One Of Us - Samie Sands

Death Metal: Midnight Maniac

Armand Rosamilia

It coulda been you, Marq thought, standing over the cooling body. It shoulda been you.

Marq was perspiring despite the falling snow. Despite the bitter cold and wearing only a thin t-shirt and his jeans, now soaked with cold water and blood.

“You did good, son,” his father said with a nod, before turning away to wipe the tears.

Did I? It was survival. Either her or me, Marq thought. I did what I had to do... or did I? Did anyone have to die tonight? I’ve stepped over a line.

Later, there would be time to process what he’d done, what had been set into motion, but for right now he’d begun to shiver.

I’ll catch a damn cold and die of pneumonia, he thought. After all this... the weather will kill me. There’d be nothing our dark god could do about it, either.

“Natas will be proud,” one of those gathered said quietly. Marq didn’t think they sounded like they meant or believed it.

The dozen gathered around were in shock.

None more than Marq, who’d been forced to make a move or be on the ground.

Her body was still steaming. The snow melted on her exposed entrails.

They never mention on television the smell of death, Marq thought. The horrible mix of shit, piss and blood that shouldn’t ever be out of the body. It stunk. A uniquely bitter and coppery stench.

“We’ve done all we can do. Now we wait for the signs,” his father said. He’d stopped crying, his face a stern mask again. He no longer looked at the body. He’d made peace with it, which made Marq want to cry. Scream. Punch his father and the rest of the group.

“It’s after midnight. It’s done. She won’t hurt us any longer,” another person said behind Marq. he didn’t know who and it didn’t really matter. They were all the same. Dressed the same. Talked the same. Thought the same.

She’d never hurt anyone, Marq thought. She’d been selected randomly. Or had she?

His father had made it seem like their dark god had chosen her for this specific sacrifice, but Marq knew she’d begun to question his authority. His preachings. The things he said had been passed down from the main group and what Natas wanted from their small congregation.

No one moved despite the proclamation it was over.

Marq knew his father had selected her. This was firmly on his shoulders. He’d had no vision. He hadn’t consulted anyone above him and definitely not had a vision or a sign from their dark god.

He’d done it on his own because he didn’t like being questioned by anyone. Even her.

“We’ll reconvene in two nights. At midnight. In the next spot,” his father said. “Look for the encrypted email by dinner time tomorrow.”

This seemed to satisfy the group, who began to move slowly away, no one glancing at her body as it looked to be finally cooled.

“Be careful,” his father said. “This storm is going to be rough the next day or so.”

One of the women stopped. “What if we can’t reach the next meeting place because of the snow?”

His father looked angry. He waved his hand. “Natas has never hindered our meetings. Do you doubt he’d do it now?”

The threat was obvious. The woman glanced at the body, shivered, and walked away.

Marq needed a hot shower so he could wash the blood off of his hands. So he could cry and properly grieve for her loss and what he’d had to do.

“Let’s go before the authorities come and find you standing over your mother with her blood on you,” his father said. “Hungry?”

MARQ HAD OFF FROM SCHOOL the next day and spent it in bed, coming out only when he knew his father had gone to work despite the weather.

He was about to call out to his mother when he realized what had happened last night. What he’d done.

The rest of the day he listened for the sounds of his father coming home early because of the storm, or the police banging on the door to arrest him.

It was his father who came home just after dark, knocking on Marq’s door. “Time for dinner.”

Marq tried to relax. Be confident. Be cheery if possible. His father wouldn’t stand for weakness or questions.

What was done was done now.

Marq went into the kitchen, where his father was seated at the table, arms crossed.

“What’s for dinner?” Marq asked.

His father frowned. “With her gone it falls to you to be the housewife.”

Marq thought he was kidding. I’m nearly a man.