She learns about "soulmate powers" when she's in elementary school, like most kids her age. Everybody has somebody who is their "soulmate". They don't have to fall in love, but they're always important to the other person, and they dream about things that the other one holds dear or significant.
Kirsty, who is seven, promises herself she will love her soulmate no matter what.
Kirsty is fourteen when she has the first dream.
It is of glittering patterns in gold and black; it's the prettiest box she's ever seen, and pale hands hold it, a man's hands. He's older than her, she realizes in the dream, even if she can't see his face, and he teases the box, coaxing it open. It blossoms under his touch, and she tries to look at what's inside. She wakes up before she does.
Kirsty can barely contain herself. It's so little, but it's something, a sign that he's out there.
Kirsty dreams of geometries and patterns, and they're all beautiful, because he's the one creating or treasuring them. She imagines he's an artist, or an architect; he's definitely older than her, but that's alright. They were made to be perfect for each other.
Kirsty is fifteen and elated from a dream about blue eyes when she picks up a newspaper. A killer has struck, leaving the terrifying aftermath of his victim. Chains and hooks mar the body of somebody who no longer looks human, creating forms that almost seem artistic. The living sculpture is all that remains of a serial rapist, now a mural of agony.
Kirsty dreams of a knife, and blood that isn't her soulmate's, and the taste of copper on her lips.
Kirsty is sixteen when the killer strikes again. His victim is a sex addict, but the second report on the news indicates he got off from multiple convictions of sexual assault and battery with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. Kirsty hadn't looked at the crime scene, but she does now as it lingers on the screen. She stares in shock at the horrific mutilations, but it isn't until her father leaves that she starts crying.
The wounds on the victim and the arrangement he was placed in are identical to one of the soul geometries she dreams of.
Kirsty is sixteen, and it's been three months since the last murder. She's moving past horror, now reserved from an uncle that has moved back into her neighborhood and seems dangerously interested in her again, and her stomach instead chooses to boil in anger.
How dare this bastard take her soulmate's patterns! How dare this killer, this sadist, take the shapes that her to-be beloved had created and twist them into something unspeakable? She feels sick thinking about her soulmate, and the creations he'd shared with her that he now had to watch mutilated and twisted into something merciless.
She is seventeen when the third killing happens. He chooses a new shape now, and while the first death took place in a clock tower and the second in the garage of a law firm, the third body decorates an abandoned playground. He has the decency, at least, she thinks with bitterness, to not traumatize kids. The victimis later outed to be a serial adulterer, with a rumored affair with a teenage girl she may not have wanted to be part of.
With each death he gets closer to her town; she wonders what her soulmate did and how close he was, that the killer would steal his designs and move closer to him. The news calls him the Shrine Butcher, for the brutal methods he uses on his victims and the almost referent way he arranges them.
"He works hard on them," her Uncle Frank smirks, "You think he's making them for somebody?" She nods. She knows these are warnings to her soulmate, that he'll be next. She wants to weep for him; he must be so scared, wherever he is.
Kirsty is eighteen when they catch a photo of the Shrine Butcher. It's blurry and they only get part of his profile, but she can still see some of him. He is a bald man, tall and broad-shouldered and bound in black leather, the vague shapes of weapons hanging from his belt.
Kirsty's stomach flips, not least because she can see one of his eyes in the photo. The picture has very little color, but she can barely make out the hint of blue in his sharp, emotionless gaze.
Kirsty buries herself in music. She's been trying art until now, hoping to find a way to capture her beloved's patterns her own way, but now she can't bring herself to even look at them. She buries herself in piano, and while the practice doesn't come to her easily at first, the sound does; she finds her soul at ease, imagining those same geometries blossoming with notes on her keyboard.
She plays constantly. After a month, she is no longer so clumsy with the keys; as the months melt into years, she is no longer hard to listen to. She tries to imagine her soulmate as a man, instead of a pair of eyes, standing next to her or perhaps sitting in a chair and listening to her play piano. He's given her his patterns already, it only seems right to give him something beautiful in return.
The fourth murder scene is in an unused church in the next town, one her father would bring her to when she was a child. Kirsty is trying to play Moonlight Sonata alone when she finally accepts what she already knew, and starts crying.
Her soulmate is an artist after all, she supposes, recalling the composition of chains and hooks and viscera in her mind. It's almost beautiful, except that a man died to create it.
"What's wrong, Kirsty?" She feels a clammy hand on her shoulder, from a man that she never wants to touch her again.
"Nothing," she says quietly, not looking at her uncle, "It's just a lovely song."
Kirsty is twenty when her soulmate writes his next love letter. She's figured out by now that he's killed more people than this; those victims, she imagines, are less useful as canvases, or not good enough for her. She's almost flattered at how much care he puts into his work; they've never met, but he's completely devoted to her.
He chooses a wedding chapel that has fallen into disrepair, and this time, he cuts off the man's ring fingers. The victim looks familiar– they all have, she realizes now, but the resemblance in this one to a face she knows is particularly strong.
She understands now, watching the screen as the Butcher's work is aired on the more risk-taking of the news networks, seeing the way he's so carefully arranged his work for her. It's a composition, just like the piano music she plays, something that to him must be exceptionally beautiful. It's a gift to her, something for her to cherish.
And all at once, she knows.
It's Kirsty's twenty-first birthday when she finds herself wandering a music hall at night, long after everybody has left. She pulls her coat tighter around her, knowing she's being followed; two men both want her attention tonight.
She ascends the stage, and makes her way to the piano. Her fingers brush over dusty keys, and she tests a note.
The song is one that she's never seen on paper. It's a strange melody, sweet yet haunting, and she plays it with her eyes closed. It has no name, but she knows what it is. It is a song she has hummed her entire life, her own song, what the geometries were to him. Her love song, wordless, everything.
A clammy hand on her shoulder, and then a gargling, choked noise. Kirsty turns around to find her uncle with his throat slit open, and the Shrine Butcher holding the knife in one hand, Frank's twitching body secured against him with the other.
He waits until Frank has died before looking up at Kirsty. His gaze is intense and vibrant, and she feels the pull of their souls immediately. His face is severe and calculating and beautiful; just like she'd dreamt, he has blue eyes.
He looks at her as if she's a goddess. He's spent the past few years waiting for her, worshipping her with his creations; she can see his patterns etched in the leather he's bound in, geometries composed for her. He lets Frank and the knife drop, and the blades at his waist clank together as he approaches her. His hand is soaked in blood as he cups her cheek, but it's Frank's blood, and her soulmate's hand, and Kirsty finds she doesn't mind in the slightest. His expression is hardened, a killer's, but his eyes shimmer as they take her in. When he speaks, his accent is English and dignified. "Tell me your name."
"Kirsty Cotton," she breathes, leaning into the hand and noting his thumb is wrapped in leather. "Tell me yours."
"Elliot Spencer," he says, and he moves forward and kisses her. Her cheek is wet from his bloody hand, and as he pushes her hair back she feels more smear onto her forehead.
She kisses him back, reaches up and cups his face with both hands. His skin is slightly leathery, but his lips are soft, and she knows in that moment that she will never kiss anyone else.
"You received my letters," he says as they pull away. His face has blood smeared on it; she can only imagine what she looks like, although his expression harbors reverence.
"I did," she answers, kissing him again, "they were beautiful."