Take a good look at that old photo. There’s something in the background, isn’t there? A shadow, a trick of the light, tree branches reaching for the happy family posing in front of the old playground. You pretend that it isn’t there. Your mind rebels at the idea, yet it cannot deny what your eyes show you. There is definitely something there. Or rather, someone.
To these mortals, life is a fleeting thing. They are born, they give birth, they die. Perhaps that is why they live so vividly. In their dull and dreary everyday lives, they wish so desperately for mystery, excitement, danger, that they dream these things into existence. They tell each other stories of brutal violence, of killings and torture, of urban legends and mysteries unsolved, and they long for the thrill of the chase, the exhilaration of cold steel against their throat, and the pure joy of living one step away from death.
I am, as always, happy to oblige. The killing that I once found so distasteful, makes perfect sense now, like the last chord of a symphony. It gives the police something to do; something more interesting than speeding tickets and public drunkenness. The ciphers were entertaining too. Of course, I had to add some deliberate misspellings; not the kind of mistake I would make, but rather the mistakes that they thought the monster they were looking for would make.
The police have a suspect. He fits their profile: angry, lonely man, without a job, but with a history of sexual assault. All evidence seems to point to him: the book, the watch, the weapons, the typwriter. And yet they cannot convict him. The facts add up, almost, but not quite. They detain him, and the cryptic letters stop. I don’t send more until they release him. I feel no remorse for framing such a man. He may not be guilty of this, but he is guilty of a great number of other things.
Apart from my games, there is little to divert me. The days have long since turned into a dreary hell; I long for release, yet I do not wish to end it myself. Not like he did all those years ago. These thoughts spill into my work: “Sick of living/unwilling to die”. So much honesty in the lies. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not already dead, faded from life into legend, like the heroes of old. But the heroes are dead, and I, the last of the monsters, live on.
The prime suspect dies. I put an end to one game and find new ones to occupy myself with. One I am particularly proud of. No violence this time, I will not have it said that I am unoriginal. Nor am I as hopelessly outdated as my age would suggest. As I have little else to do, I read up on popular culture, on these oddly popular Harry Potter novels, on "goffik" culture and "emo" bands, and decide to put my knowledge to the test. The internet is a wonderful thing; such a brilliant way to remain anonymous while sowing the seeds of mystery. The story I give them is perfect, though my father the linguist would be livid, should he ever read it. No-one can seem to decide whether it is an elaborate hoax or if the whole thing is genuine. Various authors try to take credit for the story before they are exposed as frauds, and I wonder with amusement whether they would be so eager to take credit for my other handiwork. The mystery remains. The conspiracy theories get wilder. All these people, dreaming of some grand plot, some bigger meaning behind this. I leave them to dream in peace. They want the mystery, the tantalising possibilities, more than they want the solution.
But there is always time for one more game. No cipher this time; the answer is hidden in plain sight. A message to the world, a neon sign for those who know what to look for. It’s in the signature, the cross and the circle, almost like an eight-pointed star. It’s in between the lines of this story. If you look closely, there is someone familiar in the background. Me.