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Her friends lay in a pile of bloody, entwined limbs so twisted it was impossible to tell where one body ended and the next began.
Blood was splattered up the walls like someone had thrown a few dozen bottles of ketchup against them.
She moved down to the closest body, her sister, Hannah, and saw that she had just about been decapitated.
Dark blood was still spilling from what remained of her throat.
Her eyes were glassy and seemed to stare up at Deborah.
While she was entranced by the macabre scene in front of her, she heard an unsettling laugh.
Saw a flicker of movement in the corner of her eye.
She turned and saw a man standing in the corner of the room.
He was naked except for a priest’s white collar around his throat.
The collar was pristine except for three dark spatters of blood.
His torso was streaked with blood which ran down his legs.
His eyes were wide, rolled back slightly to reveal the whites.
One of these also had a splash of blood on it.
His brow was furrowed, blood-streaked, sweat standing out on the pale skin.
When he saw that Deborah had looked over to him, his expression changed.
He grinned, but the blood-spattered face, slightly bowed, looking up at her through pale eyes, made it appear as though the devil himself had materialised in her front room.
The high-pitched giggle seemed at odds with his sinister demeanour.
His words cut through her like the knife in his trembling hand had cut through the bodies of her friends; ‘I’m going to cut the devil out of you.’
And again that high-pitched laugh, penetrating her ears, making her brain pulsate inside her skull.
He stepped towards her with the knife pointing towards her belly.
And she actually heard the blood pattering to the floor.
She followed the trail of one of the drops and saw it fall to the carpet, slowly sinking in, widening then settling.
Deborah searched the room for a weapon but the best she could come up with was a beer bottle beside one of her friend’s corpses.
She grabbed it, feeling like it was inadequate to deal with the problem.
Her hands shook, but, she noticed, so did those of the naked, dog-collared psychopath across the room from her.
As a result, his knife shook, throwing drops of blood onto the carpet.
She heard each one of them fall, her senses heightened by the surge of adrenaline that had hit her.
‘I’m going to cut the devil out of you,’ he repeated, the words fading into a high-pitched laugh that chilled her blood.
She felt certain that she was going to die here, especially with her reactions significantly slowed by the previous evening’s excesses.
He moved towards her, his movements fast and agile like a cat.
His face was contorted into a grin that disturbed her even more than the sight of her dead friends.
His eyes were like two pits of pure darkness that bored into her, seeming to draw her into their shadowy depths.
‘Sinners, all of you,’ he hissed. ‘Whoring. Drinking. Taking the Lord’s name in vain. But don’t worry. I will scrape the sin from your soul.’
With that, he darted closer, thrusting the knife towards her gut.
As she stepped back, her calves bumped into something warm and sticky and wet.
She instinctively knew that it was the mutilated corpse of one of her friends.
Still, she looked.
It was Laura, her best friend since she was five.
Her eyes had been carved out of her face, revealing dark, blood-choked sockets.
Crimson ran down her cheeks as though she was crying blood.
Her mouth was carved open in a horrid grin, the skin torn all the way back to her ears.
Dark blood ran down from the edges of the wound.
Her lips were gone, as were her ears.
Though her face was heavily mutilated, it was obvious that she still wore an expression of utter agony and terror.
Despite the sickening state of her oldest friend’s face, it was still a better sight than the dog-collar wearing psychopath.
‘Pain cleanses the soul,’ he giggled. ‘She was as innocent as a babe by the time I finished with her.’ He cupped a blood-smeared hand to his mouth in a curiously childlike manner to stifle a giggle. ‘Too bad she didn’t survive long enough to enjoy it. Still, she’s on her way upstairs to sit with Him now.’
Deborah’s eyes grew wide.
‘Let’s see if you can last long enough to reap the benefits of your newfound faith.’
Deborah’s terror morphed into anger momentarily as she saw the ruin of her friend’s face anew. ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’
‘When I take my blade here to the flesh of you non-believers, you suddenly start to believe.’
Deborah furrowed her brow.
‘More often than not, they start to call out to Him for help, for divine intervention. Most even see the error of their ways before I’m through. They are better for their introduction to Him, no matter how painful the methods involved.’
‘You’re out of your fucking mind.’
‘The Lord moves in mysterious ways,’ Cross giggled. ‘And He tells me how to bring the wayward sheep back to him.’
Deborah felt powerless to resist as he started to advance, but, as if a spell had been lifted, she remembered Lee was in the house with her.
She began to scream for him at the top of her lungs.
‘Another one to lead back to the flock,’ Cross beamed. ‘My, my, I really was needed here.’
Again he stifled a giggle with his hand, and again it reminded her of a kid.
This time his hand left smears of blood across his lips.
His tongue flicked out momentarily, lingering over the blood.
He seemed to savour the taste.
‘The taste of redemption,’ he smiled.
‘What’s going on in there?’ Lee shouted.
His footsteps sounded unsteady and, right on cue, he lurched into the wall.
‘What the fuck has happened to Kirtley?’ he bellowed.
Cross tutted loudly, the grin disappearing from his face at the sound of Lee’s curse.
His face set in a furious mask.
The door flew open and Lee, unlikely drunken saviour that he may be, stumbled into the room.
His eyes grew wide at the scene before him.
Before anyone could move, he bent double and heaved all over the carpet.
The stench of bourbon and stale beer formed a vile cocktail with the coppery tang of blood that already hung in the air.
Somehow Lee managed to right himself as Cross moved towards him.
He moved unnervingly fast.
The knife carved a gleaming arc through the air right where Lee’s throat had been, but he moved back just enough to make it miss him.
Lee came back with a wild haymaker that hit Cross full in the face.
His lips burst across his teeth, but he was otherwise unharmed.
As Lee swung his arm for another go, Cross darted in, slashing the knife wildly.
Lee let out a cry as blood welled up out of the wound on his chest.
Deborah lurched in, swinging another bottle at his head.
The blow glanced off his temple, making him lurch to one side as though he’d been drinking all night with them.
‘Satan’s whore,’ he spat, his blood spraying Lee’s face.
‘Run, Lee,’ Deborah shouted.
Lee seemed to hear her words, but he looked far away, no doubt lost in terror and confusion at the situation he found thrust upon him.
Last night’s three quarts of bourbon might have had something to do with it too.
Still, he moved forward, trying to grab Cross in a bear hug.
Cross moved back but tripped over the spread-eagled leg of one of the bodies.
Deborah darted in and threw her foot full force at his head.
She felt his nose crunch beneath her instep, felt his warm blood spatter her shin.
He grunted, but didn’t give up the fight.
As Lee came down for him, throwing punches like his life depended on it, Cross raised the knife.
Deborah saw what was going to happen before it happened and she shouted a warning to Lee.
But it was too late.
He fell, belly-first, onto the knife.
He convulsed like a fish plucked from the water by a cruel hand, blood gouting from his mouth as his jaws worked soundlessly.
Deborah knew he was done, knew she would be too if she waited around.
‘It’s just you and me now,’ Cross hissed. The smile had returned to his face. ‘I’m jealous of you cos you’re going to see the very face of God.’
‘Fuck you,’ she shouted and aimed another kick at his head.
It missed, adding insult to her boyfriend’s injury as her foot hit him in the jaw.
As she hit the hallway, she trod on a shard of the lamp and hissed as the shard of pot penetrated the sole of her sneaker.
It made running harder, as her foot hurt every time it hit the floor.
Worse, it left smears of blood behind her, showing the bible-bashing lunatic exactly where she was headed.
Never in her life had she felt so scared.
Even though it was her house, she felt like she was on another planet.
Alone in the darkness with the maniac and the blood, it was hostile and alien.
She ran, not really knowing where, only wanting to put some distance between her and the knife-wielding maniac who’d killed her friends.
Next chapter is here