Rose was tired. She was more tired than she could ever remember being. Sleep was elusive right now; it was just beyond her, yet she could not grasp it. It was one of those kinds of tired where you could fall down from exhaustion, yet no matter what, you couldn’t get to sleep.
Having a gaping wound on her right upper thigh probably didn’t help either. Rose looked down at the blood as it pooled around her feet on the cold, cement floor. The rope that bound them was so soaked in blood that it looked black. Her hands were also bound with the same skin-cutting rope, tied behind her back to some sort of pole. Her head hung forward with her dark hair lank and dirty in her eyes.
Rose felt like enough was enough. The stranger that kidnapped her had held her prisoner in this basement-like prison for what felt like ages, but was realistically three days now. She knew that it was going to happen soon; she would die. Her best bet was that it happened before he could get to her again. The last time he was down here with her, he teased and tortured her with a sharp bowie knife. She got the feeling that he wasn’t going to actually use it at the time. When the stranger grazed the dull side of the knife along her left thigh, he received somewhat of a shock when she purposefully squeezed her right thigh against. It easily sliced through her flesh, causing damage, but not hitting the artery like she had hoped. The stranger looked at her in shock, called her a crazy bitch and stormed up the stairs. Now she watched as the blood ran lighter out of the flayed skin and started to clot somewhat.
Hunger and dehydration began to get to Rose the day before. She started to hallucinate. She had always heard about the secrets of her family tribe, but now it seemed those ancestors were before her validating everything she never believed. Rose knew that her grandfather had been the chief of a small tribe of Native Americans. She never paid much attention to any of it, but her grandmother told the tales to anyone who would listen. Grandmother was the one who came to Rose in what she assumed to be delirious images. She spoke of the old traditions – the letting of blood and the trials to be become a man. She spoke of how the members of the tribe would name their young – at two weeks old, the baby was left in a woven cradle outside the ring of teepees, and that night a spirit would come to the mother and whisper the child’s name into her ear during her sleep. If the baby lived and was not taken by the spirits, the mother would wake the next morning and gather up her child, and all the tribe members would look upon it and forever call it by the name the mother dreamed. If the baby was not there or not alive in the morning, then the spirits loved it too much to expose it to the evils of the earth and took it back to the spirit world. The tribe must never forget the baby, for it still has a name. They must forever send up smoke in remembrance, lest the spirit of the child get angry and take another newborn.
Rose never knew if she believed all of this, but at this point, it seemed to make sense to her. After all, Grandmother always told her that her name meant so much more than anyone could imagine. Looking down at her wound, trying to will it to bleed more, she thought about the story of her naming. Her mother had always told her that she was named after an old family friend, but Rose never knew of this other person who shared her name. Grandmother told her that it was whispered in her mother’s ear, even though as a two-week old baby she was never left in a woven cradle outdoors. She told her that since she was the first baby of their tribe to not be put through the ritual, things would be a little different for her. As far as what that difference was, Rose never knew. Grandmother died before Rose was a teenager and she never finished the tale.
Rose looked up when she heard the whispering. She shook her head from side to side to clear it a little, but Grandmother still stood in front of her. She was smiling peacefully and moving her hands around as if telling a story. Rose saw her lips moving and just faintly heard her voice. It grew louder, though still faint.
“Rose, Rose….you must listen….you must learn….” Grandmother said in her soft, soothing voice.
Not knowing what else to do, Rose answered
“I’m listening, Grandmother,” she sighed, “I’m listening.”
The urge had been in him for awhile now. It started some years ago, but he ignored it. Always muddling through life, working crappy part-time jobs, just barely getting by; he was never happy. He tried to figure out what it would take to make him happy, though deep down, he knew. The first time he shed another person’s blood, the stress and hopelessness of his meager life melted away. That girl was his first – he was no longer a virgin to blood-letting. He drank their blood, thinking himself some kind of vampire, though not in the usual sense. The peace lasted a few weeks, maybe a month – and then the urge came back stronger than before. He was mad with desire to be more than he really was – a homicidal maniac who was merely human.
He found ways to get around being caught – homeless girls, hookers and the like quenched his thirst for a time. After about a year of killing them, he started to feel like their blood was a waste. It wasn’t good enough for him; it tasted spoiled. He needed more – girls with good blood. Those who were pure, untouched by the evils of this world. He needed innocence.
He almost got caught when he went after a local co-ed. She was a little too popular, and that being his first time with a wholesome girl, he was sloppy. Luckily, a few months after her body was discovered, a recently imprisoned inmate confessed to the crime. The cops were ready to close the case and the prisoner was tried and convicted. He knew he got off easy and vowed to never make the same mistake again.
He had to get a little bit craftier. He had to look around, find a good girl who wouldn’t be missed. The urge was getting stronger and he couldn’t wait much longer. Driving down the highway one night, he saw a sign for the local science museum. He made it a point to visit the next day, knowing that all sorts of people worked at those kinds of places. He couldn’t believe it when he went, it couldn’t be this easy – his first trip in and he found the perfect good girl. She worked the counter at the tiny gift shop in the museum. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He knew his staring would be ominous, so he stood in front of a display that sold rocks and minerals by the bag. It had a reflective backing, so while pretending to choose his selections wisely, he watched the girl intently.
She was obviously part Native American. She had dark, thick hair, and large eyes that were darker than the night. Her skin was naturally tanned without a blemish to mar it. She looked young, nineteen or twenty, maybe. She was working alone. He walked to the counter with his bag filled, pulling out his wallet. She smiled and asked him the usual, “did you find everything okay?” type of questions. He noticed that she had a beaded necklace on – one of those hand-made, colorful items that you could only get at these kinds of shops. It was in the shape of a rose, formed with tiny seed beads. She noticed him eyeing it and she put her hand on it.
“Do you like it? We sell them here.” She twirled it around her finger. “None other like this, though.”
“It’s nice,” he commented. She smiled at him and pointed at her name badge.
“Rose,” she said, “Get it?”
“Ah,” he stammered, “very nice. Pretty name for a pretty girl.” The girl blushed a little and he knew she was the one.
He pulled his car around back after he left the museum. It closed at nine o’clock, so at eight thirty, he started to get anxious. He watched intently, waiting for her to step out, hoping he would get lucky and she would be alone again. A few minutes after closing, several employees came out, but she wasn’t among them. After waiting almost half an hour, he almost gave up, thinking he had just missed her. He reached for his keys to turn over the ignition when the back door opened and she stepped out – alone. He heart raced and hammered his ribs. After first making sure no one was around, he stepped out of his car. She kept walking, not paying any attention to the slamming car door. More proof of her innocence. He walked towards her and she suddenly turned towards him.
“Oh, it’s only you.” she said, looking relieved. “Was something wrong with your purchase? Because we’re closed for the night.”
She never even saw it coming. He had been hiding a rope behind his back – he jumped at her and wrenched himself behind her. She never had a chance to even scream – he wound the rope around her neck and squeezed until he was sure she had passed out, but wasn’t dead. There would time for that later. After shoving her into his backseat, he tied her up with the rope – hog-tied, really – and stuffed the bag of rocks that he had purchased earlier in her mouth. The drive back to his home was pure torture; he fought the desire to pull over and slice her just a little to taste her. But he wanted to wait, to make this one last.
He got her home and set her up in the basement, tying her ankles and wrists together separately and binding them to a pole. She was still out cold, so he decided he revive her. He left the bag of rocks in her mouth, so he could talk without listening to her screams, for he knew she would scream. They all did. He grabbed a spray bottle that held water for his ironing, and sprayed her in the face. After a few squirts, she started to move, and she slowly came around. Surprisingly, she didn’t make a sound, much less try to scream. She picked her head up and looked straight at him. Those eyes were so dark – he almost couldn’t resist. He thought he could smell her dark, sweet blood pulsing through her veins.
“No screams for me?” he asked her. She just looked at him, boring her eyes into his forehead.
“Well, Rose, we are going to be spending a little time together, it seems. You are quite an impressive girl…but didn’t anyone tell you not to talk to strangers?”
He picked up a sharpened bowie knife off of a near by table. Rose’s eyes grew huge, but she still managed to keep quiet. He was impressed; she didn’t even try to get out of her bonds. He pushed up the sleeve on her t-shirt, revealing a dark, muscular upper arm. He moved to the back of her and slowly brought the knife to her flesh. She jerked a little when he made a small incision – not too deep. He didn’t want her to bleed to death – yet. The blood welled to the surface quickly, and he could restrain himself no longer. He first stuck out his tongue and tried a small lick. It was delicious, just like he knew if would be. He grabbed her arm and attached his lips to the area around the cut. He suckled just like a baby kitten. He moaned while his sucking drew out more blood, caressing the cut with his tongue. This did make the girl whimper a little. Slowly but surely, the urge ebbed. This was the best tasting girl he had ever had; he knew he had to stop, so he could have more later on. He pulled away reluctantly and grabbed a bandage he had stuffed in his pocket. He wrapped this around her arm as best as he could and walked back around so she could see him. She looked a little defeated now, and this made him smile. Her head drooped forward and her chin almost touched her chest. She slowly raised her head, then her eyes, to look at him. What she saw was the smile of a psycho, teeth and lips red with her blood. She blacked out again and he laughed, fleeing up the stairs, locking the bolt on the door behind him.
“You were the first, my dear. The first to not be put outside. The first to not truly go through the ritual.” Rose listened to the embodied voice of her grandmother, her head hanging, her eyes closed, just listening.
“We knew that you were special. On the exact night of your two week birthday, your mother woke up screaming, crying for me. I was there to help with you, and you were in my arms when she cried for me. I put you in your cradle, and ran to her. She was sitting up in bed, shivering and sweating all at once. Her eyes were wide and blazing, like that of a mad woman.
“What is it, little du'u'?” I asked as I came to her and sat down on the bed. I called your mother du'u' from when she was small, she was always hopping around like a little rabbit!
“Mother, we have to change her name.” she told me. “It can’t be Rose. I should have put her through the ritual mother, I should have!”
“What is all this talk? Rose is a fine name! Do not believe these stories and rituals,” I told her, to try to put her at ease. In reality, I was concerned and needed to know what she meant.
“Tell me, du'u', why do you say this?”
“The dream, mother, I had the dream. The spirit came to me. It told me that because I named her Rose on my own, and did not put her through the ritual, that she will embody her name and it will be her curse.”
“Nonsense, daughter! You are having nervous dreams, what do the doctors call it? Post-pregnancy parting something or another…there is nothing wrong with that precious baby girl!”
“Mother, it was so real. I know it was real. I am so scared for her. Where is she?” Your mother started to look frantic, so I reassured her and told her I would go get you. When I walked into your room, you were sleeping peacefully in your cradle. I walked towards you and noticed something that wasn’t there before. You had a necklace around you – one shaped like a rose, made with tiny beads. I didn’t know how it got there, and I didn’t want to scare your mother anymore. I took you into her room and when she asked where it came from, I lied and told her I made it and placed it around you. I see you still wear that necklace. It is your namesake. In life I never knew what curse your name holds, but if I had known, I would have done what your mother wanted instead of talking her out of it. Your name would not be Rose, but it is and that will never change. When you die, my dear granddaughter, your spirit will not re-enter the realm where all others dwell. This is as a punishment from the spirit that was taken from me, the baby whose name I forgot and did not remember. That spirit became angrier when I didn’t make my daughter put her daughter through the ritual. Such continues the sad consequences of the future generations paying for the mistakes of the past generations. I am sorry, my granddaughter, for my mistakes and for having to say goodbye. I am not allowed to dwell here with you any longer. Do not fear death, for when you die, you will not truly be dead. You can have your revenge on this stranger. Goodbye granddaughter…..goodbye, Rose.”
Rose listened to her grandmother – or the words of what might just be her own delirium. She felt like she had nothing to lose at this point, having decided shortly after the stranger first drank her blood that she would rather die by her own hand than by his. Now, if what her grandmother said was true, then the key to her escape and her revenge was to die.
Rose had always been strong-willed. She hated for anyone to know that she was in pain. As a girl, she remembered breaking her wrist after falling off her bike. She had picked herself up from the ground, looked at her wrist bent into a funny shape, and simply walked into the house, holding it in front of her. Her mother had her back turned, washing dishes.
“Mom,” Rose said. Her mother turned around, took one look at the wrist and screamed. It always seemed that when everyone else was frantic over something, Rose was calm and serious. She was a sweet girl, never bad enough to warrant serious discipline; and as she became a young woman, those qualities stayed with her. Being raised with her mother and grandmother didn’t help – Grandmother was caring but overbearing and used every opportunity to smother Rose with her advice and old stories.
Rose did realize that she was very lucky, in some ways. Growing up without a father, or any male role model at all, was difficult. Grandmother was there to help, but she never talked about Rose’s father. Once, she told her that the reason was that it was too hard for Rose’s mother to hear about it. Rose did know that her father was a good man, quiet and kind, just like she was. He died when Rose’s mother was seven months pregnant - falling from a building he was doing construction on. Sometimes Rose wondered if her mother’s depression during those last months of pregnancy made her the way she was.
Now, as Rose hung from that pole, desperate for either rescue or death, she thought about all these things and more. In the last three days, the stranger had come down to the basement every few hours, made a small cut somewhere on her upper body, drank her blood for a few minutes, then bandaged her up and left. Twice he took the bag out of her mouth and gave her water. The last time he came, he toyed with opening a wound on her thigh, but she helped with that. His shock at this caused him to forget to gag her again, fleeing up the stairs. Rose got the idea that not being in control of that situation caused him to lose sight of what he was doing. She dreaded his return, not knowing if he would be crazier than before with anger at her. Rose knew what she needed to do, though after deciding earlier that she wouldn’t let him kill her, it was going to be very difficult. After being tied up for days with barely any water and not given a chance to relieve herself properly, Rose made the choice to not be made to feel ashamed and weak. If her grandmother had really been here and what she said was true, Rose would have her revenge, and this stranger had no idea what was in store for him. If she had to be honest with herself, she had no idea either.
When he bolted the door after leaving the girl, his mind reeled. He did want to cut her thigh, but he wanted to do it! That girl had purposefully pushed her thigh on his knife! What was she doing? This was his game – he made the rules and he moved the pieces – not her! Even though the urge to drink her blood was strong after she opened the wound, he had to flee. He had to think. He remembered that he forgot to gag her, but she wasn’t a screamer and he knew it would be alright. He so wanted to make this one last, but it seemed that maybe she needed to go sooner, so he could concentrate on finding another. After getting his fill of this girl, he knew he would have plenty of time to hunt and find the right one.
He made up his mind that he would do it tonight. He was full of anticipation of draining her of her sweet blood. Never had he had so much of such a good thing. He wondered what it would be like. Would he feel a sense of peace like he had never had? Would it be different from all the other girls when the last of her life was squeezed out of her, and into his wanting mouth? Would the urge abate for longer this time? That is what he hoped for, so he could have as much time as he needed to find his next girl.
He went to the garage to gather what he needed. The bowie knife was no longer an option; she had ruined that for him. He wanted to be in control of this last moment with her. Grabbing a pack of blue shop towels, he remembered the razor blades that were stored in his medicine cabinet. They had never been opened and he knew they would be sharp. Before leaving the garage, he grabbed a plastic mopping bucket. He headed for the bathroom. After gathering the last of his supplies, he saw his CD player out of the corner of his eye. Yanking the plug from the wall, he gathered it in his free arm. He knew what CD was in it and that made him even more confident. He crossed the kitchen and unbolted the basement door. His sick smile as he descended the stairs was a testament to the sadistic game he was about to play.
Rose heard the bolt being unlocked. She knew this was it and she made a quick, silent prayer to those who went before her to the spirit realm. She had to be brave; she had to do what must be done.
The stranger came down the stairs with various items in his arms. She watched him as he carefully set them down on the table, one by one. A CD player stereo, a pack of blue shop towels, a plastic bucket, and a small package wrapped in paper that she didn’t recognize. This is it, she thought to herself, I won’t give him the satisfaction of hearing my voice or knowing he is hurting me. The stranger turned and smiled at Rose.
“Well now, first things first,” he said as the picked up the bucket and towels, “Wouldn’t want to make a mess or waste anything, now would we?”
He bent down and lifted her feet. He loosened the ropes just a little, enough to fit them inside the bucket as it sat on the floor. Rose began to shake; she was getting an idea of why he was doing that. The stranger tore open the pack of towels and bunched them around the bucket.
“There now,” he said. “Waste not, want not!”
Rose panted in an attempt to calm her nerves – she didn’t want to shake. She didn’t want to give way to her fear. She settled down a little bit when he turned back to the table. He was fiddling around with the stereo and she presumed he was finding a plug behind the table. He leaned up and pushed a button on the display. Skipping through a few songs, he found the one he wanted. The stranger pushed play.
The opening chord of the guitar immediately gave away the song to Rose.
“People are strange, when you’re a stranger….” The lyrics began and he turned to face her. He was holding something in his hand, though it was too small for Rose to see.
“Wondering what this is?” he asked her. He opened his hand to reveal a single, small razor blade. She made no reaction to this and he was beyond being surprised. The bag of rocks he had used to gag her lay on the table next to his supplies, but she had never uttered a word. He moved toward Rose, examining her for places on her body that he had not cut yet. He was planning on starting slow and working his way up to the finale. Moving behind her, he raised the blade to the back of her neck where her hair had parted to fall on either side of her face. He made a horizontal slice, not minding if he cut her too deep this time. The blood flowed, dark and rich. As it cascaded down her neck, it ran down her back in small rivulets and soaked into her shirt and skirt.
“What was I thinking?” he wondered aloud. With a few deft slices of the blade, he had all of her clothes off. Rose shivered in the cold, dank air that surrounded her. Not being dressed allowed the blood to flow freely down her back, over her buttocks and eventually into the bucket she stood in. The only thing left on her body was the beaded necklace. Rose felt a tug as her reached around to pull it over her head, and she was totally naked. She wondered to herself if he meant to sexually assault her, but something inside told her that all he wanted was her blood, not her virginity. The slice in her neck didn’t hurt much; none of the cuts he made really did at first. Only later when they began to heal did they throb and sting – but this time she was sure there would be no later for her, or for him. She closed her eyes and silently left him to do his work, with The Doors blaring from the speakers of the stereo.
He finally decided on making a straight cut down the center of her torso, from the bottom of her neck to her navel. It wouldn’t be too deep, just enough to start the flow. He placed the blade on her skin and slowly moved it down, watching the garnet drops appear along the edges of the cut. The blood started to flow faster and it collected in her navel before spilling out and over the rest of her, into the bucket. The stranger placed his tongue at the bottom of the wound and let some of her blood flow into his mouth before moving his tongue vertically to the very top where the incision stopped. The girl picked her head up as he moved up, to give him the room he needed. When he came to a halt near her face, he looked into her eyes and smiled, her blood staining his teeth deep crimson. It was time.
The stranger moved away. Rose kept her head up, now interested in what he would do next. His back was turned and when he came back around, he held a new, fresh razor blade in his hand. He lifted it up in his fingers and moved toward her neck. She knew it was coming, so she tilted her head back slightly. The stranger wondered if he would ever find a more delicious, willing participant ever again. His hand shook ever so slightly as he pushed the blade into her neck. He made an angled slice on each side, under her jaw. Rose’s eyes bulged slightly and her head drooped as her life began to drain out of her. The stranger stepped back and watched as the bucket slowly filled. The girl picked her head up one last time, looked at him and whispered the words
“Don’t you love her madly? Wanna be her daddy? Don’t you love her as she’s walking out the door….like she did one thousand times before…”
There was a feeling like everything coming back at once. Like being at the fair, and all the sounds of the rides, children, and hawkers were very faint, then they are suddenly rushed into being extremely loud. It was like being at one end of a dark tunnel, then in the next instant being at the other lighted end, without even moving. She stirred without thinking. She sat up gingerly from lying in a heap face down on the cold floor of the basement; the rope that bound her wrists was cut, but her ankles were still tied to the pole. She looked around and found a razor blade on the floor, red blood crusting to it. She used this to saw through the rope that bound her ankles. Standing up, she looked around. It was almost completely dark and it was quiet, only the sound of Jim Morrison crooning his poetry. She looked down and noticed she was completely nude. She wondered why, then it all started coming back to her. Rose’s fingers flew to her throat. She felt the wounds on each side, her fingers entering them slightly. Pulling her hand away, she saw that no fresh blood was on her fingertips. The realization of what she was – what the curse was – suddenly dawned on her. Grandmother was right; she did embody her name. She rose.
She looked around for her clothes, and then remembering that they were cut and torn, she decided that that could wait. Rose turned towards the stairs that led out of the basement. The door at the top was slightly ajar; a small bit of light shining down. She climbed slowly. She reached the door and opened it, peeking around the edge. It was a small kitchen, outdated and slightly messy. No one was in it, so she moved forward, trying not to make a sound. Tip toeing across the tile, she moved to the entry way of the living room. A light showed in the hallway behind it and she headed that way, leaving flakey, dark brown foot prints on the carpet.
When she got close to the door where the light was, she paused, listening. She heard a strange slurping sound. Thinking of what it probably was, she furrowed her brow in anger. Quickly, Rose took her place in front of the door. It was a bathroom, and there, on the floor, sat the stranger, with his back turned to her. He didn’t even know she was there yet. He held the bucket, the one that her blood had flowed into, in his hands. He had his head back and his mouth on the rim of it, tilting it like a child drinking juice from a cup. Anger welled up in Rose. She had been quiet. She didn’t scream when he cut her. She didn’t make a sound when he sucked the blood from her opened flesh. She held her breath and bit her tongue when he sliced her throat with the razor blade. But she was tired of being silent.
With all her might, with every ounce of energy in her cold, dead body, Rose screamed. She screamed like a thousand panthers in unison. This was not a scream of anguish, but a scream of pure and utter rage. The stranger turned quickly, dropping his bucket, eyes wide and unbelieving. What stood before him was like nothing he had ever seen. The girl – she was here – she was alive, but that couldn’t be. He watched her die. He knew he had drained every drop of her blood, yet here she stood, screaming. She had never screamed before. Rose came for him, arms out and ready to attack. The stranger cowered and covered his head with his arms. He felt the searing pain of the girl’s finger nails clawing at him to pull his arms away. She finally had them in her grip and she pulled them away so hard that the stranger heard his wrists snap. Now his screams began, and hers stopped. She looked him in the eye while he fought against her and she smiled, and said to him, “First things first. We wouldn’t want to waste anything, now would we?”
Rose brought his fingers to her mouth, and without fully understanding why, she bit down and chewed. The stranger screamed louder as she made deft work of devouring the flesh from his bones. The more she gnawed, the more she realized that she actually hungered for his flesh. He fought against her constantly, but Rose had a strength she didn’t have in life. He would never be able to free himself from her grip. She squeezed his broken wrists harder and using her teeth, she began to peel away the flesh from his hand, a hand that still had her own dried blood on it.
It took Rose about an hour to devour the flesh off the parts of him that she wanted; his hands, feet, neck, and finally his back. She abandoned what was left of him in the bathroom, and licking her fingers, she headed back down to the basement. She heard the music still playing as she descended the stairs.
Rose walked over to the table and saw where he had set her rose necklace. She picked it up and placed it back around her neck. When she did, a feeling came over her. It was warmth and a kind of sadness, but familiar…she felt alive again. She wondered for a moment, and then removed the necklace. The feeling went away, replaced by a feeling of strength and a hunger deep in her stomach. Rose smiled to herself. Maybe this curse wouldn’t be so bad after all. This was going to be very interesting.
“Shake dreams from your hair, my pretty child, my sweet one, choose the day and choose the sign of your day, the day's divinity.”