He never thought there would be so much blood.

Of course, he had been working towards this night. He had been through many a simulation preparing, each one a virtual replica of the experiences and emotions that would pass through his mind; each one rendered by a network of computers, specifically ordered by the Organisation to reproduce the feel of the moment down to the smallest detail.

Whenever he would step into the immersion tank to enter the simulation, and don the mask which would feed his senses with virtual information, another world would flood into his brain: sights, sounds, touches all provided by the tank, on behalf of the simulation network. And it was a perfect world in many ways.

The chase would always be reproduced perfectly. The pretty young thing he would find in a deep level of a car park perhaps, or maybe in a back alley, near-deserted in the small hours of the night. Her eyes would widen in fear, the black pupils expanding as her flight response took hold, and then she would run. And he would follow, purposefully and without excess haste, for he always knew he would catch his prey before long.

The simulated victim would twist and turn through the streets of a deserted city, seeking a way to escape her inevitably approaching predator, but always he would be there: just behind, waiting for the slip to happen. And it would happen. She would stumble and fall, maybe, or take a bad turning and face a blank wall, and then the prey would be trapped; the implacable hunter on one side, the immovable stone on the other.

Tonight, he had been judged by the lead committee of the Organisation to be ready for a live chase. He had been transposed to a particularly run-down inner suburb of the city, its glory days long since blown into the winds by time and changing fashion. There he had seen his prey: a shapely young one, perhaps nineteen, with auburn hair spilling down towards her waist. She had sensed him somehow, turning back and showing those same wide eyes, dark pupils bordered by hazel; and then she had run.

The chase had been especially satisfying, lasting just long enough for him to be aroused, yet not dragging on until he would lose the urgent need to catch his prey. It had also been convoluted, mapping out almost every alley and street of that part of the city; he was sure that this one knew the area well, and was confident of shaking him off. At least to begin with.

But he knew that the chase would end in his favour, and towards the end she seemed to sense it too, her energy flagging, reserves failing as her body finally gave in to the panic rushing through her. And as he grabbed her by that length of auburn, a surge unlike any that had happened through the simulations passed through him. He knew that this was real.

The Organisation had trained him not to be one of those animals dispensing rape and murder on the world; the committee felt there were enough of those rabid dogs without their contribution. Instead, he was one of the artists: his speciality was the infliction of pain, delicate ribbons of flesh being cut slowly from his prey with surgical precision, as she writhed beneath.

At first, he had been too quick to dispense the pain, his victim lapsing into unconciousness almost immediately. But through the immersion tank, he had learned where to provide pressure, when to cut, to keep her hovering just concious, but still able to feel every ounce of the hurt he was working to inflict. And now his initiation had come, his arts being worked on a live subject for the first time, and he knew that this performance would be judged favourably by the committee.

But incongrously, there was always one thing the simulations lacked, and that was the flow of blood. The technicians said it was a simple problem of physics; the processing power to calculate the flow of liquids on such a precise scale simply wasn't there. How that could be, when the system gave such accurate impressions of the fear in his prey's eyes, he'd never be able to understand, but that was the simple fact of the matter.

And so it was that he was surprised by the sheer amount of blood released by his art tonight. It covered him and the stone floor of the final alley of the chase; it flowed freely from the limp body before him, which all the time was discharging more out of itself. The very air was tinged with salt, and he could taste metal in his breath if he opened his mouth. He was glad he had taken notice of his trainer's final remark before this night.

Take a change of clothing.

Article dated: 22nd Sep 2006

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