by Saniya Doshi
Art by Irene Han
Issue: Aphelion (Spring 2016)
“James!” his mother called. “James, where are you? It’s dinnertime!”
James giggled and covered his mouth as he crouched beneath the dining table. The tap, tap, tap of his mother’s shoes stopped in front of his hiding spot.
“Got you!” she exclaimed as she reached out to tickle her son. James squealed in delight as he tried to squirm out of his mother’s clutches.
“Stop it!” he shrieked. When she didn’t, James opened his mouth and latched it onto the soft skin of his mother’s hand.
“James!” she scolded, looking in disbelief at the spots of crimson blood blossoming on her hand. “We don’t bite people, okay? That’s not nice!”
She looked at her son, who was wearing a devilish grin.
James watched from afar as the neighbor girl, Clara, bled.
It was just a nosebleed, but James liked the way it looked. He liked the way the swirls of deep red flowed onto the fabric of her pretty little white dress. He especially liked the way the blood smeared her face.
James strutted to Clara, who was now holding a soaked, crumpled tissue to her nose. “I don’t think you should try to stop the bleeding,” he called. “It makes you look pretty.”
She stared at him, dumbfounded. “You’re such a weirdo!” she exclaimed. “Freak!”
James scowled at her. A hot flash of anger pulsed through his body. “Wait ‘til I make you bleed for real. Then you’ll be sorry.”
James gazed at the lifeless, rotting lump of bone and fur on the street outside his house. Crouching down, he poked at the carcass. It appeared to be a squirrel, from the matted fur and ruined tail. He brushed a finger against the pink oozing out of the broken skull. Was that its brain? He hoped so.
Studying the mess, he decided that squirrels were much better dead than alive. James’ eyes glinted with sparks of insanity even after he had left.
James slowly slunk towards the squirrel. It rubbed its little paws over its face, oblivious to the boy approaching it.
Like a bullet, James shot his hand forward and grabbed the creature around the waist. It chittered in shock, trying to escape James’ tight grip. James just cocked his head and looked at it curiously. Digging his sharp nails into its flesh, he squeezed tighter and tighter around its little throat. The squirrel’s beady eyes filled with fear as it writhed fruitlessly. It cried out as James’ grip only tightened. Over the course of a few slow minutes, it finally stopped moving.
James looked at the dead squirrel with wide eyes. Reverently cradling the corpse in his hands, he took it to his bedroom and placed it upon his nightstand.
James had never seen a horror movie before. His mother had never allowed him to. It was only now he knew what he’d been missing out on.
His buttery fingers held forgotten popcorn as he stared at the screen in awe. He was mildly aware of the rest of the movie watchers looking away from the screen, but his eyes were glued to it. He smiled a wicked smile as the masked murderer plunged his knife into the teenage boy, who let out a guttural scream as blood bubbled out of his mouth, drenching the neat white carpet. Laughing cruelly, the murderer ground the heel of his shoe into the boy’s hand, letting his screams mingle with the crunching of bone. The boy’s girlfriend rushed to his side, only to have her head sliced off in one quick, fluid motion.
James couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The strangers on either side threw him a look. The old lady on his right raised her eyebrows. Regaining himself, James smiled politely at them. “My apologies,” he said, putting on that handsome smile that his mother said could charm even a rock. “I was just remembering a joke from earlier.” Bedazzled, the old woman smiled back and let her attention drift back to the screen. As soon as she looked away, James’s sadistic smirk returned.
It was when one of James’ classmates was hit by a car right before his eyes when he saw a real corpse for the first time.
It was the cacophony of squealing tires and crunching bone that brought his attention to the scene. When his eyes fell on the victim, he could tell that the kid had died instantly by the way his skull was crushed in. Nevertheless, swarms of students rushed to his aid, but there was nothing they could do to save a corpse.
Rearranging his features into a look of concern, James elbowed his way through the crowd to bend over the lifeless body. He recognized the boy immediately. He’d been a former classmate and sort-of friend of James. James traced the student’s broken skull, his hands stained with blood. A few moments later, he was pushed out of the crowd, but he still grinned at the dead boy in glee.
“James!” Clara screamed as she entered the kitchen. “Come here!”
James took his time meandering to where his girlfriend was. He saw her looking at the jar on the counter with her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. “What is that?” she asked in disgust.
James smiled at her. “It’s a squirrel,” he said, unruffled. “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a squirrel before.”
Clara snapped her mouth shut and turned on her boyfriend. “I’m done,” she spat and started to turn away.
“I’m done. We’re done. I can’t take this anymore, James. This is just…agh! It’s disturbing, that’s what!” She had always been a little uneasy with James’ behavior, but a squirrel in the kitchen, set out like a meal, was just too much.
He cocked his head. “You’re breaking up with me?” His expression was calm, but his blood boiled beneath his skin.
“Yes!” the girl exclaimed. She turned to stalk out of the kitchen, only to cry out in pain as a hand grabbed her hair and yanked her back onto the floor.
Clara looked up to see James glaring down at her with his chest heaving and face red with anger. “No, you’re not!” he screamed. “You’re mine!”
Hissing in rage, Clara stood up and slapped him, hard.
Yelling in fury, James lunged at her. Clara screamed as she tried to wrestle James off her, biting and clawing at whatever she could reach. As James struggled to hold her down, she heard the grating sound of metal on metal. The next thing she knew, a sharp pain pierced the skin just below her ribs.
Clara gasped as she fell to the floor. Her head spun as she saw her hands, crimson with her own blood. James sank to the floor next to her and sat there, cross-legged. The kitchen knife in his hands was stained with her blood. He played with it idly as he watched her bleed out.
She cried softly, tears falling into her hair. What had made her decide to date crazy James from next door? Just because he had seemed charming and gentle and polite didn’t mean anything. James had always been a brilliant actor. She should have known it’d end like this.
James sat, waiting in sweet agony for the moment when he’d have committed his first murder. His hand dabbled in her blood. He hummed a chilling tune as he traced her eyelids, her nose, her lips with the blood. In his opinion, she was a very pretty girl, and the blood enhanced her beauty, as it had all those years ago.
James raised his bloody hand to his lips, tasting her blood. The sharp metallic taste brought a smile to his face. Greedily, he licked the blade of the knife clean as his excitement built up.
After what seemed like forever, Clara grew still with one final gasp and shudder. Her dark eyes stared lifelessly at James.
He waited beside her body until night fell, then gently pulled her head onto his lap, crooning softly into ears that could no longer hear.
He’d done it. And he couldn’t wait to do it again.