Flash Fiction Friday: Horror-off Challenge #1 – Pay Attention!

Within your lifetime, you have walked past thirty-six murderers.  Indeed a harrowing fact that is always ignored, pushed from memory the instant that it is heard.  No one wants to acknowledge that they are in close proximity to one who has stolen life, let alone thirty-six.

However, this fact should be something that you are aware of.  Something that you fear.  The fear will keep you guarded, safe, protected.  Each passing encounter with a murderer should be met with a knowing glance.  Acknowledgement is the key to keep your blood in your veins, skin intact, heart beating.

The reason the thirty-six exist is because you let your guard down.  You are vulnerable, ignorant to the facts that walk past you on the sidewalk, stand behind you in the grocery store, sit next to you on the bus.

Open your eyes and absorb your surroundings.  Analyze everything.  Stop making it so easy to be abducted, to be prey, to be slaughtered.  You make it all too easy for me to be number thirty-seven and the last person you encounter.

– If you have enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out my Flash Fiction Library. –

Chris Musgrave, my Sarcastic Muse partner-in-horror, and I are having a Horror-off Flash Fiction Challenge.  Tune in every Friday to watch the blood fly in the ring as we duke it out over Flash Fiction.  If you feel brave enough, please join in – at your own risk.

Here is Chris’ entry:

Nature vs. Nurture

In your lifetime, you’ve walked past thirty-six murderers. Isn’t that astounding? Thirty-six murderers. I’ll bet every one of them looked you up and down, maybe gave you a little smile, all the while fantasising about butchering you in as many ways as will make your head spin.

They can be very creative creatures, murderers. Some prefer knives, others use their hands, and others still dream of methods you would never even think possible. It’s frightening really.

While you are living your life in blissful ignorance, someone somewhere is enjoying the thrill of the hunt. Someone is breaking into another’s house or snatching an unsuspecting victim from the street. The really malicious, and there are a few, lure you to them. The skill that must take. You have to give them a little credit for that. One minute you’re laughing at the possibility of taking advantage of an infirm gent who just wants the best deal on his car; the next you’re bound and gagged in his basement. There’s a kind of irony in that, don’t you think?

People fascinate me. What makes one person become a doctor or a lawyer and another relish in the joy of extinguishing a life? Ever heard of the old nature versus nurture debate? I’m no expert but I’ve heard enough evidence to suggest it could go either way. Not convinced about the influence of videogames though. If videogames warped our minds, we’d all be running around gravity-defying landscapes collecting gold rings and saving woodland creatures. Amaright?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! What is it that makes one human being want to kill another? Why are some of us hardwired to violence? How do killers choose their victims? How do they refine their technique? So many questions and so little time. I suppose no one will ever know for certain, not even them.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that, in your life to date, you’ve walked past thirty-six murderers. I can’t let you make that thirty-seven.

This week’s prompt:  Within your lifetime, you have walked past thirty-six murderers. 

If you enjoyed this Flash Fiction piece, be sure to check out my other works.

11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Friday: Horror-off Challenge #1 – Pay Attention!

  1. Okay, both of you creeped me out! I had had a stray thought that sometime during my life I could encounter a murderer, recognized or not, but 36? Actually I did know one very well indeed – a former student and a advissee of mine (not in the art of killing!), but that’s another story.


  2. Within your lifetime, you have walked past thirty-six murderers. But it was only with Number 12 that you realized it, and then only because you saw his picture in the newspaper, saw his high school graduation photo on the evening news accompanying the stories about his killing spree. Then you remembered his presence in the store that afternoon two weeks before. He had looked so ordinary then as all the others you noticed before him had and all the ones you would encounter after did.
    Not that they looked alike. Number 17 had been several inches over six feet tall, and yet the slouch of his shoulders, the way his loose hair shaded his eyes, and the bagginess of his clothes made him seem smaller. Number 7 dressed fastidiously, crisp in cotton twill trousers and a pressed yellow button-downed cotton shirt. It was the oversized glasses and way he averted his eyes that rendered him invisible to others. Number 23 was chubby and moved slowly yet not clumsily. Number 25 walked with almost a shuffle though he was no more than 19 years old and with a slim build. They shared only their ordinariness, the unobtrusiveness of their features. That and they were each male, each white, each remorselessly violent and uniquely cruel.
    But before Number 12, you did not even know what you knew about them, did not understand what dread they stirred in you or why. You thought it might just be you and your fear, the shame you feel because your brown skin stands out, dark enough to show which side of town you don’t come from, but too light for the other side to fully accept you either. So you thought it might be your own suspect status that you read in their eyes, or perhaps your envy that no one stared at them the way everyone seemed to stare at you.
    Then when you’d moved away to the city for college and begun to feel more at ease in the range of colors and clothes and tongues you heard, you’d passed by Number 12 in a drug store and felt again the tightening in your throat, a sensation whose return almost made you faint there in the aisle, made you doubt that you would ever find a place anywhere that would allow you to be comfortable in your skin. Until the newspaper stories and the television images, and you knew that you could never close that space between yourself and others. You knew you had an awareness that no one else would believe, let alone understand. You knew without any explanation what that sensation told you about each man.
    And now, back home, in the library where you work, you sense it again from the tech servicing the computers, in his jeans and work boots and dark green polo shirt. But this time you see something more; you see the ways his glance falls in a casual rhythm on the teenage girl sitting near him, looking up material for a homework assignment. On your sister. And you know that this time you will have to act. You don’t know what to do, but you know you will have to do something in response to the scent emanating from him, the one that has come from all the others you’ve encountered. The smell of death, of their victims’ fear and sweat and blood, a scent so strong that you can almost taste it. You know that you will stop him.


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