He watches her from the other side of the dance floor. He likes the way the lights glinted off of her long, curly hair. He admires how she dances, as if she didn’t care who was watching.
It was then, that he knew he has to have her. He continues to watch her as he makes his way towards her, his excitement growing the closer that he got. He can see the sweat beading on her skin, hitting the lights and almost looking like stars. She is definitely a star and he knew it would be easy to take her.
He walks over to her, smiling his large, toothy-white smile. She coyly matches his smile with her own. He whispers to her something about a drink and before he knew it she was at the bar with him ordering a gin and tonic. It would be easier if she were tipsy, he knew. Her name is Jennifer, she says as he listens intently as she tells him about her job writing copy for a small law firm and how she has moved to the city recently to take it. Her mother always worried about her, but she felt it was the best decision for her own life. In another instance, he knows that he could like her, maybe even become fond of her, but that all was far from what he has planned.
When she excuses herself to use the bathroom, he knows that this would be his chance. He slips the baggie containing the crushed sleeping pills seamlessly into his hand and with one brief movement, pours its contents into her glass. He’s made sure it wasn’t enough to knock her out, but just enough to make her loopy enough to handle easier.
Within thirty minutes they are out in the cab, her head groggily resting on his shoulder.
“My girlfriend, always having one too many,” he says to the cabbie. “55 West Avenue, please,” he adds as he puts his arm around Jennifer, drawing her closer to him.
“Ya got it buddy.”
The ride to his apartment is uneventful. Jennifer is mostly unaware what is going on around her or what she’s about to walk into while he on the other hand, is smiling to himself thinking that he has finally got exactly what has been driving him to insanity for months. There is an inner peace that is taking such a strong hold over him, that he no longer feels even remotely connected to the girl that calls herself Jennifer and who writes copy for a boss that she secretly calls “Fat Man in Little Clothes.” He chuckles. If only she knew.
When the cab pulls up to his apartment, he pays the fair and with an air of genuine love, takes Jennifer out of the cab, cradling her in his arms. He walks up the stone steps into the foyer of his brownstone, the collar of his gray suit jacket rubbed against Jennifer’s face, causing her to wake up slightly. She’s still to groggy to figure out where she is, all she knows is that she feels like she’s flying. He walks with her into his bedroom, past his bed and into the small alcove that hides the door to his basement. He sets her down, opening the door and flicking on the burnt orange light that casts the basement in an almost dingy glow. Picking her back up, he walks with her down the creaking staircase and sets her on the ground. He wants to chain her, but there is more to be done before he commits her to the floor.
Leaning down, he gets as close to her as he has yet dared to. He can barely contain his excitement as he runs his fingers down her arms, his tongue down her neck, tasting a mixture of her perfume and her sweat. His own skin is on fire. He knows consuming her will be his greatest feat. He had always wanted to a woman, one that he could be—one that he could experience from the prime of her stolen youth. He wants to enjoy every moment that he can with her before she becomes him.
He strips her of her clothes, taking her naked body and placing it in the bathtub that he had filled with lavender soap. He gently and almost tenderly washes her long hair and every part of her skin. Her beautiful skin…that he just cannot stop himself from touching. He wraps her body in a plush towel that he had bought that morning. He lays her on the floor of the bathroom. Jennifer begins to become more aware and frightened of what is going on around her. She knows she is no longer at the club and she knows that this man with the kind smile is doing things to her that she wouldn’t consent to otherwise. She tries to lift herself from the floor, but her movements are too much for her and she falls back down. It is then she realizes how little she had drunk and how drunk she actually feels. She knows that he must have given her something.
She can do nothing, but watch him as she takes off his own suit, stripping down to the boxer briefs underneath it. She swallows, terrified about what she knows will come next. He’ll rape me, she thinks, rape me and maybe if I’m lucky that’s all. I can live with that. I just don’t want to die here tonight. Oh God, please don’t let me die!
When he returns to her, he is naked. She can’t be sure but as she looks at him his face to her almost looks loose, almost like his eyes no longer fit where they belong. He lifts her back up and brings her back to the basement where he lays her on the floor. He stands over her, taking every inch of her in. From a nearby desk he takes out his kit, armed with everything that he is going to need. Beside her, he kneels taking out vials of more drugs and a variety of knives that he had so excitedly purchased over the summer as he waited for her.
“Rape me,” she manages hoarsely, “just do it. Just please don’t kill me.” She tries to get up again, but she falls back down.
He laughs, caressing the back of her neck with his fingers. He’s done it so many times before, that he it’s almost second nature. “I have no interest in…that.” Her large oval eyes grow even wider in terror. “What do you want?”
He says nothing as he leans back down beside her, grabbing each strand of her long hair and tying it into a bun on top of her head. She slaps at him, but there is no real threat. Whatever he has given her has made her slow and weak. She watches him and his face as it loosens in front of her. In horror, she watches as she realizes he has to be wearing a mask, a mask made of flesh because he no longer resembles the tall, handsome man that she talked to at the bar.
He runs his fingers over her face, along her jaw. He rolls her to him so that she is on her side and running his fingers down the back of her neck. With his growing excitement, his pointer finger beings to grow, elongating into something all together different. His nail disappears as it comes to a point, a point sharp enough to cut her with ease. He runs his finger down the base of her neck, stopping once he comes to her back.
She’s screaming from the most indescribable pain that she has ever experienced in her young life. He’s skinning her. She’s fighting the urge to pass out, to succumb to him. She’s fighting the drugs and the one drink she had. She slapping at him with her arms as a cold, damp sweat permeates her body, sending it into the beginnings of shock. She finally reaches up past him and grabs his face and she pulls. She pulls as hard as she can.
He screams as she watches the flesh of his face begin to come off in her hand. He falls backward, causing the rest of him to come off into her clenched hand. For a moment all she can do is lay there, holding the very flesh of a man that is growing cold in her grasp. Eventually she sits up, throwing the suit of torn flesh to the floor. She looks at the man, who is nothing like what he was in the bar. He reeks of death and rotten earth, his skin a dull, sunken gray. He’s not moving; his breath shallow as she wobbly stands and walks over to him, unsure of what exactly happened.
His eyes are vacant and look almost through her. She throws up next to him, his stench so unbearable. She begins to run, she isn’t sure what for, but she knows that’s what she has to do. She grabs a phone from the house as she runs. She’s only halfway towards the front door when she smells the awful stench of the man again. Another one is in front of her, three times his size and without a suit of skin. This one looks at her as he whiffs the air and pushes past her. He’s uninterested in her. She makes it to the front door and is up nine blocks before the police find her on the sidewalk, gasping for air and throwing up.
A young officer picks her up, wrapping her in a blanket and puts her in the back of the car. He doesn’t believe her when she tells him the story of the man at the bar whose skin she ripped off. He tells her she needs to go to the emergency room for the cut on her neck. She agrees. He makes a note that she will need a psychiatric evaluation and puts her in with his boss, Stanley, a man who has lived in Fairbanks his entire life and takes no bullshit from anyone while the rest went to check out the house that Jennifer came out of.
Stanly thanks the young officer and gets into the squad car. “So you ripped off some guy’s skin?”
“I know it sounds crazy. I know it does and I swear I don’t do drugs, but that is what happened,” she blurts out, frustrated. She knows what she saw.
“You’re not crazy.” The officer turns down several streets. “I believe you.”
“Yeah, when you’ve worked this city as long as I have you’ve seen everything.” He makes two more turns. “Even strange, unexplainable things.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. What was he?”
“A Skin Walker.”
“What the fuck?” She lays down in the backseat, feeling a new wave of vomit fighting its way up.
“Leftover people from a different time. We had a couple pass through before, but this was the first one that actually picked one to take.” He stops the car.
She shoots back up. “Take for what? Why have you stopped?”
“For your skin. He wanted to become you and had he not waited so long he probably would have. He would have skinned you as you died slowly from the trauma and then he would have worn you. Only, your flesh would have become him and no one would have known it wasn’t you.” He reaches into his glove box, taking out a box and a pair of black gloves. He puts on the gloves. “He was stupid. He should have changed over a year ago and not waited so long. He made it easy for you to escape. He was too weak.”
She tries to pull at the doors that won’t unlock, but he’s bigger and stronger than she is. He injects her with the syringe he has always kept with him and he finishes what he brother had started hours before. The next morning, Jennifer walks out of the officer’s apartment and down the street without a second thought to the burnt body of a man being discovered only a few blocks away.