The day before yesterday, I choked Rebecca Hensley to death. Her hand-scan monitor was alerting like crazy, which really adds to the thrill, but just before it sent out the imminent death alarm I put a black market cleaver through her forearm. The alarm sounds and ME-Drones launch from rooftops and that is the moment when the system knows that yet another eternal flame has been stamped out and I love it. I LOVE the publicity afterward, but it had nothing to do with my narcissistic psycho-trait. Instead, I like watching the life-cults in the streets, flogging themselves with cat-o-nine tails and hop-stepping over cracks in the asphalt to beg whatever influences of fate for clemency. The Church of Satan is the largest practicing “religion” because everyone knows that there is no God. A sect performed revenge rituals and, under careful watch of Health and Human Services agents, performed the sacrifice of a goat, trying to influence the unseen forces of the natural world – the magic – if you will.
All to stop me. All to make their lives eternal and keep those hand-scans beeping away, sending their infinite signals to monitoring stations across the country. I was a reign of terror. In a country where science had defeated death through automatic cell regeneration; where there were no guns or knives; where vehicles did not crash because they were controlled from a central city command and disease was addressed so early and easily that no one died of it, these two hands that closed around your throat were the only thing that brought death and darkness to the eternal light. It was an act of pure will – the most simple and basic way to kill, as old as the tale of Cain. It was God’s work on Earth.
To date, I have killed 144 people. That may not sound like a lot in a mega-city of twenty million, but at this point in history, it makes me the single greatest cause of death. But now there’s a problem. Previously, most people had avoided GPS trackers in their hand-scans for a variety of privacy reasons (myself included). However, after Rebecca’s death a line had apparently been crossed and now the public was demanding GPS tracking so that the killer could finally be caught. This was not something that was avoidable. After the bill had passed, the government sent out an automatic download to every hand-scan in the country. Merely crossing the border into the U.S. meant your hand-scan was automatically registered into the database and uploaded with any new information or applications that the existent government required. Without the hand-scan you could not purchase food, enter into stores or even receive medical care. In a heavy-handed effort to make the hand-scan universal, anybody without one was denied any role in public life. Adding GPS tracking to this made my hobby impossible.
Naturally, sawing off my own hand was the first thing that came to my mind, but this presented many difficulties. Firstly, the hand-scan would register the injury through my increased heart rate, blood pressure drop and, not to mention, that the hand-scan chip itself is powered by the blood flow through the veins. As soon as those alerts were sent out, ME-drones would launch and probably find me faster than I could stifle the bleeding and get away. Such an act of self-mutilation would land me in one of our over-flowing mental wards (the only form of disease that they could not yet cure) and drugged up like a zombie. Or, worse yet, they would figure out my secret and the people’s fear would end because they would have caught the monster.
So, for now, I was stuck in a holding pattern. And like any holding pattern, the anticipation was killing me.
My assigned occupation was “information specialist,” which was a bureaucratic way of saying desk jockey who made changes to individuals’ information held on their hand-scans for the Department of Homeland Security. People who moved or were married would notify my department and I would make the changes. I wasn’t really necessary. People could make the changes on their own through the web, but I was there to follow up on any glitches or possible fraud. I rarely showed up for work. Most people rarely showed up for work. The economy was nearly entirely dependent on automation. Cars were built on machine assembly lines by robots, self-checkout scanners at the store merely scanned your hand-scan and deducted from your account. Sure, politicians ran around making noise like they were actually steering the wheel of progress, but progress on a human level had pretty much ceased. We didn’t die, we didn’t get sick, we didn’t even have to work – because automation had overtaken every facet of life there were very few jobs to be filled and the population of the country switched to a monthly base allowance for everyone middle class or under. Those of us who did work in positions pretty much did so out of boredom or for a couple extra dollars to use on extraneous activities. I used my position to single out victims. I could see anybody’s information and monitor their comings and goings, so really, it was a job of convenience.
The office was still abuzz with the news of Rebecca Hensley’s death and the new GPS tracking system. Some of the techies thought that the constant location monitoring would overload the system. I could only hope so. Some were railing against the constant monitoring – pseudo-libertarians that occupy nearly every work-space – saying that it was an invasion of privacy that the people would not stand for. “We can’t make these decisions out of fear,” Aaron said. I thought maybe I would kill him next. But people were truly terrified. That’s the thing about immortality; if you know that you can live forever, the idea of something or someone taking that away from you is overpowering. Our society had made nearly everything death-free so that the populace felt comfortable enough to leave their insulated fortress-homes. They turned to superstitions long dead and thought ridiculous during the old days, in order to beg any insurance against death. Everybody thought that we were all in this together; what kind of monster would want to kill when we can all live forever?
I had a message in my email asking me to report down to Human Resources and Health Management, located two floors down. Health had incorporated itself into nearly every aspect of life and the monitoring of an individuals’ health had become a social priority. Government workplaces were the most vigilant because, since the government paid all healthcare costs, they naturally tried to keep costs down so vigorous monitoring of employee health was needed. I had been called down once because my caffeine intake had exceeded the norm and I had to promise to cut back. Eternal life had priced private insurance right out of the market; who could possibly pay a life insurance policy claim when life expectancy was infinite?
I was greeted at the door by a woman who appeared almost corpse-like, but with shockingly black hair that cut like a knife across her face and big wet eyes as if she had been crying for weeks. Heroin had been out of vogue for sometime due to the risk of overdose and death, but she looked like a junkie top to bottom. “My name is Oksana,” she said. “Please come with me.”
She led me down a hall to an empty office, complete with a hand-scan health monitor.
“Are you a righty or a leftie?” She said.
“Leftie,” I said and gave her my left hand.
“Place your hand under the scanner, please,” she said.
“Is there a problem?” I asked.
“Your have been showing an increased amount of stress and a drop in serotonin levels these past couple days,” she said. “We were worried that you might be undergoing some depression.”
Damn right. “I have been a little depressed,” I said. “What with all the killings and everything? Rebecca Hensley’s murder really got to me.”
She stared at me, quite unbelieving. “Her death quite affected me too, Mr. Dalton,” she said. “Rebecca was my lover.”
The information registered with me slowly. I had never met the lover of a victim before. Naturally, I had seen family members and lovers in the news mourning their loss (no one married anymore because that “till death do us part” had actually materialized into forever and people were pretty much into diverse sexual adventurism) but I had never met one up close and seen them and felt their touch on my skin.
“No wonder you look like you’ve been crying,” I said.
“Is it that obvious, Mr. Dalton?”
“No offense,” I said.
“It has been very traumatic for me,” she said. “You see, I was there when she was killed.”
My heart stopped and I saw all the people that I would never be able to kill flash through my mind. The hand-scan monitor picked up the tense change; increased heart-rate, increased blood pressure, increased adrenaline and temperature and beads of sweat forming on my brow.
She laughed lightly and looked at the monitor. Then she leaned close and whispered in my ear, “You don’t have to worry, Mr. Dalton. Your secret is safe with me.”
I turned and looked into those deep, wet eyes in that pale and sunken face and, at that moment, I kissed her deep and hard – probably hard enough to kill her if I wanted, and she kissed me back. She tore off her skirt, no underwear beneath, and undid my pants as I sat in the scan-chair. She straddled me and we both came within seconds as if every death before us had been nothing but fetishistic foreplay. I came inside her and she took it all as if it were a drug.
Afterward, she lay on top of me and, for the first time in my entire life, I believe, I felt truly close to someone whose life I was not ending.
“What is this?” I said.
She whispered lightly, “I watched you that night. I was hidden in the coat closet and I watched you from between the slats. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen,” she said. “I can’t stop thinking about that moment when Rebecca gave up and stopped fighting and the alarm sounded and you put that knife through her arm. “When you were gone, I just stared and stared at the blood, at her eyes, at… at… everything,” she said. “It was as if everything in the world was laid out in pieces right there before me. I knew I had to find you.”
She stood up and pulled her skirt back on and I redid my pants. “We must leave now,” she said, “or things will look suspicious.”
“I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first office monitor romp that HR has ever seen,” I said, trying to joke.
“I can help you,” she said. “I want to help you and there are others who want to help you, too.”
“Meet me tonight,” she said and handed me a small card with a time and address and then she was out the door and gone.
No average citizen would be caught within a mile of this place. This was part of the old world, left behind because it was too dangerous. It was an abandoned hospital; a structure that lilted to the right, bending toward the earth with cracks running up its edifice, broken windows, and moldy timber. A gate ran its perimeter a full half mile away. It wasn’t just the inevitable collapse that kept the people away, but it was the asbestos that would be swimming in the air if it were to collapse. Like I said, no eternal in their right mind would be found here, but this is where Oksana told me to meet her.
It was dark and I hopped the chain-link fence – another risky maneuver – and began to walk toward the old building. When I was close enough to smell the rank of decaying life and soaked rat fur, I saw her outline, slightly illumined against the concrete wall in the moonlight. I reached around and felt the handle of the cleaver that I had secreted in my waistband.
“It’s a good thing you came,” she said. “Otherwise I would have had to turn you in.”
“Is that the deal?” I said.
“That IS the deal. We want to help you and if you won’t let us, we will force you.”
The blade was cold on my spine and the microchip in my hand whirring away with electrical impulses. I smiled at her and said, “Lead the way.”
We entered into the cavernous, dark maw of the old hospital, a place where men and women used to struggle for life and cling to it like children with a toy. The irony was not lost on me and I told her so. She simply shrugged and led me down a dark tunnel. There was one room at the end of a dark shaft and it was almost blinding with light as we came nearer and then spilled into it.
Men and women in various states of undress; some cutting themselves with sharp rocks, others intricately examining the folds of their bodies in mirrors while holding pictures of children in comparison; some in heroin induced comas lying in corners with listless eyes turning circles in their heads. They all stopped and looked when we walked in.
“Rebecca wasn’t like any of your other victims, Dalton,” Oksana said. “She probably loved every minute of your crime against her.”
“What is this?” I said, my hand reaching around to the cleaver.
“This is where we come to bathe in death,” she said. “Or at least come as close as we reasonably can. We have been following your work for some time, we are your biggest fans.” They were all turned toward me, faces with big eyes, drooling from slack jawed mouths. I reached behind me and pulled out the cleaver and one woman shuddered with orgasm, rubbing her clitoris. There was a collective gasp of awe.
“You know that you can’t use that on us,” Oksana said. “And that brings me to the point of why you’re here.” I let the cleaver drop and it embedded itself in the floorboards. “You can’t kill anymore,” she said. “And if you can’t kill, than we can’t get our fix and you can’t get yours. Sooner or later you’ll break and kill and get caught and then you will truly be over and I’m sure you don’t want that either.”
“I fear you may have underestimated me,” I said.
“Really? How were you planning on getting around the GPS monitoring?”
I said nothing, but gears were grinding in my head and I thought that maybe killing all of them right then and there would be worth an eternity in prison. The massacre of a death cult might secure enough headlines to keep me swimming in self-love for a long time.
A man who was nearly nude and examining his sagging skin in the mirror, comparing it to photos of naked little children, approached me, glaringly self-conscious. “It’s a shame and a travesty that we can’t turn back the clocks of time,” he said. “The clocks are just broken now.” Children were a rarity in the world of the eternal.
“Dalton, this is Dr. Lee McCarthy. He is a surgeon and he has a way that you can by-pass the hand-scan and disappear, free to do your work with a little help from us.”
“Impossible,” I said.
“No, sir!” he barked. “Not impossible. The impossible has already been done!”
“Lee is a bit of an eccentric,” Oksana said.
“Help me how?”
“With a fake heart, my friend.” Lee smiled a queer smile.
“Lee, here, taps into your veins and arteries in your forearm and begins to run the blood through a pump that mimics your heart down to the biorythms, which I downloaded this morning at our… meeting. We then sever your arm above the wrist. Blood flow past the sensor is not interrupted and as far as Health and Human Services and the ME-drones are concerned you’re perfectly fine. Lee’s artificial heart keeps the blood oxygenated and randomly releases certain artificial hormones that the hand-scan will pick up and continue to evaluate your condition as healthy.”
“What about the GPS?” I said. “You expect no one is going to notice a one handed man roaming the city? How do I get food? Transportation?”
Oksana brought over a young woman whose skin was nearly peeling off in a heroin induced lethargy. “This is Denise. She was one of the GPS system developers. Go ahead and tell him, Denise…”
“There are too many people for them to track constantly…” she nodded off for a second and Oksana snapped her back to life. “So they only check on points of interest. They can’t constantly monitor individuals, only places at given times and then try to work backwards.”
Oksana spoke again, “If they ever checked on you, you would merely be sitting in your apartment, which is exactly where your hand with the hand-scan would stay. The rest of us will take care of your needs… food, transportation. All of it. You would be completely untraceable.”
I felt my sacredness being encroached upon by idiocy. “How the fuck do I kill them without both my hands!”
She pulled me close against her, kissed me deep, and with her right hand grabbed my cock and suddenly I was hard and throbbing for her again. “You like what you had this morning?” She said. She trailed her fingers from my crotch up my stomach and to my face. She turned her palm away from me and I could see her hand-scan embedded in her right hand.
I now live in the abandoned hospital and my left hand lives in my apartment. It continues to pay rent there and purchases groceries through the mass web, which are delivered by drone to the door of my hand’s apartment. I’ve managed to make the hospital somewhat cozy and you would be surprised at what surgical tools had been left behind and abandoned in this old place. Oksana lives here with me. We work together as one, I with my right hand, she with her left, and together we experiment on each other with old surgical tools. We managed to attach my cleaver to the stump on my left wrist. I’m glad because the knife is a part of me now.
The day before yesterday we murdered Daryl Templeton in his apartment. Lee picked us up and charted a course past his apartment and, at a stop, Oksana and I exited the auto-car and walked hand in hand up the sidewalk, my cleaver tucked into an overcoat pocket, her aluminum prosthetic hand tucked into her shapely and trendy jacket. Together we looked like the last happy couple on the face of the planet. We even smiled. We smiled because we were not afraid of death. We could walk down a sidewalk and not fear anything because we embraced it and loved it.
An older gentleman held the door open for us as we entered the building and he smiled. Perhaps we reminded him of some bygone age when there was love in the face of death. I hope we did.
Daryl answered the door and seemed surprised to see a couple that he had never seen before. He was even more surprised when Oksana decked him across the temple with a solid piece of aluminum. He fell backward with the dull slap of metal on flesh. I put a steel-toed boot across his chin and the bone shattered and teeth flew. Then Oksana and I were on him like wolves, knees into his chest so that he couldn’t get up; I had my right hand gripped hard on his throat, Oksana with her left. Together we were the two hands that choked and suffocated the life from Daryl Templeton. And, when his hand-scan alarmed, I turned and put my cleaver-hand through his forearm. I looked at Oksana and smiled.
We had changed my MO since joining our lives to each other and to the death-cult. Now we took the forearms with us when we left, the hand-scan dying from lack of power a few seconds after blood flow ceased. Then we would ship the hand-scan chips to others around the country. Others who wanted to do experiments, others who wanted to be happy and walk in the joy of the shadow of death. Yesterday there was a mysterious murder in a far off city. Tomorrow there would be another.
The streets will be alive with magicians, a beautiful demonstration of fear against a beautiful revolution of death.
Marc E. Fitch is the author of Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot (Praeger) and the novels Old Boone Blood and Paradise Burns, which is forth-coming from Damnation/Eternal Press. His fiction has appeared in such publications as ThugLit, The Big Click, eHorror, Horror Society, and Massacre. He recently won the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship for his upcoming work, Men Without Qualities. He currently lives in Harwinton, CT with his wife and four children and works in the field of mental health.