Everyone in the goddamn city had lost their mind. Or at least that’s what it felt like tonight. We saw our fair share of accidents during a regular shift, but this one was different. I’d lost count of the number of patients I’d seen over the last seven hours who had hurt themselves or gotten hurt by someone else doing some dumb shit even a child should know better than to attempt.
Was there some dangerous new social media trend I hadn’t seen yet? Or a revamp of that old show with dudes crashing shopping carts into things? Something had to explain this level of stupidity. It couldn’t all be coincidence.
We were in the middle of a mini lull, not uncommon this late at night, and I was curled up in a breakroom chair, trying to get comfortable as I downed another cup of coffee. My shift was only halfway over, and if the second leg of my night progressed like the first, I’d need all the caffeine I could get to keep me going.
Tanya swept into the room and strode right to the window, so focused as she stared up into the night sky that I didn’t think she’d noticed me. “And it isn’t even a goddamn full moon,” she said under her breath.
I straightened in my chair. “So it’s not just my patients?”
She turned to me and shook her head, her long braids falling over her shoulder. “No. Something’s gotten into this city tonight.”
We shared a troubled glance and then looked away from each other. Things like this happened sometimes, odd patterns emerging that made me think humans were more connected than we realized. One week, we might see a spike in car crash victims without anything like bad weather or traffic to explain the uptick. The next, we could get more domestic assault victims than usual, and the one after that, more gunshot wounds. Tanya and I had talked about it a couple of times, wondering if humans shared some kind of hive mind, or if it had something to do with magnetic currents or our subconsciousness’s all picking up the same subtle signals from the world around us.
I’d even mentioned it to one of the cops who regularly got stationed here, and instead of thinking I was a weirdo, he’d agreed with me, telling me he and his coworkers saw something similar. They’d get a slew of people who had almost no traceable connection to each other committing virtually the same crime one week. The next, it would be a new group doing something else.
I’d told Tanya about it afterward, and we’d both been so freaked out that now we avoided the subject altogether, as if bringing it up might trigger a new wave of weirdness.
“How was Brinley?” I asked. Tanya had worked with her the night before, keeping an eye on her like I had the night before that.
Tanya pushed away from the window and went to the coffee maker. “Good. Thank God. I think you’re right, and she’ll be able to stick it out. That first bad night just threw her.”
“Nothing like a baptism by fire to test someone’s mettle,” I said.
Tanya finished pouring her coffee and turned toward me, leaning her hip against the counter as she took her first sip. “It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had more people to split patients between.”
I perked up at that. “Speaking of, are you going to that job fair in a few weeks?” The hospital regularly put up booths at high school job fairs and local recruitment events in an effort to lure more people into the nursing field. Few would end up working here, but we saw any increase in numbers as a win at this point.
Tanya nodded. “Wanna come with? It counts as a shift, and you might get to see some daylight for once.” She eyed me over the rim of her mug, one brow rising. “You’re looking pretty pasty lately.”
I rolled my eyes at her. “I hope your sales pitch at the fair is better than that.”
She snorted. “You in or not? Don’t make me take someone like Donna.”
We both grimaced. Donna was one of the nurses who had been in here with Brinley last week. She had a terrible bedside manner and no natural instincts for caretaker work. Bringing her to a recruitment fair was more likely to drive people away from our career field than toward it.
“Yeah, I’ll go,” I said.
Tanya let out a relieved breath and took another sip of coffee.
Silence fell between us, but it was a comfortable one we both settled into. Some nights, we’d sit and chat between patients, sharing gossip. Others were like this, both of us stuck in our heads, just trying to catch our breath in the middle of a rough shift.
Tanya’s pager beeped on her hip, and she swore under her breath as she checked it. “Lab results,” she said, downing the dregs of her coffee before striding out of the room.
I checked my pager as she left. I was waiting on bloodwork for two patients myself, and it was surprising mine hadn’t beeped at me yet. The date at the top of the device caught my eye, and I straightened in my seat. Today was Tuesday. That meant a new video from The Faceless Man. He posted every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday like clockwork. How the fuck had I forgotten?
I dove out of my chair toward my locker. To have the breakroom to myself was a minor miracle, and I wouldn’t miss my chance to watch the new video in peace.
“Come on,” I muttered as I turned the dial on my lock with impatient fingers. The door could open at any second, and then this opportunity would be over, and I’d have to wait until the next lull or the end of my shift to watch it.
I opened the lock and swung the door wide, grabbing my phone out of my purse. My fingers flew as I pulled it close, tapping my favorite social media icon and going straight to the search bar. His creator page filled my screen a heartbeat later, and warmth flooded my body as I saw the familiar video covers of him in various poses and stages of undress.
My breathing picked up as I stared down at my phone, nipples peaking beneath my scrubs. I was like a Pavlovian dog for this man, but instead of drooling over the anticipation of food, I got wet somewhere else over the expectation of pleasure. This couldn’t be normal, my knee-jerk reaction to him like I was primed and ready to go after the merest glimpse at his page. I needed to stop masturbating to his videos because being this turned on this quickly was starting to be a problem. Especially right now, when there was no time or place to relieve my sudden need, and I’d be left aching with thoughts of him for the rest of the night.
I probably should have put the phone down and watched the thirst trap later, preferably in the solitude of my bedroom where I had easy access to a vibrator, but there went my finger, tapping the icon of the latest video as if it had a mind of its own. This must be a good one, because it was only posted a few hours ago and already had over fifty thousand views.
I pulled the phone closer and watched as a haunting song started to play. All I saw was darkness until the camera panned upward, revealing his mask lying flat on something. The camera panned more, and – holy shit! It was lying on a bed, and I had that same comforter!
I hit the pause button and let out a tortured groan. Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit. I should not have started watching this here. My pussy clenched at the sight of that mask lying on what could have been my bed, spasming in a way that only my biggest vibrator or a long hard fuck could ease.
Quit now while you’re ahead, I thought. Watching the rest of this video could only end in torture, but despite knowing how uncomfortably aroused I’d be for the rest of the night, I couldn’t help but lift the phone back up and hit unpause.
The music started playing again, and as I watched, a masculine hand slid into view, nails clipped short, tattoos whorling up the back of it right onto each finger. The camera panned out a little more, and I let out a shaky exhale as a muscular forearm was revealed, covered in tattoos and veins, and, oh, god, what was it about forearms that had such a chokehold on me? Was it because I could picture those muscles flexing as that big hand held both of mine over my head? Or better yet, bunching with barely restrained strength as those long fingers wrapped around my throat?
The hand slid over the mask, curling into the eye sockets before dragging it slowly out of view as a painfully low male voice sang about doing unholy things in the bedroom. The Faceless Man’s music selection was always perfect, able to turn even a simple video like this into a clit tease. It was even worse this time because I couldn’t stop picturing him filming it in my bedroom.
Suddenly, the camera snapped up, and I sucked in a sharp breath. There he was, framed in a mirror in all his shirtless glory, phone in one hand as he filmed himself, the other slowly undoing his belt. I hit the pause button again to take it all in. He was perfection – maybe not for everyone, but he was for me – with heavy muscles gained from what must have been hours in the gym, toned and trim in all the right places, wide and dense in others. I wanted to trace my tongue through the valley between his pecs, worship his abs, and spend an ungodly amount of time memorizing the deep V of his hip flexors where they disappeared into his jeans.
More than anything, I wanted to replace his hands with mine, undo his belt, pull out what looked like a sizable dick, if the bulge in his pants was anything to go by, and spend the rest of the night doing things with him that would make the devil blush.
A noise sounded in the hall, reminding me that my time was limited. I unpaused the video and watched the last few seconds, reveling in the slow, measured way he slid his belt loose and wrapped it around his fist while taking deep, labored breaths, his chest heaving. Great. Now I had a heavy breathing kink? Why was that so goddamn sexy?
Probably because you’re picturing him breathing like that while wrapping his belt around your wrists to restrain you, you horny little bitch, I thought.
Damn, I had it for this man, and I’d never even met him, had no idea what he looked like beneath that mask or even sounded like, for that matter. He’d never spoken in his videos.
That was probably the allure. Kinky sex with a hot, faceless man who didn’t speak? Sign me the hell up. I’d had about enough of men’s voices lately.
Something in the corner of the mirror caught my eye, and I hit pause again right before the video ended. The background of his videos was always dark and out of focus, but I could have sworn I was staring at the edge of my dresser, complete with what might have been the clutter of my makeup containers and hastily discarded hair clips. I must really have it bad if I was so far gone that I saw a few blurry shapes and supplanted them with my furniture and belongings.
Either way, this was officially my new favorite thirst trap of all time. Because whether it was a coincidence or my mind was playing tricks on me, it was far too easy to imagine it being filmed in my bedroom. God, the things I would do to myself while watching this in the coming days and weeks. I wondered if this guy had any idea of the effect he had on people. Would he be freaked out if he learned how hard I lusted after him? Or into it?
My beeper went off, jarring me out of my thoughts so badly I almost dropped my phone. Before shoving it back in my locker, I saved the video to my favorites and typed out a hurried, “I have that comforter. This could have been filmed in my bedroom. Let’s goooo bitches!” knowing all the other people I’d interacted with countless times before in The Faceless Man’s comments would see it and be dying of jealousy by the time I logged back in.
Nine excruciatingly long hours later, I pulled into my driveway and cut the car engine off, leaning my forehead against the steering wheel. Tonight was shit. Complete and utter shit. Capped off by losing a heart attack patient we thought had been stable. She’d been so young, too, barely fifty, her husband and teenage kids crowded around the bed when the second heart attack hit, watching in horror as we shoved them out of there and tried and failed to save her life.
It was nights like this that made me want to quit. I’d gotten into nursing to save people, and every single death felt like a personal failure. Like it was my fault they hadn’t made it because of some sign I’d missed or test I hadn’t thought to perform. Logically, I knew that couldn’t be true. It wasn’t like I was alone in treating them. I worked with countless nurses and specialists and doctors, and these feelings were likely caused by my lingering grief over Mom, but it didn’t make it any better or lessen the guilt that wracked me every time we lost a patient.
I made a mental note to bring this up in my next therapy session and got out of the car. Fred came yowling toward me once I got inside, and I scooped him up and smushed him for longer than usual, trying to ground myself in him and trick my brain into thinking happier thoughts.
I put him down when he started squirming, then went straight to the kitchen. Wine was calling my name. I’d held off on drinking since sending that regrettable text to Tyler, but if ever I needed alcohol, it was tonight.
The clock on my stove was blinking, reading 12 am, and it stopped me short. Huh. We must have lost power sometime during the night. My house was toasty warm, and the utility company hadn’t sent a message about it like they usually did when it went out, so it must have been a weird blip or something that didn’t last long enough to trigger a notification.
I shrugged and went to the fridge, Fred winding between my legs like he was hell-bent on tripping me. He stayed glued to my shins as I pulled out a fresh bottle of white and poured myself a large glass, extra clingy for some reason. I suppose I had been gone longer than expected again, my scheduled twelve-hour shift turning into sixteen instead. Tomorrow was an off day, so I’d make it up to him then.
Right now, I needed wine and alone time with my phone and vibrator.
You’d think all the blood and trauma I’d seen tonight would distract me from my desire, but I was so used to it that it only did so in the moment. As soon as I had a second to myself again, images of that mask on what could have been my comforter swirled to the forefront of my mind. Lust was a natural response to traumatic events, the body wanting a reminder of being alive after skirting so close to death, and I’d long since stopped fighting it.
“I know, buddy,” I said, leaning down to scratch Fred behind the ears. “Just give me, like, ten minutes.” That’s all it would take at this point.
I shut him out of my room, flicked the light on, and froze.
There was something on my bed.
There was something on my bed that I hadn’t left there.
The wine started vibrating in the glass as my fingers shook, but I couldn’t force myself to put it down because I couldn’t move. I was completely immobile, held in place by my rising fear. Had someone been in my house? Were they still here? Fuck, was that why Fred had been so insistent? He was trying to warn me?
I will not be a fucking victim, I thought, forcing myself to move, to step forward, set the glass and my phone down on my dresser, and drop to a squat as I quietly slid open the bottom drawer and pulled out the loaded gun I kept there.
Living alone in a big city and seeing the worst of what it could do to women on a nightly basis made me paranoid. I had a gun in my car and two more besides the one I now held hidden throughout my house. I slept with a baseball bat beside my bed and mace and throwing knives on my nightstand within easy reach. Two days a week, I took a hand-to-hand combat course taught by an ex-marine who didn’t go easy on me because I was the only woman in his class. If someone else was in my house right now, they’d be leaving it in a body bag.
I strained my ears as I straightened and slowly approached the bed. I didn’t hear anyone else in here, but that didn’t mean someone wasn’t standing in my closet or waiting beneath my bed, ready to grab my ankle when I got close. With that in mind, I stopped out of arm’s reach and leaned forward, freezing in place for the second time in less than a minute. There was a mask on my bed.
And not just any mask.
I’d stared at it so much over the past several months that I would recognize it anywhere.
I hadn’t lost my mind and imagined my things in his video. That really had been my dresser in the corner of the mirror, because he’d filmed the thirst trap I’d been lusting over all night in my actual goddamn bedroom.
Holy shit. What was happening? And what the hell did I do now? Call the cops? Check to see if he was still here?
My vision swam in and out of focus for a heartbeat. What if…what if all the blood in his videos wasn’t fake? What if none of this was a fun little kink for him like it was the rest of us? What if he was some sort of serial killer hiding in plain sight, and he used his platform to lure his victims to him?
Was I about to be next? Was this the beginning of some twisted game of cat and mouse?
I shook my head. If that were the case, wouldn’t I have noticed all the different bedrooms he filmed in as he taunted his victims? I hadn’t. Aside from the one he shot tonight – oh, god – in here, all his videos had one of three backgrounds (a couch, a wall with red lighting, and a non-descript bed with black sheets), making this the one exception to the rule.
Why me? And why now?
And why was I so fucking turned on by it when I knew I should run screaming from my house instead?
Copyright © 2023 by Navessa Allen
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.