Rise of a Queen

By: Rina Kent

Now that I know why he was that way, I want to bleach those memories out of my head.

There’s something uneven about the sound coming from the bushes. It’s a bit like…hesitation.

Sure, it could be an animal, but an animal’s frantic movements would follow a pattern. If it were scared, it would’ve run by now. This one isn’t running. It’s more like he’s…stalking. Similar to when Dad and I used to do it in the past. If anything, he’s getting closer.

A shadow passes between the trees at lightning speed. I step back, my old sneakers crunching against the pebbles.

It can’t be the police since they would’ve already caught me for trespassing on a crime scene. Or worse, sent me back to the Witness Protection Program, where I heard the officers discussing me in an unfavourable way.

I don’t trust them.

I trust no one. Just like Dad always insisted I shouldn’t. It’s ironic that I’ve come back to his words now.

This leaves only a couple of other possibilities. The most probable one is that it could be a victim’s family member. Or maybe one of the many people who sympathised with the victims and made the trial period a nightmare.

I inhale deeply and slowly, letting my ears capture their movements. They’re behind the tree. But the thing is, my ears aren’t reliable with the amount of ringing in them.

Wait. Could I be imagining the noises?

For months, I don’t remember sleeping a full night. One, I’ve been scared they’ll attack me in my sleep. Two, whenever I close my lids, all I can see are the victims’ faces, duct tape, vacant eyes, and blood.

So much blood.

Sleep deprivation toys with the brain. Sometimes, I worry that either Dad or the families will come after me.

Tonight, it could be the latter.

I aim the flashlight in the direction of the trees where I suspect the shadow is lurking. “Who are you?”

No answer.

“If you want to take a jab at me, come out. You’re neither the first nor the last.” I’m proud of how my words are steady and confident.

I’m sure as shit not confident right now.

Those people and the hatred in their eyes frighten me. I always feel as if they want my head on a stick or wish I was buried six feet under like those victims.

“I’m here!” My voice rises. “I’m over here, so if you want to —”

My words cut off when the shadow runs towards me at supersonic speed.

I lift both my arms to protect my face. That’s what they go for the most — the face. It’s as if they want to erase anything that resembles his face. Mainly the eyes. The fact that I have my father’s eyes has made me a monster just like him.

Something crunches against my ribcage. At first, I stare with stupefaction, expression frozen, not sure what’s happened.

Then pain explodes in my side and hot liquid spills from me, soaking my coat, and when I look up, I see the shadowy form of a masked man snatching a knife away. A trail of blood flows from the wound and drips onto the dark ground. The dim glow from my flashlight turns the view gruesome, haunting even. The blood is nearly black — like a demon’s.

Unable to carry my weight, my legs stumble and I twist my foot as pain spreads across my nerve endings and shoots straight to my brain.

Then I’m falling.

To keep myself from going down, my fingers dig into his mask and I pull, my nails scratching his skin.

I make out a tattoo on the side of his bald head. A dragon.

He hits my hand, and the flashlight slips from my trembling fingers. I follow soon after. My energy fails me and I drop backwards.

Straight into the eighth grave.

My head hits the dirt, and a metallic taste fills my mouth before blood gurgles out from it.

The dark shadow stands over my grave, the light from the flashlight forming a halo around him. His black-gloved hands rest over each other, the blood on the knife he still holds glinting under the moonlight.

He’s watching me so intently, as if he’s my father and I’m one of the victims he suffocated to death. He doesn’t move, doesn’t make a sound. He just…watches.

My eyes roll back, slowly closing. The last words I hear are Dad’s.

When I see you again, either I kill you or you kill me.

Top Books