In the dark, a tarnished door knob turns painfully slow. The hand that twists it is a patient one, one with years of practice. Little by little, the door creeps open, but only so far as to allow passage, not far enough for the ancient hinges to make their tell-tale squeal.

Slow, too, are the steps taken across the gray and splintering hardwood floors, avoiding the spots that creak and groan. But a nearly empty fifth of bourbon on the table beside the bed assures that the sleeper will not be easily roused.

To see the old man sleeping peacefully, one would not notice anything amiss about him. Even in slumber, his face seems friendly and kind. Of all nature’s cruel tricks, this may be her most vile. For a long moment, nothing happens, or at least nothing that can be seen.

Within, however, sadness, fear, and anger grow boundlessly and meld into a hatred that few hearts have ever known. This hatred raises a hand as high as it can reach. Rage brings it down, driving in the blade it clutches to the hilt.

The old man’s eyes and mouth pop open. A weak, pathetic noise escapes his lips. It is a sound of pain, of confusion, and one of mortal fear. He reaches for the wound and the hand pulls the blade away, slinging red across flaking, dull paint. Down it falls again and again… until all noise has ceased, until long after life has gone.

The killer pauses to regard the prey. Just like that, the burden is lifted, the fury has gone. The old man is nothing more than rotting meat now, a thought that prompts a bitter smile. But the night’s work isn’t over, there is one more task that must be done.

story by Joe Stanley

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