As Emery Lewin pulled his car up to the woods' edge, a faint smile already curved the corners of his thin lips. He had been careful, of course, to drive around the long way, apart from the hiking trail or the camping ground entrance of the state park grounds. He would not park in the designated parking areas and thus give away his presence to any who entered, no matter how seemingly innocuous the sight of his parked car might be. Nor did he enter the grounds in the park entrance, this time or ever…he preferred to mark his own path, to blaze his own trail. It made things much more interesting.2

Shutting off the car's engine, Emery opened the door and stepped outside of it, glancing about himself to make sure that within the shadow of the trees his vehicle was fairly well shaded, well off of the road, and did not stand out starkly and obviously to any passersby. It was a nondescript make and color, and of course, as always, he had removed the tags for this expedition. It was not likely that anyone would walk so far afield of the park's entrance, and even less likely that, upon spotting his car, they would grow concerned. Emery knew as well from extensive experimentation that the park rangers rarely patrolled the place; even now, after the occurrences of the past few months, patrol and security measures seemed if anything more lax than before. No one wished to be alone in the woods at night anymore. 3

It made his task more challenging, but that was okay, even ideal; it became dull when things were too easy. Emery did enjoy a challenge. Besides, he knew that there were others in the woods this evening. He had seen the parked car in the lot as he drove past, had seen the young couple emerge from it, struggling to carry and distribute among themselves all their camping gear. Yes, he was quite certain that he would not be alone tonight, and the thought had caused his heart to quicken in its beats, a stir of excitement to settle inside his chest.4

Taking care to lock his car doors, Emery then turned to face the woods, one hand in his jacket pocket, the other relaxed at his side. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the crisp fresh scent of the newly turned autumn leaves, the crackle of those fallen beneath his feet, and the slight chill in the air that came with the light evening breeze. He loved October. The beauty of nature, the new cold front coming in, and the pleasurable build up of the best night of the year…Emery's favorite night of all the holidays, Halloween.5

It made his expectations for tonight all the greater, that today was Halloween. Surely this time would be the most thrilling of all, give him the biggest rush, the most lasting satisfaction. Tonight he would hold in his memory, in his senses, for always. 6

It was not yet dark, but Emery began to walk forward unhurriedly, for part of the enjoyment was the watching…the waiting. He carried no provisions, no backpack or blankets, no tents or knapsack or camping supplies of any sort. He had no need for them. He carried only the foldable sharp knife in his jacket pocket, his thumb unconsciously and lovingly stroking its way across its surface. 7

Whatever his lack of items, he was prepared.8

"For someone who has lived all his life in the city, it seems interesting that you seem to know exactly where you're going and what you're doing here," commented the young woman wryly, her eyebrow raised, as she trekked along the leaf-strewn path of the woods, several feet behind her companion. "Is there a story I'm not aware of yet, or are you bluffing?"10

"One doesn't need to have hiked in the woods before to realize that in order to get to one's destination, it's generally best to follow the clearly marked pathway," her male accompanist replied with equal dryness as he cast a pointed glance down at the woman's feet over his shoulder. "Nor to be aware, generally, of the fact that four inch stilettos are not the best footwear for such an occasion."11

"Hey, I'm carrying almost as much as you are and I'm managing fine," the young woman protested, and she did indeed appear to move with surprising grace and balance, despite the heavy load on her small frame, though she was admittedly moving much more carefully and slowly than the man. "When a girl's five feet tall, she needs a little help just to get to be an average height."12

"It doesn't matter what you do, baby, there will never be anything at all that is average about you," her companion smirked, and the woman smirked back, her dark eyes reflecting his amusement. She was petite in height and frame, probably at least a foot shorter than her much larger date, and her dark hair was cut in a short, angular style that emphasized the feminine prettiness of her features. The man, in contrast, was tall and sinewy, his hair longer and a lighter shade of brown, but his brown eyes were as piercing as hers, and every bit as dark.13

"And you're glad of that, aren't you?" she smiled, even as she raised a thinly arched eyebrow again. "You avoided my question, Gavin. Don't think that has escaped me. You've been here before, haven't you, without me?"14

When Gavin grew suddenly and intensely interested in the trees straight ahead of them and focused his gaze on them without replying, the woman quickened her pace with seemingly little effort or visible stumbling in spite of her heels, narrowing her eyes at him as she lightly swatted his shoulder. But there was amusement dominating any resentment of her tone. 15

"Thanks for the invitation, babe, good to know you prefer to have your fun without me."16

"It was before I met you," Gavin tried, and the woman snickered, now casually linking her arm through his and almost allowing him to pull her along rather than walking of her own stead.17

"Ah, back in your wild, immoral days of yore…aren't you glad to now have me as a firm guiding hand and moral standard?"18

"I am glad to have you, Rikarah," Gavin responded with sincerity, looking down at her and holding her eyes even as they continued down the path's trail. "Every aspect of you."19

"Especially some parts of me, I would bet," Rikarah smiled, and she squeezed his arm as they continued. "So I suppose that's why you didn't want a map then?"20

"No," Gavin shook his head, and he released her arm, taking her hand into his instead. "No, there is no need for maps, because the right way will announce itself."21

"With a text message or a friendly hello?" Rikarah snickered, and she leaned her head briefly against Gavin's arm. "You know Gav, only we would spend our Halloween night not dressing up, not buying candy or watching horror movies or going to parties, but traipsing through the woods, waiting for the right place to "announce itself.""22

"As I said, we are far from average," Gavin responded, smiling down at her, "and we do pretty well in making our own fun."23

"You're not incorrect about that," Rikarah smiled back, and as they entered a clearing campsite, marked by a half-hearted rock-encircled fire pit, several strategically placed logs, and several spray painted trees, she gestured, still leaning against Gavin's arm. 24

"So this is it, Gavin? This is where we set up for the night?"25

"Well, for the moment, anyway," Gavin corrected, a smirk twisting his lips and raising one eyebrow in an unconscious mirror of Rikarah. "If we get restless later…stricken by certain…urges…we can of course relocate if we see fit."26

"Of course," Rikarah responded as she let go of Gavin's arm, walking with careful small strides to set down her large knapsack as she glanced back at her lover with an insinuative expression and tone. "I never was one to enjoy lying still."27

Shrugging out of his knapsack in one motion, Gavin crossed the clearing to where she stood waiting, one hand on a jutted out hip, as if she were wordlessly calling him to her side. One hand spreading across the small of her back, the other entwining its fingers in Rikarah's short hair, he bent his neck to meet her lips with his. Both were slightly breathless, their faces flushed, eyes glittering brightly when they finally pulled back a little.28

"Happy Halloween," Gavin entoned in a soft, serious voice, his expression so intense as to be deadpan, and Rikarah laughed, her hand pressing up against his chest as she smiled up at him, her body pressing close.29

"That's just like every other day, when I'm with you."30

Smirking down at her, he kissed her again, more roughly this time, and when they again pulled apart, vital signs highly elevated, Rikarah was leaning almost her full weight against him.31

"I guess we should set up before it gets much darker, Rika, " Gavin said at last, and Rikarah agreed, still leaning into him lazily. 32

"Wouldn't want to be caught off guard…at least not under those circumstances."33

As they began to unload their packs and piece the tent together, both glanced about their surroundings often, with seeming casualness. It was entirely finished, and they were bringing their supplies into order inside it, when Rikarah brought up the focal point of their thoughts.34

"So this is where the people died," she remarked, her tone nonchalant, and Gavin glanced over at her with his lips quirking, his tone light, teasing, and clearly unconcerned by her words. 35

"Yes…this is it. Are you frightened?"36

"Always, in your presence," Rikarah retorted with a smile, before looking around herself again, slowly and more deliberately than before. "Doesn't seem like a very likely place for murder, in the middle of all this peace and tranquility in the vastness of nature, does it?"37

"Appearances can be deceiving," Gavin said mildly, and Rikarah chuckled.38

"No one knows that better than me…better than us. I'm just thinking, it's likely that nothing at all will happen tonight. There is no one around…it could be that we'll simply have a good rest outdoors, and no one will ever come near," Rikarah speculated.39

As Gavin unzipped the tent, taking her hand to pull her in after him, he shook his head, his words firm, certain in response.40

"Oh, we'll have a good time, Rikarah, but we will not rest…we'll both make certain of that," he replied, and Rikarah laughed again, shaking her head.41

"Glad I can count on you."42

He reached out for her, encircling her waist with his arm, and tugged her toward him so that she sprawled back across his lap. Laughing, fighting back playfully, Rikarah leaned her full weight to knock him to the tent floor with him, her face inches away from his as she splayed her hand across his cheek. She was already certain that this evening would be worth is, blistered feet and all.43

As the sky darkened overhead and shadows danced across the trees, Emery Lewin remained motionless at a distance around fifteen feet from the clearing's tent, listening closely, watching intently. He had been here for nearly three hours now and hardly moved at all; with patience and perseverance one could become quite accustomed to stillness. 45

He had watched from his post as the young couple prepared a fire and sat huddled before it, the man's arms around the woman as they sat, pulling her back against his chest. He watched as she covered his hands with hers, noticing the small delicate nature of hers against his, and the way that she snuggled back against him, at ease in the man's embrace. He watched as the two of them laughed and teased with each other, making inside jokes that revealed how well they understood each other, how long they had been together. He watched the flames crackle and flicker in the darkness, lighting their shadowy features with warmth and color, brightening their smiles and emphasizing the glow of their eyes, and could hardly contain his excitement. As vivid fantasies flitted across his mind, Emery gripped his legs so tightly he felt his nails even through the coarse material of his jeans.46

He wanted to be with them at their side, to have privy to their whispered words and the touch of their hands, to be included in their smiles, their laughter…their screams. He wanted to watch as their blood ran down, as they flailed with pain and fear, struggling to stop him, futilely fighting to escape. He wanted to hurt them, and his heart beat faster and faster, his throat dryer and dryer, his palms sweatier and sweatier as the time drew near.47

Emery had watched as the two put out the fire, unzipped the tent, and stepped inside. He had found himself to be leaning closer, attempting to hear the faint buzzing of loud whispers from within, enthralled by the visible motion inside of undressing forms, of adjusting bodies as they prepared for sleep. Envisioning it all, Emery grew so excited he almost gave it all up there, almost broke forth from his post, tore open the tent, snatched up their exposed forms, and flung them to the ground, and-48

But no. No…he must have patience, he must have control, and then it would all be so much better as the payoff. It was better when he followed the plan…better when he was in total control, no matter how hard that was.49

Taking slow breaths, forcing his hands to his sides and into fists, forcing himself to close his eyes, to slow his heartbeat, Emery reflected on endurance, patient endurance in the face of trials. All good things come to those who wait.50

It seemed an ungodly amount of time before the noise and motion within the tent slowed, then stopped, before the dim circle of the flashlight went out, and all was still. For nearly another hour Emery waited, until he was certain that the only sounds around him were the occasional call of nocturnal birds and the chip of cricket wings. Finally, at long last he stood, making his way with careful stealth to the tent he had been watching for so long; now that he was beginning, his vital signs were calm, his expression steady.51

All good things come to those who wait.52

Inside the close quarters of the tent's darkened exterior, Rikarah stirred, then opened her eyes with a faint frown. Gently shrugging away from her lover's arm, which had been tightly wrapped across her chest, she sat up slowly and carefully, as if she were trying to do so in silence as much as was possible as she listened intently to the night's surroundings outside of the tent. Her frown intensifying slightly, she leaned down, her lips pressed against Gavin's ear, and spoke softly, still alert to any noises she might hear from outside.54

"Gavin…do you hear something?"55

Opening his eyes, Gavin squinted up at her, then motioned for her to back away so he could see for himself. As Rikarah eased back, sitting cross-legged, he sat up as well, one hand absently yet somewhat protectively resting on her thigh.56

"Yeah," he murmured back, his voice barely audible, as he had intended, his mouth turned toward Rikarah's ear as well. "Something is moving. Think it's a deer, or a bear?"57

"No," she shook her head slightly; her tone was thoughtful, and in the darkness of her profile, there was no fear in her eyes, only intrigue and interest. Rikarah was not easily frightened. That was just one of the things he loved about her. "It's too heavy for a deer, and too light for a bear. It's a person…and I'm pretty sure he's coming this way. Listen…shh."58

They went very still, sitting shoulder to shoulder, Rikarah's hand on his arm, Gavin's arm on her leg, and listened with intense concentration, barely breathing…and they heard it. The faintest stirring of leaves, crackling softly under human foot, as the approaching figure crept steadily closer; there was no flashlight, no steady stride of a late night restless wanderer or the uncertain tread of a lost hiker. This person was very careful of his steps, very cautious in his movement…and seemed set out to camouflage his approach.59

Beside him Gavin heard Rikarah's heartbeat grow faster, catching up with the steady pounding of his own; as she drew a little closer, pressing nearer still, her nails bit into his arm as her voice came in a breathy whisper.60

"It's him…and he's heading straight for us."61

Gavin didn't need her to clarify. They both knew all too well who this must be, despite all the odds….the person who had killed all those people, who roamed the woods at will…it was him. He had seen their tent and was coming now to finish them off, to spread their dismembered bodies throughout the forest grounds, hanging them from the trees. He was here to kill them.62

Bodies tensed, Gavin and Rikarah did not speak, did not attempt to leave the tent. Pulses pounding, adrenaline rushing in their veins, they remained still and silent, waiting for the killer's approach…63

Emery's faint smile widened as he drew closer, step by careful step, inch by inch, only a few feet away from his goal. He had spied the faint movement within the tent, heard a slight hissing noise he knew to be their voices, and this only heightened his anticipation. They were awake, they had heard his approach, and even now perhaps were plotting a sad attempt to escape, attempting to determine whether he was a threat, and if so, a human or animal one. As of now they showed no signs of attempting to flee. It wouldn't matter if they had. Emery knew the woods well, and no matter how fast they ran, he was certain he would catch them.65

This made it more exciting, that they were alert and awake…it was always such a rush when they were conscious to feel the pain, conscious to scream.66

His heart beat faster as he thought in particular of the small brunette woman and her large doe-like eyes…yes, she in particular he looked forward to. Hearing her shrieks of pain and fear, watching the anguish twist her features and take over her eyes…67

He grew so excited then that he could draw it out no longer, could not stand to endure his own manner of self taunting. Reaching the tent in two quick strides, Emery seized its zipper and ripped it downward, sticking his face inside-68

Only to have it promptly slashed from temple to jaw by two expertly wielded knives in identical zigzag cuts that drew so much blood he choked, staggered, and fell, his head hitting the tent pole with a loud thwack. As he struggled to roll over, to get to his feet, two strong pairs of hands seized him, pulling him into the tent, and then all he could think of, all he could feel was the pain as sharp blades plunged into his skin over and over, in every part of his body…69

Emery gasped for breath, frantically struggling for air even as he choked on his own blood, his vision splattering and spotting before his eyes. Even so, he could make out the smiling features of the dark-haired girl and her lover looming over him, could hear the lilt in her voice as she spoke.70

"Didn't your mother ever teach you about the Golden Rule?"71

It was his last thought to struggle to decipher the meaning of her words…the Golden Rule…doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you…72

It was difficult to dismember the body in darkness, but by now they were used to it and did so efficiently and quickly. They did not bother to clean the sleeping bags or tent; those, of course, would go straight to the dumpster tomorrow morning, carefully wrapped in garbage bags, along with their clothes. Stripping down entirely, Gavin and Rikarah used their remaining supply of bottled water to cleanse their hands and arms, faces and the ends of their hair; then, wet, shivering slightly, they stood in the middle of the clearing in the cool night air and faced each other with still-heightened heartbeats and satisfied, almost lustful smiles.74

"Doesn't it make you feel great, Gavin, to do a good deed, to help people the way we do?" Rikarah said softly, not yet drawing closer, as she slowly raked her fingers through her short damp hair. "Doesn't it make you feel so free, so alive in the moment?"75

Gavin did not respond directly to her words, for he was not as open verbally as she; she nevertheless easily read the pure joy and contentment in his eyes, the continued arousal in his body, and most of all, heard his love for her in his voice as he repeated his earlier words. 76

"Happy Halloween, Rikarah."77

Her eyes glowing brightly, reflecting his image in their surface, she stepped forward with a soft smile, even as her lips met his with savage force and their hands held the others' with bruising strength. Later they would lie together naked among the bloodied tent's exterior and sleep the peaceful sleep of those without a single care or burden upon their souls…but for now, they shared brutal passion in the darkness, and celebrated their latest act of good will in the name of the season.78

The end