It only had a few minutes. Everything would have to be done perfectly. It had an unavoidable sense of every second that passed, even though it churned and writhed within the shape.
The shape’s pulse quickened as the van pulled up along Agamemnon Court. It had taken weeks’ worth of momentary stops at this intersection to make sure that both the van was not viewed as any sort of suspicious vehicle, and that it would have the opportunity to do enough recon to know that this was exactly the right kind of opportunity.
And it was.
3:14 PM. It would have to be at its next appointment in 16 minutes. It hated thinking in human concepts of time, but if the other humans thought that way, it would have to, as well.
It was careful like that. Precise. Exacting. It kept the thrill from being too much, from letting it overcome everything else.
That could not be allowed.
Mrs. Arner’s car was in the driveway. She seldom left her home. All part of the criteria. It could even see the slight flicker of her television’s light against the drapes of her living room. Jeopardy! it imagined. Followed by Wheel of Fortune! and then sitcom reruns until the 6:00 news.
3:15 PM. 15 minutes. No further time could be wasted confirming that everything was as it should be. It opened the van door and got out, walking briskly to the Arner’s front door. It did not fear prying eyes, as the shape that contained it avoided suspicion just as much as the van.
Standing in front of the doorway, it took a quick look around. No one else was on the street. Everyone across the street worked during the day. No one would see what was about to happen other than it and Mrs. Arner.
3:16 PM. 14 minutes. Dishwashing gloves. Identifying marks could not be left behind. It rang the doorbell. An older model. Not one of those new things with the camera connected to the internet.
A shuffle beyond the door announcing Mrs. Arner’s imminent arrival, and its pulse quickened further.
The door opened and Mrs. Arner didn’t suspect a thing. The shape of it was excellent at that, too. “Yes, hello?”
It didn’t answer, and Mrs. Arner didn’t expect anything that was about to happen. She couldn’t have had any awareness that something might have been wrong with it—or was about to be wrong with her—until the instant after it shot out her knee caps.
3:18 PM. 12 minutes. Mrs. Arner yelled for help. It knew there would be none. She may not have even been aware her injuries were not life threatening. Being shot can be alarming in that way. Her weeping and quiet begging for some kind of deliverance had been everything it had come for.
It went to the kitchen and grabbed a knife from the butcher block. If Mrs. Arner had not had a suitable blade, its plans might have been for naught.
3:21 PM. 9 minutes. With blood loss, Mrs. Arner’s screams had lost some potency. But the look on her face didn’t need much blood at all to stay at its most satisfying point.
3:22 PM. 8 minutes. Time for it to finish its work.
3:29 PM. With a minute remaining, it went to sleep, leaving the shape to carry on about her day. The shape was good for disguise. The shape was respectable. The shape avoided suspicion. The shape didn’t complain when it needed to play.
The process of finishing Mrs. Arner growing more distant in her mind, the shape finally felt fully human again. It—the thing that had slaughtered Mrs. Arner—had legs and arms and the face of a human. It was very nearly human itself on the outside. In fact, it and the shape shared those parts. They were in perfect symbiosis. They just took turns at the wheel.
She sighed. With it at rest, she could not avoid reckoning with what she was. Other people would have pedestrian terms for it. Serial Killer. Sociopath. Monster. All she knew was that she was hungry.
The minivan door opened, and the child got in. “Hi mom!” he cried as he took his seat in the back.
“All buckled up?” the shape asked. Her son nodded. “How was school today?”
“Good,” he said absentmindedly. “How was your day?”
“I took care of something,” she told him as she pulled away from the pick-up lane at the Elementary School and out into traffic. “I took care of it real well.”
He offered no reaction. He was a sweet boy even to ask. “Can we go get ice cream?”
“Ice cream it is!” she proclaimed. She pulled to the side for a moment, allowing police cars and an ambulance—both with sirens blazing—to pass her by. She wondered if they were going to see Mrs. Arner.
She didn’t think about it for long. She was far more interested in getting them both a scoop after a long day.