I do not remember when, exactly, I first saw that man. I don't remember the day or the season or the year. I do remember that, as soon as I saw him, his image was burned into my brain, and my heart beat hard and fast in my chest, and I felt something like fingers dancing across my spine.
My apartment was on the third floor, and when I looked out my window, I saw him standing in the street with a young woman. I did not get a good look at his face, at first, for he was distant and wearing a black hood. I know that he held the woman in his arms, and I know that she struggled to escape. I saw her mouth open as if she were screaming, but I heard no sound.
And then her head moved, swiftly, unnaturally, to the side, and she went limp. And he let her body fall to the ground and he looked up at my window. His face was pure white, and I could just make out impossibly long red lips, twisted into a smile. I closed my curtains, and I hid under the covers of my bed, and I tried to pretend that I had never seen anything.
The next morning I found a note taped to my apartment door. There was an address written on it, along with a message. Short. Simple.
"I know that you saw."
I crumpled the paper and threw it away.
This happened for the next three days. Every morning a new note. Every morning the same message. Every morning the same address.
Finally, I decided to go there.
It was a house that had been foreclosed and abandoned. I tried the doorknob, and it opened easily. I stepped inside, and I saw him.
He was at the top of the stairs, wearing the same black hoodie and the same clown-like mask. Completely white except for those smiling red lips. But not that I could see it clearly, I also saw a green zig-zag across the top, as if the simulate hair, and down the right side of the mask was a purple stripe.
He beckoned I follow him, and stepped away into an open door.
I hesitated for a moment, and without realizing, I began to climb the stairs. It was if my feet were moving on their own.
I stepped through the door, and I was in hell.
All around me there was stone. Stone walls. Stone floor. Hanging from the stone ceiling, suspended on strings like some macabre imitations of marionettes were corpses, rotting and decaying and dead. Except for their eyes. No. Those eyes still lived, and they watched.
They watched as I made my way to the chair in the center of the room and sat in it. They watched as I peered about the shadows, and noticed a great statue-like figure just beyond the reach of the light. It seemed feminine in shape, and though I could not see its face, I could feel its gaze upon me.
And then the masked man was beside me, and I asked me if I had seen anything strange recently. I told him I had. I told him the truth. I did not want to lie to this man. I could not lie to this man.
He seemed surprised at my honesty, and he turned to look at the figure in the shadows. For a moment, all was still, and then he nodded. He reached into his pocket, and for an instant, I thought he would pull out a knife or a gun, but instead he pulled out a spoon.
He told me that he didn't trust what my mouth said, and then he laughed as if he'd just told an outrageously funny joke. Before the echoes of his laugh had even died down, he was whispering in my ear, telling me that he needed to consult the source.
And then his spoon flew against my face. Every instinct in my body screamed at me to move, and my body tried to flinch, but it could not. I could not even scream as the spoon entered the space between socket and eye, and dug. I heard a pop as half my vision vanished, and I found myself laughing at the almost comical absurdity of the sound.
I laughed as the man held my eye in his bare hands. He put on a great show of questioning my eye and slowly realizing that eyes can't talk, and this too I laughed at.
The corpses hanging around me began to shake, and some part of me recognized that they too were laughing. I laughed with them. I laughed as I felt myself rise from my seat and walk toward the figure in the darkness. I laughed as strings descended from above me and began to wrap themselves around me.
I laughed as they pulled me up into the air.
I laughed until my breath left me and I couldn't laugh anymore.