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Photo by Simon Robben

Mom’s voice always floods my mind when I’m walking home at night from my usual watering hole. Three Jack & Cokes and two shots of Absolut Citron aren’t enough to drown her out.

“You can’t walk alone in the city at night. You’re a young woman. You’ll be raped or murdered!”

It’s 2am, well past last call in Richmond. This place is a graveyard by 12:30, hardly a city. But hey, there’s enough drug dealers and pollution here to hold the title. As I skid and slide my feet down the sidewalk like a zombie, I trip on a loose brick in the sidewalk. I try to catch myself but the alcohol says “no.”

THUMP!

The pain from the fall doesn’t register, even when I spot the blood dripping from my elbow. The liquid courage works like anesthesia. I clumsily press my hands against the bricked sidewalk to begin the long journey to my feet. Just then, a voice crawls its way into my ears. It’s not mom’s voice.

“Hi there. Let me help you up.” A gravelly voiced man whispers as he grabs my arm and pulls me to my feet.

“Thanks,” I mumble as I brush small rocks off my knees.

When I get upright, our eyes meet. His appearance is sobering. Mom’s voice is screaming in my ear.

The first thing I notice are his teeth. They’re long and jagged like a shark. The air he breathes reeks of something ungodly, like a piece of salami that’s been slow-cooking in a hot dumpster.

His eyes are sickly yellow where they should be white — the rest is pure black.

I look down at his outfit. He’s wearing a long beige trench coat, something only a private detective or a streaker would wear. Beneath it are tattered, green corduroys and a shabby pair of black dress shoes. The last thing I notice is the first thing I should have noticed.

His fingernails are long and caked underneath. His right hand is holding a bag that slowly drips viscous liquid on the sidewalk.

“Hey man, are you hurt?” I ask reluctantly.

“Oh this?” His voice slithers. “No, this is someone else’s blood….

…JUST KIDDING!” His laugh is nails on a chalkboard painful.

I feel my skin turning white. I’m ready to run, but my body shuts down in a petrified state.

“Your face…it reminds me of someone I once knew,” he says as he places his stained hand on my shoulder. His black eyes stare into my soul as his smile slowly grows, exposing a mouth full of predatory teeth. This moment feels like forever. He continues to stare and smile.

“Anyway. Richmond’s a small city. I’m sure I’ll see you around,” he says as he walks past and makes his way into the direction I came from. It takes me a minute to finally get my body to move again. I sprint home — falling and tumbling along the way.

After violently jingling the right key into my crappy apartment’s lock and swinging the front door open, I shut it behind me. I lock the knob, turn the second lock and feed the chain lock into its socket. I should call the cops — but what are they going to do? Spend their night searching for a bloody homeless looking guy? That’s half the city’s population.

Instead of calling, I plop down on my secondhand leather couch and turn on the TV. I nuzzle between the cracked leather and search for the perfect channel to rock me to sleep. After ten minutes of scrolling, I decide to stay on the news. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than people in suits talking about the Big Orange in the White House. As my eyes begin to shut and my mind starts to drift away, a new voice enters my ears.

Shocking news here. The Richmond City police are currently conducting a manhunt in search for convicted murderer, Matthew Screever.

A mugshot pops up on the screen and as pain shoots through my heart. I met him an hour ago.

Disturbing footage of Screever’s first known appearance in Richmond can be seen in this footage recorded on a bystander’s phone. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

The video is from a second or third story apartment window. It shows a tall man in a trench coat, dragging a woman into an alleyway with his hands around her waist. The news channel has blurred most of the video, but it looks like he’s biting into her neck. The voice continues.

The woman in this footage along with several other victims have been pronounced dead. The cause being extreme blood loss — also known as exsanguination

Information on Screever’s history is limited, but law enforcement agencies have informed us that he was confined to a mental institution in 1999 and stayed there until his escape earlier this week. Screever was institutionalized for the grisly 1998 murder of his sister, Darcy Screever.

Matthew reportedly held Darcy captive while force feeding her human body parts for over a year. She as discovered dead by county police with a tube down her throat, filled to the brim with the body parts of Screever’s other murder victims.

Another picture flashes on the screen, I drop the remote as tears run uncontrollably down my face. It’s Screever’s sister…she looks just like me.

Across the room my floor lets out a loud creak. I whip my head around and I meet the eyes of a man in a trench coat standing next to my open window.

“You left your window open Darcy. You must be hungry after that fall. Good thing I brought you a snack!”

The man creeps his way towards me. One hand holds a dripping, plastic sack filled with unidentifiable pieces of meat, the other holds a funnel with a long pipe attached to the small end. I try to run. I try to scream. I try to fight.

I can’t move a muscle.

“open wide.”

Daytime copywriter, fiction enthusiast.

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