The Killer Inside ©
Robert Swartwood

© remembered the first time he saw blood. He remembered it spreading on the floor, the color and texture and the millions of possibilities it contained. He remembered being scared and how after awhile he stopped being scared and how, eventually, the sight of blood made him stronger.

© said, "Where is she?"

@ was on his knees. His face was bloody and he was sobbing. "Please, I'm telling you, I don't know."

© cocked the hammer back on the gun. "Why don't I believe you?"

"Please," @ cried, "I'm telling you the truth."

"I will pull this trigger in five seconds if you don't tell me where she is."

"I'm telling you, I don't know."


"Come on, I mean it — "


"Please, I'm telling you — "


@ said, "I don't know where she is, but I know where you can find &."

© kept the barrel of the gun pressed against @'s temple. "I'm listening."

@ wiped the blood from his face, the tears from his eyes. He spoke quickly, stumbling over his words.

© said, "That it?"

@ nodded. "Yes. Now please, for the love of #, let me go."

"Sure," © said, and pulled the trigger. 


& played stupid, too. © found him in a bar down on ^ Street. When © walked in, & made a run for it. He didn't get far.

Now, locked in the men's room, © held &'s head in the toilet bowl. Several minutes had passed. & wasn't putting up much of a fight anymore.

© lifted &'s head by his hair, gave him a moment to breathe, then said, "Where is she?"

Gasping, & said, "I don't know, I swear!"

© pushed &'s head back in the toilet bowl. Held it there for another couple minutes, then yanked it back out.


"I swear to #, I don't know."

© started to push his head back in but stopped when & shouted, "Wait!"

There was a sudden silence. Water dripped from a sink faucet. On the stall wall © noticed someone had etched ¶ sux cock in crude letters.

"Well?" © prompted.

"I don't know where she is — I'm telling you the truth about that — but I know where he is."

©'s other hand was gripped around the gun. His fingers went white around the handle.


"Who do you think? ®."

© cocked the hammer back without a sound. "Tell me."


© drove through the city in the hard rain. At every intersection he came to a red light. He watched the people in the rain and thought about blood and thought about his gun and thought about evolution. He thought about transformation, how sometimes the process was slow, sometimes it was fast, and how sometimes he felt like he had wings attached to himself, wings hidden in the folds of his skin, and that one of these days his skin would break apart and the wings would expand and he would rise above this city, above this endless rain, and he would know the true limit of blood.


A kid was standing outside the abandoned warehouse. He wasn't wearing a coat and was soaked in the rain.

© said, "What are you doing out here, kid?"

The kid said nothing, kept his head down.

"You been out here for awhile?"

The kid raised his head just enough to let it fall back down.

"See anybody come and go from this place?"

This time the kid's head shifted back and forth.

© reached into his coat, brought out his gun. "Go home, kid."

He was at the door, about to step inside, when the kid spoke.

"Mister? This is my home."


The first floor of the warehouse was empty. So was the second floor. So was the third floor, the fourth floor, the fifth floor. The sixth floor was occupied, though, ® standing by the window staring out through the dirty pane.

® said, "It's about time you found me."

© approached slowly. "Where is she?"

"Does it matter?"

"Tell me."

"She's gone."

The rain battered nonstop against the window.

© said, "You're lying."

"What does it matter if I'm lying? The fact is you'll never see her again."

© was less than ten feet away now. ® hadn't moved at all yet from the window, keeping his back to ©.

"Let me see your hands," © said.


"Do it."

"I was just remembering," ® said. "When I first found you, how you were a little shit. Scared of everything. Even that first time you saw blood."

© dug the barrel of his gun into the back of ®'s head. Between clenched teeth, he said, "I'm not scared anymore."

"No? Then that's good. Neither am I."

© saw the gun an instant later, just a flash, ® reaching back behind him, his finger tightening on the trigger, and © closed his eyes, pictured her face, pictured that blood, and allowed his own finger to tighten too.


The kid was still standing out front when © exited the warehouse.

© said, "You still out here?"

"I told you, this is my home."

"Yeah, well, you can go back inside now."

The kid raised his head again, just slightly, and said, "You're bleeding."

© kept his hand against his gut. He could feel the blood running down his legs, into his shoes.

"What's your name, kid?"


"I'm ©. Nice to meet you."

§ ignored ©'s outstretched hand, instead stared at the drops of blood hitting the sidewalk.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" © asked.


"The blood."

§ said, "We should call an ambulance."

"No," © said. He was feeling faint now, the edges of the city losing focus. "Just watch it. Watch the blood. Do you see it?"

"See what?"

"Just watch."

Robert Swartwood has had stories in PANK, elimae, Dogzplot, Hobart and others. He's the editor of the Hint Fiction anthology, which is forthcoming from Norton.

To link to this story directly:

Read other RS stuff from the archive.

w i g · l e a F               12-30-09                                [home]