Warm water runs over my hands, the stream going down the drain a ghastly red shade. I sigh, slightly annoyed my nails aren't short enough to keep the blood from clotting underneath. I turn absentmindedly to the paper towel rack, which is only holding the last of the cardboard. My body stands there like a statue as I stupidly glare at the brown substance. My hands are dripping on the floor as I dread stepping into another grocery store.This time I'll have to drive six hours from here to get the essentials. My shoulders hunch, as I slowly make my way to the old couch with a gramma floral pattern. It smells of bleach and a hint of my father's cologne on the arm rest where his face would lay at night. My mouth opens on its own accord, the scent is too much for me to bare much more of. Shaking my head slightly, I decide to turn on the news for a distraction from the dark path my mind was going to. Grey fuzz turns into animated pixels as I see a perky blonde. The afternoon broadcast shows my face, again, as the number of homicides in the state of Rhode Island is an astonishing 33, 28 of which is courtesy of a seventeen year old orphan.
"Rayna Odin, daughter of late Mr. and Mrs. Timone Odin, has last been seen leaving the small town of Lilith, New Jersey. Please, if you see her, do not approach her. She is dangerous, with no remorse for those around her. Call emergency services immediately.”
I let out a loud, cackling laugh as the picture of me leaving my last adventure flashes slowly across the screen. Does my side profile really look that bad? Giggling once more, I shrug and reach for the necklace tucked securely between my breasts. My head slightly turns towards the door to my right, a smile slowly etches its way onto my face. No emotion, no obstacles. The key is the answer, and the answer is always the bigger weapon.
“Darling Rayna, would you come join us in the foyer?” My mom’s light footsteps echo through the floor into my room downstairs. Making my way up the old wooden boards, I run my fingers along the shelves and play with the grey dust that coats my fingers. I make a note to clean them later as my mom's blue eyes appear in front of me. She takes my hand without words and leads me slowly into the room I never wander into. On the floor is a bucket of mucky water and a towel that's streaked in gunpowder and blood. My nose turns up in disgust as my foot subconsciously inches back. My father is quick to anticipate my next move as he hops up from the floor and pulls me towards him.
"My sweet, it is time you learn of what we do."
A smile is plastered across his face, and all of me wants to smile back, but instead I shudder and turn my head towards the floor.
My fingers ache from pulling the trigger. Looking to my left, my mom has her chin settled atop the gun as she aims it with her right eye. I giggle at how serious she's being.
"Momma, you do know that this won't actually kill them, right?"
Her head snaps towards me, green eyes wide and piercing. A blonde clip of hair falls over her goggles, giving her a crazy look.
"It's better to pretend."
My eyebrows furrow as my dad jumps over the makeshift bunker. His brown hair is tousled, deep brown eyes almost black. He didn't shave this morning, so his chin is littered lightly in stubble. It makes him look older, but also more rugged. He smirks at my mother, an evil glint evident. She returns it as they go back to their post, fingers moving fast against the cold metal.
"This here is a list of the criminals left to kill. This does not mean that your first murder will be soon, but if anything were to happen to us.... Our family legacy lies with you."
My throat closes up, the paper with names on both the front and back feels foreign on my skin. They can't expect to me take a life for them. That isn't who I am.
Gun shots. That's the sound that broke me from daze as my mom's hand suddenly slips from my fingers. She falls to the floor in a heap, blood trickling down the side of her mouth into her blonde curls. A hole is fresh in the middle of her temple. My dad rushes to her side, but his back arches in pain as a bullet, too, hits its target. He falls heavily onto
the floor at my mom's head. I wait for the impact of the bullet to reach me, but instead the cold barrel of a gun is placed just under my jaw.
"If you knew what was good for you, you'd hand me the list and come quietly."
I know that voice.
My brother's name tips off the edge of my tongue. Disgust mixed with relief creeps into my body as I welcome the familiar presence.
"HOW CAN YOU JUST LEAVE? How can you just pack up your bag and leave us like this? Lucian, think about what you're doing!"
"I'm sorry.. I have to be a father to my child, even if that means leaving my own. Tell Rayna I love her, and that one day I will come back to be a real brother. Don't make this harder than it has to be, please, I'm sorry."
He kisses his mom on the cheek, and pats his old man on the back. The click of the door closing has rung in Rayna's ears since she was 6. She didn't get the chance to see the knife hooked under his shirt hem, or the glock strapped to his ankle.
"It's about time I teach you the real way run this family business. There's no room to spare a big family reunion, so let's get straight to it, shall we? Mother and father were so reckless, so.... What's the word? Ahh.. yes. Inexperienced. Send their son to do their dirty work, while their daughter sits at home twiddling her thumbs. But that is going to end right now. From this point on, you're on the run. Did they ever tell you what that key around your neck goes to?"
My fingers rise on their own accord and grip the cold silver.
"They said it was a family heirloom."
His loud bustling laugh fills the room. His hand grabs the chain and rips it off my neck in the next second. I gasp and reach to take it back, but stop short as the pressure of the barrel increases in my jugular. Bad move.
"Nine months from now, I expect you to be fully equipped to live on your own, kill the people assigned to you, and report back on a timely basis. Understood?"
Thinking back now, I wouldn't have thought
today would be my last kill. As I pull up to an older house with white shutters, I bite my lip. The house looks familiar, but I can't put my finger on why. My hand reaches for my knife, the cold metal easing what's left of my unease.
The lock on the door opens too easily, sad yet immensely time saving for an intruder like me. Climb the stairs, second room on the left. He sleeps during the day since he works all night, so it should be an easy kill.
Easing the door open, my heart drops into my stomach at the sight in front of me.
My brother is sitting calmly at the end of his bed, a shotgun barrel aimed at his head.
"They always planned to kill us. When they wrote the list of people they wanted to hunt down, our names were always the last two. I think maybe after killing that many people, you lose sight of yourself, so killing your own flesh and blood is a little easier. They asked me to murder them the day they gave you the list, to train you to be like them so after they died, all their hard work didn't go down the drain. I did it, you're better than any of us ever were. Are you satisfied with who you've become? Do you like being a killer? I don't. I never did but it was hunt or be hunted. So my proposition for you right here, right now, is we both pull the trigger and kill the other. Or, you can take this shotgun and kill me and continue your own legacy. You can marry and have kids with someone and teach them everything I've taught you. It's in your hands."
I stand frozen as his words sink in. My mind was made before he even finished speaking.
I nod my head, kiss him on the cheek and put my finger on the trigger. Two gun shots rang out into the air, and the soft clatter of a key falling to the ground echoes in the silence.