The whole town is now in turmoil, as the serial killer who had already taken eleven innocent lives is still on the loose and is hunting for more. He might be looking to add a twelfth victim to his list as we speak. And maybe he won’t stop, because he actually enjoys killing. He doesn’t do it out of necessity, he does it for the sick pleasure it gives him. The police are now tired of trying to find the answers to his riddles, which he leaves after each murder. He likes to toy around with people’s fear, gaining fame with his self-proclaimed title – The Hunter. He likes to keep the townies petrified because, in his own words, in a letter, he wrote earlier to the Police Department this week, ‘Fear is what keeps a man alive. If there was no fear, we would have lost our survival instincts and succumbed to a worthless death. No reaction could match the one we have in the face of pure, primal fear; that should be the epitome of every reaction we ever have.’

All we can do for now is pray and hope that we haven’t done anything terrible enough to deserve death such as this.

‘We request all the people of the town of Gringhamburd to take shelter, stay close to your loved ones, and in case of an encounter, do call the helplines that are being flashed on your television screens.’, said the local news reporter in a documentary about a serial killer from the ’90s.

As Jake was surfing through the web for old videos regarding The Hunter, he came across several ones, some of which were poorly rendered videos of detectives from the ’90s trying to solve the riddles The Hunter had left behind. The case, even though it wasn’t something a teenager was likely to take interest in, was captivating enough for Jake to bunk all his classes. Ideas of sinister evil had always occupied the dark, imaginative corners of his mind and he was fascinated with how after eleven cold-blooded murders, the cops still had no clue as to who the killer might be. He got so engrossed in the case that he started trying to solve the riddles he’d found after combing through the internet for hours.

To his disappointment, even he couldn’t solve them. But he did find some patterns among all the riddles, which somehow cleared his mind for an evil idea to manifest there.

Jake Pearce was thirteen years old, wore fat glasses over his dark-circled eyes and braces over his crooked teeth. He had a mole on the left side of his neck, that slightly resembled a triangle. He had OCD and was the topper of his batch, as a result of which he was also the most bullied student in his class. He was on the verge of being obese, but food and answer sheets were a few of those things that he would never share with anyone else. Jake was always seen as a guy who could never stand for himself, one who only knew things written in books, one who had never seen the sunlight; which was actually true because Gringhamburd was the solitary town on Venus where the sun would shine only once in a decade. Until then, people made use of artificial light for their everyday needs.

One day at his school, Jimmy, a senior, hit Jake because he didn’t bring his lunch. But instead of feeling humiliated, Jake was actually delighted as this was the type of situation he had been waiting for all this time, to retaliate. This was the moment when he would work under the alias of ‘The Hunter’. There couldn’t have been a better motivation for him to carry out his plan, nor a better time than now. He decided that he would execute Jimmy the same way The Hunter ended his victims, so that the cops would believe that he had returned from his slumber. The Hunter used to stalk his victims on the street, and just when they were isolated away from crowds, he would grab them from behind and hit them on the head with his hammer twice, on the exact spot at the base of the head where the nerves are the most sensitive. Then he would use his chainsaw to shred the body into two symmetrical halves. After the clinical mess was over, he’d leave a note and elope from the scene.

Jake performed the same act, step by step, all the while trying to imagine how The Hunter would do the same. His hands did not tremble once as he carried out the murder. He’d stolen a chainsaw from his neighbour’s garage and, thanks to his OCD, was able to cut the body just as symmetrically as The Hunter would have. He then left the note which had taken him approximately three hours to write, meticulously copying The Hunter’s handwriting from the notes he’d found on the web, letter by letter. He left the place just as he heard some leaves rustling nearby. He slept peacefully that night as he dreamt of unicorns and rainbows while wetting his bed. The next morning, the first thing he did after changing his soiled sheets, was to ask his mother to turn on the news. He was fascinated to see that finally, he had achieved everything he’d wished to prove.

Days passed as the news of the return of the serial killer gripped the whole town in fear and terror. All schools and offices remained shut for a few weeks after the murder.

After a while, everything calmed down as Jake was having the time of his life; no school, no bullies. The schools were reopened and people could be seen on the streets again. Then October came and it was that time of the year again- Halloween. Jake, having no friends whatsoever, dressed up as Count Dracula and went out on his quest all alone. He didn’t need much prosthetics, only a black cloak to wrap around himself, as his teeth already had an uncanny resemblance to those of the Dracula, once he detached his braces.

Kids all over the town wandered around the streets, knocking on doors, screeching, ‘Trick or Treat?’ Jake had strict instructions from his mother to not go more than fifteen blocks from their house or else he would be grounded for the month. ‘If only she knew that the reason for her fear was not some gruesome serial killer, but her son himself’, Jake thought with a twisted smile. He obviously didn’t pay any heed to her and went far beyond the limit. Near the twentieth block, there was a dead end. Not much noise could be heard near where he was and no other kid had dared to disobey their parents’ warnings. Jake, sure of his own bloodstained hands, knocked on the door hard. He heard footsteps grow closer and stop, all of a sudden. Now he could hear keys jingling through the other side of the door.

The door let out a creaking sound, which suddenly made the moonlit night seem eerier. The door opened to cast a six feet tall shadow over Jake, who was suddenly subdued by a grey-haired, old man.

With a grim smile, he said, ‘Hello there Mr. Pearce! How are you doing these days?’

After a minute, Jake realized why the man seemed familiar- he was a teacher who had retired from the school years ago- which explained how he knew his name. With a voice that almost sounded like a shriek, Jake asked, ‘Trick or Treat?’

‘Maybe we could discuss this inside, what do you say?’ the old man shot back.

Jake sensed that something was terribly wrong.

‘Thank you sir, but I should be leaving now’, replied Jake, his voice finally shaking.

‘What? Don’t be silly, you just got here. Don’t you want your candy?’

‘No sir, thank you for offerin-’

‘Perhaps you’d like the answers to the riddles instead?’ he interrupted.

‘Sorry Sir, I don’t understand. I think you have mistaken me for someone else.’ Jake slowly started taking steps away from the man.

He simply let out a sigh.

‘I know, Jake. I know.

It’d be better for you to stop this charade at once unless you want to end up as my twelfth victim.’

Jake bolted.

He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, he didn’t stop until the house was out of sight. He’d turned back just for a moment to see the door of the house swung wide open, but the old man was nowhere to be found. His toffee bucket was now lying upturned on his porch, but that was the last thing on his mind.

He never went ten blocks beyond his house ever again, witching hour or not; not without an escort anyway. He never mentioned his encounter to anyone, but many years later he did confess his crimes to a pastor in a church thirteen blocks down the road, where he’d gone alone.

He never returned home from the church.

Written by: Sagnik

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