My eyes snap open, staring into the still darkness of my sepulcher. The last thing I remember was lying back as the medicine began to kick in. I remember seeing my wife through the glass, along with a few others. She was crying.
I shift my arms and legs, which feel weak and heavy. My fingers pop and groan as I clutch them, and a fine layer of soot crumbles forth from my skin like dried wax from a candlestick. I open my mouth, and take a deep breathe, only to cough it up, along with a few chunkier pieces of… something.
Reaching up, I press my hand against the ceiling of the void, a flat and cold surface, slightly damp. I push. My muscles scream in agony as I push, but I need to get out of here and see what’s wrong with me. I feel…things underneath my skin that shouldn’t be there, and my mind is foggy… I can’t stay like this.
Slowly, the ceiling shifts, grinding along itself to reveal a sliver of pale light flickering. I double my efforts, letting loose an audible whine as I can feel my weakened muscles begin to snap from the pressure I’m exerting. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but being free. I can’t be trapped like one of them.
Wouldn’t that be poetic justice, to be trapped like one of them? I grunt as I slipped my fingers around the lip of the seal and begin tugging in short jerks, slowly moving the entrance inch by agonizing inch. I try and start thinking through the fog of my mind, to the past and my many deeds.
Fifteen. Fifteen in all, though they’d only caught me for six. They’d tried to plea bargain with me for the others, but I wouldn’t do it: they meant too much to me staying right where they were, thank you.
The lid is halfway off now, allowing me to rise slowly, gripping the edge of the apparent stone casing I’m in. Looking around, I see I’m in the family mausoleum; the flickering comes from an old light fixture that seems to be on it’s last legs, the other two having gone out a while ago it would seem, judging by the dust on them, as well as the floor. I look to my side, sighing as my bones pop and shift beneath my leathery hide.
Yup, my wife’s stone coffin is here and sealed as well. In fact, I can hear the distinct rapping of knuckles on stone, and her shrill voice, high as ever, is screaming. Looking down at my hands, the flesh scraped and torn from my digits to reveal maggots funneling through me like termites through a tree, I tenderly reach down and pull a fat little worm from my palm. Staring at it as it wriggles, I pop it in my mouth and chew, slowly.
It tastes delicious! So cold and slimy, with bits of harder, crunchier meat attached to it, like peppercorn.
It doesn’t take me long to figure out where I am, and what I am. The only question, is why? Why am I back? Shouldn’t I be in Hell, roasting alongside the other sadists and murderers? That’s what I’d been told would happen to me. After all, a serial killer that targets children doesn’t get much sympathy from anyone, even other inmates. Luckily I never saw any of them… Death Row was sort of a solitary gig, now that I think of it.
I pull myself up and over the side of my raised tomb, falling down to the ground with a sickening thud, like fresh meat being dropped on the ground. I ease myself up on bony fingers, spitting out a rotten tooth in the process. One gimlet eye rolls about in my head independently until I will it to stop. Sitting up, I lean back against my coffin and rest my arms on my knees. I’m dressed in torn finery, an old suit that I recall wearing to several funerals I caused.
I laughed. The irony is too rich for my tastes.
I can hear what must be my wife scraping away at within her tomb, moaning and screaming for help.
“Some things change,” I said, my voice as thick as mud, “and some things never change. Hold on dear, let me get you out…”
I hoisted myself up from the ground, walking on ratty leather shoes as I slowly, ponderously, walked over to her raised coffin. Gripping the edges of the lid, I lean close to it. “Listen! Start pushing up, and I’ll start pulling. We’ll have you out of there in a second, alright?”
She responded, but I can’t make it out. I began lifting and pulling on the lid, my hard skin cracking from the exertion. Slowly, ever so slowly, we moved the lid a foot aside, allowing her ample room to squeeze through, with my help. She’s dressed in a moldering silk blouse and skirt, her skin grey and covered in scars. Her hair, what’s left of it, dangles from her scalp where patches of skull peek through thin spots of skin. Her eyes roll about in their sockets, yellow orbs with blue irises. She smiles up at me, a worm poking through a hole in her cheek.
She’s still as beautiful as the day I died.
I lean down and lift her out of the coffin, setting her down gently.
“Oh John,” she croaked, patting me down gently. “Is it really you?”
“Yes Jade, it is.” I groaned back. “How did you die?”
She smiles morosely and holds up her arms, showing long track lines from her elbows to her wrists. “I just couldn’t bear to be without you?”
“Well you got me now honey, that’s all that matters.” I pulled her into a hug, smiling as a few of the wood roaches within my body clamber through the holes in my side and into her. I pulled her back to arm’s length. “Hey, what do you say? For old time’s sake?”
She smiles and swats me on the arm. “You old sweet talker you… of course we can continue! You think I didn’t?”
“You mean you kept on without me?” I asked, somewhat hurt.
“I thought that was what you would have wanted, seeing as you couldn’t anymore. We’re up to twenty-three now, by the way.”
“And they never caught you?” I asked, shocked.
She shrugged. “I moved to a bigger city, focused on poor families… nobody seemed to care.”
“Were any of them ever found?” I asked, enthralled at the thought of my work continuing on.
“Some were… they thought I was a copycat killer. They never even suspected that you had an accomplice.”
“So the Nail-Bite Slasher still lived on after me?” I asked, pleased to hear the term once again. It’d been a long time since I’d even heard the moniker the press had given me, for my penchant for removing the children’s teeth and hammering in nails in their place. They usually lived through it long enough for me to kill them right after, which I suppose was the best outcome for them…
“I wasn’t as good as you were, but I kept the tradition alive. For you.”
“I love you Jade,” I croak. Reaching out to caress her leathery cheek.
“And I love you John… let’s never be separated again.”