Beauty has become a rare sight, but today is my lucky day. Three young girls with looks equivalent to those of supermodels sat on the rusted bonnet of a long-abandoned wreck, throwing disgusted glances at me as I walked up to them and stood in front of the sun, giving them my best smile. They didn't like that.
”Piss off, fucking freak,” the blonde grunted, digging for pepper spray in her purse.
My smile widened to a teethed grin. The redhead spit on my shoes and giggled in what must have been the bitchiest tone ever conceived by the human larynx. ”Creep!” I tilted my head on the side to get a better look. All three had great bodies and the prettiest faces since that parole officer, no doubt about that. What reason could they possibly have to land a foot in this shithole?
Still the brunette remained silent, nervously biting her lip while the others kept laughing. A police siren in the distance, wailing like a puppy left on the streets. Did one of them sneak a call? Oh, kids these days – always finding new ways to protect their lovely skin. It must've been the blonde, she's the only one with her hands out of sight. Thankfully, this isn't one of those towns where the coppers actually do what they're paid to do, or I might have had to flee without my daily share of meat.
”Hey, piss off, you pathetic fuck,” the blonde prompted again; nothing wrong with that. I liked her voice a lot more than I probably should have, considering the circumstances, but a man gets hard when a man gets hard and that's that. Nothing to worry about so long as it stays in my pants, and it's going to. Judging by her disgusted giggle, it looks like she noticed.
I took a step back, letting the light grace those sweet faces and blind their eyes. Scream and kick, that's all they ever do. Why doesn't anyone ever put up a proper fight? That'd bring a new thrill to this affair, a reason to try out different approaches. But no, they never fought back. Always frozen in fear, maybe throwing an insult or two, handing out threats like a dog owner hands out treats to their new puppy.
Red hair had become a precious and sought-after possession in the black market, and I was quite pleased upon discovering that I had caught not only one redhead, but two – the blonde's roots were of the most desired colour. Easily a thousand quid here, maybe more. It still amazed me how much people paid for hair transplants these days.
None of the girls had a clue as to what was going to happen to them, although they clearly knew it wasn't going to be pleasant. I'm sure they still thought it would be something sexual; Well, for all I know, it could be – but not in my hands. All I did was process and catalogue them. I needed their names to do so properly, and for what other purpose did wallets exist? ID cards and cash, gifts from society's obsessively surveillant and consumptive watchers.
Suddenly Iris the brunette yelped, pleading for her life and staring into my eyes with such innocent dread that my heart would have melted had I not carved it out. What an unlucky girl she was... So much that I almost let my hands wander for the key. No, I had to do this. Giving her a free pass would be like throwing away bread. She wasn't special in any way, but if that was true, why was I so moved?
Breaking me out of my doubtful trance of pre-emptive guilt, the fake-blonde broke down crying as realisation of death crept up her spine, giving me something else to think about. She didn't beg, she screamed and complained, told me how her parents would hunt me down and put a big fat bullet in my head, bury me in the backyard and piss on my grave between morning chores. I had never liked the name Cassandra, but she made me reconsider that.
”Follow me,” I said, pulling the chains around her elbows. Just as I had done to many before, I took her to the backyard where an elevated terrace reached out above the garden; My workshop, the one place where human meat is just as any meat; an adobe for the monster that I had become to indulge in horrors beyond the induction of suffering and death.
I chained her over the table that had once belonged to a butcher and stripped her. A truly beautifully formed body, more so than that parole officer, to the point that I almost gave in to the foulest of acts and let my urges invoke the carnal beast within me. Her skin was smooth with a faint tan, without a hint of the so-called imperfections that sometimes made business truly scourgeful.
The human skin – a valuable possession, without which life would be agony and those closest to you would make you want to vomit, and you'd be stupid to expect any other reaction from them in regards to you – but is it vital? I had long since learned that it is, in fact, perfectly possible to remove it and live on. Far from enjoyable, but some prefer it over death. I asked her preference and she declined the offer, choosing death before lasting pain.
Without further ado, I struck the blade into her shoulder and rolled its tip under the surface, peeling her like a candy wrapper. Down her elbow, carving out the fascia to ensure that her skin remained one article, thus becoming easier to sell – for a much higher price, too – and also to bleed her to death faster according to her wishes. The knife went in deeper, splitting her veins and separating the loosening skin from the muscle, viscous strains stretching between them as I pulled them apart. She squirmed, her stare glassy and drifting across our surroundings.
It sank between the numerous bones in her wrist, cleanly sliding along the veins and popping them out diagnoally, leading toward her trembling fingers at a steady pace. Soon her left arm was bare, blood gushing out at its length and welling onto the open flap underneath, spilling over the edge to the floorboards and further; From there, it was taken by the soil.
At this rate she would be dead and at peace in no time, so I cut into her left thigh, wrenching out bits of adipose tissue as they got in the way. Contrary to my expectations and hopes, this hadn't gotten easier along the years; I had become a master of mutilation, but even after flaying a dozen, my conscience kept nagging and by the time I reached a hundred, the feeling had grown stronger than ever. Maybe it was true what they said, that only a psychopath could handle this job without ending up dead by their own hand.
Leanne and Elizabeth observed the process from the garden, slowly rocking back and forth on the rusted old swings with gentle smiles on their plastic faces, appearing like porcelain dolls in the moonlight reflecting off their bright blue eyes – both silent and beautiful. The bangs of their sleek black ever-combed bob-cut wigs waved in the wind and their elegant purple skirts billowed. Dark grey laced stockings were a part of today's outfit as were matching elbow-high gloves and plain black shoes, red lipstick on their sculpted lips.
I nod at them but said nothing. The blonde's green eyes had found themselves fixed on the girls, her lower lip trembling with a scream lingering behind. Not everybody understood a life like theirs and that was fine; It was what they had chosen, but for many the cute frilly appearance was a grotesque sight.
When I reached the toes and lifted their covering, Cassandra had already left this world behind. She lied unmoving on the cold table with a blank expression on her face, her blood still bright red as it flowed through her body and exited the incisions on her extremities. This would not happen to Iris, not if it cost me my life. Yet I couldn't understand why I cared so much about her and it unnerved me.
Elizabeth jumped off the wooden seat, followed by her younger sister shortly after. Their footsteps were as light as silk, those little heels and toes tapping the wet grass. I waited patiently as the older one scrambled onto her blackboard.
Can I have her face? Surprising, but not unexpected. I nod my answer, smiling.
I buried the knife behind the dead girl's ear and began to sever the facial muscles at depth, releasing the tendons and veins one by one, proceeding down her lower jaw and back up from the other side to the opposite ear. The next step was a straightforward cut following the occipital line to connect the slits. With careful incisions so as to not puncture any arteries, I dug into the pericranium at the base of her skull and made an opening for easier reattachment; it would be a piece of cake to stitch each layer of skin and flesh back together later.
My hands were trembling at the thought of Elizabeth having a face again. She would already be one gorgeous young woman living a dream if she hadn't met me. Maybe this was her way of hammering it into my head that the frustration and anger were still incubating somewhere deep inside. It would make sense for those feelings to return now that she was standing at the doorway to adulthood.
Once I was done peeling the skull clean, the girl took off her mask and wig. I looked away until she had turned around as a polite gesture. Disrespectful staring would have been uncalled for. Looking at the atrociously exposed back of her mutilated head, tears of shame oozed down my cheeks. What her life could have been if it wasn't for me...
The girl danced in circles like a wounded butterfly with the porch as her stage, her slender arms twitching and wiggling. It was a heartwarming pleasure to watch her twirl across it, seeing that she was happy. I'd already forgotten about the anxiety Iris brought up in me, both her and the redhead laying skinless on the grass behind me. This had been a great day, one that would be etched into my memory as the day Elizabeth's old passion was awoken once more.