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He panted, his breath steaming and swirling in the cold twilight. Long purple shadows stretched across him, barely affording a view of the blood seeping into his clothes, his skin, him. His right hand still loosely gripped the axe, caked with blood and hair and viscera. He let it drop quietly to the bed of pine needles, and looked over them. He wasn’t sure of the identity of the body. He had acted impulsively, and in the low light he had no time to see the person’s face. Of course, now there was no hope of identification. What was once a face was now merely a bed of canyons of flesh, pooling with blood. The head was flat, fileted by that first strike to the back.

He had gotten into his truck an hour earlier with the axe, as well as trash bags and rope. Ostensibly, even to him, he had planned to go to the grocery store, but he wasn’t surprised when he found himself waiting behind a tree, clutching the axe, eyes unwaveringly trained on the trail. The trail was popular, but not so popular as to invite too much risk. He waited until he heard the approaching footsteps of a jogger, and whirled out from behind the tree, bringing the axe down. With the benefit of hindsight, he could see that the axe was not nearly sharp enough. In fact, it acted more as a blunt force than a sharp one. The jogger’s head collapsed rather than split, something he was not prepared for.

Now, however, as he looked over the body, he wondered if it was a jogger. Who jogs in a full suit and tie? He kneeled, looking more closely. The suit was nice, he could tell, and the tie was real silk, to be sure. He lifted the body’s wrist to his eyes, admiring the cufflinks. The stitching on the suit was perfect, save for, he noticed, the breast pocket. The pocket was clearly retrofitted to the suit, and whoever had done so had done a less than admirable job. Looking closely, he saw something jutting out from the pocket. He retrieved the item, and saw it to be a blood soaked scrap of paper. He unfolded it and attempted to read it, but found it impossible in the now all but faded light. He reached into his pocket and fished out his cell phone, aiming its flashlight at the paper.

Nothing. The paper said nothing. Slightly disappointed, he crumpled the paper in his hand, the dried black blood cracking and flaking off onto him. He paused. How could the blood on the paper be dried? No other blood on the body, or on him was dried. This blood must have already been on the paper. It could have been a nosebleed, or something similar, he reasoned, but there was not an inconsiderable amount of blood. He shined the light on the body. In the harsh light, the glistening, steaming body was revealed. Every inch of exposed skin was caked in long-dried blood. He reached out and attempted to rub the blood from the body’s hand, but the hand just crumbled in his grip, it was entirely dried blood.

He stumbled back in his crouching position, falling backwards. He scrambled to his feet, panting once more. He pressed on the body’s thigh with his foot. The thigh disintegrated, the leg of the pants now flat underfoot. He felt sick. He took a deep breath, turned, and began to walk back to his truck, leaving the body, as well as the axe where they lay. As soon as he exited the trees and found himself on the path, he began to run. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt he had to. He climbed into his truck, keys already in hand, and pulled out from the nature preserve’s parking lot. He drove home, never dropping below 50 miles per hour.

He slept wonderfully; better than he had for as long as he could remember. His sleep was only disturbed by a crash of thunder, which shook him awake. He laid in the darkness for a moment, listening to the rain, and smiled.

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