Certain Death

It was the most gruesome murder anyone has seen. Even though the screen was blurred out, you can still make out the shredded body and its terrifying state. Every inch of muscle is exposed and torn apart, as if some mad animal came upon it and unleashed all its rage onto it. You could see it swing the victim up and down and around with its mouth, and mauling him with fearsome claws – aiming not to consume him as food, but for total destruction. And what was left of him was discarded here, in his own house, as a memento for the unimagined pain he suffered through. Of course the killer is not an animal, and there is no question who he is. He had killed dozens like this, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.

And I know he's coming for me. There was nothing I could do – he would come nevertheless. This numbing fear captivated me for the past weeks since the last murder, so intense the desperation that I am no longer affected by it. I have returned to my normal sleep schedule, gained back my appetite, and could focus on work even better than before. This desperation has dragged my soul down into the deepest crevice of the glacier and froze it there, and what remained of me is now just a cold machine, keeping its operation on the empty assembly line until the blow comes. It was only when the night was deep or when the dawn was thin, that I could still feel the trembling fear that this day could be the day he came.

This morning was no different, and I open my eyes with same sensation of fear. It takes long before I climb out of my bed, as if I am convinced that as long as I stay in bed, he would leave me alone. But as the sun rises and the noise of the machines loom near, the fear once again sank into the depths. As usual, the water boiler just started to make noise as I open my bedroom door. I freeze just as I walk pass the apartment door – the one sitting at the table is not S., but him. He sits with his back to the kitchen door, in a dark blue suit. No one has ever seen him alive, but I know it's him, just as anyone would recognize him without having seen his picture or heard any description of him. Without turning, he flatly said: “do you want it to hurt, or do you want it slow?”

By an ancient instinct, I open the apartment door with some struggle and sprinted out without my shoes. For a good while, I am no longer conscious of the passage of time, but just run as fast as I can, faster than I ever could. I know perfectly well, that this is all futile, that no matter how fast I go, by foot or by plane, it's always too slow for him. He didn't come out and follow after me, which makes my desperation all the worse. Because I know running like this is no different from stopping, dropping on the ground, or even going back to the apartment to hand over my life. Even if by miracle I get onto a plane and fly across the continents, he would walk up to me the moment I land. But I can't tell my body to stop. After a while, I realize I'm running along the exact same route that leads to work, the one I take every morning. What a stupid escape route! But what else could I do? Where I run to doesn't matter to him. And so I kept on running.

It was already 9 in the morning, but everywhere was surprisingly quiet. I can even hear the birds chirping – the early ones, not the chatty ones that yell across the streets in late afternoon. And bit by bit, I start hearing a classic rock song playing from a car radio. Now I see where it comes from: a bright colored jeep with four college students loading some bags. They seem ready for a BBQ on this sunny day – it finally has come to me that today's weather is gorgeous. One of them saw me running, disheveled and bare foot, so comes up and asks if I need help. For a minute or two, I struggle with breathing, and finally make it clear to him that I want a ride. With great irony, I request to be driven along, still, my exact morning route. The students hop on with me, the car moves without urgency, and the rock song plays on.

Collapsing on the back seat, I come to a deeper desperation: for the rest of my life, I will have to keep running like this. I will have to flee every second I breath, exhausted and hunted, and the moment I stop, he will show up with a pitying smile, standing atop my succumbed body and end my life with a single strike...

Perhaps shaken by this deepest desperation, I woke up – this time for real, jerking out of the nightmare. I lay soaked in sweat, arms and legs twisted, almost strangling myself with the blanket. Of course, I am overcome with relief. But at the same time, I come to a calm conclusion. That this Most Brutal Murderer exist. Or rather, Most Brutal Murderers exist. There are billions of them, one in each every household, sitting by the breakfast table waiting for the house to wake up. Their mere presence convince you of certain death. But in reality, no one should really fear them as people do. After the initial trauma, you come home and realize he is still there, reading a newspaper and shows no sign of slaying even an insect. The next morning, you wake up and he already made a cup of hot coffee, leaving it by the seat opposite to his and kept on reading his newspaper. As time goes on, this strange guy who doesn't eat or change clothes becomes a member of the household – something like a family ghost, and everyone treats him just like an uncle who came back from the war and acts strange. Then finally one day, he would say to you: “Excuse me, but I will have to take your life now. Please don't take it personally.” To which you reply: “I understand, please make sure I get what I deserve and no more. And please make sure to feed the dog and water the plants after.”

K.W. March 2018