Hello, all, here is the next short story to be published here at The Blood-Shed in anticipation of its inclusion in the upcoming (somewhere in the nearish future) Blood-Shed Anthology. This (deliciously) nasty piece of short form horror comes from contributor Jason Krueger, whose story will appear in the anthology. He will also receive a copy of the anthology in the format of his choice (paperback or ebook), and he will retain the rights to this story to do with as he sees fit.
Those of you wishing to submit may send your works (up to 3 submissions per person) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pretty much anything that can be printed between the covers of a book is acceptable: short fiction, microfiction, essays, screenplays, screenplay excerpts, novellas, novel excerpts, art, photography, poetry, etc. It needn’t be horror but it should be dark.
And now, on to Mr. Krueger’s violent mini masterpiece, “Self-Help.”
by Jason Krueger
Removing the head was much more difficult than he had anticipated. There was so much blood, but that was the part he appreciated. As the crimson fluid congealed in a sticky pool between his feet, he found himself more at ease than he had been in years. This was the cure. He had finally found the cure that the shrinks, group therapy sessions, and the fad doctors on TV had lied to him about for years.
The initial cut was easy to make. He had seen his share of horror movies, and knew that slicing the main artery was the most climactic way to go about pulling life from a victim. It was, of course, also the messiest way to go about such a task. The dark gore covering his hands made the rest of the decapitation difficult. It took a long time, sawing through bone, and hacking his way through sinewy cartilage and flesh. Every minute, however, brought him one step closer to serenity.
In addition to the physical closure he was gaining from his first kill, his mind was further soothed by the lyrics from his favorite blues song. He played the song over and over on a loop. This was probably the fifteenth time the dark and beautiful lyrics had penetrated his soul, since he broke into this quaint suburban home. He chose the home because of its charm. It had looked happy from the outside. Wife and husband with a baby on the way. They seemed happy with what they had, despite the fact that it didn’t seem like much. He was never happy with what he had. Someone in one of those group sessions once said, “If you have gratitude, it is impossible to torment your mind with envy.” His soon to be victims seemed like they lived by these words. These words…spoken by someone they had surely never met. But they were envious now, envious of anyone that was not seconds away from death. For once, someone was envious of him.
When his fingers became stiff and his forearms ached with fatigue, he put his knife away. Since the blade, that was once incredibly sharp, had already become dull, he had to pull out a small saw. This would make the final cut through the bone much easier. It was also right around this time that she woke up. She was tied up and had a large chain wrapped around her head. He forced the links between her teeth, so every time she moved the chain ground her teeth down to the nerve endings. This kept her quiet and made her afraid to move. Whenever she did move, the pain shot through the top of her teeth, to the back of her eyes, and out the back of her skull. Her neck ached and the pain made her too tired to focus on anything. As she found the strength to raise her head, their eyes met. He seemed empty and completely emotionless to her. As he looked back at her, he wondered if her look was one of envy or fear. Fear and envy are connected in the mind of anyone after all. All he could think about was what great practice he was getting.
Turning back to the saw, he began finishing his cut through the bone. He would occasionally look up to watch her squirm, but was running low on time. A moment later he finished the final cut. As the saw passed through the final layer of flesh and stringy bits of sinew, he was overcome by a feeling of great accomplishment. It was yet another positive feeling that he had not felt for months. With the head of the husband finally removed, he took one last look into the eyes of the expectant mother. When their eyes met, she couldn’t help but convulse. This only made things worse, of course, grinding her teeth down to nothing. The chain sent blinding pain from the top of her skull to the base of her jaw. As the nerve endings became raw, she felt herself on the verge of blacking out. She found if she held her head in the perfect position she could find a bit of momentary and elusive comfort; but, all she could really do was hope that she would eventually become completely numb from the neck up. Similar to the man in front of her.
He was no longer gaining any satisfaction as her screams became fewer and further between. She was running out of energy and would eventually pass out from the pain. This was the signal to end his little experiment and move on to the real show. He stood above her and held her husband’s head by the hair. Blood poured out of the base of his neck onto her face. She was suffocating, choking on blood and steel. This was when he realized he had finally found a way to help himself. He hadn’t thought about doing drugs since he got here. “I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” he said to her as he drew his blade across her throat.
As he strolled out of the tiny bungalow, head in hand, he stopped to look into the pines. The immense darkness he was leaving behind was nothing like what lay ahead. As Huddie William Ledbetter droned on, the lyrics to his personal apocalypse had come true. He walked up to his car and threw the decapitated head onto the passenger seat. The next stop was his own home. When he got there he would toss this man’s head onto the kitchen table. When his wife returned home with the man across the street, they would be greeted with some obvious foreshadowing. His plans for them, once they were subdued, were much more brutal. Now that he knew what he was doing, confidence filled every part of his body. This was the greatest night he had had in a long time. All of these positive feelings, ones he hadn’t had since he found heroin, made his eyes swell with happy tears. As he drove on, he thought about the dangers of replacing one addiction with another. Instead of harping on the negative, however, he put in a CD instead. He turned it to the title track for his new journey and listened to Leadbelly once again groan, “My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night.”
Story copyright 2015 Jason Krueger.
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