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Aron pulled the glove over his hand and pressed the Velcro tight. He was covered head to toe in black, from his boots up to the balaclava still shoved back on his head. The lights buzzed, the laptop pinged, and Victim moaned.

They didn’t have long. Money was getting tighter and tighter, even with the livestreams. Aron wasn’t about to call himself desperate, but some days he felt that way.

Victim moaned again. It was strung up by a long, tight chain, hanging from the ceiling by its wrists, its hands purple with blood loss. Duct tape decorated its legs, strapping the limbs together. It was still unconscious, barely stirring into the waking world, blood still full of Nyquil and whatever else Aron had thrown into the concoction. At this point he was using whatever he could get his hands on.

The laptop pinged again. Four hundred viewers, all pledging at least five hundred dollars each. A few years ago it would have seemed a large amount.

Aron pulled a piece of duct tape, bit it off, and smoothed it over his own mouth. He’d had a couple of close calls in his first few livestreams, laughing and jeering in full earshot of his microphone. It would take just one viewer to have good taste in music (if Aron would say so himself) and he’d have the cops swarming on him. Again.

He pulled the balaclava down over his face. The duct tape shone dull through the mouth hole. He put the headphones on over the balaclava, and the buzzing and the moaning cut out. Aron picked up the needle. Victim sighed as Aron stood over it, plunged the needle into its neck and stepped away.

Victim blinked in the light. Eight cameras were stood in a semi-circle around it. It was cold, naked, strung up like meat, forced onto its tiptoes in a large plastic tub. A laptop, a large knife, and an AK sat on the table, the laptop pinging at intervals, the AK scraped shiny where its numbers should be. Victim pulled on the cord, hands numb. It babbled at Aron, begging, pleading, promising. Frightened tears welled in its eyes.

Aron tapped the side of his headphones and shrugged at it.

Victim howled and threw itself at Aron. The tub shifted a little under its feet but it stayed in its firm place, screaming insults at him. The laptop pinged with delight.

Aron picked up his gun. He circles Victim, barrel pointed casual at Victim’s hips. Victim wriggled, trying to lean away from the barrel. Its feet slid on the stained plastic.

Aron took a couple of steps back. He stayed just in the view of the cameras, familiar with their scope. He hoisted the gun into his shoulder, still pointed low. Victim had to twist back to watch him, still pleading.

The eight cameras were set at different levels, three with large, fuzzy microphones set above. Eight little red dots glowed like watching snipers. One camera was almost on the floor, angled up it body. Another towered and stared down it. Three surrounded Victim’s legs, front, left and right. Another stared at Victim’s shoulders, and another stood further away to get Victim’s entire frame into view. One was sat on the table instead of its own stand, still pointed at Victim’s stomach, with a microphone sticking its top like a silver quiff.

Aron dropped the safety and pulled the trigger.

To the watchers, safe in their homes, the speakers erupted with gunfire. On camera #5 (as regular viewers would know that “americasninthlife” worked bottom up), Victim’s legs seemed to spasm in blood and open flesh. Victim’s howl trilled as the gunshots died.

Aron circled Victim, took up camera #3 from the table and put the AK down by the pinging laptop. He took the camera over to Victim and crouched, zooming in and adjusting on its opened skin.

Blood pumped into the tub like a burst pipe. The skin had peeled back, pink petals blossoming flesh and muscle. Aron poked at the hole, circling it with a gentle finger. Victim yelped out at the touch and tried to kick him away. It flailed, torn muscle unmoving.

Aron pulled on the flesh. The front muscle had snapped straight in half. The bone behind had blown through and a thick splinter sat in the flesh. Aron pulled on the splinter. The snap of the splinter breaking away was lost in Victim’s howl. Aron lowered the camera down and focused the stream on the hole.

Aron poked at the hole again, pushing his finger in. The flesh puckered and stretched around his glove.

Victim screamed and pulled on its chain. It tried to pull away, only slipping on its own blood. It fell, the chain tightened, and it had barely moved an inch.

Aron kept pushing until his finger was buried in Victim’s skin. Camera #3 clattered as he struggled with it one-handed, shuffling around until he could get the entry hole in shot. A small black leather lump stuck its tip out of the hole. It shifted as Aron flexed his finger, working the hole wider.

Victim screamed. Aron pulled out and shook his hand off, blood clinging to the middle finger. He put camera #3 back on the table and took up the AK again.

Aron stood between two of the cameras. He pressed the gun into his shoulder. Victim sobbed at him. It was trying to curl on an angle to keep the weight off of its busted leg but the tight tape wouldn’t shift like that. Its fingers were blue with lost circulation.

Aron dropped the safety and pulled the trigger again. He went up #5’s view, into the view of #4 and #8 at either side of Victim’s body. #2 filled with red, watching up Victim’s body as blood spewed out like a broken sprinkler and rained down on the lens.

Victim screamed a harmony to the gunshots, the noises echoing around the warehouse. To the watchers, the noises rang out of their speakers, making cheaper tech squeal like a gory symphony.

Aron let go of the trigger and put the gun down again. He took up #3 and circled Victim with it. He kept stopping, zooming in on holes and lodged bullets. He was grinning under his mask, the duct tape pulling on his jaw and stubble.

Victim sobbed. It was weak, tired with blood loss. It swayed in the tub, now almost ankle height with blood. A lot of blood had escaped the tub, which was always a shame, but his viewers wanted to see blood and Aron lived to entertain.

Aron crouched down. He focused on his first hole again, open and dripping. A line of duct tape sat below it around Victim’s ankles.

He scratched his gloved fingers over the tape until he found the loop. He’d learnt early on to leave a loop in the end of the tape for easier pulling. Torture can be a trial and error process sometimes.

Aron gripped the loop and pulled. #3 rattled as he moved, unwrapping the tape in short, jerky motions that tugged on Victim’s flesh. After the third layer, the glue had nothing left to pull on but skin.

The hole pulled as Aron peeled the tape. Victim screamed, the agony shooting through its leg kicking a horrible new energy into its aching lungs. It wriggled, its movements tearing the porous limb away from the tape.

The skin tore, ripping a wound from the hole down into the glue residue. Aron continued to pull until he’d pulled the tape full away. The skin tore with it, the flap pulling its wound down to the ankle. Aron fiddled with #3, focusing on the hole. He reached out and stroked the wound, letting his fingers dip in and tug the flap open.

Victim kicked out. Its foot caught the underside of #3 and knocked the camera out of Aron’s lap.

Aron scrabbled after it. It hit the floor with a bang and a crack as the lens split through the middle. Aron lifted it, grip gentle, and turned it over in his hands. He checked its screen, and groaned slurs through his tape gag.

He stood and put the camera back on the table. He took the knife from by the laptop (which was now pinging its own frantic tune) and the key from under it.

Victim tried to shrink away from him as he stood over it to unlock the chain holding it up. The chain tightened and slackened around their arms. Aron had to wrap an arm tight around Victim to guide it down, folding it into the tub.

Aron circled Victim a few times. It tried to follow him around, whipping its head around as he rounded behind it. It whimpered, dizzied and frightened.

Aron came to a stop behind it. He knelt there and pressed the tip of his knife into the back of Victim’s head. Victim tried to shrink away, bowing and folding deeper into the tub. It pressed into its legs, sending pain rippling and burrowing from each bullet hole. Its blood lapped against its skin like it was trying to fill itself back up again. Aron pushed and poked until Victim’s head was tucked between its knees.

His free hand lunged forwards to grip Victim’s head and hold it still. Victim cried out, and the scream echoed in the tub. Aron leant over it and pulled, dragging it about by its hair. He held the knife against its throat, pressed, and pulled.

The world seemed to stop for a second. Victim sat in the top, back arched and head pulled up to reveal its spread throat. Red dripped from the slit, then spurted, then gushed a waterfall.

Aron dropped the knife to grip Victim’s shoulder as it started to flail. It slapped at its neck, hands still numb and purple. It choked, blood splashed in its mouth, and it wailed.

It slumped, and the world stopped again. Aron laid it in the tub and slapped it in the face a couple of times. It didn’t stir, a steady stream dripping down its naked chest.

Aron stood, took #6 off of its stand and took it to Victim. He held it up to its face, focused, and slapped Victim in the face a couple more times. When it still didn’t stir, he pressed his fingers into its eyes and spread its lids.

He focuses on the dull, lifeless eyes for several seconds, then the other. He pulled back and panned down its body, over its dripping neck, holy torso and blasted legs. As he reached the feet he pressed the camera’s power button.

One by one, Aron shut the cameras off and ended the livestream. Tomorrow, he’ll double-check that the money had gone into the accounts. In the meantime, Victim needs draining, the blood bottling, and the body burning.

Aron wouldn’t say he was desperate. He’s having far too much fun to consider himself desperate.


 

Charlie wiped the semen off of his fingers and crotch as the last camera, camera #5, shut off. Of all the livestreamers Charlie had found, ‘Ninth’ (as Charlie had come to call him) delivered the goods every time. Blood, gore and noise to sate Charlie’s cravings, flipping between rough and slow, and focusing on the little details.

And powering through fight-backs. It was the first time Charlie had seen Ninth’s face in the shot. Masked, of course, with a balaclava and duct tape underneath. Which would explain the occasional muffled moan Charlie had heard during the livestreams.

Something about the shot of Ninth’s face had shaken Charlie up. Maybe it was coming face-to-face with the fact that these livestreams weren’t fake, that someone was committing these terrible acts. Maybe it was the way the black mask reminded Charlie of his own bad habits, the livestreams only pacifying Charlie’s cravings in between his own kills. Or maybe it was the fact that the uncovered eyes felt just a little familiar to Charlie, like crossing gaze with an old friend in a crowd for a second, only for him to be gone once the crowd thins.