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Sam wasn’t sure about this.

It had all started two days ago.

He told himself he wouldn’t download Tinder, Grindr, Scruff, or any of the other “dating” apps he had relied on when he was living in New York City. He had left New York for a new start. He had put himself out there back then.

He had laid his emotions raw to strangers, and he felt it catching up to him.

So, rather than try to hide in a city where everyone knew him, he woke up one morning, packed up his life and moved to an anonymous, small town where no one would know him anymore.

He could reclaim his privacy. He could go about his days (and late nights) without the judgment and intrusion that had started to invade every minute of every hour of every day when he was a denizen of New York City.

But, the need for connection started as a small scratch in the back of his skull, until it had evolved into a dull throb he couldn’t ignore. Sam was sad. He was lonely. He needed to meet someone.

Otherwise, he would succumb to whatever malady fell upon those who denied the natural urge for human connection. Perhaps the throb would become an aneurysm, killing him in his sleep, alone. He had escaped the city to become anonymous again, and perhaps the universe would give him what he thought he wanted.

But the minute Sam downloaded Grindr, he could feel the pain subside.

He was feeding the urge he had tried to deny since he hopped on the bus to the middle of nowhere.

The minute his picture had been approved, the notifications came in hot and heavy. It was an occupational hazard of being “fresh meat” in a rather isolated area. Surprisingly, there was a wide array of men within feet and most in driving distance. The gays truly were taking over Small Town, America.

He didn’t respond to most of the messages. On principle, he refused to interact with blank profiles. Sam wasn’t interested in making new friends with the variety of 50+ men who reached out, asking him for his socks or if he was into generous men or if had ever engaged in grandfather/grandson roleplay. The sheer amount of unsolicited dick and hole pics he received almost forced him to delete the app entirely. Maybe it would be better off if his brain just exploded without notice and put him out of his misery. He quickly blocked anyone who asked if he liked to “ParTy.”

Sam was looking for something (or someone) very specific.

And that’s when he messaged Sam. It was a blank profile, but CerealKiller quickly remedied that issue.

CerealKiller – Hey. You’re new here.

CerealKiller has sent three pics.

And none of them were close ups of his anatomy. Although in one, he was standing on the beach in a very small Speedo. And to say this man was perfect was an understatement. CerealKiller looked like Matt Bomer and Hugh Dancy had made an adult male together, but without all the pretension. He had perfectly tousled, curly-ish hair. His teeth were straight and shining white, and his smile looked genuinely kind and fun, like he didn’t take anything all too seriously. His eyes were some of the bluest Sam had ever seen.

This was exactly what Sam was looking for. It was like the constant headaches had never even existed.

But, was he willing to risk it all—the privacy, the sanity, the needed isolation—for an apparently hung man with an amazing body and eyes you could swim in?

NewInTown – Wait, are you an actual serial killer?

CerealKiller – The app won’t actually let me set my name as SerialKiller. So this is my workaround. How else am I supposed to find my victims?

NewInTown – Ummmmmmm… Also, are you sure you didn’t just find those pictures off Google, you’re perfect!

CerealKiller has sent one pic.

Sam laughed. There he was, Cereal Killer in a very well-fitting tank top holding up a piece of paper (with amazing arms) that read “Welcome to town, NewInTown” with the date hastily scribbled.

CerealKiller – It’s me. How are you finding it? It’s difficult to make my way through all the torsos, meth heads and bots to find anyone to talk to these days. So, the fact you’re new in town (and super cute) is working in your favor.

NewInTown – Well, thank you. Working in my favor… as if… you’ve found your next victim?
CerealKiller – It’s a play on words. I can house, like, three bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch on a good day.

NewInTown – Oh, good. There can’t be TWO serial killers in town. I hate having to compete for my victims.

CerealKiller – Touché.

The flirtatious back-and-forth went on for the next couple of minutes.

And at no time, did CerealKiller ask him “What are you into?”, “Top or bottom?”, “Dick pic?” or decide to send an unsolicited nude. Which was good for him, as that is ultimately what disgusted Sam about these apps and some of the guys he did meet in New York City. The fact that they would debase themselves for it all to end the way it always did.

Sam had decided that meeting this guy would scratch the itch that had consumed him since his arrival, but he was never the one to be the first to suggest meeting. The other guy always needed to initiate. It made him feel better. It removed any guilt when the night inevitably ended in the way he had imagined it would.  Sam had decided CerealKiller was worth breaking the rules for.  Even if it meant finding himself in a mess similar to the one he found himself in back in the city.

Sam was just about to send a “Well, goodnight” message, although he hated the passive aggressive tone a message like that carried, when his phone trilled.

CerealKiller – So, there’s a carnival in town for the next two weeks. Would you want to meet there on Saturday? 7 P.M.

It was that simple. Sam didn’t need to do anything.

NewInTown – Sure. See you then.

CerealKiller – Exchange numbers?

Sam knew this was coming. He wouldn’t get what he wanted… needed… if he played this incorrectly.

NewInTown – Can we keep it here for now?

CerealKiller – Of course. I understand. What serial killer ever wants phone records with his potential next victim? LOL

NewInTown – You understand my plight.

CerealKiller – So. Saturday. Town Carnival on the boardwalk. 7 P.M. We’ll keep it easy – let’s meet by the Ferris Wheel. I’ll be in a heather grey t-shirt.

Sam easily fell asleep, feeling content that they hadn’t exchanged names.  Sam preferred it that way.  It was best not to get attached this early – and names inevitably led to attachment.

So here Sam stood, by the ferris wheel. Or, in the case of the Bachman Brothers Carnival, the Fun O’Wheel, the air redolent with funnel cake, cotton candy, and ocean air. Had Sam attempted to come here when he’d first arrived, he was sure the flashing lights and carnival sounds would’ve aggravated the pounding in his skulll. But now, he took it all in, and was energized by the sights and sounds. Sam’s mouth watered, not only because he was desperately hungry, but because he had realized that he missed nights like this more than he realized.

Sam was excited to see the carnival was fairly crowded. He didn’t much like attention on himself, and with the crowds, it would be easier to remain relatively anonymous and fade into the background. If anyone ran into him on the streets tomorrow, he felt comfortable they wouldn’t recognize him.

And that’s when Sam saw him.

If it was possible, he was even more perfect in real life. The grey t-shirt was tight, and had a vintage look to it, and it showed off every muscle. It would probably feel soft and slightly worn under Sam’s hands.

He smiled upon seeing Sam, and when Sam went to go shake his hand, he took Sam into a big, strong hug. Sam tried to be discreet, but Sam couldn’t help but take a deep breath and take in this man’s scent and warmth. And his body was so firm.

“So, I don’t know about you, NewInTown, but I am starving AND parched. Funnel cake, fries, and some beer?” he asked, his smile growing wide.

“Yes, yes. That sounds like a great idea,” Sam stammered.

Sam inwardly sighed with relief.  So, they were just going to refer to each other by their screen names to maintain the playful banter.  This would make it all easier.

“My treat then. I feel like it’s my responsibility to show you all the generosity and small town charm we have to offer.”

And so the night went. They sat down on one of the benches in the beer garden and chatted. Sam was very careful not to reveal too much about himself. Sam was always cautious and reserved in situations like this. Sam had learned not to give too much information away, especially if the night didn’t go as planned. Sam gave just enough information where the conversation didn’t feel one-sided, and it was evident the handsome man across from him was letting his guard down as the night went on.

They finished their second beers and agreed to walk around the carnival.

He suggested to Sam they play a carnival game, and he won a stuffed lizard (the town’s mascot) and gave it to Sam. Sam’s breath caught in his throat as their hands kept grazing each other over and over as they walked towards the roller coaster. Finally, he put his arm around Sam’s shoulder as they went to get in line.

Sam’s pulse raced. This is exactly why Sam had left New York City. Sam had put himself in this situation, and he had a choice to make.

“Actually, I don’t think it’s really a good idea for me to ride a roller coaster after two beers.”

“I understand, probably not advisable. Do you maybe want to sit and talk on the beach?”

Sam quickly considered this. He looked around the carnival and found the hustle and bustle was distracting. And in order to get to the boardwalk and beach area, they would need to walk through an unlit corridor behind the roller coaster and between two ticket booths that were closed for the night.


And so they walked towards the beach, Sam’s hands starting to get clammy and his breathing getting heavy as they headed towards the dark alley. Sam knew what could potentially happen and he was excited and exhilarated, but also utterly frightened, by the idea.

Even though he told himself he would never do this ever again.

The minute they were in the shadows, Sam felt his date’s hand on his shoulder, and Sam was suddenly looking in his eyes, the chasing roller coaster lights reflected in them.

“I’m really enjoying myself. And you’re like… ridiculously handsome.”

“You,” Sam’s voice caught in his throat. “Too. You’re exactly what I was looking for.”

“Wow,” he smiled. “You really know how to talk to a guy?”

Sam wondered if he would ever meet someone this handsome, and perfect, again.  And iif he could do what was expected next.

Sam dropped the stuffed lizard and reached into his back pocket, and he could smell the powdered sugar and beer on his companion’s lips as he went in for the first kiss.

Sam released the catch on the switchblade and quickly stuck it and quickly removed it from his companion’s neck. Sam did it two more times for good measure.

As he fell to the floor, blood gurgling from his mouth and his throat, Sam frantically looked around to make sure no one could see them.

Sam took in a deep breath, relieved. He came to the sudden realization this urge wasn’t worth fighting. And sure, the cops, his roommates, and his boss in New York City were starting to suspect he was responsible for the murders in their neighborhood.

But, he wasn’t in New York City anymore. And no one in New York City knew who Chris Andrews was; they had known him as Sam Fox.

Sam crouched down, the life starting to seep from those beautiful eyes, and whispered into his ear –

“Never talk to strangers on the internet.”

Sam slit his throat to make sure it was all over.

And Sam was wrong. He rode the roller coaster. And it was fun, even after two beers.

Eric Mochnacz

A wizard of pop culture. A prince of snark. A delightful addition to any dinner party.

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