“Thanks for giving me a ride home. Why are you here so early?” Mark asked as he stepped inside the car shaking the water out of his hair and tossing his rain jacket in the back.
“Sorry my car is seven minutes fast, so I’m always a little early,” John responded cheerfully while pulling away from the curb.
The two of them sat in silence for a long time, both lost in their own worlds. They had met in college and had become friends almost instantly. They ended up studying the same thing and were even hired to the same firm in criminal defense for white-collar crime.
“How long have we been friends John?” Mark’s question blindsided John as it came out of nowhere.
“Wow, we have only been carpooling for a week, and already you're questioning our friendship? Maybe Monica was right, I am bad company.” John joked. But noticed the almost repulsive look that flashed on Mark's face when his wife’s name was mentioned.
“No, it’s not that, I was just wondering,” Mark responded curtly.
“Well, I’d say we're coming up on our 10-year anniversary. What’s traditional, china? I hope you got me something good.” John said trying to lighten the mood. He looked over at Mark but he didn’t laugh, he was distracted, thinking hard about something.
“Man, not even a courtesy laugh. Lighten up! It's Friday, let’s just get home and relax, deal with whatever you're thinking about on Monday.” John was concentrating on driving now. The car had more likeness to a submarine than a car in the dark and rain.
But Mark didn’t respond right away, still evidently lost in his own world and they continued on in silence. Minutes passed in silence until Mark spoke up, apparently having come to a conclusion about whatever he was mulling over.
“Hey, I need you to take me somewhere, to a friend’s house. I need to pick up something.” Mark stared out the window as he spoke, his voice was raspy, like phlegm was caught in his throat but he made no attempt at clearing it.
“Yeah, sure okay.” John had never heard Mark speak of any other friends. In fact, John had always found the thought comforting that he was Mark’s only good friend.
The two of them drove on as Mark dictated directions, eventually ending up in Mark’s own neighborhood to John's surprise. The house that they pulled in front of was a two-story modern home that seemed extremely pricey. All the lights were off except one room on the second floor that looked like a bedroom. There were smaller homes nearby but those were all dark as well giving the area an empty, lifeless feeling.
Uncertainty crept into John's throat and his voice wavered heavily as he asked, “What are we doing here man?”
Mark looked down at his phone then showed it to John.
“I have to get something. Don’t come in until 11:15. Do you understand?” Mark's voice was serious and his tone had dropped an octave. John nodded calmly, unsure what was going on. Why would he need to come in at all? Why were they even there? What the hell was going on? But John calmed himself, looked at Mark and said half-jokingly,
“Don't do anything stupid.”
Mark didn’t answer, he got out in silence and made his way to the house. Once at the front door, he pushed it open and disappeared into the darkness. Immediately, John regretted allowing him to leave.
Minutes passed unhurried by John’s increasing panic. No lights turned on, so Mark must have walked around in the dark. What was he getting? What was he doing? I should have stopped him. These thoughts and questions flooded John's mind and just as he was about to go in to end this, an ear-piercing woman's scream cut through the silence. Muffled by the house, the scream was still audible outside. John looked around to the neighbor's homes but no lights turned on. Remarkably, no one else had heard. More muffled yells continued to break the silence, each softer than the last.
What the hell is going on? John tried desperately to think of a way to rationalize what he had heard. Maybe the wife of the friend had come downstairs, seen Mark and freaked out. Maybe Mark is in trouble. John’s body went cold, a dark red spray flashed across the bedroom window bathing his car in a red light and paralyzed him in his seat. Blood? John started to panic, something has gone horribly wrong inside I should go in and call the police! But he then remembered Mark’s orders. I cannot go in before the time is up. And so, he denied every rational and irrational possibility and stayed put. He put his faith in Mark. He didn’t call anyone and he didn’t go in. Maybe this is a trick. Yes, a trick Something like this doesn’t just happen to normal people. But still uneasy, he continued trying to convince himself that he was in fact, doing the right thing. Two minutes passed with no noise inside or outside on the street. Just as he had fooled himself into a false sense of balance another spray of red blood hit the window. He looked at the car clock, 11:15, I can go in now! Maybe Mark was in trouble, but maybe not, and he wasn’t going to let his best friend down.
John got out from his car and moved slowly to the front door. It was slightly ajar, evidently, Mark hadn't closed it all the way. He placed his hand on the large brass door handle and pushed it open. It swung inwards opening up into a hallway dimly lit only by a greenish glow from a thermostat.
“Mark” John whispered urgently through clenched teeth.
“Mark!” John said again, louder this time, and with more force.
“Fuck,” John whispered under his breath, realizing that he would have to go inside. Slowly one foot at a time he stepped in.
Something seemed strange inside, it was too quiet for all that screaming he heard.
Looking down he saw Mark's shoes just inside the doorway. Why would he take off his shoes? John found the answer to the question after only one step. His wet shoes on the tile floor let out a squeal, piercing the silence like a knife. Apparently, Mark didn't want anyone to hear him, but, but what did he need to get? Was he getting anything? Did he plan this? What the hell was going on? Thoughts spun around John's head making him feel slightly nauseous. He took another step in, and again his shoes let out a piercing screech. His eyes listlessly adjusted to the light and objects became clearer. The hallway led into a living room littered with high price furniture. Slowly John walked into the room.
Halfway through his heart almost shot through his skull when a cold voice came from directly behind him.
“I told you to wait.” The voice was shaky, uncontrolled and tense but unmistakably Mark’s.
“What the hell is going on Mark?” John’s response was cold and distant as if someone was speaking for him.
Mark replied with the same five words.
“I told you to wait.” The voice seemed as if it was holding back an un-measurable amount of anger.
John whipped around abruptly to face Mark but only emptiness greeted him. The front door at the end of the hallway was still ajar and let in a little light from the street.
“I did wait, now tell me what the fuck happened here?” John shouted into the darkness. Mark's response this time came from John's right, a bit further away. The voice was cold and steady, as the anger had evaporated from his tone.
“You're early John; you shouldn’t have come in.” John turned to his right, still nothing but a doorframe leading into another room faced him. John followed the sound of Mark's voice. Walking slowly, every step of his shoe rang out like a cannon blast in the inescapable silence.
“I Fucking Waited The Fifteen Goddamn Minutes! Now stop playing games and tell me what happened. I can't help if you don't tell me.” John had wanted to sound tough but the shake in his throat gave him away.
“You are seven minutes early John.” This time the voice came from up a flight of stairs lit by a faint warm glow probably coming from the bedroom. John gradually climbed the stairs, lifting each leg took an enormous amount of effort.
“No I looked at the clock in my car and it said…” John trailed off and his whole body shuddered. The clock in his car was seven minutes fast.
How could I have forgotten? How could I have been so stupid, why didn’t I remember? It doesn’t matter now, though. I’m here and I have to move forward. At the top of the stairs, John stood in a dark hallway dimly lit by a cracked door at the end of the hallway. John was drawn to the light almost instinctually. The warmth of it seemed so kind, his whole body relaxed, goose bumps lowered and his brain calmed. That one beam of light turned into John's whole world as if his future lay behind it. Before he knew, he was at the door pushing it open and it swung in soundlessly. It took John’s eyes a couple of seconds to adjust to the blinding light that filled the room, and what greeted him was far from comforting, it was hell.
Blood stained every wall of the white room even the ceiling. Chunks of what looked like flesh clung to the bed, lamp, and the floor. In the center of the room stood Mark. He was covered in blood from head to toe as if he had bathed in it. The only things that peered through the red were his eyes and mouth piercing white, bright as the sun against a red sky. Mark stood in between two naked bodies, one man, and one woman, both covered in blood. The woman’s chest had been ripped open, snapped ribs stuck out at odd angles and blood poured out like a lake draining into rivers. The man looked like he had been sawed in half starting from between his legs, which were torn apart from one another. The splayed flesh went up to the man's sternum, and intestines and other organs spilled out. The only thing in common with the two bodies was that they were headless. Both looked to be decapitated crudely, the state of the flesh remaining around the necks was loos and jagged. It was not until Mark moved closer to him, that he could see the two missing heads. They were simply chunks of flesh covered in blood-clotted hair in the middle of the bed. One face was instantly recognizable; it was Monica. Her face was twisted in a lasting image of the terror and in her mouth, a human heart. The other skull appeared to be that of an older man, at least fifty based on gray hair circling a bald head like a halo decorated with splattered blood. In his mouth looked to be the man's genitals. The scene was so graphic John's mind couldn’t comprehend it, his eyes darted from one thing to the next in fascination and disgust.
Mark spoke up and broke the silence, “You should have waited for John. You would have lived longer. You could have taken credit for this beautiful crime, as the police wouldn’t have any other suspect. Your fingerprints and DNA are everywhere.” Mark spoke deliberately and with great control walking slowly towards John who was still transfixed by his surroundings. Mark spoke his last words directly into John's ear as he plunged his knife deep into John's stomach.
“I will make you beautiful too.”
Ian currently lives in Washington state writing only when time provides. He began to write during his teenage years as a way to express himself and has continued to this day out of pure enjoyment. He loves to write but considers it nothing more than a pastime. His dream would be to publish a book or write screenplays for television.