Short stories

Instead of making separate books for all my short stories, I decided to lump them all together in here! It's kind of a random mish-mash of plots, genres, tones et cetera. Don't expect too much. XD

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1. Dead Silent

The heavy iron door rattled and rusty metal grated against rusty metal as the bolt slid back. The thin halo of light around the door flooded forwards in a torrent when it opened, but was reined back in after the prison warden stepped in.

“G-Good evening, Edward.”

No response came from the chair.

“L-Let’s make this quick, shall we?”

The man strapped to the chair still said nothing. In the dim, flickering light of the room, his face remained completely unreadable, making it impossible to tell if he was frightened or if he was angry. Whether he regretted a single one of his forty-nine murders or not would remain a mystery, but the prison warden guessed not.

The prison warden’s name was William Campbell, and up until being transferred to execution, he had been exceptionally good at concealing his fear. Dealing with papers and documents appeared to be a breeze for him, and working as a guard wasn’t difficult either. He could walk down the corridors lined with cells and listen to the cries and shouts of killers and robbers and con artists without one flicker of fear ever passing his eyes, and he’d always seemed, to those around him, to be unbreakable. But he was afraid. William was afraid of the dark and of spiders and of the empty, cold silence of the prison in which he worked. He couldn’t bear the sight of blood and if something went bump in the night he’d sit straight up in bed, heart pounding and cold sweat trickling down his face. William was terrified of his job, but he was also terrified of leaving. Now, as he stood trembling before the most sadistic mass-murderer London had ever seen, he wished he’d left a long time ago.

The man with whom William was currently trapped was named Edward Byrnes, and Edward Byrnes was, without a doubt, the pure and simple definition of the word psychopath. He’d led the cops hundreds of miles across America for over twenty years, and would probably have never been caught if he hadn’t wanted to be. The story of how he came to be arrested was the strangest story any police officer in Texas had ever heard, and one of the most terrifying as well; it always reminded William of the scary stories teenagers liked to tell each other over campfires, but it was true.

One dark and foggy night, a silver four-wheel drive had pulled over right outside a police station in El Paso. According to the officer who was on duty that night, Edward had climbed out of his car, gone to the trunk, and removed from it three large sacks, which he slung over his shoulder and carried into the station. Smiling pleasantly at the baffled man at the desk, he had placed each sack very carefully onto the tabletop, and when asked if he needed help he had simply replied, “I was going to dump those in the river” (gesturing to the sacks) ”but I thought maybe you guys might like to have them instead.”

Suspicions of a bomb were quickly dismissed after a senior officer noted the disgusting smell emanating from the packages. Needless to say, upon examination of their contents, Edward was immediately arrested by the police inspector, and two members of the on-duty team handed in their notice and quit.

Edward never made any effort to run; he even held out his hands for the rattled police officer handcuffing him. He endured his interrogation with more calmness and politeness than someone attending a job interview, and willingly supplied the details of forty-six more murders he’d committed, all of which proved completely accurate. Two months later, equally calmly, he sat in front of an equally rattled prison warden, awaiting his death.

William had heard a face being described as a mask before, but had never understood the phrase prior to seeing Edward Byrnes. The dim light bulb that hung above the doomed man’s head made the thin film of sweat on his forehead glisten lazily, blurring all discernible features and making them shimmer like a mirage. Sickly grey shadows carved out great orifices under the cheekbones and inside the eye sockets, making his face look gaunt as a skull. His eyes were glazed over and unfocused, but there was a wicked glint there too, affirming William’s certainty that he was looking on the face of an evil man. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand it. This was only the fourth execution he’d ever had to carry out, and he’d never been able to keep his eyes open when pulling the lever. He’d never agreed with the idea of killing for killing, but it wasn’t like he had a choice. The thought that he was committing murder had always played on his mind, tugging at the very edges of his consciousness but never far away. For some reason, keeping his eyes closed had always worked; it seemed to even drown out the screams of the people he was killing. Murdering.

Edward was completely different. William knew that Edward wouldn’t scream when he died. So far, he hadn’t even blinked.

William’s palms were sweating, so he stuffed his hands into his pockets. His lips were trembling, so he clamped them together in a fruitless attempt to look stern. His legs were shaking like jelly, and when Edward turned his head ever so slightly to watch, they turned to water. Edward’s eyes were mockingly upturned, one eyebrow was raised, and his mouth was curled upwards in a grisly half-smile; he was watching William with the look of a predator toying with his prey. William was doing his best to match the murderer’s gaze, but he knew that Edward could see right through the act. Edward had killed so many people that he could doubtlessly sense the fear in William. He knew he was terrified. And he liked it.

During the minute or so that they had spent in the room, neither man had spoken one word to the other, except from William’s unacknowledged greeting. The silence between them was laced with a vile unease, which was only worsened by the weak, sickly lighting and the echoing drip, drip of water from a leak in the sagging ceiling.

Drip.

William couldn’t stand it anymore. He was pathetic, and he knew it. What was worse, Edward knew it. Edward may have been an unspeakably evil and despicable criminal, but at least he’d had the courage to do something with his life; Edward would leave a legacy behind, whereas William would probably die no less helpless and useless than the day he was born. Edward’s death would change nothing for either of them.

Yet, it had to be done.

William turned his back on the murderer and took the lever in his hand; the cold metal seared like ice on his flesh, but although he felt the pain, but he felt the power too. When he took that lever in his hand, he was taking someone else’s life in his hand. William had always hated that feeling, but he could see himself getting used to it eventually.

What’s the difference between you and the people you kill?

Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, William tried to pull the lever down, but it was stiff with rust, and he was vaguely conscious of a slick dampness on the metal that made his grip difficult. It took three attempts (during which time William could have sworn he heard a mindless chuckle escaping Edward’s lips) before the lever came down with a CLUNK.

Drip.

For a split-second, nothing happened.

“Fifty,” Edward whispered.

The room exploded with blue crackling light and the sizzling of two thousand volts of electricity. William had barely registered the sharp pain in his wrist before thin tendrils of white lightning snaked around the lever he was holding and punched their way into his body. He had no time to tear his hand away before his fate was sealed.

The force of the electric shock threw William across the room, and that self-proclaimed waste of life was dead before his head dashed against the wall. He lay on the ground more limply than a discarded doll, ten times more useless than the day he was born, with an expression of disbelief permanently etched on his face.

Even as the electricity enveloped the murderer too, his livid eyes were still fixed on the dead ones of his final victim. The bulb over his head exploded into shards, plunging them both into darkness, and Edward Byrnes’ final words came in the form of a laugh: not a villainous cackle, but an innocent giggle. To him, William had been nothing more than a plaything, but now he was broken.

The laughter halted.

The room pulsed.

And Edward Byrnes died with a smile on his face.

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