The woman cringed and shirked away from the touch of his cracked, yellow nail. Her face wet with tears, wracking sobs muffled by the cloth in her mouth. He traced the line of her cheek, down her throat. She winced. Blood formed on her skin beneath the nail. He gave a smile that revealed row after row of sharp teeth, an inhuman maw, and leaned in to flick his tongue over the cut.
She screwed her eyes shut, pushed herself back into the chair he’d bound her to. The rough braid of rope bit into her wrists.
‘Ach, I wouldnae bother struggling, lass,’ he cackled. A squeal like nails down a chalkboard. ‘I’m pretty good wi’ knots.’
He turned to the low, metal table beside her and lifted the tartan towel that covered the top. She heard the click and rattle of utensils touching. He regarded them for a long while, hand hovering inches above the table-top. His other hand reached under the stiff, brown cap and scratched at his balding head.
He made his selection. She didn’t see what he’d taken at first, caught only the dull glimmer of light on rusted steel.
But when he opened it out, she recognised it.
‘Y’know I love this movie?’ He waved the blade in the air, gripped loosely between his thumb and forefinger. His feet moved in a rhythm-less dance. ‘I always wanted tae try it. Nae petrol mind.’
He continued his dance and whistled a tune that almost sounded like Stealers Wheel’s ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’. She screamed and fought against her bindings.
The blade touched against the top of her ear and pain tore through her body. Hot, sticky wetness trickled then poured down her cheek. The noise of it rubbing, slicing through the sinewy cartilage made her want to vomit. She bit against the gag, fighting the urge to give in to unconsciousness.
He tapped her face. A wet slapping sound cut through that horrible laugh.
‘Stay wi’ me noo, doll,’ he was so close that she felt his breath on her. The stink of rotten meat filled her nostrils. ‘I dinae want ya tae miss wha’ comes next.’
She was breathing heavy. Her eyes glazed.
He shifted his head, checked each in turn.
She whispered something he didn’t catch, repeated it like a mantra. He leaned in and pulled the gag from her mouth.
‘L—let me go,’ she said, voice hoarse from screaming.
Her eyes grew wide. Her breaths came ragged and bubbled. A red forth appeared at the corner of her mouth as blood rushed to fill the open wound in her throat.
Her skin began to pale. The colour draining from it as fast as the blood which pooled around her feet on the stone floor.
He knelt beside her and removed the cap. It was beginning to dry around the edges; a brown crust flaked off on his fingers.
He touched it to the crimson pool, submerged it.
R is for Redcap
A Redcap, also a prowrie or dunter, is a type of malevolent faerie said to haunt the Scottish-English borders. They live in the ruined castles and murder any traveller that enters their homes, dying their hats with their victims’ blood. Redcaps must kill regularly to prevent the blood from drying out. If it does, the Redcap dies.