Santa’s Sleigh

I was in the mood for television and a stiff drink, but everyone seemed excited to hunt snipes, so I slid on my new north face coat and boots. 

“Mom, we’re going out hunting snipes. We’ll be back.”

Mom and her sister, Liana, poked their head out from the kitchen, both holding a glass of wine, both equipped with devious smiles. “You’re hunting what?”

”Snipes, they said, I don’t know. Some type of bird.”

Liana shoved her mouth into the top of her turtle neck and stifled a laugh. Mom slapped her arm.

“What’s funny?” I zipped up my puffy coat, careful not to catch any hair strands in the teeth, then wrapped my scarf around my neck.

“Oh it’s nothing. Have f-fun.” Mom held back a laugh herself. “Take a flashlight with you.”

I had my phone.

The wind was sharp and bit at my face. I pulled my scarf up higher. I always enjoyed Christmas, because Christmas made Mom happy. The full moon that night illuminated the snowy terrain. Blake, Tim, and Mary waited in a small huddle by the cars.

“Come on Zo, let’s go. We are losing prime hunting time.” Tim handed me a bag. “This is to catch them with.” His breath clouded in the cold air.

I looked at the small opening. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“You’re going to wait with Mary at the flats. We’ll run through the trees and scare them out.” Time zipped his coat higher.

“Oooo-kay,” I said warily. 

Tim motioned for us to follow.

My coordination wasn’t the best. I wasn’t sure this was a great idea, but sweet little sixteen-year-old Mary was eager and happy to be hanging out with the older cousins, so she took her bag, nodded resolute, and fell in line with the guys.

Blake whispered in Tim’s ear and laughed, then Tim stuck his elbow in Blake’s side. 

The further we got from the house, the less I wanted to be out. Snow crunched beneath our feet; wind moved through the bare trees, whistling as it passed. My nose started to go numb.

Christmas had been good that year: everyone made it in a couple days early, so we spent the last few days catching up. Mom insisted no one rented a room, said she had plenty of space. Of course, aunt’s and uncles claimed all the beds, so us siblings and cousins were crammed in the extra spaces. For some reason, I thought after I became an adult I’d be able to claim my stake, yet there I was, still crashing on Mom’s couch.

After dinner that night, Margaret and Holly retired to their sleeping bags early, eager to play on their new phones, and Jim went to find an open bar with Greg and Rick, so it was just the four of us left to hunt. Why was I even out there? I didn’t like the outdoors, and I didn’t like the cold. I was giving them a solid twenty minutes, then I was going back in for hot chocolate, spiked hot chocolate.

“Just up here,” Blake said, pointing.

“I know where the flats are. I grew up here,” I said.

“Right, right,” said Tim. “But you’ve never seen the snipes?”

I just looked at him and shrugged. Tim indicated where Mary and I should stand, how low to squat, how to hold our bags.

“Okay, we’ll send them out. You’ll know when they’re coming.”

Then the guys were off, chatting amongst themselves as they departed. I steadied myself to remain calm. I had to be ready when the swarm came, and there was no knowing when that would be. It was impossible to see into the tree line. The dark spaces were intimidating.

“I’m so excited,” Mary whispered.

“Me too,” I whispered back. A solid lie, but I didn’t want to burst her bubble.

We listened, waited.

“How long do you think it’ll take?”

I shrugged.

Another long silence between us. I watched my breath float with each exhale. My knuckles ached. My back was sore. How long had we been waiting, five, ten minutes? Surely we should have heard something. I was beginning to think the boys might have been having a laugh at our expense.

I rested my elbows onto my thighs, let them take the majority of my weight. “Well I’m cold. Do you want to go back in?”

“Shhh. What? No! Then we won’t be here when the snipes come.” Mary yelled in a whisper.

“Mary, I don’t think…” I stood, shoved my bag in my pocket.

“Listen, listen, I hear something.”

I was going to call her crazy and drag her to the house, but then I heard it too, something coming though the trees, and fast. I fumbled my bag out of my pocket, fought to get it open. Branches snapped; loud wood pops echoed through the landscape. I dropped my bag. I was going to miss them. The sound was almost to us. It sounded huge. There must have been a thousand birds. 

I bent to pick up my bag, and when I did, the swarm exited the trees. I didn’t see it, I just felt the gush of wind lift my hair. Mary screamed. I looked to see how many snipes she had bagged, but there were none. Mary was gone, a small pool of blood marking the snow where she had stood. I looked behind me and saw it then, Santa’s sleigh, big and red with a line of reindeer in front. The jolly old man sat in his seat with Mary in his lap. He had her whole head in his mouth. 

I ran as hard as I could. My lungs seized, the cold air collapsed my airways. I needed my inhaler. I didn’t have it. I pulled off my scarf, ripped open my jacket. 

I couldn’t breathe. 

I finally saw the porch light. With the last bit of will power I could muster, I ran as hard as I could and practically flew the last two hundred yards. I collided with the front door, turned the knob, and fell inside, clawing my throat. Mom and Liana came out of the kitchen, red faced and wide eyed. 

Mom looked at me, “What, oh, Oh!” She dropped her wine glass; it shattered. She ran to the bedroom and was beside me in seconds, coercing the plastic into my mouth. She depressed the canister, I pulled in what little air I could. The medicine started to work. The tension in my chest started to ease. “Tim, Blake,” I started.

“What did they do?” Liana asked. They were her sons 

“Are they here?”

“They were with you, wait, where’s Mary?”

“I…” I started, but I didn’t know how to continue. “We were waiting for snipes, then…”

“Then what?” Liana pressed.

“Santa Claus, he crashed through the trees. He took Mary, he took her, and he was eating her.” Tears flooded from my eyes then. I couldn’t believe what I had seen, but I knew what I saw.

Liana laughed. Mom just stared.

“You must have been seeing things Zo, there’s no way…” Liana started, but was cut off by two blood curdling screams from Tim and Blake. 

The three of us looked at one another for what felt like several minutes before Mom took out her cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.

 

THE END

 

Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Santa’s Sleigh

Untitled

I look down at the loose change in my hand. A few quarters, dimes, some nickels, and a load of pennies. Should be enough to get something from a dollar menu. The long trek home from the bus stop wasn’t bad today considering it was technically still summer. Rain rolled through the day before, and, with it, came a slight cold front.

I pass the gas station. I don’t have money for a candy bar. Will power.

Darcy had been a bitch at work. I know I’m new, and kind of clumsy, but they are supposed to train you. If she would just help a little, I would be an asset. Four days in and she already expected me to get a report done…in an hour…when no one has shown me the software, despite my asking.

I pass the church. 

My feet ache. Shelby told me to bring comfy shoes for the walk. I just can’t imagine wearing a casual skirt and a button shirt with sneakers. But then again, I keep all forms of makeup in my bag for touch-ups through the day. Shelby’s not that kind girl; comfort over composure she says. I think of my mom, all those years pulling her hair into a tight bun. She didn’t believe in comfort.

As I approach the cemetery, I see a man, presumably homeless, sitting on the signage out front. His head is down, his back sags heavy. Normally I spare change when I can, but I can’t today. I have to hold out for that two-week paycheck. I expect to have to deny this man money as I walk by, but he doesn’t acknowledge my presence. I continue, pass, then pause. 

There’s something.

“Sir, excuse me, sir.”

He lifts his head, looks at me.

“Uh, oh, I don’t know what I wanted, I saw you sitting here, and you looked defeated. I just wanted to talk to you.”

His back straightened. “Oh?”

“I mean, everyone has bad days, and I hate seeing sad people, especially when you don’t know if they have anyone to talk to.”

“Well that’s all right. I don’t know if I would say I’m sad, but you’ve already made my day a bit better.”

His name is Al and he’s been all around the states. He said his wife was in the cemetery and he wanted to say bye. He was getting ready to hitch a ride far away and didn’t know when he would get a chance to visit again. 

I look over the headstones. Some flat and new, some sticking from the ground in arcs, statues, towers. There are a couple of monuments tucked in the corners. “My mom is buried here too.”

“I’m sorry to hear she’s gone. You’re young.”

“I am. She was, too.”

We are quiet for a while. I enjoy the stillness with the stranger.  He has a comforting voice, a soothing soul. I wonder where he’s headed, but I don’t ask. He knows where he’s going, and I know where I’m going. That’s all that matters. 

I reach my hand in my pocket, pull it out holding my loose change. 

“Here. In case you want to grab dinner on your way out. It’s not much, but it’s all I have.” 

He protests. I try to insist.

He holds my hand closed, then lowers it, looks at my pocket. “You need it, you need to eat. Besides, it will do me no good anyway.” 

“You don’t have to be like that. I know it’s meager but it’s literally all I…”

“I know, I know Martha, you don’t have to explain.”

I yank my hand from his, take three steps back. “I never told you my name.”

“When you are what I am, you don’t have to ask. Thank you for talking with me.”

He seemed so normal before. Great. What did I get myself into? I don’t have anything for self defense. I step back, one foot at a time, hoping he doesn’t try to hurt me. I’ve heard the bath salt stories.

“Tsk. Tsk. I’m not going to hurt you Martha. You were kind. You are safe.”

I continue adding distance between us. A young man is walking our way on the sidewalk, and I consider yelling a warning to him, but then I feel silly. This man hasn’t done anything. He’s just a little off is all. I’ll be fine. I just need to get away, get home.

“It’s too bad. I rather enjoyed talking with you. Maybe I’ll see you again someday.” He winked at me, then jumped up and crouched on the ledge where he had been sitting. In fractions of a second, he leaps in the air, is upon the young man, then they’re just gone. A smear of darkness passes my vision and disappears into the cemetery and surrounding trees. I stand there, stunned.

What did I see? Who do I tell?

I hold my neck, out of instinct I suppose, pop off my heels, then scuttle as fast as I can the rest of the distance home. 

 

THE END

 

Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Untitled

The Genie

“Neka, it’s Mom. Call me. It’s about Dad.” 

Not now Mom.

Neka erases the phone message and grabs the joint she rolled that morning. It’s Friday. She had been waiting all day for this joint. Of course it’s about Dad. It’s always about Dad. He has Parkinson’s. It would go from bad to worse, but Neka just needs a little time, a little space before calling. Her professors rode her ass all week, Leesa and Mesh are both mad at her, and Bart won’t return her calls.

“Shit, where’s my lighter?”

Neka tosses last night’s skirt across the living room, moves the pile of clothes off the couch seat, shuffles the papers on the coffee table, the desk, pushes cans and crinkling bags around her kitchenette. 

“Shit!”

She rummages the bed sheets, the pillows on the floor; she shuffles the contents of the dresser. 

Nothing.

With the joint hanging loose from her lips, Neka starts her bathwater, then drops her bottoms and plops on the toilet. She sighs, looking down the bridge of her nose at the green heaven that she can almost taste. She cleans herself quick, then pops her head out her bedroom window. 

“No, no, no….bingo.” The man in the coat with the patched elbows. He’s puffing on a cigarette. “Heeyyy, blondie.” A thin blonde female looks up from the sidewalk ready to say fuck off. “No, not you, him!” She looks confused, then irritated, says something to her friend, then they stroll off. Blonde smoker, however, finally looks up. “Hey, can I borrow your lighter for a quick flick? If you toss it up, I’ll send it right back down.”

The man in the jacket has his hands is his pockets. It’s a blue suede material, very dapper. To most women he would be quite attractive, but Neka thought anyone that polished must have too much time or money on their hands, or both. He smiles, then tosses it up. “Keep it. I’ve been meaning to pass that on.”

Neka catches the flighted metal. It’s weighty, solid. “No, really, just let me light this, and…” flick, ccrrssstt, “All done, here you g…” but he’s gone. She looks left and right to see which way he’d walked, but she can’t find him. “Hmmm, whatever.” 

She tucks back in her window, sits on the edge of the tub, and examines the metal. All silver, old silver – she knows because she’s seen some of her grandmother’s collectables. There’s a woman molded on the front of the lighter, a woman with six arms and no clothes on. Her hair is long and wavy, and she wears some sort of amulet.

She reaches behind her blindly to shut off the water. A hand grabs her wrist.

Neka screams, falls, scoots away from the tub. Her joint falls from her mouth. 

“Help, there’s someone in my…”

“Shut up!” A woman says from her tub.

Neka freezes, terrified. 

“Come here.”

No fucking way.”

Neka stands, but she doesn’t mean to. She didn’t move herself. She’s moved. Her legs take her to the side of the tub. She screams again. Her mouth is slammed shut.

“Stop that. It’s annoying.”

Neka’s eyes water. She’s scared. She should have called her mom.

“I am hungry.”

Neka doesn’t speak. She looks over the woman lying in her bathtub. Her face is smooth, her skin plump, her hair is long, dark, floating over her naked body. It takes Neka a minute to really see it, to see that she has six arms.

“I am hungry. Bring me food.”

“You’re the woman…” 

“Yes, on the lighter yes.”

“You came out of the lighter, like, like a?”

The woman laughs. “Like a what, like a genie?”

Neka nods with her mouth hanging open. 

“Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. You humans, tsk, you all think your words mean so much. A genie. Ha. What, you expect me to come out of your lamp and grant you tricky wishes? No. I don’t think so. I am Mathnanon, a Benevar. You summon me, you serve me.”

“I don’t exactly under…”

Mathnanon pulls herself up, then out and over the side of the tub. She moves like a giant insect. Neka’s stomach churns.  “You summon me, you serve me.”

Neka steps back, then again, and again. She should have called her mom. She should have left the house. She should have bought her own lighter. The Benevar moves closer to Neka still. They dance like this until she is backed against the wall. 

“I need,” Mathnanon says light, breathy, “I need flesh.” She leans into Neka for a hard kiss. Neka squirms. Blood pounds in her lips. The pressure is too much. She tastes iron. Mathnanon holds Neka’s shoulders, wrists, hips. She moves a hand to Neka’s face, another to her groin. Neka sighs, moans, loses feeling in her knees. 

Before she could fight the advance again, the Benevar burst into flames. She backs away from Neka, smiling. “Bring me human, or I eat you.” She shrinks until all fluids have evaporated. Her body breaks, falls, the ashes create a cloud. 

A gust of wind moves through the bathroom then, which swirls the ashes before all of it spirals down, seeming to be contained in the lighter. She looks at her hand, still shaking. She looks at the window. She looks around her apartment for a weapon.

“Shit.”

 

THE END

 

Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

The Genie

Home Garden

Two things happened to (X) in the spring of last year that seemed less significant than they turned out to be. She started sleep walking at the same time that circular patches of disturbed dirt starting appearing in her backyard. Just one at first, but a new one appeared every night that followed.

Since (X) lived alone, she was able to discern her new sleepwalking habit via the grime trapped under her nails when she awoke, amongst other indications she’d been in dirt. It seemed she was digging holes, then returning the displaced earth before returning to her room. As any rational independent adult would do, (X) visited a doctor, who prescribed less stimulation before bed along with a little round pill that “may or may not prevent the episodes.” The little pill didn’t stop the episodes. Neither did avoiding television or books before bed.

Attempting a more psychological approach, (X) researched gardening. She thought maybe she was repressing some desire to dig or grow her own food. The holes she dug in her sleep continued parallel and close to the back line of her fence. To avoid disturbing her vegetable garden during an episode, she started a raised bed close to the house.

Little green sprouts presented in her garden, stalks thickened, the promise of home grown vegetables and fruit excited (X) more than she expected. The sleep excavations continued regardless.

When she reached the end of the fence line during the night digs, another horizontal row started. She was surprised at the symmetry of the appearing holes, each measuring eighteen inches in diameter and spaced six inches apart – exactly six inches. Nothing sprouted from these night dig sights; never did the idea come to her to dig one up while she was awake. Nothing was missing from the house; her car keys were never disturbed. There seemed nothing she could have been “planting.” (X) got used to the idea and accepted it as part of herself for a while. Maybe when I’ve dug the entire backyard, it’ll stop.

*

Six weeks later, (X) was picking the first ripened pods from her green bean bush when she heard a muffled voice yell. It was early morning, the sky still dim; the sun prepared to peak over the horizon. (X) stopped all movement, quieted her breath and listened with her arm hairs vertical. She heard it again. Turning to look towards the origin, she saw nothing aside from the dig sights now covering almost the entirety of her yard. (X) held her sheers as a weapon and approached the back fence.

The muffled yelling continued, as if a man was having a one-sided angry conversation with a sock in his mouth . Panic set in as she neared the sound. It came not from behind her property, but from beneath her feet. Standing at the edge of the first night hole, she could almost discern annunciation – she could feel the vibration being carried through the ground. Shaking, she fell to her knees and clawed at the dirt, throwing handfuls in all directions. Her nail scratched flesh, the voice cried out in pain, then began cursing at the mishap.

(X) panicked. Her first thought had been that someone was buried alive down there, and she needed to get them out. Never did she consider herself responsible. She kept checking over her shoulder for a villain of some kind to descend upon them. She continued digging, more carefully, until she could completely palpate a human head. Grasping both sides of the head, she stood and pulled so hard she questioned her own arms staying in place; the voice yelled with angry pain.

Slowly, hair crowned the earth, then a brow, then a clenched pair of eyes. (X) lost her breath. Again, she checked for an oppressor. She was alone save her buried friend. Then the pull changed, the struggle got easier, the dirt felt to be giving way. She pulled harder, the screaming volume multiplied, then subsequently she heard rips and pops, like when you pull a large, well-rooted weed from the ground, the screaming ceased, and she found herself flat on her back with the wind knocked out of her.

The world was blurry. Her head ached from the impact with the ground. She still held the uprooted thing in her hands, only now her grip was wet. Warm liquid fell to her chest and abdomen. (X) sat up, trying to breathe. When again she opened her eyes to focus, she looked at the hole and saw red fluid filling the void. Water stained with clay? She was dazed still. That’s when she saw the decapitated head in her hands.

She screamed and threw it. The head bounced off the back fence and rolled before stopping with its face in her direction. The expression was twisted with pain. No way do I have the strength to pull a head off.

Again, not thinking logically, (X) threw her hands in the pooled hole, throwing out cupped handfuls of the red liquid she could now see was blood, looking for the rest of the body. How would she convince an officer she was trying to help, not murder this guy? But she would have to call the cops. She dug for shoulders. What she found instead was a tendon and vein root system.

There was an intricate twisting of them for several inches below the tearing points. (X) sat with blood and mud equally caked on her hands, turning the organic mass over and over. Her eyes were wide and glazed. Her lips hung parted. She was only half-way conscious, unbelieving of what she saw. She guiltily dropped the mass of veins and white connective tissues when she heard another voice nearby. The second hole was now yelling at her.

Her trembling hands pulled away the dirt, carefully, slow. Once she felt her fingertips brush the scalp, she began to move the dirt in a more direct motion, as to expose the face and mouth. Again, she saw emerge a head of hair, a brow, blinking eyes…the yelling stopped when he seemed to realize she was excavating him with the caution of an archaeologist uncovering her first find. She swallowed and held her breath, then exposed his mouth.

“It’s about damn time.”

(X) said nothing. She couldn’t speak.

The head scoffed, rolled his eyes, then clicked his tongue. “I suppose I should say thank you, but you are late. I’ve been calling for you.”

(X) still said nothing. She looked to her hands, then to the severed head only feet away.

“Is he here?”

“Is who here?” (X) looked around the yard again, now feeling something looming over her shoulder.

Him. The one who brought us to you.”

“The one that brought you to…” she trailed off. She was dumbfounded, overwhelmed, overstimulated. She didn’t think. (X) stood and grabbed both sides of the head as she had before, telling herself this time she’d pull a full human from the ground. The head screamed and cursed. She shoved dirt in his mouth. She pulled until the tension gave way, and she once again found herself holding an uprooted human head.

Now frantic, she clawed at the third hole. (X) knew what she would find, though disbelief tingled in her knuckles when she actually found skin. This one was sleeping. This one was a woman.

(X) slapped her. The sound reminded her of the noise fresh dough makes when its plopped onto a cold counter. No response. She slapped her three more times before she woke.

“What the fuck is going on?”

“You tell me what the fuck is going on. Why are human heads growing in my yard?”

“Are you serious? Why didn’t you ask him?”

“Him who?”

“The one who brought us here.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about. I’ve just plucked two heads from my yard like weeds, and I’m assuming there’s fifty more of you here.”

“You picked two of the heads? He’s going to be mad. You can only expose our tops once we become lucid. We still have months of development.”

(X) found herself with a lack of words again.

“We were all dead. He came to our graves, asked if we would join his army, said he was taking control of things on earth. You are the gardener. You were given the privilege to cultivate our growth.”

“To cultivate…” (X) stared at the woman, looked to the holes still covered. Her brow creased. “Is he the devil?”

“To be honest I don’t know. I didn’t ask. But I think we all assumed that was the case.”

(X) stared at her for seconds longer before jumping to her feet and once again pulling to free the head from its roots. The woman yelled horrendous curses until the snap and pop came, then she was quiet.

Neighbors would have heard the commotion. Cops had probably been called. (X) moved quick, grabbing the pickaxe from its rusted wall mount. She stood in front of the fourth hole, raised her arms high overhead, then brought the axe down with as much momentum as she could produce. The axe struck something solid, a muffled yell came quick, once, then blood began to seep from the opening. She repeated the process around the yard. Blood stopped presenting around the thirtieth hole. She heard distant sirens when on the last two. Once she finished, she made a mad dash for her car keys, fish-hooked her purse with the nook of her arm on the way out, and drove north.

The authorities couldn’t make much out of it. They were finally able to solve the mystery of who had been stealing heads from graves all over the southern region of the U.S. The lack of pattern, and the sheer distance between occurrences left them baffled. They still couldn’t sort out how she was reaching such distances on a nightly basis. Her car wasn’t on any video surveillance to or from the grave locations; her bank account showed no indication of recent flights.

When they saw the blood, the fresh heads, at first the police thought they caught her in the act of burying recently murdered victims. Upon further investigation, they found the humanesque root systems, the lack of bodies to which the heads belonged…someone put together that the “recently decapitated” victims had all died at least twelve months prior. Dental records and DNA were compared, the bodies excavated from their graves. The heads presented no sign of decay while the bodies were decomposing on schedule.

Even harder to explain were the rest of the heads that remained buried. All had been hammered with a pick axe; all seemed to be in a different phase of re-growing skin and other soft tissues.

The incident was reported officially as nothing more than a woman stealing dead heads from cemeteries before burying them in her backyard. They later caught her trying to set sail on a beach of the Atlantic Ocean. She was in a tugboat with both pockets full of rocks, claiming the devil chased her and wanted her help to build his army. She escaped before any full evaluation could be made, and, less dramatically, she hung herself from the first bridge she came across.

After her service, after she was buried, after agents and doctors who knew the truth spent hours staring at the ground packed atop her casket with a curious thirst they knew could never be satiated, on an easy morning with the spring sun waking the cool sky, a groundskeeper came out to find her grave disturbed, the dirt dug, and her head gone. Most thought it to be a revenge move executed by a disgruntled family member of one of the heads she’d stolen. The ones who were there, though, the first responders, or those like me, who dissected the roots and autopsied the heads, we let our minds and imaginations wander.

Our charted pattern showed the heads regaining cognitive function at six weeks. The furthest along, his roots had signs of developing systems that typically lead to the heart, lungs, and upper appendages. Our research was forwarded to a classified party, one I always assumed to be a branch of the government. If it was possible to bring humans back to life, and we somehow stumbled on said evidence, the military would want their hands on it.

I swallowed a dry piece of doughnut and found myself musing on the woman’s claims when I clocked into work. Someone was still out there stealing dead heads, but the collection rate and radius expanded. If she had been telling the truth, for the evidence had no support in either science or logic, the death of a garden or gardener would not divert his course. I pondered in whose backyard she was planted.

 

THE END

 

Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Home Garden

Halloween Treat

Halloween is here. Reed knew it because the cold air stung his nose and made his eyes water. Every year he would hear his parents whine with other adults about the Texas heat that sticks, even in autumn. “When’s it going to get cold? When are we finally going to be able to wear our sweaters?”

A few chill days would pass in between, hinting at what’s to come once the luke-warm autumn air finally broke. Every year Reed would be deceived and plan his Halloween costume based on the way the fall night air felt…and every year, once Halloween dawned, he would find himself shivering in his costume boots.

Today though, Reed was pretty okay with the cold. He was thirteen, turned thirteen as of this morning, matter of fact. He was too old for trick-or-treating, so he was walking to school in his normal attire: jeans, a graphic tee, and his hoodie.

Yes, Reed was a Halloween baby, and though he’d always thought it was cool his birthday fell on All Hallows Eve, he found himself slightly spooked after his friend, Tommy, pointed out his thirteenth birthday was on a Friday, and thirty-one backwards was thirteen. Reed was aware this was a stretch, but it spooked him all the same. He thought he might should watch out for black cats and ladders just to avoid any extra bad luck coming his way.

Buses passed full of elementary kids donned in shrouds, robes, wings, and wigs; Mallory and Mike ran by dressed like Raggedy Ann and Andy; when Reed glanced over his shoulder, he saw Benjamin dragging his toes along the cement with each step, scarring the black leather of his shoes. Benjie was wearing a shirt that read ‘This is my costume’ and his hair was spray can painted orange. Reed waited for his classmate to catch up.

“What’s up with you?”

“Not a damn thing,” Benjie shot back.

“My bad for asking. Just surprised to see you kicking dirt with such a cool costume on.”

“Eat shit and die.”

“Tits to you too.”

They walked beside each other, but Reed forfeited the small talk. Benjie continued to drag his shoes along the pavement – Reed was sure now he was trying to wear holes in his shoes.

“I’m too old for a damn costume. I told my parents I didn’t want to do the Halloween thing this year, and my mom came in this morning with this shit and said, ‘It’ll be fun!’” (Benjie emulated his mom’s high pitched voice.) “She wouldn’t let me out of the house without it…I’m just praying they send me home for dress code violation.”

Reed fought back a laugh. “I’m not going out this year eith…” Benjie yanked on the hood of Reed’s jacket so hard he fell flat on his back and knocked his head on the pavement. Reed thought to jump up and beat his ass, only he couldn’t see straight, and he felt sort of like he might vomit. A car horn blared as it passed by. He swallowed a couple of times and held both hands on the back of his throbbing head.

“That car almost creamed you, dumbass.”

With clenched eyes and clenched fists, Reed thanked Benjie for saving his ass but said next time he should find a better way to do so.

The rest of the walk was quiet. Reed kept palpating the lump on his head, wincing when he brushed across it. He expected at first to pull his fingers back and see them stained with blood, though he never did – the impact hadn’t broken the skin. He thought if it had, he might have gotten the day off school. Once they made it through the ID check, they went their separate ways.

“See you in third period,” said Reed. He turned and immediately heard someone giving Benjie hell over his “shit orange” hair, which left Reed wondering who had seen orange shit before.

*

The day went by as most do, boring class after boring class. Reed fought nodding off in first and second period, then again after lunch in fifth and sixth. He’d stayed up late playing games the night before and was praying all day for a pep rally or at least a movie in one of his classes. The only exception to the day had been the worse than normal clumsiness that left Reed pissed off and ready to go home.

He stumped his toe hard enough to bruise it through the shoe, knocked his funny bone twice, and jammed his finger in gym. To top it all off, he dropped his pencil in the bathroom before his last period, then knocked his already tender head on the underside of the porcelain sink. He actually collapsed after that, stayed in the fetal position on the dirty floor for a while trying not to cry.

Once Reed was finally home, he thought about the plans he made with Tommy and Benjie. He considered calling and backing out. After everything, he didn’t feel like going, he told himself, and he was obviously experiencing one hell of a streak of bad luck. His best bet was to stay home with store bought candy and movie binge. He didn’t want to ditch Tommy, though, and he even more didn’t want to make Tommy go alone with Benjie. Benjie can be a bit of a dick, and he knows he can wear Tommy down to agree with pretty much anything – it’s why they were now going trick-or-treating.

Reed plopped down on the sofa with an icepack on the back of his head and mentally shifted through the rubber masks still stacked in his closet. He had a clown, a monkey, an old granny mask, and a grim reaper shroud that blacked out his whole face. Clowns were played out and he was sure the reaper get up would be too small. He wondered if he could talk his mom into grabbing him a last minute mask before her and dad had to leave for the party – ya, fat chance at that. He settled on the granny mask and thought to grab a mumu from his grandmother’s house down the street.

He napped on the couch for a while, woke up to pee and eat, then passed out in his room for an hour longer before Tommy called and said he was walking over.

“Oh, you’re going out?” asked his mother. She was putting the final touches on her ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ makeup in the mirror by the front door.

“Tommy talked me into it. We’re going down to Granny’s before we meet up with Benjie.”

“Okay, well, be home by…”

“Ten, I know.” Reed saw green painted hands emerging from the hallway behind his mother before he closed the front door behind him.

*

“Dude, that still trips me out.” Tommy was laughing while he recorded Reed dancing and mouthing the words to a song playing from his phone. They were screwing around – Benjie was late.

“Do you want to just go? We’re going to miss all the good stuff.” Reed felt a hard push on his back, almost sending him to the ground.

“You gonna start without me, shit face?” Benjie was still in his ‘costume’ from school, but had added a large link chain around his neck and wore a rubber skull mask.

“We were supposed to meet half an hour ago. I thought maybe you were washing your shit orange hair.” Tommy was rolling by then, but zipped up when Benjie shot him a mean glance with a fist aimed his direction. “Come on, let’s go guys.”

The first three houses they passed all had dark porches. The next five were lit though. Reed felt ridiculous, three tall boys with deepening voices holding out pillow cases to ask for candy. He had money – he could have bought candy. As the night went on though, he cared less about his pride as his bag grew in weight. They stopped long enough to each cram a few pieces of cholate down, then turned the corner and started on the next row.

The three zig-zagged across the narrow neighborhood street, hitting all the lit houses without having to double down the other side. His mom would have scorned him for eating candy that hadn’t been checked and for crossing the street every thirty seconds, but hey, she wasn’t there – she was probably drunk wherever she was. Two of the houses on this street were handing out full-size candy bars, five of the homes were answered by women with huge ta-tas, and they passed a trio of girls they planned to track down again soon. It seemed Reed’s shit luck from earlier had taken the night off.

After failing to find the girls again and practically running down three more streets, they decided to turn it in for the night. It was after ten anyway, and though his parents probably wouldn’t be home until midnight, he thought with his luck he better not push it. The three walked together much slower than when they had started. Benjie picked at his candy non-stop, throwing the empty wrappers back in his bag, while Tommy mouthed a caramel apple sucker. Reed carried his heavy bag over his shoulder, suddenly realizing how dark it was around them.

They had walked several blocks, and all the houses were running out of candy, so dark porches dominated every street.

“If I were a burglar,” said Reed, “this would be one hell of a night to score. A lot of neighborhoods don’t have street lights. It gets pitch black once all the porch lights go out.” Both his companions looked around then, Benjie’s eyes returning to Reed’s with a mischievous look in them.

“You aren’t wrong, shit breath.”

“Are we going to do this all night.”

“All year,” Benjie replied. Reed rolled his eyes and kept walking, now with a tighter grip on his bag. He pulled his phone out to check the time and thought of switching on his flashlight. He would have, except Benjie would give him hell for it. “Hey, let’s hit this last one. I bet they have big bars. Look at the size of it.”

Reed looked up to a tall dark house he didn’t remember seeing before…in fact he could have sworn this property was an open plot. He ran through a thousand ‘maybes’, like maybe they sold the property, but that didn’t make sense because the house looked old, but people could move houses now right, so maybe they sold the lot then moved an old rickety house way the hell to nowhere Texas.

“No man, I’ve got enough. I need to get home.”

“Chicken shit. Are you afraid of your parents or the dark more?”

“It’s just one more house man,” chimed Tommy.

Reed rolled his eyes and started up the sidewalk with the dynamic duo, agitated at Tommy taking Benjie’s side over his. He looked up to the house, tall and fragile looking with dark windows and open shutters. The house wasn’t completely falling apart, but it looked like a good summer storm could take most of it down. Gas lamps hung on either side of the door, both burning with a purple flame.

“Maybe they don’t even have anything. It’s too late, all the good stuff is gone. I bet they didn’t turn out the lights because they’re gas. We are going to wake someone, and they are going to be pissed.”

“Chicken shit,” was all Benjie said without slowing his stride. Reed wanted to leave, wanted to at least duck behind the bushes. He kept waiting for his mom to call him too, but found himself suddenly thankful at his parents’ party habits. When Benjie finally rang the doorbell, Reed felt his knees ready to run.

A silhouette moved behind the glass in the door. Reed squinted through the glass and took a step back.

“Don’t be a chicken shit.”

“Dude, enough,” said Tommy, who stepped back too.

The silhouette moved inside again, this time closer to the door itself. Reed realized he was holding his breath. He looked to Tommy who was actually shaking.

“Come on, let’s go,” Reed started when he heard the metal clack of a lock opening. “We’re sorry if we woke you, your lights…”

“Nonsense,” said a sweet voice from the dark opening. The silhouette stepped onto the porch where the purple light danced around her. Reed felt his heart quicken. The homeowner was a young adult female with long, wavy, chestnut hair and eyes as big as her breasts. “You boys are out late. Most of the candy hunters have wandered home by now.”

“Well we don’t have a curfew since we are teenagers,” Benjie started while Reed thought to smack him, “and your lights were still on, so we figured you must have had something worth giving out.” The woman laughed with a hand raised over her mouth – Reed thought she even seemed to blush a little.

“Well of course I do. Isn’t that what Halloween is all about?” She reached behind her, her soft hand returning with a large bowl filled with mini versions of pretty much every popular candy on the market. “No one seemed to want to stop by my house tonight, so I’ve got the works. Have your fill.”

Benjie’s hand was in the bowl in an instant, raking three handfuls into his bag before he plucked two small chocolate bars from the bowl and ate them on the spot. Tommy looked hesitant, but he took three handfuls of his own then pulled a new caramel apple sucker from her bowl to replace the one he’d just finished. Reed felt weird, didn’t like anything that was happening, but to avoid teasing or trouble, he grabbed a handful and dropped it in his bag.

“Is that all you want, sweetheart?”

“We already have a ton,” he said as he held up a fistful of heavy pillowcase.

“Surely there has to be something else your little heart could want.”

There was something alright, but he kept it to himself. He hadn’t been brave enough to even hit on a girl his own age. On top of that, his initial thought wasn’t an innocent pick-up line. He thought he’d love to lose it to a girl like that. The woman was holding eye contact with him still, and now lowered her gaze as if she heard his thoughts. She pushed her leg forward from the slit in her skirt. It wasn’t until then that Reed realized she was dressed as a witch – he hadn’t looked much further than her face and tits.

“Do you have any alcohol?” asked Benjie. Reed thought for the third time that day he’d sure like to whop that kid a good one. Benjie looked to the guys and shrugged with a shit eating grin on his face. They all three watched the woman for her response.

She leaned over forward with a wide grin on her face. She held eyes with Benjie now as she lowered to meet his brow. She jested at Benjie with wet words but Reed missed the gist of it – he couldn’t look away from the velvet line cutting into her high breasts. He had a feeling Tommy was locked in too, because he was equally silent.

The woman, still talking, raised her hands to rest on her chest. She laced her fingers together and rested her hands on the soft white skin. Reed saw then her eyes cut his way, and he immediately looked to the floor. He had been caught staring, and worse, he felt himself growing – his pants getting tighter in the crotch. He tried to think of anything but her hands and what they were touching. Benjie would never let him hear the end of it if he saw.

Reed forgot his boner when he heard a loud snap. It reminded him of the time he broke his collarbone skating. He looked up to see the woman’s fingers, all of them, stuck inside her own sternum. Blood was running from the opening. It was bright red against her light skin. The boys started to back step, but unable to look away, they watched her grip either side of her rib cage and pull out.

The front of her split open like a chicken on Christmas, but she did not collapse or bleed out like he knew they were all expecting her to do. Instead of organs and intestines spilling from her belly, what looked like one hundred snakes doused thick in her blood fell to the ground and began slithering their way. Tommy and Reed dashed the second the saw the serpents, but Benjie hesitated. When the boys reached the edge of her yard, they heard Benjie scream.

Benjie’s loud cry was quickly muffled. In sync, the two running looked over their shoulders just in time to see a snake slither inside Benjie’s mouth. They ran hard, some of Reed’s strides not even feeling like they connected with the pavement. The both of them jumped the stack of stairs at the end of Reed’s porch, and he turned every lock after he slammed the door in its frame.

 

THE END

 

Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Halloween Treat

The Day I Killed the Dog

She stood outside the square paned window of their back door puffing on her cigarette and steadied herself to go in. Her hair was knotted in a bun on the top of her head still from work. She let it down and unbuttoned the three ivory clasps on her jacket. She felt like she was facing an angry client about a postponed deadline, or a nine-year-old standing outside of the principal’s tall oak door awaiting reprimand. It didn’t feel like she was about to face her husband.  Daria dropped her cigarette on the gray concrete, then stepped on its cherry before going in the house.

The smell of leftover fish wiped the burnt nicotine scent from her nostrils. She huffed out a breath and crinkled her nose in disgust. No amount of lemons in the disposal could wipe out the seared bass smell. No, they would be stuck with it a while. She almost ducked behind the bar when she heard the heel of his wingtip derby shoes crossing the wood in the living room. Daria wasn’t ready to face him. She just wanted to go to sleep and wake up three days ago before she made an ass of herself. If not that, maybe three months into the future when he’d by then surely be done moping and asking questions.

“How was he in bed? Did he cum in you? Why did you do it in the first place?”

Daria hated how he was taking things. “Why don’t you just fucking leave, Ben?”she thought. It would have been so much better than whining, begging, losing his masculine appeal.  He wanted to stay even after the fact, he needed let them move on. Daria knew he wouldn’t though – she knew he was coming in to dump all the questions his mind churned up in the two hours since they last spoke.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” she threw back. She hadn’t ducked behind the bar.

“Can we talk?”

“I just walked in Ben.”

“I know, but I just,” he stopped with the forceful sigh she pushed out of her pursed lips. “How can you be so impatient with me? You’re the one who did this to us. I’m still here with you. The least you can do is help me feel better about it.”

“All the blame on me,” she thought. “None of it attributed to your porn storage, your flirtatious nature, your lack of passion for my vagina. You flirt with all the pretty things in pencil skirts at your office, get yourself worked up to images of other females and videos of them enjoying themselves, then flop on me, your on-call cumbag, until you finish and sleep. How does that make me want to exclusively fuck you?” She said none of it though. She stood straight-faced with her fingers laced together in front of her.

“I love you Ben. This has been going none stop since it started. Can’t we just take a night off, enjoy one another?” He turned and left the kitchen. She started after him then stopped. She decided to let him sulk and enjoy the peace while it lasted.

* * *

When Daria finally left the safety of the kitchen, Ben’s dog, Ratchet, was seated at the end of the hall with his back straight and his head high, almost like he was playing defense. She was safe to assume Ben was in the bedroom.

Ratchet had been Ben’s dog from day one. She had been the initiator, finding the golden retriever puppy add online, begging Ben to go see them. “Just to look,” she had said, hoping with all her might they would end up leaving with one. They did. He had fallen in love with a male golden puppy just as she had hoped. Unfortunately, Ratchet developed an immediate liking for Ben before they even swiped their credit card.

“Move,” she said kicking the dog in the butt as she passed. He showed his teeth then lowered his lip back down and followed her down the hall. Daria felt a weight on her back, his shadow creeping steadily along behind her. “Go away Ratchet.” She opened the door and pressed his chest back with her shoe, only he pressed by and ran to Ben once the opening was large enough.

“Why do you dislike him so much?” he always asked her. It wasn’t just that she didn’t like Ratchet – Ratchet didn’t like her. He always slept in her spot when he’d jump on the bed, on more than one occasion he’d hiked his leg on hers, he growls, barks, snaps at her almost daily – Daria felt safe to say Ratchet just didn’t like her.

“Daria, I don’t mean to drive you crazy. It’s just that I don’t understand why you would do it.”

“I don’t understand it either Ben. If I had a real reason why, I would tell you and end it.”

“End it?” he said and looked at her with wide eyes. He was so unattractive to her the way he was acting.

“Your suffering, so you can stop wondering.”

“Oh.”

The bathroom light was on. A high pitched but quiet hum rang in her right ear. She’d had that problem for several years now, hearing more electrical hums than she cared to admit to herself, but the bathroom light in particular was a loud fucker. She walked to turn it off.

“I’m not finished in there,” he said as her hand touched the switch.

“I was just turning it off for now.” She flipped the switch down.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Daria turned the light switch back on with a force that felt like it might pop a breaker if it had been possible. She started for the bedroom door. She thought to go spend time reading in her chair. Ben left her alone when she read. She wished to God that she could have just come home to a normal house with her normal man waiting for her inside. She wished to God that he would just let it go. “Do you wish you hadn’t done it?”

“Of course I do,” she said on her way out of the room. “I more wish I had locked my fucking phone,” she thought. As she neared the end of the hall, she heard Ratchet’s nails jump onto the hardwood from the bed, then click along behind her in the hall. “Why do you insist on trailing me around the house when you don’t like me,” she said to the dog. “I just want to be alone.”

No such thing happened. As soon as she sat in her chair, Ratchet sat in front of her, back straight and head erect, him telling her that he intended to watch her read. Ben came in with more questions later when she started dinner. Her mother called wanting a recipe, one Daria didn’t have and her mother spent thirty minutes insisting she did. Ben followed her in to talk while she soaked in the bath. The dog AND Ben watched her filing her nails and brushing her hair. When she finally crawled into bed and laid her head on the pillow, Ben wrapped his big arm around her and started snoring in her ear. She pushed the lunk off of her, confident in his ability to sleep though anything, and went to the back patio to smoke.

There she found herself in the same stance she had been in after work: right arm tucked under her left, left arm propped up in the air, a white, cherried stick erect between her first two fingers, only now she was in a tee shirt and barefoot, still dreading going inside. If she slept on the couch, he would wake and have something new to whine about. If she crawled in bed, she was likely to shove a sock in his mouth. She sat in her reading chair instead.

Peace, she had finally found it. The house was sleeping – the lights were all off, televisions too; no washer running, no dishes in the sink. Daria lit a couple of candles, tucked an overstuffed pillow behind her back, and kicked her feet over the arm of her chair. As she cracked her book open a grin slid on her face. That grin melted quickly when she heard thick keratin nails clicking on the hardwood down the hall. “I hate that fucking dog.”

“I’ll have you know, I hate you too you slinky bitch,” she imagined him sniping in a north-eastern accent back at her. She looked at him with a scowl as he entered the living room.

“Go away Ratchet,” she whispered as loud as she could still in a whisper. “Go to BED.” He didn’t. He clicked all the way across the living room and sat in front of her chair again. She pushed at him with her bare toe. His body bent back, then returned when she dropped her foot. “Go AWAY,” she said again, this time slightly louder, this time accompanied by a strong push with the ball of her foot to his chest. Still no movement.

Daria was more agitated now than she had been all day. She felt tension in her gut, energy building in her arms. She felt like she needed to move, needed to go for a jog – she also felt like she needed to wail her fists at something. She considered throwing her balled hands at the couch a few times to see if that blew off steam. She had seen people throw one solid punch at a wall when they are irritated or angry. She didn’t want to bruise up her knuckles, but she assumed the reciprocated pain was as much a therapy as throwing a fist was. She did neither, only turned her head to her book and tried to block out the dog in her peripheral. She was successful in her task physically, but her gut continued to tie in knots with the internal anxiety building. Daria conceited to her defeat, closed her book, and stood to smoke.

“Neither of you can get to me at work tomorrow,” she said. Ratchet bared his teeth at her, then she growled back at him as she took a step towards the back patio. As she turned, a hot pain sunk into her Achilles tendon like someone wrenched it in a vice.

Daria covered her mouth as she let out a muffled scream on her way to the floor. Both her knees knocked the wood hard enough to distract her from the heat in her ankle, but only for a few seconds before it came back in a larger wave. On all fours, she looked over her shoulder to see a proud dog, swear to God, grinning at her with blood on his teeth. Unbelieving, she looked at her ankle, punctured and bleeding on the floor.

“Yooo-uuu son of a bitch,” she said, pushing her weight onto her good ankle, then hopping into a lop-sided stance. The dog was still showing her his blood stained teeth. She hopped closer. He lowered his head and took a stride back, then let a guttural growl roll out of his throat. Propping herself up with the arm of the chair, she glared at him, unsure what move to make next. “If I had the stomach to chop you into Chinese food, I would.” The next step she took, he lunged at her.

Daria yanked her good leg out of his path just before his teeth connected with her skin. She had little strength in her injured ankle though, and tumbled to floor with the dog. She pushed his barrel-shaped body with her open hands as hard as she could, then reached for the overstuffed pillow to use it as a shield. Ratchet slid back on the hardwood, then ran at her again. She pushed him to the side then threw her body on top of his in an attempt to overpower him.

The flailing dog sank to the floor and worked to get his paws underneath him. He pushed and bucked. She hooked her right arm under his throat, put the pillow over his head, then laid her full weight on top.  His head snapped side to side, reaching for skin to catch with his teeth, but she gave him no such chance. She pushed the pillow over his nose and his jaw into the floor as hard as she could.

At first the bucking from below was the same. When he realized he couldn’t breathe though, his thrashing intensified. She dug her bare feet into the floor and stiffened her knees to better her leverage. “Fuck you,” she said to the dog. “You and your fucking favorite.” She pushed her weight harder down on the pillow. Keratin clawed desperately at the wood. The more he fought, the more she pushed back, the tighter her arm cinched around his neck. She quivered all over with tension and rage. He almost shook her off with one powerful push, but she kicked at the ground, and with the momentum they both went down again. His paws slowed, then rested, then all movement stopped. She was panting, drooling, crying hot tears on the pillow. Daria came back to herself and took a deep breath in, then sat back on her heels. She stared at the dog under the pillow on the floor.

“Holy shit.” She listened for movement. She watched the dark doorway of the hall. Ben had to of heard that. She was sure he’d be out in seconds. Silence. She looked herself over – blood still dripping from her ankle and smeared in splotches on both of her bare legs. It was all over the living room floor too. She shoved her face into her palms, wiped it, then looked to the floor again. “Holy shit, I killed the dog.” Now what was she supposed to do? She considered waking Ben, telling him everything, but she knew he would flip, cry, blame her. Then she wondered if he might call the cops on her, try to get her in trouble. It was self-defense, but had she gone too far. She felt bile churn in her stomach. She hopped to the kitchen just in time to vomit in the sink, then she hung her head for several minutes. When she went back to the living room, it was with bleach and a bucket in her hands.

First things first, she moved the pillow from the dogs face. He would be getting stiff soon and she had to get him into a position that looked more like sleeping dog, less like a strangled one. She poked his tongue in his mouth, washed the blood off his face, then rested his head on his crossed paws. Daria then doused her ankle in alcohol, cursing the bastard through all of it, wrapped it as best she could, and bleached practically the entire living room. Finally, she limped with a stiff Ratchet in her arms to the bedroom.

As the door creaked open, she hid behind the door frame, peaking only her head in to see if lunk was still sleeping; he was. She held her breath and stepped in. Only twenty steps to get the dog on his bed, then she would make her exit just a silent. This was the scariest part of the whole ordeal. What could she possibly say if he woke now, caught her with her pants down in the middle of covering up her mess. She suddenly missed the days when she would run around getting in trouble with her college girlfriend, Susan, and how they would cover for one another no matter the situation. She was only steps from the dog’s pillow. Her injured ankle was now aching halfway up her leg. She held her breath again, cursed the bastard, kneeled, and sat him down. It was then she heard the lunk roll over in bed.

Still not breathing, she scooted her own body all the way back to hide below the foot of the bed. Daria felt her eyes flood with tears. She had made a mistake. A random encounter with an old friend, a simple lunch, a hot sex session in his office. She hadn’t intended to keep up an affair, she hadn’t even intended to keep a communication line open. But she had given him her number; he texted her at the most inconvenient time possible. Now she was hiding from her mourning husband, sweaty from killing their dog, praying he didn’t get out of bed and catch her. He didn’t. Ben shortly after started to snore again. Daria wiped her face and crawled out of the room. She sulked all the way back to the couch, pulled the folded blanket from over the back, and buried her face in the pillow that smothered Ratchet. She sobbed, for a solid twenty minutes, she let it all out.

*  *  *

Trying to practice her response to the announcement of the dead dog was hard. She spent the remaining hours trying to sleep, but only successfully for moments at a time. She kept jumping and jerking herself awake, then falling back into a crazy thought spiral. It had been easier explaining who Henry was when she came in the house to see Ben going through her phone. She had been in the car scouring for her lost pearl drop earring, and apparently Henry decided at that same moment that he was craving more of her. But how was she to fake surprise and sorrow when neither was there. She dozed again, then woke one last time to lunk walking heavy down the hall.

The whole thing had been a disaster. He came in asking why she slept on the couch, why she looked so pale, then paused his inquisition to brush his teeth, finally returning with tears streaming from his face. She thankfully had time to slip on a pair of tall socks, forgetting to hide her bandaged ankle before crawling under the blanket. He insisted on having an autopsy, wanted to go after the breeder who promised a clean bill of health. She insisted on saving the money and burying him. He accused her of being insensitive, she accused him of being too sentimental. As he started for the door with his dead dog in his hands, she threw her arms around his neck and begged him not to go.

“Ben, please, let’s just bury him in the backyard. I don’t want to go through anything else right now… I don’t want to drag this out. Come, let’s call off from work. We’ll take care of poor Ratchet, then I want to talk to you.” She had worked up full-fledged tears by now. Ben looked at her wet face pressed into his shoulder with a deep crease in his forehead. “I want to tell you everything. I want to tell you why I did what I did. I thought a lot last night Ben. I’m tired of feeling this gaping hole between us.” She thought to go on but decided to stop there. If she got too dramatic he might catch on to the fact she was putting on a show.

His body went stiff. Hugging his unresponsive torso felt like carrying Ratchet down the hall after he’d sat a couple hours through her cleaning session. Then thank the fucking gods his muscles went lax, his brow softened, and he placed the towel wrapped dog gently on the floor. “I’m so tired of it too Daria.” He gave her the hardest hug he had in years, and though she felt a slight remorse start to crawl up her throat, she wanted to get the next few hours over with. She’d be expected to shed tears over the dog’s grave. She’d be expected to shed tears during her confessional. She’d be expected to give him the best make up sex of his life. She performed for two of the three, but when they crawled in bed, Ben insinuated she should take her socks off, and she replied with a frowned face saying it was her time of the month.

“It’s okay love muffin. I’ll get you in a few days, remind you who’s pussy that is between your legs.” She responded by biting her lip and taking off her top. In her head, she rolled her eyes and wanted to go read.

When they crawled in bed together, he threw his lunk arm over her as he had the night before. He put his head half on the pillow, half on her shoulder, and when he was finally out of it, his mouth fell open, and the snoring commenced in full effect.

“Just fucking great,” she thought. Realizing she had put herself in a submissive position. She would have to keep this “love me” act up for a while and live in socks in the middle of summer until her ankle healed. He’d be on her heels like a scorned puppy too, wanting attention and validity. The thought alone made her stomach hurt. She had a deep loathing, found herself angry at the situation she had gotten herself into. All of it started with the talented Mr. Henry.

“At least Ben didn’t ask me to give him head,” she thought as she felt herself falling into that place before sleep.

 

THE END

 

Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

The Day I Killed the Dog