The Killer Awoke Before Dawn
Part One: He Put His Boots On
HE WIPED THE BLOOD from the knife with a sock, that he would later use to please himself. Rolling the sock into an inch-thick cylinder, he stuffed it into his back-pocket for safe-keeping and turned around to admire his work.
“Can you hear it, Lisa,” he asked. “The sound?”
It didn’t take much to push Matthew Moore over the edge. At 17, the bullies, heartbreak, and endless rounds of masturbation had become a normality. The erratic rituals were the precipice of his humanity. The best he could expect. Until he was instructed by the sound.
He wouldn’t stop until they all heard it.
After which, he would have no choice but to send them on their way. Perhaps, it’d free them, he thought. “It’s a sign,” he continued while her eyes fluttered for consciousness. “A sign from them. Tell me you hear it.”
“I do, Matthew.” Lisa squealed as the droplets of maroon spilled from her mouth. “I hear it. Can you help me? Please?”
She was the exact kind of woman that he’d grown to despise—pretty, preppy, and non-plus. Standing in a puddle of her insides, he’d felt as connected to her as the day she was born. He thought of that day often, holding his baby-sister for the first time and promising her the world. Knowing that she would go on to do great things. But does she hear it, he considered and thought to save her.
“What does it sound like,” he asked. The clean knife was in hand and at the ready. “What does it feel like?” For sixteen years, her bedroom sat beside his. For sixteen years, she heard the screams, did nothing, and told no one. She watched as he suffered as he then watched her suffer.
“Tell me,” he demanded.
“Madness,” she answered. “It feels like madness.”
“Lisa,” he screamed and dove beside her. “Lisa! Stay with me!” He cradled her in his arms. Her eyes wandered about their sockets like billiard balls on open water.
“Lisa,” he muttered again and laid her on the carpet. The once white frills were now imbued with distinct blotches of browning red and discolored footprints that trailed from the bedroom door to his sister’s body. “Do you hear it? Tell me you hear it!”
She might have.
That didn’t matter.
All that mattered was the sound.
The Moore’s were an upper-class family that embodied privilege in all of its forms. The clan of five would camp in the summers, fly west for the winter, and hadn’t known struggle since the Civil War Era—their prosperity was halved when rebellion was born.
A far cry from their industrial days, the Moore’s now lived humbly and in relative peace. Gloria was a proud mother and housewife, who sold kitchen products online. Samuel was an absentee-father but devoted to his wife and obligation to provide.
Even the children, Sammy and Lisa, found early success and all its rewards with little more than smiles and showing up. This was never Matthew. He quickly discovered the disparity between them and himself. There were no goals or achievements. No trophies or blue ribbons dangling from his walls. Not even a single drunken encounter with a girl who knew no better.
There was only the sound.
Matthew pondered the connection as he knocked on his brother’s door.
“Sammy,” he called while his fingers clasped around his mother’s sharpest knife. “Sammy… Are you up, buddy?”
He assumed not, but the door was unlocked. Matthew’s stringy shadow muddied its way in, crowding the darkness. He shut the door behind him. This moment, like Lisa’s, was best kept private.
“Matt,” Sammy questioned and rested his back against the headboard. “What are you doing?”
“Just checking in on you. Lisa had a nightmare,” Matthew said.
“How’s that my problem,” Sammy answered.
“Can I turn the light on?”
“Please don’t. And while you’re at it…” Sammy swung his legs over the edge of the bed and onto the rug. “Get the fuck out of my room.”
Matthew turned the light on to reveal what Sammy would describe as “oh shit.”
“What the fuck are you covered in?” Sammy lunged from the bed in a panic. “Are you bleeding? Are you hurt?”
“No.” The reply was callous. Matthew preferred to watch the clouds swallow the moon from Sammy’s window. He thought it was a fitting aesthetic. “Just an accident.”
“Hell of a friggin’ accident.” Sammy ran to his personal bathroom, just a few feet away. “I’ve got some paper-towels and bandages in here somewhere. Sit down.”
Matthew did as he was told and sat just beside the bedroom door.
Sammy was the oldest and the Moore’s flagship accomplishment. By 22, the former high-school quarterback was primed to inherit their father’s medical practice, marry well, and continue to wield the majority of their mother’s affection. His teeth were clean. His body was statuesque—a mountain compared to Matthew’s. He could hardly even remember Sammy having a bad day. It wasn’t fair.
“Just give me a minute,” Sammy hollered. “You want rubbing alcohol or peroxide?”
“Matt,” Sammy continued as he emerged from the restroom corridor. “Is everything okay?”
One look at Matthew and Sammy backed against his bedroom window. The drop was nearly three stories high. A gamble, even for him.
“Do you hear it,” Matthew asked as he spun the tip of the blade against his index finger. “The sound?”
“Not this again,” Sammy chided. “How many times do we have to tell you? There. Is. No. Sound. Are you off your meds?”
Lexapro, Adderall, and (the elective) OxyContin. The former two, he hadn’t taken in days. The latter, he kept in his pocket. “Only the ones that deafen the noise.”
“Matthew,” Sammy pled. “You need to listen to me, okay. There’s no noise. You’re having an episode. If you would just calm down, we can-”
“Do you hear it?” Matthew slowed to his feet. “I won’t ask you again.” The knife took its place in Matthew’s palm as he aimed the blade and steadied forward. “The sound?”
Matthew gestured the knife to his ears and watched his brother’s legs crumble beneath him. “Listen,” Matthew urged again. He lowered the knife as Sammy hit the bedroom floor, writhing in the fetal position.
“It’s loud,” he cried and covered his ears. “Stop this.”
“It’s not me,” Matthew answered on his approach. “It’s them.”
A glint of moonlight raced across the blade as it pressed into Sammy’s neck. “What does it feel like,” Matthew asked.
“Don’t do this, Matthew.”
“Tell me and I’ll make it quick.”
Overcome with the calm of damnation, he answered, “Madness.”
The knife slid across Sammy’s throat, from one chiseled corner of his jaw to the other. As he puttered out the last of his breaths, Matthew concluded, “Let her take you,” and rose to his feet.
Again, the sock was useful and fit nicely into his back pocket.
Matthew closed the door behind him as he entered the hall and made way for his parents’ master suite, dragging his fingers along the walls and knocking down the occasional family photo—just to hear them shatter.
The home was a leviathan that sat on nearly four acres of land, in a suburb where owning such space was normal. Samuel Sr. bought it shortly after opening his private practice and hoped to leave it to his children.
As of that moment, he’d had one left.
The sound continued as Matthew ascended the winding steps and probed his mind. Did they hear it? He thought. Is it true?
Beside the knife in his pocket rolled what was left of the ninety pills he’d been prescribed. “They’ll numb the pain,” he recalled as he popped them one by one. Each swallow fell into his gut like a stone and minutes later rippled that ever-motivating euphoria.
“Mom,” Matthew screamed and charged up the steps. “Mom!”
It reminded him of his younger days, running free from Sammy’s youthful treachery. Like then, there was no direct answer, just the squeak of his mother complaining while Samuel opened the door.
“What is it, Matthew?” Samuel barked. “It’s three in the fucking morning.”
The knife buried into Matthew’s pocket, sharp end down. “I need to speak to Mom.”
The goodly wife arrived behind her husband. “What’s wrong, honey?” The sweet words landed on his heart like diabetes. Gloria made no secret of her disappointment in Matthew’s condition.
She would be first.
“There’s been an accident,” Matthew continued. “We need help!”
“What is this?” Samuel shot.
“Turn on the light, honey,” Gloria instructed and now Matthew was on full display.
His faded jeans were soaked in a batter-thick blend of blood and marrow. His t-shirt was doused in red and dripping. The knife steadied in his pocket. Patience, he thought.
“Jesus.” Gloria gasped and ran to him. “What happened? Are you hurt?” She looked him over. It was the first time he believed her concern to be sincere.
“Sammy. Lisa.” Matthew whimpered. “They’re dead.”
“What? I don’t understand.” Her neck was exposed. “Matthew.” She took his free hand. “What happened? Is someone in the house?” It was the perfect opportunity. Gloria deserved many things but not, Matthew supposed, to suffer knowing that it was the end.
Her favorite knife entered her jaw, split her throat into a pair, and exited from her collarbone. He was sure to watch the last bit of life float free from her cornea and wondered if she’d heard it too. He hoped not.
The unmistakable cock of a gun sang against his eardrum.
His father’s revolver.
“Not a fucking step closer, Matthew,” Samuel shrieked. The steel cannon trembled in his hands. “I mean it!” Upon further inspection, that isn’t quite what he meant at all. Tense shoulders. Shaky eyes. Quivering brow.
“It’s fear you’re feeling,” Matthew said as he wiped the blade clean. “It’s not always fear.”
“Matthew, put down the FUCKING knife.”
“Does it sound different to you?”
“There is no sound.”
“Tell me what it sounds like.” Matthew arrived at the end of the barrel and fit it between his own eyes. “Tell me that you hear it.”
Samuel’s finger mounted the trigger. “I hear it. I’ve always heard it.”
“Tell me the sound.”
“Tick. Tick. Tick.” A silence hung between them. “You’re not going to like what you find down there, Matthew.”
Matthew smiled. “Neither will you.”
By the time police arrived, Matthew was gone.
As he trekked through the unkempt woodlands, it hit him like a dose of morphine. He was the last remaining member of the Moore family. Heir to a curse and doomed to repeat it. That didn’t matter. All that mattered was the sound.
It was getting louder.
Concluded in Bedlam: A Collection of Things. Now Available.