There were very few things Kathryn wanted out of life. After all, she was completely comfortable living in the formidable shadow of her near-perfect sister. People like that don't ask for much. Kathryn wanted only to live, be happy, and to take care of others whenever possible. All of these things, however, seemed to escape her. It was such a pity.
They were, after all, so very simple things.
It had been a week since that day that Johnny had up and disappeared from her dorm room. Kathryn headed over to Todd's house that weekend, fully intent on seeing Johnny there, as she always did. Well, he certainly couldn't avoid her forever, she thought stubbornly. Once she pulled up to Todd's house, her eyes immediately went to Johnny's. It looked much the same as it always did, slightly lop-sided and with the holy number on the front door, standing there with just as much mockery as a Baptist on the Jerry Springer show. Shifting and pulling up her purse, Kathryn stepped to the front door, her eyes set in the determined fashion that her mother so unthinkingly called 'masculine' but was actually just a form of independent thinking that people like her mother didn't partake in more often than picking a shade of lipstick. Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, Kathryn knocked rapidly on the front door. It opened with a slow creak.
She stepped inside, frowning as she saw Todd sitting on the floor. He had Schmee beside him. He hadn't played with Schmee in a long time.
"Todd, where're you parents?" She asked, concern lacing her tone as she knelt down beside him and scooped him up. She knew he would forget how to talk in time because of how much she held him, but dear God, someone had to show the kid some affection. Todd rubbed his running nose on the back of his hand.
"They left.. Long time ago. Been gone allll day.." Kathryn's brows furrowed. "They didn't call me? For God's sake.." She murmured, shaking her head and putting him on the couch. "Well, didn't Johnny come over to keep you company?"
Todd looked up suddenly.
"No. Nny's been in his house all week! He won't come out. I don't know whatsa' matter!" Todd exclaimed, looking thoroughly perplexed and miserable. Kathryn frowned again at this. God, what was going on? Todd's parents - Well, alright. That wasn't that unusual. They were neglectful bastards with no purpose in life except to take up valuable space and oxygen. That was nothing new. But Johnny? Where was he?
Todd looked up at her, blinking owlishly. "I haven't even heard no noises from his house! Where is he? I think something happened to him, Kathryn.." He said, lower lip trembling. The redhead bent in front of him, kissed the top of his head, and straightened. "How about I go and check on him, alright? You just wait here and I'll be right back." When she turned around to head towards the door, Todd grabbed her hand in his own little one.
"Promise you'll come back, Kathryn. Promise!"
His voice was so urgent, so desperate for the acceptance of his proposal. Kathryn nodded, looking down at him strangely. "Of course. I always come back, don't I, Todd? I'll be back, I promise you."
Promises are so hard to keep, Kathryn. Why did you make them?
She stepped outside. By this time, it was completely dark outside. Nothing illuminated the earth save for sparse stars that seemed even brighter tonight than usual. No light came from Johnny's house, though that wasn't especially unusual. Very seldom had Kathryn seen light of any kind in the several windows on his house. Once outside, she hesitated. He'd almost killed her once for even coming near his house. What if he caught her? Well, wasn't that the intention? Didn't she need to find him?
Kathryn drew in a breath to a chest, reached up a hand, and pushed open the front door. Like Todd's, it swung open with an agonizing creak. She stepped inside, pressing it closed behind her. Apparently, that was a bad idea. The living room - or whatever the hell it was - was pitch black. Fishing around in her purse, Kathryn pulled out the little pen light she used to read at night. The circle of light beamed out from it's battery-operated depths and spotlighted a dark wood floor. More scanning. A grubby looking couch. A television with - Well, he was telling the truth - a huge hole in it. A coffee table with crumbs of some sort on it. But no Johnny.
So, Kathryn crept forward.
A kitchen? Well, she didn't look too much in there. God only knows what she'd find.
She moved forward, through the hallways. God, it was so dark. Her little light barely made her path walkable. Every time she looked upon the walls with her light, she regretted it. Stains - so dark, like old dried ink - all over the wall. Holes. Hand prints. Dirt. More fingernail marks. Kathryn paused to run her own nails down one of the morbid paths, but just as she did, a clattering sound made her jump and look up.
"What in the .. fucking.. hell ..?" She muttered, her brows furrowing and her body tensing immediately.
"Johnny?" She called finally. How big could this house be? He had to hear her.
"Johnny? It's Kathryn. Hey, are you here?" She continued walking down the hall, trembling legs leading her in the direction of the sound. "Hey! Look, Todd was just worried and I hadn't seen you in a while.. So, I, you know.. Just thought I'd check up - "
With every groan that sounded the house suddenly burst into life. Every light in the house came on, ringing with a loud, echoing 'thud' as if the breakers were being manually thrown from somewhere else in the house.
Kathryn gasped and turned around, dropping her pen light and letting it roll under a nearby desk. When she looked around at the previously hidden room, her heart dropped into her stomach, her mouth opened, and her eyes widened to impossible lengths.
Everywhere. All over the walls, the floor, the table. And they were all of her. 8x10's, all of them, clear as day, some very close and some very far. In every one of them, Kathryn was unaware that her picture was being taken. She was even asleep in some of them. Asleep at Todd's. Asleep in her dorm. Walking outside Todd's house. Brushing her hair in the living room. Kathryn whirled out, her breathing come out in a high-pitched pants. No matter where she looked, the entire room was covered with portraits of her. There were even some of her in her pajamas, sitting on her bed, reading or studying.
Through her window. From her closet. From the dorm building roof.
Kathryn turned and sprinted out of the room, nearly colliding with the hallway wall. She turned, unsure of which way to go, so she simply began running at full speed. A dead end. God. She turned, pulling open a door and running into a windowless room. Her hands glided across the walls to keep from tripping, and as they did, they suddenly became wet. Kathryn jerked up her hand to look at her and shrieked.
Blood, all over her hands. Tears blinded her eyes as she opened another door, kept running, another door and more running and another door and it was like she was slipping willfully into the depths of Hell.
Stairs. She found stairs, and she ran down them, but she slipped in a sticky liquid. A few steps came at her like speeding bullets and she tumbled down the end of the stairs, landing on a cold, wet ground in a dark room.Groaning, she slowly pushed herself up. Her wrist ached and she was completely .. covered .. in blood. Blood, all over the floor. Kathryn gave another scream and scrambled into a standing position, before stumbling backwards and grabbing onto the nearest thing for support.
Her fingers tensed around the object and her eyes widened in horror. Slowly, she turned her head around to see a disembodied head, half-ripped and still bleeding.
Kathryn took in a lung full of air simply to scream at the top of her lungs, but a hand clamped over her mouth before she'd managed it for more than two seconds, and it yanked her aside, before tossing her towards the light in the corner of the room.
Kathryn stared at the figure as it stepped into the illumination.
"Johnny!" She exclaimed, her brows furrowed as she stared miserably at the thin man. She wanted so desperately to wipe away her tears, but she knew it would only spread the blood on her hands to her face.
"Johnny.. What .. What in the hell..?" She asked, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment. Johnny stared at her for a moment, then took a step forward. Kathryn took an equal one back, and Johnny smirked a bit.
"What? Are you afraid of me now, Kathryn?"
"No. If you wanted to kill me.. You would have done it already. You had the chance." She sounded more confident than she felt.
Johnny reached out, grabbed a chair, spun it and sat in it backwards. He waved a hand. "Pull up a God damn seat." Because, you see, only Johnny could incorporate cursing into his hospitality.
Kathryn glanced at a chair, wondered who had died in it, and then pulled it up in front of Johnny. She sat in it, fighting back tears still, and crossed her legs at the knee. The black haired man watched her. "So. You've come in search of me, have you?" He asked, raising a brow. Kathryn forced herself to look up and meet his gaze. "I was worried about you - "
"That's sweet. But that's not the truth. You came because you wanted to see why I ran off. Am I right? You wanted to see if I had found this 'meaning' that you spoke of."
Kathryn didn't blink.
"Well?" She asked, and her voice gave a strange tremble. "Did you?"
Johnny leaped forward, hurdling the back of the chair and suddenly standing within an inch of Kathryn's gaze. There was silence. And then -
Then he pulled away, quick as a flash, and began rummaging around in some boxes. He threw things over his shoulder, cursing and muttering until he found what he needed. Kathryn couldn't see what it was. She didn't care. Instead, she stood up and walked over to him, careful to avoid head trauma due to random flying objects. Johnny stood up quickly, moving over to a box full of items that he glanced at and then threw over his shoulder.
"Johnny, what are you doing?" She asked, perplexed. Her heart raced and she could hear blood rushing in her ears. Turning his lithe body suddenly, Johnny faced her again and reached up a hand. Flinching, the girl pulled away. Johnny was faster, of course. He snatched her arms and held tightly onto her for a desperate moment in which nothing was said at all.
Then he held up a match.
"Hold onto this, will you?" He asked, and though his tone was quiet, it was as if he was screaming it into her mind, for it was all she could hear.
Suddenly he moved away and ran out of the room, jumping across bodies and torture devises that were placed in his way. Kathryn glanced around the dark room slowly and felt a vile-tasting liquid rise up in her throat. "I've got to get out of here.." She murmured, but no sooner had she darted to the door that Johnny reappeared. He dropped an unmarked can on the floor with a soft 'clink'.
"Where were you going, Kathryn?" He asked, his voice slow and quiet. The red-haired girl stared at him, her lips parted in disbelief for a moment, before she looked at the match in her hand and raised it between them. When she met Johnny's gaze, he spoke again.
"There's nothing left for you out there.."
He held up his match to hers, and a flicker later they were both lit. Kathryn glanced up at the eyes newly illuminated across from her. With a swallow, she took one last glance at the window, and dropped the match.
"This is Kate Balt, reporting for WDIB News 28. I am on the scene at a devastating house fire that is proving to be troublesome for local fire fighters, all of whom agree this is the strangest house fire they have ever seen! What's so strange you might ask? Well, as you can see behind me, the flames are high and the fire can NOT be quenched, no matter the water power used by the fire department. Even more strangely, it seems that, despite the close proximity of the houses surrounding number 777, the flames are not so much as scalding any of the surrounding buildings at all! It's as if Hell itself has opened up underneath this house -
Hold on. Hold, on. What's that? Yes, we just have had confirmed reports that there are actually two people still inside the burning home! A young couple - Oh, there they are! Steve, get the camera on that! There they are! Wha - It looks - It looks like they're not even attempting to escape! They're simply standing there, in the window on the second story! What a grotesque picture this paints for the occupants of the house. They are obviously so distraught with terror that they can't even move!
Fire fighters are trying their hardest to get inside, but - What's that? The doors are barred! The firefighters can NOT get inside! Well, it looks like it's this young couple's unlucky day.. "
"Reports say the fire started at approximately 7:45 p.m. .. Hey! Someone get that little boy away from the fire!"
"Oh my God. Steve, did get that? GET THE CAMERA ON THAT! The house is actually collapsing now, into a fiery ruin. Where are the two young people still inside? There's certainly no way they could have made.. An ill-fated day for two teenagers in the WDIB 28 broadcasting area..
Truly a sad event. Well, don't forget to watch Everybody Loves Raymond! Coming up next."
xxx - Ten years later
Scrape. Click. Thud.
Scrape. Click. Thud.
Scrape. Click. Thud.
"What.. What're you planning on doing with that?"
The man who spoke was a simpleton, a harmless middle-aged man that had had the unfortunate fortune of wandering down the street at 11:34 p.m. on a Tuesday night.\
This was always, always the time to be most on your guard. What with dangerous people lurking around and all.
More noises. The man looked increasingly nervous. He hadn't done anything at all! He'd simply been coming home late from work.. walking to his car. What was he to think of being mauled, dragged several feet, and then locked in a dark room? Honestly, his days were usually a little better than THIS, if not simply Brady Bunch wonderful. But that didn't seem to phase his attacker at all. Even ridiculous, feminine crying and begging hadn't helped! What was this person? Some kind of maniac?
"Hey! I'm talking to you! What the hell are you planning on doing to me?" He growled.
Shrill laughter made him stop. He looked at the thin silhouette of the man who had somehow managed to subdue him.
"It's not what I'm planning to do, my dear sir." The voice said. "It's what I'm DOING!" The last word was accentuated by a high-pitched tone, shrill with delight. The man wondered about the words, until he looked down - and realized this deranged person had been dragging a homemade killing machine across the floor. It was already stationed over his tied up body - naught but a bed of spikes, hovering just feet over his head now that it was securely placed in the ropes. The man gasped and looked up at the daunting metal, sharpened to a deadly point.
"What! NO, no! Please, I beg you.. Please! I'll do whatever you want!"
"Eugh. Disgusting. I don't want anything from you, pathetic human. I just wanted to see your face when I did THIS - "
The young, dark-haired lad yanked his hand down on a lever nearby, but the bed of spikes didn't fall on the man's head. The victim stared up at it, then breathed a sigh of relief.
"Whew. Your little trap didn't wo - " Gurgle. A harpoon shot from the back of the room, just past the young man and into the prisoner's shoulder, very near his heart.
More shrill laughter. "Ah-ha!" A pause. He pointed at the man.
"See, I tricked you."
Gasps of pain escaped the miserable, dying man. "This.. this is crazy.. H-How could you.. do this?" He asked, and really, it was nice of him. To use his last, dying breath to ask about his dear, humble murderer. The young man suddenly gave a grin so wide that it seemed to stretch off his face, and he wrapped his fingers around a nearby rope. Oh! So here was the spike bed cord.
"Well.. We had a good teacher!
Didn't we, Schmee?"