A Critical Problem

This is Part 6 of an ongoing series. If you are not caught up and would like to be, the entire story so far is below this chapter.


Deafening shrieks echoed down the road. Men’s loud gruff commands and questions petered after them. In a few minutes, sirens would surround the area and there would be no escape. A thin white sheet that was covered in old food stains and soaked through at one end with fresh blood disappeared into the trunk of Scott’s car.

He slammed the trunk door shut and ran his bloody hands through his dark hair. There was a scream within him that needed to get out, but he kept it at bay. Struggling to even breath, he managed to get in the driver’s seat and close the door before his monstrous yell boomed out of his mouth like fire from a dragon. He bashed the dashboard in his rage, yelling and cursing enough that people began to notice.

They stared at him, some may even have begun to put two and two together. He could see their eyes, staring at him. They thought he was crazy, but they did not know how important his mission was. None of them did. Scott’s eyes darted to the rearview mirror and he caught a glance of his partner’s inverted eyes, and this gave him strength. His new suit hung on the hook in the backseat. The ritual still needed to be completed.

Scott turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared, the people who had been watching him had moved on with their lives except for a couple who were still concerned. Gaby’s limp body bounced in the trunk as the car sped right past them, they were not important. Another person who was not important began to call Scott on his phone.

“Mary?” Scott answered.

“Honey, where are you?” Scott couldn’t tell if Mary was on the verge of tears or anger.

“I’m running a few errands, what’s up?”

“Well, uh, Christine just called me and said something horrible.” It was tears, not anger, ready to burst free.

“What is it, sweetie?” Scott practically hissed out the pet name.

“It’s Gaby, she’s – she’s dead.” Tears flowed through the phone and dripped into Scott’s ear. For a brief second, he cared again.

“I’m so sorry Mary.”

“Christine said – Christine said that she saw you. That you – you were there, and that you killed Gaby.” Then a moment of silence filled only with soft sobs.

“Do the police know yet?” Scott asked calmly.

“What? Scott, what is going on? Did you do it? Scott -”

“Do the police KNOW?”

“Yeah they know. Where are you? What’s hap -” Scott threw his phone out the window.

The sirens had finally come near. He could hear them, but they would never find him. He was barreling away now, out to the cemetery. This was it for Scott. A day he knew would come. His final ritual, he would ascend to where his master dwelled and he would finally be happy. The only thing left to do was take care of Gaby.

via The Daily Prompt: Critical


“The Tailor”

The stale smell of wet dog filled came from every corner and crack in the room, yet Scott did not see any sign of a dog. He looked anxiously over the top of the tailor’s head for any sign of a dog, cat or even a loose hamster but could find nothing. His anxiety did not stem from a hatred of animals, though he found cats to be aggressively pretentious, rather he simply hoped that no beast would come through and ruin his suit. The last thing he wanted was to return to the tailor only to find his property ruined followed by an elementary school excuse.

Scott’s anxiety subsided once the tailor rose from the floor and began stretching the tape measure from Scott’s shoulder to his wrist. The tailor was an old Italian man with a thick pepper mustache that put Scott’s brown stubble to shame. The old tailor did not talk much except to recommend suits with the brightly colored linings reminiscent of the wardrobe choice in an old John Travolta movie. Scott tried on a few of these disco jackets before he felt like the old man was satisfied, then he selected a classic black suit to try on. While looking in the mirror, Scott felt like a Hollywood star or a super spy ready to save the world and get the girl. In reality, he was just a scrawny college graduate with a mustachioed Italian man wrapping a measuring tape above his junk.

“Right now it fits pretty good, I just have to make a few adjustments. Mostly I just have to take in the waist of the pants and the back of the jacket. You like it?” The tailor backed away from the podium he made Scott stand on and admired the suit around the man.

“Yeah, yeah I really like it. It looks nice,” Scott stretched out his arms and examined the suit sleeves.

“You don’t want to try on the white and red suit again? Ladies love it,” The tailor smiled and pointed to a dangerously ridiculous suit hanging nearby.

“Oh, uh, no that’s okay. I’ll stick with this one,” Scott stepped down.

“Alright, suit yourself. Ah, get it? I say that all the time,” The tailor laughed to himself and began walking to the front registers. Scott smiled and went into the changing room.

Scott watched himself in the mirror as he changed from a dapper man of wealth into a graphic-tee wearing scruffy youth. He was happy with his choice of suit. He had no particular reason to wear it yet, but now that it would soon be in his possession, he would go out of his way to find an excuse.

After he paid the tailor and scheduled a time to pick up his suit in a few weeks, Scott headed to his car with the receipt. His old vehicle trembled as he entered it, and the radio blasted out “Pyscho Killer” into Scott’s face along with the air conditioning. When he drove out of the parking lot, only the soft sound of banging from within the trunk could be heard by pedestrians. Driving home and listening to the muffled noises from the back, Scott pictured himself adorned in his new suit very soon.

“The Cemetary Gate”

Crows called to each other, weaving invisible spiderwebs from the cemetary gate across tree branches and tombstones through the cold night. Anxious cries of excitement called the devil’s birds together in the dark, to watch the heroes latest offering to the earth. No other creatures dared make a sound during this ritual, lest they be heard by the crows or worse yet the one whom they gather to watch. Scott can hear nothing but silence as he baptizes himself in the dark muck and black slime of the earth, coating his naked body in the natural world. Most of the work was done for him, as it always is. The grave was six feet closer to the underworld, an extra two would not be difficult.

Sweat had made his hair drip, salt plopping down into the dirt tomb to further emphasize that this was a place where live dare not grow. The corpse was sprawled out under a tree, soaking up the shade created by the dead light of street lamps, cars, and homes. At a glance, he looked rested, like a Mark Twain character taking a break from painting. Scott positioned them all that way, lifelike to the uninterested passerby. Only once had his patrons been found by curious eyes. Months ago, on the weekend of some Godforsaken holiday, a group of people thought it would be

Only once had his patrons been found by curious eyes. Months ago, on the weekend of some Godforsaken holiday, a group of people thought it would be edgy and brave to travel through the cemetery with their brown bags and solo cups. They thought it would be funny to through one of those solo cups filled with poison at a dead man they thought was sleeping and then quickly scamper off before vengeance could be enacted. They were right, Scott did think it was funny. He also found the irony gut-bustlingly hilarious when he found the man who threw the cup and lay him down under the same tree.

The earth had been dug as close to hell as was necessary, and so it was time to lay his patron’s soul to everlasting rest. Scott climbed out of the ground, like a soul who has not yet fulfilled its purpose, covered in the wonderful grime of nature. He made his way over to the body arms straight ahead, without bending his knees, moaning like the undead until he skipped and began to laugh to himself. Morgan’s

Morgan’s corpse found a permanent residence and was quickly made one with the earth. Scott stood over Morgan’s grave, marked by a different name, with his skin still soaked through with mud but also adorned in his new classic Hollywood star suit. The young man looked down into the ground and whispered a few words that only he and his Lord will ever know, the crows cawed in their pews, unanimously approving of the new addition to his ritual.

The birds had all flown away and Scott strolled through the cemetery’s paths until he came to an ancient oak tree. Several feet above his head was a hole which contained his car keys, wallet, phone, and casual clothes. He rolled a stump over to use as a step-stool, grabbed his belongings and then pushed the stump away again with his heel. While walking through the cemetery gateway back to his car, Scott noticed that he had several missed calls from his girlfriend, Mary, as well as a sole text that read: “I know what you did”.

“A Shallow Understanding”

Apollo’s carriage had only carried the sun halfway up its arch by the time Scott stepped into the water. Mud and grime leaked out from under his toes and diffused into the water of the great lake. He had showered at home after his ritual and before going to bed, but there were just some things one could not scrub off on their own.

The water was cool, the heat of the day had not yet boiled it, and as he waded out up to his knees into the fresh water he felt the power of the light beating down on his body. The dichotomy of the heat of the sun and the cool of the water gave him pause as he stared out over the horizon line at little green islands he had always noticed but never made an effort to go to. For a moment his body felt at balance, and the soft breeze that swept up his crop of brown hair brought with it a fleeting serenity.

Mary would be the end of him. He could hear her shouting all the way from the parking lot. He tried to hold onto the moment just a little longer, but her voice began to crawl deeper into his ears until it was inescapable. He turned and left the sun at his back to see his girlfriend barreling toward the shore in a mismatch of tight black yoga pants and an ill-fitting gray sweatshirt with an indented laminated logo he recognized only through his experience with this one article of clothing.

“Scott, you piece of shit!” Mary shouted repeatedly, with some variation here and there, as she drew nearer to the water’s edge.

This was his fault, all things considered. Scott should have responded to Mary’s text from the night before, but his mind was in no place for the trivialities of relationship drama. He was tired from digging Morgan’s grave and needed to rest, then this morning something within him urged him to come to the lake for some tranquility. He should have known she’d find him here, it was no secret to her that this was a favorite spot of his. She did not know about the emergency supplies buried deep at the foot of a nearby tree, nor did he ever think of telling her.

“Good morning honey,” Scott waved from his position in the shallow water.

“Oh don’t give me that shit Scott, I know what you did!” Mary stood at the water’s edge and began prying his sneakers off and then her elastic socks.

“Mary, I can just come in,” Scott’s statement was either not heard or ignored as Mary march into the water.

“You slept with her! I know you slept with her!” Water seemed to part for Mary like Moses or a monster it was too frightened to stay near.

“With you?” Scott asked genuinely unaware of which person she’d thought he cared about this time.

“Don’t play dumb with me you asshole, with Teresa!” Mary did not stop when she got close to Scott but instead pushed forward and hit him in the chest with both of her fists.

“Morgan’s girlfriend? Mary, Jesus Christ, I didn’t sleep with her, when would I have even done that?” Scott grabbed Mary’s arms by the wrist and held them while she went on.

“Gaby told me! She told me she saw you in their apartment the other day!” Tears swelled in Mary’s angry eyes.

Fucking Gaby, she must have seen Scott when he was staking out the place.

“Oh sweetheart, no I was over there because Morgan had asked me to check to make sure he left the stove off. He left it on, but I turned it off and left,” Scott lied.

“The stove?” Mary looked up at him.

“Yeah the stove, not Teresa,” Scott released her hands and she leaned into his chest.

“I’m sorry, Scottie. You know how I can get,” Mary wrapped her arms around his torso.

Scott knew how she could get, but he did not really care as long as it didn’t interfere with his mission. He had been more sloppy than he thought if an idiot like Gaby had almost exposed him. He would cheer up Mary, and assure her that all was well, he’d even make love to her later as part of his duty to assure her he did care for her. He did not, but it was important to keep up appearances. Gaby. Gaby. Gaby. The name rang in his head like a church bell, he did not want to operate for a while after Morgan, but something about her made his blood begin to boil under his skin.

“The Partner in Shadow”

Mary’s body was warm under the covers. His hand rubbed up and down her naked back, feeling the heat emitting from her body. At times it was refreshing for Scott to feel a warm body, to feel the blood pumping and hear the slow rhythm of breath rushing in and fleeing out. The ceiling fan held his gaze, but his attention was elsewhere. A shadow passed across his face, and another, and another going in a constant circle bringing him in and out of the dark.

Slivers of light had entered the room through cracks in the blinds. His girlfriend had been asleep the whole night, only moving occasionally to steal some blanket or wack him in the face with a limp arm. He did not think he was capable of feeling what people described as love, and if he was he certainly did not love Mary. She was his mask, his girlfriend, but not his love or his partner.

The sun was rising, which was good for Scott because he could slip out early and claim it was in order to go to work. Another violent accusation of his infidelity was something he’d like to avoid at all costs. The warmth of her body had lost its novelty at this point anyway, so he slithered out of the bed careful not to rock the mattress or, worse yet, her body. After throwing on some clothes and washing his face, Scott looked up in the mirror and saw his real partner.

Those tortured eyes looked back at him now. Eyes with black in the sclera where white should have been, and pupils the opposite. The mirror had become a rippling portal from another dimension, realm, universe, Scott wasn’t entirely sure himself, but he knew enough not to question the way things were. The shadow creature stayed back at him with those opposite eyes and raised his hand up to where the glass should have been, Scott watched as he subconsciously reached there as well.

His partner never spoke, but he would send him messages. Messages from whatever Dark Lord he served, Scott had liked to believe it was Satan. Perhaps, “liked” is too strong of a word to describe his feelings, but he was not unhappy with the prospect. Through the rippling portal where Scott’s bathroom mirror once stood, the shadow waves his hand and showed Scott what must have been a message from a higher power, demanding that Scott serve his will.

Quickly flashing across the portal was an image of Gaby, Mary’s friend, the one who had caused the trouble of the prior day and almost exposed his rituals. The image rippled out through the portal as quickly as it had come, and not long after so had the shadow. This was all the confirmation Scott needed to know that his anger at Gaby was not unjustified, that even the one he served now wanted her dead. The reason’s for this would never be made clear to him, but he did not care. This is what he wanted, and so he grabbed his keys and set about to achieve it.

“The Secret Inhabitant”

Scott had been in this apartment only a few times before, however, he had never been alone. It was a nice place, a single bedroom room apartment on the outskirts of the city. The kitchen that stood attached to the living room was kept tidy and only a single dirty dish lay in the sink. Probably from breakfast this morning. The filthy bedroom was a different story.

Slivers of light crept into Gaby’s bedroom, masking most of the filth in darkness. Scott was used to the dark though and he saw the grime that this young woman tried to hide in the more public areas of her home. Along the floor were dishes and silverware caked with the remains of long spoiled food. Strewn across the room, hanging from the closet door, dangling from the window sill, surrounding and even in some instances piled on top of the dirty dishes were various articles of colorful panties, bras, tops, and pants. Scott did not care, he only paid attention to the unmade bed, careful not to sit down on any misplaced fork or knife.

The day was still early when Scott had arrived in Gaby’s apartment. It would not be more than an hour or two until she returned home for lunch. A little opening in her schedule that he had picked up from her conversations with Mary. If she did not return home today, he could always try again tomorrow. In the time that Scott sat on the bed, he did not move an inch. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his partner watching him from Gaby’s dresser mirror. Scott never once looked directly at the shadow creature, but he felt his presence and the growing pressure to perform well as time passed.

Minutes of hours later, there was a soft clinking of keys outside followed by the flick of a lock and the creak of an opening door. Scott sat motionless on the bed, his partner still intently watching. From the bedroom doorway, Scott watched Gaby walk into the kitchen with her nose down to her phone. The phone was tossed onto the countertop with a thud, and then Gaby opened up the refrigerator. As she surveyed her dining options, Scott stood up from his post and walked with ferocious speed out of the bedroom. Silence was not his ally, it would only slow him down and give his prey a chance to escape.

Footsteps pounding down on the hardwood floor gave Gaby pause from her search for food to turn briefly from the refrigerator. What she saw was a blur of a man she thought she recognized barreling at her, his hand reached toward her head, and smashed it with force against the refrigerator. Then darkness.

Scott stood above the crumpled body. Blood had splattered onto the white service of the refrigerator and trickled down toward the floor. He would wrap the wound to stop the incessant bleeding, ensuring she wouldn’t bleed out before the ritual and the cemetery, and then would get to work thoroughly cleaning the kitchen. Before all of that, Scott took a moment to look down at the woman who had almost ruined it all for him and smiled.

“Oh my God,” A voice whispered from behind him.Scott’s smile slipped away

Scott’s smile slipped away as he turned and saw a woman standing in the apartment doorway. This dark haired woman looked down at Gaby and then into Scott’s eyes. She saw him. And then she ran.


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