I want to tell you about this amazing app I downloaded for my phone. Then, if you're still reading, I'll tell you about the Cutter.
It was a fortune telling app. Nothing spectacular, it would just show a little old lady with a crystal ball. She'd swirl her hand over the object as this creepy little tune would play over and over accompanied by the tinny sound of whistling wind and howling wolves.
I suppose she was intended to be a "Gypsy".
The woman had a computerized text-to-speech voice like so many things these days. It was set to a deep tone, with a thick accent. She sounded like she'd smoked a bit too much over the decades, and the accent would've gotten her a part in any old-timey cult horror flick.
"Ahhh, I see! I seeee! Yes, it ees all becomink clear to me..." she'd drone in that off-kilter voice that bordered between human and machine.
Then, your prediction... sort of like a horoscope... would appear in the screen. The voice would helpfully read it out for you.
"You vill come into a great sum of money! Yeeeess, I have fortold it!"
Kind of silly, really. I considered it a toy like any other application downloaded free off that special store. It quickly replaced the "lil' sucker" app as my most-used. That's the one where your screen looks like a full bottle of milk, and if you hold it at an angle and make sucking noises into the mic... eh... you know what? Forget it.
Anyway, it was all fun and games until the damned things started coming true. Not all of them, of course... at least not that I could tell. The time it told me I'd come into money? You guessed it.
My phone rang, and I answered to find I was talking to a pair of local radio DJs. They insisted I had called in to them, despite what I knew to be true. I figured it was some sort of on-air prank and decided to play along.
"Alright, if you guess the answer to today's BIG PRICK PUZZLER, you win!"
They called it that because the questions were always health or hospital related. You know, like a syringe prick.
This was uncanny, because I'd been working in a nursing home for the past three years. The question related to Alzheimer’s disease, and I snapped off the answer as soon as they were done reading the question.
"That's right!" the sound effects of clanging bells and flushing toilets emanated from the phone, "You've won the KICK 107.5 FM $107.50 giveaway! And since our last FIVE contestants answered incorrectly, that means the prize money has rolled over. Are you ready for this?"
I froze, equally jazzed and horrified.
"You just won $537.50!"
There was the money that the Universe decided I was due.
The only person I told about the app was my best friend, Meagan. She got so excited, I was sure she'd wet the floor.
"It really happened?" She clasped her hands over her mouth and stared at me, wide-eyed.
"I came into money!" I replied.
"That sounds unsanitary. Remind me never to ask you for change." She laughed, then dug around in her purse and retrieved her phone, "I want it, where do I get it?"
I directed Meagan to the proper place, and within moments she was running the program over and over again, her sweaty little hands grasping the phone tight as her eyes leered, unblinking, into her own tiny, digital magic mirror.
The program spoke its usual opening, then came out with a prediction.
"You vill meet a tall, dark, and handsome man!"
"Ooohh!" Meagan cooed.
"Ha ha! I thought the MONEY thing was clichéd."
"Shut up, don't jinx it!"
Her phone let out a small chirp, like an alert noise. After a second of giving the device a confused look, she turned the phone toward me expectantly.
"What's this part?"
I studied the image. It was a bird's eye view of the city, like Google Maps or something. At the center was a green dot that clearly represented our location.
"No idea," I stroked my chin, "I haven't gotten to that yet, I guess. It's some kind of GPS thing... did you switch apps?"
At the top corner of the map, a red dot moved into view.
"Now there's a red one," I waited as she turned the phone back to her own face and found the mote I'd referenced, "Like a destination, maybe. You switched apps."
We both put out toys away and got ready to go out for the night. There was a bar downtown where everyone knew us for all the wrong reasons, and if we didn't show up they'd have nothing to complain about tomorrow.
Meagan hailed a taxi as I hung by the building and smoked a cigarette. She hated the things, so I automatically knew which way was down-wind.
She couldn't have been more than twenty feet from me when it happened. She had just waved down a taxi, trying to look as adorable and needy as possible, when someone stepped out of the alley just beyond where she stood.
The man was tall. Dark. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt, and had something tied over his nose and mouth. He strolled up to Meagan like any pedestrian in a hurry to pass her by, but as he drew closer I noticed something out of the ordinary.
In his hand, there was a glimmering wedge of silver. A knife.
Before I could form any real thought on the matter, the man had quickly drawn that blade across Meagan's throat. As she crumpled to the sidewalk, more surprised the in pain, the man darted back into the alleyway he'd come from.
I screamed. The taxi driver took off with a screech. In covering the distance between my smoking spot and my friend's bleeding form, I retrieved my phone and began to dial 911.
"Meagan!" I shook her shoulder, "Meagan!!"
I rolled her onto her back, and as I did her head all but rolled free of her body. What was left of her neck, just sinew and spurting gore, allowed her pale, frozen face to turn in an unnatural direction.
Her phone had spilled out onto the pavement. On its screen, the red dot was quickly moving away from green.
The Police talked to me for hours... at least, I think they did as I hadn't thought to keep track of the time. I sat in a squad car and watched with horror as they set about covering the body, putting up tape, and marking anything that might be evidence.
It was like watching a colony of ants disassembling their massive prey.
They didn't want me to watch, but I couldn't be dissuaded. I felt like turning away would be allowing her dignity to go unprotected. At least this way I knew for sure they were being thorough... and respectful... I didn't want any battle-hardened cop standing over her to make some "clever" joke about her condition.
I told the Officer who interrogated me everything I knew... which was basically nothing. I told him about the phone, the dot that seemed to draw close, then flee after the murder, and he said he'd look into it. I insisted that he actually do so, as opposed to just saying it to make me feel better.
I took the subway home after that. I don't know how to explain it, but I was in no mood to hail a taxi cab now, and the idea of being around a large group of people actually made me feel safer. The way that cab driver took off... it drove home the idea that I was totally and completely alone at that point.
The bustle down there, below the streets, was indeed comforting. For all of these people, there was nothing to be concerned about... no hooded killer just above... they were oblivious and faceless. That allowed me to pretend I was the same.
I took out my phone and studied it as this great horde of mindless cattle, myself included, waited on the platform.
The fortune telling program seemed to work as normal. The only reason I hadn't taken a look at it earlier was the complete shock of what had just happened. I'd completely forgotten pretty much everything outside of the grisly murder scene.
"Ahhh, I see! I seeee! Yes, it ees all becomink clear to me..."
I looked for any watermark or other indication of who made the application.
"You vill meet a tall, dark, and handsome man!"
My blood ran cold, and I drew in a sharp breath. Around me, others cast a glimpse my way but remained uninvolved. That was the exact message Meagan had gotten, right before...
The phone chirped, and I mentally begged for it to do anything other than what I expected. To my disappointment, the screen switched to an over-head map view of the subway system. There, at the center, was the green dot. Me.
I quickly put the phone away and started surveying my surroundings frantically. Everyone was either looking toward the tracks, talking with each other, or consulting maps.
One man, across the sea of people, leaned against the stained white wall and locked eyes with me. His humorless face, his dead eyes, told me this MUST have been the man in the hood.
He put his own phone into the pocket of his sleeveless, army surplus jacket and took a step forward. I could see now why he had concealed his identity, as his arms... the entire length of both arms... sported fresh, heavy scars as if he'd repeatedly sliced himself either for fun or out of some psychosis.
As the subway train pulled in, there was a standard rush for the doors. Everyone wanted to get home, either after a long day's work, or just an extensive tour of the city. Feeling no need to be polite at this point, I shoved others out of the way as I bolted into the vehicle.
I tried to call 911 again, but my phone was locked out... all I could do was look at that desolate over-head map and watch the red dot coming closer to mine.
"Help!" I shrieked at the top of my lungs, "That man is a murderer!"
I trusted my finger toward the Cutter damningly. He had closed half the distance and was watching me through the window glass.
Nobody so much as looked my way. In fact, they made every effort to cast their eyes away. Toward posters, the floor, anywhere.
I watched as the Cutter entered the doors one compartment ahead of me. As the doors began to close with a pneumatic hiss, I made one final desperate move and flung myself through them, back out onto the platform.
The doors closed. I didn't see him come out after me. I'd won.
I once again mingled with the people who had just exited. I could easily wait for the next one, or better yet I'd just dial the Police from a pay phone. As soon as they had all appeared, everyone was gone once more.
I checked my phone.
The red dot hadn't moved.
Looking back over my shoulder, I saw the Cutter standing on the thin ledge across the tracks. I hadn't seen him leave because he'd pried open the opposite doorway.
With a leap, he was hauling himself up onto the platform again. I made a sprint for the stairwell, but he was faster. Almost as immediately as I had started running, he was nearly on top of me.
"Stop!" I wheeled around on my heels, a can of pepper spray in my fist.
He growled, drawing a nasty folding knife from his pocket. The painted handle displayed a forest scene with a buck raising its antlers before the Sun.
"You want to hurt me?" He gave a sick sort of grin and held out his wrist, "Is that what you want to do?"
The Cutter dragged his blade across the soft flesh of his wrist, drawing copious amounts of blood. He gave the crimson rivulets only the slightest glance before locking eyes with me once again.
"You can't hurt me."
He charged. The stream of pepper spray met his eyes, nose, and mouth as he let out a deep-throated scream. Apparently, I COULD hurt him.
The Cutter swiped at me blindly, his knife slicing the air as I exhaled it. I had unwittingly backed myself into a corner, between a series of tiled columns, and knew that it was only a matter of time before that streak of silver met its intended target.
I made an wild kick, cracking his testicles with the point of my shoe. It was a move that could've easily missed as I had no training as such, and the adrenaline haze had me more on the brink of passing out than performing the expected feats of strength.
The Cutter slumped a bit, but was largely unphased. I grasped at his fist, at the knife, with both hands. As he rained down punches with his free arm, knocking out teeth and shattering my cheek, I managed to pry his fingers apart just enough for the weapon to fall free.
The knife clattered to the ground, sending a sharp echo through the empty terminal. With the advantage of sight, I managed to pluck it from the floor as he clumsily groped through the grime.
Before I knew what I had done, the blade was stuck in his back.
It's not like the movies or television. When you kill someone... when you stab or shoot them in the chest or stomach... they don't just fall to the ground and die instantly.
The Cutter heaved a mix of blood and stomach contents onto the ground in great spans of red. He frantically attempted to draw the knife from his back, it it was in vein as he couldn't reach.
Finally, he crawled on hands and knees, like an infant, and slumped against one of the columns.
"Ahh..." he wheezed, the ground covered in his life fluids, "Ohh..."
One of his eyes had opened a bit, the swollen lids parting by virtue of size rather than due to his preference. That one, reddened, watering eye peered at me accusingly.
"What did I ever do to you?" he gurgled.
Confused, I looked down at my feet and spotted his smart phone.
The screen showed a top-down view of the subway system. There was a green dot where he was.
Mine was red.