He stood behind the dumpster, sweating in the heat, waiting. He glanced at his watch. Any moment now, three two one…BONG. The distant bell rang out twelve times and people began to pour out from the tall building. It was as if they had been waiting behind the closed doors waiting for the first gong. He looked frantically through the crowd searching for her. Could he have missed her? He felt panic begin to rise in his chest as he hurriedly rose from his from his hiding place and dived into the thickening crowd. People jostled him, roughly pushing past eager to be free from the oppressive shadow of the building looming over their heads. He ran into a man wearing a gray hat and carrying a battered suitcase. "Watch where you're going asshole!" the man snarled swinging his suitcase roughly.

Panic had dimmed his vision plunging the shoving mob into a haze. Where was she? He swung wildly around looking over the many heads. He knew what would happen if he didn't see her and he shuddered as a wave went through his body making his head pulse and his hands quiver. He would become angry, bitter. And then something would happen, something terrible, beyond imagining. He would feel the pleasure at first, but then the disgust would set in, followed by the hatred and that's where things would spin out of control; become distorted and warped, twisted into some sick nightmare. He would see nothing at first and then the red, red everywhere, on his hands, clothes, face; red on the ground, covering the walls, sliding slowly down in long glistening streaks. Then the horror would come. He'd see the red dripping from his hands and feel the bile rise up in his throat. He'd rush to the basement, zig-zagging and swaying like a drunk. He'd stumble down the stairs to the basement, to the cupboard, locked and bolted, the only object in the empty dank room. Diving underneath, he would wrench up a loose floor board, feeling frantically through the thick layer of dust for the familiar jagged teeth of the key. He'd fling open the cupboard door and grab from it a black garbage bag that sagged with thick white powder. It would destroy the evidence and eliminate the red. He movements at first would be frantic, half crazed. As soon as the evidence began to fizz and melt and the crimson turn to a sickly brown, only then could he relax. Life would continue and he would forget. But he never forgot. The red remained seeped into his memory edging on his hatred, his hunger for more of the red and contributing to his never ending terror, a blind terror that only she seemed to soften, to make more distant and almost nonexistent. She was the only one who could control it.

It had all started on that fateful day in October, when he was walking home hiding the red on his hands in the depths of his sweater. It was a bright, but windy day and her hair was concealed underneath a floral scarf. A tendril had escaped free from underneath the delicate fabric and he saw that it like his hands was red. She wore large sunglasses that hid her eyes, but he knew the moment she stepped in front of him that it was meant to be. That she would save him. He followed her entranced and discovered the building that she disappeared into for the duration of the day. From then on, he hid outside, waiting for her to come out, to see her eyes when they were not masked by the dark glasses and take in her face, smooth and elegant. Sometimes, he would bring a camera and snap shots of her walking into the building, out of the building and down the street. He would hang them around his room and spend hours wallowing in them. He did not know her name, but he felt that he had dug deeper than anyone else in her life had. He had uncovered her soul. In his dreams he saw red, a never ending flow of crimson and he saw her with her floral scarf and sun glasses. Sometimes the red and her merged and he knew that she was the one who would end his sleepless nights of terror, his ever waking screams, his living nightmare. She would save him from the darkness that threatened to consume his soul and give him the salvation that he craved. And so, unknowingly, she became his chosen one.

His breath began to quicken as he failed to see the shining braided knob and the pale delicate features. Suddenly, he saw her, a flash of red amid the sea of multicolored heads. He lunged forward causing several people to stumble, which produced an overall domino effect. He did not notice however, and continued toward the bobbing red bun leaving a trail of obscenities behind him. As he came closer, he saw that she was close to an alleyway. His eyes brightened and he fought the crowds harder as an idea formed in his mind. He reached her and grabbed her wrist, dodging into the deserted alleyway, dragging her away from the crushing force of the street. She struggled and shouted. She raised her hand to strike, but he caught her wrist and swung her against the wall pinning her with his body. He could feel the rise within him, growing and writhing; struggling to break free. He covered her mouth with his hand, muffling her shouts and shushed gently. However, she refused to quiet, thrashing and cursing, struggling against him. He sighed and swung his fist into the back of her head. She gasped and sagged against him, her eyes clouding over into unconsciousness.

She groaned, shifting slightly on the hard stone floor. He sat back in the shadows watching as she slowing regained consciousness. How he had gotten her to his house was a mystery to him and she was now lying in the basement, sore and disoriented. Her eyes flickered open and she gasped lunging forward into a sitting position. She looked wildly around and her eyes found him amid the shadows. They widened with fear and anger. "Let me go you sick bastard!" she screamed. She jumped up and sprinted towards the door, but he moved and caught her. She snarled and clawed at him like a wild animal. He pushed and she fell backwards onto the floor. She rose and lunged again, but he smiled and flung her against a wall, bringing her arms up above her head and pinning them to the rough brick. He brushed his cheek against hers and kissed the side of her neck. She quivered and began to sob. "Please let me go, please?" she whispered tearfully. He fixed his eyes upon hers and he smiled softly. He said something, but it was so soft that she did not hear it. "Please let me go," she repeated. He smiled again and shook his head. She sobbed. He shushed her gently, like a mother would to a wailing baby. He brought his mouth close to her ear and said "You save me." Her eyes widened in confusion. "You save me," he crooned, his eyes roving lovingly over her face stopping at the red tendrils that framed her face. "You make the red go away." He released her and disappeared into the darkness. She stood there cowering. Her eyes flicked to the door, but before she could move to make her escape he was back his shadow looming over her and she shrunk back flinching. "Please don't hurt me." "You save me," he said and raised his hand. She saw a glint of metal and screamed as it flashed down towards her.

He blinked as the haze began to clear from his vision. He looked at his hands and saw that they were clean. He blinked again and looked in wonder at his hands. They were not longer red, but clean and white. He smiled and giggled. Joy danced in his eyes. The red was gone, the red was gone for ever; she had saved him. He laughed louder and wiped the tears from his eyes. He was saved.

The old lady was sitting in her house, when she heard the scream. It echoed up from the basement of the adjacent house shattering the blessed silence. Fearing that the neighbor she had never known had fallen down the stairs and was injured and unable to call for help, she called 911. Moments later, the ambulance sirens wailed down the street and the paramedics hopped out stretcher in tow to aid the fallen neighbor. They came to the door and found it bolted shut. They rang the doorbell, but no one answered. There was no cry for help. Maybe the person was unconscious or too weak to cry out. So a lock cutter was brought and the door was forced open to reveal an empty room. Puzzled they preceded to the next room to find the floor littered with and odd variety of trinkets. They found a women's shoe, a bright purple pump with the heel broken, a gold locket, a diamond ring; a small square of fabric. Across the walls were many pictures: pictures of women, stepping out of cars, pushing children on swings; sitting at a café table reading old and battered novels. In the middle of every wall, were pictures of a woman with red hair and were slightly faded as if they had been taken down and handled countless times. They looked on and crossed to the basement stairs. They called. No answer. Proceeding down the stairs they flung open the door to find a man looking at his hands and giggling manically. They glowed crimson in the dim light and his face was streaked with shining rivulets of red. A woman lay at his feet in a pool of blood. The man raised his eyes to the shocked and horrified stares. He held out his bloody hands. "Look, I am clean," he laughed and he brought his hands up to his cheeks to smear on more blood. "I am saved."