Death at Pixie Forest (Short Horror Story)

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

The haunted fairground/carnival/theme park is a staple of American horror, and one that I’ve wanted to tackle since I first started writing scary stories.

But I’m curious. Why are we drawn to such stories? What is it about the carnival that lends itself to terror? Is it the abundance of masks and costumes, manufactured happiness disguising who knows what underneath? Is it the music, the sounds, the smells? The slice of Americana that is so easily twisted into something more sinister? Or is it the history and the culture? The traveling nature of the carny that makes them a breed apart, or the sideshows, galleries of grotesques to which we can’t help but be drawn?

Whatever it is, there’s no shortage of good creepy stories, from American Horror Story, to Abandoned By Disney, to Koontz’s Twilight Eyes, and so much more to recount. And now I submit my own humble entry.

Welcome back to Porton, that delightfully frightening slice of Hampton Roads. A good wholesome family is about to embark upon a full day at the local theme park, Pixie Forest. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, according to Pixie Forest’s history… everything.

Death At Pixie Forest

In 19XX, Pixie Forest was established in Porton, Va. The modest theme park was intended to be an answer to the stunning success of Walt Disney’s new Disneyland park in Southern California. Not long after Pixie Forest opened its gates, though, the owner was sued by the Disney for the unauthorized usage of copyrighted images. This was just the beginning of Pixie Forest’s unfortunate and tragic history.

*——-

“Are we all packed?” Richard asked as he stomped through the house. His eyes skimmed over every horizontal surface, and lingered over every cabinet door, willing himself to remember any potentially forgotten detail.

“Honey,” his wife, Madeline, sighed. “It’s a ten minute drive. If we forget anything, we can come back.”

“Yeah, I know,” Richard said. He sounded a little disappointed, like the event in question deserved a big, long, road trip. “I’m just excited.”

Maddy resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “I know, baby.”

“It’s not as good as when I was a kid, though.” Richard patted his pockets, checking for keys, wallet, tickets.

“Yes, because since the Disney lawsuit the park hasn’t been the same,” Maddy groaned.

“Well, yeah!” There was something not right about the level of passion in Richard’s eyes—they grew wide and his lower lip jutted out in a way unique to Richard that warned of impending storm conditions. “Alice in Wonderland at the Tea Room! Peter Pan and Captain Hook on the Pirate Ship! I mean it just wasn’t the same after they were forced to change the art!”

“Yes Rich,” Maddy agreed but without much enthusiasm.

Richard shook his head. “I just don’t see why they couldn’t just look the other way,” he said. He sighed and it was like watching him exhale years of simmering resentment. Richard’s face brightened and he smiled as he said, “Let’s go!”

“Um, honey?” Maddy asked.

“What?”

“Now you’re forgetting something,” she smiled.

“What? I thought you said…”

“The kids.”

“Oh!” Richard laughed.

Richard almost ran to the foot of the stairs. Family pictures hung in expensive frames on the wall all the way up the carpeted steps. “Sandy! Carl! Come on kids, we’re ready to go!”

“I cannot believe this is happening,” came the disgruntled voice of a teenage girl. A second later Sandy turned the corner looking every bit like she was being taken to an all-day dental appointment.

“Come on Sandy,” her younger brother teased. “Not like you got a hot date today or anything. Mitch Phearson dumped ya, remember?”

“Shut up, pus monster, before I push you down the stairs.”

“I’m a pus monster?” Carl snorted. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?”

“Enough!” Richard yelled. “Now, we are going to Pixie Forest, and we are going to have a good time. Is that clear?”

“Yes dad,” the kids answered in well-practiced unison.

*———

While Pixie Forest was initially sued for using imagery from Disney, the theme park borrowed a lot of ideas from the happiest place on earth.

Pixie Forest does lay claim to one innovation, though, that has become a staple at modern amusement parks. This, of course, is the custom of taking family pictures at the entrance to the park.

Supposedly the brainchild of Rutherford P. Wilkerson—the original owner of Pixie Forest—the practice began when he started taking promotional shots of families about to start their day of fun among the pixies. Originally the pictures were only meant for brochures, but when one young mother asked if she could have a copy of one of the pictures, Rutherford saw the potential for profits and hired a dozen fledgling photographers. He had a dark room built just inside the ticket booths, and even put a picturesque fountain up with a statue of Pixie Peter and Pixie Paula, the park’s mascots, for a nice backdrop.

After the events of 19XX, references to Pixie Forest’s role in the history of ticket booth photography was stricken from all promotional material.

The body count was too high.

*———-

“Can we get one more?” Maddy asked. Her words sent the two teenagers on either side of her into fits. Even Richard looked nonplussed.

“Come on, Mom!” Carl groaned. Sandy clucked her tongue and rolled her eyes.

“Don’t start, you two,” the mother hissed through her plastered smile. She turned her head back to the photographer. “So how about it?”

“Sure thing, ma’am,” he said. He was young with a face full of pimples and a mouth full of shiny metal braces. His bright, nervous eyes kept flitting over to Sandy who made a point of pretending not to notice.

“Okay everyone, let’s get real close together one more time. No… closer—like you like each other. And smiles. Now everyone say PIXIE!” There was a click and a whir before the teen let the camera dangle from the strap around his neck.

He materialized a clipboard seemingly from nowhere and handed it to Maddy. “There ya go, ma’am,” he said. “If you can just fill out a little bit of information for us?”

“No problem,” Maddy smiled before scribbling in a few of the blocks.

The photographer tore a slip of paper off and handed it to her. “Just bring that to the photo hut after 4:00 pm, and you can purchase this great family memory for a very reasonable price.”

The words were obviously scripted and practiced, coming out in a stilted monotone. But the kid finished strong with a wide, glistening, smile.

Answering with a practiced smile of her own, Maddy pocketed the slip of paper and thanked the boy.

No longer restrained by photo ops, Richard practically skipped over to the closest kiosk, plucked out one of the glossy park maps, and holding it aloft, said, “So what do we want to do first?”

“How about a balloon animal?” an unfamiliar voice answered, forcing the whole family to turn on their heels.

The figure was tall, and lean, and wore a green outfit that was supposed to look like it was made out of giant leaves. The costume sported wire and plastic wings that attempted to look gossamer in nature, and the entire head was a large goofy mask with a broad grin.

It was Pixie Peter, and he was lugging behind him a balloon cart.

“I can do just about anything you could imagine,” Pixie Peter assured them. “A pretty flower for the lovely young girl, or perhaps a sword for the strapping young lad here?”

“What, do I look ten?” Carl snapped indignantly. “Get lost, Bozo.”

Maddy gasped. “Carl!” she snapped at him before quickly turning her attention to Pixie Peter. “I’m so sorry,” she apologized with whatever grace she could muster, “But I think we’ll pass.”

“Enjoy your stay at Pixie Forest,” Pixie Peter said with well-rehearsed cheerfulness and a slight bow.

Maddy flashed the costumed balloon-man another apologetic smile before yanking her son away from the cart. Pixie Peter looked on after the family as the mother lectured the teenaged boy. The father and daughter put a little space between themselves and the angry mother as they walked away, and who could blame them? She was nearly blind with rage as she hissed her tirade at the boy.

Soon the family was almost indistinguishable from the rest of the crowd. Pixie Peter thought he saw something flutter out of the angry mother’s pocket, but he couldn’t be sure. And then they were gone, swallowed up by the park.

*——-

Construction of “The Mad Mouse” was supposed to mark Pixie Forest’s ascension to the big leagues as far as theme parks were concerned.

While Pixie Forest prided itself as the first real theme park in Virginia, the 70’s saw construction of two power houses that would make Wilkerson’s attempt to challenge Disney look like an enthusiastic playground.

King’s Dominion and Busch Gardens were both backed by big money interests and were managed by people with experience in successful amusement parks. They were bigger, more aesthetically pleasing, and boasted thrill rides the likes of which were never before seen in Pixie Forest.

Wilkerson was faced with the reality that he would have to go deeper in the red to construct the kinds of rides the new generation of park goer was looking for. It was that or shutter the doors to Pixie Forest for good.

The Mad Mouse roller coaster was the first of a series of rides planned to revitalize the ailing park. At twenty-four deaths it also has the distinction of being Pixie Forest’s deadliest attraction. Along with the human casualties, the Mad Mouse also resulted in a thirty-six month long closure, and the changing of park ownership from Wilkerson to a group of local businessmen calling themselves the Hampton Roads Entertainment Group.

*——-

“That’s not a roller coaster,” Carl whined. “That’s a kiddie ride!”

Richard stared up at the twisted metal loops and tracks painted in brilliant hues of purple and yellow. “You’d think that, huh?”

“It does look pretty small, dad,” Sandy admitted. She sounded very much like agreeing with her little brother was the most painful thing she had done that week.

“Looks can be deceiving,” Richard sang through an impish grin. Maddy just stood back a few steps and watched in bemusement.

It was already hot, no surprise for Virginia in the summer. Maddy could feel the sweat pasting her top to her skin, she’d already drained her water bottle, and it wasn’t even lunch time yet.

She was put off by her husband’s enthusiasm; this was so unlike him. But as the family slowly made its way through the queue, her normally reserved husband was bubbling with child-like glee. While she didn’t voice her opinion, Maddy found herself slowly siding with the kids. Like them, she wanted to just go home and leave the low-rent amusement park permanently behind them.

However, when it came to the roller coaster, Maddy realized she did agree with her husband.

The admittedly small looking roller coaster looked terrifying. The cramped cars clacked quickly over creaking tracks. It screamed back and forth, yanking itself around one switch-back after another. The turns were so sharp at one point Maddy was certain a car carrying an overweight man in a loud Hawaiian shirt was going to rip itself off of the track and go hurtling thirty feet to the baking asphalt below.

They were on the aluminum steps leading up to the loading area now. Maddy’s pulse quickened.

Clack-clack-clack.

Was it going faster? It seemed like it was going faster. Maddy’s eyes were locked on to the brilliantly colored cars as they shuddered back and forth in a blur.

Are they supposed to tilt that much through the turns?

A scream pierced the air and Maddy’s fingers dug into Richard’s arm as her head swiveled around in terror.

Images assaulted Maddy’s brain, roller coaster cars mashed and mangled in a twisted heap on the smoldering blacktop, severed limbs strewn about, painting the ground red and black. She could practically see the glassy blood spattered stare of the dead, smell the coppery scent of blood mingled with shit and gore, and singed human flesh—

–But there was nothing. The girl to whom the scream belonged was now being helped out of the roller coaster by her father. People were smiling. Laughing. Everything was perfectly fine and to Maddy it felt like it was happening behind a thick pane of glass, like it was all a fiction, a façade pasted over the horror underneath.

Maddy’s already palpable terror only grew when she realized that there was no one left in line.

It was her turn.

*——–

While Detective James Hearst is most often known for his work on the deaths that would eventually shut down Pixie Forest permanently, his first dealings with the park occurred some years earlier.

It was the summer of 19XX, and pixie Forest had been enjoying an uncommonly lucrative season. The Hampton Roads Entertainment Group invested a lot of resources into refurbishing the park, improving safety, and adding new attractions.

Their efforts worked and park goers from all around the Hampton Roads area had taken to calling it the New Pixie Forest.

But the Hampton Roads Entertainment Group, good as they were, had their own flaws. In their attempts to save money on concessions, the group entered into an arrangement with Centerville Farms.

Years later, the FDA would eventually file an eight hundred page report documenting the flagrant violations and atrocities that took place on the cattle ranch. But during the summer of 19XX, the managers of Pixie Forest had no idea that their deal with the meat vendor would result in six deaths and a dozen more hospitalizations due to food poisoning.

*———–

“What do you want to eat, baby?” Richard said as he looked over his shoulder at Maddy.

Maddy reflexively grabbed her stomach. “Rich, I’m really not up for food right now,” she said. Her mind kept replaying the twisted breakneck turns of the Mad Mouse, reliving the terrifying sensation of looking down and feeling the roller coaster car trying to yank itself free from the track. Her stomach folded in on itself and sent fresh waves of nausea crawling up her gullet.

“Nonsense,” Richard smiled. “You got to keep your energy up; we still have lots to do.”

Ignoring Maddy’s pleading looks, Richard turned to the pasty faced teen manning the concession stand and said, “She’ll have a Pixie Paula Burger meal too.”

Richard did not see the spiteful glare his wife gave him as she went to join her daughter at a picnic table.

White hot sunlight glinted off of silvery foil and grease glazed hamburger buns as Richard and Carl carried the food laden trays to the table saved by Maddy and Sandy. A skin of cool water droplets clung to the paper cups that Richard handed out to the family; the cold, sweet, soda was a perfect counter point to the hot, muggy day.

The family was surrounded by screaming children, painted facades, and the aroma of heavily fried foods.

Richard picked up his burger, his eyes wide with anticipation.

“I don’t care what anyone says, Pixie Forest has the best food,” he said, earning skeptical looks from both of his children. He took a long, slow bite out of the burger, his eyes screwed shut in an ecstasy so intense it was nearly comical.

He moaned, forcing Carl to snort soda through his nose.

“Do you and the burger need some alone time, dad?” Sandy asked.

“It’th good! Try it!” Richard mumbled. His mouth was already crammed full of burger but that didn’t stop him from reaching for the white gold fries.

The kids did eventually start eating. A look of pleasant surprise found its way onto both of their faces. Maddy, meanwhile, just stared at her food.

“What’s wrong, honey?” Richard asked.

Maddy shook her head. She very briefly entertained the idea of resisting. But when she looked at her husband, what she found there poured buckets of ice water over her resolve.

He smiled through each engorged bite, pink juices dribbling down his sun burned chin. He smiled a smile that reached the dimples in his cheeks, but died before it could get to his eyes. Maddy looked into those frost blue eyes and saw something she had never seen there before—a blind, stupid, malevolence. They had their fights over the years, but Richard had never raised a hand to her. But in that look Maddy saw every man that slapped his woman around for her own good, every frat boy that thought being passed out was the same as saying yes, every killer that could only get off by causing pain.

She looked down at her plastic tray. The grease from the burger was already starting to congeal in thick viscous pools. It’s this place, she thought to herself. This place is doing something to him.

Maddy lifted the burger to her mouth and took a bite. She made a point of turning to Richard and smiling as she chewed. To her great relief the heavy, ugly, darkness in his eyes seemed to drain away, and Richard turned back into her husband.

“Told you these were the best burgers,” Rich said, clearly pleased with himself.

They ate in relative peace for a few moments, enjoying the heavy shade cast by the gnarled oaks. Mosquitos darted from one plump park goer to the next as acne riddled teens dressed in pixie uniforms trudged their way between abandoned picnic benches cleaning up trash.

Maddy clutched at her stomach. Her eyes went wide as her cheeks turned incredibly pale.

“Honey?” Richard began, but before he could get out anything resembling a sensible question, Maddy was already gone.

She was halfway to the ladies’ room when Richard said to Sandy, “Go with her.”

Sandy didn’t argue.

Richard and Carl waited outside of the restrooms. They were brilliantly colored, and made up to look like the forest cottage of pixies, complete with the giant red boot that reached up to the eaves and tried unsuccessfully to give the impression that the viewer had been shrunk down to pixie size. The entrances themselves were hidden behind white wood latticework with ivy woven throughout. It was all very clever camouflage.

People drifted in and out of the restrooms without paying the worried looking father and son any attention. One old lady took a look at the pair and offered them a sympathetic smile. This did little to ease their worry.

They could hear the echoing wretches tunneling their way out of the bathroom, tinny and hollow, accompanied by sobs and then silence.

Panic flooded Richard. What was happening? Why wasn’t she out yet? Was she okay? Should they be calling…

Maddy shambled out of the restroom with a concerned looking Sandy in tow. Richard’s wife glared at him with hollow brown eyes.

“I told you I wasn’t up for eating, asshole,” she growled.

“So I guess maybe we should wait a little before we hit the Pixie River Boat Cruise, huh?”

*———

On the night of March 22nd, 19XX, Det. Hearst was called out to a homicide at a residence in the affluent Pembroke development in Porton. A neighbor, Ms. Martha XXXXX, 82, had stopped by at approximately 8:15pm.

The neighbor had a close relationship with the family, and was stopping by to drop off a prom dress she had altered for the eldest daughter. The sight that greeted her upon opening the unlocked door was beyond gruesome.

Detective Hearst and the Porton City Police Department forensic team documented the gore in vivid detail.

Splashes of blood coated the walls of each of the rooms where the victims were found. Pools of thick red soaked into mattresses and carpet, making it difficult for crime scene investigators to maintain the integrity of the scene.

The true nightmares were the victims themselves. As Det. Hearst detailed in a televised interview some years after the case had finally been closed.

“From the ME reports, the cause of death in the case of each victim was a knife wound to the throat. It wasn’t a slice, like you see in the movies, but a stab and tearing motion. It was smart, in its own sick way—severing the jugular, carotid, and vocal chords with one strike. The rest of the… uh… wounds… occurred post mortem.”

These post mortem wounds, among other things, earned the killer the nickname “The Sculptor” once newspapers got hold of the details.

In each case, bones were broken and deep cuts were made after death, or at least after the fatal wound was inflicted. The bodies were then twisted and contorted, manipulated by some unseen, sadistic hand, into strange shapes and configurations.

It wasn’t until the events later in the summer when Det. Hearst would stumble upon the clue that led to the solving of the case. It was then the killer, then known as the Sculptor, would be given a new nickname, the nickname we all know him by today.

*——–

The sun hung fat and pink in the sky, and the shadows curdled thick and black beneath the trees and painted store fronts. The air was heavy with the aroma of cotton candy and popcorn and the sound of piped in calliope music. One by one, lamp lights popped to life and poked holes in the shadows. The greenish white light pierced the encroaching twilight, but was far from strong enough to drive the shadows completely away.

By now everyone in the family was exhausted, coated in that sweaty grime that seems unique to theme parks.

As the family trudged on, a pair of teenage boys raced by going the opposite direction, Richard looked at them with a defeated weariness while Maddy secretly studied Richard.

The nervous excitement was gone now, sucked from the man’s veins as though the park was a vampire. So too was that darker, vile, mindlessness that had scared her so. This was the Richard she knew, even more so if that were possible. Despite the almost tangible theme park fatigue, though, Richard’s eyes lit up one more time.

“Hey, let’s stop by the photo hut and see how our pictures turned out!”

Sandy voiced a protest shared by the rest of the family. “Dad, can we just go home? I’m tired. We’re all…”

“It won’t take a minute, sweetie,” Richard said. He tried using the most convincing tone of which he was capable, but he didn’t even sound like he could convince himself. Regardless, no form of resistance seemed capable of stopping the man as he marched to the little building made up to look like an old-fashioned cartoon camera.

When he reached the door not so cleverly designed to look like the camera lens, Richard sank his hand into a pocket and frowned. He tried another pocket , and then another, his frown deepening every time he failed to find what he was looking for. Finally he looked up.

“Who has the ticket?” he asked. “I don’t seem to… anyone?”

His wife and kids each searched their own pockets in the growing darkness when Maddy finally announced, “I think we lost it somewhere, Rich.” The tone of her voice seemed to add, “Can we just drop it and go home?” At first Richard didn’t notice.

“Well, I’m sure they can help us even without the…” he started to say, but for the first time that day, he seemed to really see his family’s faces, to understand the weary expressions. He smiled warmly at them and quietly said, “Ah, it’s not a big deal. Let’s get home.”

The family lurched out of the park and into the dim glow of the parking lot street lamps that cast the world in an eerie white green glow. Behind them, Pixie Forest was slowly being devoured by shadows. The balloon-man dressed as Pixie Peter stowed his balloon cart and picked up a few pieces of paper littering the ground before heading to the photo hut. Gates screeched shut, locks were locked, and brilliantly lit signs were cut off, leaving Pixie forest to rest fitfully and dream of the screams that filled it during the day.

*——–

Det. Hearst arrived at the Lansing residence at 8:25 am on August 27th, 19XX. The Porton morning sun did little to brighten the scene that greeted him when he entered the two story house.

After careful consideration and investigation of the evidence at hand, Hearst would eventually deduce that the boy was the killer’s first victim of the previous night.

*——-

Carl crawled out of his clothes and slipped on a worn out tank top that belonged to his dad once upon a time, as well as a comfortable pair of shorts. He cracked open his window, and clicked on the large aluminum fan that was the closest thing he had to an air conditioner.

He sat in front of it for a full minute, enjoying the feel of the air as it rushed over his skin, turning the glaze of theme park grime and the sweat of Virginia summer, and turning it into a blissfully chilling second skin.

Finally, he did what he wanted to do since before they left for Pixie Forest that morning. Carl browsed his video game library, waiting for something to jump out at him.

He though he heard something, some anonymous noise from downstairs, muffled and strangled by the whirring fan into meaninglessness. Carl wasn’t concerned after spending an entire day at that stupid saccharine sweet, overgrown playground, all he wanted to do was mash buttons and kill things until he passed out.

After finally settling on a particularly violent game, Carl cracked open his door for better air flow, popped his old TV to life, and sat down to slaughter some evil aliens.

He hadn’t been playing long when he thought he heard that noise again, only this time it was closer.

It was difficult for Carl to pinpoint why that noise would draw his attention so; he shared his house with three people and a cat. But that was just it, the soft thump almost felt like the kind of noise made by someone that didn’t live in the house, that didn’t know where they were going.

Carl actually paused his game and looked over his shoulder, at the cracked door, and the blackness beyond. Of course there was nothing there, but Carl shivered anyway. Stupid, he thought. He was just frazzled after spending a day at Pixie frickin’ Forest.

He turned back to the game, allowing himself to get lost in the adrenaline fueled music and brightly colored violence. Occasionally the screen would go black, forcing Carl to stare at a reflection of himself as he waited for the next level to load.

Except, the scene that was reflected back at him after he beat the third level was wrong. There was something new there, standing over his left shoulder and looking vaguely like…

*———

The boy’s arms had been removed. The coroner’s report showed that the cuts were smooth, but neither precise nor professional, indicating someone that had lots of practice, but no professional training such as a butcher or a surgeon.

The arms were tied to the ankles using his video game controllers.

Hearst surmised that the second victim easily had to be the daughter, and based on estimated time of death she was killed some hours later.

The implications were terrifying. This was a killer that was smart, he had honed his craft, and he was incredibly patient. He would have had to remain in the house undetected, and with a dead body already, for hours before making his next move.

*——–

“Do you think I had fun? Pixie fucking Forest, Kara! Pixie Paula, and Pixie Fucking Peter, flitting about and throwing stupid ass balloon animals at me all goddamn day!”

The girl on the other end of the line broke out in wild laughter halfway through Sandy’s rant.

“And dad was just stupid all day. ‘Oh look kids, this is what we used to do for fun back before the wheel was invented har-har.’ Someone needs to do all of humanity a favor and burn that place down.”

“Tell me how you really feel, Sand,” Kara choked out between giggles.

“Throw Peter and Paula Pixie into the fire while you’re at it.” While Kara’s tinny giggle filled the phone line, Sandy’s stomach cut in with its own loud and painful protests. “Don’t forget all the cooks—I’m pretty sure everything I ate today is planning a revolution.”

“Ew,” Kara snorted.

“Yeah, I gotta go to the bathroom. You want me to call you back or…”

Kara interrupted with a heavy sigh. “I’ll just wait on the line. If I give up the phone my slut sister may take it over.”

*———

After interviewing Kara Williams, Det. Hearst was able to piece together the next act in the grizzly murders.

Waiting until after Sandy closed the bathroom door, the killer finally left Carl’s bedroom. He didn’t have far to go as Carl’s room was right next to Sandy’s.

Only a couple of minutes after Sandy left for the bathroom, Kara reported that she heard something coming from Sandy’s end of the call: doors opening and closing, breathing, soft muted footfalls. Kara was so adamant about this that she apparently brought it up to Sandy when she did return. Sandy, according to Kara, believed the noise to have originated from her brother, prompting her to threaten through the wall, “Carl, if you took any of my stuff I’m going to kick your ass you little shit!”

Kara reported nothing unusual about the remainder of their forty-five minute conversation.

Crime Scene investigators discovered smears of Carl’s blood inside Sandy’s closet. Det. Hearst determined that what Kara really heard on the phone that night was Sandy’s killer, who hid in the closet and patiently waited for the two girls to finish their conversation and for Sandy to fall asleep.

*———-

He looked over his handiwork. She was by no means finished—that would come later. Now would be too risky.

Besides, watching them now, in their raw, unfinished state, came with its own thrill, its own aesthetic beauty.

He took in every detail, the way thin shafts of the silvery moonlight that slipped through the blinds draped themselves over her once developing curves. He studied the blood stains, how they billowed forth, soaking into pajamas and sheets sparkling in crimson and white. He admired her eyes, prettier somehow now that they stared blankly at nothing.

He admired her lifeless form and wondered if this is how other artists felt about their raw materials. Did painters see the inherent beauty of the smears of color on their palette? Did the sculptor appreciate the exquisite grace of unmolded clay?

He hoped so. Everyone should be so lucky to have this feeling.

Just as everyone should know the lustful joy he felt as he crept down the hall, his whispering footsteps bringing him closer to his final kills. This pleasure did not come from the artist within, but from something older, darker, carnal and primal. Every nerve ending throughout his skin buzzed as he quietly clicked open the door to the master bedroom. This was too good to ever give up, better even than the almost painful anticipation of waiting in the girl’s closet while she chattered on and on to her friend.

They were asleep. That would make it so much easier.

The killer took something out of a hidden pocket and stared at it. His gaze flitted to the sleeping couple, and then back once more to the object. He smiled and put it away.

He stalked over to the father’s side and leaned over the man slowly, adrenaline popping and pinging throughout his system. He wanted his prey awake for this, aware for this. Needed it. The killer, unable to bear the anticipation, reached a gloved hand out, ready to gently shake him, but the prey did wake on its own. It blinked, confusion filling its middle aged features. In the moon tinged darkness, the man groggily groaned the last words of his life.

“Pixie Peter?”

*——–

The case may have never been solved without a little luck on the part of Det. Hearst.

After an exhausting crime scene investigation, Hearst was at a dead end. The final clue was discovered by the detective ironically enough outside of the crime scene during a smoke break. The blood soaked clue ultimately led PCPD to Pixie Forest which in turn led to the home of XXXX XXXXXX.

It was there that Police discovered the Pixie Peter costumes crusted over with brown cakes of dried blood. They were hung on hangers and illuminated with track lighting—the outer edge of a shrine of death.

At the center of the gruesome shrine was a wall. Decorating this wall were pictures upon pictures, all of families with frozen smiles with the familiar Pixie Forest fountain burbling in the background. All were smeared with rust colored blood, and all of them were taken by the photographers at the entrance to Pixie Forest.

The fortunate clue that finally broke the case first led Det. Hearst to believe the murderer to be one of these photographers, as the blood smeared slip of paper was the ticket the family received for taking their picture at the beginning of the day. But all of the victims were photographed by different people, just as the pictures were developed by different lab techs.

Besides, these were all unclaimed tickets, the photos of which were often destroyed the day of or the day after.

The killer had chosen his victims solely by picking up the tickets that often litter the ground at theme parks. He would then find a way to sneak into the photo hut, and steel the print before using the ticket to track the family to their home.

After tireless police work and countless interviews, Hearst concluded the true identity of the killer. XXXXXX wore a Pixie Peter costume every day, and even reported an unusually high number of costumes lost, damaged, or stolen. He worked side by side with the photographers, and often spent his breaks hanging out with the lab techs, giving him uncommon access to the unclaimed prints.

Finally, his work making balloon animals closely mimicked the gruesome post mortem desecrations he performed on his victims. For this reason, history would forever remember this serial killer not as the Sculptor, but as the Balloon-Man.

Unfortunately, by the time Hearst led a host of officers to arrest the Balloon-Man, the day they discovered his shrine to death, the Balloon-man was already gone.

He eludes capture to this day.

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