith, but he hardly recognized the businessman. His glare was frightening and inhuman—far away from the scared expression the man wore throughout the ordeal.

“Y-You son of a...” the Butcher coughed, the shock of his sudden assault giving way to disarming pain.

Edward grabbed the power tool and turned it on, revving it menacingly. Wielding the device with a palpable fury, the man attempted to drive the blades into the Butcher who just barely stumbled out of danger.

“Shit!” the Butcher shouted. Recognizing the complexion of the situation had shifted far out of his favor, he shuffled for the door, the machete still jutting from his body.

Edward roared like a cornered animal, his cry revealing a murderous intent to the fleeing Butcher. He wanted to pursue the injured sadist but was stunned by the sound of Tatiana’s brutal agony. Faced with a choice of vengeance or aiding the woman who had come to mean so much to him, Edward chose the only option that existed in his mind.

“Yeah, run you coward! I’m gonna kill you, you hear me?! You’re dead!” Edward tossed the chainsaw aside and turned his attention to Tatiana. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there... Tatiana, hang in there, please! I swear, I’m going to get you out of this.”

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