The town outside has gone to hell, and I can’t find anything good to watch on TV. My options are never bountiful when I get off work this late, but The PiYo Craze from Beachbody! feels especially grim tonight.
I came home to find my poor answering machine overloaded with missed calls from my mother, most of which were likely made before she found out Billy Fillerton was running around town, chopping up our neighbors with a katana. I heard myself when a frantic teenager nearly drove a gold minivan through the glass doors of the hospital, seeking help for her mother, who was a pile of limbs and guts.
Polly came running up to me at that point and breathlessly asked if I had heard the news.
“Sure,” I said. “Somebody fucked up Mrs. Abernathy real good.”
“Billy did,” Polly moaned. “He’s on a rampage! I mean, how do you not know?”
She then proceeded to show me several videos from her friends’ Instagram Live feeds, all of which showed a big, skulking figure cutting up our townspeople, whose screams populated the warm night air.
Figures. Polly was always getting reamed for being on her phone at work. Mine was carefully tucked away in my locker, like a professional.
“Oh, God, Martha Jean, what do we do?” Polly asked, tearfully.
I don’t know about any ‘we,’ but ‘I’ finished up my shift and went home. The hospital was surprisingly quiet for being in the middle of a town under duress. My guess is that Billy is finishing the job.
On my way out, I found the front desk empty and the discarded phone still on the line with the sheriff’s office. Jo must have booked it as soon as she heard. I hung up the phone and sprinted to my car with my pepper spray handy. Don’t think that’s on account of Billy. I always cross the parking lot like this after the late shift.
I didn’t stick around to see, but I hope Polly went home to her boring husband and squalling baby.
On the drive home, I listened intently for screams akin to those on the videos, but heard nothing. The only clue that anything was amiss was the squad car that went racing past me, sirens wailing. It’s times like these that make me wonder if maybe our town should’ve hired more than two cops.
I arrived home and ate ice cream straight out of the carton in my dark apartment while watching late night TV. The way I see it, Billy will come for me whether I want him to or not, and a bored, unruly part of me wants him to.
It’s that same demented curiosity that made our entire town line up on Main Street to get a first look at Billy after more than a dozen years in the slammer. A bunch of vultures, is what they are. I was so peeved when my boss wouldn’t give me the day off, so I could go.
I hear a noise and whip around, heart racing, but it’s only my air conditioner kicking on. In my fear, I squeeze the carton too tightly and now Neapolitan is dripping down my arm and onto my leather recliner. Cursing, I stumble into the kitchen to wash off in the sink. The running water coats not only my arm, but the stack of dirty dishes, and the backsplash wets my shirt. I hastily turn off the faucet and dry myself with a towel. I wonder if I made too much noise.
Not that it matters. I expect he will pay me a visit tonight and I’m strangely cavalier about it. I just wish I knew how he planned to make his entrance. Would he creep up on me in the night, or bash his way through the entire apartment complex to get to me? I don’t like surprises.
I’m tempted to peruse the socials for any clues on how Billy will approach, based on other townies’ experiences, but I stop myself. If I turn my cell on, I will be assaulted with the many texts and calls my mother has undoubtedly left for me over the course of the night. I’m sure she’s imploring me to take refuge with her and Daddy and the rest of my siblings at the farm, which is her go-to emergency plan for any disaster, such as when it rains too hard for her liking.
No, thank you. I’m good and fine right where I am, Ma, in the dark and all alone.
I putz around the kitchen for a bit, habitually checking the time on the stove, but detect no movement. Billy is taking his sweet time getting over here.
After I wear myself out pacing around the apartment, I give up and decide to crawl into bed. I’m tired and I don’t wait more than an hour for any man. Billy can wake me up before he gets me, or not. It might even be better if I’m asleep. Less flailing.
Impatiently, I stride down the hallway to my bedroom and throw open the door and–
“Billy,” I breathe.
There he is: a husky, hulking mass of a man, filling up my doorframe entirely. His face is obstructed by a Ralph’s paper bag, but I can feel his eyes poring into me through makeshift eye holes. His right hand is curled around the handle of a katana sword, which he slowly raises in my direction. The tip of his sword cuts through my scrubs and pokes my abdomen, producing a pinprick of blood.
My breath catches in my throat.
The last time I saw him, we were fifteen and he shot a woeful glance at me as he was shoved into a squad car for allegedly running over his stepfather with the family truck. When Billy went away, I thought of him often, but never called or wrote. I didn’t know what to say.
I’m frozen, but only for a moment.
Once I’ve regathered my composure, I lean forward and the sword punctures me further. I wince at the pain, but don’t feel afraid. I hear a faint, startled gasp from underneath the paper bag.
“Billy,” I say again, as I move closer still.
He removes his blade from my belly and wipes my blood off the tip with his rough, bare hand. I reach up to stroke not his face, but the side of his paper bag mask and he flinches away from my touch. I halt, but after a moment, keep inching my hand towards him.
I gently grip the side of the bag and the flimsy paper crinkles beneath my fingers. Slowly and carefully, I remove it and look at Billy’s face for the first time in years. Gone is the lanky kid with the chestnut-colored mullet and mischievous smile that I knew in my youth. In his place stands a tall brick house in the shape of a man, with scraggly salt-and-pepper hair and a beard to match. Only his eyes are the same – a steely grey gaze laced with intensity.
I stand on my very tip toes, but even then, I only come up to his neck. He has to bend for our mouths to meet, and he tastes like salt and copper. His bloody left hand cups my chin and I let my tongue out to explore his lips and teeth, familiar territory. When we pull away from one another, Billy is breathing hard and I notice I am pressed against him. Our eyes lock. I caress his bare face with my hands.
He shivers, but it’s a warm night.
Billy roughly grabs me by the waist and manhandles me into his arms. For a moment, I fear he will hurt me, but that moment quickly passes when I realize he means to carry me bridal-style to the bed. Gentleness and grace are simply not two of his strengths.
I hear the katana clatter to the ground and, for the first time, wonder where he got it from.
We fall into the clutches of my unmade bed a sweaty, uncoordinated mess. I’m still in my teal scrubs from the hospital and Billy is sporting a black jumpsuit, which has surprisingly little blood on it, for someone who’s been slashing and stabbing all night long. I experience a little of what my fellow townspeople did that night, as I clench and moan on the receiving end of his bloody passion.
When we had finished, I lay awake on his broad chest for a long time. We don’t say a word to one another, only bask in the moonlight and the pungent smell of sex and body odor. I think back to the last time he fucked me, during the restrictive freedom of our teen years. We lay just like this then, too.
It finally occurs to me to ask about my family, and if he has paid them a visit yet. He tells me with his eyes, imploring for my sufferance.
“Please,” I say.
I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke to an empty bed and birds singing outside. The only evidence that Billy was ever here is a deep “down there” ache, and the Ralph’s bag on my nightstand, with a smiley face painted with blood.
He knew that would make me smile and it did.
In the weeks after Billy’s rampage through our quaint little town, we were hounded by a circus-media of paparazzi, tabloid reporters, and other bloodhounds. Ashwald became a tourist trap for those seeking a peek of America’s fastest working serial killer, only to discover he vanished in the night. They went away disappointed, and with a patented Billy the Killer t-shirt.
Poor Billy is a public spectacle, now more than ever, the victim of a mob of excited, chatty no-nothings who will never give him a rest because he is the only interesting thing to happen in this town, ever. His name once again populated our press and earned an array of new nicknames. Most notable of which is the Orphan Maker. The reason for that one is he slaughtered many of our adult population, and left the children untouched.
Well, mostly. He did kill Mike Bell, but that kid was 6’3” and had a full beard at fourteen, so it was an honest mistake.
Some speculated that those he killed played a part in his trial or mistreated him in some way; others believed he murdered at random; a select few counted the male to female ratio of his kills and theorized he was making some sort of gender statement.
I have my own thoughts, none of which I can prove as absolute fact, but I knew Billy best and I think I’m right. I think he simply looked at the faces of every man and woman in town, and in them, saw his stepfather, who delighted in hurting him, and his mother, who let it happen.
I’m in no hurry to correct them, since I know the mystery of Billy will always be more interesting than the sad reality of his life. Billy the Killer, they called him long before he ever killed anyone, thanks to that stupid article that misspelled his name. His stepfather is still alive, for God’s sake, remarried and living comfortably a few states over.
Although, I suspect, not for long.
Rachel Brands holds a BFA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Loras College. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hanging out with her cat, and watching scary movies. She resides in Illinois.