a man walking on the highway  courtesy of msadrian, stock.xchngHe had a routine. It worked for him. At least, he grinned to himself, it had worked the last seven times. Two women, a pair of senior citizens, and four men – mostly truckers – it had worked for all of them. The pair of senior citizens were only a month ago, a loving older couple. Different from the singletons, he couldn’t take the passenger seat and sink his knife in his victim’s side, taking the wheel as they looked at him, shocked and suddenly dying. He’d had to slice the wife’s throat and the husband jerked the wheel. So much blood, the windshield got coated with it, like it was raining red inside the car.

His worst kill, but his favorite so far. Definitely not routine.

He walked along the side of the highway, his breath starting to come out in white smoky puffs. He’d have to stop for the winter soon. After Christmas it got too cold and there was no more charity left in anyone’s heart, no more softening at the sight of a hitchhiker. This would be the last time he followed the routine this year. The thought left him sad, and excited.

A car slowed, a station wagon, a family car. His breath caught in his throat. Maybe that would be how he could survive the coming winter. Take three now, stock up. A giggle escaped his throat. He’d stock up for winter.

“Going far?” Dad asked.

“As far as you’ll take me. Headed to Denver.”

“Oh that’s far,” Mom agreed. They were forty, maybe a little older. “Squeeze in with Johnny.”

“Little Johnny,” Dad corrected. “I’m big John.”

“Oh neat.” It was a stupid thing to say, but little Johnny worried him. He’d been hoping for a car full of teens. Hoping for a bunch of girls. Now a six year old with chubby cheeks looked up at him. Dad locked the car door almost before it shut. Locked the predator inside, he smiled. The little boy wouldn’t be a problem.

Except, with his fingers on his knife, ready to strike out (always do it before they got up to speed, grabbing the wheel at 45 was a much different thing than having to grab it at 70) little Johnny’s face stopped him.

Perfectly cute, perfectly normal, but waxy. Too still. Little Johnny didn’t look normal.

“You guys waited to have kids, huh?”

“Thought we couldn’t.” Dad nodded. It was a personal question, Dad should’ve been upset or scared. The Predator hadn’t even thanked them for the ride yet.

“So when Johnny came, we knew he was a gift from God below.” Mom smiled as she said it.

“Above,” the Predator corrected, nervously licking his lips.

“Oh no. God Below.”

He turned toward the unnaturally still child, and studied it. Little Johnny did not blink. Sweat popped out on the Predator’s forehead, the hands that gripped the big knife felt clammy. He pulled it out, as Johnny watched, unblinking.

His slid his knife into the child’s side, like going into butter instead of flesh. Didn’t hit anything hard, didn’t see the bright red blood. This was wrong. All wrong.

“We’re lucky you came along. Our little boy needed his dinner,” Dad said. The father’s eyes  never left the road, the Predator’s eyes couldn’t tear themselves from the knife, stuck so far into the boy’s side that he couldn’t get it out, couldn’t go for Mom’s throat or slash at Dad. Couldn’t protect himself.

The boy sprang forward, biting. As the child’s sharp teeth pierced his throat, he could only think that this wasn’t part of the routine.