SHORT STORY 1- **WARNING EXPLICIT CONTENT (that’s not the title, that’s an actual warning)

So to keep with the speculative fiction theme, I’ve included a story I had submitted to a horror story contest a couple months back. It didn’t win, but I sure enjoyed writing it. Hope you do to! I will warn you that it’s a little on the graphic side, so read at your own risk. (*Also, the formatting didn’t translate very well, so I apologize in advance)

Deep Red

Shane shut the basement door behind him, and snapped the lock into place. Frost enveloped the pipes hanging from the ceiling, and he hoped his teeth would stop chattering. The warehouse was at the end of town– not another building for at least a mile. He brushed his brow with his fingertips, and only then realized that despite the cold air he had broken out in a cold sweat.
Ethan lay in a heap on the floor, beaten into a heap of broken bones and bruised muscles. Shane took slow, defined footsteps toward him. The only sound in the room was his shoes slapping against the floor, and Ethan’s quickening breath. He hovered over him, and placed his right foot on top of Ethan’s chest. When he stared down at the injured rapist, he only thought one thing:
You are going to die slowly.
Shane had found Ethan right where Lauren said he would be. He was a bartender on Fifth Street at the only pub on the block that didn’t cater to the local biker crowd. She had barely told him that much–wouldn’t even tell him his name. He found that out on his own. With just a couple quick questions people were all-too-willing to tell him about the redheaded bartender with the friendly smile and warm eyes. All the women swore he was the one that poured the best drinks.
Shane silently swept his eyes down the length of Ethan’s body, calculatingly…taking inventory.
Maybe just slice through the skin. Deep enough to make him bleed, but nothing too dramatic. Not yet.
Yesterday, Shane was tightening his favorite tie around his neck, and making sure his shirt and slacks were perfectly pressed for work. Today, he was a killer. Or at least, he was on his way there.
Originally, he had gone to a kitchen store to buy the knives. When he took the knife the sales clerk had been demonstrating on a carrot and placed it against his hip, she looked at him with wide questioning eyes. “Do you have a holder for this?” He asked.
The girl twirled her hair around her finger. “Like for your kitchen drawer?”
“No, for your waist.”
The girl didn’t answer, just turned away and headed toward the back room of the store. Shane wasn’t quite sure what he did wrong, but he judged from the expression on the girl’s face that the best thing to do was leave the store as quickly as he could.
It wasn’t until he turned on the TV that night that he realized his error. The random cop and bad-guy show that swept across his screen taught him that the kind of knives murderers used–the premeditated ones anyway– had a switchblade. Those fit easily into a pocket, or if he wanted, he could buy something to fasten it at his waste so he could get to it quickly. And if anything threw off his plan, quick would be his only option.
The next day, he bought two.
Shane drew one of his knives from his right hip. The blade snapped open and the sound stung the air. “You understand that this room will be the last thing you ever see, right?” The words came out but they didn’t feel like his own–like someone placed them there because that was how a murderer talked. Shane thought about the fact that he’d never spoken to a murderer before, and had no idea if he was using the right language. All he knew was as he spoke he held his head just a little higher.
He gently pressed the tip of the knife into his own finger, twisting it, dancing on the edge of self-injury. “See, I don’t know you all that well, but I’ve met you before. Dozens of times really. And trust me when I say I know.”
“Know what?”
“That you’ve done this before.”
Ethan weakly lifted his head. His swollen eye twitched ever so slightly. “What are you talking about? What do you think I did?”
Shane ran his finger along the blade’s edge. After the incident at the mall, he decided he was better off purchasing his weapons online, but that came with its own set of problems. He thought perhaps he should have sharpened it first, before he started. He had never even carved a turkey for Thanksgiving. Now he wasn’t sure what state Ethan’s body would end up in. “Now, make no mistake. I will kill you. Whether I drag it out or not is up to you.” Shane wondered if Ethan could hear the cracking in his voice.
Ethan spit toward Shane’s foot. He missed and the fluid soaked into his own shirt. “Screw you! What the hell do you think I did?”
A smile stretched across Shane’s face, and his laughter startled Ethan into silence again. “You’re pretty brave for a man with shattered bones. Did you forget? You’re not in charge anymore. I’m not smaller than you. Lauren is maybe half your size but I’m not. ” Shane lunged down, thrusting the knife against Ethan’s throat.
Ethan’s momentary bravery left as quickly as it came. “Lauren? How do you know her?”
Shane shook the knife slightly.
“Please! Please I didn’t do anything to Lauren. I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”
Shane dug the knife in deeper. Not deep enough to kill but close enough. Or at least that’s what he hoped. Blood spilled over the sides of the blade, like juice from an orange that had been squeezed too hard. “Just so you know, this is a dull knife. I’m not sure how far I can push it before it breaks your skin. And there’s no going back after that.”
“Stop! Please.” The strain the knife placed on Ethan’s throat made his voice come out in a hiss.
“Admit it. Admit you did it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“You’re a rapist. Admit you’re a dirty, piece of trash rapist.”
“I would never do that! I have two daughters and two sisters for God’s sake. I didn’t hurt Lauren! I don’t understand why you’re asking me this!”
Shane noticed his fingers losing color. They were wrapped around the blade so tightly that the blood had left them. “Of course you do. It’s who you are. Your kind. You’re that guy who sees what he wants and takes it. The big prize, the award, the woman. Doesn’t matter. Your kind doesn’t care who they have to destroy to get what they want. It’s sick.”
Ethan paused. Shane took the time to notice how sweat pooled down Ethan’s face and met in a droplet on his lower lip. “Say you won’t kill me and I’ll say it.”
Shane pushed the knife in deeper. “I’ll hit your aorta soon.” Shane wasn’t even sure what an aorta was.
Tears slid down Ethan’s cheeks. Shane felt the ends of his mouth curl into a smile. Ethan was breaking, and it felt good to watch. A part of Shane wished Lauren was there at his side, watching as he took control back from the man that took hers. “Ok. Ok. I did it. I raped her.”
Shane knew it was true but hearing the words out loud made his head spin. He released the knife from Ethan’s skin, just long enough to give him a spark of hope.
It extinguished quickly.
“Tell me, how did it feel?”
Ethan shook his head violently. “No…”
“Answer the question!”
“Please…no….”
“How did it feel when you were lying on top of her, holding your hand over her mouth so she couldn’t call for help? Did it make you feel strong? Turned on even?”
“No… I’m sorry…please…”
Unfamiliar tremors shook Shane to the core. He had fantasized about this night for months, but he wasn’t prepared for the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He tried to slow down, to maintain his composure, but the image of his wife when she came home that night flashed through his mind over and over again, like a movie stuck on the first frame: her torn sweater, the scratches on her arms, the way she shook as she told him what happened to her, the way she couldn’t look him in the eyes.
He stepped down hard on Ethan’s ankle, making it snap backward. “Admit it! Tell the truth. Say out loud before me and before God that forcing yourself on women…ripping their clothes from their bodies while they scream and beg for mercy turns you on.” Shane’s voice morphed into a growl.
Ethan just kept screaming. “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry. Is that what you want to hear? Please! I told you what you wanted please let me go.”
“Shut up! Stop it! It’s too late for that. You can’t use two words to make what you did go away.” Shane covered Ethan’s mouth with his own hand, keeping his knife near Ethan’s lips. “I’ll cut your tongue from your mouth.”
The screaming quieted.
Shane pressed his hand down harder. “Does this feel familiar? Hmm? A little different from the other side, isn’t it?” Shane released Ethan’s mouth and picked up his right hand. “Is this the one you used? Is this the one you used to keep her quiet? Don’t lie to me…” Ethan shook his head. Shane dropped his right hand and picked up his left. “This one then…” He raised it up by the wrist, turning it and examining it from all angles.
Then he ran his blade clean through.
Ethan didn’t start screaming again till his hand fell to the floor, almost bouncing as it landed on the floor. Shane cursed the bile that bubbled in his own throat. He was supposed to be prepared for this. The missing limb lying at his feet was not supposed to be a surprise. But looking down at the hand, its fingers still curled ever so slightly, made him gag. And noticing the college ring glinting at him from one of the fingers made his throat burn. He turned so Ethan wouldn’t see the color drain from his cheeks. “No! No! No! Oh God!” Shane momentarily released his weight from Ethan’s chest, letting him sit up and clutch the arm where his hand had been. Ethan stared at the bone and flesh, screaming undecipherable words that Shane didn’t care to understand.
After Shane steadied himself, he grabbed Ethan’s good arm and forced him to release the bleeding mess. “No? Did I hear you say no? So you did lie to me…”
He sliced through Ethan’s remaining hand.
His screaming echoed through the room. Shane paused for a moment. Ethan swayed back and forth, sitting on the floor, staring at his empty wrists.
I need to finish him before he bleeds out.
Shane kicked him backward.
He pushed his foot against Ethan’s chest once more, pressing down harder than he needed too. He may have heard a rib crack: he couldn’t be sure. He looked down at Ethan, flipping his knife around so the handle sat tightly in his fist and the blade faced downward. “Oh…and one more thing. Don’t say God’s name. He can’t hear you now.”
Shane drew his knife back and threw it straight into Ethan’s heart.
***
Making Ethan disappear was fairly easy. Shane made sure of that before he started: no family, hardly any friends. He figured the bar would just think he bailed. When Ethan took his last breath, relief swept over Shane more than he thought it would. He looked down at the knife in his hand, and startled himself when he felt tears streaming down his cheeks. It was over, over and done with. Lauren could sleep at night now. He wouldn’t tell her everything of course, just that her rapist was gone. Then the tossing and turning and waking in the middle of the night would stop.
Shane found Lauren sitting on the couch when he returned home that night. She had pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them tightly. This time, when he noticed her eyes staring out in the distance in no particular direction, he felt peaceful. He would be able to ease her pain now. He did his job as a husband and the threat against her was now gone.
It was only after he sat down next to her that he saw the suitcases in the corner.
“What’s going on? Where are we going?” He realized how stupid he sounded after the words fell from his lips, and he wished desperately that he could suck them back in.
Lauren didn’t even bother to look at him. “I haven’t been happy for a long time, Shane. This is better for both of us.”
Shane tried to grab her hand but she yanked it away. “What do you mean? Of course you aren’t happy sweetheart. After what happened to you no one would be. I know how upset you are that you didn’t go to the hospital soon enough after what happened. And I can’t imagine the nightmares-”
She finally looked him in the eyes. “Shane I’m leaving. Please just let me go. You can’t change my mind. Let’s just be civil and part ways, ok? It’ll be easier for both of us if we don’t have a big dramatic conversation. I’ll just go.” Lauren got up and grabbed her suitcases, not waiting for a reply. Shane remained on the couch.
The sound of the front door slamming behind her shook Shane into action. He raced after Lauren, and nearly tripped over his own foot in his attempt to reach their yard. When he got to the porch she was already getting into the driver’s seat of their Volkswagen Jetta. “Why are you doing this?
“I told you. Just go back inside.”
A knot in Shane’s stomach gave him the answer that his wife wouldn’t. “It’s someone else, isn’t it? Just tell me the truth.”
Lauren sighed. “You really want to know?”
Shane nodded.
“Ethan. His name’s Ethan.”
Shane’s vision went black as he collapsed on the porch.

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