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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-seven LITTLE RED KNIFE

by
JOHN ANDREINI
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I

’m going to tell him tonight. Fingers tapped lightly on a keyboard beneath the monitor’s dull glow. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow. I hope.



The “For Sale” sign with the added “Sold” placard was still on the lawn as Mark and Colleen Bridges began the task of making their new home “their” home. Colleen was painting an upstairs bedroom while Mark dug holes in the backyard for several small trees they’d just purchased. It was a bright, humid day, and sweat dripped from Mark’s brow as he pushed the shovel blade down into the soft dark soil. After depositing a load of dirt near the edge of the hole, a small red piece of plastic caught his eye. He reached down into the loose mound and pulled out a five-inch pocketknife. After brushing it off, he could see it was a classic Swiss Army Knife with two initials etched into the handle, KC.



Mark was pleasantly surprised to find that, after rinsing off the dirt, the knife was rust-free and operable. He tossed his new treasure into his toolbox in the garage and went inside to clean up.



That night at dinner, Colleen was unusually subdued and drinking more wine than usual. Mark had noticed his wife withdrawing over the past few days, and wanted to believe she was just feeling overwhelmed with the new house and everything related to it, but when he asked her about it, she just shrugged her shoulders and changed the subject. He thought he would try again tonight as he refilled her wine glass.



“Babe, you doing okay? You don’t seem like yourself.”



Colleen looked down and a tear dropped on the table mat. “No, Mark. I’m not doing okay. I have something to tell you.”



His palms went damp with the words no spouse ever wants to hear. Mark sat down. “Okay.



“I’ve been seeing someone for about a month.”



“You’re having an affair? Jesus Christ, Colleen.”



“I’m sorry, Mark. So sorry, but I just don’t feel the same way about you now that I once did. Our marriage isn’t working for me anymore. It hasn’t been for a while.”



“Really? Well, why the fuck haven’t we talked about it before this?” A leaf blower screamed from the driveway next door.



“Because I was afraid…of your reaction.”



Mark ran fingers through his thick hair. “How am I supposed to react? A joyful song? Congratulations?”



“I can’t live with you anymore. I’m sorry.”



Crimson blotches appeared on Mark’s cheeks. “You want a divorce?”



The conversation escalated for a half-our until Mark stormed out to the garage, got in his car, and drove off into the hazy suburban evening. Two hours later, he returned, scotch vapors infusing the air around him like bad cologne, and he stumbled into the house. A single light from the kitchen allowed him to navigate, find the couch, and fall into the safety of the cushions with an airy thud. As he struggled to take off his shoes, his gaze fell on the coffee table in front of him. There in the middle of the table next to a vase of lilies was the Swiss Army Knife he’d found earlier, opened, the blade pointing toward the stairs. Too tired, drunk and depressed to solve riddles, Mark slumped onto the couch, pulled his legs up and was snoring within moments.



Beeps and buzzes from the kitchen. Footsteps, the refrigerator door opening and closing. Through blurry eyes and a thudding headache, Mark woke to Colleen bustling around as she prepared for work. He decided to pretend to be asleep until she left, not feeling up to either another argument or playing nice. The back door finally closed, leaving Mark in sweet, comforting silence. Before falling back to sleep, his eyes, level with the coffee table, searching for the knife, but it had vanished. God, thought Mark, I was hallucinating. I haven’t been that drunk since college. Eyes fluttered shut against the annoying early morning light.



Dinner that night was a silent affair, the air permeated with guilt, anger, and blame. Colleen eventually shuffled upstairs to her computer. Mark cleaned up and then went directly to the den with a glass and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and turned on the TV. The evening passed without contact, two bodies occupying the same house, but living in different worlds, each contemplating their new future lives. The bottle empty, television an annoying blur of faces and voices, Mark trooped to the kitchen on his way to bed. As he set his glass in the sink, he glanced at the counter…there was the knife again, the blade pointing to the stairs.



Slightly more sober than the previous night, he decided there could only be two possibilities explaining this odd event. He was hallucinating again, except that he could pick up the knife and hold the small, sturdy instrument in his hand. This can’t be a hallucination, he decided. Which left only one other possibility; that Colleen was messing with his head. But why? Why play these ridiculous mind games right now? Does she want to have me declared insane and take everything? He set the knife down, wondering whether to confront his wife or not, when he heard her footsteps on the stairs. He went to the sink, pretending to clean his glass when she entered the kitchen.



“Is that your work?” he said, eyes forward.



“What are you talking about?” she asked wearily, pulling something from the refrigerator.



“The knife on the counter.” He was trying to be as blasé as possible to let her know he wasn’t fazed by her childish prank.



“What knife?”



Mark turned around. There was no knife. “Did you just pick it up?”



“God. I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, Mark. You should quit drinking.” Colleen walked out of the kitchen.



Drying his hands, a confused Mark went to the counter, and as he touched the cool marble, he started to question his sanity. “No,” he said to himself. “She took it. She must have.”



Days passed. Colleen informed Mark she was moving out at the end of the month to live with her boyfriend across town. Divorce papers were being processed. Lists of who takes what being drawn up. Mark hated every moment of it, the bickering over worthless objects, the moving boxes appear in various rooms, and Colleen’s long hushed talks on the phone in the evening. After a particularly stressful day at work, Mark came home and walked into the kitchen. Colleen stood at the kitchen sink, her back to him. On the table directly behind her was the little red knife, it’s blade pointing directly at her like the needle in a compass.



“Colleen,” he said.



Startled, Colleen dropped a glass that shattered on the counter. Mark’s attention was drawn to the accident, but when he looked at the table, the knife was gone.



“Christ, Mark. You scared the shit out of me. What is wrong with you?”



Good question. What is wrong with me? “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to scare you.” Mark quickly made his way upstairs to the bedroom and sat in a chair in the corner, questioning whether he was losing his mind. After changing clothes, he went down to the garage and opened up his toolbox. The Swiss Army Knife rested exactly where he had set it less than a week ago. He picked it up and stared at the letters carved into the plastic handle. KC? Clearly initials of someone’s name. Then he heard something or thought he did, a breathy voice mixed with the white noise of a modern home, and it whispered, “Kill Colleen.”



Mark dropped the knife back into the box and shut the lid. KC, Kill Colleen? What kind of madness was this? The voice was obviously his mind, a thought, a horrible, dreadful thought coming from somewhere in his psyche he never knew existed. I’m not a violent person, he assured himself as he slowed his breathing and brought his blood pressure back to normal. The initials are those of the knife’s previous owner who lost the damn thing in the yard. Period. You’re just reacting weirdly to the pain and stress you’re experiencing. This will pass.



It was Saturday, and for the first time in eight years of marriage, Mark didn’t know what to do with himself. He wasn’t going to hang around the house with Colleen running about, but he also couldn’t sit in a bar for eight hours drinking. Mark called a couple of friends, but everyone was involved with their families in one way or another, and this made him feel even worse. Before he could make up his mind, Colleen came bouncing down the stairs, carefully made-up and wearing an outfit he didn’t recognize. He followed her with jealous eyes as she passed toward the front door.



“I’m not sure when I’ll be back.”



A dozen angry retorts vied to be loosed, but he clenched his teeth as she walked out of the house into the morning sun. Feeling defeated, he decided a shower might help the decision-making process, clear the mind. There were still remnants of Colleen’s perfume in the air as he pulled himself up the stairs and entered the bedroom. Only a few feet in, he noticed something on Colleen’s pillow. It was the knife, resting open, pointing toward the headboard. Mark closed his eyes and pressed his temples, realizing at that moment something was either terribly wrong with him or the reality in which he existed. This wasn’t like before. It was worse. Much worse. He opened his eyes, expecting the knife to be gone, but it was still there, as if waiting for him to interact with it. “Kill Colleen” crept back into his consciousness like a spider whispering in his ear, and the voice continued to gain strength despite attempts to push it back into the dark crack out of which it wriggled. KC.



Mark fell to his knees and covered his eyes like an infant hiding from a parent. “Go away,” he cried. “Disappear.” He started to cry, to allow the anger and frustration to escape into the air like toxic fumes. She was destroying his life. Why? For better sex? A younger man? A sugar daddy? Was commitment and devotion passé, a tired vestige of an era gone by? He’d been so much better in recent years. She often said so. Tears dripped off his chin, creating dark spots on his shirt. He dropped his hands to his side in frustration and opened his eyes. The knife was gone. A moment of relief flowed through Mark until he looked down and saw he was holding the weapon, it’s polished silver blade glistening brightly as if it possessed magical powers. Maybe it did. Maybe it was meant to be used, needed to be used.



“Mark? Hey, I forgot something. Mark?”



Colleen was coming up the stairs. The death of his future was approaching. Kill Colleen. Obey the magic and use me.



“Mark? What the hell are you doing?”



Destroy her first. Kill Colleen.



“Are you—?”



Mark jumped to his feet and spun around. Colleen’s brown eyes grew wide and wild in surprise, her rose-colored lips parted to scream, but he thrust the knife into her abdomen before she could manage a sound. The moment was magical for Mark, and there was an immediate sense of salvation. His life belonged to him again, and the beauty of it all flowed through his veins like warm honey. Colleen gurgled, and Mark pulled out the knife and plunged into her throat. Like puncturing an oilcan, blood flowed in thick ribbons over his hand, pouring down her neck and over her shoulders, soaking into her lacy white blouse. The cathartic puncturing using an assortment of the knife’s tools went on more times than he could count, and each push released a bit more anger until emotional and physical exhaustion forced him to sit back and rest his arms on his knees. Dark crimson blood covered everything around him, and the pool beneath Colleen oozed out from her lifeless body. Her head was turned toward him, eyes still shocked open as if awaiting an explanation. Mark’s anger ebbed, replaced by weariness, and he lay back on the carpet and closed his own eyes.



Bells? Church? Mark’s eyes fluttered open, and he slowly pushed himself up on an elbow. The room looked and smelled like a slaughterhouse, blood caked on the carpet, clothes and skin, and large black flies noisily celebrating the carnage. There it was again…the doorbell. Wobbly, Mark stood and swayed in place for a moment, fingers sticking to each other, dried clots of blood gluing parts of his clothes to his skin, wondering whether to jump out the second-story window of his bedroom or answer the door.



A dark figure stood outlined in the frosted windows of the front door. Cops? It didn’t matter to Mark at this point. He owned his future, but there was no telling what that future would be. He grasped the doorknob and pulled. A red-faced bowling pin of a man stood on the porch dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. His expression went from a broad smile to confusion as he stuck out his hand to shake, and quickly withdrew it.



“Hey, really sorry to bother you. My name’s Charlie Wolsky…and, are you okay?”



Mark glanced down at his blood-splattered outfit with only casual regard. “Oh, yeah…butchering a deer. Went deer hunting and so now we’re…you know, cutting it up.”



“Messy business. Thought deer season was in the fall, but hey, I’m not a hunter. The reason I’m here…”



“Mark.”



“Mark, is that I was in the Army a long time ago with a guy named Keith Church and we’ve kept in touch over the years. This was the last address I had for him, and I’m in town for a convention, so I thought I’d drop in and see the old fart.”



“Keith? I’m sorry—“



“You must have bought the house from him. Keith Church. Back in the day, we called him KC. It’s funny because everybody thought he was from Kansas City.”



Mark’s mind crystallized and shattered. KC? The knife belonged to Keith Church. It was someone’s initials, not… A black hole suddenly opened up and sucked everything that was Mark into it except his physical body. The anger, the guilt, the jealousy, it was all captured and jettisoned into another dimension to become a part of the infinite cosmic joke. Now only a mammal with basic survival instincts, Mark smiled at the stupid, unsuspecting little man.



“Oh, KC. Keith. Right. Yeah, we did buy the house from him, but this is something crazy. He left a few things here, after he moved and, it’s is such a bizarre coincidence, but he’s here right now picking them up.”



Charlie beamed. “Are you shitting me? KC is here?”



Stepping back from the door, Mark ushered in the man. “Yes. He’s in the kitchen right now. Come on in.”



Charlie stepped across the threshold, and Mark closed the door behind him. “What a coinkydink. He’s going to be blown away.”



“He is,” said Mark as he pulled the little red knife from his pants pocket.



Kill Charlie.



   
   

 

endmark



John Andreini calls Portland, Oregon home, and spends his time writing short stories, stage plays, and screenplays. In recent years, many of his flash horror stories have been made into popular Creepypasta YouTube videos, and three of these stories are currently in production, soon to be released as short films. A traditional length short horror story of his, “Warning Signs,” was recently featured on season 2, episode 8 of the Simply Scary Podcast produced by Chilling Tales for Dark Nights. John’s stage plays have been produced both nationally and internationally. You can read many of his short stories on Facebook at Two-Minute Tales of Terror.



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