Territorial by S. K. Gunn

From Weird Mask Issue 3

Territorial by S.K. Gunn

The meat is starting to go bad. Three and a half months in the freezer is pushing it, and the flavor no longer tastes the same.

It was always best the first week when it was still fresh. The frozen shit didn’t taste half bad the first couple months or so. He spread it out and made it last, so he could savor it. But now it was time.

Oscar grimaces and shuts the freezer door. He hates going out. He hates the crowds even more. If he’s being honest with himself, he simply just doesn’t like people very much at all. Yet another part of himself loves them.

Oscar sighs, composing himself. It has to be done. And who else is around to do it?

A man has to eat, doesn’t he?

If he’s going to go out, he is going to look damn fine doing it.

Oscar looks in the mirror, straitening his collar and adjusting his wristwatch. He’s attractive, if his own opinion of himself is anything to go by, and that usually makes this whole ordeal a bit easier. For him, at least.

His bedroom reflects in the mirror as he stands in front of it. It’s neat and tidy, as usual. He can see in the window behind him that the sun has gone down completely. It’s time now.

Something catches his eye, a movement in the window. Oscar feels something break inside him.

“Stop it. You’re all dead!” he screams suddenly. His face contorts in the mirror, and he forces himself to remain calm despite the visible twitch he can see starting in his cheek.

He has to remind himself. It’s silly to feel guilt over necessary things.

“You’re all dead. . .” He whispers to himself and smiles.

“There’s that handsome smile,” he thinks to himself, “Let’s keep it that way.”

He breathes in, closing his eyes and calming himself, trying to regain his steadfast composure. He tries not to think about his dreams, about the screaming, about the bones buried under his garden.

Most of all, he tries not to think about ghosts. They aren’t real, of course. So he tries not to think of the movement near the windowsill, or of the glowing red eyes he sometimes imagines are watching him at night.

None of it is real, and guilty thoughts have no place here.

A man has to eat.

Oscar drives to the bar, the one about a half hour from his house. His favorite spot.

He tried the gay bar a couple months back but found himself yearning for his roots, for something a bit more familiar to his usual appetite.

He parks his car by the emergency exit and walks around to the front entrance. When he walks in, he sits down at his usual spot at the bar and winks at the barman, a friend of his from way back. They still get together sometimes for barbecues and drinks. Jake is the only person who understands him, the only one he can trust.

There’s a reason he made sure never to install cameras at the bar.

“Shopping tonight, Oscar?” Jake whispers to him, setting a beer down on a coaster to his right.

“Something like that,” Oscar smiles back.

“When are we getting together then? Soon, I hope?”

Oscar picks up his drink and takes a sip.

“I would say that’s likely,” he answers back, smirking.

“Leave you to it then,” Jake walks away, rushing to serve another man sitting at the bar.

Oscar scans the room, looking for a mark. There’s a lot of people tonight, he realizes, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Too bad everyone seems to be grouped up with someone else. That makes it a bit more difficult.

Oscar’s mood grows darker as the hour wears on. Nobody here looks right. He can see Jake looking at him anxiously out of the corner of his eye and it only increases his foul mood.

Just when he thinks the night is a bust and is about to go home for the night, a woman walks in the door. She looks familiar, and Oscar thinks he must have seen her at the bar before. Now is the first time he really pays attention to her.

Her hair is dark and wavy, blowing around her slightly as she enters the bar from the windy night outside.

Her skin is. . . nice. Oscar feels like something is caught in his throat, and gulps down another sip of his beer. He stares at her out of the corner of his eye. Her skin is pale and seems to exude a strange light of its own under the bar lights. He can’t tell what color her eyes are from this distance, not that it matters too much. He doesn’t really have a preference.

She approaches the bar, alone. Jake’s eyes meet his own before he wanders off to take the woman’s drink order. She smiles up at Jake as he approaches her and a small part of Oscar feels odd for a moment. A pang of something like jealously slices through him, a feeling he hasn’t felt in an extremely long time. Why now?

Oscar shakes himself and pushes away his glass, feeling strange. Now is not the time to lose his senses. He watches Jake chat with the woman a moment and the feeling returns so he closes his eyes. Odd.

Jake is moving away from the woman now and Oscar watches him prepare her a drink, probably some fruity thing like always. He watches to make sure Oscar grabs a small bottle out of the fridge under the bar. The bottle looks like fruit juice and Jake mixes some in with the drink. Good.

The time passes slowly. He watches the woman drink, chatting with a man seated next to her. Not good. His buddies soon call him away for a game of darts and Oscar sees Jake look over at him again. Oscar tries not to let the paranoia settle in that they’re being too obvious.

“So,” Jake approaches him, “when are we getting together for that barbecue again?”

“Oh,” Oscar snaps out of it, “soon. Definitely.”

Jake goes to walk away but Oscar remembers something.

“Hey Jake,” he starts, “I might need a ride home tonight. I can leave my car in the parking lot.”

Jake’s eye go wide for a second before Oscar sees the recognition click in. A car left in the parking lot.

“Yeah,” he waves a hand in the air like it’s nothing, “I’ll take care of it!”

Oscar looks over. The woman seems drowsy, leaning forwards toward her drink. Jake approaches her and says something to her, out of earshot. He can see the woman looking over at him, smiling, so he smiles back and nods his head towards the hallway near the restrooms.

He rises from his chair, walking towards the dark hallway, seeing the emergency exit sign glow above his head as he passes under it. This is it.

The woman joins him a moment later, looking a bit unsteady on her feet. He leans against the wall, smiling at her as she approaches. He leans in towards her ear.

“I’m Oscar,” he says.

“Allie,” she responds, “the barman said you wanted to talk to me?” She looks up at him, grinning mischievously.

“And here we are,” he says back, with as much charm as he can muster.

At this close distance, he can notice the strange color of her eyes, a purplish blue in the red glow from the sign. They’re beautiful. Oscar feels strange, almost dazzled, but he has to keep his focus.

They flirt for a while, Oscar watching her face the whole time. He can see the blurriness starting in her eyes, and the slight confusion that always marks the time for action. The woman stops talking very suddenly.

“I feel. . . strange,” she says, laughing, “Sorry, you must think I’m such a lightweight. I’m not usually like this.”

He allows a practiced look of concern to come across his face. He has to be careful.

“Happens to me all the time when I haven’t eaten or had enough water! You’re probably just dehydrated. . . There’s a water fountain right down this hall,” he says, pointing to the water fountain by the exit door, well away from the bathrooms and bar room.

“Oh, yeah, probably,” she says, holding her head. She begins to stumble forward, clearly out of sorts. He walks by her side, guiding her down the hallway. She gets to the fountain and before she has a chance to take a drink, he grabs her head and slams it into the wall.

Catching her as she falls, he quickly checks the wall and her forehead for blood. He doesn’t see any but her eyes are closed, her body limp. Good.

He checks her pockets for her car keys but can’t find anything but a tube of lipstick. Strange, since she came to the bar alone. He doesn’t have time to think about it, though, so he picks her up and carries her out the emergency door to his car.

When he gets home, Oscar backs into the garage. The woman is still out cold when he opens the trunk of his car. This has to be the easiest mark he’s ever had. The last one was a fighter.

He lifts the woman, and her body feels limp and heavy in his arms. He walks inside and lays her on the couch, making sure to tie her wrists and legs securely with the ropes he left waiting, even though this one is probably not going anywhere soon.

He walks to the kitchen, where everything has been laid out. His knives, the plastic tarps over the table and on the floor. He makes sure the window coverings are securely in place. He just needs to make the kill quick and get it over with. The ones that die afraid always have a funny taste.

Oscar breathes deeply and mentally prepares himself for the next few steps. It will all be over by the morning.

He walks back to the living room, ready to bring his mark to the kill. As he walks into the room, he stops dead in his tracks.

Written in red on the wall above the couch are two words: NICE TRY.

The ropes lay torn on the cushions of the couch, as if they’ve been ripped by force. Oscar feels his vision swim slightly. This has to be a bad dream. This has to be a hallucination. He’s getting worked up and the panic is making him see things.

“Calm down,” he whispers to himself, “keep it together.”

He hears cruel laughter from behind him in the kitchen. A woman’s laughter.

Oscar feels himself stumbling towards the kitchen, ready for a fight. This woman is taunting him. Is she even real?

As he walks into the doorway, the woman stands in front of the freezer, a frozen piece of red meat in her hand. As he watches, she smells it and then laughs, dropping it on the floor.

“This is what you do to them?” she stares at him incredulously, “to other humans?”

“I. . .” Oscar stumbles over his words, staring at the woman in front of him. Who is she?

“And you’re not very smart about it, are you?” she sneers. “People have begun to notice, you know. . .”

Oscar feels the air around him getting thinner, like he’s going to run out of it. Who the fuck is this woman and who is she talking about? He’s been nothing if not efficient and calculated in his kills. Is she a cop?

The woman begins to laugh, hysterically.

“COPS?!” she barks out suddenly, “You think I’M a cop? The cops are sheep,” she sneers. Oscar’s eyes go wide and the woman smirks, seeing the sudden look of terror on his face. Did he say cops out loud?

“You didn’t, no. . .” She tells him, “but now that I’m close enough, I guess there’s no real need for you to do any talking at all, so let’s get a few things straight.”

Oscar begins backing away, slowly. He knows that he’s hallucinating. He knows this is his silly guilt acting up. He just needs to return to the living room and the woman will be lying there waiting, on the couch. And then he can get on with what needs to be done.

“Stay,” she orders him, and he feels himself stop moving, “It’s rude to walk away when a woman is talking to you.”

She smirks at him and continues: “So, let’s talk. Did I say ‘people’ have noticed? I spoke wrong. But WE’VE noticed, and we’re getting pretty tired of your little game.”

“We?” Oscar questions, but the woman only keeps talking.

“Do you fashion yourself a hunter, Oscar?” she questions, mocking him, “Is that what this is all about? I guess this is all pretty impressive for someone like you. It’s all rather endearing from our point of view, if I’m being honest. A HUMAN fancies himself a hunter?” At this, she gestures around the kitchen and laughs psychotically.

Oscar tries to speak up, to defend himself and his actions, but finds that he can no longer speak.

“So here’s where that leaves us,” she continues. “You don’t wander into someone else’s territory and start hunting their prey. And since you have, well. . .” She raises both hands in the air and shrugs at him, “they requested I do something about it.”

“They?” he manages to choke out, and the word burns like acid in his throat.

The woman walks to the table, picking up the individual knives and turning them over in her hands as if she doesn’t hear him. She takes something out of her front pocket, the tube of lipstick that Oscar had felt there when he searched for her keys earlier. Picking up the biggest knife in one hand, she uses it as a mirror as she easily applies the red lipstick wit her other hand.

She puts the lipstick back in her pocket and smiles at him, walking towards him with the knife still in her grasp. Just before she reaches him, she raises the knife and stabs herself in the abdomen violently. She draws the knife out, and it’s covered in deep red blood that drips to the ground and seems to smoke.

She waits a moment, grimacing, and then grabs Oscar by the wrist. She moves his hand towards her, pushing it against her wound, but all he feels there is sticky blood. There is no wound under his hand.

“They. . .” she hisses at him, grinning. Her teeth look sharp, suddenly, and white as bone.

She turns from him then, his hand still dripping with red blood. She places the knife on the table and then reaches up towards her own eyes.

“I’m curious,” she says, turning to Oscar. Her hands move away from her face and her eyes have changed, turned to a bright red. Oscar rubs his eyes furiously, trying to back away from the doorway but finding his legs immobile. It’s not real, it’s only a hallucination. There’s no need to guilt and punish himself like this. It was all necessary. He did what he had to do.

“Is that what you tell yourself, Oscar?” she leers, “I don’t think you understand the meaning of necessary.”

She continues towards him.

“But, as I’ve said. I’m curious,” she gets closer. Her eyes burn like fire.

“What do you do with all the blood?” she whispers.

“The. . . Blood?” he can feel himself shaking, can hear his words coming out like a child’s.

“What do you do with it?” She turns her red eyes on him, grinning. Freshly applied lipstick makes her lips glow scarlet against her pale white face. Her eyes bore into him, and he can feel them in his mind.

“I. . . I clean it up, of course,” he stutters, not understanding. He doesn’t want to keep talking, and yet his words flow freely from his mouth now like they’re being pulled out.

“Poor thing,” she pouts, approaching him and gripping his chin in her hand. Her grip is like steel and her face gets close to his own. She trails a finger down his neck and he can feel himself shivering. “You’re missing the best part.”

Her eyes look into his and he feels his mind melt from the fear. The red eyes that have been watching him are now truly seeing him.

“Do you know what I like in my prey, hunter?” she asks him, her mouth now moving along his cheekbone, “Fear. . .” she whispers in his ear. He can feel the terror rising and rushing through his veins.

“Ahh. . .there it is,” she hisses, “I guess you’re no hunter after all!”

He feels the rush of blood leaving his body before he has time to process the bite. The world turns before him as he tries to find his grip on it.

“It’s not real,” he tells himself, feeling himself falling to the floor. How long has it been? “It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not. . .”

Somewhere, someone is laughing. And the world goes cold.

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