By: Maulana Arya (Siswa Kelas Menulis IWEC)
The moon was bright that night, and all was quiet but for a small sound. He could hear the crying of a child from the big yellow house he was standing in front of. Grim could see his reflection in the window: A young man in his early thirties, with disheveled black hair and a black stare, wearing a black top hat, white gloves, and a dark-blue double-breasted coat, buttoned to the top. The glint of a knife and the barrel of a gun tucked under his coat.
A couple of days ago, teachers from a local elementary school and nearby neighbors had reported in suspected domestic violence going on in this household. It had fused Grim’s bones with rage and disgust. But it had also sparked a delicious thrill of bloodthirst in him.
The eerie silence of the house was one of the small indicators that a strange, frightening thing was happening inside. Grim wondered if the reports were true.
He rang the bell and, seconds later, a voice answered it.
“Wait for a second!” a woman said from behind the door.
The crying stopped.
A woman – in her forties, curly hair tied into a hasty bun – opened the door and looked at him. She was wearing a pink t-shirt and yellow shorts. “How can I help you?” she said in a dismissive, brusque tone.
Grim answered with a smile, “You can’t help me, but I can help you.”
“What do you mean?” The woman had a confused look on her face. “Go away, dumbass!” She quickly pushed the door for it to close. Before the door closed, he stepped into the house and went to the kitchen. The entire place had been mapped in his mind ever since he’d started stalking the family.
“Hey!” yelled the woman. “What are you doing? This is my house! And if you don’t leave, I will call the police!”
“Funny you say that. You can’t call the police even if you want to, right, ma’am?” he said with a smile on his face.
“Who are you?” she said, her forehead creased.
“Don’t worry. I will call the police for you,” he replied, dialing 911 on her house phone.
A man picked up on the other side. “Hello, this is 911. What’s the emergency?”
Grim’s voice was casual, smooth. “Hello, I want to report a homicide.”
“Excuse me, sir? Did you say ‘homicide’?” the man repeated. Grim heard the shock that took over the officer.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Okay? And where did this homicide take place?”
Grim pressed a button on his smartphone. The lights went black. The electricity had been shut down.
“What are you doing!?” The woman reached for her mobile phone and turned on the flashlight.
Before she could do anything, a knife was stabbed into the left side of her back. It hit straight, right into her heart. The hilt jutted out of her flesh, a big ‘G’ carved into the bottom of the wooden handle. Grim pulled out the knife. “You’re welcome.”
With the knife clutched in his hand, he went upstairs where the husband was taking a nap with his headphones on. There was a young little boy in the corner of the room, crying. Grim bent over the sleeping man and stabbed the man to death. Finished, Grim dropped the knife on the floor and turned to leave.
The boy looked at him, ran to the knife and snatched it. He pointed the knife at him.
Grim smiled at the little boy. “It’s okay, little guy. You don’t have to be afraid. It’s all over, now,” he said.
Fear and anger contorted the boy’s face. Lifting the blade to his neck, he slashed his neck in front of Grim. Blood sprayed on to his face.
Grim froze for a second, shocked. Then he dropped to his knees before the boy, yanked out his handkerchief from his coat pocket, and stopped the bleeding by tying the handkerchief around the little boy’s neck.
“Why did you do that!?” Grim asked with his forehead creased.
Hateful eyes glared at Grim. “I hate you.” Then the little boy crumpled to the floor, passed out.
The sirens of police cars were approaching the front of the house. When the police officers got inside the house, two adults were found dead and a little boy survived.
The murderer was nowhere to be found. The only thing they found was a knife with a big G carved on the bottom of its handle, being held in the boy’s hand.
Grim sat on the edge of a constructed building, his back leaning against a wall. He gazed up at the sky, looking at the stars above him. Sometimes he wished that he was just another star in the sky, having nothing to worry about.
He took out an old pocket watch from his breast pocket. He opened it and looked at the mirror in it.
His reflection stared back at him.
“What have I become?”
The little boy reminded him of himself when he had been a kid. Abused, hated, beaten up – and yet Grim had found himself still loving his parents in some way. He’d wanted to get rid of that, save himself and other children from getting hurt further, but now he wasn’t so sure.
All of the emotions and memories that were buried down poured into his mind. He couldn’t move his hands and feet. A drop of tear-streaked down from his cheeks. What is this? Grim thought to himself. The tear fell from his chin to his coat. Another one followed and another one until tears rained down into an outpour. He looked at the sky with a blank stare as tears poured down his cheeks. He wished that everyone would just forget him and he could start another peaceful life. He stood up and looked at the beautiful night view of the city.
Grim took a look at his pocket watch one last time. “Nine p.m. This is the time my story will end.” He gazed up at the dark heavy clouds, a sign that it was going to rain. “God, or whoever’s up there. If you really exist, please give me a second chance.” He stepped off the building and fell.
Drips of water shot down from the sky.
He felt the wind hitting his face. He closed his eyes.
Everything went silent.
“Are you certain of this path that you are taking?” A voice came out of nowhere. “Do you deserve a second chance?” the voice kept talking, demanding for an answer. “Are you ready to abandon your life?” the voice changed from one voice to another in every word, as if whoever was saying them wanted his identity secret.
“Yes,” Grim said, still closing his eyes.
“Do you deserve it? Or not? I guess we will find out.”
The voice disappeared and Grim opened his eyes.
He was standing on the edge of the constructed building. The rain was pouring down on him. He took a step back, tripped on a metal bar, and landed on his back.
What was that? he wondered to himself. He glanced at the pocket watch he was holding in his hand. It was 21:05, only five minutes had gone by.
What the hell?
Grim got up and quickly ran out of there.
As Grim went down the streets, the raindrops drummed on the ground. He took off his hat and ran to a nearby mini-market.
He grabbed a bento meal and went to the cashier. The newspaper headline on the paper stand caught his attention.
Confusion gripped Grim.
Yesterday all the newspaper headlines had been talking about him – the notorious murderer of England on the loose – and his photos had been plastered on every front page.
“Is there something wrong, sir?” the cashier man asked.
Grim snapped out of his reverie. He shook his head. “No, I’m fine. Can I have one newspaper added?”
The cashier man pressed in the numbers, then finally he said, “That will be fifteen dollars, sir.”
Grim pulled out a bundle of cash, sifted through it and put twenty dollars on the counter. “Keep the change,” and he left the store.
He brought his bento to the park. He was rounding a corner when he bumped into a policeman on patrol. Grim ducked his head but it was too late.
The policeman stood up and offered his hand. “Are you okay, sir?”
Confused, Grim glanced at the policeman. Hesitantly, he took the policeman’s hand and allowed the man to get him to his feet.
“Have a good day, sir.” The policeman left Grim with a warm smile and continued his patrol.
Grim was puzzled and went to a park wondering about what was going on today. There, he sat on a bench under a cherry blossom tree, across an electronics store. Televisions displayed behind the window played footages of “The Most Wanted Criminal” caught on camera, but it wasn’t Grim. The program rolled on to a listing of “The Ten Most Wanted Criminals”, and still he found no image of him.
He searched for his name but he couldn’t seem to find it.
Grim decided to go back home and sleep his way out of this.
Maybe this was all a dream.
This wasn’t a dream.
The next day, he looked at the news and discovered no evidence of him being a serial killer. He continued his search on the internet about his killings, but he found no trace of the couples he’d murdered. Were they still alive?
He wanted to confirm this fact, so he went to the last place of his murder, which was the house where he’d met the little boy.
When he reached the house, he couldn’t find the little boy either.
The house was owned by a different family who had nothing to do with the little boy. Braving himself, he decided to ask the owner of the house about where the previous family had gone.
The house owner said that his family had been living in the house for a long time and they hadn’t known anyone living in the house before them. He’d claimed the house was brand new.
That couldn’t be.
Grim snuck into the police station at midnight to search for the kid, but he couldn’t find him, and more surprisingly, all records of himself were gone, as if they had vanished into smoke.
He continued his search for the little boy’s family and undug a case which had happened five years ago. There was a car accident involving a family. Both of the parents had died and the only one who’d survived was the child.
Grim had a feeling that the survivor of the accident was the same little boy he’d encountered the other night. It was written in the case that the little boy had been living in an orphanage since.
The orphanage was a bricked building, smelling of clean laundry and paper. Children were running around in the front yard, but none of them was the little boy.
Grim approached the front office and asked for information about a boy named Jack Shaw.
“Jack Shaw?” The receptionist typed and clicked on something on the computer. “Yes, he’s an orphan here. Just transferred a week ago.” She squinted up at Grim. “Are you a relative?”
“No,” said Grim. “But I know the family quite well.” Well enough to have killed the parents, he thought mirthlessly. He cleared his throat. “I just wanted to know if the child is alright.”
“I’m sorry for the loss, sir.” The receptionist smiled kindly at him, loose strands of her low bun framing her round face. “Jack is now studying in the orphan school just a block away. You’re welcome to visit him if you’d like.”
Grim went to the school.
Bells rang, and a flood of students raced out of their classrooms.
From outside, the school seemed innocent enough. Then Grim heard muffled crying and loud taunting voices from a dark alley near the school.
A quailing Jack Shaw was cornered in the alley by a group of children wearing the same uniform as him. Skulls were drawn on the back of the bullies’ hands. Jack’s face was smeared in mud, and his uniform was covered in dust.
Grim watched from behind the corner. He wrinkled his nose, disgusted by the skirmish. He walked into the alley and shoved the kids away from Jack.
“Who are you, old man?” one of the bullies demanded.
“It’s none of your business, kid.” Grim glared at them. “Now get lost.”
“No, you get lost, old man!” shouted an older kid, who seemed like the leader of this gang considering the way he seemed to radiate authority over the others.
“You know, kid, where I come from, they used to burn naughty kids like you. I never thought I’d need to use that tradition here, too.” Grim fished out his lighter from his coat’s pocket and lit it in front of the older kid’s face.
The kids staggered back and scrambled away from Grim and Jack.
“You’re a crazy old man!” the older kid yelled at Grim. Then he glared at Jack, who sank further into the stone wall. “I’m not finished with you, you rich brat. I will be back for you!”
They ran from the alley.
“Th-thank you,” stuttered Jack.
“Why didn’t you fight back?” Grim said with a monotonous voice.
“W-what?” Fear was still etched onto his face. Jack stood up slowly.
“Why didn’t you fight back?!”
“I-I don’t know!” cried the little boy.
“Your name’s Jack, right?”
Jack nodded, blue eyes wide. Too innocent, too naïve. Then again, Grim had underestimated him. He’d thought the boy wouldn’t have been brave enough to pick up a knife and slit his own throat.
“Your parents… They died, didn’t they?” Grim asked.
“Yeah…” Jack avoided Grim’s gaze as he wiped the mud off his face and brushed the dust off his uniform.
“I’m really sorry for that.”
“What are you sorry for? You didn’t kill them.” Jack looked up and gave him a small, teary smile.
The words were a punch to the gut, stunning him into silence.
“Okay,” said Grim as he turned his back to Jack, “Now we’re even.” Grim started to walk out the alley.
“What do you mean by that?” Jack followed him from behind, though his gaze searched in alarm for the gang of bullies.
Furrowing his eyebrows, Grim looked back at Jack with a puzzled look. “You really don’t remember what happened, do you?”
“What do you mean what happened?” Jack quickened his steps and turned to walk backward. He was eyeing Grim.
“Never mind.” Grim picked up his pace, ignoring Jack who almost tripped on the sidewalk.
Jack walked forward once more and continued to follow Grim.
Grim growled at the boy’s shadow and hastened his walk.
Trying to keep to Grim’s pace, Jack started running behind him.
Grim suddenly stopped, making Jack bump into him.
“What do you want?!” Grim pulled out his wallet and shoved Jack two dollars. “Here, go buy some ice cream!”
“Thanks.” Jack snatched the two dollars from Grim’s hand and ran to a minimarket.
Grim was almost out of the park when he heard Jack’s voice calling him. “Hey, Mister here’s your change!”
Grumbling, Grim halted.
Out of his breath, while holding a chocolate cone ice cream and a vanilla one in his hands, Jack jogged to where Grim stood and handed the vanilla cone ice cream to Grim.
“Look, kid, what do you want?” Grim accepted the ice cream and licked it. The ice melted on his tongue deliciously. He scowled. Tch, how the hell does he know my favorite flavor?
“Look, I just wanted to say thank you.”
“By using my own money to buy me ice cream?”
Jack’s cheeks reddened. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Yeah…”
“Well, you’re welcome.” His words dripped with sarcasm.
“Now we’re even.” Jack smiled, took a bite out of the ice cream and came away with a chocolate mustache around his lips.
Grim was baffled. “What? We were even last time!”
Jack’s eyebrows knitted. “What do you mean we were even?”
“You know, with me killing–” Grim shook his head, discarding the memory away. “You know what? Never mind.” Grim walked to a bench and sat there.
“What’s your name, Mister?” Finished with his ice cream, Jack stood in front Grim.
“Grim. You can call me Grim.”
“What a weird name. Are you sure that’s your name?” Raising one eyebrow, Jack stared at Grim with a doubtful look.
“I don’t know. My parents never gave me a ‘name’.”
“Hey, me, too. I guess I’m not alone after all. My grandma gave me the name ‘Jack’ after my parents didn’t bother to give me one.” A mournful look flitted across Jack’s eyes. He gazed around the park, then spotted one of the orphanage caretakers waving at him from across the park. “I need to go now, Mister Grim. Bye!” Jack smiled and waved his hand as he left Grim alone in the park.
Bits and parts of memories of his past flashed in Grim’s head, chased by the memory of Jack’s scream two nights ago.
What have I done?
His past filled his head, haunting him for the rest of the afternoon.
Grim tried life as a normal citizen. He was a chef in a small restaurant in London. Deciding to ignore all the things that had happened a few days back, he kept doing his daily routines. Waking and dressing up, receiving delivery of ingredients, cooking, serving customers.
There were times when his customers were a family. He’d seen parents yelling at their children in his restaurant, and there was a thrum of desire in his bones, to act and stop the abuse. But he restrained himself. He would not destroy his new life. So, he ignored and when he could, he would try comforting the child in passing whispers. That was the least he could do, anyway.
One thing that he could not let go was Jack.
Grim would visit Jack’s school and looked at him from far away after his restaurant closed before evening. He had this feeling of guilt showering down on him every time he thought of the little boy. He had never felt like this toward any of his victims before meeting Jack.
One morning, as Grim walked to the restaurant that he worked in, he picked up a familiar sound of weeping from an alley he’d passed by. Grim halted in his step and saw Jack crying in the alley with a bruised eye and grimy clothes. Grim walked closer to him.
Jack looked up. “Oh, hey, Mister. It’s nice to see you again,” Jack said, holding back his tears.
“Get up,” Grim said monotonously. “You must be hungry. Follow me.” Grim exited the alley with Jack following him.
“Where are we going?” Jack asked, wiping his tears.
Grim ignored the question and continued to walk. They stopped in front of Grim’s restaurant. Grim told Jack to sit in the corner and went to the back. It was a small restaurant filled with pictures of Grim as the chef and owner. In the colored photos, he was wearing his signature black coat and dark hair combed back. Antique cups and bottles were displayed on shelves. The walls were decorated in bright colors, muraled with paintings and quotes.
Grim came out of the kitchen with a bowl of noodle soup. “Here, eat it slowly. It’s still hot.” Grim put the bowl on the table and sat in front of him.
“Don’t you have to work?” Jack asked as he began eating the noodle soup.
Grim raised his left eyebrow. “Don’t you have to go to school?”
Jack smiled and said, “Thanks by the way. I owe you one.”
They talked as minutes went by. The bell rang as the door was being pushed open.
“Sorry, we’re not open until eleven a.m.,” Grim said without looking at the door.
“It’s nice to meet you again, Grim.” A familiar voice filled his ears.
Grim’s heart thudded slow and loud.
He looked at the customer and let out a sigh. “Hello, Vivian.”
“I see the memory of me hasn’t left you.” She walked inside, the door closing behind her. “You know, we haven’t been talking to each other for a long time.”
“Get out, Vivian.” Grim stood up and walked to the door. He clenched his left fist, while his other hand wrenched the door open.
Ignoring Grim, Vivian kneeled in front of Jack. “Oh, look at you,” Vivian cooed at Jack, kneeling in front him. “Poor little creature. What’s your name?”
“Jack,” Jack said hesitantly.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
Before Jack could answer, Grim cut him off. “It’s a long story,” he growled. “Now can you please go?” Grim said impatiently.
“Relax, tiger, I’m just here to say hi.” Vivian smiled at Jack and went to the door. She put her hand on Grim’s shoulder, her smile turning coquettish at him before she disappeared in the bustling streets.
Grim slumped back in his chair across from Jack.
“Who’s that?” Jack said curiously.
“Don’t mind her. She’s just an old friend of mine.”
Grim put his hand in his pocket, rummaging through it. He’d noticed that Vivian had purposely slipped something into his pocket while she’d placed her hand on his shoulder. He pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket.
“What’s that?” Jack said, ignoring what had just happened and proceeding with eating his noodles.
“Nothing,” Grim lied. “It’s just a grocery list.” Silently, Grim unfolded the paper and read the letter.
It’s nice that I can finally hear your voice again. How have you been? I hope you’re doing well.
I see that you have a new toy. I’m jealous. I can still remember the time when we would go to the park and eat ice cream together. We would hang out in this restaurant where you work for hours and talk over the five-star food, tasting everything on the menu. You would show off your impeccable tastes in culinary arts and you would listen to me get to rave about a good book. But you know what my favorite thing is about the two of us? My favorite thing is when we would go and set a target for our next victim.
Grim hurried out and searched the crowds for her, but she was nowhere in sight. He came back inside and continued to read the letter.
Yes, Grim, I know who you really are. I was confused when no one and no news was talking about you. I tried to search for someone who knew about you, but no one remembers you.
I tried to talk to you so many times before, but when I wanted to talk, you were helping that stupid little boy. I thought that it was just because you felt bad for him, but no. I know you have been watching over him for the last few days.
You have changed, Grim. I need to bring you back.
We were meant to be together. What else could be the reason that only I remember you
If you don’t want me to spill the truth, come to the place where we first met.
Grim crumpled the paper and hurled it into the trash can. Frustration built up in him.
“Jack, don’t go anywhere, okay? I’ll be right back.”
Jack stood up and looked at Grim in confusion. “Wait–”
Before Jack could say anything more, Grim left the restaurant.
Grim ran to the direction of the place where he and Vivian had first met. His heart started racing. All he could think of was the possibility that he might not be able to have a second life where he could live peacefully.
Grim stopped at a house. It used to be a bar, and that bar was where they’d first met and fallen.
He kicked down the door but found the house empty, clinging with dust and crawling with weed.
He searched all over the house for clues of where she might be, but he found nothing. No clues at all.
He gave up and went back to the restaurant to apologize to Jack for leaving him so suddenly. When he arrived at the restaurant, he couldn’t find Jack. On the table lay Jack’s unfinished noodle bowl. There was a letter next to it. He snatched the latter hurriedly and ripped it open.
Now I’m going to take what is precious to you like you had taken what is precious to me: my heart.
Grim ran out of his restaurant and looked around in panic. There were so many buildings crowding his sight and a sea of people: adults in coats, teenagers carrying backpacks. Several children here and there. Yet Jack was nowhere in sight.
The whole thing was a trap.
Argh! Grim screamed in his head. Vivian is not after my identity. Of course! How can I be so foolish? Grim tried to call out Jack’s name, but that obviously wouldn’t work.
Grim urged himself to calm down and searched for the most possible place Vivian could have taken Jack to. Judging from the message she’d left him, Vivian wanted to remember the moments when they talked on cobwebbed crates, and sparred in the shadows and called it a date. Vivian wanted to retrace the steps where she lost her heart bit by bit to Grim.
There was only one place where all that had happened.
The storage room! Grim thought.
Grim rushed off to a metro station and used the metro to get to the other side of the town.
After he reached his destination, he got off and hurriedly rode a taxi to a self-storage facility at the edge of the city. He got off the taxi and ran to storage room number 221. He yanked open the door and entered the dim-lit room. Squinting, there he found Jack alone sitting on a chair. The boy had a pale look on his face.
Grim ran to him and grasped a hold of his shoulder. “Are you okay?” Worriedly, Grim tried to get him up, but Jack refused.
“Are you the one who killed my parents?” Jack said, his eyes so wide that the whites were pale.
“What?” Grim furrowed his eyebrows. “Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t even know your parents.”
“Stop lying! I know who you really are!” Filled with anger, Jack stood up, shoving the chair back with a screech of wood against concrete, and pointed his finger at Grim.
“Please, I can explain all of this!” Grim put his hand on Jack’s shoulder one more time.
“No!” Jack pushed him away. “Go away from me!”
“See, Jack?” Vivian’s voice echoed through the room. “He is nothing but a bloody killer who murdered your father and mother.” Striding from the shadows, Vivian finally showed herself behind Jack.
“Vivian! This is all because of you!” Grim stormed toward them.
“Stop! Don’t come any closer!” Jack furiously shouted at Grim. “I don’t want you near me, now get out of here!” With a red face and tears sliding down his cheeks, Jack stabbed his finger at the door.
Grim stood there, speechless. All his hopes of getting a second chance in his life were ruined.
He turned his back to them and started to walk slowly toward the door.
“You can’t get a second chance after all,” both Vivian and Jack said at the same time.
“What did you say?” As Grim twisted back to look at them, everything around him darkened. All he could see was a dark void with no walls and no end – it felt like he was closing his eyes. Falling over and over in the same place and at the same time.
Light entered his vision, a hand stretching from the darkness, and he heard a voice.
“How’s your life?” It was the same voice that he’d heard on the constructed building.
“You said I could have a second chance!” Grim tried to search for where the voice was coming from, but he couldn’t find it.
“You can have a second life, but I never said you will keep it.” The voice echoed through the endless void.
Confused, Grim asked the voice, “What do you mean?” hoping for an answer.
Before he could get one, everything around him became brighter. He was no longer in the void: he was lying down in a bed.
“He finally wakes up,” a doctor said to a nurse.
Grim looked around him. “Where am I?”
“This is a prison hospital, Mr. Grim,” said the doctor. “You’ve been in a coma for two weeks now.” Then the doctor gestured for Grim to stand up so he could do a regular medical check-up on him.
“Do you need anything else?” the doctor asked once he was finished.
“No,” said Grim, still stunned with disbelief. “Can you please leave me alone?” Grim sat down on the bed and leaned his back against the wall.
“Sure, press that button if you need anything.” The doctor pointed at a button on a small table next to the bed and went to leave Grim alone in the room.
“Wait,” Grim said before the doctor could close the door. “Is there any chance that you know a boy named Jack Shaw?”
“You mean the one whose parents were your last victims? Sorry, but I have no idea about it. It was a pretty secured case. I think the data is only stored in the police system.”
“Okay, thank you. You can leave, now.”
The doctor nodded and shut the door behind him.
Grim bit his lip and looked at the window.
~a few months later~
“Serial killer Grim has escaped the prison,” a news reporter spoke in a rush, panic in his eyes though he still kept a cool facade. “The authorities said they had no idea about how he’d escaped, so keep your family close and lock your doors! All citizens are instructed to be careful at night, and are hoped not to stay out too late.”
It was exactly 00:00.
The security guard in the main building of the serial department was changing shifts. Grim snuck in through the roof of the building. Swiftly, he crept into one of the offices and turned on a computer, figuring out the access to the main database. He searched for Jack’s case. A folder with Jack’s full name showed up on the screen. He clicked on the folder.
The words were a thousand stabs to his chest.
–blood loss–wound to the neck–serial killer—no sign of them–possibility–buried–national cemetery–
The feeling of guilt was drowning him. Grim scrolled down to the bottom of the case file, where Jack’s full name, birth, and status were inscribed. His heart leaped to his throat. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe.
Jack Shaw had died the night his family had been murdered.