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"It is a beast."
That's how the police described the serial killer that had been lurking around the town over these past few weeks. It was a human; yet it was a beast. Everybody feared it.
Recently, the number of death had been escalating in an unbelievable rate. Every day, new bodies were found, lifeless and ruthlessly mutilated. It was mortifying.
Police had been trying their best to hunt down this "beast"; but they never got the chance to seize him. He never left any trace that would lead the officers to his location. It was frustrating for them; but it was more frustrating for us ordinary citizens. We couldn't do anything. All we could do was watch and wait.
It wasn't right. It wasn't.
We were being controlled by fear. We're like prey, clueless and defenseless as we waited for the predator to come for us. We could try to seek help, but there's no guarantee that help would come for us. After all, a predator makes sure that we're cornered before he strikes. There was no chance of survival.
Just like everyone else in this town, I tried to live normally. I tried to ignore the fact that one day I could be the next victim. I didn't want to admit to myself, but I was afraid. I felt unsafe.
Three weeks ago, I would've laughed this fuss off. Three weeks ago, I would've found this as a joke. But that was three weeks ago. The current situation of our town made those things impossible to do. If only that killer never came to this town.
I blinked several times only to realize that I had zoned out. I was overthinking again. Overanalyzing. But who could blame me? This whole serial killer thing was driving everyone out of their wits.
As I came back to reality, I found myself staring blankly in space. I was seated there at the corner of the room, a place where I would be able to save myself from the usual classroom drama and a perfect spot for me to daydream where no one could interrupt me.
I leaned back in my seat and tried to keep my head in the discussion. The professor, a thirty-year-old man with a tall, lean frame, was standing in the front of the room, talking. He was talking about a man named Jack the Ripper. It was quite an interesting topic, yet his words made no sense to me.
"Jack the Ripper had been known for killing prostitutes," the professor said. "He would mutilate them and leave their bodies on the streets as if they were just mere dead rats. They never found out who he was."
"Mr. Hughes, what if Jack the Ripper came back to life and decided to spread terror in our town?" asked the redhead boy whose desk was located in the front row. His question was silly, yet the way he delivered it caught everyone's attention. He was serious.
The sudden change in the atmosphere in that four-cornered room was something that couldn't be ignored. Everyone seemed to have left their own fantasy world and started to pay attention to that boy who was brave enough to open up a topic that no one dared to talk about.
Mr. Hughes raised his brows, obviously taken aback by the boy's question. Then a gentle smile crept on his wistful face.
"That's an interesting proposition, Hamilton," he stated. "What if he came back and assumed a different personality? What if instead of going after prostitutes, he's now after everyone who's been living a life of depravity? After all, killing prostitutes was an—"
"Act of cleansing."
Before I realized it, I had already spoken out my thoughts. It was then I realized how interested I was in the topic. Heads turned to me and I felt like melting from the sudden attention. I should've kept my mouth shut. However, this dialogue was too fascinating for me to set aside. I finally had the chance to speak out.
"Yes, Ms. Night is correct." Mr. Hughes nodded. "It was believed to be an act of cleansing. Someone who has a very strong sense of righteousness may be driven to do such thing."
"Or someone who is completely insane," added the girl from the seat next to me.
"I disagree, Ms. Johnson," Mr. Hughes said. "We're talking about a psychopathic murderer, not a killer who's suffering from mental illness."
The girl arched a brow. "What's the difference?"
Just as Mr. Hughes opened his mouth to speak, the bell rang. This made him sigh. It looked like this talk had also caught his interest.
"We'll continue this next meeting. See you." He picked up his leather case and then strode out of the room.
Following other students' example, I stood up from my seat, picked up my things and joined the crowd. It's time to go home.
"Hey, Suzy, you know what Mr. Hughes was talking about, right?" Julia Johnson asked as she approached me.
Julia Johnson's short figure stood out in the crowd. Today she was wearing a pink dress to go with her single braid of dark hair. She's such a darling. She's always curious, always asking questions; but no answer ever satisfied her. I didn't know if she was just doing it to annoy people or she's just really plain...curious.
"Yes." I stopped and waited for her to reach me. Then I smiled. "Jack the Ripper's legend. It's quite an interesting story."
"Tell me about him, please." Julia's wide brown eyes stared at me with a child's curiosity. "We live on the same street, right? I'll walk with you."
"Sure," I replied.
It was a surprise, to be honest. I didn't expect her to go as far as walking home with me just to obtain information about Jack. Maybe it's just me or maybe Hamilton's question actually moved her.
The distance from the school to my house was not that far, so walking was not much of a problem to me. The real problem was making it home safely.
The sun was starting to set in the west horizon, painting the sky tangerine and purple. It was a beautiful sight. Everything was perfect; but beyond that false image was the fact that more people were going to die tonight.
"Jack the Ripper was a legendary serial killer in England," I told Julia.
We were walking on the sidewalk, side-by side, hoping that nothing bad would happen to us as light slowly disappeared from the sky.
"And he mutilated prostitutes, right?" Julia asked.
I nodded. "Uh-huh. He's a psychopath and I love him."
"Are you serious? And what's the difference? Psychopath or not, he's still insane." Julia's brows knitted together in confusion.
I sighed, rolling my eyes. "Psychopaths are manipulative people, using others for their personal gain. When they no longer need you or get bored of you, they'll leave you as if nothing happened. And no, they aren't insane like you think they are. They are completely aware of what they're doing, which is the case of most serial killers. Jack was a psychopath. I don't know what he was gaining from killing prostitutes, but he sure knew what he was doing back then since he never left any trace as if everything was planned. No one ever found out Jack's real identity. Up until today. Had he been a random psychotic killer, he would've been caught already."
Julia's expression soured. "Just like the serial killer in this town. We don't know him. He's just out there, waiting."
By that time, the sky was completely covered with darkness already. Streetlights provided illumination; but they weren't enough. Those things could not protect us from the beast. Darkness still surrounded us. There was no assurance.
"This forest sure is creepy, yes?" Julia said as we passed by the woods.
Our street was near the outskirts of the town, so we had to pass by that place whether we liked it or not.
Out of boredom, my eyes made a quick glance at the shadows of the towering trees. "Yeah, it is—"
Something moved in the darkness. I saw a horrendous sight, rendering my body frozen in response. This couldn't be.
"What's wrong?" Julia stopped, her eyes widening. She must have sensed my sudden uneasiness.
A lump formed in my throat. "It's...him."
"Where?" Julia gasped.
I heard a drawing of a knife. I didn't know how that was possible, but I heard it. Everything happened so fast. Next thing I knew, someone had already impaled a knife through the center of Julia's forehead. She wasn't even able to scream. I wasn't able to scream. I just watched in horror as Julia's body fall to the ground. Her eyes were wide, a sign of unexpected death. Blood gushed out from the hole when the killer pulled out his knife.
It was him. It was the town's personification of Jack. The serial killer. It appeared right before my eyes. Yet...I never got a good look at his face. I couldn't see his face.
As quickly as he appeared, the killer left without any trace, taking his knife with him. Why didn't he kill me? Why? Why let me witness this kind of horror?
Just then, I heard myself scream.
"What...Julia?" I got to her side and put her head onto my lap, staining myself with her blood in the process.
This couldn't be happening. I stared right into her soulless eyes, her lips parted. She had probably attempted to scream; but she didn't survive long enough to do it.
"What do I do?" I felt my eyes tear up. This was hopeless. She's obviously dead.
Nobody's there. Just like what the killer had planned. Corner the prey and enjoy the feast of death.
"What do I do?" I muttered, tears silently crawling down on my cheeks.
I felt helpless as I hugged Julia's dead body. Hours must have passed while I sat there, not knowing what to do. No help came. I was done for.
I looked up only to see Mr. Hughes walking up to my direction. As recognition registered on his face, he picked up his pace and ran to us.
"What happened?" he asked, alarm evident in his voice.
I couldn't speak. My throat had completely dried up.
"Was it his doing?" Mr. Hughes asked, catching his breath.
Why was he here? He lived in a completely opposite direction. Why was he here? Why was it like he'd run for miles just to get here? Did he know that the killer was after us?
"Let's call the police," he said, offering his hand.
I pushed myself up and backed away. Or could it be him?
"Stay away from me!" I screamed, my voice coming out scratchy. "It's you!"
"What are you talking about?" Mr. Hughes stepped forward. "I'm here to help."
"It's you..." I whispered.
Just as he was about to jump on me, a patrol car came. The police officers quickly got off the car and drew their guns out, pointing them at Mr. Hughes.
"Freeze!" said one of the officers. "Put your hands in the air."
Mr. Hughes did what he was told.
Another officer approached him and inspected Mr. Hughes' coat until he found something in one of the pockets. The officer held it up in the air. It was a knife.
So I was right. It was him indeed.
"You are under arrest," the officer declared as he cuffed Mr. Hughes' hands behind his back. "You're coming with us."
"But-but I didn't do anything! I can explain!" Mr. Hughes yelled, struggling as the officer led him to the car.
Mr. Hughes looked at me like I did something wrong. It was like he just realized something. His eyes were wide with horror; but he didn't say anything.
"As for you," said the other officer, pointing at me. "We'll take you to your house and talk to your parents."
I swallowed my nonexistent saliva and nodded.
Just like what the officer had said, another police car came. It was the one that took me home. The police tried to talk to my parents, but I told them that my parents weren't home yet. So in the end, they just decided to leave me and advised me to lock the doors.
If only they knew how dangerous it was for me to be alone. If only they knew that my parents had stopped coming home three weeks ago. Three weeks ago when all of these started. Three weeks ago when I realized how messed up this world was.
But I had nothing to worry about now. They finally caught him. I shouldn't be scared anymore. That's one less psychopath for you.
"Oh, Jack..." I mumbled as I stared at the mirror, the reflection showing the image of an ordinary victim, bloody and a complete mess. "I really admire your ways. You kill the undeserving and never leave any trace. You don't worry about witnesses...because you alone are the witness to your own murders."
That mousy Mr. Hughes was gone now. No more threats.
I threw the bloody knife into the sink and stepped into the shower.
They had almost got Jack.
Written by MannazWunjo