Updated: Nov 16, 2020

We mustn’t forget to address my opponents. Such as they are at least—does one really have opponents if they don’t even realize a game is afoot? A philosophical question, to be sure, and one I suspect has no satisfactory answer. Serial murder cases—especially those that take place in multiple states—often fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI. In case you live under a rock, they are an oft-fictionalized national law enforcement organization featured in television shows like Criminal Minds and Profiler. If you are naïve enough to believe these programs, there are a virtually inexhaustible number of sexually sadistic psychopaths, who will—almost without fail—be captured in roughly 42 minutes. Nevertheless, I’ve had quite the prolific career and there’s not been the slightest indication that they even know of my existence. Yet.

As inept an organization as it is, the FBI does have a few tools at their disposal that I must be wary of in order to continue my recreational pursuits unhindered. The first is known as ViCAP. It is a database replete with case files depicting some of the most unspeakable and unimaginable horrors ever committed. Oh, whom do I think I’m kidding­? There are no unimaginable horrors­—only those of you too inferior and faint-hearted to conceive of them. ViCAP is a resplendent digital playground of death and mutilation and pain. In it reside the intimate details of nearly 100,000 violent crime cases committed over the past thirty years—perhaps even a few of my own. When police come across a homicide or other violent crime that has very specific or peculiar details, they create a ViCAP file and enter it into the database. FBI analysts then analyze those files and compare them against others with similar identifying features. In this way, ViCAP is designed to help identify repeat or serial offenders. But ViCAP does have several of its own “fatal” flaws.

As is the case with any system, it is only as good as the data entered into it, and subsequently the analysts reviewing it. Law enforcement officers are not required to use the system, and therefore often don’t. Small agencies often don’t have the resources to key their cases and larger agencies are often too busy to complete the extensive questionnaire. After all, deploying tanks and deciding whether to wield their military-issued firepower to keep the peace must take up a significant amount of their time. And while 100,000 case files may sound impressive, it really represents only a tiny fraction of the more than three million unsolved violent crime cases that have been committed since ViCAP’s inception. From my perspective, that’s a massive safe haven in which to hide.

There are also a very few exceptional “profilers” at the Bureau. Officially, they are “forensic psychologists,” or "criminologists" but the more common and informal title is derived from their supposed ability to create a “psychological profile” of an offender based on their actions or evidence left at the scene of a crime. In fiction, they are often given an almost psychic ability to see into the dark minds and darker souls of criminals like me. In reality, they study human and deviant behavior and analyze crime scene evidence against the question “why?” instead of just “what and how?”

Many consider forensic psychology to be a pseudo-science—unreliable at best, total garbage at worst—and law enforcement is quick to point out how rarely profiles aid in the capture of the criminals they hunt. They also like to hype the inevitable inaccuracies. But to dismiss it outright would be a potentially lethal mistake—profilers can be dangerous to someone like me. Psychology plays a role in everything we do, and the devils are often in the tiniest of details. But fortunately, criminologists can only play by the rules they know. And provided that I too know those rules and refuse to play by them, I can manipulate the game (and thus the players) however I wish.

And I have. For nearly fifteen years.

Perhaps the most dangerous of all of the Bureau’s tools is its state-of-the-art lab in Quantico, Virginia. Every flake of skin, hair, print, fiber, or fluid has the potential to lead to capture. And it is impossible to completely prevent leaving analysts such evidence to work with, no matter how hard one tries. Locard’s exchange principle states: “every contact leaves a trace.” And it is a truth that cannot be circumvented—only minimized. I take every possible precaution to prevent these transfers, but I have to assume that somewhere, among the thousands of pieces of evidence from the dozens of murders I have committed, is an exemplar that might one day identify me.

But not today. Today, I will kill again. Armed with my considerable intellect, and an unequaled understanding of the laws governing the game, I will continue to manipulate the rules until the game itself is mine.

So let’s see how good you really are, Nicholas. Can you beat me at my own game?

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Blunt force. There are many alternatives: fist, floor, hammer, club—anything not specifically designed for penetration is acceptable. I've used a variety of weapons and techniques, and it can be a most enjoyable method of killing. Personal and intimate, though maybe not quite as elegant as a blade.

Sergio Peña was old and meek, and not likely to present me with much of a challenge. He was also a nice man. If I cared about such things, I might have let him live. If I had the capacity, I might have felt guilty about what I was going to do to him. But I didn't care, and felt nothing. He was Non. He was chosen for the Else. And blunt force was chosen for him. I needed only to make him Ready.

Peña's breathing was shallow—the movement of his chest nearly imperceptible. His eyes were open, but he didn't blink. He didn't move or twitch. He belonged only to the Pancuronium. And to me.

I would have to proceed carefully if I wanted to achieve maximum effect. And of course, I did. In order to avoid nerve damage that might diminish the impact of subsequent blows, I would need to begin with the extremities and work my way inward. I retrieved my weapon.

The bowling ball weighed sixteen pounds. I dropped it onto his right hand from a height of about three feet. The crack of bone was audible. The immense pressure burst one of his fingertips and a small spray of blood stained the floor above his hand. I could only imagine the agony, since Peña was unable to scream or mutter or move, but my imagination is exceptional, and I could hear his screams in my mind every bit as clearly as I'd heard his phalanges crunch just before the ball rolled off into a corner.

I let that sink in for a while.

Paralytics, though handy, must be used sparingly and with caution. Prolonged depression of the respiratory and circulatory systems will eventually prove fatal. It was therefore necessary to find another way to keep him...cooperative for the remainder of our time together. I made a minor adjustment to my friend’s position on the cement floor and this time let the bowling ball fall from about five feet. It was a perfectly placed blow that smashed into his left distal tibia and subsequently broke the fibula on the opposite side. The ligaments in the ankle were rendered useless, hobbling him. He wouldn't be putting any weight on that leg anytime soon. Or ever, as the case turned out to be.

The pain must have been too much for his brain to manage. After a moment or two, he passed out. It can be difficult to tell when this happens—the Pancuronium completely regulates muscle tone, reflexes, heart rate, and blood pressure. The eyes can't roll back in the head or close—they just stare blankly into the eternal, waiting Else. Nonetheless, after years of experience with the paralytic, I usually know when I'm in the company of the unconscious.

I had some time before Peña's first dose would wear off, so I decided to grab a bite to eat while I waited for him to come around. There was no sense wasting quality time on an unconscious patient, and even sadistic psychopaths get hungry now and again.

He was back with me when I returned. A single tear dangled on a sharp cheekbone.

My aim was off just a bit with my next drop. The bowling ball landed just above Peña’s ankle and below the calf. It was still an exquisitely effective impact—a compound fracture that thrust bone through the skin of his shin and provided a bit more blood for my version of Da Vinci's masterpiece.

We continued this way through two doses of the paralytic—nearly four hours. By the time Peña could move, he mostly couldn't move. And by the time he could speak, all he could do was scream and sob and call out to a deaf or uninterested God.

The heel of a hand: shattered several of the small bones in the wrist.

An inner arm: snapped both the radius and ulna.

A shoulder: dislocated

A knee.

A thigh.

A hip.

As time stretched on, his body became canvas. The bruises were art in and of themselves—mottled, deep purple splotches flecked with blue and black. White spears of bone pierced flesh in half a dozen places. Blood painted his skin. Limbs were swollen and contorted at strange angles. Magnificent.

Peña was much more resilient than he looked. He blacked out several times, but fewer than one might expect from a man in his circumstances. Sometimes I woke him with a nudge to a protruding bone or a tweak to a mangled joint. As we got a bit further into things and Peña began to drift nearer the Else, I juiced him with a bit of epinephrine to keep him alert and lively.

The highlight of our time together came in the morning—the drop was only a few feet, but it was tantalizingly effective. The ball struck Peña squarely on the left side of his brow. The frontal bone of the orbit splintered like glass and a shard ran through his eye. Vitreous fluid and blood from the wound filled the socket, dripped down his cheek and was flung across the floor as Peña shrieked and tossed his head from side to side.

That was particularly enjoyable.

"¡Dios ayúdame! ¡No mas! ¡No mas, por favor!”

Sí, mas.

The bowling ball shattered his jaw next. Peña spoke no more—from that point on he produced only a hideous, shaky wail. I dropped it again, this time onto his stomach from a height of eight feet. The breath rushed out of him, silencing him. Color bloomed on his skin as blood vessels exploded and internal organs ruptured.

Then the killing blow. The ball struck Peña high in the chest and broke several ribs. Breathing became nearly impossible. He coughed softly. A fine red mist flew from his nose; frothy blood spilled from the corners of his mouth and ran down his cheeks. One of the bone fragments had punctured a lung, and the shockwave from the blow itself had almost certainly caused a pulmonary contusion. This would normally be an excruciating injury, but at that stage, I’m not sure he even noticed.

Then, after all of an evening, the following morning and part of that afternoon, our time together drew to an end.

His eternity of misery with the Else was just beginning.

I had a hunch that Señor Peña could not be trusted to lie still, especially once we'd begun in earnest, so the Pancuronium was required. Once prepared, he looked strikingly like the Vitruvian Man. He was naked and spread-eagled; his long, grey hair pooled around his head on the cement. This was perhaps not what Da Vinci had envisioned, but my art is an altogether different medium.

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

This Non is important. The Else trembles with anticipation. He must be made perfect. There have been attempts, imprecise and thus discarded. One cannot squander an opportunity more than ten years in the making. This one must be as I’ve always envisioned it, as I’ve dreamt it. It must be exquisite and flawlessly executed. Not the first, but The First. It has taken all of my discipline to hold out this long, but the moment has finally come.

The quarters twirl and turn, turn and twirl.

Tails over heads over tails they whirl.

They shall decide (Not I, Not I)

The Non and the method by which they must die.

When I first see him, I know. He will be the first brushstroke of my masterpiece. One of many such strokes in many such masterpieces. He is the inception. I shall call him Origin...

It was painfully simple, as it so often is. The Else is a benevolent provider. A phone call and he came to me. Darien Jackson picked me up in his taxi, put my bag in the trunk and drove us, oblivious, to his final destination. His tip upon arrival was that of a needle. Once I had him situated in the cold, empty warehouse, I drove his cab to an abandoned lot a few miles away and walked back. I may have whistled a tune.

Much I had prepared in advance. As I set up the rest, I was sure to show Darien everything that I was doing and the tools I intended to use on him while he lay helpless on the stainless steel hospital table—a small but worthwhile investment.

It went far too quickly, though I suspect Darien disagreed. What, after all, is a few short days in the creation of a masterstroke? The single, beautiful brush of a thousand blades?

I don’t think Darien ever truly appreciated how important his role in this was. I attempted to explain it to him, but I suppose it’s reasonable to assume he had other things on his mind at the time. He was the only person with whom I have ever shared the entirety of my grand design. After all, what else was there to do during our time together? Alas, he is in no position to speak of it to anyone now.

The Pancuronium preserved a precarious peace between the two of us while the first of my strokes opened him up, little by little. Some trickled. Some spurted. Some gushed. Some were too deep. Those that threatened to abbreviate our time together, I seared closed with a wood-burning tool. The smell of scorched flesh was an unpleasant but necessary evil. He couldn’t be allowed to bleed to death until each of my brush’s thousand bristles had carved their crimson.

But Darien had other plans. He tried to take a permanent hiatus at 312. It was far from the worst incision, but he went into shock and flatlined. I could hardly release him unto the Else in such a state. He was incomplete. So I revived him. Covered him with a blanket. I gave him an IV of fluids and dextrose. I allowed him time to recuperate. I was anxious to continue, but perfection requires patience.

My masterpiece was far from complete.

When he had sufficiently recovered, I adjusted his position so he could watch himself unmade by my blades as they puckered, punctured and pulled at his skin. The pool of blood he lay in deepened. He was much paler than when we started—a shade of grey that looked decidedly unhealthy.

There was still so much canvas to cover.

Darien fell unconscious several times. During one of his slumbers, I meticulously placed the quarters to either side of him in the blood that had pooled on the table. Each state side facing up, in the order of their statehood, exactly two inches apart. 25 to his left. 25 to his right.

The paralytic had mostly dissipated when Darien woke next, but by then, he was far too weak to put up a fight. He so desperately wanted to live. He begged. He wept. He told me of the agony of the Pancuronium—the horror of not being able to cry or scream or shrink away from my blades. The hellish pins and needles. His skin was shrouded in a sheen of blood mingled with sweat. He was feverish, even though his body could no longer muster the energy to shiver against the cold.

I couldn’t resist. I lay the brush on him a few times then—purely for my own pleasure. His lungs produced powerful but mostly silent screams. Tears fell into the blood next to his head. His muscles flexed with the pain. Blood trickled and sometimes poured down the slopes of his body onto the table. And ever so slowly, it began to cover the quarters next to him.

At 871 he succumbed again. I couldn’t allow it. I brought him back and went to work. More quickly now, but cautiously. We were so close. The thousandth should be the last. Of course, I could have cheated and continued after the Else had taken him. But those would have been wasted strokes. Pain unfelt. Terror unknown. I began to run out of canvas. I went internal. His tongue and gums were worth a few strokes of the brush. His cheeks. I amputated most of an ear.

His breathing became shallow and shaky. His eyes rolled back in their sockets. Our time was drawing short. There would be no more bringing him back. The Else was too hungry for him now.

996—his sphincter.

997—an eyeball.

998—the other.

999—I opened his scrotum.

1000—A nice, deep gouge in his upper, inner thigh severing the femoral artery. The blood flowed surprisingly well, considering everything he’d been through. As his heart beat, the laceration would gush, then pour, then gush. There would be no cauterizing this time. Gush. Pour. Slower—the space between longer:

Gush. Pour. Gush. Pour. Gush. Pour.

Then gravity simply took what was left to take.

Darien entered the Else the Thousand-Flayed. Skin and flesh dangled from him. He was bloodstained and spoiled by feces and vomit and urine. Three days to create this—this single, sublime brushstroke. And he was terrifyingly beautiful. He was Art. The Else surely beheld him in awe.

The last of his blood settled over the table. I made some adjustments using it’s built-in handy tilt feature until it was just so. The fifty statehood quarters were covered, buried beneath this new layer of blood.

I took four Nevada statehood quarters from a pocket and placed them carefully on Darien’s body. I left them as they had turned. Heads—his right palm, tails—over his right eye, heads—his left eye, tails—his left palm: the pattern of Darien’s death, determined by the Else. Heads, tails, heads, tails: death by blade. And I merely obliged. The quarters decide. (Not I, Not I.)

I left Origin to the cold confines of the empty warehouse. I left knowing he'd been made Ready. Perfect. I left what remained of him for the Else to feast on.

Not my first stroke. Certainly not my last. But my very first masterstroke. The masterstroke that will eventually bring me to him—the only one that may be worthy of me. Then the games will truly begin.

Sleep well, Nicholas. Your nightmare is just beginning.