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Death by Numbers

by Jennifer Walmsley

Angie loves numbers. They predict when she can kill. Now she waits at the bus stop outside number 1, Florence Street but, her secret voice reminds her that number 1 is a sign for harmony. Shuddering. Angie crosses the road to loiter outside number 2.

‘Discord,’ her secret voice says and, as it speaks, a bus disgorges a passenger. ‘Death,’ her crafty voice whispers with an expectant chuckle.

Worms of excitement wriggle inside Angie’s brain as she keeps pace with the woman and, as she follows, she admires the long skirt her eleventh victim is wearing with its swirling folds of bronzes, greens and earthy browns.

The woman, red hair flowing, glances over in her direction and it seems to Angie as if her future victim is floating on booted feet. Angie frowns, a little disturbed by the illusion.

‘She’s a witch,’ the sly voice mutters.

‘Don’t be silly,’ Angie replies with three winks of her eyes.

The woman stops outside a house with no number. Angie mentally counts back to all the houses she’s passed, remembering only number 8 with its discarded bed outside the front door, the same number as yesterday’s victim who’d lived across town in Willow Close.

Angie, crossing the road, heads towards the woman. The woman smiles as she draws near. ‘I’ve been expecting you,’ she says and in the woman’s right hand, Angie sees a key, the key to a front door; a door with a brass plaque that reads, “Charlotte, Medium and Scionmancer.”

Angie’s secret voice starts whimpering and Charlotte’s smile widens as if she can hear. ‘I’ve witnessed your terrible deeds.’ Now Angie’s secret voice begins to wail. ‘Your colour is black,’ Charlotte continues in a calm tone. ‘I can see it, a black transparency like a deadly mist, shrouding your body, your shadow, your soul.’

Suddenly, a terrified scream leaks out from Angie’s brain, struggling to escape from her mouth, her ears and nasal passages and, as the screams grow louder, shrieking out streams of numbers, Angie collapses, her heart exploding inside her chest.

Stepping towards the stricken form, Charlotte squats, her hand covering Angie’s face and, as she squats, trapping the demon, she whispers, ‘At which decimals can pi be truncated to make prime numbers?’ And as she asks that question, her hand violently vibrates. ‘Sush, don’t hurry,’ she murmurs. ‘You have all the time in the world.’

Her hand stills and the demon gurgles a final gurgle of helpless fascination before evaporating into transcendence.

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Walmsley

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