Melvin Waskill bounded through the front door of his home, cradling a bag of groceries in one arm, and waving his new machete with his free hand.
His wife, Marilyn, glanced up from the latest issue of Better Hatchets & Garrotes. She was a severe-looking woman, her dishwater blond hair pinned into a tight bun, her flesh as white as chalk.
"You’re going to be late," said Marilyn.
"Nah." Grinning, Melvin dropped the groceries on the kitchen counter and hefted his new blade. "I’ve got plenty of time to get ready, sweety! What do you think of the new machete?"
"Very nice," said Marilyn. "How much did it cost?"
"I got it on sale down at Loathes," said Melvin. "That place was super-crazy!"
"You went shopping today? I’m surprised you got out of there alive."
Melvin grinned. "The fun doesn’t start until sundown, sweety. You know that."
His wife sniffed, flipped a glossy page in her magazine. "No, I don’t."
"Aw! You’re not sore that I’m going out, are you, sweety?" Melvin put the machete on the counter and sat on the edge of the couch. "You know, you could come with me."
"Please." Marilyn’s tone was scathing. "What sort of woman goes out tonight?"
"June Locke’s going out," said Melvin. "I saw her in line at the DMV, while I was renewing my license."
"Of course, June Locke’s going to go out," sniffed Marilyn. "She’s a lesbian, Melvin. Of course she wants to stab things."
"So what are you doing tonight?"
"May Charleston invited me over to play cards."
"Oh. That’s nice, honey."
Marilyn glanced pointedly at the living room clock. "You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry."
Grinning, Melvin bent and planted a chaste kiss on his wife’s cheek. "Worrywart. I’ll see you tomorrow."
"Hopefully," said Marilyn. A grim smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
"Gee, honey! Don’t jinx me!"
She chuckled and flipped the page in her magazine. Melvin left her on the couch, reading about the latest fashion in garrotes.
It didn’t take him long to get ready. It never did. Preparing for the night’s adventures amounted to putting on the approved uniform, making sure you had your license, and then hightailing it to your designated territory before sundown. If you weren’t there when the inspectors came around, your license would be revoked.
The last bit was the tricky part. Melvin’s territory was Albright Park, on the other side of town. It would have been more convenient to hunt locally, but that could cause bad feelings among your neighbors. So he, and all the others taking part in the night’s festivities, had to crawl into their cars and drive like hell to distant locations. Still, fatalities from traffic accidents were all but nil on Anathemass.
Melvin made it to Albright Park with fifteen minutes to spare. By the time the inspector arrived, the sun was setting and he was suited up. The inspector gave Melvin a quick once-over, confirming his boilersuit, boots and gloves were all regulation. He admired Melvin’s new machete.
"Nice. Carson & Carson?"
"Yep. Got it this afternoon."
The inspector tested the blade’s edge. "Really nice."
He handed the blade back to Melvin and fetched a plain brown box. He passed it to Melvin.
Solemnly, Melvin opened the box. Inside, wrapped in wax paper, was the Face of Anathemass. It was a stiff white, fullface mask. Except for the eyes, it was as featureless as a sheet of paper. A sturdy leather band secured it to Melvin’s head.
He stared at his reflection in his car window. Normally a weedy-looking guy, in the uniform and accoutrement, Melvin thought he cut a rather sinister figure. Grinning beneath the mask, he struck a pose with his machete.
"Very impressive." The inspector held out a clipboard and a pen. "If you would sign for it, please."
Melvin scrawled his signature on the paperwork.
"Thank you." The paperwork vanished into a folder and the inspector gave him the usual spiel. "Your territory is Albright Park. DMV is going to bus in the juvies in about an hour. Please bear in mind that this is the last Anathemass of the year, sir, so there may be more targets than you expect. Justice wants to get rid of as many of these little punks as they can."
Melvin said nothing, but beneath the white mask he was grinning from ear to ear. This was going to be so awesome!
"That said, do not kill anyone outside the park. Do not leave the park. If you do, your license is immediately canceled and you may face heavy fines or worse. We have CCTV inside and outside the park, so we’ll be watching."
As he said the last, he gave Melvin a stern look.
"The juvies are collared and the invisible fence is active. They try to leave the park and they get fried. Expect resistance. Pace yourself. They’ll probably try to gang up on you. The clock starts when the bus arrives and runs out at three-o-clock in the morning. After that, we’ll be back to pick up whoever’s left alive."
The inspector stuck out his hand. Melvin shook it. He hoped the man didn’t notice how his own was trembling.
"Good hunting," said the inspector.
He climbed into his car and drove away.
Melvin took a deep breath. His breathing echoed weirdly in his ears. He glanced at his watch. An hour. Good. That gave him time to prepare.
Swinging his new machete, humming a jaunty tune, the masked man vanished into the growing darkness of the park thinking how much he loved Friday the 13th.
* * * * *
Ah, gentle readers.
Welcome! It's Friday the 13th, and, caught up in the spirit of the day, I wrote the above piece. I'll admit that it isn't spun entirely from my own imagination, but partially inspired by an interesting book, Slaughterhouse High by Robert Deveroux.
The world that Anathemass is set in is a bit different from our own. Darker and grislier, it's a world where there are designated 'holidays' for wannabe killers. Friday the 13th or Anathemass as it's known in-story, is one of the biggies, but certainly not the only one.
On these holidays, wannabes purchase licenses to kill from the DMV, the Department of Mayhem and Violence. Potential victims are bussed in from prisons and other such institutions. Potential victims who survive their 'holiday' get pardoned.
These people would consider our versions of Survivor and The Weakest Link incredibly boring.
Anyway, hope you've all had a safe F13 so far and make it through the night alive. ^_^