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There was so much blood...
At least a liter of it, he thought. More than he had ever seen before. The blood covered his hands and the chest and neck of the young woman it belonged to. It was a different color than the one he had seen portrayed in movies or television, a bright red fake color. No, this blood was more black than it was red, a dark and angry shade. It was not at all what he expected.
Just minutes earlier, he and the woman were together, and she was very much alive and cheerful, smiling. Her name was Allison Kress. She and James Dillon were walking in the sand at the beach near her house after enjoying what he thought was the best seafood he had ever eaten. This was their third date and, although neither of them knew it, their last.
He had not seen who attacked her; it happened unbelievably fast. As far as he knew, there was no one else on the beach with them. They were on a remote stretch of beach, one where few chose to go, but James had lived here all his life and frequently visited this area.
Only when he heard her cry out and turned to inspect the noise had he seen the horror of what happened. He reached out to catch her as she collapsed on the sand, and saw in his peripheral vision a figure retreating into the dark night. He turned to get a better view of the assailant and caught a glimpse of what looked like a blade in his hand.
His mind was a frenetic mess. He almost started to get up and follow the man, or whom he assumed to be a man, for whoever the blade wielding attacker was, he seemed too tall to be a woman, and, statistically, men commit the majority of violent crimes. However, his rational mind reasoned it was too dangerous to pursue the attacker.
A sound from Allison, half whimper and half a cry of pain, focused his attention on her. As he turned to look at Allison, he was sickened to see the state she was in. She was alive but only just.
Allison was an exceptionally beautiful young woman, so much so that James was surprised that she even agreed to go out with him. Her face was disfigured with an expression of pain, and her delicate features made sharp with agony. He noticed the amount of blood that covered her and tried to find exactly where she had been injured. His eyes traced her head, face and neck and found no sign of injury, made by a psychopath’s knife or otherwise.
His searching gaze then found the slash that began at her left shoulder and continued down her back. She had obviously been cut from behind. The wound was jagged, like the flesh had been torn. It looked immensely painful. He looked at the ground around her, and found the contrast of the dark blood with the white sand striking, even in the twilight of the evening.
“Jimmy,” Allison had attempted to say, but it came out as a barely audible utterance.
“It’s going to be ok.” He said, hoping to give her some kind of comfort. “Just hang on, you’ll be fine.”
James found himself remembering when his dog, Milo, had been hit by a truck on the street he lived on. He was barely conscious and bleeding uncontrollably. James held that dog in much the same way he was now holding Allison, and he thought about how Milo, a Labrador mix, was always a strong dog and how, in his arms, he appeared so fragile, barely holding on to what little life he had left.
Milo died in his arms that night. James prayed that Allison would not also suffer that fate.
He had also remembered the rage that he felt against the driver of that truck, the hatred toward whoever was behind the wheel of the vehicle.
His feelings for the driver were not unlike what he felt when he saw the figure retreat after assaulting Allison. He has always had a very strong sense of justice, and the justice his conscience demanded for a dog was amplified tenfold for a human being.
Allison slipped out of consciousness.
Right now, as righteously angry as he was, he felt as though he was starting to panic. Attempting to calm himself, he reached into his pocket, retrieved his cell phone, and dialed 911.
He heard over the earpiece, “911, what’s your emergency?”
James used to contest that the greeting for the 911 service should have been a bit more personal, like “911, how may I help you today?” or “911, how are you doing?” but realized a long time ago that the greeting was fine the way it is.
“I need an ambulance. My girlfriend has been attacked.” He managed to say through a voice choked with fear. He was rattled much more than he realized at first.
In his mind, he recalled reading somewhere that, in stressful situations, it was best to try to remain calm and collected. At the moment, he was neither of these things. He was never a levelheaded person, and compounded with the realization that Allison’s attacker was still out there, it was all the more difficult to remain in control of his panicked state of mind.
The voice over the phone started to say something else, but James was distracted by a sound from behind. He thought he heard footsteps in the sand, rapid footsteps, like someone running. The sound was approaching, and fast.
The sound did not register in his mind initially as footsteps, and he couldn’t quite place what he was hearing at first. As his brain sorted out what his ears were picking up and sending to it, his stomach instantly knotted up in a ball of fear. Not wanting to turn and face whatever was approaching and causing the sound for fear that, solely by making eye contact, his very life force might be sucked out of his skin.
This fear, however irrational, caused adrenaline to flow through him, sharpening his senses. In what seemed like one movement, he turned toward Allison, scooped her up into his arms, and ran.
It was probably best that he did not move her, as the injury might have been made worse by such an action. Conversely, had he left her lying in the sand where she was and fled, she would have fared much worse if and when the madman with the knife caught up to her. He didn’t want to think about it.
Now sprinting in the direction opposite the footsteps, James was astounded at the ease with which he ran while holding Allison. He was carrying another person, yet he seemed unimpeded by her weight. Often he had heard about what adrenaline can do to the human body, its effect on pain and overall human strength. It was amazing to actually experience it. If he wasn’t scared out of his mind, he may have appreciated it more.
Feet pounding the yielding sand, arms wrapped tightly around Allison’s limp figure, his mind was now racing, struggling to come up with a plan. It was imperative he find somewhere safe for Allison and himself to take refuge, yet, on the expanse of sand and surf stretched out before him, there seemed to be little opportunity for sufficient shelter.
The footsteps drew closer, moving at a speed which seemed to James almost inhuman. They were almost upon him. Allison was not a heavy individual, but he could not run with her in his arms indefinitely. He had to act quickly.
Turning sharply, he changed the direction in which he ran. He was now heading inland, away from the ocean. James reasoned that this thug would not follow them into town, where he might be seen by people. At the very least, they might be able to find sanctuary in one of the buildings. Though it had occurred to him that by turning in another direction, he was shortening the distance between himself and the man, it was a risk he was willing to take.
When he turned, however, he realized just how wrong he was. What he saw when he looked back in the direction of the man chilled him to his very soul. It created a twisted mass within his gut that, he thought, was generated from the very essence of primal human fear.
He quickened his pace to something more than a sprint. He let out an involuntary cry, and his heart began to beat as if it was a Native American drum announcing battle. He felt it in his throat, his ears. The footsteps were closer.
Suddenly, James’ forward movement stopped, and he felt a sharp pain in his left side. He had been struck by something, and he was now moving to his right, thrown by the force of the impact. At first he didn’t know what happened. Then he realized that Allison wasn’t in his arms, but ten feet away. He got to his feet, and nearly fell backward. He was disoriented and in pain from the impact. All he could manage was to prop himself up on his right arm. He looked toward Allison to make certain she was alright, though that was doubtful.
Allison lay in the sand, face down, unconscious. She was still alive, but James was skeptical of how long that would remain so. He could barely see her in the moonlight. Then, somewhere in the dark aside from Allison, there was a footstep.
James was too petrified to move. He just sat there, and looked into the dark to try and make out a figure. He could not.
He looked in the direction of the sound, tried hard to see an outline, a shadow, anything. When he saw nothing, he turned toward Allison. His heart pounded in his head so loudly that he thought if there was another footstep he would not be able to hear it.
Then he saw movement.
A figure stepped out behind Allison, the same one he saw retreating after she had been stabbed. James noticed now that it wore a black, tattered cloak. It looked as though the cloak was made of the night itself, it was incredibly black. The knife the figure raised was not black. It looked as though it was made of bone or some similar matter.
The attacker was standing over Allison now. James was able to stand but not nearly at full strength. Sitting now, he could only watch as the cloaked form drove the knife into Allison’s body. James could hear the scrape of blade against bone and the sickly sound of flesh tearing against the sharp edge. He nearly vomited.
He stood, unsteadily, eyes on the man who now stabbed and slashed Allison repeatedly. Attempting to walk noiselessly away, he kept his eyes fixed on the man. The figure then turned its head up and looked directly at him. James screamed, a horrified noise, not unlike one a dying animal might utter.
He turned and ran with all the strength he had left in his being. The town was not that far away. As he ran he did not hear footsteps in pursuit, but he could not tell if that was because he wasn’t being followed, or because the sound of his heart beating in his head was drowning out everything else.
The ground changed from sand in favor of asphalt as James came to a street. There was nobody in sight, and this unnerved James. He went to the closest building, a gas station. There was, thankfully, someone there behind the register. Running inside, he shut the door quickly behind him. Leaning against the door, he looked around, eyes darting in different directions. He was breathing hard. He must have appeared crazy, because the young man sitting behind the counter felt the need to inquire about his well being.
“Hey, dude,” he said in a worried voice, “you ok?”
Not answering his question, James came away from the wall, and strode to the counter. He shoved his hand in his pocket, expecting to find a cell phone, but his pocket was empty. He searched his other pants pockets, and still found nothing. He looked at the man.
“I need,” he paused to breathe. “To use your phone.”
The look in James’ eyes rattled the gas station clerk. He reached beside him and picked up the gas station telephone, a white, much used phone that had been repaired, many times it seemed, with duct tape.
“Sure, man.” He handed James the phone. “Are you alright? What happened?”
James said nothing, and pressed the button that read TALK. He put the phone to his ear. There was no sound coming from the earpiece. Examining the blank display, he pressed TALK again and put the phone to his ear. Still nothing. He turned to the clerk.
“There’s no dial tone!” he yelled at the man.
“Hey, chill.” the clerk said, frowning at James. “There’s no need to get wound up like that. Just hand me the phone. The charging dock goes haywire sometimes, and you have to mess with it a little to get it working again.”
James handed him the phone, and leaned against the counter. He looked outside and saw no sign of any man, cloaked or otherwise. The pain in his ribs from being struck began to manifest itself. He considered buying some Tylenol, then decided against it. He did not have time to waste in this gas station, and the pain would be bearable for at least a while.
He glanced at his watch, and saw that nearly 2 hours had passed since his meal with Allison ended.
She had been so full of life, laughing and smiling. She was a good person, James knew that. She really appreciated life and the beauty therein. James had thought eventually he might want to spend the rest of his life with her. She was the first person he really connected with. Now that person, so full of life and vitality, was dead, killed at the hands of a knife wielding psychopath, no less. James put his face in his hands and sobbed. He shed tears for Allison, for himself, and for the hopelessness of the situation. He doubted that anyone involved would make it alive. Not after what he saw.
He raised his head from his hands, then wiped his moist eyes, and looked once more out into the night.
The cloaked man stood at the glass door.
James let out a yell, and the young gas station employee left his work on the phone and stood up immediately. He looked at James, and then followed his gaze to the door.
“Hey, dude!” He said to James as he looked from the door to James. “What’s the deal? What happened?”
Somewhere in James’ mind he realized that he told the clerk nothing of what had happened. He wondered if the guy would’ve acted with more urgency if he had known the situation. In any case, there was no time to inform him now.
“We have to get out of here!” James yelled at the now frightened young man behind the counter.
“Hey! Wait!” the cashier protested. “What’s going on?”
Ignoring him, James started to run toward the back of the store. He darted for the rear exit, and then stopped. There was a dull, wet sound behind him. He did not want to turn around and look, told himself not to, he knew he should just keep running, but his body acted independently of his mind. Turning around, he saw the cloaked figure standing now inside the gas station, arm extended toward the counter, face toward the floor. James did not remember hearing the man entering the building. As he stared at the man he noticed the skin of his arm, a sickly pale color, devoid of pigment. His eyes followed the arm to the hand where it grasped a blade, its point buried inside the face of the clerk. Blood dripped down the blade and the young man’s limp shoulders. The figure raised his head to look at James.
Legs turned numb with fear, mind racing, James turned and scrambled for the rear exit. He reached for the racks of chips and various convenience store items and overturned them, putting them in between himself and the cloaked man.
He felt sick at the thought of being responsible for that young man’s death, that maybe if he hadn’t gone in the gas station, the clerk might still be alive, none the wiser of the horror that unfolded on this dark night.
As he reached the rear door, he thought for an instant that it may be locked, and he began to panic with thoughts of what would happen if he were trapped inside. Thankfully, the door was not locked. There was an alarm that blared when he opened it, but he paid no attention to it and continued running.
Passing buildings of different size as he ran deeper into town, he came to a large parking lot. He paused only to look inside the cars, but kept his pace. As he glanced inside each one, he attempted to spot keys that a motorist had carelessly left inside. He still did not hear the man behind him as he ran, but this did not sway his belief that he was still being pursued.
In the very center of the lot it seemed, there was a blue sedan with the keys sitting on the driver’s seat, and the window was down about halfway. Not thinking about the implications, he immediately reached in and grabbed the keys, unlocked the door, and sat in the driver’s seat.
He sat there contemplating his plan of action. He would go to the closest police station, tell them everything that happened, and stay with them until everything was sorted out. He looked in his hands at the key ring he held. As he put the keys in the ignition and turned it, he looked up and saw the cloaked man standing in front of the car.
He sat frozen in the car, unable to put it in gear and begin to move. The man took a step forward, and James was jerked out of his trance and he threw the car in drive. Now moving toward the man in the cloak, he was certain he would hit him, positive that car would meet psychopath. In the instant before they connected, the man moved to the side, unbelievably fast, dodging the car completely. James put his entire body weight on the brakes to stop before colliding with the cars parked opposite his side of the aisle.
The cloaked man was nowhere to be seen. James didn’t care to find out where he had disappeared to; he was much more interested in leaving the parking lot. He sped out of the parking lot and down the highway, away from the man. Calm down, he thought. There’s absolutely no way he can follow you. Even as he said it in his head, he doubted the truth of that statement.
After a considerable distance, James realized he was actually heading in the opposite direction of the police station. This didn’t bother him. He wasn’t really heading to the police station anyway. He wasn’t sure if they’d be able to do much. It seemed that everyone involved ended up dead. Maybe not. Maybe he was projecting his own fears on his perception of the events. In any case, his goal was now to get as far away from people as possible. He pulled off the highway and began traveling down a small back road to further isolate himself.
He was traveling on a small road that was in desperate need of repair. It snaked its way through a thick forested area. He thought that this was about as far removed from people as possible. He wouldn’t see anyone here.
James lost track of time. The adrenaline that fear had injected into his bloodstream had subsided completely. He wasn’t really sure where he planned to go, but knew that he should go somewhere far away from that bloodstained town.
His thoughts were jolted back to reality with the bleat of a police car siren. He looked in his rearview mirror and saw flashing red and blue lights. How long has he been following me? He thought, frantically. What should I do? If I stop, he’ll know I stole this car. Wait. I can tell him what happened. He will be able to help.
James pulled over onto the narrow shoulder of the road. The cop pulled close behind him. James began to compose himself so he’d be able to accurately tell the police officer the situation.
There was a tap on the window. The police officer, a middle aged but healthy looking man, motioned for James to roll down the window. He looked as though he had a rough night, one that he longed to return home from.
“License and registration, please.” he said to James.
“Listen,” James began, “I stole this car. I had to so I could get way. There is an insane man out there that killed two people, maybe more.”
He swallowed, forcing his fear back, and continued. “You have to help me. Do whatever you need to. Please. ”
“Alright, just stay where you are. I’m going to--” The police officer had begun to lift his radio to call for backup, and then stopped abruptly. There was a knife sticking out of his chest. He was stabbed from behind.
The police officer, who probably had a family to go home to, friends that cared for him, and a promising career collapsed, revealing the cloaked man behind him. He held the blood-soaked knife at arms length, and glared at James.
James saw once again the face that shocked him so. The face that was almost human but not quite. The eyes lacked pupils, white orbs that seemed to cut into the very soul. There was no color in his skin, so it seemed to be a hideous blue shade. His nose did not come to an end but instead left two narrow holes in his face where there should be a nose. His mouth hung open, revealing numerous small, sharp teeth.
This face did not strike any less terror in James’ being than it had earlier that night. He knew that what pursued him was not a man, but something much more horrific. He quickly shifted into drive and pressed the pedal as far as it would go. He shot off away from the police car, the dead police officer and the cloaked man. Now he knew. He could not go to anyone else. Every single person involved up to now had died.
Except for James.
He had to go, somewhere far away from everyone. Somewhere he would not have any human contact. Then he could deal with this himself. He wasn’t sure how, but he would.
He continued on the road, not paying attention to the surroundings or anything else, just trying to get farther away.
An alert sounded on the dashboard, which was cracked and badly in need of maintenance. The whole car in fact, looked as though no one had any interest in cleaning it for the last several years. Perhaps that was the reason the keys were left inside. James looked at the dashboard and through the cracks and dust and various unknown smudges, he could make out the gas gauge. It read nearly empty.
James knew he would not be able to fill the tank. He couldn’t go to another gas station. Not after what happened. He also could not pull over to the side of the road. So he continued driving, despite the hungry fuel tank that begged him for food.
The road now wound around the side of a hill, where a guardrail separated passing vehicles from a cliff that overlooked the ocean. This small metal barrier was the only thing keeping stray motorists from plummeting to the rocks below. Somehow that did not comfort James.
The dashboard emitted another alert, and James looked down at it, took the end of his shirtsleeve and rubbed out what was obscuring the small orange light. There appeared to be no oil in this car either. I couldn’t have picked a better car to steal, he thought. The owners probably wanted this piece of junk stolen, just so it’d be off their hands.
He chuckled to himself and looked back at the road. He glanced in his rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of a dim white light, no, two white circles, apparently in his backseat. He looked again in the mirror and saw those two white circles were eyes that belonged to a pale face. That face was wearing a hood.
James shrieked at the sight of the cloaked man sitting in the car. A dozen thoughts ran through his mind in one instant. What the hell? How long was he in the car? Why didn't I notice him? What am I going to do? And the most pressing question: How did he get here?
He stared in the mirror, and the man seemed to just stare back. There was no motion. This reminded James of how still and motionless a snake is the instant before it strikes. Then the man moved.
Not thinking about his actions, James acted on one thought. The cliff. He swerved toward the guardrail, opening his door as the car approached the cliff’s edge. As the bumper met the guardrail, he was halfway out of the car. He struck the pavement and rolled out of the way of the car just in time to watch it go over the precipice, with the man inside. James heard the crash as the car struck the rocks and went into the water at the bottom of the rock face. Then everything was quiet.
The twisted metal where the car tore through the guardrail gaped like a mouth that was frozen in a scream. The fog that obscured the sky had by now cleared up, revealing millions of stars. James looked up at them and then stood unsteadily. He walked over to the edge of the cliff and peered down.
He saw the blue sedan crushed among the rocks, the waves crashing over it, and a sense of finality came upon him. He walked past the gnarled metal and sat on the undamaged part of the guardrail. He put his hands on his face and began to think about where he would go from here. He inhaled deeply and felt the pain in his side where he was struck earlier tonight. He thought that one or more of his ribs may be broken, but that didn't really matter right now. He felt a tremendous relief now that the chaos of the night was over.
He stood, his entire body aching, and began walking down the road the way he came. He hoped to find someone that could give him a ride back into town. He walked for ten minutes when he heard a sound behind him. He started to turn, thinking it was a person or a car, when he felt someone’s arms on his body.
The arms wrapped around his own, restricting his movement.
James had always placed a high amount of importance on physical appearance, and worked out for most of his life after adolescence. He always had a routine of regular exercise, and was confident in his own strength. This man, however, was extremely strong, much stronger than James. He struggled against the man’s grip, grasping at the arm that was around his shoulder. He felt the man’s skin. It felt like ice, the skin of a dead man. James looked at the arm, and saw that the skin was pale, a blue shade.
It was the cloaked man.
James screamed, and frantically struggled against the arms, and their hold on him seemed to grow stronger with every move he made. His scream was cut off by a cold white hand that clasped James’ mouth. The man pulled James’ head back, and James still screamed into the man’s hand and moved violently, trying to free himself.
He then felt a strange sensation, a curious digging in his throat. Then he felt intense, blinding pain where the cloaked man’s blade tore into his neck. He tried to breathe, could not, and collapsed onto his knees. The cloaked man moved his arm away from James’ throat, and ran the blade through the left side of his chest. James grasped the handle sticking out of his torso and looked at the man in the cloak, who now stood in front of him. His vision started to blur and darken. In his darkening eyes, he saw the cloaked man turn and walk away. He tried to tell him to stop, but his voice failed him. The only sound he made was a wet gurgle. He fell back on the ground. Lying there, he felt no more pain. Instead, a calm settled over James, and he embraced the darkness that now enveloped him.
Police received a report of a dead body found on Route 15, just half a mile up the road from where a stolen car was recovered from the bottom of a cliff. Investigation identified the man as James Dillon, 27. He was found with his throat slit open and clutching the handle of a knife made of bone that was stabbed through his heart. The bodies of 3 other people were found, all of which murdered in a grisly manner by the same knife that was used for James’ own apparent suicide.
One of the bodies belonged to Allison Kress, who witnesses say went out to dinner with James earlier the previous night. She was found repeatedly stabbed on the beach near Miller’s Pier, the restaurant where the couple had eaten.
DNA evidence along with fingerprints belonging to James was recovered at the site of each murder. Surveillance cameras at an Exxon gas station captured footage of James entering the building, evidently upset. He then withdrew a knife from his coat and stabbed the clerk in the face and chest. Police Officer Donald Howard’s horrific murder was also recorded by the dashboard camera in his squad car when he pulled James over on Route 15.
The brutality with which these murders were committed is unprecedented in the small town where James grew up. Family members say they had no idea he was capable of doing something like this. There is no evidence of a violent history, nothing that would indicate why he would’ve killed these people seemingly at random on that fateful night.
We will never fully comprehend the kind of monstrous creatures that are born in the minds of humankind, what we could, or might already have become.