I love numbers, even numbers to be exact. I like that there are 48 stairs leading up to my cell. I like that I get precisely four hours of leisure time every day, no more, no less. I like that my wake up time, my breakfast time, my lunchtime, and my dinner time all happen on times ending in zero. I like that there are 80 cells in my block, 20 on each of the four floors. I like that my cell is on the fourth floor, six doors down. I don’t like that there are 17 bars on my cell door. I don’t like that my prisoner number is 15393, all odd numbers, my least favorite. I hate that I was only able to kill 19 people before I was caught.
It began when I was a child. Six years, eight months, and fourteen days old to be exact. At first, I started by counting the letters in my name, Oliver. Eventually, my desire for even numbers forced me to move on to anything and everything around me. My family began calling my routine my “Counts.” My Counts would happen all throughout the day. As soon as I woke up at 6:44 a.m., I would count 20 teeth, 20 teeth, 20 teeth, 20 teeth, the same as the day before. After counting my action figures (twelve, twelve, twelve, twelve) I would shower. Showering was one of my favorite parts of the day because I could control the numbers. Every shower was set to the tenth notch, the perfect temperature, and lasted exactly 600 seconds, 10 minutes. These numbers are my favorite because they’re even numbers, but also because they end in zero. At 7:14, I would walk down the 14 stairs in our house, counting each one along the way. I would eat my cereal, meticulously counting the number of seconds each spoonful took to chew. Before getting on the bus at 7:39, I would count our fridge magnets: seven, seven, seven, seven. This is where my family first started noticing my Counts. At first, they thought it was just a normal quirk little kids have when they learn something new. Soon enough, though, my Counts became worse.
My first-grade teacher, Ms. Sullivan, would tell my parents that I wasn’t as developed as the other kids. She noticed that I would take longer than the other students on every assignment. At first, my parents didn’t understand why; they thought I was doing great based on my Counts at home. They began asking me questions, usually nine questions every night. I hated their questions, I hated that they didn’t ask one more or one less to be even, but I always answered. Through hearing my responses, they began to realize that my Counts weren’t just my young brain trying to understand numbers. I would tell them about how when I was at school, I couldn’t focus on my work because there were too many things to count. The number of books on the shelf, the number of markers and colored pencils and crayons strewn across the craft table, the number of branches on the tree right outside the classroom window. One of my favorite Counts was when I would count the kids in the classroom: sixteen, sixteen, sixteen, sixteen, an even number. When someone was absent, though, it could throw off the entire day. I had an even more difficult time trying to get my work done. All I could focus on was the feeling that something was unbalanced in the room.
Eventually, my parents took me to the doctor. While I was waiting in the examination room, I counted the jars on the desk (three, three, three, three), the lights in the room (six, six, six, six), and anything else in the room that my eyes fell upon. After waiting eight minutes and 54 seconds, my doctor, Dr. Stephanie, finally arrived. She started asking me questions that made me uncomfortable, but I knew my parents wanted me to answer, so I did.
“Oliver,” she started to question me, “what’s on your mind right now?”
“The pens in your pocket. Three. I don’t like three,” I responded.
“And why don’t you like the number three?”
“It’s an odd. I like evens. They’re the good numbers.”
“That’s great! I like the evens better too. So when you’re counting, you must always count an even number of times then?”
Looking back on this conversation, it seems like Dr. Stephanie was just appeasing me since I was only six years, ten months, and twenty-two days old.
“Always four times. Sometimes more times if I need to.”
“Your parents tell me that you aren’t paying attention to your work at school. Is this because you’re too busy counting?”
“Yeah. There’s lots to count in Ms. Sullivan’s room. I never feel like I’m done counting yet.”
“I could see why that would be hard to focus! Hopefully, we can do something to help improve your work, okay? I just need to speak to your parents out in the hall for a minute and we’ll be right back in. Don’t move a muscle!”
Dr. Stephanie left me in the room alone while she talked to my parents in the hall, forgetting to close the door as they left. I looked down at the floor and started counting the tiles for the sixth time since I entered the office. As I was counting, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, I heard Dr. Stephanie quietly mention something about medication. I didn’t know what this meant at the time, but obviously my parents did and they did not like it. They started yelling, “Our son does not need medication,” and “We will not be coming back to this office!” My mother grabbed my arm and took me out to the car before I was able to finish counting the tiles. I never asked what was wrong; I was too busy counting all the street signs on the way home. They never took me to another doctor again.
Nothing changed after the meeting with Dr. Stephanie. I continued to do my Counts every day and I still struggled in school because I just could not focus. Two months and three days after the doctor’s appointment, a new student, Parker, joined our class. Seventeen, seventeen, seventeen, seventeen students in the class. The classroom had become permanently unbalanced because of Parker. I hated him. My ability to focus on my work dropped even lower. The Counts got even worse since I was constantly craving even numbers.
One day after school, my desire got too strong. I remembered Parker was on my bus and lived on my street. The bus stopped at its fourth stop, our stop, and we both got off. Instead of going to my house, I decided to follow Parker to see where he lived. I counted the steps as I lurked behind him out of his line of sight. We got to his house after 474 steps. I watched from a distance as he walked in through the front door, unsure of my next move. After 12 minutes and 19 seconds, he came back outside to play basketball in his driveway. At the time, my childish mind thought the perfect way to get back at him would be to push him and yell at him. I approached him in his driveway and said, “Parker, you’re a big meanie and I don’t want you in my class! You messed up my Counts!”
He turned around and looked at me with a confused look. Obviously, he had no idea what my Counts were, but it felt invigorating to finally yell at him. He started to talk but wasn’t able to get the words out before I pushed him to the ground.
I’ll never forget the sound of my first kill. It was a hollow noise, but with an alarming crack, like a wooden baseball bat shattering. His head just happened to land on the only rock in his entire driveway. A puddle of red began to soak the pavement around his head. He wasn’t moving. Even though I was only six at the time, I knew I had done something very wrong. I really didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted to push him down to scare him. I turned around and ran home after only waiting for four seconds. While I was running, all I could think was What if I hurt him? and I didn’t mean to. When I arrived home, I was glad to see my parents weren’t back from work yet. This gave me some time to pull myself together. They came home at 5:27 and I stayed quiet for the rest of the night.
The next day in class, I was doing my Counts and I only counted sixteen, sixteen, sixteen, sixteen students. Parker wasn’t here. Ms. Sullivan gathered us all in a circle and started speaking to us in a somber voice.
“Okay, everyone, you may have noticed that Parker isn’t here today,” she started.
We all nodded.
“Well, Parker had an accident yesterday while he was playing outside. He hit his head very hard and won’t be able to come to class anymore. This is very sad for me and it is okay for you all to be sad too. If anyone needs anything today, come talk to me, okay?”
“Okay,” we all say in unison.
“Great. Now let’s all go back to our desks so we can begin class.”
As we all got up and started heading back to our desks, I began thinking of Parker. At the time, I knew very little about death, but I knew it was permanent. I knew what I had done to Parker was permanent. Initially, this scared me. I was worried someone would find out that I was the one that pushed him. That it was my fault he wasn’t going to be coming to class anymore. The more I thought about this, I realized the class would always be even now. Sixteen, sixteen, sixteen, sixteen. My Counts wouldn’t be messed up anymore. I was responsible for controlling the numbers. Usually, when I controlled the numbers, it was for little things like the number of bites of food I took or how many times I counted something, This time, I controlled the entire classroom; I made the whole thing feel balanced again. I could use this ability for the rest of my life and that’s exactly what I did.
The next five years and six months were rather uneventful. No one ever found out that I was the one who killed Parker. The cops deemed it an accident, saying that he tripped while he was out playing by himself. I had just started sixth grade which meant going to a new school and discovering all new things to count. I had six classes, five of which had an even number of students. The only one that didn’t was my science class. Every day I would go to the class and feel unbalanced. My Counts were messed up and my ability to work had taken a hit again. I decided I needed to control the numbers. I knew that this girl in my class, Paige, had a crush on me. She would follow me around and always interrupt my Counts. I was so irritated by her; she would be my next target.
This time, I didn’t want it to be an accident. I wanted to feel the responsibility of controlling the numbers. For three weeks and three days, I plotted the perfect plan. First, I would ask Paige to the school dance that was only two weeks and six days away. While we were at the dance, I would tell her that I wanted to kiss her. Finally, we would sneak off to the bathroom where I would kill her and make the numbers even again.
Paige obviously said yes when I asked her to the dance. The next two weeks and five days went by painfully slow as all I could think about was controlling the numbers. Finally, though, the day of the dance arrived. My parents dropped me off at the school and I waited outside for seven minutes and 43 seconds. She couldn’t even wait a little bit longer to make an even amount of time. She really is the worst, I thought to myself as we walked inside. She was ecstatic that I finally acknowledged her and actually asked her to the dance. We reached the cafeteria, where the dance was being held and saw a dark room with loud music and sixth graders running around like animals. I always hated school dances because there were just too many things to count: the number of kids, the number of songs they played, how long each song was, the number of different foods they were serving, and so much more. I knew, however, that coming to this dance would be worth it.
“Would you mind if we danced over there?” I asked, pointing to the corner of the room closest to the bathroom.
“Of course not,” she said, slightly confused, but still happy that I had asked to dance with her.
Neither of us knew how to dance so we awkwardly just shuffled around for 10 minutes and 54 seconds until finally, I said, “Hey, Paige? Would you maybe, um, want to kiss me? We could go into the bathroom so it’s not so dark.”
I was incredibly nervous. Not because I didn’t want to kiss her, but because I was finally going to be able to control the numbers.
“O-o-okay,” she responded, flustered.
I grabbed her arm and rushed her off to the girls’ bathroom. As soon as we got there, I made sure no one else was hiding in the stalls. We were alone. She had a huge smile on her face, and I faked a smile for her too. As we were both leaning in for the kiss, I felt around for the corner of the sink. I placed my hand on the right side of her head. Instead of guiding her face to mine, I slammed her head into the corner of the sink, leaving a red smudge. She immediately collapsed to the ground. I put my ear to her nose and counted ten seconds. She wasn’t breathing. I had finally done it; I controlled the numbers. The high I felt from making the numbers even was like nothing I had ever experienced. My brain was overwhelmed by even numbers. I was in control of all the numbers again and this time I was wholly responsible. However, I wasn’t done yet. I needed to make this look like an accident. I grabbed a wet floor sign out of the nearest janitor’s closet and rushed back to the bathroom. Thankfully, no one had found Paige yet. I splashed some water on the ground and on the bottom of Paige’s shoes. Next, I just placed the wet floor sign right at her feet and ran back out to the dance. No one ever found out I was the one who killed her.
As I grew older, I never outgrew my Counts or my overwhelming desire for even numbers. I continued to kill the people who messed up my Counts. Natalie, when I was 14 for being the seventh member in my English group, Caleb, when I was 19 for being my third roommate, Marcus, when I was 22 for always leaving out TV volume on an odd number, Sheryl when I was 24 for sending out 17 or 13 or 15 emails every day, and 12 other people who irritated me. I learned to get creative with my kills since I needed to make them look like accidents or make sure the bodies would never be found. Sometimes I would hit people in the head hard enough to kill them and plant props to give the appearance that they slipped and hit their head. Other times I would slip poison into people’s food which would cause their organs to shut down and not cause any suspicion on an autopsy. One time, I hung a person while they were still alive to make it look like a suicide. I never left any evidence until my 19th and final kill.
My 19th kill was a man named Ellis that I worked with. Ellis wasn’t the odd number in a group and he didn’t do anything noticeable in odd amounts, but he would always interrupt my Counts. When I was at my desk, I would count my picture frames (four, four, four, four) and he would interrupt me multiple times a day. I was so irritated by him, I knew I had to kill him.
Since we worked together, it was easy to figure out where I would kill him: by his car after work. I kept a wooden bat in my car that I often used on many of my victims. The end of the day came and I saw Ellis getting ready to leave, so I quietly gathered all my belongings, put on my coat, and slipped out before he could. I rushed down to my car, grabbed my bat, and hid in the bushes near his car. After waiting three minutes and 16 seconds, I heard the click of his car unlocking. Now was my chance. Without saying a word, I darted out from the snowy bushes right in front of him and brought my bat down onto his skull. The impact made a loud, hollow cracking noise and shattered my bat. I immediately knew something wasn’t right. Ellis fell to the ground, the front of his head slightly indented. He was still breathing. Before I could react, he stumbled onto his feet and slugged me right across the face. I remember feeling my nose bleeding, but I wasn’t paying attention to it. Instead, I was focused on finishing what I started. I raised the splintered end of the bat that I still had in my hand and brought it down onto his skull one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times before he finally stopped breathing.
Before I left, I had to make it look like he slipped on ice. Since it was winter at the time, I poured water right at Ellis’ feet, knowing it would freeze within minutes. Next, I took what was left of my bat and hit the side mirror four times to make it look like Ellis hit his head on it after he slipped. Finally, I gathered all nineteen splinters of my bat and went home. I was thrilled to no longer have to worry about Ellis interrupting my counts. My excitement, however, didn’t last very long.
The next few days went on as normal as they possibly could be. I did all my Counts without any interruptions, which was a wonderful and new feeling. The people in the office mourned over Ellis, but I didn’t care; he was just one less person I had to worry about counting. Everything was going great until five days after the murder. On that day, I heard a knock on my door while getting ready for worked. I rushed downstairs, counting them as I went, and opened the door. Three cops greeted me with a pair of handcuffs.
“Oliver Miller, you are under arrest for the murder of Ellis Langdon.”
After 19 kills, I had finally been caught. I felt incomplete, like a huge part of me had just been taken away. Obviously, I knew I was going to jail for what I had done which meant I would never get my 20th kill. I would be incomplete for the rest of my life.
Apparently, what had happened was when Ellis punched me in the face, he got some of my blood on his knuckles. It was tested and traced back to me. They searched my car while I was at work one day and found the remains of the bat, which had his DNA all over it.
After I was arrested for Ellis’ murder, the cops launched a full investigation on me. They connected 17 out of the 18 other murders I had committed to me. The only one they couldn’t prove I did was Parker, but at that point, it didn’t matter. I had killed more people in thirty-eight years than three serial killers do in their whole lifetime, combined. My court trial went as anyone would expect: I pled not guilty, there was way too much evidence against me, I was found guilty. The worst part was when the judge was reading the verdict, he granted me 19 life sentences, one for every person I had killed. He knew it would be another odd number that would nag me for the rest of my life.
I have been in prison for six years, nine months, and 14 days. Every single day has been hell. I’m constantly craving more even numbers, but I know if I kill someone in here, I get thrown in solitary for seven days. My whole life feels unbalanced. My Counts haven’t felt right ever since I got in here. The only thought that has run through my head for the past six years is 19, 19, 19, 19. I can’t handle the incomplete feeling anymore. Tonight, I will get my 20th kill: myself.