Evening of the next day; Esther had just finished work. She walks outside to see Zehnder waiting for her, as he usually does. She smiles and walks towards him as he begins to walk down the sidewalk.
“Anything special today? Or just the usual walking around?” Esther asks, as she catches up to him.
“Yes, actually. Something more exciting, it should be fun.”
“Where are we going?”
“Again?” Esther sighed, a little disappointed.
“Don’t worry; it’s more exciting than those sorry asses that we dealt with yesterday. I think you’ll enjoy it. You got your hammer?”
“Yep! Right here!” Esther opened up her bag wide enough to see the top of the hammer in it, although she didn’t take it out; someone might see.
They walked along; Esther was excited for this special event. She felt that is was going to be a happy day for the two of them.
They arrived at the park as the sun was almost finished setting. Entering the park, Esther looked around to see if there was anything unusual. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“Who’re we going after? I don’t see anyone.”
“They’re near the gazebos. I was planning on attacking after it got dark; it’s still light, so we should probably wait a little.”
Esther looked around, looking for somewhere nice to sit or pass the time.
“Let’s go into the woods.” She started walking down the little dirt path into the woods, Zehnder followed.
The gentle breeze that blew through the beautiful green leaves of the nature around them was soothing. The deep reds and oranges of the sunset coated everything in beautiful colors. Squirrels ran through the tree branches and birds chittered in the sky; the day seemed perfect.
“It’s so beautiful here! We should come out here more often!” Esther looked around happily, taking in the view of the lush scene around her.
“Same old stuff.” Zehnder remarked, looking around.
“Is there anything special out here?” Esther wondered, looking around for anything significant.
“Well, there’s a lake up over that way.” Zehnder pointed a little to the right, “It’s a quiet and peaceful spot.”
“Ooh! Let’s go!” Esther grabbed Zehnder’s hand and started to run forward, but he kept at his usual pace. She soon gave up trying to make him go faster and ran ahead on her own.
Bursting through the bushes; Esther gasped. Zehnder stepped out beside her, he had simply transported through the shadows instead of walking.
“Zehndy it’s beautiful!” Esther gazed at the lake that stretched out before them. The surface of the water shimmered in the light of the sunset, sparkling like so many gemstones. A fish hopped out of the water to snap at a passing insect. An island sat in the middle of the lake, trees and bushes growing on it. Birds chirped in the trees as they brought back food to their young ones residing in their nests; their little greedy beaks wide open, begging to be fed first.
“How many times have I told you not to call me that?” Zehnder walked over and stood at the edge of the shore. He took out a cigarette and gazed at the view. Esther didn’t hear him; she was too busy looking at the lake. She sat down on the ground and looked up at the sky.
“I feel like I could sit here all day.”
* * *
The sun had finally set, red and orange color left the sky as shadow and darkness took over. Animals had become quiet, returning to their homes for evening rest.
Esther still sat on the ground, looking up at the stars as they appeared one by one.
“Come on; time to go.” Zehnder flicked his cigarette to the water and turned to leave. Esther got up and followed him.
“We’ll take a short cut; come here, walk with me.” Esther walked up to him and he put his hand on her shoulder. They walked into the shadows of the trees surrounding the lake and exited out of the shadows of the trees facing the park.
“That was amazing!” Esther smiled, “feel a little dizzy though.”
“You’ll probably get used to that, now let’s go.” Zehnder walked forward and onto a path that led to the gazebos, Esther followed.
Soon the gazebos were in sight, and Zehnder walked off of the path and into the shadows. They stopped when they were behind one of the gazebos; the only one that still had people in it.
In this gazebo was a group of six teenagers, four boys and two girls. They were drinking heavily, basically what they called ‘partying,’ even though it was hardly a party. Zehnder searched the group for an easy target.
Esther poked him and pointed to something on the ground. Zehnder looked at it, seeing that it was a seventh person; passed out on the ground. Zehnder reached forward with his tendrils and dragged the teen into the shadows.
The group in the gazebo continued like everything was normal; they probably didn’t even notice that their friend had passed out beside the gazebo. A snap was heard behind it, from the trees. One of the girls gasped and clung to one of the boys, who assured her that it was nothing.
Suddenly something came crashing into the gazebo from the trees. Both of the girls screamed, and so did one of the boys. They looked at the thing that had come flying in, and quickly realized that it was their friend.
One of the boys laughed, “Look at him! He’s so drunk he thought he can fly!” The rest of them laughed, but then one of them gasped as they noticed something that a sober person would have noticed right away; his head was turned much farther than it should have been, and his neck was crooked. A bit of blood trickled out of his mouth and onto the wooden floor.
“H-h-he’s dead!!!” One of the boys screamed in terror. Both of the girls shrieked, but not at the dead body, and what stood just outside the gazebo. They pointed, and the others looked too. They saw a tall man, barbed tendrils branching out of his back, and his painted bandanna rolled up to reveal his crimson teeth.
“Yeah, he’s dead.” The man spoke, “that’s what happens when someone snaps your neck; observe.” Zehnder reached out and grabbed one of the boys with both hands, with one quick maneuver he twisted the boy’s head and his neck snapped.
The others screamed as Zehnder cackled sadistically. His tendrils shot out and grabbed three of them, the two that were free stared in horror. One of the free ones, a boy, began to run for his life while a girl who was trapped, apparently his girlfriend, called out for him to save her. A large tendril came out of Zehnder’s back and shot towards the fleeing one. It grabbed him, wrapping around his upper body; the barbs tore through his clothes and into his flesh. Zehnder pulled him back, shaking his head disapprovingly at the sight of a boy abandoning his girlfriend.
Zehnder lifted him into the air, using his tendrils he forced the boy’s head to look towards his girlfriend. The tendrils binding her grew larger and the barbs grew longer as they constricted her body tighter, killing her. Zehnder laughed, and then threw the body of the girl behind him where it got stuck in the branches of a tree. Then he tossed the now sobbing boy behind him and into the bushes.
“All yours Esther.” He said, and then turned his attention on the remaining two people. Esther advanced on the boy, and began killing him with her hammer.
The remaining person who had not been caught was one of the girls. She snapped out of her trancelike state of fright and reached into her purse. She pulled out a gun and aimed it shakily at Zehnder. He stared at her, waiting for her to shoot. The two caught in his tendrils shouted at her to ‘hurry up and shoot it.’
She finally shot, aiming pretty well. Zehnder swung over one of the people in his tendrils and the bullet hit them, although it didn’t stay in them. The bullet went through them and hit Zehnder in the side of the mouth. Zehnder growled and tossed the wounded boy to the ground. Esther had finished killing that one boy, and walked over to the other to finish him off.
The girl shot again, but this time the bullet completely missed Zehnder and nearly hit Esther; whom the girl did not even notice. Using his tendrils, Zehnder seized the arms of the last boy who was caught. He ripped off the arms and blood showered the inside of the gazebo. He dropped the carcass of the boy and walked around the side, towards the girl with the gun.
She backed up as he came closer, shooting again three more times. All three of the bullets hit him in the chest, but he didn’t seem to care. With one bullet left, the girl aimed the gun at him, who was now towering over her. His tendrils branched out of his back reached towards her.
The girl looked from his glistening red teeth, to the barbed tendrils, and finally to the gun. Before his tendrils could reach out and grab her, she put the barrel of the gun to her head and shot. She had chosen to take her own life rather than to get killed by this sadistic monster.
Zehnder’s tendrils receded into his back. Esther ran up to him, excited and happy.
“That was awesome! You weren’t kidding when you said there was something special toady!” Esther grinned and wiped the blood off of her hammer with a towel from her bag. Zehnder didn’t reply. He turned and looked towards the woods, and then began to walk towards them.
Esther grew concerned and ran after him.
“Zehndy? What’s wrong?”
Still he did not reply, not even to remind her not to call him that. He continued walking, and Esther followed.
“Come on! Tell me! At least tell me where we’re going!”
He was silent, but then sighed.
“She had a gun.”
Esther was surprised; she knew that guns were no match against him, he hardly felt the bullets.
“So? It was just a little gun. It doesn’t hurt does it?” Esther looked at the black blood caked bullet holes in his chest.
“No, it doesn’t hurt. It’s not that.” He was silent again, and they reached where he was headed; the lake. Zehnder stared out at the still water, thinking. He looked at her, and she looked back at him, concern in her remaining blue eye. He looked away, back at the water. Zehnder took a deep breath, and then exhaled.
“There’s a secret I’ve been keeping from you, I should probably tell you now.”
Esther looked at him, curious. “What?”
Again, Zehnder was silent. He stayed silent for about half a minute, and then a deep laugh began to rise in his throat. His laughter became louder, and she looked at him, confused; not understanding why he was laughing.
“Zehndy; why are you laughing? You’re acting weird, it’s scaring me!”
Zehnder continued to laugh, and then slowly looked down at her. Barbed tendrils slowly emerged from his back and swayed in the air maliciously.
“Remember how you told me that you couldn’t remember how your mother died?”
Esther was silent, and looked up at him wide eyed and horrified. He looked back at her, still laughing.
“I did it.”
“Z-Zehndy! Don’t joke like that!”
“I’m not joking. Far from it, so very far.” He continued to laugh.
Esther’s heart beat faster, and she tried to make sense in her head what he had just said. “What do you-!?”
“That’s right. It was me. It was all me.” He looked at her; still laughing like it was some practical joke. “If it wasn’t for me, you would probably be normal. You’d have a loving mother, a loving father, a happy home; lots of friends, maybe a career going, off to college to make it in the world. Maybe you would have gotten married one day, maybe you would have had children; sweet little children to share your love with.”
“But no. You have this. No mother, no father, no happy home. What do you have? A shitty little apartment and a dead end little job to go with it. You have absolutely no friends, no career, no higher education, and no one to love you.”
“What? Did you think that I loved you? That we were friends? No. You have NOTHING. And it’s all because of me.”
“And you know what the best part of it all is?”
Esther didn’t say anything.
“I don’t regret it.”
Tears began to run down Esther’s face.
“I enjoyed killing her. It was one of my best kills. I don’t regret it, and I never will. I don’t care that I’ve destroyed your life. You are NOTHING to me.”
Esther stared up at him in pure agony and anguish; she was sobbing now. Zehnder walked up to her, still laughing, tendrils swerving, cruel barbs cut through the air. He bent over and looked her in the eye.
“You want to know the reason why I’ve kept you around? Maybe one day I can’t find anyone to kill. Maybe one day everyone grows smarter, leaves and never comes back. Maybe one day, I want to kill something; and there’s nothing to kill.” He grinned at her maliciously. “That’s where you come in.”
Esther’s body shook with sobs. “Y-you-! You-!”
“That’s all you ever were to me. Something to kill. And that’s all you ever will be.”
Esther looked at him one more time, and then covered her face with her hands. Zehnder uttered a cruel, sadistic cackle. Esther didn’t want to spend one more second with him; she didn’t want to see him ever again. She turned and ran as fast as she could, face in her hands, tears running down her face, and his cruel laughter playing in her ears.