Scrutiny


Be sure to read Anniversary before this.

I turn the knob, and cool water sprays down on me. I can’t feel that it’s cold, but I know it is because the knob is all the way to the blue side. Standing there for a moment, I let the water rain down on me, closing my eyes for a few moments. I hold my hands up in the stream, making sure to wash the bones of my left hand. Another moment passes, and I turn the knob all the way to red. After another few minutes, steam begins to rise, the water reaching scalding temperatures. I still can’t feel it.

Sighing, I step out of the shower, letting my hair hang down into my face. After brushing my teeth, I wearily put on some clothing and step out of the bathroom. Water drips from my hair, making a trail from the bathroom to my couch as I walk to it, sitting down and turning on the television. I flip to the news channel, where the story that has become all too familiar is already showing.

A woman with her eyes cut out, her throat slit, and the skin flayed from her hand, drained of every drop of blood. The killings have happened every other day for the past two weeks. Seven victims in all. Regular as clockwork.

This time, however, something is different. I can’t tell what it is at first, as there isn’t much footage of the body. Standing up from the couch, I move closer to the television, hoping for another shot of it.

Yes.

There it is.

Indeed, something is different. Tattooed on the woman’s forehead is a single word: ATREUS.

Suddenly, I feel something in my head, something sharp and burning. It’s been happening to me since the killings started. I can hear voices, too, distorted and strange. Fragmented and disjointed. And with it comes pain. Not something physical- I’m not sure I have the capacity to feel physical pain anymore. No, this is mental pain, something grating and harsh. With the voices come pictures, still moments that are totally incomprehensible to me.

The pain is stronger now, and it flares without warning. I gasp, my fingers reflexively going to my temples. What is happening to me? The pain builds, a pressure behind my eyes that grows more intense by the second. I press my palms to my eyes to no avail. It only becomes worse. What is going on? The voices and pictures become more vivid, the sounds more insistent, the colors more vibrant. The pain intensifies tenfold. Atreus- what does it mean? Who or what is it? Will it make the pain go away?

Without warning, it stops, the voices and images ceasing their assaults on my mind. I stand back up, taking a moment to get my bearings. Stumbling slightly, I make my way to the wall, and lean against it. That’s better. I take a breath-

-And the visions come back worse than before. A muted gasp escapes me, and my hands fly to my head again, massaging my temples. None of them make any sense, the images and voices so disorienting as to be totally indecipherable.

Just as quickly as they came, they stop again, and I relax. How do I make them go away? A few days ago, I had to abort the Ritual because of them. The visions attacked me, and my target left the area. I lost sight of them. An hour’s search got me nowhere. It was the first time I failed to kill a Seeker.

I’m still itching to kill, but I can’t bring about the will to do so. The voices continue to assault me. I’ve been so long now without killing that I’m beginning to feel wrong, out of sorts. My limbs have grown sluggish, my normally steady hands shaking. I feel like an addict going through withdrawal. Which, I suppose, is exactly what I am.

However, I’m not going to sit idly by. Pushing off from the wall, I walk over to the coffee table, picking up the Cartridge of Reality I took from Thompson two weeks ago. Two weeks. Excepting the first month or so of my new life, two weeks is the longest I’ve ever been without killing. I feel a slight tremor through my body as I set it down.

I don’t know why the visions started. Was it because of Angela being brought up in such a stark way? Was it the shock of knowing that someone knew about me? Or was it something deeper, something far more insidious? I can’t remember anything about myself before I was Infectos, save for the night Angela died. Could it be something from my past? Whatever the case, only one thing is absolutely certain to me.

If this murderer is causing these visions, then I need to find him, and kill him. It's that simple.

Suddenly, a ringing snaps me out of my reverie. I look over, and see my iPhone vibrating across the coffee table. A call? I took that phone from James Reynolds, a man I killed more than six months ago. In the weeks after I killed him, I did receive a few calls from his friends and family, but who would call now?

Nonetheless, something compels me to answer it. I don’t know why, but I feel as if I need to take the call, as if it’s extremely important. As I press the talk button, I’m not disappointed.

”Hello, Praetorious,” says a voice that seems drenched in static and distortion, ”I’ve got a present for you."

Continued in Bleeding Out.

Part of the series Labors in Futility.
Last modified on 2010-01-06 20:30:02Viewed 3167 times

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