Alex opened his eyes, just coming back to consciousness. Maybe it was just the sleep clouding his vision, but this didn’t look like his bedroom. It was dark and cold. He could hear water dripping. The air was ridden with a very coppery smell that he couldn’t quite identify. It did smell like something h recognized, though. He felt something tickling his chin. He reached up to it. It was a piece of paper. He opened his eyes and saw that he was in what looked like a basement. There was an assortment of chains on one wall. On the table against were many knives, stained brown. Frantically, he lifted the piece of paper to his face, reading it.
You have been chosen. Congratulations. Not for any special talent you may possess. No, you were chosen because of what you did to me personally. Think back…Think about all the people you’ve insulted, trodden upon, and just generally looked down at. Yes, I am one of those people. But, I am not the norm of the lowly creatures that you can’t stand to give the slightest courtesy to. After years of taunting and teasing and torture at the hands of those like you, I did the unthinkable. I struck back. Struck back against those like you. Those that think you are better than us pathetic, loathsome wretches. And, I liked it. I guess I can tell you a little more, you won’t be going anywhere. Do you remember that club down the street from your house? The one with all the gang members and drug dealers? And do you remember what happened there? You may not because of the anesthesia. It has that effect sometimes. Well, I was walking by, minding my own business, when they thought it would be funny to push me around. So, after my humiliation, I headed home. I didn’t stay too long, of course. Just long enough to prepare. Then…I’m assuming that you can fill in the blanks. Well, you have been chosen. You weren’t as bad as they were. You were merely convenient. I was in the mood, and you had angered me so. Remember now? That little freak from three houses down? Guess where you are now. You sought fit to judge me. Now, we will see how you are judged…
Now in the grip of utmost terror, Alex started to get up to run away. But found he couldn’t move. Looking down, fearing to see, he found that his legs stopped at the knee. Now he knew where the smell was coming from. And blackness took him again.
Dani woke up with his alarm screeching some god-awful popular song at him. It certainly kept him from going back to sleep, for fear of nightmares. He hit the snooze button, then crawled around on the bedside table, looking for the remote. Feeling the rubber buttons on the cold plastic, he reaches for the all-too-familiar Play button. The music blasted from the 200 watts on the opposite wall. “Death of Me” by Calabrese he thought, his mind immediately recognizing the telltale blood-curdling shriek in the intro. It was a good song, and he smiled. Fighting the urge to go back to sleep, he forced himself to remember that he had to be at the hospital at 7:00. There had been many more bizarre bodies found, and they needed all the staff to help identify the injuries, and comfort the ones found alive. Of course those poor bastards were no help, completely insane, just muttering “Azrael, Azrael” over and over. It was quite unsettling, hearing the name of the angel of death screamed at you all day, while surrounded my corpses and lunatics. He would be meeting Alex there, so he wouldn’t be alone in the morgue. It was always better to have a partner in that sort of thing.
After taking a quick shower, and getting on his uniform, he hopped in the car and started for work. When he walked in, he winked at the young girl at the front desk before she buzzed him in to the terrible things that waited just through the doors to the mortuary and intensive care wing. Upon passing the threshold, he was hit with a wall of the smell of carnage and a myriad of screaming, muttering psychos. Any normal person would be terrified by what he saw there. But, this is what he had been trained for. There were smears on the wall, from yesterday’s group, not yet cleaned. Blood and waste was everywhere, aides working tirelessly to keep the area livable, though why they think these (you couldn’t even call them people anymore) would even want to be alive, he had no idea. He walked into the freezing dark, yet thankfully quiet of the morgue. He switched on the light and sees that he is alone. “Maybe Alex isn’t here yet.” It would be just like him to wuss-out, and leave him to study the bodies.
“Well, I better get to work.”
Pulling down the sheet to just the collarbone, he can already tell the cause of death. There were several lacerations around the neck that could have been wire. The face was screwed up in an expression mixing pain and terror in a blend that could make the most hardened strong man have trouble closing his eyes at night. The eyes were surrounded by thick black circles that showed this person hadn’t slept for a long time. He didn’t look to have eaten either. As he brought it down even further his stomach lurched. It turns out he wouldn’t even have to make an incision for the autopsy. Upon looking at the torso, it seemed that the ribs and sternum had been removed, then crudely sewn back on with what looked like yarn. These were not accidents, or random acts of violence. They were dealing with a real sicko. This wasn’t a normal serial killer, this guy must really know what he’s doing. He would have to talk to one of the survivors a little more seriously. Getting his mind back to the task at hand, he took out his scalpel, and began to cut the crude stitching. He kept hearing a quiet scratching noise. Each would cause him to jump slightly. That was easy in a place like this. With the final cut, he pulled up the torso, and couldn’t hold his stomach. He ran out to find the head of the ward.
“Doctor! Doctor!” Dani came running into the office, covered with coagulated blood.
“What’s wrong? Shouldn’t you be finishing the research on those bodies? We’re trying to get an accurate mental profile of this guy.” He had a way of talking too much.
“Sir, you have to see this. We were all wrong.”
Back in the morgue, Dani and the head were completely befuddled.
“There was a rat surgically implanted in his ribcage?”
“Then where is the rat now?”
“I don’t know, sir.” Now very ashamed and confused.
“If you are going to drag me out of my office for anymore of your stories, at least make them believable, or so help me…”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
Once his shift was over, Dani checked out, and headed for his car. He would call Alex to see why he had ditched him. He would be worried, but everyone in the town was used to this sort of thing. There had been disappearances and unexplained deaths for a long time. He knew he would feel if something was wrong.
Turning the key, the car is, yet again, being stubborn. After a few more tries, he slams back in the seat and kicks the floor.
“This day has been frigging great.”
Looking out the window, it didn’t seem like a normal night. Being parked out back had advantages, but now he longed for the fluorescent lights of the front doors. The only light back here was from that moon. The moon is always seen as a comforting presence. Not in this town. There always seemed a shadow, casting a sinister, laughing face on that glowing hell-sphere. Its pale light cast on the trees gave them life. The shadows on the ground cast not any happy images, but demons and nightmares danced across the cold concrete, wishing, perhaps, to come out of his imagination and bring all he feared to him. Then, looking out again, he sees another shadow. Not those of the clawed hands reaching ever closer, or faces on moons. It was a shadow of a figure, a figure walking near the trees. Dani stared at the trees, looking for this mystery man, but to no avail. All he had to go by was the bobbing silhouette, cast long by the low moon in the east. Then, or so he thought, the head turned. And, maybe just still stirred from the day at work, he swore he felt eye-contact, though he didn’t even know what direction to look. Then, first very slowly, but picking up speed, the shadow was getting longer. Not because the moon was falling, but because the blocker of its light drew nearer. All of a sudden, trying his car again seemed a very good idea. He stuck in the key, turning it. Rev after rev, getting louder each time, the car tried its hardest to start. One more turn, thought Dani, desperately, now able to see a glint of light coming from what would be hip level on the figure. Snap! The key broke off. No sweating and near tears, Dani grabbed the tiny stub of the key, turning with all his might, tearing his fingers. And it started. Pulling off the brake, and slamming on the gas, he started to drive like he’d seen in “Gone in 60 Seconds.” As he flew past, he saw, not the large, terrifying man he’d expected, but a skinny tired-looking man, maybe mid-twenty’s. The thing that burned in his mind was not even the large knife he carried, but the eyes. The eyes that he would see from that moment on whenever he closed his eyes. Burning ice-blue, piercing and filled with not only an unmistakable rage, but a determination, a resolve. By the time he came back to grips with himself, he realized that that must have been him, the killer. And he pulled into the driveway.
Laying in bed, Dani stared up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep for fear of waking up dead. That face had stuck with him. Every time he nodded off, he was back in the car, except it wouldn’t start. He was stuck there, shivering in terror, waiting too afraid to get out of the car and run. And then, as the door flew open, and he saw those eyes again, he woke up.
His cousin, staying down the street, was shaking him.
“I came over to see if you were home yet, and you were muttering and screaming. I had to see if you were alright.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I had a rough day at work.”
“Anything new about him yet?”
“Not too much. We found a note on one of the bodies. It seems to have been written by the killer. He’s a real nut-job, this one.”
“What’d it say?”
“It was talking to the person, saying how he had personally insulted the killer in some way or another. He, like bumped into him on purpose and didn’t apologize.”
“Like I said, a real psycho. What was scary was, that it wasn’t written like a normal killer. It was written very well. Not only is he a psycho, he’s a smart one. The tone of the note, didn’t even seem angry or crazy, just as if he was doing a necessary service.”
“Did you check for skin samples or anything?”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing. No prints, skin, hair. This guy is a pro.”
“Do you think they’ll catch him?”
“I hope so…” His mind wandering back to the things he had seen in the past few months. “I really hope so…”
“Hey, I’ve got to go back to my house. Are you going to be alright?”
“Yeah, I think someone in my line of work is entitled to a little nightmare every once and a while.”
With a nod, he left the room. Dani wondered if he would ever see his cousin again. And where was Alex? Why hadn’t he mentioned what happened in the parking lot? Where had the rat gone? Was he going crazy?
“Now, a Fox News Special Bulletin. We go to the chief of police.”
“We’ve got him.”
At those words, the half-sleeping Jonny flew out of bed and into the living room, where he had left the TV on, as he so often did these days. He had been following the killer for a long time, studying his work. He was a genius of the flesh. Of the human canvas. Now, he watched, nervous that his hero had been captured so soon, so new. Before he could meet him and join with him. He had already been practicing. Doing some of his own. Trying to reach out to this killer. Show him that he’s not alone in striking back.
Watching the screen, he saw a fat, greasy man being dragged out of his house by police. He was screaming, denying everything. That lard! This couldn’t be him. No shame, no pride…no hygiene! This could not be the genius that he had been worshipping. It was time to take matters into his own hands. He grabbed his toolbox and headed out, piecing together what information he could about where to find the real deal. The real killer.
Watching the news, Dani was getting more and more excited by the second. They had found him! Then, his heart fell. They played, once more, the video of them capturing the “killer”. That was not him. They had the wrong guy! Shutting off his TV, he grabbed his keys to head down to the police station. They were about to make a terrible mistake.
Pulling up in front of the station, he took the front stairs two-by-two to get to the chief.
“You have the wrong guy!”
“What?” mumbled he halfway through a donut.
“You have the wrong guy” he rasped, yet to catch his breath.
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“Now, I’ve seen the real killer! That is not him!” Now yelling, pointing at the large pathetic wretch, cringing in his cell.
“I don’t have time for this. We received an anonymous tip, saying that the killer lived at this address, and it came with a description.”
“I could have done the same thing!!! I could have written the same about anyone in the city! Do you have any proof?”
“Ok kid, get the hell out of here!”
Shocked at the insistence, almost desperation in the man’s voice, Dani backed down. He decided on a different tactic. It would require some more time. He’d have to wait until another officer took over the front.
Minutes later, jonny was at the door. He was sure this was the place. Soon he would meet his mentor. Each second he trembled with excitement. Before knocking, he took it all in. Looking around to the dying lawn, the dark, dirty windows, the peeling paint. It was paradise. With the moon covered by clouds, it caused a mist to show in the pale light. The mist made the place seem almost ethereal. This was truly a magic place. Hell on earth. KNOCK KNOCK. The door swung open. Inviting himself, jonny walked in. He felt a right, he was coming to join the guy, right? He looked around and his breath caught. It was just a normal house…No tools of torture, no splatters of blood. A little messy, but nothing interesting. Maybe he was in the wrong place. Just then, he heard a creak. Spinning, filled with the fear of breaking and entering, he saw a man in the doorway. Not the fat one from the news. Just a small, skinny man, with messy hair and heavy bags under his eyes. His eyes…ice blue and filled with purpose. Deadly purpose.
“Dear God, It’s you!”
But he didn’t speak, just stepped forward.
“You don’t know me, but I worship you!”
Cocking his head to the side, as if amused by this strange, babbling creature.
“I’ve been studying you, you’re my idol. I’ve been modeling myself after you. You might have heard of the kills that weren’t yours. I’ve been practicing before I met you.”
At that, the skinny man would here no more. He flew forward, and punched jonny in the face. Crimson flew, leaving what would be stains on the upholstery.
“You craven, depraved bastard!”
Tears flew to jonny’s eyes.
“You’re sick, I would never do what you did. They are attributing those kills to me! Of course I’ve heard! The rats, the rape, it had no heart, no soul, no mercy. Those people were innocent! They had done nothing! You just wanted a fucking excuse! Pushing you? Laughing at you? What the hell is that? I will show you true art.”
There was a flash across Jonny’s hamstring, and he fell. He stared up from the floor in disbelief.
“I worshipped you…”
“Worshipped me? Ha! I’m the bad guy in this story, you slime!”
“I’m…so much…like you…”
There was another flash and Jonny went black.
“I don’t like myself very much.”
And he set to work.
Coming back from the police station, now with his new information coursing through his mind, he headed down a series of back roads. The captured had quickly scribbled an address on a grubby piece of paper, and told him it was the real killer, that he’d been framed for knowing who the killer is. Running now, possessed with the need to not only set the poor man free, but now his own natural curiosity burned. To meet a man capable of such things? He shuddered as he ran down alley after alley, under the street lights, flying past the poor, sad people and places that were now merely obstacles. Skidding to a stop, he looked on to a small house, with chipped paint, dead grass, and filthy all over.
“This must be the place.”
He was now getting the feeling. Yes, that one. That apprehension building up inside of you. The fear that boils to a breaking pointing a flash of turning tail and wide eyes. He stepped forward. His feet were weighed with terror. But, he pushed on, willing himself to fear not. Fear not the shadows that took on their own life in such a damned place. Each squeak of a mouse was amplified by the comparative silence. Each creak from within said that he was not alone. And each step he took told him that there was no turning back. He felt the ice cold of the door knob. With a turn that took a year, he pushed forward into the darkness of the inside. This is hell, thought he.
“Welcome.” Echoed a very deep, mature, yet bored-sounding voice.
Spinning again, his eyes fell upon a sight he would find harder to forget than the car. The same man was crouched next to another man, if you could still call it a man. There was a pool of scarlet spreading in a warped circle. The poor man’s clothes looked familiar.
“Oh no! You killed him!”
For laying in the puddle was the head of the hospital’s intensive care ward.
“He wasn’t worth keeping alive.”
“Who the hell are you to judge?!”
He merely got a questioning look.
“Who named you the Angel of Death? Who told you that you could just kill anyone because of how you judged them? That right is reserved for one, not any sick, demented psycho with a God complex !”
“Let me tell you something. Here, (He gestured around to his horrid haven of murder and depravity) I am God.” And with crushing finality, he moved forward, Dani frozen with fear.
“We have found the real killer!”
The ecstatic newsman sounded out of the TV into Dani’s empty living room.
“There was a serious mistake made in our evidence pointing to the killer. We have released the one falsely accused and have the true killer in custody as we speak. Now to the chief of police again.”
“We came to this address following a man who had just left the station. When we got there, he was standing over the body of the head of one of our hospital wards. Here’s the bastard, now.” He pointed to three men, Dani with an officer on each side. Dani was covered crimson and screaming.
“Truly chilling. It will be good to be able to sleep soundly once more in our fair city.” The newsman looked to the teleprompter. “And in other news…”
And somewhere, watching a television in another house in another town, Azrael laughed.
January 23, 2006
Lying in bed, Dani is glad to be alive. Of course, he wouldn’t be, if he knew what he’d gone through. The things he had seen, now repressed. The unexplained scars and enigmatic nightmares; terrifying images that he thought nothing of in the warm light of the sun. He did not know that he had survived, or what had been done to him. He did not know that he had spent three years in and out of court, therapists, hypnosis, and a number of asylums. After having been found to be “obviously insane” as said the judge, Dani was transported to the newly re-opened Lynn Insane Asylum. There he went through extensive treatment, wiping the memories from his conscious mind, reducing them to nothing but night terrors. He had been removed from his job at the hospital for fear of memories resurfacing at the sight of blood. After being found “cured” he was returned chock-full of false memories and watched heavily by the doctors.
The sun peeking through the paper-white Venetian blinds played across his face dancing across the eyelids still brimming with images easy to lose sleep over. But he was used to them. Waking slowly, he smiles when he sees that there’s still 3 hours until the office opens. Rising, still dragging his blanket, he walks to the window and draws the blinds. There, through the haze of sleep, superimposed on the sky to the west is a face. The face that always haunted his nightmares. A face he didn’t recognize yet was so oddly familiar.
Reaching out to grasp a memory, as a feather on the wind, Dani lets out an almost inaudible sigh. What had happened while he had been in a coma? How long had passed? Why wouldn’t they tell him about before?
Trudging into the kitchen, he turns on the coffee maker. The hissing promised him instant energy for a rough day at the post office. Staring at the water dripping, he suddenly screams. Clutching his heart with one hand, he knocks over the coffee pot with the other. It rushed back into his mind as if a dam had burst. On the floor of his kitchen, he couldn’t control his body. In convulsions, images flew across his sight. Screaming like a madman now (fitting), he saw everything clear as day, as if he was there again. The dead hope, no chance of escape, another night of knives and blood. This was what they’d been hiding. That face! He knew that face! He could see it flawlessly, like a parting fog. Clutching his head, pulling out his hair, he screams to himself.
“Get out! Get out of my head!”
He snatches a piece of glass from the pool of coffee spreading across the floor, like the pools he had seen before. Raising this shard, this release, he starts to bring it down. He would dig them out. A hand grasps his wrist. Looking up at his captor, he sees a white coat and smiling face. But, reflected in his glasses, that face cackles at him. And with one prick it all goes black.
March 17th, 2007
Dani opens his eyes, and is glad to be alive. It’s early morning, the sun not quite up, but fighting over the horizon. Rising from his bed, he walks into the bathroom, down the hall on the right, opposite the kitchen. Turning on the shower, he looks into the fogging mirror. He examines his scars from the injury causing his coma. Thin bumpy lines traced his ribs, and came around to the back. He thought that they were oddly uniform, but didn’t ask about them. There were many small gashes all over that he doubted would ever heal. There were two distinct ones that didn’t quite detract from his already rugged looks. Smiling to himself, he seems to see something move in the shower, but on closer inspection it’s just the wind.
“Damn cold,” he says to no one in particular, shutting the window.
With the shower still warming up, he waltzes into the kitchen, looking for his Chock-Full-O-Crap, as his mom called it. Turning on the coffee maker, he faintly remembers the older one that his mom sold while he was away.
“That was a good coffee pot.” He utters with a sigh. God, he wished he could remember.
With the bubbling and dripping from the kitchen, the whooshing of the shower head from the bathroom, and the noise from the TV he had just turned, he could almost forget how alone he was.
“Good Morning America, do we have an interesting story for you.”
“Oh boy” thought Dani to himself, “here we go with tales of celebrities and the Oscars, or whatever just happened.” He never was one for pop culture.
“There has been a recent capture in Peoria, Illinois. Many of you have heard of the killings around that area in 2000. According to eyewitnesses, descriptions, and identifications, they believe they have him.”
Dani rolled his eyes. He had heard of this. They had captured two others before, and they “believed” it was those men too. Would they ever get it right?
“Oddly enough, they cannot get an ID on him. DNA scans brought up nothing. No possible family was found. And, strangest of all, he doesn’t even talk. According to the wardens he won’t talk, sleep, or even eat. We’ve received video feed from the cell, and will be connected in a few short seconds.”
The screen flashed, and a low quality video came onto the screen. A gaunt, scrawny man, maybe mid-30’s was pacing in his cell, never leaving the same route, always with a small smile. Then he went up to the camera, and with a wild look, like that of one who had nothing to lose, and didn’t care, he opened his mouth and cackled four words.
“I see you, Daniel!”
Dani snapped back to reality, and stared at the screen, swearing he had heard his name. The killer did look oddly familiar, but he had been in a coma for about 5 years, he couldn’t have seen him. And how did he know he was watching? He continued watching the video, (good lord, they knew how to drag it out.) Then, as if through the screen, over thousands of miles of radio waves and picture and sound, their eyes met.
That was when he realized…this man knew him. “He knows who I am.”
The mouth opened again. “That’s right, Daniel. And I’m coming for you!”
Then, he remembered.
2 weeks later
Dani opened his eyes…but he was not happy to be alive. He was in a white room.
“So much blood…there was…so…much...” He moaned, having trouble forming words.
“It’s alright, Daniel. It was a long time ago.” A strange voice rang out from behind him.
“Who are you?! Where am I?”
“It’s ok; you’re in the hospital again.”
“Again? Since the coma?”
The voice chuckled, then a man in a white coat entered his sight. “There was no coma, Daniel. You’ve been in and out of a psych ward, going under repeated hypnosis for years now.”
“Do you really want to remember what happened to you?”
Then it hit him. He remembered it all, like it was happening again. The ever-smiling face, his unheard screams, the spreading pool. “so much blood.” Then the convulsions started again. He flailed around wildly, not caring who or what he endangered in the process. The restraints were brought in and Dani was tied to the bed. The doctor smiled down on him patiently.
“Why the f**k are you smiling?! After what I’ve been through! You can’t imagine the things I’ve seen!”
“Can’t I?” the doctor whispered too low to hear.
Dani did not hear, now taken to fits of whining.
“We can help you, but now you must sleep.” In came the anesthesiologist.
“It’s been 3 weeks since your last regression, Daniel, you’re doing remarkably!”
Remarkably isn’t the word he would have used. He hadn’t slept in 3 days. When he did sleep, he was woken to the sound of his own blood-curdling screams. The bags under his eyes drew sharp contrast with the sallow greenish tinge of his skin.
The young nurse smiled at him again. Dani just stared past her, at nothing, not hearing her words. He rocked slightly, humming a childhood song to himself.
“He really would be quite handsome…if in better condition.” She thought. It was sad, really. When one was around the patients so much, your standards greatly fall.
“How about we watch some TV, huh, darlin’?” She turned his chair towards the television set, he didn’t break his humming or rocking.
The nurse pressed the crimson button, and the set crackled to life.
“Oh no!” said the nurse. She tried to change the channel, but it wouldn’t work.
“The John Doe prisoner, known as the Azrael killer has escaped! This was the last recording from his cell. If you have any information concerning what he says, please contact us!”
The video came on. There seemed to be a sheet, or shirt thrown over the camera, as the screen was a light gray and all that could be seen were changes in light. Then as the audio came on you could hear a whistling of a tune. Dani stopped his humming of the same song. Then the chilling voice tore through the silence.
“I told you I’d get out, Daniel… Now I’m coming for you!” As the camera’s view was unobstructed, the nurse beheld something that would make her into one of the patients.
With the nurse passed out from terror, Dani’s mind was clear. He knew that he had to go. He didn’t know where, but he knew that he had to leave this prison of padded walls and plastic smiles that had been his home for what seemed to be such a long time, but, in retrospect, was not. His mind, miraculously clear, was focused toward a single goal; to survive. That was something he hadn’t felt for years. Not since the last time this psycho was after him. It was a rush, albeit a sick one, to be filled with the spur-of-the-moment adrenaline of knowing you were in danger, and needed the will to live. Maybe he really was crazy…
Flying through the asylum with single-minded purpose, he knew that he didn’t have much time to prepare. Either the other nurses would have heard the scream, or the killer would be here soon. Either way he was running out of time. He had to get his things, get a car, and get out, all in short order. Looking around, his four years in the Marines rushing back through the lack of calming, mind-numbing drugs. There were 15 guards in the building. Most would be down in the main lobby, chatting with the nurses, this late. The others would be wandering the intensive care wing, the wing where Dani’s room was smack-dab in the middle. He hears footsteps and whistling from down the hall. He pulls open a custodial closet and goes in, pulling it mostly closed behind him. Peering through the tiny crack he sees Stu, that fat bastard. He was the meanest, nastiest security guard of them all. He particularly liked mocking Dani about his “paranoia” behind the doctor’s backs.
“Well guess what, asshole, it’s not paranoia if they really are after you.” Dani whispered more to himself than to the guard unbeknownst of the loose patient right behind his with a wood-handled mop.
When he turned around, pulling out his baton at the sound of his favorite victim, he took four feet of polished oak between the eyes.
Tossing down the mop in favor of the more functional weapon in his would-be abuser’s hand, he laughed. “Well, that was sure as hell worth it.” Cackling again, he says “Wow, I really am kinda crazy.”
He stowed Stu’s fat body in the janitor’s closet, and continued on to his room. He was in an unoccupied room; 214, his room being number 342. It was a ways to go. He had better hurry.
Tearing through the dark halls like a phantom…a phantom with a purpose. Flitting past rooms of the poor fools who had no hope of getting out of here and proving their worth. That would never happen to him. Thinking of the tattoo on his left forearm; “You’ll never take me alive”, as it was on the arm of everyone in his platoon, he was filled with resentment. He had let them take him, he hadn’t fought hard enough. Not this time. This time, he’d get out and he’d live. He reached his room. Ready for this, he slid the clip of Stu’s tie (a clip-on, the lazy bastard!) into the lock. He slid into his room to prepare for the escape.
Dani suddenly had an idea, staring at his reflection in the twirling baton. He knew how he’d get past the guards and out of here. For someone trying to prove his sanity, he was doing a lot of insane things today. And he took the baton to work.
“Hurry! We have a seriously injured patient! Get him an ambulance!”
Smiling through his own blood and broken teeth, he knew his plan was working perfectly.
“What the hell happened?”
“No idea, he stumbled into the lobby like this! He’s losing a lot of blood.”
Red and blue lights flashed through the blinds.
Only one EMT was with him in the back of the ambulance. It would be too easy with the baton stuck in one of his shoes. Composing himself with a look of pain and confusion, he shot up off the bed.
“It’s OK, you’re alrigh…” That was all he could get out before Dani swung with his concealed weapon. He was silenced before the driver could question anything. He was back overseas in his mind. Images from the war and what that bastard “Azrael” had done to him ran together in his mind, fueling his rage. Blood from the blow hit the sterile, white wall of the ambulance with a sickening splat.
He threw open the door, and jumped out into the street, landing in a roll, prepared to meet any who would stop him. He spun around, surveying the empty backstreet, baton in hand. When he was sure no one had seen, he took off in the opposite direction of the ambulance. It wouldn’t take long for the driver to notice the swinging door. He wondered what people looking from their windows thought of the hospital gown-clad ghost flying down the street, haunted by demons in his own mind.
Coming to a stop in the middle of the city park, he looked around again, to make sure he was alone. Walking very slowly, looking from left to right, he was taken back to when he used to work at a hospital. To a specific day. A day when his car wouldn’t start. These trees were almost the same. The moon, so big as it had been so often of late, cast an eerie glow onto the already pale, gaunt face of this poor, haunted fellow. Eventually, after about twenty minutes of wandering in his own nightmare world, Dani reached the playground. Now abandoned, the swings creaked back and forth as they so often seem to do when one is alone in the dark. Standing, unmoving and completely silent, he could almost hear the laughter of the children. He could see the smiling faces of the ghosts dancing around him; hear their laughs of pure elation at the wonder of life. He felt that if he just reached, just a little bit, he could touch them, and touch a little bit of that innocence. If only he tried. But he didn’t. “Yeah, I’m definitely crazy now.” He said resignedly to the phantom children. They just kept laughing. But it wasn’t real laughter. It was something he barely heard. He didn’t really see them. They were more like the ghost of a memory seen in a fogged mirror.
It was then that something clearer cut through like fire burning through morning mist. A high-pitched strained cackle. Spinning around, swinging the baton at nothing in particular, Dani saw him again. For the first time since that day so many years ago.
Dani didn’t answer, he just stared.
“Come now, Daniel, there’s no need to be cold. It’s not like I’m a stranger. I actually know you quite well. You might not remember our last encounter though.”
Dani was still silent.
“That’s alright, tonight I think we can revisit that day.”
“I won’t give in without a fight this time.”
“Oh! So I didn’t cut out your tongue! I do have trouble remembering. That’s good. That means you can give me your real from-the-gut screams.”
“You’re sick, you know that?”
“That’s what they always told me.” He leapt forward, swinging steel.
Dani was ready this time. He ducked right, and swung at the back of his head, making solid contact. As he turned, there was a real grin on his face.
“You’re making it fun this time. I do so enjoy a struggle.”
He slashed again, this time lower, making glancing contact with Dani’s chest. Dani cried out as the blade traced an old scar.
“You remember that, do you? I know I do.”
He kicked out the back of Dani’s knee, dropping him. He shoved him with a foot, rolling him a few feet away.
Dani was thinking frantically. “I can’t die. I can’t have come this far just to die here.”
“You know, Daniel, what I did to that guard, and I know you saw it, that was just a warm-up. You’ll be my real masterpiece. And what a place, in a public park. Perfect.”
Then, Dani did the unthinkable. He stood up. Azrael’s eyes lit with rage. “NO!”
He flew forward again, and sliced at Dani’s abdomen. He knocked it away with the his baton. Azrael spun around, and came back, this time going for the throat. His anger at being fooled, at being faced with a power higher than his own sick perversion. Hope. “No, I won’t be stopped here.”
Dani sauntered forward slowly, but like always, overconfidence was a downfall. He caught his ankle and fell forward. Azrael took his chance. He jumped forward, kicking away the baton, and cut all the major limb muscles in a flash. Dani groaned in agony, and let out a short scream. Azrael shuddered, this was what he’d planned for years. The only victim who had escaped him. Then, wiping the small tear from his eye, he set himself to the task at hand. There was a crimson mist hanging in the air from the short struggle before. It hung for a second before falling to the ground. Splash!
The Next Morning
“An escapee from the local mental institution was found dead this morning in a nearby park. We go to Jim on scene at the site.”
The TV displayed a well-groomed man in a tan suit standing in front of a playground covered in yellow tape.
“We haven’t been able to get an official statement from the police or the asylum, but the officers on the scene say there is abundant evidence pointing to suicide. After having looked up the victim, a 29 year old male named Daniel Lloyd, in the hospital’s computers, we discovered much about his condition. He suffered from acute paranoia with delusions of persecution, and severe schizophrenia. There was also information supporting a belief of split-personality disorder. He may have killed himself thinking it was someone else.”
“Thank you very much, Jim. There is another theory held by one of the doctors at the asylum, being a victim himself of the Azrael killer, the only known survivor besides Daniel. He believes the killer may have been responsible. There is, of course, no evidence supporting this, but it will be looked into. A picture of the doctor is…oh, yes, here it is.”
When the picture of the doctor flashed onto the screen, Azrael’s eyes lit up. His fist hit the table with realization.
“…I’m not done yet…”