by Talya Firedancer

Crawl into the headspace of a killer. Pick up the scalpel and make the first cut. Wipe away the blood to get to flesh, create a fresh spurt, glory in warmth and the red of iron. It flows like the life directs it. Peel the skin back, see what lies beneath. A practiced cutter can sever what he likes long before the nerves twang the call of pain.

Kuroudo Akabane hums as he works.

The bound head thrashes blindly and a scalpel skitters away into the shadows crouched at the edge of the room.

“Bad boy,” Akabane murmurs his disapproval, splaying fingers over the crown of blond hair. He doesn’t really mind. It has been a long time since he’s had leisure with a victim. A fist clenches. A slight play of muscles beneath the skin and a blade slides from Akabane’s hand, flat of the knife smoothing over scalp in a loving touch.

Some deaths are meant to be savored, like the lingering delightful bouquet of a drawn-out chase. Savor and swallow.

“What do you want?” The man thrashes. “What do you want!? I’ve already said...said everything I know!”

“Bleed,” Akabane murmurs, and smiles.

“Who – what are you...”

Akabane doesn’t answer right away. The moment that hope withers on the vine is the sweetest of all. Killer of killers, his name rustles through the streets. Where he gives his name, hope dies.

“Stop – please...”

Now Akabane begins his signature. He prefers the challenging victim, really; this one, delivered into his hands, is not so satisfying. He imagines the hair a spikier blond, thinks of air super-charged with static tension. He thinks of a long hunt begun.

“Why – who– ”

These are the questions they always ask. “Doctor Jackal,” Akabane murmurs, performing the last loving hook that completes the ‘J.’ “Pleased to meet you.” He snaps off the light on his way out.

Behind him, meat gurgles into silence.