Chapter 1:


Red Christmas

Ava was breathing frantically. Panic threatened to tip her over the edge. Her arm felt numb, which wasn't good - if she dropped the shotgun, she didn't think she'd have the willpower to pick it back up.

In front of her, barely visible in the shadows of the alleyway, was her target. A nondescript-looking figure with their back turned to her. the baggy clothing and jacket with hood pulled up, when combined with the ominous, all-consuming shadows, completely masked what the target looked like.

Ava took a deep breath. Calm down, she told herself forcefully. If she screwed this up, it'd be more than her apprenticeship on the line. She checked the gun, for the sixth time in as many minutes, to make sure the silencer was working.

she crept up until she was right behind her target. It's now or never. She leveled the barrel at the back of the head; if the bullet pierced through completely, there would be a hole right between her victim's eyes.

Oh, so it's 'victim', now, is it? Stop thinking and just shoot the guy!

Her finger tightened on the trigger, but wouldn't pull it.

Come on! Dammit, just pull the trigger!

I... I can't. I can't kill him.

You have to! It's "kill or be killed", remember? They won't let you just walk away.

It's not right. I don't even know this guy.

That should make it easier. He's probably a gangster or a druggie.

As she became more tense, Ava's finger tightened further on the trigger until -


The bullet shot out of the gun, muffled by the silencer, and landed directly in the target's head.

Ava scrambled back in shock. Oh, shit... I'm a murderer...

The body fell forwards, thumping softly into the snow-covered ground. The bullet-hole was clean. Unless the body were rolled over, it wouldn't spill blood.

Ava, fighting her nausea, pulled out her dagger and impaled the corpse's heart. When she withdrew the knife, blood bubbled out, spilling onto the snow and staining it red. She put two fingers into the stab-wound, pulled them out and scrawled the symbol on the wall as she'd been instructed.

Having finished the grisly work, she cleaned her hands and knife, pulled her hood further down her face, and tried not to run home.

Her hands were shaking so badly she could barely get the key into the lock. When she finally tumbled through the door, her flatmate, Laika, peeked out from the kitchen.

"Oh, you're back." She said. "How'd it go?"

Ava faked a yawn. "I'll tell you in the morning." After I've had a few hours of oblivion to forget the details.

Laika pouted. "Alright, but I better not find your headless corpse hanging from the lightbulb tomorrow."

Ava shut her bedroom door, struggling to not collapse against it, failing, crying quietly.

She forced herself to get onto her bed, where she curled up, unable to sleep, haunted by the images flashing in her mind of what she'd done.

Red Christmas