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Gas Mask

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It was a rainy evening. Dark clouds covered the sky, blocking out any hope for sunlight. The sky water poured down by the buckets, loudly punching the windshield as if it needed to break the glass and drown us.

My husband and I were driving home after a nice dinner. It had been a while since we've had one as a family. My thirteen-year-old son, Nico, sat in the back seat behind his father. He was playing his Nintendo DS, seemingly oblivious to the rain beating down on the pickup truck.

"Lee, slow down. That man is walking in the storm..." I frowned and pointed to a man walking along the street, soaked as could be. I felt sorry for him. Nobody deserved to be walking in conditions like this, especially on a highway with no roof in sight. "Stop up there. We should take him home, or at least to some place where he won't be rained on."

My husband, Lee, glanced at me quick before returning his view to the road. "Jessica, you know I don't like hitchhikers. There's no good that can come from them."

"There's a gas station maybe five miles along. We'll drop him off there, so he can call someone to pick him up."

He sighed, flipping on the blinker to pull over. I unbuckled and reached for my coat and pulled it on, pulling the hood up over my head. When the truck stopped, I took the umbrella from the glove box and opened it up as I stepped down and into the rushing water. Now I really felt sorry for him; the rain was ice cold.

"Sir? Sir!" I quickly walked towards him. He wore a dark brown trench coat, the rain painting it darker. His brown hair had dropped over his face. His backpack had a steady stream of water falling from it; everything in it must be soaked. "Do you need a ride to some shelter? Home?"

The man hesitated before spilling his answer. "Yes, ma'am. That would be wonderful. I thank you with my full heart."

I guided him to the truck and opened the back door. He climbed in, sitting beside my dear Nico. He wouldn't mind. I wouldn't be surprised if Nico never noticed this man.

I hauled myself back into my seat, taking off my jacket and closing the umbrella. It was a relief to be back in here.

"So, what's your name?" Lee was unamused, and obviously untrusting.

"My name is Joey. Joey Vicson. I thank you for your help. I've been walking out there for about two hours. My car broke down way back, and I don't have my phone on me. I was hoping to get to a pay phone or a mechanic." He set his bag on the floor.

"Hello, Joey," I began, "I am Jessica, my husband is Lee, and that's our son Nico beside you." It felt nice to help somebody.

Several minutes passed in lack of conversation, the radio playing the only noise other than the still stern precipitation. The sound of him unzipping his backpack soon reached my eardrums.

"What is that? What are you doing?" Nico's voice seemed concerned, so I looked back. Joey had put on a gas mask and he pulled out a can, spraying something at Nico...

"Joey, what are you doing-?!" He unbuckled and reached forward, spraying me and Lee with the gas. I held my breath, but Lee and Nico didn't. Nico was asleep—I hope it was only asleep—and Lee passed out on the steering wheel. The truck swerved as Lee's body tried to fall off the wheel.

The hitchhiker unbuckled Lee and pushed him on top of me. I laid still, hoping not to alarm him. Joey had sat in the driver's seat, slammed on the gas pedal, and drove.

I pulled my shirt over my nose and took silent, shallow breaths, my vision blurring and hearing becoming distant.

Everything went black.

Every part of me was in pain. I opened my eyes to find myself sprawled in the bed of the truck. It was dark and it had stopped raining. The vehicle was parked somewhere, and the only light I saw came from inside the truck. Senses came to me, and I felt myself lying in a warm and thick liquid. Taking a sniff, I smelled the strong scent of blood.

My family, what was happening to my family?

I tried my best to sit up, arms shaking, body heavy. I looked through the window. I saw Lee lying in the back seats and Nico on the dashboard, near falling off. Joey pushed Nico back on. What I saw made me vomit in the pool of blood I sat in.

Joey was cutting off Nico's left hand, and sewing Lee's left hand onto my son's wrist. I saw this had gone for several body parts, with my husband, too...

I looked down at myself. This leg was not mine. This finger was not mine. This arm was not mine.

My head felt light, and I was still so very tired. I lie back down. A truck door slammed shut. A gas mask looked over me, and he said something. Something I deciphered as, "You're perfect now."

No more light.

No more pain.

It happened again. I couldn't help myself, I-

I sat down on the old couch. My coat was still damp in the rainwater and blood of the family I victimized. I held my gas mask in my hands, staring down at the orange plastic eye covers, the black rubber. This mask, this trench coat, this outfit consumed me when I wore it. It changes me. Yet I can't stop myself from putting it on...

Many people turn to alcohol or drugs when they're stressed or depressed. No, not me. A force takes over my body and my mind. Countless voices brush against my mind, and they keep telling me, "Put it on." And I do. Sometimes it's even my choice.

When I think of it all... when I feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as a car stops and picks me up. The patience required to hold yourself together, until just the right time to pull on the mask, and slip out the gas chloroform. The car swerving as the people inside are startled... them passing out... taking control of the car and taking it somewhere private. That's where the real fun begins. Taking the knives and bone saws, the needles and thread. Cutting into the warm flesh, the hot blood spilling over my hands... seeing the bone and slicing through it, ha! It's great! Holding the limb in your hands, then cutting off another... and another... and another! Oh my God, it's the best sensation! Haha! Sewing the appendages back onto other people, making them just like me.

You see, my right index finger was switched with my buddy Austin's. The scar is still there... and my left arm? It was sliced at the bicep and switched with my friend Derek's arm. Then my right leg was cut mid-thigh, traded with my pal John's. All the scars permanent. The skin tone slightly different. I am perfect.

No Joey, stop! Pull yourself together! You're a brutal killer! Cold water to the face. That always seems to help other people.

I'd walked to the bathroom, stared myself in the eye, in the dirty mirror. Behind those light-brown eyes was a brutal mind. Yet, nobody knew. Nobody that survived, anyways. I splashed my face with the icy water. Pull yourself together, Joey. Don't put on the outfit twice in one night.

Okay. I'm feeling better. It's okay. It's okay.

I scooped a bit of hair gel into my fingers, gelling my brown hair up. Yeah. That's better.

No. No no no no. It's not better... the voices, oh Christ, they're screaming! I can't... I can't quiet them, oh God... oh God, oh God, oh God. Ha, they won't stop! They won't-

I had to lean against the sink. Lay my chest on the counter. I couldn't stop laughing... tears fell down from my eyes at a steady pace. I could hardly catch a breath anymore, ha!

I had to lean against the wall as I made my way back into my tiny apartment living room, falling onto the couch. I gasped for air in a squeak, sounding as if I could be choking and die soon. With shaking arms and a desperate need, I scrambled through my backpack and grabbed a bone saw. A syringe and a small container. A clamp.

I tried to calm my hysterical laughter as I filled the syringe and stabbed it into my left thigh. As numbness dominated my leg, I took the clamp, fastening it tightly on the higher end of my thigh. Wiping away tears, I continued to laugh as I gripped the bone saw in white knuckles, slicing through my own flesh with the serrated blade. The blood soaked the jeans I still wore.

Off went the entire leg, mid-thigh down.

I reached for my bag as I grew dizzy. I still gave a few chuckles along with my broad grin. I tightly wrapped layers upon layers along my stub, watching as it grew red.

No, this wasn't a problem at all! I grabbed the spool of thread, needle, clamp, and saw, dragging myself back down the hallway towards my bedroom. Upon reaching the dark room, I pulled myself to sit against my bed frame. Reaching under it, I grabbed an ankle, pulling Austin from under my queen-sized bed, gagged, ankles and wrists bound in rags, hardly alive.

"Hoho, Austin," I still laughed down at my emaciated and pale ginger-haired friend. "We're besties, aren't we?" He gave a squeal against the rag in response. "I thought so. And besties... do... everything... for each other... right?" I listened as my voice hissed. By now, I was watching what I was doing subconsciously. I had no control of my words or actions. "Right!"

Out came the saw. Off went Austin's left leg. He screamed and flailed, a delight to watch! Ha!

I dragged the severed limb over to myself, delicately removing the bandages and replacing my leg with Austin's.

He died from blood loss soon after. Or starvation, or dehydration. Who knows?

I'd calmed down. My head got what it wanted. Even if it's not what I wanted.

I'm normal, I promise.

I'm perfect.

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