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February 2016 Discussion Post: Your Favorite True Crime Stories

February 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This month’s subject was suggested by KingDeathMetal – he left a very long and detailed comment about why he wanted to see this particular topic discussed here, and it’s pretty interesting so I encourage you all to give it a read!

The timing seems right, given that Making a Murderer has been such a phenomenon and dragged the true crime niche back into the spotlight. Though I’m not sure the public’s fascination with the true crime genre ever really dwindled that much: Forensic Files, Unsolved Mysteries, the countless true crime documentaries floating around on pretty much any video streaming service – not to mention that it’s an incredibly populated subject for writers as well. You could pretty easily fall into a serious rabbit-hole of jumping from one true crime story to the next!

So this month, please share your the true crime stories that gripped you. I encourage you to give links to any documentaries or websites where people might be able to read more about your pick, but I do have a few guidelines that I need everyone to follow for this month’s discussion for it to be remotely workable here:

  • Above all: be respectful. Remember that true crime, by definition, involves actual people as the victims who don’t deserve shitty jokes or insensitive comments made at their expense. If the victim or their family have asked that people stop discussing their case, even if you find it fascinating, please don’t bring it up here.
  • DO NOT EMBED ANY NSFW VIDEOS OR IMAGES IN YOUR COMMENTS. While I understand that some true crime cases can be grisly, this doesn’t mean that it’s okay to share any graphic images here. I’d prefer that you don’t link to anything that could be considered a shock site or explicit content, but if you’re linking to a legitimate documentary that happens to include upsetting imagery, please mention it in your comment. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now, but as I’ve stated several times before, we’re not a shock site, and I don’t want people getting linked to potentially traumatic things without warning.
  • When summarizing the case, please try not to go too graphic. I know this may seem silly, but this is mostly for the sake of myself and other comment mods: we might not really enjoy reading some case details over our morning coffee, you know? I’m sure that you’ve noticed I tend to give gore warnings on the rare pastas that feature it in too much detail; try to use that as a barometer for what you can freely discuss versus what you might want to allude to with a link. If you’re not sure, you can give a warning before continuing so that any readers – both the mods and general community members – can decide if they want to proceed with reading your comment.
  • With all that said, this discussion is not limited to serial killers. Cults, corrupt policemen, organized crime, etc – true crime is a pretty far-ranging genre. I don’t want my emphasis on keeping things work-safe while discussing any murder cases to make you think that the only type of crime open to discussion is murder.
  • I hope that these bullet points all made sense, because I’m squeezing in writing this post before I’ve even had my coffee today.

If you’re somehow not familiar with true crime and don’t feel like hitting up Google, here are some relevant links to familiarize yourself with the genre:

I hope that this topic can be discussed smoothly, so as always – be excellent to each other!

 

 

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The Cabin

February 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I awoke this morning head pounding, stomach turning; most likely from the copious amounts of Whiskey I had consumed hours prior. I stumbled from bed wearing the same clothes I had worn the previous day: a heavy winter’s coat, thick gloves, waterproof pants, and snow boots. I made my way to the den where the fire sat, blazing from last night’s use. I rubbed my temples and focused hard on the roaring flames. It was as if the dancing orange inferno was aching to tell me something, undoubtedly about how disturbing my actions were the evening before. My eyes widened and began to water as I held them open in a futile attempt to win this staring contest with the combustion reaction of elements and water vapor. Liquid began to pour from my eyes, yet I couldn’t make out what the fire was so desperately trying to tell me. It’s murmur in too soft of a pitch for my hung-over ears to detect. How I envied that fire, able to see what crimes I had committed in my intoxicated state, able to listen to my incomprehensible rambling of inebriated solitude, and able to watch as any ethical percentage of human decency I had left shrink into nothingness.

I turned from the whispering flames, eyes glossy and thoughts as unclear as they always are the morning after my monthly rampages, which had recently come about more often and closer between than 30 day intervals. I grabbed a few pain medicine tablets that I had strategically placed, at some previous time, near the empty glass bottle that encased the liquid version of my personal downfall. I popped the pills and thanked my former self for being so thoughtful and well prepared. My bloodshot eyes shifted toward the ground of the foyer, moments later my brows furrowed in confusion. My blurry vision focused on the shiny surface of the large dining room candlestick which sat on its side a few inches from the front door. Its golden shaft stained with red as it lay motionless in a puddle of blood, as if it had been murdered.

This wasn’t the most unusual thing I had observed the day after a drunken stupor, an inanimate object falling victim to the unspeakable crime of homicide. In fact, I had previously woken up to witness much worse: broken glass from every mirror scattered across the cold, hardwood floors, blood oozing from some self-induced gash that insisted on immediate medical attention, even to ex-partners screaming of abuse and fits of psychotic rage. The last of which happened to be the main factor that led to my condemned state of isolation deep within the mountains, divorced and alone. But women never made me as happy as booze did, so carefree and comfortable in my own skin. Regret was only felt the morning after, and it lasted only as long as it took to pour myself another drink.

I examined my clothed skin. No sign of an exit wound where the blood on the floor could have expelled from. I felt no stinging beneath material that rubbed at my flesh as I walked. I glanced at the doorknob leading to the frigid temperatures of the outside air. It, too, was masked with dry blood and not fully latched. The entire door sat crocked on its hinges and open several centimeters. This was truly the only occurrence that struck me as odd. My curiosity about the death of the candlestick was quickly exchanged for alarm. The door had been slightly damaged since I bought the cabin a year before. It had to be lifted into its deformed wooden frame to latch shut. As far as I knew I was the only one who could properly do so, due to endless attempts when I first moved in, being that I was both too cheap and drunk to fix it properly. Yet, after each blackout I would awaken with the door not only shut, but locked. Even deep within my own frightening oblivion I knew bears were a serious danger. This led to a question that sent chills up my spine, was somebody else here last night?

I grasped the door handle and flung open the large hunk of wood. Last night’s snowstorm had blanketed the ground for as far as the eye could see with the purest shade of white. I stepped onto the front porch while plumes of carbon dioxide became visible from each exhaled breath. I looked down. Small footsteps led from my porch to a wooden shack that sat thirty feet from my own. This wasn’t an unusual sight. My cabin was only a fourth of a mile from a popular trail and stragglers came and went as often as the wolves. But these were different. They not only came obviously from within my home, but had minuscule spots of blood between each light footfall.

I traced each previously laid step. The drips of blood slightly melted the snow from their warmth and grew in size as I progressed towards the shack. My footsteps sunk much deeper into the snow and sat closer together than the first set, making me think the individual who had left them had been running. In twenty seconds I stood at the shacks door. My heart began pounding. I felt beads of sweat being birthed from each pore on my forehead and stream down my face. I could feel my palms begin to clam up from beneath each glove, and every worst case scenario cascaded through my thoughts. Bears, monsters, aliens, serial killers, all flashed before my mind’s eye. Fear established itself deep within my gut, and then ran through each vein until I was filled with numbing adrenaline.

I swung open the door of the shed. I gasped in horror. An unconscious woman, half naked and spotted with cuts and blood, lay sprawled across the floor. I ran to her side and knelt before her. I spoke harshly to awaken her from slumber and shook her aggressively, but to no avail. I pulled off a heavy glove to check her pulse.

I froze.

Dried blood crusted over the epidermis off my hand. My eyes flew to woman. I held my hand above a bloody hand-print on her arm, it belonged to me.

At this moment I only knew two things for sure: one, the footprints leading from my door belonged to this woman, and two, I had killed her.

Shaking my head, I stood and walked to the woman’s feet. I bent my knees slightly and gripped her left ankle. Leaving the shack, I began to drag the limp body behind me. Her dead-weight sunk into the fallen crystals, exchanging snow white for blood red as I heaved.

Looking down I knew one thing for sure: I’ll have dinner for at least a week.

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Arrival

February 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I met Cassie for the first time when I started high school. She was in my art class, and the teacher, Ms Perez, was always giving her a hard time. She was talented, but lacked motivation, was what she used to say. Cassie didn’t seem to care, and seemed more focused on whatever music was blasting in her earphones than on her art assignments.

We started talking, and found out we were both interested in the same kind of music. I had played the piano for a couple of years, and she was taking guitar lessons. We both dabbled in songwriting, and it didn’t take long for us to join forces to start a band together. There were only the two of us in it, but we were young and mostly just spending our time daydreaming about making it big.

Something… changed in the middle of our sophomore year. Her family had been away over the holidays, and when we met again in January I could tell that something was off. She looked tired in a way I’d never seen her before, and she seemed unfocused. I asked her about it, and she just told me that she’d been having trouble sleeping. I kept prodding, and Cassie described having weird dreams of traveling through vast, empty spaces. They weren’t nightmares, as she weren’t scared, but when she woke up in the morning she didn’t feel rested either.

Days passed, and she didn’t get better. In fact, every morning the bags under her eyes seemed deeper in hue, and nothing could hold her attention for very long… except for art class.

Looking at her as she was then, it was hard to imagine it being the same Cassie I’d seen roll her eyes at Ms. Perez in our first year. As soon as she got a brush or pencil in her hand, suddenly she came to life again. It was amazing to watch her as she worked, filling canvas after canvas with force and precision. Her paintings were like if Pollock had been an astrophysicist, bringing you into a different world as a lone explorer. From darkness and emptiness came lights, worlds, destruction, and silence. I was impressed, as everyone seemed to be, but I worried about her. There was something I couldn’t help but notice that troubled me about her painting: her expression. While writing songs and playing guitar, creating out of joy, she was always leaving a trace of herself in it. Watching her paint, I didn’t feel that. I felt determination, urgency, and fear.

In our senior year, Cassie got offered a scholarship to some art school. She didn’t have a lot of options; her dedication to painting, and listless approach to anything else, meant her grades had dropped significantly. I asked her if she intended to take it, and she shrugged and said that it ”didn’t matter”. I urged her to go, telling her that she had a real talent, and that I knew she could make it big like we used to talk about. She looked at me then; the tiredness in her eyes, bringing a hint of nostalgia to the surface, and a ghost of a smile. I hadn’t seen her smile for so long, no matter how little.

As graduation neared, Cassie told me that she was having a showing of her art. She’d found the ”perfect place”, and wanted me to help her set everything up. After school, she brought me to a small, abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of our district. It was pretty clear that no one in their right mind would think that the place was fit to act as a gallery, but Cassie didn’t seem deterred. ”Were we trespassing?” I asked her, as we headed back to the car. ”Yes”, she answered, ”But it’s important”. We spent the next week driving back and forth between the school and the warehouse. A few days before graduation, she asked me not to come anymore. She told me that she was grateful for my help, but that she needed to finish installing the pieces on her own.

”When the rain comes, meet me here” was the last thing she said before we parted ways. I wondered what she was talking about; the forecast had said that it was likely to remain sunny for at least a week. I didn’t ask, though, but I wish I had.

She didn’t come to school those last few days.

We were listening to the principal speak when the first drops started falling. The skies had turned a dark grey, and thunder rolled in the distance. The wind was picking up, and a few graduates shouted as their hats blew away. As the rain intensified, they started moving the rest of the ceremony inside. I got up from my seat with the others, but headed further out as they headed in. The weather got worse by the minute it seemed, and I started running to my car. Cassie’s words were ringing in my ears, and I couldn’t help but feel that something was horribly wrong.

When I arrived at the warehouse, it was a full-blown storm. The rain seemed almost horizontal because of the wind, and by the time I got inside I was soaked to the skin. ”Cassie?” I called out into the darkness, but I received no answer.

In the light coming in through the door I could see lit candles set up in a line. I closed the door behind me, and walked toward the flickering lights. As I separated myself from the tempest outside, I started to make out the trail Cassie had made for me; candles set up to illuminate the right path along the story she wanted to tell. I started walking at a slow pace between her paintings, letting her guide me.

Before, I’d only ever seen her paintings as individual works with a common theme. Seeing them this way, lined up in their proper order, it became clear that they were much more than that. They were a journey. As I passed from one work to the next, I felt as I was traveling across some vast expanse of space, through the deep of our universe. I saw solar systems, galaxies, stars, planets pass me by. I saw world after world collapse and be destroyed, leaving fragments and moving on to the next. It was both amazing and terrifying.

I wandered along the journey Cassie took me through, when something started to dawn on me; recognition. This was no longer a just a brilliant visualization of the enormousness of space… it had a final destination. I felt myself grow cold. For each painting I passed, I grew more certain of what I would find at the end.

I gazed up at the wall bearing Cassie’s final work, as I held her close. “When?” I wanted to ask her, but I knew it would be impossible to wake her. She had been laying on the floor below the painting, sleeping, when I found her. I had picked her up, but felt somehow how far away from me she was. I wondered if she’d ever wake up again, before it came. Looking down on us from he canvas were the remnants of the destruction it would leave behind. She had truly done a masterful job of capturing the End.

Credit: LateNightWritersClub

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New Dog

February 7, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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New Dog

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit: Liam Vickers

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The Hunted

February 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The bitter cold gusts ripped through the thermal underwear he wore underneath his camouflage, biting into his very bones. He had climbed into his tree stand about thirty feet up a yellow-leaved cottonwood and had huddled with his knees to his chest to fight the freeze. As he scanned the open field in the midst of the woods, the hunter admired the beauty of the frost tipped grass that reflected the full moon setting in the early morning. He thought he loved this time of year, but rumors of unexplainable occurrences and a thick fog seen in the distance inching its way closer advised him that he would not be out there long.

As the glowing moon dipped under the horizon opposite of the arriving fog, the hunter decided to peruse the scenery one last time before quitting the hunt or risk getting lost in the fog. In the final sweep, his pulse quickened. He noticed an odd silhouette against the fog about two hundred yards away to his front left. The twilight made his unaided sight untrustworthy, so he decided to put his binoculars to his stubbled face. The magnified, black figure had many details in shadowed darkness, but he could see the outline of the beast. The hoofed feet connected to what seemed to be abnormally long legs. The elongated fingers wisped in the breeze but came to a pointy end. Its stretched arms were connected to a thin torso, but the muscles bulged from its shoulders. As the hunter scanned up the profile, he distinguished the ears and the way they came to a point half a foot above its head. The only colors the creature reflected were white teeth that had as many edges as a band saw blade producing a menacing smile, and thin, blood red slits where pupiled eyes normally were. Just as the hunter gathered all of this information in the span of about ten seconds, the thing disappeared into the overcoming fog.

He slowly lowered his binoculars. The town wouldn’t believe that he had actually seen what was causing the unexplainable occurrences. He now knew how disfigured, gory stray animals dotted the main street after a full moon night. He now knew how a whole herd of cattle had been mutilated, their flesh strewn across a bloody field, their bones shattered into millions of pieces like broken glass. He now knew how a group of young grade schoolers taking a field trip to a quaint pumpkin patch had been mauled by what seemed to be a bear in a bear less part of the country, the bus offering no protection as it ended up like a crushed pop can.

Even though he knew the sun was peeking over the horizon, it only created an eerie glow through the fog. He decided to get down from the cottonwood. But as he looked down from his tree stand, he noticed the fog had crept to where he couldn’t see the ground. He thought he might stay, as quiet as a graveyard, in his tree stand, but the crashing of a fallen tree somewhere in the fog and the stench of death permeating his surroundings made him think differently.

The deafening break of the silence came opposite of the place his vehicle was parked, so he quickly climbed down the tree, leaving everything but his gun. As soon as he hit the ground, a sharp pain shot from one shoulder to the other causing him to lose his balance. He turned around as he fell and pulled the trigger at whatever was behind him, but the gun was still on its safety. It wouldn’t have mattered if the rifle had fired because the pain producer disappeared into the mist. He picked himself off of the ground and noticed a stark red streak melting the frost on the ground. He made his mind up as he turned his safety off that he wouldn’t be the next unexplained occurrence and hurried in the direction of his truck, the sweat on his brow only amplifying the cold. As the leaves crunched under his boots, he could hear branches cracking from all directions in the mystifying fog. One loud snap came only feet away from him, and he stopped to aim his gun into the haze.

The hush that surrounded him as he aimed stopped his warm blood from flowing through his body, making him ice cold. With the calm over the next few achingly long seconds, he became somewhat hopeful. But just as he lowered the gun, something soundlessly came from his right and knocked him clean off of his feet, the rifle flying into the unknown mist. A sting went from his knee to his brain, making him scream in pain but also making him become even more desperate. With a limp he began in the direction he thought his truck was, the fog seemingly clearing as the sun warmed the day. He couldn’t hear anything besides his own heavy breathing, taking in the putrefying smell. He was only a short few hundred feet from his truck when the black beast towered over him in his path. A demonic hand swept across his face, knocking him to the ground. His terrified cries magnified each time the sound of crushing bones echoed off the trees. The monster cut through the hunter’s skin and severed the veins as easily as a freshly sharpened band saw blade cutting through butchered meat. With one last violent crack, the sounds disappeared with the fog.

Now you may be wondering how I know every detail of this occurrence. The last surviving human did die, didn’t he? You see, I was watching the whole thing. I looked down from my solitary perch as my monster, yes my monster, crunched and swallowed the last bone as his back bristled. The reason why I am telling you this is because the creature looked at me one last time with his diabolic red eyes, looked deep into his creator’s soul, licked the last drop of blood from its lips, slowly turned into the thick forest, and was never seen again.

I should’ve known what would happen when I put the hooves of a dead goat, the wings of a dead bat, the teeth of a dead crocodile, the muscle fibers of a dead, crazed gorilla, and drops of my very own blood in the fire. My basement instantly smelled of the most decaying death you can imagine. The beast that limped from that fire had a meanness about it, but it obeyed my every command. It grew more evil with each act, starting with killing the dog that kept me up at night to eliminating my neighbor’s cattle herd. Then it started to do things I didn’t tell it to do. I awoke a fortnight ago to him getting out of his cage and followed him to that field of death, only watching because I knew my efforts could not save the hunter. Now, though, I don’t know where it is.

I feel like it will always be hunting, waiting for the opportune moment to kill again. It may be the thing that makes you wonder what’s in the cellar in your back yard or in the basement of your house. It may be the brief disturbance when you think something is peering around the corner, waiting to pounce when you least expect it. It may be the thing you think you see in the mirror when you look at your reflection and notice something stir behind you. It may cause the brief, cold tingling sensation along your spine that you are feeling at this very moment. But I have to quit writing, because it may be the thing that is breathing its warm, putrid breath on my neck right now.

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Lifeguard

February 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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My name is Lifeguard. There is a lot of thinking that takes place atop the seat overlooking the pool. I spend most of my days there; watching others play. Watching them have fun. I see grandparents bringing their toddler grandsons and granddaughters to the pool to splash around. Young parents bring their infants to adapt to the life aquatic. High school sweethearts hang on each other, faux-drowning and whispering the deep secrets of their hearts into the ear of the other.
Time on the stand passes slowly. If you’re not careful, you can waste a whole day and not have thought about anything. The day can slip away into an ebbing tide of lusts for the barely-clad swimmers your age, or you can simply retreat into the room inside your brain where nothing happens. No thoughts are produced, and no ideas are conceived.
Lately, I have entertained my attentive brain contriving a man who follows me home after work each day. It’s a twenty-four minute ride to and from work on my bicycle. I think about a man following me home in his turquoise sedan.
He rolls down the window, arm hanging limply on the door, and shouts, “Ey, Lifeguard! I know where you sleep! Open ya window tonight and I’ll give ya a surprise!”
I think about how fast I’d have to pedal to outrun him every day. Of course, to eradicate all of his knowledge of my residence, I would have had to have done this from the start. I would need to pedal 9% faster, and lose him through the path behind Kum & Go, 4 minutes out of the way.
These scenes play out behind my eyes as I sit on the edge of the pool. It’s not a huge pool. It has a straight slide with a weak drizzle of water peeling down its shoot. Rust grows from the base of the object and is progressing upwards. The zero-depth zone is where the babies come and sit, joyfully splashing in the ankle-deep tide because they are unaware of what this place really is.
The center was built in the seventies and has not been maintained well. Patrons pay a base price of two dollars apiece, or five for a family, and come splash around for a little while. I work with two other guards on a double rotation. There’s Lindsay, the apathetic snob who clicks her gum loudly while her eyes are magnetized to her phone. Jerry is the other guard who lost his job three years ago when the economy tanked. He lost his wife with his work, and has been obsessed with conspiracy theories and UFOs ever since.

“Hey, Lifeguard,” Jerry says to me one slow day while the pool is empty, “you ever see the license plate of that dude you think of following you home?”
I don’t want to think about it, so I keep scrubbing at the scum line and pretend I didn’t hear him.
“Lifeguard, hey, you hear what I said?”
I looked up and sighed. “I haven’t noticed it, why?”
Jerry shrugged and went back to looking down at his cleaning. The truth was, I can picture it. It’s out of state, but I don’t know which one. I only know the colors were different.

Today is a busy day here at the pool. My eyes have glazed over and I have lost myself once more in deep contemplation. I picture the man who follows me home as working for a government of a different country. Or maybe I’m just making him up in my daydreams. Possible. It happened before. These hallucinations begin with a simple question, such as ‘what if there was an old lady who became a serial killer because she was so afraid of dying she killed everyone who talked to her? Now that’s paranoia.’
Thoughts like these lead to images in my brain that play themselves out. Often they become entire narratives. I have only shared a couple of them with another human, and that human has only been Jerry. He is the only other one who understands the brain-numbing boredom of working at this pool. He reads books on the stand. I can’t bring myself to, though, for fear that I’ll miss someone drowning. At least if I look like I’m watching, they can’t blame me for the oversight.

My brain thinks too much. Sometimes, it even makes up its own words. Like ‘slentor.’ That is, a being that can pass through walls. It originated one day while I was thinking about the concept of neutrinos, the sub-microscopic particles that travel so fast they pass through anything, and have only been seen twice. Or rather, the place where they just were was seen.
As my brain wanders, I’m at home and a slentor drifts into my bedroom as the television plays. It cannot speak, but it can point, and move metallic objects. It readjusts the antenna on my set and changes the channel to a ballet recital. Piano sounds fill the room and I drift to sleep. The slentor leaves. ‘What a crazy idea,’ I think as I drift off. ‘Things that can pass through walls…’

The pool has been busy in waves today, which makes the day crawl by even slower than usual. It fills up, then empties for an hour. The hands on the clock don’t even look like they’re moving. Maybe they’re not.
Lindsay is working with me today. I picture an electric can opener that operates by slicing the can in half and pulling the two halves apart and pouring the contents into a bowl. It’s all automated of course. It produces a knocking sound, like a knuckle on a giant, thin tin wall. The knocking continues and I realize that it’s not the imaginary object in my head producing the sound, but someone standing outside the back door of the pool.
This door is never used. It was originally installed as a back door for taking trash out to the dumpster. However, the pool doesn’t even generate enough trash to warrant a dumpster these days, and garbage is collected out front on Tuesdays. I don’t even think I’d ever seen the door opened before.
Two parents were in the four foot section of the pool with their baby, who cried every time they tried to put her head underwater. I figured they wouldn’t miss me for a minute as I went to open the door.
The knocking returned once more. It was very gentle still, but more urgent than the first round. I fidgeted with the lock and finally got it open. As I pulled it open, the rusty hinges creaked, and I looked at them. Before I could identify the knocker, my head was slammed with a drained tequila bottle and I fell unconscious to the ground. I picture no one reacting, and the family of three continue cooing at their infant daughter.

I tell Jerry about the daydream the next day. He shrugs and tells me he doesn’t know what’s on the other side of that door either.
We worked the whole day and at closing time, Jerry asks me if I’ve ever taken narcotics. I haven’t. He says maybe I should talk to someone about these daydreams. I tell him I’m not sure if they’re all daydreams.
I walk out the front door to where my bike is chained up. A turquoise sedan with a blue license plate is parked across the street with the engine quietly humming. I rub my eyes, look up at the sky, and back at the street. The car is gone. Figures.
I begin pedaling and ride to the edge of the town, down the shortcut path, about halfway to my flat. A slentor suddenly slides out of a tree to my right. It takes control of my bike and swerves the handlebars so violently to the right the I fly off and hit my neck on a baby tree to the left of the path.
I lay there for a while until I hear footsteps approaching from the street. I see old cowboy boots walk right up to my face as their owner inspects my busted frame.
“Nehh,” the man sighs and turns and walks away. I try to reach up and scratch my arm to see if this is a daydream and I’m really back at work seated on the stand. Neither arm stirs.
As my vision blurs more and more, and the setting sun fades the objects of the day into ambiguous dark shapes of the night, I hear a car come to a stop on the street, a baseball toss away from where I lie. The car door slams, but the engine stays on. In the dim light, I can tell it’s the man who follows me. Thought he’d be here sooner.
“What took you so long?” I gurgle out as my consciousness fades.
In place of an answer, he lifts a cigarette to his dry lips and cups his hand to light it. Still not sure if this is real. I mean, I don’t feel much pain. I just wish I could move.

I wake up in a basement next to a pool table with the green felt torn in several places. I am seated in a metal folding chair. I can move my arms slowly and clumsily, but my neck is frozen in place, tilted severely to the left. I turn my entire torso from side to side and inspect the room I am in. Old Playboy centerfolds pepper the walls, held up by tape over the corners. It smells like stale cigarettes and spilled beer. Empty booze bottles cover every surface. There are literally hundreds of them. The place is spurdent—another word I invented.
Even in my helpless state, I still make up words. Incredible. Most people would be extremely afraid right now. But my name is Lifeguard, and I have to think. Fear would only interfere with that right now.
I hear footsteps descending the stairs.
“Lifeguard!” the man shouts when he has neared the bottom.
I turn my body to look at the man. His left arm still hangs limply by his side, just as when I see him in his sedan. He stares at me for a second, and my mind races.

My training prepared me for this.

He didn’t bother to check me for weapons. No one ever expects an old lady to be packing heat. I pulled the 50 caliber out of my belt and blew a hole in his stomach. Another in his chest. His facial expression changed little, since the porn and drugs had left him looking dead and glazed over already.
A pitbull upstairs began barking at the sound of the shots, and as he raced down the stairs, testicles in full swing, I popped a hole in his side as well. I went up the stairs and out into the bright morning sun. I got in the man’s sedan, found the keys under the seat, and turned the ignition until it kicked to life. Driving back to my flat proved more difficult than expected, thanks to my now sideways neck.
When I got home, I made sure to reload the three rounds I had spent.
My name is Lifeguard, and I just might be the old lady who is so paranoid she kills everyone else.

Credit: Ethan Renoe

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It Bleeds

February 4, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It’s that time of year again. Any day now the earth around me will be covered in snow. Children, who are not fazed by the cold, will spend hours outside playing In it. Building snowmen, having snow ball fights, and going sledding. And of course they will be looking forward to snow days where they can spend even more time outside rather than being trapped indoors in class rooms.

I envy them. As I have grown older, I have come to really dislike the cold. Maybe that’s what happens to everyone as they grow up. We begin to associate the cold with unpleasant things instead of fun things like snowmen and making snow angels. No, we associate the cold to mean illness and even pain. We become bitter, more annoyed by it. We complain about the shoveling, the runny noses, the aching joints. I have also become bitter about winter.

But it’s not for the same reasons. It’s because I made a mistake. A very terrible mistake. Last year we had a pretty bad snow storm. Schools were closed as well as local businesses. The radio and tv weather stations cautioned people to drive carefully if they have to be on the road but other wise to just stay home. In some areas they had white out conditions.

White out conditions. I remember when I was a little girl, I loved watching the snow fall. Sometimes it came down so fast it was like a blanket of white. It was beautiful to me. But now, now it’s stained in blood.

I was on the road during the snow storm. I was heading home after a ten hour shift. I remember wanting nothing more than to go home and get in bed. Ten hours of running machinery on a factory line will make anyone a bit irritated. And therefore I was in a rush to get home. Maybe I was cocky, thinking I could drive faster on the back roads. Maybe I simply didn’t care. But I should have.

I honestly didn’t see her. The old lady. I sometimes wonder why she went out during a snow storm to check her mail. Why didn’t she stay inside? What could she have possibly have been thinking? But it doesn’t matter. Those questions won’t bring her back. Maybe not the questions, but I am sure she will be back.

As a rule of mine, I kept the cell phone on the passenger seat. Just in case of an emergency. I thought I had the ringer turned off. It never ranged before while I drived. But that day it did. I tried to ignore it, I tried to picture my warm bed instead that was waiting for me. But it wouldn’t stop ringing. And the ring tone. It’s one I don’t remember having set.

Finally I couldn’t take it. I grabbed the phone and as I flipped it open, I looked back to the road. My eyes were off the road for less than a minute. Enough time for this old lady in a blue worn jacket to appear. I still remember how she seemed to be turning toward me in slow motion. The headlights lite up her face, specially her widening grey blue eyes. I still see those eyes sometimes when I sleep.

It was so quick. I saw her turn towards me then there was a thud, not a loud thud but more like the sound a large stuff toy makes when a child drops it from the top of the stairs. Just like a stuff toy, she hit the bumper, bounced up and hit my windshield then somehow bounce up again and hit the hood of my car. She fell off to the side at this point. My car swerved and I nearly ran it into the ditch. But as soon as I had managed to stop, I turned off the car.

But I didn’t go out right away after the old woman. Instead, I remained frozen behind the steering wheel. I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. My heart was racing to the point I was sure would make it burst. I rested my forehead against the cool steering wheel, trying to calm myself down. Why was I not thinking about that lady I just hit? I don’t know. I just know I wasn’t. But I should have.

A soft thud made me open my eyes. I wish I hadn’t, God, I wish I hadn’t! A hand was on the hood of my car, the fingers more like claws as the nails scratched at the paint. I watched as a head of long grey hair came into view. The wind blew the hair forward, covering her face. Slowly she pulled herself up. Her blue knitted jacket stood out in all the white swirling around her. But not nearly as much as the bloody stump from her left shoulder where her arm once was.

The wind picked up and I thought I was screaming. But then I realized it was her screaming! The wind seemed to be picking it up and carrying it to my ears. At the time her screams made no sense to me. For you see, she wasn’t screaming in pain. Nor was she screaming for help. No, what she was screaming was this. “My skin bleeds! It bleeds!”

She raised her remaining hand, holding it out as if to show me her hand. And I did see it. I shouldn’t have been able to but I did. Her skin was pale and covered in red splotches. Where these red splotches were, there was broken skin that was bleeding. Then the wind changed direction and her hair flew out of her face. Her face had similar splotches, the broken skin and tiny trails of blood made it appear as if her face was cracking.

I opened the car door and got out. Again, an action that took no longer than a minute. But that’s all it took. She vanished. I don’t know how. I rushed to the front of my car and despite the blinding snow, I searched for her. But she wasn’t there. I swear I looked all around the car. Nothing.

Finally, I couldn’t bare to be out in that cold any longer. So I got back Into my car and started it up. Maybe I had fallen asleep behind the wheel and dreamed up the old woman? After all, old ladies don’t just up and disappear. Not during a snow storm. This is what I convinced myself. So I drove home.

But I didn’t go to sleep as I had planned. No, instead as the wind again picked up, I swore I heard her screams. “My skin bleeds! It bleeds!” Over and over again, I heard these until the storm finally ended in the morning. I was so exhausted by then. My eyes seem to close and I was out.

But I woke up only a few minutes later. The first thing I became aware of is how cold I was. I was freezing. Maybe I left a window open? Maybe it got broke? When I sat up, I realized that my bed was covered in snow. Not only that but the rest of my bedroom was too. I looked to the window and saw that not only was it not broken but it was firmly shut. So where did the snow come from?

I got out of bed and took a single step. That’s when I saw it. Hand prints in the snow. They were everywhere, as if someone had been crawling around my room. I was now shaking with fear as I forced myself to walk around my bed and check to see if the source of the hand prints were hidden there. To my relief, I found nothing.

Then I opened my bedroom door. This time I did scream. Scratched into my bedroom door was this, “Your Skin Bleeds! It Bleeds!” The scratches dripped in blood.

I called the authorities. I told them about the old woman I hit and what I woke to. They told me that they would look into it and send an officer by. Strangely none ever stopped by. Later they called me back and told me that they searched the area I had described but found no sign of an old woman in a blue jacket. What they did find was signs of me nearly driving off the road. Black ice they said. There’s no old woman.

But what of the bloody words scratched into my bedroom door? As I was on the phone, I looked at my door. There were no words. I reached my hand out to touch it, to see if I was really seeing it. The door was iced cold. When I pulled my hand back,a hand impression was left behind. And slowly, it began to bleed.

The police insisted there was no old lady out in the snow, But they are wrong. I know that. At first, I believed them. I allowed myself to believe that I just fell asleep behind the wheel for a moment. That there had been no prints in the snow, no bloody words scratched into my door. Now, now I know. There was an old woman. And I killed her.

She is getting her revenge though. It’s a slow revenge. Slow and painful. Every time the weather gets cold, and the snow starts to fall, my skin becomes dry. Very dry. Lotions, oils, nothing helps. It burns, cracks and finally bleeds. Just like the old lady scratched into my door. My skin bleeds. It bleeds and bleeds and bleeds.

Credit: Desiree La Pinta

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