November 30th, 2008 at 0:03 am (Story)
I realize that some of this may seem like it’s irrelevant. But the fact of the matter is that this is more than a confession or a memoir. It’s a story. And I need you to understand what my life was like before this all got out of hand if I can hope to inspire in you any sort of understanding of how it ended.
The rest of Sunday passed without incident. My friends and I hung out, laughed, and had a good time. Asking Donnie and Ellen about Carson slipped my mind completely, so no progress was made on that front.
Monday happened. I went to my classes, and then went home. After dinner, I headed over to work at the Reader. I got my article done early, so I decided to go ahead and work on some writing while I was in front of a computer anyway. My boss, Meg, was extremely cool about that sort of thing. As long as we got our work done on time and no one else needed the workstation, we were free to stick around and do whatever we wanted.
And I wanted to write. But not what I knew I was going to write. Jericho throbbed in my mind like a migraine. And by this time, I knew the cure. But I didn’t want to write it. The last time, I’d gotten off easy. No murders. But somehow I knew I wouldn’t be that lucky this time. This time, Carson would kill again. And if I wrote it, wouldn’t that put the blood on my hands?
I winced. Gritted my teeth. The pain was just too much. My fingers produced a capital “J” and already I felt the pain start to ease. As the “e” followed, I felt myself slip deep into the trance-like state I was beginning to associate with the damned story. By the time the “r” was onscreen, I was somewhere else.
Jericho Chapter 3
In Jericho, the most common form of nighttime illumination is the red and blue of police cruiser lights, mingled with the reds and whites of fire response and ambulance lights. Their sirens sing the sick songless lullaby of the night. Mourning the dead and warning the living: “Walk not alone in Jericho. It is not, will never be, safe.” And for the most part, these warnings are heeded.
Groups of friends walk through the night, occasionally bathed in the blue baptismal light of a cop car. Rarely are their feelings voiced, but they all think the same things. “They shouldn’t have tempted fate. Should have stayed inside. Should have stayed with people.” And then, “Thank God it wasn’t me. Thank God it was them, not me.”
Such were the private thoughts of Mary Reynolds as sirens screamed past her window. I wonder what’s happened? I wonder where they’re going? And then, quietly in the back of her mind. Thank God it’s not me.
Of course, Mary had no idea how misplaced her gratitude was. At that moment, the Bible Killer, Carson Quinn, was quietly picking the lock on her apartment door. Mary was the president of the Castle University Skeptics Society. Just last week, she’d written a very vocal letter to the school paper on the evils of religion. How it represented an outdated paradigm that had to be discarded for progress to continue. Many members of Carson’s church had been outraged, writing letters of counter-argument. Carson regarded it as an answer to his prayers. As another mission from God.
The front door opened.
“Sara?” called Mary, still watching the procession of light and sound outside. Jesus, some serious shit must be going down. That was the fifth cop she’d counted going by in the last ten minutes.
Behind Mary, the front door closed again. “I thought you said you weren’t going to be home tonight, Sara? Thought you were spending the night with Freddy?”
“Sara’s not home,” said Carson Quinn, grinning maniacally.
Mary swung around, a gasp escaping her mouth, which was working on a full-blown scream when Carson clapped his hand over the young woman’s mouth.
“You,” said Carson, his bright green eyes staring directly into Mary’s terrified brown ones, “are a false prophetess. Your attempts to sway the masses to your sinful rejection of God have not gone unnoticed by Him, and He has sent an agent to silence you.”
Mary’s struggles increased in ferocity. Her eyes hardened from terror to defiance. Carson heard a muffled utterance and though he could not hear her, he knew what she had said.
“Bible Killer?” said Carson, chuckling. “Yes, very good. First prize. You know who I am. And you know why I am here. And yet,” he mused, “you are not afraid.” He looked at her with consideration. “I am going to kill you tonight, Mary Reynolds. But I will let you speak to me if you agree not to scream. If you start to scream, I’ll cut out your throat instead of the relatively painless death I had planned for you. Do you understand?”
Mary’s eyes glanced at the knife in the Bible Killer’s other gloved hand. The one not covering her mouth. Blue police lights reflected off of its blade. Her eyes still full of defiance met Carson’s once more. Her struggles by now had stopped. She nodded slowly.
“Good,” said Carson, sounding genuinely pleased. He led her over to a chair and sat her in it. “Don’t get up, Miss Reynolds,” he said. “The penalty for getting up is the same as the penalty for screaming.” He positioned himself to her left and slightly behind her. She was still able to meet his gaze, but her body sat facing forward. No cute little kicks or other tricks. Carson positioned the knife just millimeters away from the skin of Mary’s neck and slowly removed his hand.
Mary regarded him with stone silence. A peculiar expression dominated her face. It was one Carson knew well, one he saw in the mirror each time he checked himself before one of his missions. It was the face of a warrior in service to a higher power. That sealed it, then. She was a zealot like him. His opposite. Carson felt a twisted sense of camaraderie. He knew it was wrong to admire an Enemy soldier, but there it was. Carson knew she could not be redeemed, but his respect for her meant he would still offer her the chance.
“Why are you not afraid, Mary Reynolds?” asked Carson Quinn, the Bible Killer. “Doesn’t death terrify the atheist in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine?”
Mary nodded slowly. “I’ve accepted death. That doesn’t mean I’m not afraid, but I’m at much at peace with it as I can be. I believe that the only way I live on is in what I leave behind. What impressions I’ve made on the world. And in that way, this death is quite suitable.”
Carson was puzzled. “How?”
“You,” she said simply. “By killing me, you only reinforce my claim that religion is an useless, tyrannical, and dangerous relic of the past. That casting it off is the next step in our social evolution. Just as you exalt those who died for your cause, I too will become a martyr. The skeptic community shall use my name as a rallying cry in their crusade against organized faith.”
Carson stared at Mary in horrified understanding. She was right. She would become their Saint Stephen. She would accomplish more in death than she ever could have in life. And yet she had to die. Carson Quinn had on his hands, a dilemma. Then it came to him.
She needed to appear to be the agent of her own demise. It needed to look like a suicide. But how?
No, he realized, that wouldn’t work. It might have worked for anyone else, but Mary was like him. Mary was a zealot. Mary was willing to die for her cause. But the roommate, she could be manipulated. She could do what he could not.
“Get out your cell phone,” said Carson Quinn, “and give it to me.”
Mary did not comply. Instead she ran at the Bible Killer, flailing and kicking, snarling. Carson Quinn did not have time to figure out how to fit this into his plan. He only had time to act, and he acted on instinct.
Carson Quinn stood his ground and thrust the knife into Mary Reynolds’s throat. For the last time, her eyes met with his, eyes full of pride and vengeance. She died with a smirk on her lips.
Carson shrugged and began to spread out the pages he’d prepared for the evening. As long as he wasn’t going to be able to cover up the murder, he figured he might as well try and educate the masses. Perhaps she would be a martyr. But perhaps more people would rally to his teachings than to hers. But without these pages to illuminate his position, hers could only be dominant.
Carson Quinn smiled as he left the apartment and quietly left the apartment building. No one saw him leave the complex, and those he passed on the way home didn’t look too closely. He was walking alone, at night, in Jericho. And mysterious disappearances and deaths were easier to handle if one couldn’t attribute a face to the name in the paper in the morning.
I snapped out of my trance and read what I had wrote.
“Oh fuck,” I said, under my breath.